GUEST POST: Fitness Advice from A Formerly Fat Guy Who Loves Food, TV, and Lounge Wear

I am slightly less fat now. Apparently that qualifies me to give others advice now.  Take this with a grain of salt.  (But not too much, we want to keep your total sodium down.)

People I Hate
I don’t want fitness advice on how to eat, exercise, and be happy from skinny twenty-year-old fitness trainers who ran track in high school and have never been fat a day in their lives; I’m sure they’ll be heartbroken by the news.  And those biggest loser folks locked in a dorm with their 24×7 trainers? They work way harder than I ever will be willing to work, and get to dedicate their entire day to their fitness.  I’ve got work, household chores, and uh, (cough, sputter) TV, that interfere with my attempts to get fit.  I honestly wish I could find a fitness trainer who proudly displays his/her pre fit picture on an ergonomic standing desk and can fawn endlessly over Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, The Flash, and House of Cards.  It is not surprising, then, that I suddenly realize I roughly fit the description of my own perfect trainer.  So, though not remotely qualified, I offer up my own story and “advice.”

Damn you Dr. Oz
I am a 51 year old male who spent 25+ years working a computer job, had zero interest in exercise, and ate to relieve stress, boredom, and because I really, really, like food.  Over the years I went from wearing a size 36 pant to wearing a size 38, to wearing a size 38 with an expanding waist band, and finally wearing a size 40.  Ok.. a size 40 with an expanding waist band.  I was 5’10, 240 (ish) lbs, obese on the BMI scale, and winded taking two flights of stairs- and was not phased by any of it.  I looked in the mirror regularly, saw the same charming, extremely good looking, and modest guy I’ve always seen, and continued ordering fries with my lunch.  Dr. Oz ruined it for me.

What comes before beginner?
Dr. Oz convinced me the fat around my belly was bad.  And, he had a plan- walk 10000 steps a day, it’ll make you lose fat.  He had a lot of other advice on supplements, eating right, etc., but I pretty much zoned out after the walking bit.  I ordered “You on a Diet” and the “You Workout.” and..  failed.  Even the beginner workout was overwhelming.  I couldn’t get through the 20 minute Pilates and stretching type workout without pausing the DVD to breath, and then couldn’t do half the stretching moves fully.  I needed the dreamer workout, not the beginner one.

Advice 1: Walk
So I bought a pedometer and walked.  10000 steps is a lot.  So I started smaller.  I walked slowly, and not very far.  I figured I could spare 30 minutes, so I walked for 30 minutes.  Not fast, and not very far.  Never more than 30 minutes.   Having a number to hit made me keep walking just a little more trying to get to 10000.  I’d park my car a little further away for a few extra steps.  I’d get up once in a while at work and make the “long loop” around the building on the way to the diet soda machine.  (Did I mention my soda addiction?)

Advice 2: Get a Fitbit
In December 2012 I finally started hitting my 10000 step goal.  For me, seeing the number on my device was important, a fuel gauge doesn’t cut it.   Having to look at my phone is too delayed.  The app is nice, but get a numerical display.   The Fitbit site has great charts, great history tracking, and ways to add your friends and compete!  I bought a Fitbit.

Advice 3: Have goals
Have a goal.  Some of my past and future goals (in order of difficulty): extend my 30 minutes of walking to 60 minutes.  Up my walking from 3 days a week to 5 days a week.  Enter a 5k.  Do the couch to 5k program (probably should have done that before entering the 5K.)  Enter another 5k.  Jog continuously for 1 minute.  Jog continuously for 1 mile.  Jog continuously for 2 miles.  Enter another 5k (do better than last year.) Jog continuously for 3.11 miles. Put my socks on standing up.  Sit cross legged.  Touch my toes.  Some of these may seem ridiculous or silly, but I assure you getting up a ½ hour early to walk did not seem simple at 5:30am. There were days when I had to fool myself by saying “I’ll just do 10 minutes of walking today,” to get myself out of bed.   The point is that having the goal keeps me moving in the right direction.  Small goals are OK!  Full Disclosure: I still haven’t jogged continuously for 5k, and can’t touch my toes (yet.)

Advice 4: Watch TV
I am, it seems, the only human being to watch TV or actually eat at McDonald’s.  I have given impromptu surveys, and can’t find anyone who watches more than a few hours of TV, or has EVER eaten at McDonalds.  If, however, you, like me, like to watch TV- use that as an excuse to workout.  Get an app, download your program to your phone, tablet, etc.. and only watch when you workout.  This is harder to do while walking outside without walking into a tree, so probably you should confine the use of workout TV to the gym.

Advice 5: You can’t outrun your mouth
I started walking 5 miles a day, almost every day, two years ago. I started jogging some of that along the way. I walked over 3 million steps in 2013, 3 million steps in 2014, and lost roughly (tada) zip, nada, nothing. Damn you and your lies Dr. Oz! I’m not complaining, though, because I didn’t add any weight over those two years, either, and I improved my overall fitness. I no longer got winded going up stairs, could walk / jog (WOGGING™ is a trademark of Byron Ferguson Fitness Enterprises), and go up and down the stairs without holding the banister. Here are some potential reasons I didn’t lose some weight at the same time: I ate more because working out made me hungrier, I added muscle mass (ha!), I figured since I was working out I could eat stuff that was a little worse (ouch, painfully true), or my average workout burned only burned 300 or so calories. The truth is, if you really need to lose weight, you’ve got to pay attention to the food you eat. I knew that, I just did my best to prove it wasn’t true for two years.

Two years not much progress on weight loss. October 2014- Started paying attention to food.

Two years not much progress on weight loss. October 2014- Started paying attention to food.

Advice 6: Eat a little better, rinse, repeat.
Shortly after I started paying attention to what I would eat using the MyFitnessPal app, I joined the Whole Life Challenge with my sister ( https://www.wholelifechallenge.com/.) The challenge encourages different eating habits, and has different levels. The simplest level asks you to cut out bad oils, sugar as an ingredient, bread and pasta, beer, soda, diet soda, chips, fries, and a few other foods. (What the heck is left!) While doing this “cold turkey” might be challenging (not hard- cancer is hard, not eating something is not hard -WLC), try cutting ONE thing out for ONE meal.  If I gave you $100 to not have soda for one meal, could you?  Of course! One meal is EASY!    Now just do that three times and you’ve done it for the day.  Good?  Try two days.  Say to yourself, “I have had ______ all my life, I can not have it just this once.”  Got the soda down?  Do the same for fries.  (OMG I love fries!)  Keep making small changes and eventually you WILL see a huge difference.

Advice 7: Fail quickly, rinse, repeat.
Once I started really paying attention to food, I bought a scale and logged my weight. I set my goal high- lose just one pound. Not 75 pounds overall. Just one pound (Really I wanted to lose all 75 pounds in one week but that seemed just a little unrealistic.) At the end of one week I had lost one pound. Winning! Two days later I had gained four pounds. Fail. 🙁 I started again. This time I lost two pounds.

Obviously your weight is going to fluctuate daily, but weighing myself daily did three things for me. First, weighing daily made it impossible for me to hide going off the rails at that all-you-can-eat country buffet. Second, not hiding from the scale made me plan how I could go off the rails less (not less times, but like only going back for seconds ONCE at the buffet. Finally, this eventually made me go off the rails less FREQUENTLY! A way to measure, even an imperfect one, allows us to correct course and head in the right direction.

Chart showing weight loss via scale

Way off the rails in September. Restart. May looking a little rocky. Focus.

Advice 8: Jedi Mind Tricks
I’d like to think I’m too smart to fall for simple tricks, but the truth is I’m easily swayed. Here are a few mind tricks that made me make better decisions. If people ask me if I’m losing weight I never reply with “I’m working on it,” “so far,” etc. I say, “Thanks for noticing,” or better yet- “Only 20 more pounds to go.” Trying implies failure is still an option. There is no try; do or do not! At least tell yourself that. Also, stop telling yourself losing weight, working out, … is HARD! The Whole Life Challenge tricked me well by saying, “Cancer is hard, living a healthy lifestyle is EASY!” Tying hard to cancer made it impossible for me to whine to myself.. “it’s hard.” Finally, one last trick- when you’re at a meal and want those french fries, garlic toast, or other food non grata (not to be confused with au gratin,) remind yourself, “I am not a wild dog that has to eat everything someone puts in front of me. Just this once, I can not eat this.” I know, you’re thinking these are all silly word games. Words don’t matter. I’m not saying these. Yep. You’re right. Don’t say them. Don’t think of them. Oh, and don’t think of pink elephants today, young padawan.

Advice 9: Burn your bridges
I wore my size 38 expanding waist pants as long as my wife would let me. After she started calling me homeless man, I finally had to bite the bullet and start buying clothes. I hate buying clothes. I would much rather give my money to an obviously faking homeless guy. I could slowly transition, switching, as laundry required, between clothes that fit and don’t fit until I finally hit my target weight, or I could go all in. I went all in. I donated nearly my entire closet to Goodwill. My wife asked, “what if you put the weight back on?” I have in the past kept the old clothes, finished twenty pounds or so, and then put it all back. This time, however, I’ve made a full commitment. I’m not going back. The bridge is fully burnt. If I do go back, guess I’ll have to parade around buck ‘nekid. Nope. Not going back.

Advice 10: Don’t be done
The biggest problem with every other “diet” I’ve tried is that it was a diet. Oh, I told myself occasionally that I was doing a lifestyle change, but in truth, I knew it was a diet. The more weight I lost, the more likely I was to cheat. I’ve lost some weight, I’m entitled. My changes have started much slower this time, but every change I’ve made is something I can live with, and feel I HAVE to live with, forever.  I want to eat more real food, and less boxed stuff.  That’s not a diet, it’s a decision.  I want to eat less (or no) fried food.  That’s not a diet, it’s a decision.  The other problem with a diet was that after it was done, I was done.  Now I can go back to eating fries, etc- until I finally have to diet again.  This time I’ve made decisions that I will do forever.  And now, I don’t have to be done.  That change makes all the difference.

Do Something.  Anything.
I might be wrong.  Really.  If it doesn’t work, dump it.  If you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you already have.  I’ve gotten so much help from others online, I hope my story and advice will help someone.  Want to be my fitbit friend, email me telling me how much this helped?  My email is byron@byrini.com, and may the force be with you!

Byron Ferguson is a professional “computer guy,” who likes performing magic, building stuff, cooking, and hanging out with his family.  He does not like to exercise, but it a necessary part of his master plan to live forever.   So far his plan is going swimmingly. Byron currently lives in Parker, CO with his wife Toni and their two kids Nolan and Kyra.

 

Guest Post: That Time I Joined the Gym, Then Quit, Then Joined, Then Quit, Then Joined…

When it comes to joining gyms (and quitting them), I have quite the lengthy history. In fact, it goes a little something like this…

  1. In high school, I joined a gym. I quit the gym because I was headed to college.
  2. I went to college and worked out (a wee once in a while) in the fitness center.
  3. I graduated, moved home, and joined a new gym.
  4. I fell in love with spinning at said gym and religiously went to classes three time a week. I bought the shoes, the shorts, the whole lot. I was owning it.
  5. I quit the gym because I was moving away.
  6. I moved to Hoboken (with my then-boyfriend, would-be fiancé, would-be husband) and joined a gym. I loved it for awhile, especially one specific yoga class and teacher.
  7. I got engaged.
  8. I hired a personal trainer to get ripped and ready for my wedding dress.
  9. I got married. I went on my honeymoon.
  10. I came home and joined a different gym.
  11. My husband and I were moving to the suburbs so I quit the Hoboken gym and joined a gym in the ‘burbs.
  12. I got frustrated that I wasn’t going enough, so I quit that gym.
  13. I joined a cheaper gym.
  14. We got sick of the suburbs and moved back to Hoboken.
  15. I rejoined the Hoboken gym.
  16. I went pretty regularly for awhile and tried my hand at the various fitness classes.
  17. I grew frustrated.
  18. I stopped going.
  19. I quit the gym.
  20. I started purchasing various online vouchers for gyms and workout studios in the area. I had a blast redeeming them. I’d found my thing.
  21. I used up my vouchers so I joined rejoined the gym I’d quit a couple times before.
  22. I quit that gym again.
  23. I did a one-week trial at a new gym. I loved it. I loved it so much that I locked myself into a year-long membership.
  24. I don’ t love it anymore.
  25. And now I want to quit.

Also weaved in there were short-lived stints with running. But really, who’s counting?

I ran in the Phillips 5K the first year. I was slow, but heck, I finished!

I ran in the Phillips 5K the first year. I was slow, but heck, I finished!

I don’t mean to be hard on myself here, but man, that’s a lot of quitting. Looking at this list, I really have to laugh, too. It’s such a hilarious cycle. Each time I put my John Hancock on a gym contract, I really and truly believe in my heart of hearts that THIS IS THE ONE! And then I have a change of heart…

My latest fitness interest is hot yoga (there’s something quite fascinating about sweating, dripping, get absolutely drenched alongside 20 strangers). Who knows how long this interest in yoga will last, but I do have to figure out what I’m doing here (I can’t keep dropping money on one-off yoga classes when I’m still locked into about 9 more months at my gym.) As it stands, I Google “how to get out of a gym membership” daily.

So, yeah. When it comes to fitness, dedicated I am not. Will I ever get there? Your guess is as good as mine.

Oh, and sometimes I hike. Here's a snapshot of Sharon (left) and me (right) last summer.

Oh, and sometimes I hike. Here’s a snapshot of Sharon (left) and me (right) last summer.

Now I’ll tell you about something I AM dedicated to: Helping good people do good things. And “doing good” is exactly what my dear friend Sharon Phillips is accomplishing with the Christopher and Susan Phillips Foundation. This very special Foundation was started by Sharon in 2011 to honor her mother Susan (64) and brother Chris (27), both lost within days of each other from two separate cardiac-related events.

The Foundation hosts some fabulous fundraisers each year to help provide scholarships for students of Jonathan Dayton High School (the alma mater of the entire Phillips family) and Trinitas Nursing School (where Chris was studying to be a nurse).

Next month, on May 31st, the Foundation will host its 4th annual Phillips 5K/10K Run/Walk. This special event will take place at Lewis Morris Park in Morristown, NJ — and 100% of the race proceeds will benefit the Foundation and go toward future scholarships.

I’ll be there like every year, cheering participants on from the behind the microphone and helping to present ribbons to the fastest finishers. The day isn’t just about speed, though. It’s also about taking a few hours on a spring morning to come out and remember two lives well lived, two lives lost too soon.

Come be part of this special day. For additional details about the 5K/10K and to register online (pre-registration guarantees you a cool wicking t-shirt!) visit http://www.phillips5k.org.

So that’s where I’ll be on May 31st. Until then, I’ll be feverishly trying to get out of my gym membership. I’ll also be spending quality time with dear friends like Sharon — because when it comes to my friendship with her, I’ll NEVER call it quits.

Jodi Rigotti is the Senior Editor at Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace for teachers to buy and sell their original lesson plans and other course materials. Her hobbies include cooking, exercising sporadically, and being nicer than some say is necessary. She currently lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband (and college sweetheart), Dan.

Guest Post: Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15k

Running for Chocolate is the SWEETEST of all victories…

Waking up at 4:30 in the morning to the sound of the wind howling, and rain hitting my house was not how I envisioned race day for running the RAM HOT CHOCOLATE 15k.  Shaking off the bad weather, I headed out at 5:45am to meet my friend and running partner Kate Fontaine at the PATCO station.

patcotrain

Riding over the Delaware River in a full subway car filled with other runners, I was excited to see how this race would treat me. This would be my longest distance since running The Philadelphia Marathon in November of 2014 and I only got to 6.5 miles while training.

hotchocolatemilling

We were greeted with clearing skies and no rain when we came from underground, but the 40 MPH winds decided to stay behind to be with us during the race.

hotchocolate15k

We made it to Eakins Oval in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum in plenty of time to check our gear and arrive to our given running corrals. Everything was organized and the volunteers were very friendly.

hotchocolatecorrals

After saying goodbye to the 5k runners, we lined up to begin our race with our fellow corral J friends.  With the chilly wind hitting our faces, we were off. Running around the Oval, we headed away from the Art Museum and towards Kelly Drive. The wind was blowing towards us for a couple of miles making it a challenge. Before the race I was back and forth about whether I should run my race without stopping or do walk and run intervals. After a powerful gust of wind hit me head on at mile 1.15, I decided to do run/walk intervals in order to conserve energy.

hotchocolaterunning

The course was familiar (Philadelphia Marathon flashbacks) and the scenic course made me forget that the wind was howling at us. There were plenty of water stations for the runners, but I think because of the time of the race (8am) and the weather (windy and cold) the course didn’t have a lot of crowds to cheer us on while on Kelly Drive. However the spirit of the fellow runners, as well as the scenery kept me company. Once we got to the turn around after mile 5, the wind was at our backs and I felt relaxed and ready to get though the next 4.3 miles.

coursemaphotchocolate

In the home stretch, we were greeted by large crowds cheering us to the finish. This made up for the lack of spectators on the course. Even with my last minute decision to run intervals, I was able to finish the race at 1:36 and felt great at the finish line.  I met up with Kate (we separated during the race) who ran an awesome race and finished at 1:23, and we were off to get our chocolate grub on!

chocolatemedal

Our finisher’s mugs were full of edible goodies. We received a hot cup of cocoa, banana, chocolate fondue with things to dip in it such as a Rice Krispy treat, marshmallow, and pretzels.

chocolateswag

As we sat eating our goodies while on the verge of a sugar coma, we talked about what we thought of the race.  We both agreed it was very well organized, a beautiful course,  and we enjoyed the chocolate party afterwards. My favorite thing has to be the medal of a half eaten chocolate bar with the Liberty Bell on it and our warm and comfy hoodie we received (who needs another tech shirt?).

hotchocolatehoodie

hotchocolatemedal

So if you like to run, you love chocolate, this race is perfect for you! Where else can you get runners high and a sugar high all in one?

Brandi B. Dockett, CPT, is an ACE certified personal trainer, AFAA group fitness instructor, Spin instructor, running coach, and Owner of B FIT FITNESS SERVICES, LLC. Brandi loves running, cooking, traveling, and spending time with her friends, husband and 2 daughters! You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Guest Post: Hooters Half Marathon

Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.

hooters

That’s what Hooters says about itself. I say they have delicious wings, curly fries, and good beer. Also, they know how to throw a pretty sweet half marathon.

This past Sunday I laced up my sneaks and headed out for my second half marathon ever. Well, the first one was only in January so it wasn’t like I took a long break or anything. In fact, the Hooters Half almost didn’t even happen for me. I floundered back and forth about signing up until I finally just bit the bullet and went for it.

After I signed up I was feeling pretty stoked. I ran the Disney Half Marathon in January (and met Mer and Brooke, YAAAAAY) and had an amazing time with my running buddy. We kept a good pace and finished at just over three hours, which I couldn’t tell you if that’s a good time or not, I just know I made it.

I figured for my second half I should set some goals, right? Okay, after my running buddy texted me and asked if I had any goals I decided to set them. Basically my goal was to beat three hours. I figured that was a doable goal considering it was only my second time running this distance.

The week leading up to the race wasn’t anything special. I wasn’t nervous like I was before Disney. I had this, right? I prepped the Saturday before by carb loading. By that I mean I ate a lot of Boom Chicka Pop and pretty much an entire box of macaroni and cheese for dinner. (Note: this is probably not a post you should take advice from, just saying.) I watched some videos on how to apply KT tape for some pain I’d been having, then I made my sister help me. She’s a personal trainer, so she’s good for stuff like that. I also planned my outfit, because you can be cute and comfortable to run thirteen miles at the same time. Also, I’m single and you never know who you might “run” into.

You can't go wrong with Mean Girls.

You can’t go wrong with Mean Girls.

I went to bed at a decent hour, my alarm set at my normal-everyday-wake up time. For Disney my wake up time was 2:30AM. Thankfully, I only live about two miles from Hooters, so I didn’t have to get up that early. I was feeling pretty good the night before, but my nerves got the best of me Sunday morning. It probably had to do with the dream I had about my grandma beating me at the race. I blame the carbs.

Breakfast was a small event: coffee (because I do nothing without coffee), oatmeal, and a banana. I don’t eat a lot in the morning, but I know it’s important to fuel up before a long run. My nerves were still going crazy by the time I met my friends in the crowded parking lot. This year’s race had about 1,100 people sign up and, as per the results, 800 finishers. We made a pit-stop at the Port-o-Johns because there’s nothing worse than having to run long distances while having to pee. Side note: I ran a ten-miler in October with no bathrooms on the course. Uncool. Anyway, after a bathroom stop we headed to the start line, just as that beautiful Florida sun started to rise. Oh, and ran into these beauties.

Helloooooo, beer!

Helloooooo, beer!

My running buddy and I placed ourselves at the back of the pack, just to be safe. We both had goals and were prepared to help each other out with them, but we wanted to be comfortable with our starting pace and there’s really no pressure in the back.

Let's do this.

Let’s do this.

We got started just after 7AM with a pretty steady pace. Like I said, I wasn’t out to impress anyone but myself, but I was feeling pretty good at a twelve-minute mile. I know I don’t have a lot of speed, but what I lack I make up for in enthusiasm. By mile two I had to go to the bathroom, so we got water and I went. Water and bathrooms were both available every two miles, which was pretty awesome. The weather on this race (compared to 40s in Disney) was a little rough. It was in the 70s and muggy, typical Southwest Florida, but more difficult when running thirteen miles.

The course we were set on was nice, especially with the weather like it was. We had a great view of some nice neighborhoods on the river. The streets were flat, shady, and provided a nice breeze to counter the humidity. One of the things that I liked that most about running through the neighborhoods was the fact that people were hanging out in the streets cheering for us. Sometimes it was whole families, sometimes just a single old woman sipping her coffee (which I would have killed for), and once there was an innocent looking little girl with a sign that said: “Run fast. I just farted.” I’m still kicking myself for not taking a picture of that one.

I started feeling some pain in my taped leg at about mile five, but I pushed through. Pain is temporary, you know. The first seven miles were like a cake walk compared to what came at mile eight. I’ve ran the Edison Bridge three times and the Hooters Half makes four. It never gets easier. In fact, this was pretty much my downfall.

Actually the worst.

Actually the worst.

I had a GU at mile nine (Salted Caramel – yum) and some Gatorade because they were out of water at the station, and we kept on trucking. By mile ten my earphones died and I was left in silence.

Worst.

Thing.

Ever.

I’d like to blame the rest of the run on the fact that my headphones died and I had nothing to listen to so I couldn’t keep a pace or DO ANYTHING PRODUCTIVE. But, it’s probably more of the fact that I was starting to feel dehydrated and the pain I’d started feeling around mile five started to intensify. I told my running buddy to go on without me. I’m pretty sure my exact words were “Just leave me here to die!” so she did. She pushed me through those first ten miles and I was so, so grateful, but I knew she had a goal and I wanted her to reach it. I felt pretty good about still having her in my sight, like we were still going together, but eventually she turned a corner and I was on my own.

Of course, running is pretty much a solo sport, so it wasn’t too terrible. I tried to focus on the fact that I’d made it TEN MILES when this time last year I only had a few 5K under my belt. I ran-walked the last three miles, keeping up with intervals with a couple that was in front of me. (They were super cute and ran across the finish line with their kids.) At some point an elderly gentleman came up behind me and said something like “I’ve been following you for six miles, you can’t quit now!”

Game on, old man!

After that I pulled my phone out and just listened to my music on speaker. My pace was still under fourteen minutes and I was looking good to finish under three hours. By the time I came around the back of the mall and toward the finish line I could have cried. People (volunteers and spectators alike) were still waiting and cheering, which is a great feeling. My friends met me just a few yards from the finish and ran the rest of the way with me, because they’re awesome and the best people I could ever imagine running with.

Cute owl bling!

Cute owl bling!

Of course, being the Hooters Half, there was free beer and wings at the finish line. As much as I wanted to take part in those delicious things I settled on water and grapes. I was feeling pretty dehydrated and in serious need of a nap, so I passed on the yummies, which was a little sad. I mean, how do you run the Hooters Half and not eat the wings and drink the beer?

It’s okay, there’s always next time. I really enjoyed this race, even the last three miles that completely sucked. It wasn’t a big crowd and the course was nice, plus it’s pretty close to my house so the travel time is minimal.

And hey, a Hooters girl give you a medal. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Also, according to my Nike+ app my finish time was 2:57:47. So, I managed a PR on my second half marathon, beating my old (first and only) time by ten minutes! Now I’ve got two half-marathons under my belt, but I’m ready to focus on some shorter distances. I prefer 10Ks and have a few lined up for the year already. But, of course, it’s all about the swag.

swag

You can find me on Instagram and Twitter with @thisgirlash_ if you like to talk about books, cats, and running (sometimes). I also blog at Ash Does Stuff.

Guest Post -The Bolder Boulder 10K

This Memorial Day, I decided to join about fifty two thousand other people and participate in my hometown race, the Bolder Boulder 10K. I was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado and grew up around this race but had never seen it in action. The entry makes this event the largest 10k in the country, and it is the largest Memorial Day party in the USA. I knew neither of these facts when I registered. Nor did I know that Runner’s World Named it “America’s Best 10k”, or that it draws elite runners from all over the world. The only thing I did know was that it was a 10K, the race motto is “sea level is for sissies,” and that I really wanted that on a t-shirt. Like, I wanted it yesterday. So I signed up, and lemme tell you, it was amazing!

One of my very favorite things about this race (which is saying a lot because there were many favorite things) was the packet pick-up. It was pre-race, and by pre-race, I mean weeks in advance. The Bolder Boulder rents a storefront at the 29th Street mall which opens weeks before the race. It’s brilliant! I was able to swing by on my lunch break and pick up my packet as well as do a little shopping. Usually, the packet pick-up location is an hour and a half drive from me and requires me to take off work early to manage the traffic. This option was the best thing ever, and an example of why this race has a reputation for running like a well-oiled machine. When I picked up my packet, I found the tribute bib which I was super excited about. My family has a rich military history and I was honored to run for these brave men in my family on Memorial Day.

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Race festivities begin the Saturday before the race and go through the weekend. Saturday and Sunday the Expo takes over Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, a trendy pedestrian street lined with boutique shops, pubs, and restaurants. It’s beloved by locals and packed with buskers in the summertime. I made it to Pearl Street late Sunday afternoon, scored some energy gels, and picked up a great headband for the race. There were tons of deals on awesome running gear, but somehow I managed to refrain from purchasing the neon pink Brooks Pure Flow shoes. After the expo, my husband and I stopped at The Gondolier for a pre-race carb load.

Next best thing to running is shopping for running shoes!

Next best thing to running is shopping for running shoes!

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I love these homemade noodles!

The traffic in Boulder is annoying on a normal day. On race day, it’s uberdiculous. We devised a plan to drive to my office on the east side of Boulder and then ride our bikes along the Boulder Creek bike path to the starting line. This plan worked out perfectly. The weather was beautiful! It was in the low sixties and calm, perfect for riding and running! I got a bit of a warm-up riding my bike for about a mile and a half, and we didn’t have to deal with any stress of parking and maneuvering through the crowds. It worked out so well, this will be our plan every year! After we parked our bikes near the starting line, I found the porta-potties. There were so many there was no wait at all to get in. My husband Rick walked with me to my corral, which I’m always grateful for because his 6’ 3 sees over heads much better than my 5’2. I waited about 10 minutes before my start at 8:58.

Waiting to start and arguing with my phone.

Waiting to start and arguing with my phone.

I admit I was nervous about the crowds at this race. I was worrying about it in emails to Mer, and she, being the best cheerleader ever, assured me to just relax, let it happen, and most of all, to enjoy it. Race day was pleasant surprise. Although it was busy I wouldn’t have guessed that there were fifty-two thousand participants. The BB is so organized and the waves are so well spaced that it didn’t feel like a big production race.

My corral

My corral

There was plenty of breathing room in the coral, and once we set off it didn’t take long for the pack to break up as everyone found their pace.

 

And we're off! The beautiful Flatirons are in the background.

And we’re off! The beautiful Flatirons are in the background.

The course takes runners through the streets of Boulder, both commercial and residential. I loved the residential sections as it made the Bolder Boulder feel like a hometown race. People who live along the route are wonderfully supportive. I saw two girls holding a “free hugs” sign, and I had to take them up on their offer. They assured me I deserved lots of hugs. Awesome spectators bust out their garden hoses to spray heated runners as they pass. Some stood with huge bowls of Doritos, offering the salty snack to runners who need it. The Garage bands open their garage doors and play “We Are the Champions” and “Eye of the Tiger” to keep runners motivated. They even build slip-and-slides in their front lawns for added amusement and refreshment. Because really, who doesn’t want to slip-and-slide when given the opportunity? There was a drum circle drumming a rhythm for a troupe of belly dancers, who encouraged us with their sauciness (seriously, only in Boulder would you see this). I tried to get video of these beautiful ladies, but I utterly failed at correctly operating my iPhone that day. Plus my battery was quickly dying, and I needed to save some juice for my finish line pic and calling Rick afterward.

Love the small, neighborhood race feel to this event!

Love the small, neighborhood race feel to this event!

At the four-mile mark, I was feeling pretty good. That is also the Casey hill, named because it’s next to Casey Middle School (my alma mater), and it happens to be the highest elevation point on the course at 5.391 feet. By cresting this hill, I earned my “sea level is for sissies” t-shirt!

My husband is my personal race photographer, thanks honey!

My husband is my personal race photographer, thanks honey!

Not long after, a sharp pain in my right hip forced me to slow down and walk more than jog. I had registered as a “jogger/walker, mostly jogger” (yes, that is the actual category name) and I stuck to that until my hip acted up. The hip opening yoga sequence I had done before the race hadn’t kept this annoying pain at bay, but I was so close to the 5 mile mark that I pushed myself to run as much as I could the rest of the race. Someone held a sign that said “not all pain is significant” and that sharpened my mental focus. I relied on the encouragement of the crowd and volunteers as I jogged up the last not-so-little hill toward the finish line at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field.

Running into a stadium full of cheering people was exciting. I got tons of high-fives from the people in the first row as I ran through and that helped me go a little faster those last few yards. I felt strong despite the pain and I was so proud of myself for this accomplishment. This was the longest distance I had ever run! I crossed the finish line in 1:29:28. I was not as fast as I would have liked, but I wanted come in under 1:30. 1:10 would have been better. That’s what goals are for though, right?  I managed to snap a finish line selfie before my phone died.

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Feeling hungry, and more importantly, thirsty (for beer), I made my way to timing tag return then grabbed my snack bag and Michelob. FYI, trying to find your husband in a crowd of thousands without your phone is really, really hard. So I did what any girl would do, I went to the expo! It was great until I realized that I didn’t have any funds with me, they were with missing husband. So was the real camera. Making my way back to my bike would be the best plan as he would wait for me there. As I hobbled walked back down the hill, I spied him sitting near the course not far from the stadium. Reunited at last! After the short bike ride back to the car, my legs were done.

Stick a fork in me.

Stick a fork in me.

It was well worth it, though, and I will be signing up for the 37th Annual BolderBOULDER 10K on Memorial 2015 in case any of you want to join me! Come on, don’t be a sissy!

 

Jenn is an asthmatic former smoker who never in her life thought she’d run by choice. She enjoys surprising herself with new accomplishments, as well as quilting, writing  fiction, working on her blog, sci-fi, and pugs. She can be found in her sewing room plotting costume ideas for the Disney Star Wars Rebel Challenge.

Guest post: Consider me Cleansed

pre-pubertyI grew up a latchkey kid in the cornfield-laden suburbs of the middle of nowhere, Illinois. I pretty much came and went as I pleased, within reason. I relied upon myself for at least half of my daily meals. The meals that I made consisted of whatever I found in the house, and what I found usually consisted of the white starch food group and the overly sugary food group. When my mom cooked, it was usually a meat, bread, and potatoes sort of presentation. Our milk was 2%, always. We were all a part of the clean plate club, and dessert was never something we missed. This was all well and good. I didn’t know any different, and I liked it. I was an active kid: riding bikes, playing soccer, playing softball, running around the neighborhood…you name it, I was involved. So, activity and ultimately crappy eating were excellent partners. Until. UNTIL I hit puberty.

Puberty was not kind to me nor was it a friend of my “questionable food group” diet. I put on weight overnight, I swear. My thighs grew so quickly that they produced stretch marks. I went from being a fairly thin and athletic girl to a chubby 130 pound 8th grader sporting a butch haircut. (The haircut has nothing to do with anything, but it was horrific enough to be worthy of mention.) This is where my battle with weight and food and self-image began.

chubster

I kept up most of my horrible eating habits right on through college. I added the food group “alcohol,” which might have contributed to making things a bit more than worse. I ate things called “beer nuggets,” and I ate them at 3am. I maxed out around 155 pounds. Just so you know, I’m not all that pretty at 155 pounds. Not gonna lie.

Sometime after college, as a working adult living on my own, I figured out that something had to change. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel good. I wasn’t comfortable in my own body. I had an epiphany that I simply couldn’t “have my cake and eat it, too,” AND be any combination of thin /healthy / happy. My metabolism didn’t work that way. My body knew how to turn a calorie into a fat cell faster than I could blink, and I needed to come up with a way to win the battle against the calories and fat cells. I needed a way to win the battle against myself.

It has been a journey of 15 or more years in the making. I have found balance. I still don’t know everything there is to know about food, and I don’t claim to be a health expert. I have learned that no one thing works for everyone. I have only learned what works best for me: overall healthy eating and eating everything in moderation. As easy as that sounds, it isn’t. People who have only known me in my adult life assume that I have always eaten well, taken care of myself, exercised, looked this way, etc. Appearances can be so deceiving! When you go on such a journey, you know that the journey continues. It has detours and breakdowns. It doesn’t end…it just goes on.

So, as much as I’d like to say I have it all figured out and that I never give into cravings for shitty food that are destructive to my body…it just isn’t true. I aim to have more better days than I have bad days. I run (when not injured, which is another story for another day). I go to yoga. I eat mostly well. But, I also falter. I also self-sabotage. I also suffer from body dysmorphia. If I gain 10 pounds or lose 5 pounds, I pretty much feel I always look the same: ok, but not great. That is me. I own it, and I am a work in progress.

Just before Easter, I had found that I was really giving into my cravings more than usual. My one or two bad days of eating turned into “I can just have something bad every day as long as I keep up my exercising…that is ok, right?” Once it starts, it is easier to just go with it. Sugar is addictive. It makes me want more and more and more. I’m seriously an all or nothing sort of eater (I eat all of the cupcake, not just a bite. I eat all of the Easter candy, not just a few pieces. I just can’t help myself, it seems). I adapt by eating the cupcake for lunch, that way the calories are still kept somewhat in check. However, my body can’t be fooled. Do that too many times, and the weight just jumps right back on, of course. I decided it was time to reset my body and get back on track. I didn’t feel good. I was up about 5 pounds. I wanted to gain back the control and the good feelings that good eating bring with it.

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Enter: the Suja Juice 3-day cleanse. Just so you know, I am not a proponent of cleanses in general. Most of them involve a ridiculous combination of starvation and explosive “colon-purifying” diarrhea. (I’m just sort of against both of those things at my wise old age of 40. Consider me silly, but that is my stance.) When I came across this particular cleanse, though, I realized it was different. Their 3-day cleanse involves drinking 6 juices a day, for a total of 1200 calories. The juices are designed for different purposes throughout the day. This company does NOT urge you to enforce the rule of “chewing is cheating.” If you are hungry: EAT! If you are more active and require more calories: GET THEM! The only guideline is that you are smart about your choices. They recommend eating raw fruits and vegetables, drinking clear broths, or eating things like a baked sweet potato or an avocado. The idea is to rest and cleanse your digestive tract, and these choices will allow you to stay true to that idea.

My experience with this cleanse was a good one. It is recommended that you set yourself up for the cleanse by reducing sugar intake, eliminating coffee and alcohol, and eating a bit more lightly in the few days leading up to it. Uh huh. Yeah. I totally didn’t do that. I drank coffee. I drank my nightly jumbo sized glass of red wine. I ate as much as I could at an Easter brunch the day before. (Remember when I said that I self-sabotage? Well, here you go.) I knew I was starting the juice cleanse, so I just went crazy beforehand. Consider it the storm before the calm. Sort of backwards, sure, but that is par for the course in my world. Way to go, me!

When I commit to something, though, I commit! I jumped right into that cleanse the next day. I started day one with a juice and a yoga class. I figured it was smart to exercise first thing, prior to my body only having liquid sustenance and being a bit energy deprived. All went well there. I initially thought that I wouldn’t be able to give up my coffee and wine habit, but I did! I think that I was drinking so much throughout the day that I didn’t really crave anything else that was liquid. The first day I did make the mistake of not bringing one of the scheduled juices with me when taking my daughter to a movie. Too much time had lapsed between juices (you are pretty much drinking one every 2 hours), and I found myself VERY hungry. I cheated and ate 3 large bites of my daughter’s soft pretzel. Eh, nobody’s perfect. The rest of the day went well. No other cheats. No other problems.

the cleanse

Now I will say, on day one, I was not used to the juices. I’m not a “juicer” in general, so I didn’t know what to expect. The first juice (Glow) has a bit of an overwhelming celery presence to it, but it wasn’t too bad. I managed it. The second juice (Fuel) is bright orange and has a light sweetish taste of pineapple and orange. For the record, I loved this one. The third juice (Purify) is purple, thanks to the beets in it. My first experience with it was a bit interesting. This one is “earthy” and a bit “dirty” tasting, as in it sort of tastes like dirt. Really. I plugged my nose when drinking it the first go around. Next up was Fiji. It has a lot of apples in it, so I thought it would be amazing. I was wrong. I wasn’t prepared for the STRONG taste of ginger. I drank 2 swigs and called it quits. I drank more water to fill up my belly instead. For dinner there was Green Supreme. It is definitely green, but the taste surprised me. It was very much like apple juice, and I welcomed that immensely! Last for the day was Vanilla Cloud. It is designed sort of as a dessert. It has hints of vanilla, coconut, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I liked it. It is tasty. Other people RAVE about this one, but I have to say that the grit of spices and chunky bits of coconut meat turned me off to it a bit. Just a personal thing, I guess.

Anyway, the rest of the cleanse went surprisingly well. The juices grew on me, and I found myself actually looking forward to them. I didn’t even have to plug my nose at all. In addition, I managed to drink all of my Fiji drink on day 3. I’m not going to lie, I still had to kind of choke that one down, but I did it! I was oddly proud. I found what worked for me was adding in raw carrots and celery throughout the day. I also would throw in a banana or some grapes. When I was craving something warm to eat, I made up some vegetable broth and drank it from a coffee mug. This satiated that need, and it also added a few calories and a feeling of fullness that helped me through the process.

Some things to note:

  • I really wasn’t hungry, per se. I more missed the process of putting something in my mouth and chewing it. This is where the raw fruits and veggies came in.
  • I was pretty tired the end of day 1. I even went to bed early.
  • I was COLD during this process. I am generally cold, so this isn’t a big deal, but I certainly noticed feeling a chill. The warm broth at night helped with this side effect.
  • My teeth were very sensitive by day 3. Although there are no added sugars in these juices, they do contain a ton of pressed fruits which means there is a lot of natural sugars in them. I have sensitive teeth to begin with, so the sugar did a number on them. I would recommend using a straw!
  • I took off exercising on day 2, but I did go for a run on day 3. I was sluggish and my legs felt heavy. I still managed it, but I definitely noticed the lack of energy.
  • I constantly had to pee. I mean it. All day. Middle of the night. All night. When you are drinking that much liquid, I guess it is bound to happen!

How did I feel in the end? Did I lose weight? Did I feel reset? Would I recommend juice cleansing to others? Well, I will tell you. I felt pretty great after it was all said and done. I felt a sense of accomplishment and a sense of peace. I know that might sound a bit weird, but I don’t know how else to phrase it. Weight loss is NOT the ultimate goal of a juice cleanse, but it is often a by-product of it. In my case, I lost a total of 6 pounds. (I lost 3 pounds after the first day. I lost an additional pound after day 2 and after day 3. Oddly enough, after resuming my normal diet on day 4, I still lost an additional pound. I am back to my “happy weight.”) The best part of the entire experience was feeling reset. This cleanse gave me a chance to get away from all the sugar and junk and put me back on the path of “mostly eating well most of the time.” Given all of my positive experiences with it, I would highly recommend trying out the Suja Juice cleanse! I know that I plan on using the 3 day cleanse a few times a year, and I will probably throw in a 1 day cleanse from time to time. They have a lot of wonderful juices that I also intend to use as an occasional meal replacement or as a snack just to get in some extra fruits and veggies. It isn’t a cheap date, but I do like that everything is already thought out, prepared, packaged, and ready for me to ingest.

finding balance

In the end, as we all know, there are no magic pills / diets / secrets that will turn us into picture perfect models of health and fitness. Every day we have to own our individual journeys and do our best to just keep doing our best. I am proof, though, that you can change your overall course. I’m not perfect, and I obviously still seek out ways to help me stay on track, or get back on track when I falter…but there is satisfaction in small victories and continued overall success. I find joy in sharing my experiences and offering up any tools that have worked for me, just as I embrace gaining similar knowledge from others around me who are also fighting the good fight.

So, have you cleansed? Do you have any tools that you use to battle cravings? What are different ways that you have succeeded in your journey to be healthy?

Megan Ritter is a stay at home mom, blogger and fashionista. She enjoys yoga, running, photography and the laugher of her daughter. Her secret powers include sarcasm and baking without a recipe. It’s quite possible that she was a cat herder in a past life. A Chicago area native, Megan now lives in Haddonfield, NJ with her husband, 4 year old daughter and dog, Batman.

Notes on purchasing Suja Juice: you can find / purchase Suja juice products and the 1, 3, or 5- day cleanse on the Suja website: http://www.sujajuice.com . Please note, when purchasing through their website the shipping costs are very expensive. This is fresh juice that must be shipped on ice overnight. I found and purchased the 3-day cleanse on Amazon.com, and I was able to greatly reduce the shipping expense / cost of the product. The price varies, but you can usually find a good deal here. You can also find many of the Suja juice products (and piece together your own cleanse) at your Whole Foods store.

Guest post: My first 15K and my first runiversary

Next week will mark the first anniversary of when I decided to get serious about running. Before last April, I had never run more than 22.5 miles in a month. Starting with last April, I’ve run at least 50 miles every month.

In fact, I’ve run about 1,200 miles since I decided to become a runner last April. And I’ve run in 10 races. The last of those 10 races was at the end of March: the Spring Forward Distance Run 15K in Mendon Ponds Park, which I ran with Chick Vic and a few other members of our informal running group.

The course at Mendon Ponds Park varies depending on the distance of the race, but it’s always hilly. Very hilly. The kind of course where when you crest a hill, you frequently see a downhill followed immediately by another big uphill. You hear all sorts of comments about the hills when you’re racing. “I hate these hills.” “Don’t look.” “At least we get to go down the other side.”

I love it. I don’t know why, but I’ve discovered I love hilly races. Of my 10 races, three have been at Mendon Ponds Park, and at all three races the hills have been where I’ve tracked down and passed people.

Anyway, on race day I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and went through my standard race morning routine: go to the bathroom, eat breakfast, get dressed, drive to course. The race was at 8 a.m., and I got to Mendon Ponds Park at 7 a.m. and took the shuttle to the starting area. Around 7:30 I ran into Vic and Ray and we made our way to the starting area, where we found Mark.

This was my first 15K, so I was guaranteed a PR. But I was planning to use it as a test for my upcoming half marathon, where I want a big PR. So my goal for Spring Forward was under 1:20. I planned to try to do about 8:30 miles all the way through and then see if I could pick it up even more the last mile or so.

Vic was getting over a cold, so I knew she wouldn’t be interested in trying to go really fast. Ray was doing the race as the first 9 miles of a 16-mile training day, so he didn’t want to push it either. Mark said he’d try to stick with me but warned that he was working through some discomfort and might need to back off at some point.

With our plans in place (Mark and I running together, Vic and Ray running together, and Bill starting up front en route to second place in his age group), we settled into our spots to wait for the start.

The weather was really nice for a race, which was lucky for us considering that it snowed later that day. In the morning, it was cold but not frigid. There was no rain, no sun and little wind.

Mark and I started off with an 8:14 mile and then clicked off back-to-back 8:22 miles. We were a little bit faster than we needed to be for 1:20, but I felt good. We were able to hold a conversation, so the effort wasn’t tiring us too much. Unfortunately, the hills weren’t helping Mark’s injury. On a hill just past the 5K point, Mark told me he’d see me at the finish and slowed down.

Running on my own now, I maintained a sub-8:30 pace for the next two miles (8:27 and 8:23) while enjoying the scenery. The rolling hills in the middle of country and park space make for a beautiful course, and it was nice to just take it all in.

FF1Picturesque but hilly course (Photo by Fleet Feet Rochester)

I slowed up a bit in miles 6 and 7 (8:45 and 8:49), but that didn’t bother me. I was feeling strong and I knew I still had a kick left in me. I had no concerns about hitting my 1:20 goal. I sped up a bit to 8:32 in mile 8 and then again for an 8:13 in mile 9.

In races, I don’t really care where I finish in relation to the other runners. I’m competing against myself, and I know I’m not going to place in my age group. But the other runners can be useful props as the race goes on, especially at the end.

Over the last couple miles of the race, an older runner and I had been trading places back and forth a few times. I’d generally catch him on the uphills and he’d catch me on the flats. As we made the turn toward the finish line, I decided there was nothing more important than staying ahead of him. I kicked into as close to a sprint as I could manage at that point and I could hear him pushing to catch me.

I held him off and as I approached the line I saw that the clock hadn’t hit 1:19 yet (my official chip time was 1:18:47). I took a few seconds to celebrate my personal victory, then I walked back along the finishing stretch so that I could cheer in Vic, Mark and Ray. Mark came in around 1:23 with Vic and Ray a couple minutes later. It wasn’t the fastest any of them could run, but they were all happy with their times given their personal circumstances for the day.

And really, that’s what every race is all about: Running the best race you can given whatever you’re dealing with that day.

For me, this race was huge for two reasons.

First, as I mentioned earlier, it was a test run for the Flower City Half Marathon on April 27. Flower City is a hillier course than my first half marathon, so while I know I’m faster than when I ran 1:58:38 in September, I wasn’t sure how fast I should try to go at Flower City. My time at Spring Forward, and how good I felt after the race, gave me the confidence to decide that I’m going to run with the 1:50 pacer at Flower City.

Second, this was my first race since my marathon DNF in mid-February. After how badly that race went, it was nice to set a goal, follow a plan and have everything work out perfectly. It’s been nearly two months since my DNF and I still think about it almost every day. I don’t think I’ll be able to let go of it completely until I finish a marathon, but this was a nice step forward.

And it was a nice cap to my first year of running. Despite the marathon setback, I did more in the past year than I ever thought I could. I can’t wait to find out what I’m capable of doing in my second year of running, and beyond.

Ben is a husband, father, runner and editor in Rochester, NY. He can be found on Twitter at @bjacobsroch.

Guest post: There’s a first time for everything

“What was I thinking?”  This is the question that kept running through my head on Friday night – the night before my first half marathon.  Less than six months before I thought anyone who ran more than a 5k for fun was insane.  Less than six months before that I was among those who swore I’d never run unless someone was chasing me.  With a knife.  And there was a delicious fruity and alcoholic drink waiting for me when I was safely away from said knife-wielding maniac.

Well, there I was, my alarm set for 4AM, running gear meticulously lain out – double and triple checked (because I’m a little obsessive like that) waiting for sleep.  It came intermixed with dreams of showing up naked or, even worse, without my race bib. Thoughts like, what if I have to use the bathroom on the course? and what if I break an ankle half a mile from the finish line? plagued me. At one point I woke up cursing the friends who talked me into a race with promises of glory and pride and bling!  Did I mention that among these friends was your favorite runner and mine, Meridith?  Thanks, Mer.

I decided that 3:45 was close enough to 4am and rolled out of bed.  Up and at ‘em!  I threw on my clothes – what a process it was to figure out what I was going to wear!  All winter I had been training in sub-freezing weather, but that morning it was 50 degrees.  Yikes!  Too warm for cold weather gear, not quite warm enough for my regular stuff.  So I found a happy medium. Then it was time for breakfast. Peanut butter and sliced banana on wheat toast.  For the record, yuck.  But it works.

After a few last minute words of advice from my runner husband and a kiss for luck, I was out the door by 4:50. My stomach was still churning when I met my friends at the rendezvous point for carpooling into DC.  Thank goodness for the former DC-dweller turned suburbanite who drove us downtown, because the rest of us would’ve been completely lost.  Fast forward:  we park in the lot, hit the portajon, take Metro to the starting line. It was there that we discovered the VIP portapotties.  Yes. V.I.P. porta potties. Complete with red carpet and velvet ropes. Who knew?  After seeing the lines for the not-so-important-people restrooms, I briefly wished I had forked over the cash for the climate controlled, easily accessible luxury.

keristart

Then it was time to find our corrals.  Since the girls I rode in with are considerably faster than I, we headed in opposite directions.  I found myself in corral 30 and luckily made a new buddy – another first timer with fast friends in an earlier corral.

Corral pals!

Corral pals!

She made waiting for the start so much less stressful.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still bouncing on my toes anxious but, had Angie not been there, I might have had a very different experience.

The energy at the race was fantastic!  Because it was a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, there were  great bands along the course and those who lived on the course put their boomboxes on their front porches or had their car stereos blasting.  Good thing too! The local cell and data network was so overloaded because of the influx of people that my Pandora app wasn’t working!  The volunteers at the water and Gatorade stations were fantastic, but the cheering crowds, some with signs, some handing out beer, made the race!

I started out strong.  I kept telling myself to slow down and try not to bonk.  It totally worked for the first 5 ½ miles.  Then came the hill.  I will have nightmares about this hill for the rest of my life.  The elevation climbed from 24 feet to 197 feet in less than 1/3 of a mile.  When I tell you that it looked (and felt) like we were going straight up, I do not exaggerate.  Probably 85% of the people around me had to walk it, and some even did so backwards to take the strain off their hamstrings and shift into using their quads.  It was rough.

Accurate sign is accurate.

Accurate sign is accurate.

My legs were fried by the top and it really messed with the rest of my race. At that point I made a conscious decision that I would basically power walk uphill and only run the downhills.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I did what I had to do to get it done.  Thankfully, the end of the race was downhill so I was able to run through the finish line and smile for the cameras.

I collected my medal (which, if it wasn’t so darn heavy, I would wear it until the ribbon gave out) and headed through the finishers’ chute.  I was very happily surprised when I turned at the sound of my name and realized that Victoria, another of my favorite Scoot a Dooters, had found me in the midst of 25,000 people.

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All in all, it was great day.  I am incredibly proud that I completed the course and have a shiny new medal to show for it.

kerifriends

I am hopeful that the whole experience will be like childbirth in that it’s pretty painful, but worth it, and a few days later you want to do it all over again.  It better be since Meri and Vic suckered me into signing up for another half in six weeks.  Yikes!

Keri is a stay-at-home mom to twins who loves to travel and over-indulges in historical fiction. She has been known to tone down her innate awesomeness in order to make those around her more comfortable.

Everyone has to start somewhere! We want to hear about your firsts – whether it be your first run, 5k, 10k, half marathon, or marathon. What did you do beforehand that worked well? What would you do differently?

Guest Post: Mermaid Run in San Francisco

Last fall, I participated in my fourth Mermaid Run in San Francisco, which is hands-down my favorite event of the year for many reasons.

First off, the 2010 Mermaid Run was my first-ever 10k. The race takes place in my favorite American city, the course is stunning and the weather is perfect for running. The event has a small(ish) participant field and is one of the most organized runs I’ve participated in, the energy is amazing and swag is awesome!

Participant shirt, Finisher Necklace and my bibMy participant shirt, finisher necklace and race bib

2013 was an exciting year for the Mermaid Run San Francisco, as race organizers added a new distance, a 10-mile race dubbed The Sirena 10.

But even better than the new race length was its course, which would include an out-and-back trek on the Golden Gate Bridge. I could not pass up an opportunity to run across the bridge, so Sirena 10 it was!

Registration opened up right around my birthday so my son gave me one of the best gifts ever, registration for this run… thank you Rob!

before the race

before the race

The 2013 race was held on Sunday morning so I arrived in San Francisco early Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the Sports Basement Presidio to retrieve my race packet which consisted of my bib, participant shirt and a Mermaid Run headband.  Packet pick-up for this race is always well organized and efficient, so I was in and out in 15 minutes leaving me with plenty of time to enjoy the city before grabbing some Korean hot pot for dinner and turning in early to ensure I would be well rested for my run in the morning.

Sirena 10 Runners lined up at the start

Sirena 10 Runners lined up at the start

My hotel was a little more than a mile from the start at the Marina so getting there in plenty  of time for the 7:30 am start was a breeze for me – a 15 minute walk on Divisadero Street and I was there. It was chilly and windy waiting for the race to start but runners and spectators were having a great time chatting, snapping photos and enjoying the stunning vistas the Marina has to offer.

The three event distances (10m, 10k & 5k) had staggered start times to account for the difference in the course for each distance, right at 7:30 the Sirena 10 runners set off.

We headed out Yacht Road and on to Mason Street towards Crissy Field, right away I noticed  that there wasn’t any crowding on the course and was extremely thankful for those staggered start times. Before I knew it, I passed the first mile marker and we veered left on Crissy Field Avenue toward the Presidio.

I’ll admit it. This is the part of the course I had been dreading. While the next two miles would get me to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, it also meant one thing, running uphill.

I wasn’t excited.

Once I made my way up to Fort Point Historic Site and caught my first glimpse of the iconic bridge, those rotten hills were forgotten.

first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from Bay Trail

first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from Bay Trail

Many runners stopped mid-stride to capture the amazing view of the bridge before continuing on to mile 3 and our run across the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’m not going to lie, this is what I had been waiting months to do.  

I walked across the bridge years ago. Last summer my son Rob, boyfriend Tony and I rented bikes and rode across the bridge, from San Francisco to Sausalito.

And of course I’ve driven across the great Golden Gate countless times.

But I wanted to run across it. And I was about to…. well, after I took in the absolutely AMAZING view, snapped a handful of pictures which included a shameless selfie or two.

The view right before mile 4 was breathtaking.

The view right before mile 4 was breathtaking.

I found my happy pace around mile 4 and headed for my happy place as I started to make my across the bridge.

I was in awe of not only the view but of all the amazing women who were already making their way back across the bridge toward the finish.  I happily clapped and cheered on the lead runner and several of  the others behind her as I made my way to the end of the bridge, Vista Point and mile 5, the halfway point and turn around.

The view from Vista Point.

The view from Vista Point.

Running back to San Francisco we were running toward traffic. Quite a drivers waved and honked as they passed by. And I got rather excited when the Bacon Bacon truck passed me, which, in turn, made me start planning my post-race bacon-centered meal.

The run back felt effortless. I was truly swept up in the moment and loved taking it all in. Before I knew it I reached the end of the bridge and mile 7.

One fabulous perk of having to run hills at the start of the race is that those same hills become your best friend on the return route. DOWNHILL!

I ran back down Bay Trail and Long Avenue before we merged with those running the 10k on Marine Drive, we made our final turn at the Warming House at Fort Point and ran those last two miles to the finish.

I am a Mermaid Athlete.

I am a Mermaid Athlete.

2013 was by far was my favorite Mermaid Run!  The course was stunning, and I kept thinking to myself while I was running is how lucky I am to get the opportunity to run in such an amazing city with such magnificent views and have perfect running weather in early November.

With the hills, I was concerned I would fall off pace and slow way down, but much to my surprise that didn’t really happen. I was only 5 minutes off my normal 10 mile time. And I paused more than once to snap some photos!

I definitely rode my runner’s high well into the day.  The Mermaid Run San Francisco remains my favorite event of 2013 and you can bet I’ll be back next year! I hope the Sirena 10 will be as well.

2014 race info

Are you interested in running the 2014 Mermaid Run? Registration is underway for the Nov. 9 event.

Early registration fees end May 31 and range from $40 to $70 (depends on which distance you pick!)

Can’t make it to the San Francisco run? There’s also a Mermaid Run in East Bay on May 10. That weekend series includes a 5k, 10k, half-marathon and 18-miler. Registration is between $45 and $75 through May 8.

Oh and in case you were wondering, I did have that bacon after the race. Like the run, it was perfect.

Heather is a mom, runner, crossfitter and contract administrator. She blogs at Heather in the Middle and can be found on Twitter at @hsb0372.

Do you have a favorite annual road race? Have your ever run across an incredibly large bridge? (That’s a hill in itself!) 

Guest post: DNF does not mean failure

Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you want it to or think it will.

Last Sunday was going to be the day I ran my first marathon. I didn’t know what my time would be, or how my body would feel after it, or if I’d love the experience or hate it. But I knew I’d finish.

Except that I didn’t.

Before I get into the details of what happened Sunday, a little background. I started running in April, when I decided I wanted to run a half marathon in September. When I made that decision, I had no bigger plans than just running the half marathon, but it quickly became apparent once I started to train that I would want to run a full marathon at some point. My thinking at the time was that I’d do another half marathon this spring, then do my first full in October.

Then I ran the half marathon, and it was perfect. I ran the entire way with Chick Vic, met my goal of under two hours and helped her beat her PR by five minutes. I felt so good that I wanted to start training for a full marathon right away.

After one recovery week, I began a 20-week marathon training program that put the date for my first full in mid-February. Perfect time to go down to Florida and run a race. But just to be safe, I decided to find a backup race in case flying to Florida wouldn’t work out.

And that’s how I ended up attempting my first full marathon in upstate New York in the middle of February.

beforeraceBundled up for a chilly race

My training went very well, for the most part. I did Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program, modified slightly to fit my schedule (and extended two weeks to add a second 20-mile run). I ran outdoors as much as possible (on the weekends and when my parents were in town and could watch my daughters), experiencing some truly uncomfortable conditions that I hoped would prepare me for whatever weather awaited on race day.

In early November, I did a 14-mile training run that included a 1:52:26 half marathon, more than six minutes faster than the race I had run in September. On my first 18-mile run, I was able to do the final six miles at an 8:19 per mile pace. Neither of my 20-mile runs felt great, but I was a lot fresher after the second one than the first one, which I considered a good sign. The only race I did during training was a hilly 7.5-miler on New Year’s Day in frigid weather, and I felt great after finishing in 1:07:22.

The Hudson Mohawk Road Racers Club Winter Marathon was an out-of-town race for me, but the logistics set up perfectly. On Saturday, I took the train to Schenectady, where I stayed with my wife’s aunt and uncle. They took me for a pasta dinner that night and had everything I’d need to get ready for the race. As a bonus, my wife’s uncle is not just a former marathoner, but a former sub-3-hour marathoner who ran Boston eight times. It was nice to be able to talk about some of his race experiences as I prepared for my first one.

Sunday morning I had a banana and a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast (I also had a gel half an hour before the race and carried four on the course with me), got all layered up for the 20-degree weather that was supposed to feel colder with the wind and then they took me to the University of Albany’s athletic campus, the site of the race’s roughly 5.5-mile loop course.

My parents, who live in western Massachusetts, drove to Albany Sunday morning and met me before the race to cheer me on and then drive me back to Rochester.

withparentsAll smiles with my parents before the race.

As the start time of 10 a.m. drew closer, everything was going according to script, and that would continue to be the case for about the next two hours.

I had three goals for my first marathon. First, obviously, was to finish. Second was to finish in under 4 hours, 22 minutes, a 10-minute pace. Third was to finish in under four hours.

I know you’re not supposed to worry about time for your first marathon, and I know you’re really not supposed to go out too fast. My plan was to set a pace that would give me a shot at a four-hour marathon. If I was feeling good, I’d go for it. If I wasn’t feeling good, I’d slow down and just do what I could.

HeadingoutOn our way out to the first loop

The first half of the race went pretty much according to plan. I let the adrenaline get to me a bit in the first mile and ran an 8:23, but I slowed down right away and was at 9:24 and 9:33 the next two miles, then I accidentally slowed down even more and did the fourth mile in 9:59.

After that, I settled into a groove and started clicking off 9:00-9:30 miles: 9:06, 9:07, 9:13, 9:06, 9:20, 9:20, 9:16, 9:09, 9:25, 9:22. I reached the half marathon mark in 2:01:15. My first quarter of the race (1:00:30) and my second quarter (1:00:45) were almost exactly the same. I felt great.

SecondturnaroundHeading out for the third loop and feeling strong.

And even the conditions weren’t that bad. It was cold but not unbearably so; I actually unzipped my top layer on the third mile. It was sunny. The roads were mostly dry. There was some stiff wind, but only at certain points on the course.

Then things started to unravel. In retrospect, I clearly had a plan that was too aggressive. I expected to feel tired during the race, and thought I could just slow down if I felt too fatigued. I didn’t anticipate the severe leg pain that was to come.

Just after I finished my 14th mile, I started feeling small cramps in my calves. Nothing debilitating, but enough that I knew I needed to slow down and try to get them to go away. I immediately dropped my pace and did the next three miles in 10:09, 10:08 and 10:03. I still got the occasional calf twinge, but not very often.

ThirdloopGoing a bit slower but still feeling OK as I finish loop three.

Then, during mile 18, my thighs started to get tight. By the end of the mile, they had seized up so badly that I had no choice but to slow to a walk. The only way I can think to describe it is that it felt like my thigh muscles were trying to strangle my knees.

I walked for a quarter-mile, and the tightness subsided enough that I could start running again, slowly. But it was the beginning of the end. Mile 19 took me 13:24 to finish.

That’s the last mile I have a split for because, to make matters worse, my Garmin stopped tracking distance at 19.04 miles. It didn’t affect my ability to finish the race, but it definitely threw me off a bit.

The fourth loop ended around 20.6 miles, and I alternated walking and jogging for the last 1.5 miles. My parents had picked a spot near the turnaround to come out about when I should be approaching to take pictures and cheer me on. They knew something was wrong because it had taken me so much longer to finish the fourth loop than the first three.

Fourthloop Struggling mightily as I finish the fourth loop.

I had been running as I approached them, but then I walked through the water station and to the turnaround and back to them. As I passed them, my dad came with me to see how I was doing. I told him it wasn’t good and he kept going with me as I headed out for the final loop. We walked together for about three-quarters of a mile and when we got to the beginning of the main loop, I had to tell him to stop while I tried to stretch out my legs a bit.

Seeing how much pain I was in, and that I couldn’t even keep up with him walking, he said he thought I should call it a day. I knew he was right, but it’s not easy to pull yourself off the course when you’ve worked for 20 weeks to reach this point. Ultimately, I decided that if I kept going, I risked seriously injuring myself, and I told him I was done.

We walked back to the staging building, and I had a new problem. Since I had been slowing down significantly, I was suddenly very cold. That roughly one-mile walk – dejected, in pain and freezing – was one of the most unpleasant experiences I’ve ever had.

The good news: They had cookies in the staging building. I may have had five or six, and I don’t regret it (I also had a banana and some orange juice).

I slumped to the floor and leaned against a wall, texted my wife and posted the bad news on Facebook and Twitter.

As disappointing as the DNF was, I tried to stay positive (and the comments from friends and family that came flooding in certainly helped). I went farther than I had ever gone before, I didn’t let stubbornness lead to injury, and I learned valuable lessons for my next marathon attempt.

I don’t see Sunday’s race as a failure. If anything, it has made me even more determined. I’m going to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 19. And this time, I’m going to finish.

Ben is a husband, father, runner and editor in Rochester NY. He can be found on Twitter at @bjacobsroch.