Thursday, December 29, 2011

17 miles in the Eastern Shore

Yesterday, I met up with my friend Sam at the public library in Daphne for the LONGEST RUN OF MY LIFE (seems like I'm doing that every week, these days) - 17 miles. It was in the low 40s and I felt extremely underdressed, but I figured I'd get warm in the first few miles and that it would heat up towards the end of our run. We set off to run along the Eastern Shore Trail from Daphne to Fairhope. 

32 paved miles from Battleship Park to the Weeks Bay Reserve. Awesome!

This was the first run I've done with another person, while training for the marathon- and it was an absolutely critical one to have company. And to make it even cooler, Sam is the only woman I know to have completed a full IronMan! In short, she kicks a lot of ass. 

We talked a lot about her IronMan preparation and she told me that the most crucial thing she learned was heart rate training. She explained that most people struggle with their training because they don't know how to properly pace themselves and will tend to swim/bike/run much faster than they ought to. This is the wrong way to train because it causes your body to operate at heart rate outside of the fat burning zone. Basically, your body stops burning fat because your workout requires something with a higher caloric value so it ends up burning muscle instead. This opens you up to more injury risks and causes you to feel burned out and exhausted by the end of your workout. Training in the appropriate heart rate zone forces people to move slower than they would, but it allows your body to operate in the aerobic zone which is where your body most efficiently burns fat. Sam said that if you do it right, you should feel refreshed by the end of a long workout. I can't say I've felt that way after my long runs!

Before I knew it, we had run 8.5 miles and it was time to turn around! I couldn't believe what a difference it made to run with someone else, especially someone as interesting and experienced as Sam. It was a gorgeous run and I was really enjoying myself... until right around mile 15. Sam has ITBS and it really started to bother her towards the end of our run. My aches and pains were isolated in the arches of my feet, which was annoying but still MUCH better than what I had experienced in my other long runs. Then, we both started to feel nauseous which Sam said was a symptom of dehydration. At mile 16.3 (estimation), we saw an oasis in the desert...

We crawled in and said "we don't have any money, but if you give us some lemonade we'll love you forever and come back from lunch!" and they said "Alright, ya'll!" 

We sipped our half lemonade/half water beverages and they were sooo incredibly refreshing! I felt much better and extremely grateful to the kind folks at East Shore Cafe. Thanks to them, Sam and I were able to safely make it back to the library where our cars were parked. We had to walk a little because our legs had stiffened up from our break at the Cafe, but we survived and I'm still counting it as 17 miles completed!

Today, I'm feeling a little tightness in my calves but other than that, I'm just fine. Might do a spin class with Hans this afternoon to loosen everything up. Might also invest in a heart rate monitor ;)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

musings on millionairesses

I took my car in for an oil change, tire balance & rotation, software update, and Auto Butler and they said "Alright Ma'am, have a seat over there and we'll come and get you in about three hours." THREE HOURS?!!! Who has that kind of time to just "have a seat"??!!! The kind service attendant registered my obvious look of discontentment and offered, "Or if you're interested, we can have our driver take you somewhere!" 

And so Clinton, the driver, shuttled my ass to the nearest YMCA. The Y in Daphne is so much nicer than the Y downtown (which is the one that I always work out at). It doesn't have that weird rubbery track smell (like 5th Deck Roland) and all the cardio machines have their own television screens. I watched two episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker and ran 7 miles. Awesome.

It was a real treat for me because the "free basic cable" that comes with my apartment has been down for.. uhh... a few months. I'm not a big television watcher, but every so often I do enjoy several dead-brained hours of Bravo. 

There were three millionairesses in the two episodes that I watched, which I thought was pretty awesome. It must be tough to be a woman on that show, though. The line-up that Patti picked out for the women was chock full of greasy, schmucky dudes whose eyes were practically rolling in their skulls with $$ signs. Of course when the millionaires are dudes, it really isn't any different for their picking pool. This show is so incredibly shallow. That might be why I love it??

I bet you couldn't find me a bloke as dashing as the one I've already got, Patti!

It's late. I'm tired. Goodnight.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

>1 pull-up in 2012!

3 mile run this morning, followed by a solid half hour of stretching. I had wanted to run 4 miles, but I was having a really hard time distracting myself. There were no handsome dudes or attractive ladies to check out and there was nothing interesting on television. I tried to watch coverage of Kim Jong Il's death, but it sucks trying to focus on a subtitled news report on a television halfway across the room. So after ~30 minutes of running, I found a quiet place to listen to my weird classical music and zen out. I did the usual stretches and focused a lot on my right hip because it was extra achey on my run yesterday and clicked a bit on my run this morning. Pigeon- I'm telling you... do it. 

I wish I had a foam roller though. It was a major staple for Coast Guard Women's Rugby. On the first morning workout after every game, we'd head up to CDR Shumway's and he'd have us do light cardio for 15-20 minutes and foam roll/stretch for the rest of the workout. We'd roll out our hammies, quads, glutes, calves, backs, and hips and it was wonderous. Some of the more jacked gals would also roll out their shoulders/arm muscles but I never had any arm muscles to speak of, and foam rolling my upper body always felt like a weird bone massage. Icky.

I think one of my fitness resolutions for the New Year will be to (finally) improve on my upper body strength. With the exception of what I absolutely HAD to do to pass the Physical Fitness Exam twice a year, I shied away from upper body work. Severely. Most of the time, I was too embarrassed to practice push-ups or lift weights even when I was the only person in the gym! It's funny how self consciousness can be such a barrier to self improvement. But anyway, in 2012, I would like to be able to do a pull up. Even if it's just one! 

Single-hand pull-ups may be my fitness goal for 2022.

Monday, December 19, 2011

the longest run of my life, closely followed by the longest run of my life

So 14 miles happened on Friday. I got out of work a bit early, dashed home to throw together a playlist (highlights: David Gueta's "Titanium" (feat. Sia) and Jay-Z & Kanye "N****s in Paris"), and I hit the road, nervous for the adventure to come. It wasn't a mind game until about the 10th mile. My hips started aching, my knees felt like they were swelling up, and the arches of my feet were SOO stiff. It got worse and worse from there, but the silver lining is that I never felt like I was breathing hard. Which probably means I was running slower than shit, but HEY- it's something!

Side note- when "Paradise"- Coldplay started playing ~3/4 of the way through my run, I felt totally euphoric and like everything was going to be alright. It took my mind off the aches and pains and I felt really proud of myself for this 14-mile run (which was a real milestone for me) and for what I have yet to accomplish. 

Saturday and Sunday were a bust. I was in New Orleans eating and drinking all those calories back. Highlights- bread pudding pancakes at The Ruby Slipper Cafe in Mid City and braised lamb shank with grits at The Irish House. Incredible!! It's no wonder that I haven't lost any weight since I started this eating plan- I mean TRAINING PLAN. 

But anyway, today was the start of Week 8! With Christmas being right around the corner, I figured that I probably wasn't going to do much working out after Thursday or Friday sooooo I made an interesting (read- STUPID) change to my work out plan... and did my long run today. FIFTEEN MILES! OUCH! The first five miles were terrific. I felt loose and I was able to find a really comfortable rhythm but, of course, that nice feeling was not meant to last. Today's aches and pains were the same as Friday's but they set in a lot harder, although again I didn't feel like I was working hard, cardiovascularly. Does this mean that I need to replace some spin workouts/runs with weight training? Help! I don't want my legs to pop off in the middle of this marathon! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

day of rest!

Ahh... I've been waiting all week for this day. The day my feet, knees, calves, quads, hamstrings, core, and BRAIN gets to recover from all the mess I put myself through since my last day off (last week Tuesday). The day that my "workout plan" says STRETCH and that's it! No spin class, no weight lifting, no running, just resting and recovering.  And maybe some Ben & Jerry's.

Sometimes it's hard for me to take a day off from working out. I'll get out of work and think "You know what? I feel fine today, and today is a perfectly good day to train so why waste it!" but Hal Higdon has a lot to say about the benefits of rest and I figure he probably knows better than I do. Ed Eyestone of Runner's World Magazine says that a rest day is as crucial to his training as a long run. Does that mean I'm off the hook for tomorrow's 14-miler????!!

Back to the subject of stretching, behold- one of the best tricks I learned from Chris G at Synergy Yoga.

The Pigeon Pose

*cooo... cooo...*

It can be difficult and painful at first- but once you're able to relax into this pose, it works wonders for hip/glute tightness! I like to listen to classical music while I'm stretching because it makes me feel like a beautiful, graceful ballerina (or maybe it's because I get so damn tired of Ke$ha and Lil' Wayne by the end of a workout). Last week, I listened to Claude Debussy's "Menuett" as I stretched each hip flexor and I'm telling you- it totally transported me. Duuude...

And for the days when I'm feeling EXTRA fancy...

But gosh- that looks like way too much work for this rest day. And you can't devour a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby with your arms all twisted up like that!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

sweet, delicious runner's high

I'm using Hal Higdon's Novice 2 Marathon guide to train for my first marathon in March. I have (somehow) managed to stay pretty true to it for the past six weeks, but this week is making me nervous. My long training run is 14 miles.

... I've never run 14 miles...

Last week, I was supposed to run 9 miles and I gave up. List of excuses: it was cold and windy out, my legs were tired, I was tired, etc. Now it's this nagging splinter in my mind, making it tough for me to believe in myself. Luckily, fear is a big motivator for me. The feeling of taking on a challenge that seems insurmountable and then FINISHING is such a high. I want that high, I NEED that high. 

Today was a 4 mile run, my last short run of the week. I wanted to finish it in 35 minutes, for a 9:00 pace. I felt really strong as I started picking up the pace (maybe it was the amazing caesar salad I had for lunch at Mellow Mushroom!) and I ended up finishing at 34:13, for an 8:33 pace! Ahhh sweet victory. Sweet high. So what did I do to reward myself? I jetted to Bill's 5:30pm spin class at the Y. Now THAT was a mistake. We got these new bikes at the gym and whenever we brought the resistance up "a quarter turn", it felt like a FULL TURN. I was sweating like it was a BHYM class, for real. 

Side note: How is it so much easier to run before a spin class than it is to run after a spin class? I practiced a "transition run" after spinning a few weeks ago and felt like my legs were made of steel. I don't mean my legs felt jacked, just incredibly HEAVY. I think I might have made it two miles. Triathletes- how do you do the bike -> run thing so well??!

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is a picture of my favorite triathlete- Jimmy Krebs, emerging from the Gulf of Mexico having caught a red snapper during the swimming portion of his 70.3 (half ironman).

Gotta get your protein somehow!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

giving this a second chance

So I guess I haven't posted a while! The funny thing about this blog is it totally helped me get over my fear of the 188 miles, but it made me terrified to have my writing out in public for the world to see. There are a few things that I am super self conscious about- and even though writing is my oldest pasttime, sharing what I write has always made me uncomfortable. I guess ultimately, this blog was scarier to me than my bike ride from Seattle to Vancouver. I'm SO GLAD that I didn't give up on the RSVP (which was an amazing experience... maybe I'll write about it another day) but I wish I would have stayed true to writing about my progress.

Today, I was reading Jamie Tomc's marathon training blog and her writing totally inspired me to pick this thing back up. I don't think that I need it to stay accountable to my workouts or fitness goals, but it maybe is a tool that I can use to stay accountable to my writing. I don't know Jamie, but I'm getting to know her through her writing and I am so impressed with her drive and with her heart (not to mention her athleticism!). She is training for a marathon in April to honor and support loved ones who have fought the battle of cancer. Jamie is raising money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Tis the season, my friends!

Friday, May 6, 2011

biking and blacking out

I'm heading up to beautiful Yorktown, VA for the next three weeks. Hans gifted me with an awesome bike rack so I will be able to take the Giant with me without it taking up my whole trunk! I'm weirdly excited about this trip... the last time I spent an extended amount of time in Yorktown, I got my first taste of distance running. A guy in my class was training for a half marathon and he invited me and my friend Dana out on a run. I was very skeptical of my own abilities, but we held a really comfortable pace for 8 miles and I loved it. The next thing I knew, Dana and I were out there several times a week and we wrapped up our four week course with an invigorating 10-miler. This was about a year and a half ago, and I still remember it for how good of shape I was in! And also for how wasted I got with my classmates stationed in Norfolk 8)

Yes, the last time I was in Yorktown, I also got my first taste of Firefly sweet tea vodka. Oh boy... that stuff is too amazing! I spent lots of time with friends on Granby St. drinking as fast as I possibly could because the bars close at 1am or some crazy hour like that. So it was a race to the place, and I was three sheets to the wind faster than you could say Tik Tok and then it was like Boom Boom Pow flashing lights lights lights lights and sticky club shoes the whole rest of the night. And then it was badly hungover and eating spaghetti sandwiches, waiting for the room to stop spinning.

Anyway, I'm definitely looking forward to working out a lot and getting even more familiar with the bike and partying with my buds. I'm kind of apprehensive about not being able to do yoga, but it might be a nice break. I had a totally soul-crushing class on Monday. I felt sick to my stomach the entire 90 minutes and a couple of times, I actually saw the edges of my vision start to blur and darken like I was going to pass out. I took a couple of sitting breaks and didn't exert myself any more than I had to in order to look like I was working. It was totally pathetic. One of those "I hate this, I will never come back" kind of days. And then when I went yesterday, it was terrific. I held the head to knee the entire time, all four times, and my back was super strong. I didn't even think about the heat or my heart rate. I was weirdly comfortable.

So it should be a nice three weeks in Virginia. Biking on the weekdays, blacking out on the weeknights. Ready or not!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The creepy student

My yoga studio is hosting a 30-day challenge that started yesterday. The class I went to yesterday was probably the fullest I had ever seen in Mobile. The studio I visited in New Orleans regularly crams 30 people into a 20'x20' room (I'm guesstimating), but Mobile never gets that tight. It was actually so crowded that I resorted to setting up camp in a spot up front by the teachers' stage. That particular area is not very popular, as you might imagine.

I laid on my mat before class started, sweating in the room's 105 degree heat and also because I was nervous about being in front of everybody. And lo-and-behold, who unrolls her mat beside mine? My favorite instructor at the studio. I love her classes because she has this soft, soothing voice and it's easy to forget how hard my body is working when I'm listening to her talk. I fall right into those repetitive, meditative words and before I know it, we're laying in final savasana. When we practice in the same class (under another teacher's instruction), I always find myself peeking at her, admiring the depth of her expression just before I lose my balance and distract the whole room with my clumsiness. Anyway, she's kind of my yoga role model and taking a class right next to her only compounded my anxiety.

Through the entire class, I stared intently at my reflection in the mirror to inspire my own focus. I did not dare look over to the right at her reflection, lest I break posture or, even worse, accidentally make eye contact with her and forever mark myself as "the creepy student". Luckily, the class went really well. I made good progress in some of the spine-strengthening stuff and I think I even got a compliment from the instructor for my head to knee with stretching.

And when it was all over, as I wobbled toward the studio exit on my exhausted yoga legs, my yoga role model said "McCrae, I really enjoyed practicing next to you today." She's so nice.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tammany Trace in yo FACE

Jimmy Krebs, my good friend/father-in-law/life coach, invited me on a 56-mile bike ride with his friend Kay today. The two of them are training for the half-ironman in Panama City in two weeks. What's nice about being new to a sport is that I have no idea what I'm capable or incapable of- so I said, sure why not?!

I woke up at 5:30 and drove to Pascagoula, MS (very, very hungover from good times at O'Daly's Irish Pub last night) and Jimmy, Kay, and I headed over to Tammany Trace- a rail-trail from Slidell to Abita Springs, LA. It was a gorgeous ride through parks and wetlands with plenty of watering holes along the way.

May 7th, 2011- These two will swim 1.2mi, bike 56mi, and run 13.1mi.

The first 35 miles were amazing- I was really enjoying myself and my company. Something happened though, in the last stretch before we got back to the truck. The switch was flipped; the wall was hit. My hands were sore, my left knee started clicking (ITBS- can't seem to shake it), I couldn't find a comfortable spot in my seat, and I could feel the knots start to form in my back. And this was all I could think about. It suddenly didn't matter how beautiful it was out, or how nice the breeze felt in my face, or how much progress I had made in my cycling. I just wanted off this damn bike.

We are not friends.

We finally make it back to the truck and it appeared that our ride was "only" 52 miles long, not the 56 miles that Jimmy and Kay were planning on. So as I collapsed in the parking lot next to the truck, these two crazies went out to finish up the last four miles. And when they were done, they ditched their bikes and went for a two mile "transition run". WHAT IN THE WORLD?! 

The good thing about riding for 3 1/2 hrs is that I burned 2,000+ calories. So I ate a cheeseburger and peanut butter quake at Quakes Ice Creamery on the way back. Then I ate a mess of honey barbeque BWW at home in 'Goula and had the classic pulled pork plate at The Shed for dinner. And lots of sweet tea in between. 

I still can't imagine 188 miles of this though. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

BYoga and the Academy Experience

Today at yoga, I accomplished the most incredible thing. I did not touch my face. Through the ENTIRE 90 minute class! You may not think this is a big deal. Well you, my friend, have never done hot yoga. Imagine, if you will, being waterboarded by your own sweat. Feeling it sting your eyeballs and roll into your nose as you're bending over, trying sandwich your face into your shins. You learn pretty intense focus doing Bikrum-&-coke because the instructors constantly tell you to "practice stillness in between postures focusing on your breath with no fidgeting, wiping sweat, burping or other bodily movements" (BY Houston). That's right guys, no farting in yoga. At least not between postures.

Don't do it, man. Don't do it.

Yoga class sometimes takes me back to the Academy days. It takes me back to standing out on the parade field at 4:30pm on a Friday, sweating my butt off at the position of attention (head erect, eyes in the boat, chin in, shoulders back, etc. etc. it sucks) waiting for the band to play the music that meant drill was over (Bingo!). It takes me back to morning PT as a swab, doing those terrible multi-planar lunges waiting for the demonic 2/c to tell us to recover. It takes me back to marching tours (whoops, don't get an alcohol offense as a 4/c!) carrying my rifle back and forth through the old quad, waiting for the quarterdeck watchstander to tell me my hour is up. Or in one case, to tell me that some upperclass saw me talking to the other guy doing a marching tour and that we'd have to come back and march again tomorrow.

Xiaobin- demonstrating proper POA when you've busted both your knees playing rugby and you're stuck in a wheelchair until further notice. 

Yoga takes me back to the times where it was my job to stand perfectly still (or march like a perfect robot) and try to forget about the fly that just landed on my nose or the fact that my entire body itches because the drill uniform is made of goat hair or something. It's about structure and discipline and finding your happy place as you wait for it all to end.

Oh college. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hip Satchel

I wore my fanny pack *ahem* hip satchel on my bike ride yesterday. I did it because I am too cheap to buy one of those under the seat bike bags (yes I know Bell makes one for < $10... I'll do it next paycheck) and I needed something to carry my duty phone, iPhone, driver's license, and credit card. You know, in case I got an urgent duty call and decided to do a "dive bar" google search and go drinking instead. Come on people, this is a practical damn fashion accessory. 

Observe- my hip satchel. And small but noticeable stain from eating curry right before I took this picture (wow, am I really this cool?)

I had a Skype date with my very good friend Frank tonight whereupon I filled him in on my life's happenings, which of course included me training for this bike ride. Then I told him about my hip satchel, to which he reacted in the following manner:

And proceeded to say words to the effect of- "Fanny packs were started by people who needed to carry a medium amount of things, without the inconvenience of holding them. Later, it became a fashion accessory for both undesirable-looking and undesirably-shaped people."

Is it really that bad? Really?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Conquering the Cochrane

This morning, I woke up at 5:45 and hit the road at 6 for my first solo ride. The biggest hurdle of my ride was over the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge. It's named for a community settled by West Africans in the 1900s who were part of the last known shipment of slaves into the US. I learned about this and other interesting facets of Mobile's history in Margaret Brown's documentary "The Order of Myths". Netflix it!

Anyway, I rode across this bridge today at six in the morning in the breakdown lane with semis barreling past me. "Keep it together. Keep it together. Keep it together"

I went ~12 miles out and back and it felt pretty good! I'm feeling soreness in what I think are the right places (sit bones, where are you?) and I had a lot less tightness between my shoulder blades so this ride was a lot more comfortable than my first one. Ah, progress!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bikram yo-yo

I've been doing (practicing?) Bikram yoga since the first part of this year. I went with one of my best gal pals, Laura, to a studio in Portsmouth, NH and every woman there looked like a beach volleyball player, so I guess I stuck with it.

It's been a pretty rad journey. I really didn't buy into the mystical-medicinal aspects of it initially, but after four months... gosh, I sleep like a rock and poop twice a day. Neither of these things were normal for me, pre-Bikrara. ALSO, I ran a half-marathon last weekend and this was all I did to train- a long run (maybe 8 miles) every two weeks, a couple of short runs (2-4 miles) when I was able to convince myself, and Bikaroni twice or thrice a week. I didn't run awesome or anything, but I maintained a sub 10min/mile pace and felt fucking fantastic at the end of it. Sure my knees and ankles hurt like a bitch the next day because I didn't prep them for all that impact, but whatever!

Anyway, I'm a total Bikyumm believer now. And it's crazy that those 26 postures can feel so different, from one class to the next.

Somedays, I feel like I belong in the front row of class "with my smiling, happy face"

Other days, I totally lose my shit. 

I may not look like a beach volleyball player yet but uhhh that's totally not my goal anyway.

 I mean, who wants to look like this? 


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First ride

Today was my first bike ride in four years. Last time I rode, it was a bike that I borrowed without asking from the Coast Guard Academy's bike locker. Some friends and I rode five miles or so to Mirch Masala, an awesome Indian place in Groton. Both times we were going downhill on the Gold Star Memorial bridge, my bike started to accelerate, I panicked, braked too hard, lost control, and ate shit. We weren't going fast, I'm just exceptionally clumsy and gutless. But whatever, it wasn't like I had to worry about getting good at bike riding.

My boyfriend, Hans, is a bike rider. Last year, he rode the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. 202 miles... jesus christ. I sent him home-baked cookies and a good luck card. This year, he's riding the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party!). He asked me if I wanted to ride it with him, probably expecting me to say "that's sweet of you babe, I'll send cookies", but I thought it might be fun so I signed up. The registration fee was $95... that should have been my first red flag. I started looking in local bike shops and their entry level, bottom-of-the-line, road bikes started at $750. Then I had to buy a helmet. Then I had to buy a tire pump. Then I had to buy water bottle cages. I don't even have a tire repair kit yet because I feel too sick to my stomach to buy another bike accessory this month. Also, I wouldn't know what to do if I got a flat so I'd be shit out of luck anyway. But, as of last week, I became the owner of a Giant Avail 3 road bike, in sangria/black. It looks nice in my apartment.

Anyway, I rode the bike today. A nice lady in Daphne said that she rides with a group every Wednesday afternoon and that they'd be nice to me even though I don't know the first thing about riding. I actually brought a fanny pack with me because I'm on duty this week and didn't want to leave my phone in my car. Good thing I didn't put it on right away because they all had bags strapped onto their bikes. Why do they make fanny packs, anyway? So yeah, I left the phone in the car and hoped it wouldn't ring.

I didn't think it would be as challenging as it was... I didn't get off the bike and walk or anything, but I really struggled (and often, failed) to keep up. They were so nice though, always glancing back to make sure I hadn't collapsed on the side of the road. Actually, they were a lot nicer than that- someone was always hanging back with me and giving me tips and encouragement. We rode for 22 miles through some really beautiful rural areas in Baldwin County, AL and I didn't eat shit, not even once. My first training ride is complete! My legs are pretty sore but not as sore as my lady parts.