Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wiggle War Recap: Week 4

Is it just me, or did January fly by? I'm a solid month into my Wiggle War and overall, I'm pretty pleased.

Total Weight Lost: Approximately 6 lbs.
Total Miles Run: 38.38 Miles
Races: 1 ( I refuse to call the Tundra Challenge a race)
Race PR's: 1
Number of Active Days: 20 (the goal was 24)
Pants: Fitting Much Better
Injuries: 1 (nagging muscle strain in the back of my left leg - fine when I run, hurts like a beast during yoga)

Areas to Improve:
  • I need to get better about eating at home, but sometimes I just can't resist the siren song of my favorite restaurants!  In the grand scheme of things, going out to dinner isn't the end of the world, just something I need to do less frequently.
  • Activity level. I enjoy being active, but the cold weather provides me with endless excuses to stay on the couch under a blanket.  I need to quit making excuses and get my butt out the door! 
I'm looking forward to see what happens in February!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Expo Run 10k Recap

What a weekend!  It started with a trip to the Great Lakes Multisport Expo on Saturday afternoon to pick up my bib # for Sunday's Expo Run 10k.

The expo was definitely a sight to be seen.  There were team cycling challenges (done on indoor trainers), transition races (saw a woman stripping off a wetsuit in the ladies room), and vendors as far as the eye could see.  One of the vendors was offering running clothes at up to 50% off the regular retail price, so of course I went shopping!

New acquisitions include:
Saucony Arctic LX Tights (thermal lined)
Saucony Omni LX Tights
I've never worn Saucony's clothes before, but I already love that their tights have a small pocket that can hold my id and a key when I go for a run.  Many companies seem to think that women don't need/want pockets when they run - but I certainly do!
After the expo, we headed home and I started doing my usual pre-race ritual of obsessively checking the forecast and laying out everything I'd need in the morning and then it was off to bed!

Not pictured: Shoes, Garmin, iPod & Clif Bar
I awoke to quite an interesting sight this morning: an inch of fresh snow on the ground!  I had expected arctic chills, but snow? Really?!?!  Obviously there was nothing I could do about it, so I jumped in the shower for a wake up call and began piling on my gear.  I ended up making two changes to what I had laid out last night: I swapped my hat for an ear band and decided not to wear the grey hoodie, thinking it would be overkill. 

After a torturous drive to the race site (about 25 minutes away) due to snow-covered roads, I made my way inside to wait for the 10k race to start. While I was standing around, I ended chatting with a couple of other runners.  We talked about races we've done (and I now have first person reviews of several I'm interested in), what a pain it is to run in winter, and how we thought we'd fare today.  One of the guys was looking to win his age group (Men 65-69) and thought he had about a 50/50 shot at it.  Before long, we were ushered outside and began the long walk to the starting line.  The wind was brutal! Fortunately, we didn't have to stand around and shiver for long.  As soon as the gun went off, I turned on my iPod, hit the start button on my Garmin, and tried to pretend that I wasn't getting blasted in the face by freezing cold 20mph winds!

The course was an out and back, and the first 5k was not fun.  There were a few hills and a couple of snow-covered bridges (although the majority of the course was shoveled), but the most prominent feature was that icy wind.  I kept getting blasted in the face with blowing snow!  There was no doubt in my mind that any hope of a PR was out the window due to the conditions. The wind was so strong it was literally pushing me backwards and I couldn't even come close to getting up to a reasonable speed. The runners came up one more hill, hit the turnaround point, and headed back.  And then something awesome happened: The wind calmed down and the sun came out!  The second half of the race was far more pleasant than the first.  In fact, it got so warm that I was able to push my hood off and had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't out for a little stroll - this was a race!  Finally the last downhill came into view and I picked up the pace a little, looking to finish strong - and I did.  I crossed the finish line in 1:03:40.  Not the best pace in the world (10:15), but all things considered, I'll take it since it's a new PR!

I wandered back inside to see if I could find the man I'd been talking to earlier and see if he'd won his age group.  I couldn't find him, but I later learned that he'd taken second in his age group with a time of 53:30 (8:37 pace).   While I was wandering through the expo and catching my breath I decided to reward myself for my new PR with a shirt, so I picked this up to go with my new tights.

Saucony Primo WXT Long Sleeve

After that, I made one more purchase before heading home - but that's a subject for a different post!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wiggle War Recap: Week 3

Week 3 was a good week.  I didn't quite hit my mileage goals, but I did: eat at home, have a lot of fun, feel really good, and I'm less than 5 pounds of my 'fighting weight' (total weight loss: 4 lbs)!  

The Dirty Details:
Miles: 6
Week 3 included my return to the indoor track and 400 meter repeats (to build speed).  Unlike last year, I have a new tool in my training arsenal - my Garmin Foot Pod.  I like it, but I think it's going to take a little tinkering to get the calibration right. At any rate, I was really pleased by my splits for the workout since they ranged between 8:16 and 8:52 pace.   I definitely need to improve my mileage over the next few weeks.

Other Activities:  2 
I had yoga on Tuesday night and I went to a sledding party on Saturday night.  I love when a fun activity like sledding can double as a workout.  Lots of dashing up the hill was involved.  I was sore after that party! Fortunately the hosts planned ahead.  A friend of theirs is a massage therapist and she was offering massages for $1/minute.  She managed to loosen up my slightly strained left hamstring and she got all the knots out of my back and shoulders.  That may be the best $30 I've spent in a while!

Eating: I mostly ate at home this week, which is a huge improvement.  I indulged over the weekend, but not nearly as much as I have in the previous 2 weeks.  Menu planning has definitely helped in this department.

Overall, I'm calling Week 3 a win! 

How are your health/fitness resolutions coming along?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Green Monster

Ah, the Green Monster - no I'm not talking about jealousy, I'm talking about one of my 'go to' ways to cram in extra servings of fruit and vegetables.  I certainly am not the creator of the Green Monster (I think that title goes to Angela at Oh She Glows), but I do enjoy them and they're totally customizable to your individual preferences.  My favorite Green Monster ingredients are: milk, fresh baby spinach, a banana, and frozen tropical fruit.  So without further ado, I present the Classic Rabbits & Runs Green Monster.

Step One: Add Milk and Spinach to the blender.
Spinach & Milk
Step Two: Blend until it looks like green milkotherwise you'll end up with random spinach chunks in your drink. (Make sure to scrape down the sides of the blender and then blend some more.)
Mmm...green milk

Step 3: Add banana and - you guessed it - blend some more.  I didn't have any fresh bananas on hand, so I resorted to using a frozen one that was lurking in my freezer.  Using a frozen banana (and frozen fruit in general) leads to a more soft-serve like texture, which I prefer.

Step Four: Add frozen fruit (I used Dole's Wildly Nutritious Tropical Fruit) and blend until incorporated.  I totally skipped photographing this step since my dinner would have been burnt if I hadn't turned my attention in its direction instead!

Step Five: Pour into cup and enjoy!

As I mentioned earlier, I prefer my Green Monsters to be the texture of slightly melty soft serve, so I used frozen fruit and often consume them with a spoon.  The frozen version is also more convenient in summer since I often stop home at lunch time, whip one up, and pour/scrape it into a travel cup for consumption on the way back to work.  It seems to hold up better in the summer heat and I find it more refreshing.
Mission: Locate Spoon and Consume
A few bits of advice:

  • If you doubt your blender's ability to make a margarita crush ice effectively, you may want to invest in a slightly more bad ass blender before trying this.  I have a Ninja Master Prep from Target and it has no problems pulverizing frozen fruit.
  • Beware using strawberries, raspberries, cherries, or any other red/dark colored fruit in your Green Monster as you will wind up with a Brown Monster.  It still tastes fine, but it definitely leaves something to be desired in the aesthetics department.
  • Experimentation is key.  As you play with different ingredients, you'll learn what works for you and you'll probably end up throwing out a few experiments gone wrong!
Have you tried a Green Monster?  If so, what's your favorite combination?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wiggle War Recap: Week 2

Week 2 was a definite improvement over Week 1, but it has become obvious that the odds of achieving my goal of 20 active days this month are slim.  As of today, I have 13 days left in the month and need 12 more active days.  Simply put - NOT GONNA HAPPEN.  However, I've always believed that goals are just that: goals.  They are something to shoot for, but not something to beat yourself up over.  My new goal is to come as close to 20 active days as possible.  To that end, here's the run down on last week:

Miles: 10.13 (including the Tundra Challenge which I've learned was actually 4.1 miles as opposed to the advertised 3.6!)

Eating: I was pretty good all week, but completely fell apart on the weekend.  This is an area that needs some work!

On a more fun note, I registered for my first road race of 2012 - The Great Lakes Expo Run! I'm really hoping to improve on my 10k time from the New Year's Eve race.  The weather has turned from spring-like to a true Wisconsin winter - complete with snow, ice and temperatures that make a freezer seem like a sauna.  In order to cram in some miles, it looks like I'll be getting reacquainted with the indoor track.  Fortunately, I should have a new toy to help me out while I run in endless circles.  I received a Garmin Foot Pod for Christmas and I'm looking forward to trying it out - possibly as soon as tomorrow.
This nifty little device attaches to my shoe laces and transmits pace and distance data to my Garmin, so I can still use my favorite training tool indoors (GPS doesn't work so hot inside!). 

I've also returned to the studio this week - the yoga studio that is.  My teacher is in the process of obtaining her next level of certification and she'll be sharing some of what she's learned with her students and incorporating some new elements into the class.  This should be interesting.  All I can say so far is that my abs are sore after yesterday's class.  From what she described, it sounds like developing 'core strength' will be a central feature of this session. I'm hoping that added core strength will finally help me achieve a full Crow Pose.
At the moment, I can kind of sort of get my feet off the ground, but I lack the arm strength to hold my weight completely on my arms, and the abdominal strength to pull my legs all the way up and balance - I immediately tip forward!  I was a little impressed with myself when I discovered that I'm finally comfortable doing one of the Headstand Poses without positioning myself against a wall as a safety net!  I guess you win some, you lose some. 

So there you have it, all the goings on in Rabbits and Runs land.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tundra Challenge Review

My dad, The Husband, two of dad's friends and I took on the inaugural Tundra Challenge event.  The event's website promised 3.5 miles of tundra and over 15 obstacles: including snow walls, crawling and sliding through icy tunnels, a foggy wind tunnel, climbing a 12 foot cargo net, and a leap over flames to the finish line.  After the incredible experience The Husband and I had doing the Warrior Dash last summer, this sounded like a similar event - but snowy!

Unfortunately, the event was a colossal disappointment.  I think the best way to explain the disappointment is to compare what was expected versus what actually occurred.

Expected: Pre-race packet pick at a location to be announced on the website a week prior to race day.

Actual: Multiple calls and an email went unanswered.  The Husband finally got a response to his email telling us that we could pick up our race packets on race day.  No information was provided on the website.

Expected: At packet pick up, participants were to verify their identity with a government issued photo i.d. and turn in a signed waiver to receive a free hat, race bib, beer coupon, and a timing chip.
Actual: There was one woman at a table checking people in, not bothering to check i.d.'s. Even though we registered over a month ago, she couldn't find our names on her list.  She just handed us a race bib and wrote our names and bib numbers down on a sheet of paper.  There were no hats, beer coupons or timing chips provided.  It turns out that the event wasn't going to be chip timed after all!

Expected: 15 crazy, challenging obstacles that were designed by a military expert.
Actual: 10 obstacles that were poorly constructed, and nothing like what the website described.

Almost immediately after the start, we encountered  Obstacle #1:The Great Walls of Snow (3ft & 6ft snow walls according to the event website).  First of all, I don't see snow walls, I see some plywood being held up by 2x4's! Second, these walls were much higher than 3 & 6 feet respectively. My best guess would be about 7 & 9 feet since both of them towered over The Husband (he's 6' 1"). The two 'snow walls' were pretty much impossible to conquer without a serious boost from teammates.

Now, lest you think that the only reason I needed help on this obstacle is because I'm somewhat vertically challenged, below is a picture of my 6 foot tall Dad making a solo attempt before accepting help from the team.

Obstacle #1 was quickly followed by Obstacle #2: Helsinki Hill (advertised as a 205ft climb to the top). This obstacle was the closest thing to what was advertised that I saw all day.  The long series of steep switchbacks was tough!

At the top of the climb we were met by Obstacle #3: The Suicide Slide (not on the sample course map, but heavily featured in a promo video on the event website). The so-called 'Suicide Slide' was actually a short slide down a hill on a plastic saucer - and the most fun obstacle we encountered.

What wasn't so fun? Having to run back up the hill to return the saucer (no volunteers or race staff anywhere) and then run back down the hill.

After this we ran/hiked/walked for quite a while before coming to Obstacle #4: The Matterhorn Travers (sic) (teetering slippery planks per the website). The reality was a far cry from the expectation. The only real challenge was trying to walk across 2x4's in snow-encrusted shoes.
After Obstacle #4, it was a long, winding, and rather boring run across a snowy golf course.  I was beginning to think that the course was mis-marked or we took a wrong turn when we finally came up to Obstacle #5: The Kodiak Krawl (which was supposed to be dodging snowballs while crawling under a cargo net).  Again, this obstacle did not even come close to meeting the expectations.

Where's the cargo net?  Where are the snowballs?  They didn't exist!  What did find at this obstacle were the only volunteers/staff we saw all day. We chatted with these two fine folks for a minute and discovered that they were unpaid volunteers who had been dropped off with no instructions of what to do, no idea of when/if they'd be picked up, and no directions back to the start/finish line.  Oh, and notice how the young lady is holding one of the 'cargo net' stakes in her hand? Yeah, the stupid thing was broken and they were given no supplies to fix it, nor any way to call for someone to fix it.  In my opinion, this is not the way to treat volunteers!

After the 'Kodiak Krawl' it was a long (I'm thinking well over a mile) run/walk/hike to the next obstacle.  At this point, I pretty much mentally checked out.  I was bored.  I was tired. The water station that they promised on the course had yet to materialize, and it turned out it never would.  At long last, we came to Obstacle #6: Koryak Cargo (advertised as climbing up 12 foot high cargo nets).  I think the pictures say it all.

It took multiple people to get each person over this plywood cargo net.  And again, there wasn't a volunteer or staff member anywhere.

After the knee-crushing landing, we headed out on a long, desolate, very serpentine route before finally discovering Obstacle #7: The Badger Crossover (crawling over and under icy cargo nets). Again, I think someone didn't understand the definition of cargo net, because this is what we found.

Following Obstacle #7 was another long, circuitous stretch of nothing-ness.  At that point, we were all thoroughly annoyed and ready to be done.  At long last we came upon Obstacle #8: Ural Mountain Pass (crawl and slide through icy tunnels). Since disappointment seemed to be the operative word of the day, this sight didn't even surprise us anymore.

This plywood structure, topped with tarps or trash bags (we couldn't decide which it was) was actually more like a semi-dark rat maze with no cheese at the end! Fortunately Obstacle #9 Whirlwind Whiteout (a foggy windy tunnel) was in view and just like it's predecessors it was nothing like what the website led us to believe it would be. It was just a straight plywood tunnel topped with the same tarps/trash bags as Obstacle #8. 
I am only smiling because I know the 'race' is almost over.
Finally, it was time for Obstacle #10: Tundra Toast (hurdle over or around live fire!). And of course, this obstacle didn't fail to disappoint.
Yes, dear reader, that is a paltry pile of Duralogs that wasn't so much flaming as it was smoldering.  It wasn't even worth jumping over.  A nice solid step sufficed as seen below.
At the finish line, the disappointments just kept coming.  There was one race official (determined only by the fact that she was holding a clipboard) asking people for their bib numbers as they came across the finish line.  No one directed us where to go to get our beer tickets or where to find water/food/etc. Fortunately my brother, who came along to spectate, had seen little packages laying on a table when he darted inside to use the restroom and snagged one for each of our racers.  It turns out that these little packets each contained: 1 beer ticket, a Tundra Challenge sticker, a 5-stick pack of gum and a little-bitty plastic dog tag finisher's medal.  If he hadn't seen them laying around and grabbed them, I doubt we would have gotten them at all.

After procuring beer tickets, we trooped inside the 'Warming Tent' for what was supposed to be a finish line party.  Again, we were met with a stark difference between expectations/advertising and reality.

Expected: A rockin' finish line party with "Music, Drinks, Food and Merriment" (quoted from an email sent out by the event organizers 2 days prior to the race).
Actual: A mostly empty tent with an empty platform where a band/dj could have set up. A choice between Guinness, Miller Lite, soda or water in exchange for a beer ticket or cold, hard cash. A handful of very vocally displeased finishers chugging their free beer so they could get out of there.

And that's just what we did.  We bid farewell to dad's friends, who had other obligations this afternoon, and then the four of us (Dad, The Husband, Brother and myself) trooped off to our favorite chicken wing joint to fill our empty bellies.

Overall, I would not recommend doing a Tundra Challenge event (there are 5 more scheduled around the country this winter) for so many reasons. I paid $55 (about what I paid to do the Full Moon Half Marathon for comparison's sake) to do this event and I seriously wonder where my (and everyone else's) money went, because it certainly didn't go into the quality or construction of the obstacles, the non-existent chip timing, or the finish line party.

The only positive things I can say about this event are:
  • I met some really nice people on the course. All the other racers were really good about helping each other over walls, etc., even if they were total strangers.
  • I got to spend a lot of time with 3 people who mean a lot to me (Husband, Dad, Brother)

Bottom Line: I feel like this event was not only a huge rip off, but a total waste of time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wiggle War Recap: Week 1

So here I am, one week after I declared War on The Wiggle.  It hasn't been easy and I've been far from perfect in my efforts, but I am definitely seeing progress. 

According to my scale (which has never worked right and I'm seriously considering buying a new one), I'm down a couple of pounds - which is probably water weight, but I'm not complaining since my pants seem to be a little less tight. I was pretty good about watching what I ate (if you don't count going out to eat a few too many times over the weekend). And I managed to drag my butt out in the cold and run a whopping total of 6 miles and The Husband and I logged another 4 miles walking on Friday night.

If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.
Obviously, I have a lot of room for improvement, but I'm not entirely displeased. 6 miles beats the crap out of 0 miles.  Eating better is better than eating like a teenager.

Week 2 of the Wiggle War is going much better.  The Husband and I went grocery shopping on Sunday and restocked our bare kitchen, so we've been eating at home (a huge win). I've already logged 6 miles this week (and my speed and endurance seem to be improving a little bit) and I know I'll be adding to that total before the week is over. Most importantly, I'm continuing to feel better and better - which to me is the most important part of the Wiggle War.

And now, just because, I'll leave you with a gratuitous rabbit picture!
Spot - half in the bag!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tag, You're It!

After I saw this over on another blog I thought it might be fun to play - so hopefully the people I tag will feel like playing too (and link back to me)!

The Rules:
1. You must post these rules.
2. Each person must post 11 things about themselves on their blog.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.

11 Things About Me:
 1. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be a runner and a yogi, I would have laughed in their face.  I would have rather died than run and I thought yoga was for hippie freaks!

2. I'm a chronic list maker.  I love the feeling of satisfaction that comes from crossing off completed tasks.

3. I hate most chick flicks, but I love a good documentary.  I'll take Running on the Sun over Under the Tuscan Sun any day of the week.

4. I consider coffee to be a food group. 

5. Nerd Alert: I love books.  I read a lot (mostly adventure non-fiction). I could probably read more if I spent less time on the internet!

6. I hope to move to the Pacific Northwest (specifically the Seattle area) within the next 10 years.

7. I never have been, nor will I ever be a morning person. (See #4)

8. I'm both an only child and an oldest child.  I'm my mother's only child, but I'm the oldest of my dad's 3 kids.  It's very strange sometimes!

9. I procrastinate...a lot!  I think it has to do with wanting to do so many things and not knowing where to start!

10. I almost always wear high heels.  I being short!

11. I love to cook. I tolerate baking.  However, I can't make french toast or brownies to save my life.

11 Questions: (I'm borrowing the questions from the blog where I found this game.)
1. What is one of your goals for 2012?  I'd like to branch out into multi-sport events; either duathlons or triathlons.

2. If you could have one super power, what would it be?  Freezing time.  That way I could do more every day!

3. What is your favorite season?  I love fall.  Not too hot. Not too cold. Not too rainy.

4. If you had to give up one of your five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) which one would it be?  Taste.

5. What accomplishment are you most proud of? My 2nd marathon finish.  I was trained well. I ran well. I finished strong.

6. If there was a fire in your house and you could only save three things, what would they be?  This is easy: The Husband, Walter & Spot.  The rest is just stuff and can be replaced.

7. What is your dream race? The New York Marathon.  (If this video doesn't explain it - then I can't explain it!)

8. If you won a million dollars, what's the first thing you would buy?  A plane ticket!

9. If you were picked to be on a reality show, which one would it be? The Amazing Race or Survivor.  I'm not single and/or interested in getting in cat fights over washed up D-List celebrities!

10. If you had to live in a different country for a year, where would you live? Do I have to work? If so, then send me to England (preferably London). If I don't have to work, ship me off to Italy. I'd love to spend a year looking at art, eating good food and drinking vino!

11. Why is your blog named what it is? Rabbits and running are two of the main things in my life. I talk about both of them a lot

My 11 Questions
1. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, what would you take?
2. Favorite place you've ever traveled. Why?
3. What's the most embarrassing song on your iPod/in your music collection?
4. Do you have any pets? If so, what? If not, do you want any?
5. Would you rather get your nails done or go rock climbing?
6. What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
7. What are your favorite ice cream toppings?
8. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would play you?
9. What's your dream job?
10. Do you have any tattoos? If so, what and where? If not, would you and what would you get?
11. What's your favorite quote?

Tag...you're it! (link back to me if you'd like)

Elizabeth @ Eliza's Little Blog
April @ Wild Violet
Cez @ The Crazy World of Cez

If I didn't tag you, feel free to answer any or all of the 11 questions in the comments section!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Waging War Against 'The Wiggle'

It's that time of year.  The holiday decorations have come down.  The presents are put away.  But something remains: The Wiggle.  What is The Wiggle? It's the illegitimate lovechild of too many holiday indulgences and slothful couch-dwelling.  It leads to formerly toned body parts developing a jello-like jiggle, pants that feel a little too snug, and generally feeling crappy.

In my case, it means that I'm several pounds over my happy weight and I've lost a lot of fitness.  The way I see it, I have two choices: buy bigger pants or declare war on The Wiggle.  I've chosen option number 2.  My battle strategy is simple.  I'm cleaning up my eating habits and increasing my activity level.  The ultimate goal is to be back in top form by the start of the spring racing season (and fit comfortably into my pants).

I began implementing my battle strategy yesterday.  The clean-eating was easy enough.  The activity part took a little more effort!  After work, I piled on several layers and set off for an easy-paced 3 miler around the office.  My rationale was that if I didn't go home before I worked out, there was no chance that I'd get sucked in by the gravitational pull of the couch!  The first mile was interesting.  I enjoyed feeling like a total badass   I laughed when a guy waiting at a bus stop shouted "You're crazy!"  I was not happy about the playing  - it usually does. Frogger when I encountered a freeway on ramp.  By Mile 2, I was sweating and the cold, dry air was beginning to make breathing a little difficult.  Then came Mile 3. Somewhere at the beginning of that mile I found my rhythm and the run finally started to feel like fun instead of a chore.  I looped through the parking lot at work back to my car and called it a day.  The overall pace wasn't very good compared to where I was a few months ago, but it was a start.

To further enhance my 'battle plan', I set up a "Goal" on my Garmin.  In the period between January 3rd and January 31st (28 days), I'm going to attempt to do something active on 20 days.  I'll be defining 'active' as running, hiking, practicing yoga, hiking, lifting weights, and walking (minimum distance is 5 miles).  The goal tracker is essentially a 'star chart for grown ups'.  What do I get if I get all 20 gold stars?  Stay tuned to find out!

What do you do to motivate yourself?  What do you do to reward yourself for achieving goals?