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A Review of 2012 Challenges

I set out with a specific list of goal for 2012.  Here’s a recap:

January: Cleaning and Organizing the House
February: Blog
March: Festivals
April: Exercise
May: No Sugar
June: Reading
July: No processed food (making something I would normally buy pre-made)
August: Snappy Dressed
September: Chainmail
October: Photography
November: Ethnic Dinners
December: Sewing

I also had an overall fitness goal for the year: participate in a running or cycling race every month.

My best months for sticking to my plan were: January (Cleaning), February (Blogging), May (No Sugar), June (Reading), August (Snappy Dressed), and November (Ethnic Dinners).  For the most part, I was able to complete each weekly and the overall month’s goal for those months.  My favorite months were March (Festivals), May (No Sugar), October (Photography), and November (Ethnic Dinners).

Yeah, I was surprised that I liked May’s goal.  I thought it would be hard, but once I decided to cut out sugar, it was almost easy to turn it down.  My cravings for sugar have been pretty low the last couple months and when I do crave something sweet, I can satisfy it with some fruit.

Months that I didn’t meet my goal: March (Festivals), July (No Processed Foods), and December (Sewing).  I missed a couple of festival weekends in March due to weather and a party.  I didn’t get a chance to make one of the things I wanted to try out for July and I didn’t sew ANYTHING in December due to all the holiday madness.

My overall fitness goal for the year turned out great!  I didn’t end up doing any cycling races, but I did run a race every month.  I ran five 5Ks, three Mud/Obstacle Course runs (generally 5Ks), one 8K, one 10.2K, one half-marathon (13.1 mi), and one marathon (26.2 mi)!  I’m pretty proud of myself and am looking forward to next year.

2013 goals will be a little different…

Broccoli from the garden

Broccoli from the garden

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December Race: Prance for Precious 5K

After the first weekend, there were very few races showing up on my normal race website haunts.  I finally found the Prance for Precious 5K a few days before it was scheduled.

There were only a few dozen people there, so it wasn’t too crowded.  I didn’t see any of the regulars I have come to recognize in passing at events in the area, as they had probably attended the 5K the weekend before.  Overall, it was decently organized and there was one water stop along the way (typical for the 5Ks I have run).

A slight confession… I had only run 3 times (total of 13 miles) between the marathon and this 5K.  Luckily, I still had a fair amount of fitness carry-over in the month between the two runs.  So, how did I do on the last race?

Not a personal record, but still pretty good!

Not a personal record, but still pretty good!

2nd place in my age group!

2nd place in my age group!

I placed 2nd in my age group!  Granted, there were not very many runners in attendance. There were many age groups that didn’t even have many people running.  However, I believe I also placed 15th overall.  I finished in 28:02, not too bad for someone who has only been running for about a year.  Especially since I haven’t been training for speed over this distance.  I’m pretty pleased with the last race of the year, I’ll do a summary of all the races in a post soon!

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November Race: Thunder Road Marathon!

That’s right, I ran a marathon.  Why no exclamation point on that one?  Because it was a bit anticlimactic.  I’ve read that this can occur after a big event.  You work towards something for weeks, months, or even years and after you’ve accomplished it you are a bit lost without that goal.  Anyway, here’s how it went.

We drove up to Charlotte, NC on Friday to pick up my packet and go to the expo.  I signed up for the carbo-load dinner, but we ate lunch at around 4 and so decided to skip the dinner.  The expo was pretty good, I ended up buying some gels and chews and a spi belt.  The night before the race, I laid out all the things I would need and packed my power pack, nebulizer, medicine, and put some of  the gels and chews into the belt.

The morning of the race, I got ready quite early and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  Do not get the “breakfast buffet” option before running a marathon.  I really cannot stress that enough.  I didn’t think I had eaten all that much, but buffets are so deceptive.  “I’ll need some protein, a spoon of scrambled eggs and maybe a couple of pieces of bacon for the salt.  I really should have some carbs, so a slice of toast would be a good idea.  I need some simple carbs and sugars to start off the race, some fruit would fit that category.  I never really get a chance to eat biscuits and gravy, so maybe one biscuit and a spoon of gravy.  A couple more pieces of fruit, just to cleanse the palate. ”  These thoughts, and the actions they caused (eating all that food), would come back to haunt me.

I got close to the start line and did my nebulizer about 30 minutes before the race started.  I cut it a bit close there, I finished under 10 minutes before the start of the race.  I left my friend in the crowd and went allllll the way to the back of the pack.  Considering I wasn’t going to be setting any records, I didn’t want to get in the way of people who were going to be running faster that I was.  I tried to find the 5 hour pace runner, but no one was there holding the sign.  I just ended up running based on how I felt.

Map of the marathon

Map of the marathon

The race had the marathoners and the half-marathoners starting at the same time, so there were about 3,400 all waiting to cross the starting line.  It took me about three minutes to get from the back of the line to the start line.   There aren’t too many pictures of me during the race, but here are a couple.

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Yes, I was cold. It was 40F outside at 7:30am.

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Just a few of the 3,400 people running the half and full marathon.

The first five to six miles was awesome.  There were a lot of spectators along the road holding signs.  People were hanging out of their cars and buses cheering us on.  There was a fair amount of weaving in and out around people, some of the runners were on a run/walk/run plan which required some maneuvering.  I was running a little faster than I should have, which is to be expected.  According to the chip timing, I was averaging a 10:30 minute mile by 6.2 miles.  However, I stood in line for a good 5 minutes, at least, for access to a bathroom.  Oh yeah, remember that breakfast?  It almost made a reappearance at around miles six to eight.  At about mile 10, I opened a powerbar gel packet and started sipping on it.  It was like a liquid jolly rancher, a younger me would not have minded it at all, but it was a bit sweet.  I sipped on it for a couple of miles, but threw it away still half full.  I never used one while training, but thought it might be a good idea to try some supplemental energy for the race.  Probably not the best idea, but I didn’t have any ill-effects.  The half-marathoners peeled off at mile 12, and there were only a few people around me after that for the rest of the race.  At 13.1 mi, I was averaging a 11:30 minute mile.   The worst miles for me were 17-20, those were the time when there were almost no spectators, pain was starting to set in, and I was wondering why I was doing this to myself.  My pace at mile 20 was an average of 11:45, slowing down a little bit more.

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This is around mile 16, not hating life yet!

Miles 17-18 were when I was cursing a couple of my friends and family for telling everyone I was running a marathon.  “Damn it, I can’t quit because EVERYONE is going to ask me how I did.  I can’t say I didn’t finish cause ‘it was hard.'”  At mile 18, I saw my friend for the last time before he would see me at the finish line.  Those were a lonely eight miles.  The best part of the race was about to come though.

Around mile 20, the route had us going through NoDa.  NoDa, short for North Davidson, is a funky, artsy neighborhood of Charlotte.  The people there were awesome.  They still had a good crowd out for the slow runners and were in good cheer.  They had drawn in chalk on the road and build a wall with a doorway in it for the runners to “break through the wall” while running.  I was quite emotional at this point and they were exactly what I needed way out in the middle of nowhere.  After 20 miles, I had to play games with my mind.  “Just run to the next water stop, you can walk while you drink.”  “You can make it to the next mile marker, it’s just another 10 minutes.”  “It’s just another 5 miles, you’ve run 5 miles dozens of times this year.”  Anything to keep going.

Crossing the finish line.  Chip timing was 5:13:50.

Crossing the finish line. Chip timing was 5:13:50.

Taking the chip off my shoe, swaddled in my foil blanket and wearing the heaviest medal ever.  I could kill a man with this thing!

Taking the chip off my shoe, swaddled in my foil blanket and wearing the heaviest medal ever. I could kill a man with this thing!

I finished in 5:13:50.  The crowd was a bit thin at that point, most runners probably finished in around 4 hours.  I wasn’t last, but I wasn’t far from it.  Here are my stats:

Overall: placed 926/1019 finishers
Female 25-29: placed 63/66 finishers

So, not the best time, but I am not disappointed.  In fact, not bad for a first time marathoner with asthma and anemia.

The rest of the trip involved lying down, going to a Brazilian steakhouse, and sleeping.  Walking the next couple days was painful, but no lasting damage and no blisters.  The marathon was well-organized, with a lot of water stations and provided energy chews (shot bloks) at miles 16 and 20.  I’d do it again, but maybe not next year.  I am considering another marathon, but I may do one closer to home next time.

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October 5K: Stepping out for your heart.

A couple of weeks ago I ran in a local 5K organized by the local hospital.  It was fairly well run and supported and gave us a neon yellow shirt with our registration.  I would guess that about 75-100 people ran in it, though some gender/age groups were not represented.  The announcer asked us to separate us out by our expected finishing time, which sort of worked.  It was probably most beneficial to the first finishers so that they didn’t have to weave around us slow plodders.

So, how did I do?

Very neon shirt!

Third place!

 

I placed third in my gender/age group!  My first medal!  I ran it in 26:49 which means it is my new PR for this distance and under a 9 min/mi pace!  More exclamation points!

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September Race: Gladiator Rockin’ Run

Ack!  I’m getting behind again!  In working, training for a marathon, and attending various weekend obligations I have allowed my posts on the blog to fall by the wayside.  Here’s a quick update on my yearly racing goal, though if I were honest, I would just call it my running goal.  I just didn’t make cycling a priority this year.  Hopefully that will change next year.

This was the first year that the Gladiator Rockin’ Run was in Georgia and it took place in Moreland.  I entered it at the last-minute and was still able to join the wave that my sister and her friends were running in.  There were a few hundred people wandering around, so not too bad for their first time in Georgia.  The course was about 4.2 miles long with 17 obstacles and through streams, wooded areas, and up pretty decent hills (for Georgia).   Some of the obstacles included swimming in a lake, climbing in and out of two long, empty dumpsters, crawling through mud, climbing over walls, carrying sacks of sand/rice, and the obligatory jump over fire.

Even with doing my nebulizer an hour before running, I still had a lot of trouble breathing on this race.  Then again, it seemed that a fair number of people ended up walking a lot of it.  Did I mention the hills?  There were some hills on this course.  Now, people from more mountainous areas would laugh at me, but I live in a flat area at sea-level.  I don’t do hills well.

My time was 1:16:57 for the 4.2 miles.  Overall I finished in about the top 50% and in the top 30% for my gender/age group.  Considering how hard it was to breathe, I’m pretty happy with the results.  If I could figure out a way to do my breathing treatment within about 30 minutes of the wave time, I think I would have done much better.

Would I do this event again?  Hell yeah!

Pictures that others took of the event!

Post run, very muddy!  I just noticed, I had already taken my medal off.  This was next to the “shower” area.

 

Definitely time to hose off!

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August Race: Rockin’ the Lake Half Marathon

My first half marathon!  The race was in Lawrenceville, GA and also included a 5K and a 10K.  Mom ended up signing up for the 10K and so we drove up to Lawrenceville the night before and left from there in the morning to the park where the race was being held.  The park was about what you’d expect of a city park; a trail around the lake, playgrounds, and ducks.

Unfortunately, the way it was measured, the half marathon was 4 loops (plus a little extra) on the 5K route.  I had to cross the finish line 4 times before it was actually the finish line!  It was much more hilly than I expected, but I ran the whole thing, didn’t finish last, and finished in 2:29:29.  My mom walked the 10K and my roommate took pictures in return for picking him up from the airport.

Right before the race

And we’re off!

I think this was on the second loop

Coming in on the final stretch, mom finished the 10K and came to run the last .25 mi with me.

Who wouldn’t want somma this? Never better lookin’!

And now training for the marathon begins!

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The worst distance and ALL THE FITNESS ADVICE!

For me, the worst distance to run is three miles.  I can knock out one or two miles easy, because I know that it won’t take very long to run them.  However, three miles is just long enough that my mind hasn’t told my body that we are in it for the long haul on this run.  The whole time I am thinking about the run: how long it is taking, how far I have gone, how far I have to go, step, step, step.  At four miles and beyond I can slip into the head space where I am not thinking about every step I am taking.  Beyond four miles my mind can drift to other things: the music from my mp3 player, the environment I am running though, the events of the day, and other important and unimportant things.

I am making an attempt to train for a half-marathon in August, with this plan I am now running much more per week than previously.  For the 5Ks and even the 10Ks I was only running 2-3 times per week and totaling about 5-10 miles per week.  With the half-marathon looming I am now running 4-5 times per week and will be averaging 20-25 miles per week.  It is almost hard to believe that eight months ago I could barely run one mile at a time and now, just Tuesday, I ran seven miles!

There are some concerns I have about running long-distance races.  More and more often I read snippets, blogs, and articles about how long-term steady state cardio (SSC) isn’t as beneficial to overall health as it was once thought to be.  As with all research, X is recommended and then ten years later medicine/science/pop culture says that X isn’t good for you and you should Y.  Ten years later Y causes damage to your joints/heart/soft tissue and you should really do Z!  So now, fitness gurus/trainers are saying that you should really be doing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)and SSC isn’t as good for you as it was once promoted.  The thought is that your body adapts to the new stresses of SSC and doesn’t work as hard as it did when you first started running five miles a day, three times a week, ten years ago.  To keep your body working hard, it is recommended that a change of routine is good and that HIIT should be incorporated into your cardio component of your workout once or twice a week.

It seems that I just read too much.  From every direction (twitter, tumblr, fitness websites of all flavors, etc.) I am being told to:

  • run (weight-bearing exercises are good for bone health and builds endurance)
  • not run (reduces muscle mass over long-distances)
  • lift weights (builds muscle which in turn burns more calories)
  • swim (good for joints and cardiovascular health)
  • try P90X/Insanity/CrossFit (TAKE YOUR FITNESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL!)
  • NEVER do P90X/Insanity/CrossFit (risk of injury is high due to quick movements and improper form)
  • try Intermittent Fasting (save time in the day and feel full/satisfied when eating)
  • NOT try Intermittent Fasting (may be no actual health benefits and potentially harmful if you are prone to obsessive tendencies)

So, what’s a budding fitness enthusiast to do?  I think I may just try to take a little advice from here and there.  After all, life is about balance.  Some running, some lifting, some HIIT (eventually), and just try to eat healthy… most of the time anyway.

Hey look, a picture!

Beach in Destin, FL

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