A Case for Cross Fit

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Source: gethellthy: “Neyxi Barraza by Pedro Matute ”

I should be enjoying some downtime. Ideally, freeing myself up from training for any long-distance event should see me enjoying some kickback time, a snooze fest or two and some down right lazy days, no doubt designed to get me just that- lazy. Only, I haven’t really gotten round to breathing much since getting back from that Ragnar event two weekends ago far less to get lazy. Sure I haven’t been running as much, but that only means I’m doing a hundred other things. In fact, I’ve been so elbow-deep in a project, I haven’t even had time to write on here; it didn’t help that the project was sort of writing-related. Thankfully it’s over and I can get down to some fun, i.e., exercise fun. I mean, my body really knows no other way and I don’t do lazy; what I do is get antsy, anxious and a tad crazy.

So I’m changing things up a bit and because I can, I’ve decided to explore my limits and push my boundaries, well kind of, with CrossFit training. If you’re wondering, why CrossFit?  Well, aside from the fact that I love a challenge, I’ve been slowly building a curiosity about it for some time and it’s not so far out of the left field given my passion for exercise and fitness. In addition, it is on my new year resolution list this year inspired by the stories I’ve been reading and hearing from others who have dived into this sport/lifestyle.

CrossFit, according to Stacie Tovar, CrossFit athlete and co-owner of CrossFit Omaha, is varied, functional high intensity movements meant to help people become more physically prepared for anything. Many people hear CrossFit and think weightlifting and more weight training but according to Stacie and others like her, who enjoy the sport, CrossFit is so much more and its participants exist along a wide spectrum from the curious, young, adventurous and self-motivated to the student, business owner, competitive athlete and everywhere in-between. Many, while touting its biggest challenge, that it’s hard, have talked about the benefits of getting you to a fitter and stronger level, if not your fittest and strongest. It goes without saying that this does not happen overnight, as with any sport it requires commitment, motivation, a desire to succeed and the ability to stick with it.  Beyond that, it encourages a healthy lifestyle as exercise is wont to do and, if anything, even more so than other forms as persons become aware real quick of the time, effort and sacrifice that is being applied to achieve the success they desire. Then it becomes a matter of course to pursue a lifestyle in keeping with that goal.

I am beyond inspired by the determination, commitment and pure mettle of those who pursue this course to achieve their desired results. While I can promise I won’t ever be a pro, let’s just say faint-hearted I’m not.

Reviewing Ragnar Cape Cod: 200 miles in 24:11:56

Team ‘Merica

Last weekend I journeyed to The Cape for some Ragnar fun and found my inner wild and then some. Typically, these events take some planning and organizing and I’m grateful that our team had an amazing organizer for had it been left to me, I would have been too stressed with the logistics to run. As it is, our guy didn’t run but only because he was recovering from an injury. Thankfully, all I had to do was pitch in, show up, run and have fun; pretty easy stuff really and totally done.

A group of eleven of us split into two vans and left the city early Friday morning. Our intention was to make it to Nantasket Beach, where the race began, in time to check-in, grab a snack and get a few photos in before start time at 2pm. We did too, with just a few minutes to spare, and after an orientation video and a few pics, our first guy headed out amidst much fanfare for a short but fast 4.9 miles. We divided into two groups, whereby the first van held all the runners running the first leg, which was five of us, while van two held the second group. From then on we paced ourselves from point to point, to simultaneously meeting our runner while dropping off the next one as part of the relay. Van 2 went ahead to meet up at the first change-over for leg 2, and I suspected,  to get some food in.

I was next up and we were just able to make the change. Since this was my first time running this type of event, I had little idea what to expect and was pretty anxious and uncertain while running. Turned out it was much ado about nothing as save for my underlying anxiety, it was pretty routine running, just in uncharted territory, which made for an interesting run. I had a couple early kills (passing other runners) and made my 6.4 miles in about 46 minutes. Not bad for a rookie!

My most anxious moment came when it was my turn to run at 2am. Though we got decked out in lights, reflector vests and head lamps, I couldn’t help but be nervous about running under darkness. I will probably never forget it. There’s nothing quite like being able to hear yourself think. What started out as cold, about 40℉ soon warmed up as I concentrated on staying the course and not getting lost. It helped that I passed a few runners along the way and even got passed by one speedster, that way I was sure I was in the right track. Of course there were markers but the dead of night can play crazy tricks with you given that they’re not manned and there’s no one at all to question or to give directions. It’s not hard to figure that your senses would be hyper-alert as a result.

It’s crazy though, running in the dark: the utter stillness of the night, the darkness covers you like a blanket, the air smells sharp and crisp and one could be forgiven for thinking it all a dream. However the constant whisk of the wind as I sped on by was evidence enough that it was real alright. I recall peering into the darkness attempting to sift some shape out of well..nothing..but knowing that just beyond there was something, something worth seeing, but that darn it, I couldn’t make out a thing. Only the occasional bobbing headlight or flash of light from a fellow runner, or what I hoped was a runner, kept me from total isolation. In fact, that might have been among my fastest 4.7 miles, which ended on a high note.

I was up again at 7am for a double stretch of 11.9 miles total. Not my idea of a perfect run coming from what amounted to a few hours dozing in the van, but the idea was floated and I succumbed to treating it as a medium-long run of sorts. Not my smartest move without sleep and food (breakfast), so while the first half of the run was good, the second half was tough and not helped by the last two hilly miles. However, I survived, earned my bragging rights and wrapped up my mileage with around twenty-two miles.

For the rest of the race, I was cheerleader, supporter and even went back for a run with another team member to encourage one of our runners and help bring her home on a tough leg.

We wrapped up our two hundred miles around 2:25pm on Saturday in Provincetown and everyone was definitely happy to be finished and we’re ready for beers as we moved to meet our final leg runner, who had a really tough last leg of 9 miles. He killed it at a 6:25 p/min pace and was pretty much cooked at that point. We all celebrated with a run up the last stretch and headed into the Ragnar finish area for food, drinks and medals and spent a couple of hours doing photos and recon – talking about highs and lows as we ate.

It was the coolest thing to be a part of that running extravaganza and get to see all the teams that had finished – others were still running – and to swap stories and grab some swag. Eventually, we made it out of there and headed to crash for the night, at a local airbnb which consisted of more beers and wine and pizza and wings and showers and some pictionary and ultimately a movie. For my part, movie aside, my lights were out at 10:30pm; it had been a while since I had slept that early.

We were up at 6:30am next morning to showers for mother’s day and to cold pizza for a pre breakfast. True teamwork spirit in effect, we were out of there and in the car wash by 8am and heading back to New York soon after we stopped and grabbed some breakfast at a local breakfast shop; 200 miles accounted for.

Official Finish Photo
Team ‘Mercia

Downtime Running in my Shoes

It’s not very often that I get to run just because – with no marathon on the horizon. You heard right! No deadlines, no training, no Saturday long runs, or crunch-time cross training, or speed and tempo runs. Things are just happening on a slightly ad-hoc basis, though runs and workouts are pretty consistent across the average week.

Gotta say, it feels different, and strange, and good, and uncertain, all at the same time. Earlier in the year, I had plans for a repeat summer marathon in San Francisco, but things have changed and I’m planning a few fun/adventure runs with the possibility of a longer run at the end of summer now. One of the things I prize about myself is my ability to be flexible as circumstances change and/or different opportunities present themselves; so while I’m holding fast to my larger goals, I’m open to changing things up a bit in favor of unavoidable circumstances, adventure, opportunity variety and so on. The situation, as is life, remains fluid and since I’m a keep-your-overnight-bag-packed kinda girl, I’m pretty much stuck in a rut proof. But for now, I’m cool with chilling and not having to sweat the details and complexities that come with the long run.

Meanwhile, there are lots of running and running-related things keeping me busy and I’m reveling in it. I have a few running events lined up, cross-fit training on the horizon, swimming in the summer and then there’s my regular workouts and fit classes at the gym. Next stop – Ragnar, Cape Cod. It’s happening this weekend. Stay tuned to hear all about how it went down next week!

Running into Adventure this Summer with Obstacle Racing

Source: cloudlineapparel.com

Time goes on and so must we. A truer saying does not exist. It’s May-day – my way of ushering in the first day of May – and we’re one giant step closer to Summer. Oh the running possibilities that this awakens in my adventure-craving soul.

In the wake of both the Boston and London Marathons, many of us may feel a sort of push to run – to up our game or even to switch things up and say, maybe, compete? Maybe it’s neither of those but surely in the wake of such Kenyan greatness,  and for sure they dominated prized placings in both races, some of us have figured to find our own little niche to excel in and maybe even have some fun with. If so, I think you’re on the right track; for what’s running if you can’t enjoy some of it at the very least? Despite what non-runners may think, we’re not crazy, running can be fun!

Source: theclymb.com

Summer presents some fun opportunities for runners. While there aren’t much in the way of long-distance races, such as the marathon or other ultra running events, in the hot months ahead, in these United States, there are a variety of running events tailored to the fun-loving adventurer in each of us. Whether you decide to trek cross-country or stay local there are lots of running choices. Some popular ones that feature across the country at various and different times include: Ragnar Relay Races, Obstacle Races, which includes Mud Runs such as Reebok Spartan Race, Rugged Maniac,Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Savage Race, The Color Run, Foam Fest, Night Runs, and some even include biking. There are many others that are spin-offs and/or localized versions of these races.

Whichever or whatever you decide, even if you choose to sit these out – truly your loss – you should endeavor to get outside. Go walking, hiking, camping, swimming, riding, surfing, learn a local sport – take up soccer or baseball. On the other hand, should you choose the fun way out, make sure to bring your A game ( best effort) and best attitude to make sure you have the best experience and maybe fall in love and develop a life-long habit along the way?

As an aside, note that while adventure/ obstacle races are not endurance races, they are challenging and are strength and skill-based and requires participants to be fit and have some knowledge of extreme sports and training in some of the activities involved. Thank goodness that they’re pretty short on average or you team up and assign legs, though that in no way detracts from the skill element. They require determination, commitment – both financial and physical, and your spirit of competition and fun of course. Also, be ready to travel and overnight over a couple of days sometimes. My recommendation? Get busy, tag a team and get to planning. One last note, these races are extra fun with friends or team-mates. So team up, Summer is about to happen for you!

The Run of Champions: A Recap of the Boston Marathon ’17

Photo by Madeline Bills, Boston Daily

Most times when you run a race there’s a clear case of “hated it” or “loved it” only rarely are you caught in the middle, ambiguous about where on the running experience spectrum it belongs. My Boston run this year falls somewhere along the lines of amazing and disappointing.

@the start line

No surprise that the disappointment was all due to the weather, which, in all honesty, was hardly surprising as for days leading up to the event we were made aware of the impending warm temperatures. Of course one can always hope as in instances such as these, that maybe, just maybe, it won’t be as bad as all that. It turned out to be maddeningly so, though it felt slightly better than last year, or maybe I was just better prepared. Whichever it was, I’m thankful that I had a better experience.

The truth is, it was amazing. I can find no fault with organizers as the race was seamlessly executed and we were treated to the full effect of phenomenal volunteers and spectators along the course. It’s hardly the organizers fault that the sun graced us with its unabashedly glorious presence from the moment we disembarked the busses at Athletes Village until about mile 22. I did then what every runner had to do, which was adjust my expectations and my strategy – got comfortable with the idea and was able to enjoy the race – for the most part.

Spectators @ Framingham, Massachusetts. (Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images), abc2news.com

The cheers helped tremendously, so did the endless supply of Gatorade and water, both from the amazing volunteers and the awesome spectators. And then there was the sprinklers and open fire hydrants and soaked sponges and wet paper towels and the ices and the list goes on and on. Even the dreaded heartbreak hill and the other minor mountains didn’t seem so bad at all. In fact, the steady down hills for the first half of the race proved more difficult and taxing on my prevailing runner’s knee issue, that flared up during those said miles, than when the course was flat or uphill.

In the end, it was the sure knowledge that I was in Boston and approaching Bolyston Street and the finish line that bolstered the last mile and saw me running it in my fastest time since mile 3. Nothing like running down the home stretch to the uproar and cheers from a sea of spectators rooting for you every step of the way.

Boston-Bound and Race Readiness

What does race readiness look like? For that matter, what does Boston-ready look like? I’m not sure even I know at this point. It just so happens that this race falls smack in the middle of Easter, which is a big deal in these parts, and I normally have a routine I diligently follow. That’s all turned upside down now, but I’m nothing if not adaptable, so although the last couple days have felt like I’ve been on something akin to a rollercoaster, with getting to Boston and the Expo and all that entails, while getting in some church time as well as a tad bit of the sights and sounds of Boston. What can I say, it’s a beautiful city, I love it here in gorgeous Spring.

All that said,  I’ve somehow managed to make it to the eve of marathon day and I’m ready to hit the sack. I’ve gone over my checklist: running gear, bib, pins, shoes & socks, hat, gels, heat sheet, chap-stick, snacks & Gatorade.

Additionally, I’ve read over the course details as well as the transportation details to the start. I think I’ve got it all covered and save for getting up four hours – enough time to eat breakfast, dress and get to the start – before my race time, I’m pretty much ready to run. Maybe I’m Boston-ready after all.

Taper Week Madness

@ Palisades Park Police PostHard to believe a year has gone by already and I’m heading to Boston again. After living (and running) through what was a much-anticipated race-turn-nightmare last year, I just didn’t think that I’d be going back so soon; I mean, how could I have known that my chance at redemption would be this quick? I couldn’t. Exactly six days to d-day and the 2017 Boston Marathon, and I can’t believe I’m here – doing this to myself once again – getting butterflies and all excited and sh**! During my two-week taper countdown, I’ve been trying my darnedest to slow down my mind along with training and while I’ve been successful with the latter, I’m finding it a bit more challenging to put my mind to rest. Nevertheless, forging ahead while assessing what I’ve accomplished and what’s left, I remain the eternal optimist and feel that I’m in a good place now after my last long run a week ago.

Along the course

Last Saturday I took off to New Jersey Palisades Park for my last long run. While I got off to a late start, it proved early enough to make it all the way from the George Washington bridge (178th Street Manhattan) to Palisades Police Post, 10 miles in. The entire run was 20 miles, my longest for the training season since last October, and a good one; away from everyone and everything I was able to lose myself in nature and just be.

Spring-time

Since escape is rare and I don’t often get the opportunity, I enjoyed it for the treat it was. I’ve run this course for three consecutive years, around this time of year and continue to find it a challenge as it rolls along the Hudson River.

View over the Hudson

I took it easy on the hills, kept a more or less steady 8 min/mile pace and even slowed down for a couple of pics. What can I say, sometimes a picture is really worth a thousand words.

Over the Hudson

I’ve run enough marathons to know that I shouldn’t be worried yet there’s this nagging bit of anxiety that I didn’t do enough. Needless to say, the time for debating – what if – is long gone, the race is on, pun intended. Being an optimist has its advantages, which leaves me pretty confident I’ll be fine, last year’s mishap notwithstanding. This is the time, I’m told, to exude confidence, optimism and hope, so here I am cultivating an environment of positivity, looking forward to a final taper week of minimal running, some core and cross training and focusing on storing up my carbs, hydration and getting some major snooze time in. I’m Boston bound, ready or not. Strike that..I’m ready and Boston bound in four days!

Running Inspiration: Ed Whitlock

Ed Whitlock @ the 2016 Toronto Marathon (competitor.com)

Inspiration abounds, you have only to look around.

There is nothing more disappointing or wasted than an unfulfilled dream or unrealized goal. Now imagine going through life not once allowing yourself the chance to see where “it” could have taken you; by “it” I mean that dream or goal that started as a little seed, planted by some per chance wind somewhere in the deep recesses of your psyche. I have a theory that many of us will never achieve our full or real potential, that fear and/or the lack of motivation and inspiration will be the chief deterrents to our success and happiness. However, that is another issue. Here we’ll focus on how, despite that theory, there are those who will go on to inspire, motivate and encourage others to greatness, even in spite of themselves, as was the case with Ed Whitlock, an older Canadian long distance runner and Master, who died in March.

The running world has indeed lost a great soldier and runner in Ed. Without much fanfare but with a lot of heart, he set about running, on and off over his lifetime, a simple life as he termed it – and incurred a host of records to his name and the history books in his latter years and leading up to his death. Over a course of about twenty years from ages 65 to 85 he acquired single-age world records for the 5K, half marathon, and marathon. What is particularly fascinating about Ed is that he never employed any expensive, extensive or intricate system or even had a secret to his success, he simply had a passion for running, was good at it, and had the ability. As far as he was concerned, he just ran and would argue against being called an inspiration by those of us who revered him. Simplicity and humility more than any specific training regimen seemed to be Ed’s modus operandi. I would argue that his investments, unlike so many current-day runners, never graduated to high-tech or inventive methods to improve efficiency or performance but stayed modest and relatively unchanged over the years. Old sneakers, a relatively normal diet, the average shorts and tank in good weather, slightly more for the colder temps, and a body fully engaged in continuous running motion at a steady pace were in essence his tools of trade. He went on to die of prostate cancer at the age of 86, a few months after running a sub 4:00 marathon time.

It would be a mistake if we did not take a step back and see what we can learn from Ed’s life and running ethic. If we want to honor his memory, we would do well to adopt at the very least his modesty and passion for what he believed in, his ability to defy convention and worldly standards. Ed proved once and for all that the only limits that exist are the ones we place on ourselves; that while we operate within the confines of life, we are solely responsible for our choices, attitudes and perspective. Ed chose to live his life each day limitless, ran when he could, as well as he could, where he could and he did it as long as he could. He did it his way.

Ed Whitlock @ Rotterdam Marathon
(globalnews.ca.com) The Canadian Press

Running Benefits to having a Strong Core

The muscles involved in the side plank. Theagonist (active) muscles are highlighted.

Most of us when we think “core,” we think abs (abdominal muscles) and envision the ideal six-pack and harbor dreams of tone, ripped, lean stomach muscles that make us proud and others jealous. I mean who doesn’t want that? I’ll tell you who..no. one. ever. And while I’m super crazy about ripped abs, core muscles are much more than that and I’m more crazy about what they can do; what amazing powers or secrets do they hold. Word on the street is that they’re magic to your running and really that’s all a runner girl needs to hear.

Before we dive into the magic stuff, let’s get rid of any misinformation as it pertains to your core muscles. The core consists of the abdominal, hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes, hip flexors, obliques and lower back (active.com). I know! I wasn’t quite aware it was all that but the truth is you can see how it makes sense, since all these muscles can work together to make you stronger and faster. The aesthetics is purely a pleasant by-product of paying attention to these areas.
Thus, the main benefit of having a strong core is a stronger body with less potential for injuries.  Workouts targeting the core areas outlined above strengthen the muscles, which translates into better performance or running efficiency. The concept of a well-oiled machine can be applied here as the body, tried and tested, continuously strives for optimal performance. A number of the injuries that runners fall prone to such as : Achilles problems, Hamstring issues and lower-back pain, result from bad pelvic alignment (runnersworld.com). Additionally, there are issues of over and under pronation and inefficient cadence; a strong core can help to greatly reduce your risks, if not eliminate these issues altogether resulting in increased running economy.
So enough already with trying to get you on board, if you’re not there by now.. let’s just say you’re missing out on some sexy summer pics 😉 . On the other hand, if you’re sold, here are five of my favorite core exercises that you can include in your daily workout:
Planks – Basic and Side Planks can be done in separate workouts or can be alternated. On your toes, legs a few inches apart and elbows resting on the floor (below shoulders) hold position. Start small and work your way up increasing reps and duration. For example, from reps of 20 seconds to 1 minute with rest intervals in-between from 10-30 seconds depending on length of rep.
Abdominal Crunches – The basic crunch with feet planted on the floor or hyper-extended at right angles to the floor with a twist to do what is termed the bicycle twist gives you two options. You can start with 4 reps of 15 with 30 second rest intervals, gradually increasing reps each workout.
The Superman Pose – Lying stomach to the floor extend arms and legs full out raising first one leg and opposite arm about 4 inches off the floor, hold for an initial 10 seconds and rest, alternating sides and increasing the hold position slightly each workout.
The Bridge – Lie on the floor, hands extended in a cross position with feet planted on the floor right below knees. Slowly lift torso and upper legs until it’s in a straight line and you’re resting on shoulders and pressing down with feet. Extend left leg straight while keeping back straight, so it’s off the floor and hold for about 5 seconds. Repeat with right leg. Do 5 or six reps with the option to increase duration and reps each workout.
Russian Twists – Using a ball or weights, I use 10-15 pound weight, sit  straight up on the floor with legs extended and slightly raised, lean back until abs are engaged and twist and pick up weight, keep twisting right to left with weight and reaching as far behind you on the twists as you can. Do 4 reps of 10-15 to start.
What’s super cool about these is that you can work them into any workout, on any given day, and they can be done indoors or outdoors with minimum fuss. You can also combine as few as or as much of these core exercises as you like. Pretty flexible right? Feel no pressure to get a crunch on..only that summer in all its bikini-clad glory will soon be here. 😜
Sources: active.com, competitor.com, runnersworld.com

A 15K with a Kick

Saturday gone, I ran the annual 15K put on by the Greater Long Island Running Club (GLIRC) here in New York. Suffice to say, sometimes it pays to just dive in while other times it could be a monumental mistake. In this case I think my tendency to the impromptu turned out fine though I wouldn’t always bet on it. Deciding on Thursday that I would do a race on Saturday is not mired in good, well-thought-out decision-making but then I hardly make any such claim. Fanciful, impulsive, adventurous, committed, and a host of other attributes I can attest to, but always being sensible and cautious would not describe me – not by a long shot. Hence why I found myself standing outside in below freezing temperatures in Kings Park out on Long Island Saturday morning.
I was to see that my friends and I weren’t the only crazy ones making rash decisions; more and more runners kept filing in to the school compound which served as the base and start and finish area. Now in all honesty, this is a course I’ve run before. A few months back, a group of runners invited me out there for a long run and we pretty much ate up the course. Hilly, but only nine miles, it went pretty hard and fast. What we did not have then was the weather factor, which turned the tide of the run this time around.
We began in15℉ with real feel temperatures of 2 degrees. Blisteringly cold, I figured it was smart to ration my heat and wrapped myself in a heat sheet to run the first couple of miles, except it lasted about three-quarters of a mile before the wind became too much and said sheet became more of a hindrance than the help it was originally intended for. I had to dump it and face losing feeling in my face, feet and fingers. Despite my strategy of taking it easy on the hills/inclines, it slowly became harder to breathe with intermittent head and cross winds at various intervals and it took a mean mind to keep one foot in front of the other and not give in to the urge to stop and walk.  Add to that the snow and ice on the ground, in some areas, and what should have been a simple challenging run ended up being hazardous. There was little choice but to go into self-preservation mode to guard against getting injured. I reduced my pace – to a crawl really – for about a mile with three miles to go and finished up with a blistering dash in a time of 1:16.
 
We can all agree that the best part of racing in sub-temperatures is finishing and getting to enjoy the post-run eats and hot drinks. The organizers didn’t disappoint offering quite the spread to chase the chills and any discomfort away, so much so that we hung around for the official results ceremony and the raffle and giveaways. Turns out, this is one time my rash decision-making proved to be a bit of a chill running experience.

 

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