Saturday, September 15, 2012

Training Update: A momentary setback

Have you ever felt like you were finally hitting your stride and then suddenly something happens to throw you completely off your game? For the past week my training has been at a complete standstill. Last weekend I embarked on a beach trip with some girl friends and it turned in to one of the biggest nightmares I've ever experienced. In the aftermath I ended up dealing with exhaustion, stress, and ultimately illness. I have not run or done any physical activity in exactly one week. I have been completely drained of energy and physically unable to do much else other than sit around.

This morning I was scheduled for a 10-mile long run with the training group. I woke up to my alarm at 5am and couldn't even get out of bed let alone get dressed and run for two hours. With a sigh, I closed my eyes and fell asleep until nearly 10am. It was obvious that my body needed the rest and I'm glad I listened, but I can't remember the last time I missed a long run. It left me feeling sad and extremely disappointed.

I have been very fortunate during my half-marathon training that I have not had to deal with many of the setbacks and injuries that I have read about from other runners. Having run only a handful of races, pretty much every organized run is a new PR for me. Training and running in general have been a very positive experience and I've enjoyed celebrating my successes - both physical and mental. Now I've hit one of those bumps in the road that we certainly never expect. My head is shouting "yes! run! do it!" but my body is physically unable to comply.

It has taken some time for me to admit to myself that I am physically unable to do this right now.  After all, running has helped me to believe that I am capable of so much more than I ever realized. What keeps me going is the knowledge that with each day that passes, I am getting stronger. Soon I will make up for the time I've lost and get right back in my training groove.

My advice to anyone experiencing a similar setback: Don't give up... adapt. When things don't go as you planned, change your plan. While time off from running has not made my runs any stronger, it has helped strengthen my mind and my resolve. Perhaps that's exactly what I needed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I'm a Dirty Girl! - Race Recap

I have been so excited to share this race recap with you all! As you may recall, back in March I participated in a twitter chat hosted by Fitfluential and the Dirty Girl Mud Run. After a fabulous (and hilarious) chat, I learned I was one of the lucky winners of a free race registration! The Dirty Girl mud run originated in Wisconsin, where one of my good friends happens to live. When she agreed to join me for a day of mud and fun, I immediately booked a flight to America's heartland.

One of the final obstacles, a wall climb!

Now let me tell you a little bit about Karen & I. We met at the party of a mutual friend back in Connecticut and as soon as I heard her open her mouth, I knew I wanted to be her friend. We hit it off right away and became fast friends before we both eventually left CT to live in different areas of the country. At the time that Karen and I met, we were both seriously overweight. Since then we have both adapted new, healthier lifestyles and collectively lost about 200 pounds. Basically, we rock. So imagine what an amazing feat this mud run was for two girls who went from throwing back chips and margaritas together to climbing walls, running through mud, and essentially kicking ass.

Let me begin by extending a heartfelt thank you to Fitfluential and the Dirty Girl mud run. I am so appreciative of this experience in its entirety; the memories of that weekend will stay with me forever! Now, for those who don't know, I can be a bit of a type A personality. It will not surprise you then that I googled pretty much everything there is to know about mud runs prior to race day. I found some great information, such as: DON'T WEAR COTTON! Seriously, it will absorb all of the mud and water and weigh you down. I chose to wear some thin spandex capris and a (cheap) fitted tech tee.

This picture seriously cracks me up. Emerging from the Utopian Tubes!

A quick note about the picture above. See that maniacal smile? It did not leave my face for the entire 3.1 miles. Please also note Karen grabbing my hand and forcibly dragging me away from my photo op. Rude! OK, #2: Don't wear anything you wouldn't mind tossing after the run. This goes for shoes, too. One of the very first obstacles at Dirty Girl had us crawling through muddy water. That meant 3 more miles of mud and water collecting in our shoes, which went from a lovely shade of off-white to straight-up brown. Dirty Girl was cool enough to have a shoe donation area after the race which, due to my overzealous googling, I already knew about. I brought a pair of flip flops to change into and sent my shoes off to someone in need. Awesome!

After hearing various opinions about duct-tape and its ability to keep my shoes on my feet, I decided against it. Ultimately I decided it was more important to have full traction than it was to risk my shoe falling off. I tied my laces a little tighter than usual and had no problems whatsoever. I know I'm getting all excited and therefore a little ahead of myself here. Let me step back a moment and mention some things about the pre-run element. We arrived at the venue slightly later than intended (about 45 minutes prior to our wave - Dirty Girl recommends 60-90 minutes). Luckily parking was a breeze. We literally pulled in, parked, and then walked about a half mile to the venue. I didn't mind the distance, I considered it my warmup. Oh, and parking was free. Yay, free!

This reminded me of the Saved By The Bell episode where they did boot camp.

We found the check-in tent, which was slightly chaotic. The process itself went quickly, as they were using a laptop, but as we were leaving I saw a volunteer putting up signs to designate which names should check in at which kiosk. This was happening at noon when the run had started several hours earlier. Just thought that was odd. Once we were "in", we were essentially in the middle of a field. There were food carts and vendor tents set up like an expo but um, where was the run?! Finally we located a vague sign pointing us to bag check, but it would have been nice to have a volunteer or two stationed by the entrance to point us in the right direction.

Bag check was awesome. It was divided by bib number and there were no lines when I arrived. Super smooth and very necessary - the nice lady kept watch over my clean clothes, which I was very happy to put on later. Oh yes, #3: Bring a change of clothes. I brought a casual jersey skirt and a t-shirt, plus my flip flops. Ladies, it was a lot easier slipping on a skirt than it would have been trying to pull on some jeans. Just sayin'. So after we dropped off our bags, we again weren't sure where to go. We found ourselves weaving through a see of muddy zombies (the finish line was right beside the start line) until we found the corral. I asked the security guy which wave was in there and it was the wave prior to ours. A couple of minutes later they were off and we shuffled into the corral to wait. Security guy gave me a great tip: write your bib number on your arms with a sharpie. This way when your bib inevitably gets covered in mud, the photographers can still identify you for your photo ops.

There's that cheesy smile again! Oh, and some mud.

There was a very energetic DJ at the start line and it really helped to get us pumped up. The music was fun and we were all dancing and jumping around with excitement. Finally it was our time to fly and boy, did we. The very first obstacle was a series of hay bales that needed to be jumped over. I swear I must have been channeling Lolo Jones because I flew over those things! And most importantly, I didn't face plant. After the hay bales we were greeted by Barn Burner 2.0. Apparently the original barn burner was a mountain of hay bales to be climbed. Dirty Girl took that idea and modernized it with the most amazing inflatable contraption ever. Yes, every single one of us shrieked just like those ladies. I landed a little too enthusiastically on one tier and almost launched myself halfway across the field. Again, awesome.

After a little bit of running we encountered our first mud-based obstacle: muddy water-filled tunnels called the Utopian Tubes (see what they did there?). That was a lot of fun but after emerging and realizing I was only dirty from the knees down, I was like WTF? Then I posed for my photo op (see above). In retrospect that was a great early obstacle because it left us yearning for more mud! After our shoes were nice and soggy, we took off running again. At this time I realized how parched I was and conveniently a few minutes later we happened upon a water stop. These were plentiful on the course and I really appreciate that! Then more running, and on to the next obstacle.

Get A Grip was a giant cargo net. I know, it looks small in this picture; it wasn't. See that really tall ladder on the left side of the picture? It was really tall. Just saying. Anyway I am not afraid of heights, in fact I love them. I'm the person who stands on the glass panel at the CN Tower in Toronto, looks down and says "This is SO COOL!" So naturally I climbed my way to the top of the net and... freaked out. What do you mean I need to swing my leg over to the other side without plummeting to my death?! Don't you know I'm clumsy? After my 30-second panic attack and some encouragement from Karen and some sweet Sconnie strangers, I managed to get over it (literally) and climb down the other side. What a rush!

More running at this point, followed by some walls that needed to be climbed. No big deal! Shortly after the walls was the main event: H2OMG - a muddy water pit. It was like swimming in a dirty puddle and I loved it. Some ladies did the back stroke, I did a weird slide/crawl with my ass in the air. Yay, mud!! We encountered the H2OMG obstacle at least 4 more times on the course. Some people complained about lack of variety but honestly I really enjoyed getting all wet and dirty. We did another tire run called The Hangover which involved running the tires while also weaving through hanging tires. Again, no face plants - win!

Maniacal smile + surprise face

Finally we encountered an actual MUD PIT. Not just muddy water but straight up try-to-run-and-you-slip-or-get-stuck mud. I really wish there had been more than one of these because it was the star of the show. Girls were running and launching themselves on their stomachs like a muddy slip & slide. It was AWESOME. At this point we were sufficiently dirty and the course took us up a hill, through another water pit and in to the woods. There were some natural obstacles in there for us like the downed tree we had to jump over, etc. Then we had to weave and climb through several tangled "webs" of rope, at the end of which I found a camera in my face again. Surprise! The photographers were all super cool. Since my idea of bringing a waterproof disposable camera failed miserably (the pics came out blurry & overexposed), I was really thankful for the multitude of photos they took throughout the run.

After emerging from the woods we ran down toward a crowd of spectators and Karen & I waved at them and thanked them for coming even though none of them actually came to see us. We ran over the Utopian Tubes and some hay bales, then climbed another wall before heading to a very gravelly mud crawl. My knees and elbows got scraped up pretty bad on this one but I didn't mind too much. Battle scars! Everyone was forced to get low and get muddy to crawl under the net. We waved to more spectators and took off for the final water pit. The finish line was in sight and I ran across as Karen slid into home. Despite not seeing any firefighters, I had the most exciting run of my life and I am already scheming about more mud runs in the future.

After the run we retrieved our bags from the bag check (again, a super easy and quick process) and found our way to the shoe donation area. After dropping off our shoes, we put our bags in the changing area and went next door to get clean. Basically there was a tent with hoses (and cold water) and this was our "shower". I was prepared for that and rinsed off as best I could, then headed back to the changing area to towel off. Bring towels! We changed clothes, packed up, redeemed our free drink tickets and explored the merch booth for a bit before heading home. Overall this was the best "race" I've experienced since I began running last year. I learned a lot about myself and what I and my body are capable of. You too can be a Dirty Girl! Are you up for the challenge?