Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This one's for you Laura

I like Bikram yoga because it's hot. You "warm up" your muscles to the max and this makes it easier to go to your deepest. (That's what they say..."Go to your deepest.") It's also harder, and that gets your heart rate up. It's strength building AND a cardio workout.

The heat also makes you sweat. A lot. What did that mean for me today? Well, I should note that I dyed my hair this past Saturday. Bright red. Which means today I dyed a couple towels red. No big deal. It only interfered with my practice once when it started running into my eyes. Yikes!

I also ended up next to a rather large, rather hairy man. No problem. We come in all shapes and sizes. Except for he was SUPER stinky! But let's keep things positive. At least it wasn't....


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Running away from homicide can be an uphill battle

Two things happened yesterday. I completed a 5 mile run and attended the TeamChallenge kick off event at Gordon Biersch in San Francisco. Let's start from the beginning.

I headed out running around 7:30 am, which proved to be perfect timing. It was late enough that the sky was lit, but early enough to avoid the heat. In fact, it was the perfect temperature. Any earlier and the first mile or so is freezing. Pretty early on in the run, while still a bit sleepy and not yet warmed up, I took a turn off the neighborhood streets and onto a path that cuts across some open hills.

Shortly thereafter I started thinking about a book I read a few months ago about a profiler of serial killers and psychopaths. The profiler became a profiler after a 20-something woman was murdered while running in a nearby park. There was no real motive involved. She just happened to cross the isolated path of a recently dumped and distraught psychopath.

This is what I was thinking about before I noticed a scruffy looking, middle-aged man in dirty jeans and a flannel shirt slowly walking towards the path I was running on. In case you missed the subtle, underlying implication of that last sentence I will spell it out for you. This guy was not on the path. He was about 20 yards off. Just hanging out in the middle of random field first thing in the morning...creeee-pyy. Even creepier is the fact that he turned around and started walking away from the path when he saw me coming. So, I don't think I'll be running on this path again. At least not without a companion.

Needless to say, I survived and felt much better when the path spit me back out onto neighborhood streets. My next challenge was a few hills. Slightly more painful, but (all things considered) a better alternative to creepy field men. While a run up a hill is certainly no walk in the park I have to admit that I'm kind of starting to like them. Now I know what you're thinking, "Like?! Why do you use such strong words?!" And you're right. Maybe "accept" would have been a better choice.

Vocabulary aside, I feel like I'm getting better at them. If I slow down (a lot) I can make it up a hill and keep my breathing under control. And at the top of most Benician hills lies an enormous sense of accomplishment and a spectacular view.
Furthermore, I think I'm almost to the point where I can plan out a run without checking the elevation changes first. I'm also entertaining the possibility that these hill workouts will translate into faster race times! This particular 5.38 mile run was completed at an average pace of 9:58 min/mile.

Those who have read my last few posts know that I've been playing chicken with a hip (aka butt) injury. You should know that I won this round. My left (that's right, the other one) hip felt a bit sore when I finished my run. So I rolled out my yoga mat and spent some quality time stretching. I think this did the trick because they're both feeling okay today.

On to Part II! The TeamChallenge kick off event was good. I'll leave it at that. Not bad. Not amazing. As it turns out my fall calendar is so full that I'm going to miss about 75% of the weekend group runs. So I was hoping to meet a bunch of my East Bay teammates at this event. (And by teammate I mean roommate. Someone I could share a hotel room with if Jason decides not to come.) While the turnout for the event was good, most of the attendees are on the San Francisco team. I only met 5 people from East Bay and 3 of them were boys! Ewww - cooties!

What I did really enjoy was hearing everyones' reasons for participating. Almost everyone there either had Crohn's or Colitis or had an immediate family member with the disease. It was really inspiring and reminded me that all the fundraising I have to (urgh) do will make a difference in their lives.

Talking with people who have completed the fundraising before helped to. When I confessed my woes to one of the mentors and asked what his secret was he told me, "Just ask. Don't feel guilty about it. Remember that you're not doing this for yourself. You're not asking them to give YOU money." So that's what I'm going to (gulp) do.

Would you like to make a donation? You can do so here, and it's tax deductible. Only have $1? No problem. Just type your donation amount next to "Other."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

To run or not to run

I violated my workout schedule and took a day off yesterday. For good reason of course. I didn't want to hurt my hip worse. And I felt pretty okay with that decision. But then today rolled around.

"What to do..." I pondered. My workout schedule said run, but I didn't want to overdo it. I was also pretty tired after work and had a mild headache. The couch was looking mighty fine.

On the other hand, I hadn't run since Sunday and my hip wasn't feeling too bad. Plus, I know that couch. It's like crack. If I take a hit today I'll be coming back for more tomorrow. So I laced up my shoes and headed for the door thinking, "I'll just take it easy today."

Now you should know something about me. I don't "take it easy." I can tell myself all day long that I'm going to back off or slow down, but when it comes down to it I'm going to push myself. And that's exactly what I did before a horrendous cramp unleashed its fury on my side.

At the time I was pretty peeved. I had to slow way down for quite awhile before I could kick it. But now that I've had a few minutes to reflect I think it might have been a blessing in disguise. I'll take a side cramp over a pulled muscle any day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A synonym for "butt"

For awhile now I have alluded to an interest in Bikram yoga. Well, my friends, it's time for a post. Here is my commentary on yesterday's class, complete with illustrations. Of some random woman I found on Google.

Back Bending

I wasn't a huge fan of this one when I first started, but I have been loving it lately. It's the first pose I can really feel in my back. Like jumping into a swimming pool that's a little too cold. "Here we go...!" And then, "Aaaaa...refreshing." Bringing the stretch into my upper back is really what has made the difference. I focus on taking full, deep breaths in order to fill and lift my lungs. Mmmm.

Eagle Pose
It reached 94 degrees yesterday outside my El Cerrito yoga studio, and somehow that translated into a hotter room. I don't totally understand why since Bikram calls for a climate controlled 105 degree room. But it did. The instructor even commented on it being an especially hot day. Normally I would find the extra heat intimidating. But a good lubricating sweat is key for eagle, and for weeks I hadn't worked up a good one in time. Yesterday I was sweating before we even started practice and slid right into this one.

Standing Bow Pulling Pose
Bikram yoga reminds me of a sprint workout. It's a series of short, intense bursts of energy. And standing bow is like your 8th 400m. Rarely am I able to hold both sets on each leg for the entirety of the alotted time without my heart running away from me. The good news is my yoga has been a lot better since I've started running again. I'm able to focus more on the postures and less on merely staying alive.

The bad news is I now focus more on the postures. Yesterday I chose to focus on how crooked my right leg was whilst pulling. The left leg is manageable. The right leg, for whatever reason, is not. No matter how hard I try to make corrections, my knee just wants to bow out, and my toe can't help but turn in. And boy did I try to correct it yesterday. And not without consequence I'm afraid...we'll get to that later.

Triangle Pose
I've been doing Bikram yoga for about a year and half now, and it's always the same 26 poses. By design. Yet the instructors will still say things here and there that make me go, "Ohhhh...that's how that works." It's one of the things I love about it. There's always something else to learn. Something else to perfect. Last week the instructor took a few minutes to explain how to approach this posture. What can I say. Whatever she said hit home. This posture feels completely and pleasantly different now.

Toe Stand
I don't have a lot to to say about toe stand other than I feel like I've been rocking it out lately. If only I had this lady's six-pack to go along with it...

Locust Pose
Usually this is one of my stronger poses. But yesterday my legs felt like logs. Just a bit of foreshadowing...

Bow Pose
I told you about my highlights so it's only fair I tell you about my lowlights. Just before beginning this pose I overheard this thought, "Only two more to go in this stupid floor series." Sadly, that quote is verbatim...

...and not even the worst part. But in order to tell that story I have to start at the beginning. In April 2007 I pulled a muscle. Bad. For the first couple weeks I could barely move. I remember breaking down into tears one morning because I couldn't get my pants on. After a few weeks of this kind of waddling around and no signs of improvement I made an appointment with the doctor (which was a fairly amusing phone call).

Me: "Hi, my name is Laura and I'd like to see a doctor about some muscle pain."
Lady on the phone: "Is the pain you're experiencing the result of any known trauma?"
Me: "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I injured it excercising."
Lady on the phone: "And where is the pain?"
Me: "Um...(clears throat)...it's uh...my butt muscle."

Flash forward to my doctor's appointment.

Me: "It's...um...pretty much right down the center of my left...uhh (croack)...butt cheek." Imagine pulling and proding.
Doctor: "Looks like you pulled a muscle in your hip." Aaaaaahhhhh!!!! The hip!!! Why didn't I think of that??!!?

But I digress. It took about a year before I could exercise without it flairing up. Even now, EITHER of my hips will flair up sporadically. I think I must favor my "good" hip without realizing it and, in doing so, strain it unnecessarily.

So there you have it. By the end of yoga I was having trouble sitting up and had to limp out of the studio. I'm quite upset about it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Not just a runner

I have been tracking several fitness metrics since I kicked off my Healthy Living Plan a few months ago. You know, weight, measurements, percent body fat. The standard fare. I have also been tracking my resting heart rate. I take it every Sunday morning.

For awhile it's been pretty exciting to watch it drop. I was getting in shape! But as it continued to drop, I actually started to get worried. After all, I'm not in that great of shape. I still pat myself on the back if I run a mile under 10 minutes. But, I reassured myself, I was just being paranoid.

So I took my pulse this morning in accordance with the Sunday ritual, and it was 48 bpm. Mind you, this was after a cup of coffee. It's been hanging out in the low 50s for awhile, but this was the first time it bottomed out and plummeted into the 40s. Something about crossing that particular threshold revitalized my concern.

And where do we go to find all the answers? Google! Here's what I found:

From the MayoClinic - "For a well-trained athlete, a normal resting heart rate may be as low as 40 to 60 bpm."

And from MSN Health and Fitness - "High-performance athletes often have heart rates in the 40s." Dr. Thomas H. Lee goes on to say, "When people come to see me concerned about a slow heartbeat, I first ask them if they have had fainting spells, or do not have enough energy to do their daily activities."

So far so good.

"I next see if I can make their heart speed up by having them walk up a flight or two of stairs. If they can do that activity, and their heart speeds up, I reassure them that their slow heart rate probably just means they are in good shape."

Okay...heart rate definitely goes up with the stairs. Double check.

I guess that means I'm just a well-trained, high-performance athlete.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Three points with an asterisk and one without

Point 1

My thoughts are consumed with fundraising. Let me clarify. I can't stop obsessing over whether I will actually be able to raise the minimum amount required. The trouble (that I didn't fully consider when I signed up for TeamChallenge) is I feel guilty asking people for money. At some level I realize that I will need to send out "that email" asking all my friends and family to donate. BUT...and I say this like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum...I DON'T WANT TO!

But enough with the negativity. The unveiling of my race plans has brought out much love and support from my sorority sisters. Thanks and appreciaton goes out to Bonnie, Lindsey, Elsha, Sarah and Amy! And let's not forget the MOMS! (That includes both mine and Jason's.)

Stacey is also very touched by the whole ordeal and wants you to know not to be fooled by the DONATION WEBSITE. You are more than welcome to donate less than $50 by simply listing the donation YOU would like to make next to "Other." Okay, you got me. I'm actually the one that wants you to know that.

And I suppose it's a good thing that my fear of fundraising has dwarfed any fear of actually running the half, right?

Point 2

I skipped hip hop this week. You could see this coming couldn't you? I'd had enough of Mighty's boom-to-boom counting system, and Kelsea's elbow had had enough of the one-armed warm-ups. Last week we only used our right arm in the "warm-up". What's up with that?! (The quotation marks have to do with the fact that the warm-up lasts probably 30 to 45 minutes. That's half of the class. The question and exclamation marks have to do with, "What's up with that?!") We both agreed that it was a sunk cost* and went to yoga instead. After yoga Kelsea** remarked on how much better yoga is than hip hop.***

As much as I enjoyed replacing hip hop with yoga, it threw off my workout schedule this week. How else was I to cross train? Enter - the bicycle. Detailed bicycle blogging will come in the future. For now I will leave you with the expression, "It's like riding a bicycle." All my life I misunderstood its meaning. Today I realized it means scary and harder than running.

*The concept of a sunk cost may be the single most valuable lesson I learned in a college course. I have applied its principles to my own life on many occasions, and I'm a happier, more satisfied person as a result.

**Kelsea is a very smart woman with excellent taste.

***The video is coming, it's just taking awhile. I'll post a link as soon as it's up.

Point 3

In addition to being hilly, there is always wind in my neck of the woods. I find myself pushing my earbuds back in my ear every minute or two. That's way too often. It's been quite the dilemma. Then I saw a girl the other week wearing a headband covering her ears/earbuds, and I thought to myself, "What a fabulous idea!" So I ordered one from Nike and it arrived in the mail today. I'm super excited to try it out tomorrow on my long* run!

*It's really only 4 miles. But keep in mind - not too long ago I was only running 0.95 miles at a time and not too long before that I was stitting on the couch.

Point 4

This week one of my co-workers said to me, "Are you jogging again?"

Me: "Yes I am."

Co-worker: "You look smaller. Not that you looked big before. But you look noticeably smaller than you did a few weeks* ago."

A little tiny voice in my head said, "Awww shucks! Jogging! I'm a runner now!" But mostly I was pretty happy about that.

*I think he meant months.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ode to Stacey

I have been a bit slack on the blog posts because I have been busy offline drafting my Ode* to Stacey. And after much battling with formatting / photo layout I have (alas!) arrived at a finished product. I now present to you...

The TeamChallenge Page!

*Note that if you were to replace "ode" with "dissertation" the description would likely still fit.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A stroke of genius

As I was wrapping up my post last night I asked Jason, "What was the term they used in Inception for planting an idea in someone's mind?"

Jason: "I think it was Inception."

Me: "Oh right."

In other news I went to yoga tonight for the first time in two weeks, and it was so great! I have two more weeks of hip hop and then it's yoga twice a week. I can't wait!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Marathon Inception

When I picked up my race bib for the San Francisco Marathon - 5K the other week they gave me a goodie bag. For those of you that don't know, in the racing world "goodie" is synonymous with "flyer." And one of the "goodies" in my bag was an advertisement for TeamChallenge.

TeamChallenge, in a nutshell, is an endurance training program that raises money for the Chron's and Colitis Foundation. Much like Team In Training. So I read the flyer, set it aside and forgot about it...

Or did I?

In retrospect, I think Leonardo DiCaprio must have placed that goodie in my flyer bag. The Leonardo DiCaprio recently seen in the movie Inception that is. Because the idea of TeamChallenge, however small, stuck. It camped out, stretching its limbs and making itself comfortable in the couch cushions of my subconscious. And from there it grew. It grew from after thought to curiousity. Curiousity to mild interest. Mild interest to serious consideration. And finally, serious consideration to excitement.

And excitement was my state of mind when I walked into the info meeting last night. Here I will sum up the entire info session by saying that info was distributed and jump to the end of the session. To the part where I signed up. Eeek!

That means I will officially begin training for the Rock 'N Roll Las Vegas 1/2 Marathon! Which is far less intimidating than all the fundraising I now have to do...wish me luck!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why runners hold the key to...

The sun was mighty powerful during my run today. (Don't worry, I remembered to wear sunscreen.) So powerful, in fact, that I lost Jason about halfway through the run. Boyz N Tha Hood by Eazy-E had enabled me to settle into a rhythm. I was reminding myself to, "Just put one foot in front of the other," when I realized Jason was about 100 feet behind me - walking.

So I did what every loving, supportive wife would do. I let him have some alone time and finished my run. When I got home the front door was locked. No problem. I found a cozy patch of grass in the front yard and waited for Jason and the key on his shoelace. And I waited. After awhile I thought maybe Jason had arrived home before me and decided to lock the door for some reason. So I tried the door again, rang the doorbell, peered through the window. Nothing. I had another seat in the front yard and waited some more. And more.

That's when I started to get worried. Did Jason get lost? Did he pass out in a rose bush? Get hit by a bicycle? I started back tracking, and he was still nowhere to be found. Perhaps he melted away in the summer heat? Just when I started feeling guilty for leaving him behind, the front door opened and I heard Jason calling my name.

He had arrived home before me, locked the door and, in typical fashion, collapsed in the backyard. Come on!

Aside from getting locked out of the house, the run was a success. A hot and hilly 3.17 mile run at a 9:22 min/mile pace.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Giant burn

I pride myself in being pretty low maintenance when it comes to my appearance. I can pretty comfortably get ready in 35 minutes if I shower and 15 if I don't. Until now.

It all started with the Giants game last Saturday (see the pretty pictures below).

They were free tickets Jason got through work on the Club Level. (Which, side note, I have now decided is the only way to do a baseball game. ) The sun was shining, the birds were chirping (potentially), and the Giants won 2-1. A great day, right?

Let me give you some more background. That morning, as I was getting stuff together for the game, I asked Jason, "If I bring my fleece and my black, puffy coat do you think that will be enough?" That's, count 'em, two coats. Because I'm ALWAYS cold in San Francisco! Because it's ALWAYS cold! ALWAYS!!

Except for last Saturday. That's why I fried. I'm talking lobster, cherry, candy apple red fried my arms. Now I have the most ridiculous tan lines that will probably still be there one month from now when I'm walking down the aisle at Steph and Shawn's wedding in a strapless dress.

So I decided to try and bring some color to my pasty chest, in addition to soothing my arms. Hence my now high maintenance moisturizing routine:
  • Mary Kay TimeWise Age-Fighting Moisturizer for my face
  • Eucerine Plus Intense Repair Body Creme for my Eczema prone legs
  • Aveeno Intense Relief Repair Creme for my burnt arms
  • Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer for my chest

Moisturizing aside, you may be asking yourself, "What does this have to do with working out?" Imagine laying on your burnt arms in a 105 degree room. That's right. I skipped yoga this week. And I'm going through withdrawls!!! Three exclamation marks worth of withdrawls! ELSHA - Go try it! Try it tomorrow! And blog about it so I can live vicariously through you!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Does thrice a runner make?

I got to thinking the other day - what's the difference between running and jogging? I mean, I understand the difference subjectively, but what's the official, technical difference? In order to satisfy my curiousity I did what any upstanding engineer would do. I Googled it. Most of the internet said the difference was a matter of personal opinion. But I did find one definition that drew the dividing line at a 10:00 min/mile pace.

So here's a recap:
  • Friday - 3.32 miles / 9:53 pace
  • Saturday - Rest
  • Sunday - 1.49 miles / 9:53 pace
  • Monday (Today) - 2.25 miles / 9:48 pace (And I could have gone faster if Jason hadn't slowed me down towards the end!*)

What do you think? Does thrice a runner make?

*I have to give Jason due credit by saying that not only are the roles typically reversed, but I'm pretty sure my routine attempts to keep up are what brought my pace down from the historical standard of ~11:30 min/mile.