Slowly Getting Faster

 

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I ran the Boulder Half Marathon on Sunday. It remains one of the prettiest courses that I have ever run. It was a perfect fall day. The temperature at the start of the race was perhaps 50 rising to the mid 60s by the time I finished. The sun was bright. The leaves on the trees were all reds and bright yellows. The route passes by many farms and horse pastures.

It’s funny, I’ve been consistently running since the fall of 2004, but still feel like a novice. I ran my first event, a half marathon, in May of 2005. I completed it in 2:08:24, middle of the pack for my age and gender.

This year I have been focusing on incrementally improving my speed. I’ve run three half-marathons in 2012, each one, slightly faster.

  • 2:07:30 – February 5, 2012 in Tallahassee, FL
  • 2:06:29 –  September 23, 2012 in Jackson Hole, WY
  • 2:05:15 – October 21, 2012 in Boulder, CO

It’s funny, even this small improvement moves me from the bottom half to the top third (34 of 103) for my age/gender.

My 10k times are similarly infinitesimally improving:

  • 0:59:48 – March 14, 2010 Boulder, CO
  • 0:58:25 – March 31, 2012 Tallahassee, FL
  • 0:56:07 – April 28, 2012 Tallahassee, FL

I’d like to get my half marathon time under 2 hours. I have been steadily improving the pace at which I can run a single mile or two, but keeping that up for 13.1 miles is not something I have been able to sustain – yet.

Any advice for improving my speed/stamina more quickly?

Fall in Yellowstone

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I took a quick trip to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming this past weekend. I recommend taking more time – a week at least, two would be better.

I plotted a leisurely route mostly avoiding interstate, and generally not covering more than 300 miles a day.

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This map was created on myscenicdrives.com. My travelling companion was testing out a new bike, so this is what I saw for most of my drive.

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We stopped for a meal at bistro c.v. (the food here was amazing) in Steamboat Springs, Colorado before continuing on to our first stop in Vernal, Utah for the evening.

This time of year in the Rockies is simply breathtaking. The mountains are exploding with color.

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Our next stop was Teton Village, WY. I booked us an Urban Studio at the Hotel Terra for two nights. The hotel was great (clean, modern, great amenities), but the wall bed could have been a bit more comfortable. We had dinner at the Westbank Grill. My buffalo tenderloin was amazing, but the rest of the food was less spectacular than we’d anticipated.

The next morning, I ran the Jackson Hole Half Marathon.
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Conveniently, the race ended near our hotel, and there were shuttles to the start in downtown Jackson, WY. This was a small race, with just a few hundred runners, over a beautiful course. There were signs warning us about bears everywhere, but I didn’t see any. I’m very pleased with my overall time (2:06:29).

We spent the afternoon exploring all of the unique geysers and pools near Old Faithful. I took hundreds of photos as the landscape was simply so unique, in many ways, otherworldly.

Old Faithful was impressive, if very crowded.

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I was fascinated by the chromatic pools and thermophilic organisms growing in and around some of them.

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Some of the pools are not only (boiling) hot, but also very caustic. In some areas, you can see the trees have died not from fires but from exposure to the pools.

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While Old Faithful is the best known, there were many other geysers in the park that would suddenly start spraying as you walked by.
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I loved the colors of some of the pools.

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The Snake River winds its way through Yellowstone as a beautiful contrast to all of the otherworldly landscapes.

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On our drive to Yellowstone, smoke from various forest fires prevented us from getting a good view of the Grand Tetons. On our way back, some of the smoke had lifted.

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As the sun was setting, we also caught sight of a male elk calling to his harem.

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Our next stop was the Ferris Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Rawlins, Wyoming. I am not normally a bed & breakfast person but this place was awesome. Of all of the accomodation choices in Rawlins, Ferris Mansion is the best rated of them all whether you are looking at tripadvisor or hotels.com. The ratings are well deserved. And even in town, I tried to make friends with the wild-life.

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We discovered a hidden gem in the small town of Rawlins. There is an authentic (and outstanding) Thai restaurant within walking distance of Ferris Mansion: Anong’s Thai Cuisine. This was one of the best meals on our trip.

On our drive back to Colorado, we lucked out and spotted a moose.
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He was moving quickly, so I’m glad I was able to get a picture of him.

This was my first trip to Wyoming. There are now 11 states in the US that I have not yet visited: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan and Rhode Island. I will eventually get to them all but I already want to go back to Wyoming – so pretty.

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Bridal Veil Falls

I love Colorado in the Fall. It’s still warm and sunny but there is a crispness to the air; the leaves on some trees are just starting to turn. I love the sounds and smells of the dry leaves as the wind blows.

One great thing about being between jobs is that I have an abundance of time to explore, and to exercise. I got hooked on hot yoga in Tallahassee. I miss my teachers at Hot Yoga Tallahasse and Journeys in Yoga. But, I  have found an amazing studio in Denver – iLiv Yoga. I generally don’t prefer a strict Bikram class or the traditional series, but these teachers (and the students) are incredible and inspiring. I have been getting leaner & stronger – defined abs are maybe 5 lbs away, but these teachers and students are on a whole different level – full body muscle definition, on women, without looking gaunt or starved down for some specific fitness event. This is just their base level of fitness. I asked one woman, after she exited the shower yesterday, what else she did to stay in such great shape. She’s active (it’s Colorado: hikes, bikes, walks) but for the last 10 years it’s been yoga, “a lot of yoga.” For the first few classes I have needed to readjust to the temperature and altitude. In Tallahassee, due to the high humidity, most teachers keep the “hot” classes under 100 degrees. Here in Denver, with the lower humidity, some of the teachers are cranking the heat up to 110+. By the time we get to Camel pose, I have literally been seeing stars. Love it.

I’m also still running. I’d like to get my half-marathon time at or under 2 hours. My last, in Tallahassee, about 6 months ago, was 2:07:30. My last 10K was 56:07, so I think it’s feasible, eventually. I’ve switched over to Newton running shoes and am slowly changing from being a heavy heel striker to a mid-foot striker. I still have to think about every step, as well as my hip alignment, but my feet and knees now feel great after a run. Newton Running, in Boulder CO, offers a weekly running clinic, but I have not yet made it to one but allegedly, it will help me to increase my pace by at least 1 minute per mile.

In the meanwhile, I am just trying to get outside as much as possible. Today I drove up to the Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park and hiked to Bridal Veil Falls. Luckily for me, there are complete websites dedicated to “day hikes near Denver” that allow you to sort for length, difficulty and natural features (e.g. waterfalls). I wanted something somewhat challenging but not scarily so. This was about 6.2 miles total as an out and back, with the elevation increasing about 1000 feet over the path to the falls. Only the last 0.4 miles or so, after the sign telling you to leave your horse behind, got fairly technical. Even though it was a perfect weekend day – mid 70’s, sunny, I passed at most a dozen people on my journey.

The trail was easy to follow and very well marked along the way.
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The trail followed the stream and there were numerous peaceful water features along the way.

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While not majestic, the falls were worth the hike.

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In another week or two the aspen are going to be spectacular. They are just starting to turn gold.

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And you never know when you are going to see a bright spot of color.

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It’s good to be back.

My First 10K

I turned 42 on Monday. I thought about getting a massage, but instead I signed up for the Boulder Spring Half as a birthday present to myself.  While I’ve done a 5K, a marathon and a half-marathon in the past, I’d never done a 10K before today. For the most part I’ve been lazy with my training, running a few times a week generally no more than 3 miles with perhaps half of my workouts being sprint intervals for a max of 2 miles.

A friend of mine recently upgraded his Garmin Forerunner and donated his Garmin 305 to me. According to this very fun new training device, I had a great (for me) run.

There were 2000 of us there to run the half-marathon, 1o mile or 10K races. I started somewhere in the middle to last third of the pack and initiated the Garmin before I crossed the official start.

According to the Garmin, I ran  6.33 miles in 1:00.43,  for a pace of 9:35 per mile or 6.3 mph. This was an out and back run with the first half pretty much all uphill. Pretty much every mile I ran got a little bit faster.

  • mile 1: 10:39.88 (caught in the herd of 2000 people – some of the funnier people near me were literally “mooing” trying to break free)
  • mile 2: 9:41.40 (finally broke free of the throng)
  • mile 3: 10:00.02 (all uphill & trying to pace myself)
  • mile 4: 9:22.44 (past the half way mark & beginning to run downhill)
  • mile 5: 9:14.47
  • mile 6: 8:42.50
  • last .33 miles: 3:02.23

I really can’t complain. This was a great run for me, especially given the paucity of my training. I did get a blister during the last mile but else felt really good. Of course, it’s important to keep everything in perspective; the winner of the half marathon crossed the finish line in about 1 hour and 5 minutes.

EDIT: I was 16 of 64 in my age group (women 40 to 49) with an official time of 59:49. Overall I was 148th out of about 410 runners and 71st for all women. I’d say the Garmin was quite accurate!

Fit Women

I virtually met a number of amazing women back in 2004 when I first started focusing on fitness, initially following the original Body for Life program created by Bill Phillips who is now doing a program called Transformation. At first (2004-2005) I faithfully tracked my progress in Excel, and took pictures every few weeks.

Many of the women, through their blogs and various fitness forums, have gone on to compete in figure competitions or have become certified personal trainers. As time passed, for me, it became less about a specific program and more about just living a healthy lifestyle. It was also important to me to drop the obsessive compulsive tracking, although it is incredibly effective. Right now I really like the variety of Turbulence Training. You should check out the YouTube workouts.

This coming week I am going to have the opportunity to meet several of these inspiring women in person. I am so incredibly excited.

Julie Berg is coming to Colorado to compete in the Leadville 100, a 100 mile trail run! Julie often wins her age-group in her local ultra-marathons. Hopefully I can meet her and her family before she heads into the mountains.

The magnificent Maggie Wang (she’s a karaoke singing, video game programming, artist & fitness junkie with a frugal gourmet habit) coordinated the Pink Dumbbells (note: Pink Dumbbells is a joke about those women who are afraid to lift heavy and only use those cute pink dumbbells for their workouts) cruise. I think a bunch of folks from the John Stone Fitness Forum are also coming.

I am also looking forward to meeting Irene and Kyra, whose art I keep buying. I also can’t wait to get on our cruise ship. I’m ready to bask in the sun for a few days.

Starting at the Beginning

Last January I made a failed attempt to leap back into fitness with the Turbulence Training plan leading up to the Turbulence Training 500 workout. I did make it through some of the workouts but often found, like my recent experience with Evil Jen, that not being able to walk up and down stairs comfortably for several days, let alone raise my arms, is NOT conducive to sticking with a fitness program. I don’t mind some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that lasts a few days but muscle spasms where the muscle contracts and won’t relax for days on end is not my thing.

I’ve been more successful adding the cardio back. Three days a week, I run, then I reward myself in the Jacuzzi at the gym. That’s a start (good heart health anyway) but to change my body, I need to add resistance training.

Yesterday, Craig Ballantyne wrote a post called Start at the Beginner Turbulence Training Workouts! Today I heeded that advice. Workout A done. Interval A done. I feel good. My muscles worked and I will have some stiffness tomorrow but will likely still be motivated to get my run in. I may not need to do 4 weeks at the Beginner level before moving to Intermediate but I suspect that because these workouts are more achievable for me – i.e. I don’t need to modify the exercises to try to approximate the move – that I will be much more likely to stick with it.

Spring is here and so is my motivation.

Evil Jen

I joined a gym about a block from my work about 6 weeks ago. One thing they do for all new members is assign you to have two personal training sessions. The fist session is a fitness assessment – you get weighed & calipered to assess body fat, heart rate & blood pressure are tested, your VO2 max is calculated on an exercycle. Tests for overall fitness included a series of push-ups, sit-ups, squats and measures of flexibility. So the first session was OK if a bit depressing. I know what I should be able to do and but my upper body strength is currently non-existent.

For my second session, just Wednesday night, I met with Evil Jen. Actually she’s not truly evil; I hurt today as I knew I would and & we had joked that I would be thinking of her as evil. I am. Granted I asked her to push me hard and warned her that I was sadly unfit outside of my cardiovascular health. I have been going to the gym 2 or 3 times a week running sprint intervals for about 3 miles a pop. I am back to running 3 miles in just under 30 minutes. This part is fine.

Jen focused on strength training. We started with bar bell squats, moved to lunges on a bosu ball. Most every exercise recruited multiple muscle groups by design. She likes sets of 15 to 20, done twice – I’ve generally done sets with fewer than 12 reps in the past. The core exercises, done at the end, were fun and made use of stability and medicine balls. The middle, working chest, shoulders and back, was simply brutal. She likes range of motion exercises so there was some cable work as well as some chest press exercise where the weight was lifted not only straight up but over to each side at about 30 degree angles away from center. Doing each location (left, right, center) was 1 rep – lets do 2 sets of 20 after killing me with push-ups. She had to spot me on the 25 lb plate I was using for this. I am very weak in my upper body but at home I can still use my 25 lb dumbbells to press (twice the weight but only straight up, and not after push-ups). The shoulder exercises (lateral & front raises) involved standing on one leg with the other held high.

By the time she was done with me I was grateful to go sit in the Jacuzzi for a bit. Even after a long soak I could barely raise my arms enough to drive home safely. The next day I was struggling with the stairs. Oh my quads. I was also very aware of my core.

This was my first real experience with a personal trainer. I’m tempted but it’s quite expensive  ($75 per 1 hour session! – only about $60 each if you commit to 24 sessions) at my health club. I see the advantage, much of which is simply paying someone to meet you there to make sure you get it done, who will laugh with/at you while you struggle to finish the set.  I need to try out some of the group fitness stuff. I never thought I was a joiner but a class might be just what I need at this point.

Coming up for air

This week had far too many days that started with 7 AM meetings and ended with me arriving home at about 10 PM. Even knowing that this is what my week would look like, I started Turbulence Training this week. It was simply time. I took my fine before pictures and posted them to the Turbulence Training members forum. I have done what I can with the workouts. I’m down about 3 pounds from my bloated start. Muscles that thought they were forgotten have been awoken.

Today I came home to this surprise in the mail. Months ago I had seen this on Irene’s blog and googled to find out how to get one. Someone, who I have long forgotten, had a link on their website to a Nike women’s page. So much time had passed that I thought it was a long expired perk for registering. Perfect timing. I needed this.

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Diabulimia

I saw a headline today "Diabulimics shun insulin to get thin."

I am horrified. Unregulated diabetes (chronically high blood sugar) will cause blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and nerve damage. It is the major cause of limb amputations. Untreated diabetes can lead to diabetic induced comas (generally from diabetic ketoacidosis) and death.

In spite of knowing all of this, "One in three type 1 diabetics reported skipping or underdosing their insulin to lose weight, according to a study by researchers at the University of Toronto" One in three people; 33% of diabetics are risking their lives just to be thin.

"The problem is widespread enough that physicians now see insulin underdosing as a form of purging, making it a close cousin of the eating disorder bulimia. Some doctors even call it "diabulimia." "

There are a number of frightening stories in this article about women facing this problem. Take insulin, feel good, perhaps get plump or risk your life to be thin? You can read the whole article here.

Back on Track

You might have noticed that I’ve not been fully committed to fitness for  quite some time. I’ve made a few false starts trying to get back to it but just never quite got there. I’m not sure why I did not keep that promise to myself. Sure there were major scheduling issues. My fun with an ulcer. Food allergies and intolerances that messed up my macronutrient ratios. But mostly, I just let it slide. I no longer put it first. I had so many commitments that something had to give and what lost was me.

I had my annual check-ups recently with my doctor, dentist and eye-doctor. In spite of my slacking, I’m healthy, fit even for a normal person. Indeed, my doctor did no blood work this year and did not poke and prod in the usual way since my results from last year were so good. I got to postpone all of the fun until my next visit where I’ll be 40 and flag all sorts of new fun tests. He did update my tetanus vaccination but that’s it. I learned from my dentist that my teeth are fine but my habit of clenching my teeth in my sleep has caused an abfraction of one of my canine teeth. If I keep it up, this tooth may snap off. Nifty. I started sleeping in a mouth guard that night.  I am hoping that my gums will recover and safely cover the root of that tooth again. There are times I wake up because of how hard I am clenching down on the mouth guard that it presses up into the roof of my mouth.

This Sunday, at peak PMS and full of cravings, I finally hit that point where I was ready to get back on track. It’s always like this for me when change is spawned. I hit that “enough” moment from which action spawns. I weighed. I measured. I dug out my old excel files from when I was 19% body fat and had not realized that I was actually in great shape. I was trying to approach maintenance like a normal person. Exercise regularly & eat healthy. Bah. I am not that person. I need a plan. I need to write it down and let excel add up the numbers. I need to track. I need to get on the scale each day. Today is day 4. I’m down 5 pounds from the bloated weigh in. On a positive note, I’m losing on about 1800 calories a day which is often maintenance for women my age and height (39; 5 foot 7 inches). I’m alternating 20-25 minutes of interval runs with full body workouts. I’ll share the complete numbers once I’m a week or two in and feel more confident about sticking to plan this time.

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