Thursday, February 28, 2013

Life lessons learned from running my Ragnar Relay Race

The team at Ragnar Relay Miami finish line

Running a Ragnar Relay Race was truly life changing experience for me. In reflecting back on the race I've come to realize that there were many lessons to come out of it all.

If you read my five part race review you'll remember that I had some GREAT moments and I had some AWFUL moments but those moments all added up to get the team to a finish line nearly 200 miles from where we started.

Lessons learned from Ragnar:
  1. Planning. There is a popular saying, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail" and no where is that more immediately evident than during a Ragnar. From making sure you have the right recovery snacks on hand to packing your sneakers, you have to plan. If you forget your headlamp or reflective vest, you won't even be allowed out of the van never mind allowed to run! Planning for any goal is crucial. If your goal is to lose weight, you might plan your meals, you might plan when you're going to exercise and you might plan some time to peruse healthy recipes. Winging it just doesn't work for most.
  2. Preparation. Preparation goes hand and hand with planning. You must pack your bags, you must prep your race outfits, you must prep your fueling needs. I didn't prepare myself properly for the heat, for running in the middle of the night and probably didn't prepare (or plan) my nutrition properly and my middle of the night run was a disaster! In any goal you must take the steps. If you plan to eat clean and vegetarian for a week then you have to prep your vegetables and prepare your meals. If you plan to do Ironman you have to prepare with months and months of training. 
  3. Leaning on the team. When it comes to Ragnar as it is with any goal or challenge in life you are stronger when you work with a team and lean on the team when necessary. When you are weak, let others be strong. My team cheered me on when I was feeling exhausted, passed me water when I thirsty, got me to a restroom when the hydration was challenging my bladder and even ran a good few miles of my leg when my body cramped up. Whether you are running a relay or trying to lose weight - leaning on others for support, turning to them for advice and having a kind ear to vent to can make all the difference between reaching the finish line or finishing short. 
  4. Flexible. Even with all the planning and preparations in the world, sh*t happens. You must remain flexible when going for a goal. During Ragnar you'll have several instances where things will change and being able to roll with the punches gracefully will help you to be successful. During our race, the whole team had to be flexible and make all kinds of game day changes because of my miserable middle of the night run. Without the team stepping up and being flexible, we would've never made it to the finish line. I know many people who have a hard time with flexibility. For example - Bob has a six mile run planned for after work. Unfortunately a business meeting runs late and now Bob doesn't have time to run six miles. Being flexible means saying, "Oh well, I will run four then." Being unflexible means, "Forget it, if I can't do six I might as well not do any." Bob just got a little further away from his goal instead of moving four miles closer to it.  Don't laugh. Do you know how many people I know sabotage their dreams and goals because they look at things in such a black and white way? But in Ragnar, you have no choice to be flexible. 
  5. Just keep swimming. My five year old son is a big Finding Nemo fan. There is this dialogue between Dory and Marlin: Dory:"Hey Mr. Grumpy Gills... When life gets you down do you wanna know what you gotta do?" Marlin:"I don't wanna know what you gotta do." Dory:"Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim." When I was running my third leg and still unsure of whether I could do it or not I just kept thinking to myself, "Just keep running/moving/walking/crawling/swimming..." whatever. Perseverance is key and as long as you are going forward you are making progress. And with any goal, even when you feel like it's impossible, like you'll never find Nemo or get to the finish line, you just have to blindly "keep swimming" and have faith that you'll get there. Don't be the one so quick to give up.
  6. Celebrate the success and grow from the stumbles. Ragnar is awesome. When you cross 200 miles of road with a team it's an indescribable feeling. And each small step, each leg means something. With each step you celebrate getting closer to the finish line. Along the way their are stumbles, a nutrition choice that didn't work out, a sleep attempt foiled, a leg that has to be picked up by another, etc. The stumbles along the way to your goals are not anything to be upset by, they are learning tools whether you are gunning for a Ragnar Relay finish line or a finish line in any other area of your life.
What are some life lessons you've learned from Ragnar or any other race?

XO
Jen

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide: The Key To Running Inspired review

The Key To Running Inspired

Even though I have been running since 2010 in many ways I still consider myself a new runner. I have been fortunate to learn a lot along the the way. I came by my running 'knowledge' mainly by reading other's blogs, doing internet research and asking other runners for feedback and advice. Often I made (and continue to make) mistakes.

But you, potentially new runner, doesn't have to! 

Here is a great source to find many answers to your running questions!

Ryan Roberts new book, The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide: The Key To Running Inspired will provide you with all you need to know to get you from the couch to the road!

I really liked this book because it was simple and enjoyable to read yet covered everything. Each chapter detailed basic but important running stuff. From picking the right footwear to figuring out running nutrition and hydration. But the book also addresses much of the mental games that runners go through. The books delves into issues like being 'self-conscious' and building confidence. It talks about finding motivation. I appreciated that the author chose not to omit these very important parts of running. Often, getting the right sneakers on is the easy part. Roberts writes about using visualization to help get you going. I can't tell you how important of a tool this was for me early on, so I'm glad he thought to address this concept in his book. 

Each chapter also ends with a summary to help readers to further reflect on the highlights of the chapter.

If you are a new runner or know someone who is considering making the leap into the running world, this is a great read. And, even as someone who's been running for a few years - I still got a lot out of the book. It was a great refresher on a few things I've forgotten.

If you are interested in checking it out or giving it as a gift - here's the link to Amazon.

XO
Jen

I was not paid for this review, the author offered me a copy of the book to read and I read it. I had no obligation to write this review and the opinions are entirely my own. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The best run ever and a little more yoga

I was going thru my blog and revisited my goals and races page to check something out when a comment caught my eye. I'm sure I saw it when it came in but paid no mind. Today it made me look twice. It literally read:



Whoa. Seriously. Out of all the runners out there, you Google "Worst Run ever" and I come up!? Way to put out the good vibes into the universe - eh?

So I was curious. And I googled "worst run ever."

And sure as shit - there I am in the number two spot.


I couldn't even remember why it was The Worst Run Ever but then I looked it up. It actually was a pretty bad run - I remember the day now, I was supposed to run 10 miles and could barely do six. I walked a bunch during that run (something I almost never do) and couldn't find my groove. Oh well. Anyway if you want to go back in time, here is the post

So what about the best run ever? 

Well, it probably wasn't my best ever but I'm determined to turn what I'm putting out in the universe around and today I had a great run. It wasn't my furthest or fastest but it felt good.

It was only 3 miles but lately I've been really sitting in my comfort zone when it comes to pace. I've been running a 10'30 to a 11 min mile lately. Now don't get me wrong. It's still an effort, I don't feel like I'm crawling at that pace but I am fairly comfortable. So today I decided to dial it up just a bit. I wound up running an avg. of 9'48 - but really, my first mile was at an 11' (warm up mile) and the last 2 were around an avg. of 9'12 each. I was out of my comfort zone for five minutes at a time (alternating between 6.5 - 7.0 for five minute and returning to a 6.0 / 6.1 for 'recovery' - slightly speedier 'recovery' than usual too). It was tough but I loved eyeing the dude on the tread next to me who was 20 years old and never went above a 5.8 and was dying. hee hee.

I finished feeling exhilarated.

And in other fitness news, my journey to yoga continues. I went this morning and I still suck at it. I still feel awkward and inflexible and struggle to come anywhere close but it's a work in progress. But I have to say that the instructor is very encouraging and patient with me. She takes a lot of time modifying moves and demonstrating the way I should attempt poses and that's really cool.

I was thrilled to meet a future runner in class. She is in the midst of her weight loss journey and has already lost a lot of weight thru yoga. She is plus sized but she was awesome at yoga and very inspiring to me. She randomly mentioned to the girl next to her that she was thinking of signing up for a 5K and the couch to 5K program. Well I lit up like a Christmas tree, I was so excited for her! She said that she ran for one minute the day before and it was significant for her. I told her that was exactly how I started! I hope to run in to her again and that she really starts the running thing. She has no idea how it can change your life. It completely changed mine.

How are you doing? Yoga? What was your best run ever? Worst?

XO
Jen

Friday, February 15, 2013

Yoga sucks. Sign me up!

So today I moseyed to my fifth attempt at yoga.  I have been trying Vinyasa yoga. I think. Except for the one time I did Bikram.

My conclusion is that yoga is very f'ing hard for me. This comes as natural to me as resting my knees on my elbows and trying to lift my feet in the ground to the left (or right) while breathing - I know. They wanted me to try to do that. Everyone else in the class could. Not me. Insane. Right?

You want me to do what?
credit
The story usually goes like this:

I promptly let the instructor know that I'm a runner with tight hamstrings and a beginner. This is always a good/bad move - good because the expectation of my ability has been lowered, bad because I usually become the pet project of the class causing me further pose anxiety. Still. That is better than not giving an explanation of my limited abilities.

Then I peel my socks off and note my busted runner's feet and curse myself for being too lazy to get a mid-winter pedicure. I'm mortified that strangers might glimpse these ugly feet of mine but not enough to actually get a pedicure.

We begin by sitting in the lotus position. I'm already uncomfortable. I cheat by placing blocks under my knees. Off to a great start. Ohmmmm and we're off.

We begin with 1 of about 800 downward dog/plank type shit moves poses that just keep leading into other poses that I struggle with.

When everything starts to shake and I'm about to cry, I unyogaily drop to my knees and child's pose all the while trying to breathe as I silently curse myself for coming to another class. I pull it together and go back into downward dog and then transition into as close as I can to whatever is going on.

When everyone else has their palms on the floor and straight legs - I'm reaching with all my might for my shins.

My flexibility has always been bad. I remember as a kid practicing for months to try to touch my toes or do a split. It just never happened.

And then just as I'm about to swear off yoga forever it's time to lay flat and breathe and Ohmmmm out. Then I think to myself, "that wasn't so bad."

The thing is, and the thing I'm most proud of myself is, I'm not giving up. Oh I (kind of) hate it and I suck at it and if there were a hidden camera in this class it would make for mighty funny YouTube viewing but I'm not quitting. The old me would try it for five minutes and walk out. "I tried, I suck, I'm done." But now-a-days I try, I suck, I keep trying again - hoping to eventually suck less. (I don't know if this is stubborn stupidity or noble - but whatever.)

I choose to believe this is a good new quality I've cultivated.

That's a lesson from losing weight and running that I have learned. I mean I sucked at both of those things for a loooong time too. It took me a long time to get pretty good (and even liking running) and I'm still improving at that.

Took 40 years to figure out losing weight/healthy eating/maintaining -- and I'm still working at that.

I believe that yoga is going to help my calf and hamstring issues - they are very tight. Something has to give. So I owe it (at least to my running self) to keep trying. I would think it'll take 10 or more classes for me to get into a groove.

Yoga doesn't come easy for me. It's frustrating because my competitiveness and A-student mentality makes me want to be good at this and I'm not even close. But I won't give up. Thanks to being cheap (I have groupons of classes to use) and thanks to the new "don't give up and give it a chance" attitude, I'm going to just keep trying.

Do you do yoga?  If not, have you tried it? Hate it or love it? Any others out there as inflexible as me?

XO
Jen

PS: Funnily, As hard as Bikram was - I liked that best. Unfortunately, i don't have one of those close to me in Jersey and I'm too broke right now to hop my ass into NYC to pay for class and the $15 commute fee - I do have a gift from Angela for 10 classes in Los Angeles! So I have something to look forward to when i get out that way.



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Swim, Bike, Run, Sweat: My week of tri-ing new things

Credit

As many of you know, I've got this deep-down desire to get into triathlons eventually.

Even though up to this past week I hadn't been on a bike since I was 12 or really ever swum in any organized way. (I doubt that sitting pool side with a cocktail and splashing around to cool off counts.)

But yet, I'm oddly attracted to the idea of triathlons.

I was in LA last week working on some stuff with my business partner Angela. Angela has participated in a few smaller triathlons but has recently decided to go for a 70.3 at REV3 Maine in August so she's getting serious about training. She is even blogging about her journey and you can read about her progress at Another Hole in the Head.

Since she's training I thought I would tag along on some of the other triathlon activities that I don't usually get to do.

While I'm still not ready to fully commit (I still need to figure out logistics for training) I did enjoy my exploration of tri stuff this week.

SWIM:

Only in LA can you show up to an outdoor pool at 7PM on a Wednesday night and train in the middle of February. It was a little chilly outside (about 55 degrees) but the pool is heated so once in and swimming it was comfortable. I signed up for a free 1 class pass with SCAQ (Southern California Aquatics) for a swim clinic. We were greeted by a friendly guy named Clay. Clay asked about our experience (me: none, Angela, just a bit more) and he told us to get going.

He corrected technique, gave us tons of pointers and I felt like I learned a lot in a very short amount of time.

Clay was great but I had no idea how great this guy was until I looked him up. Clay is Clay Evans a former Olympian swimmer who had won a silver and bronze medal! WHAT!? In fact SCAQ is one of the largest Masters swimming programs in the country. Hey why not start at the top for my first lesson - huh?

Clay was great and gave us a ton of attention and coaching. I loved this guy and if (when) I live here and if (when) I'm making good money, I'm so joining SCAQ.

Bonus: the natural facelift the swim cap gives… 
Verdict: I can see myself liking swimming and I can see the awesome challenge it would be to get good at it. After 50 minutes though my calves cramped when I left the water! Not sure if that was a hydration thing, exertion thing or the fact that I wore flippers part of the time but that was unexpected. Luckily, the cramping was short lived.

BIKE:

Oy. For some reason it didn't occur to me that it might take a minute to get used to being on a bike again but I have to tell you that the first time in getting on a bike in more than 25 years was pretty nerve-wracking! I borrowed my friend Sara's mountain bike and I realized that I didn't even know how or why/when to switch gears! The last time I was on a bike it was my "Pink Thunder" Huffy and I used the 'ol pedal backwards to brake and the 'ol stand up and pedal my ass off to power up a hill.

Pink Thunder. Helluva bike probably not ideal for triathlon


Anyway, so we go to this bike path that runs along the "LA river" from Culver City to the beach. I started off super rocky and was a nervous wreck! I was gripping the handle bars for dear life and it took me a while to get in a groove and feel in control of the bike. I just kept reminding myself of the old ladies and crack heads I see in the park - if they could do it, I could friggen learn to ride a bike again.

Parts of the path is a little sketch and narrow and I had visions of falling into the concrete 'river.' As we were riding, Ang gave me a little lesson in gear shifting (Sara had tried to explain it before taking off but I couldn't remember what to do) and I eventually got acclimated. We rode about five miles out (it was gray and chilly - well, chilly for LA) and five miles back - about an hour, which I thought was good for the first attempt.


Verdict: While it took me a bit to warm up I all in all enjoyed biking. I may buy a cheap hybrid from Target for now just to keep riding and stuff. 

RUN:

I ran a half marathon this week. This is nothing new but I like the fact that I did all three things this week and thus the reason it's in this blog. You can read all about my race here.

Verdict: Running and I are still BFFs

SWEAT:

So you may know from this post that I've been recently giving yoga a try. I have cramping in my legs and very tight hamstrings and calves so my hope is that yoga will help those muscles out.  While here in LA, Angela thought it would be cool for us to check out Bikram. All I knew about Bikram was that the room is kept at a million degrees (104) and you do yoga moves. Um. I naturally have assumed for years that this would be a living hell that I would really hate.

First of all, we were late - LA traffic made going 6 miles into a near hour affair. So there's nothing better than charging into hot yoga late and as a newcomer, that got me even more nervous. Finally we were in and kinda settled - we missed the 'breathing' part, which was kind of OK with me because if it meant that I'd have to spend five less seconds in this fricken hot smelly room - great.

Within the first five minutes I went thru a bunch of emotions - one being, "wtf was I thinking?" and "Holy crap, how long do we do this for?" I really suck at all yoga - my flexibility is ass and even 'comfortable' poses for most (like sitting "Japanese" style or crossed leg, hurt. ) I never sweated like that before. But I did the best I could and by the end I actually found a very weird appreciation for it. Huh. Who knew? I would even go again. In hind-sight, I think I really liked it even.

Wiped out after Bikram but we loved the sign over our head
Angela has been having fun with her GoPro and I'm just learning how to edit (be kind - I have a lot to learn) but here's a little video journey of my week in swim, bike, run, sweat - don't know what happened to the quality when I converted it - I'm sure it doesn't have to look like that I'll figure it out eventually…


video

All in all it was a great week of fitness and business. I really liked delving into these other activities and hope to keep on doing it!!

What new things have you tried lately?

XO
Jen




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Surf City 2013 race report: Getting salty

This past Sunday I ran the Surf City half marathon for the second year straight. Located in beautiful Huntington Beach, CA this is a half I really enjoy. The weather is great, the sights of the ocean divine and the surf board bling at the finish line an adorable addition to the medal rack.

Of-course, despite it being a race I look forward to, I was filled with all sorts of worry.

After the issues at Ragnar and the calf pain I've been experiencing lately, I have to admit I was nervous.  On top of the issues, I didn't feel as trained as I would like to have been. I knew I wouldn't come anywhere close to PR'ing but deep down I prayed, "just let me finish." "Just let me have a race I don't hate and get to the finish line."

At the start of the race I felt good and as ready as I'd ever be. I concentrated on hydrating as well as I could (considering I flew in the day before) and I finally remembered to wear compression socks on the flight to help.

Cute LogHeads t-shirt: shamelessly plugging the new show
I'm producing for DIY network! ;-) 


I also rolled the dice and made a deliberate, usually, "no-no" game day decision. I decided to try something new. I found SaltStick at the expo and bought some. SaltStick is a product that combines sodium, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin D to help you replace electrolytes - you can take it every 20 to 30 mins when you are sweating or exerting yourself - it has gotten a lot of great reviews from athletes saying it's helped reduce cramping. Since sports drinks usually upset my delicate tummy (it's always something with me! Right?) I have been using coconut water - but it just hasn't been quite enough.


So when I saw them at the expo, I remembered that people had recommended them to me along the way but kept forgetting to check them out. When I saw them, I figured I would give them a shot - even tho I was rolling the dice with my tummy I thought the risk would be worth the reward.

During the race, I felt good. I worked at keeping my spirits up. I remembered the people who can't run when I felt doubt creeping in. I kept my pace comfortable. I usually ran somewhere between 11:20 - 12:00. I just didn't want to hate the last few miles so kept it conservative. I slowed thru water stops to hydrate (it was warm) and would walk for a second or two but did very little real walking, which made me happy. Although for the last 4 or 5 miles I did have to stop several times for a minute here and there to keep stretching my legs - they were getting tight, though didn't cramp! (HURRAH!)

Right around the 7 mile mark, I saw a familiar face! Caroline! I can't believe I saw her - I was barely glancing that way and it was such a great moment. I shouted her name and she saw me - we stopped and hugged quickly. It was an awesome pick-me-up and it really put a smile on my face for the next mile. Finally we met!! :-)

So between the water stop strolling, the stopping to stretch and a potty break - I ran this race a full 20 minutes slower than last year! Last year my average pace was a 10:59 and this year - 12:30 - (tag time - actual running time if I don't count all the stops and stuff was 11:45 or something - Garmin automatically pauses.)

VICTORY!! 

And I'm sooooo OK with that.

Not for one second did I hate this race. I had fun. I enjoyed the day.

I think the SaltStick worked - which I took every 30 mins more or less... (I also took 2 1/2 gels -  1 every 45 minutes - the last was a half) - nutrition overkill? Probably but whatever keeps those god awful cramps away!

I think that with better training (more medium length runs and long runs), yoga, stretching, foam rolling - combined with a little more experimentation with nutrition and hydration and I'll be back in a place of aiming for better pace, eventually. But for right now. I'm happy that I had a good run.

foam rolling with a friend the day after Surf city...
I needed to take a few steps back in order to get myself going forward again. I've learned it's not how fast you get to the finish line it's getting to the finish line that is most important to me -- and getting to the finish line and still being in one piece.

-----------------------------------------------------
And in other news…

We premiered our first documentary film yesterday at the GRAMMY® museum at downtown LA yesterday. It was a red carpet premiere and very exciting! It's GRAMMY® week so it's pretty exciting. The film is called "Happy on the Ground: 8 Days at GRAMMY® Camp" and you can now rent or own it at iTunes and Amazon! Too cool. Click on either link to check out the trailer.

On the red carpet with my producing partners, Dan - Me - Angela

XO
Jen