Marathons are Hard

I took a rest day on Tuesday.  Tuesdays are generally lower body rest and optional upper body workout (and I take that very seriously; I don’t do anything on Tuesdays that would engage anything from the waist down), but I’ve been hitting up Tuesdays just so I don’t feel like a tyrannosaurus rex during the marathon cycle (all lower body and no arms). I got home from work on Tuesday (it’s one of my long days; I start teaching at 8:00 AM and I don’t generally leave campus until 5:15) and just had nothing left mentally.  I was exhausted; drained mentally and physically, and I needed a day off.

See, we’ve hit the serious point of the marathon cycle.  The part where mileage is just piling on and we’re creating cumulative fatigue to levels that near unreasonable.  We have our first 20-miler this weekend, then we do one more build cycle (I programmed up to 22 miles this cycle when we peak out in a few weeks).  I think part of the reason that Tuesday hit me so hard was that I FORGOT.

I FORGOT how hard this is.  I forgot how much work marathon training is, how grueling those early mornings for double-digit runs are, how intense the combined work load is.  I forgot how stressed my body gets and how tired my mind gets.  I forgot to honor all of that, and I was happily going along checking boxes like it was my job. I haven’t missed a workout this marathon cycle (not with the move, not with the major job change, not with the major lifestyle change); I’ve been the perfect little athlete.  For me, it’s not hard to do my prescribed programming.  Mentally, I feel better when boxes are checked; so looking at a page full of boxes is all the motivation I need to get the work done.

But when you’re busy just checking off boxes, you really can lose track of how difficult these tasks can be.  The grind just becomes part of your day-to-day; and you accept that that’s what life is: going to the gym, coming home, sleeping, eating, working, repeat ad infinitum.  And when you forget, you can mentally minimize how INSANELY HARD it is to train for a marathon, and how INCREDIBLE it is that you are successfully training!

So I had a serious brain melt moment when I was flat out on the couch Tuesday, wondering what it was that had me so drained.  I mean, I was just going about my daily life…. What was the problem?  The problem, it turns out, was that my daily life far supercedes a normal workload for a human.  I’m training smart, I’m training well, I haven’t had an injury for a long time (which means my marathon training has been balanced and that I’m taking care not to over-train), but that doesn’t mean I’m not working my tush off.

So I needed a moment to honor that; and I took my moment.  I’m back now (though still tired), and trying to constantly remind myself that marathons are difficult; if they were easy, then everyone would do them.

Sleep that Knits up the Raveled Sleeve of Care

Is there such a thing as too much coffee?  I mean, I know there is; I remember the days in my undergrad when I accidentally over-indulged and I could basically see sounds (it came with a healthy dose of the shakes); but that was a long time ago in a city far far away. This semester has a very demanding schedule; long days of teaching (two days a week I teach three classes a day… that’s a LOT of teaching), and long days on campus.  I’ve thankfully set myself up with a trusty Keurig (or at least I hope it’s trusty; it’s still new so it has time to prove itself), and I’m exploring the world of flavored pods.  Whilst doing this, I’m trying my best not to over-indulge but man is it tempting when coffee is basically on-demand.

So how’s marathon training?  Great!  If you’ve been following my Facebook live videos over on the Beast in Progress Facebook page (and really why wouldn’t you?  I mean, you get to see me suffer on a regular basis so already that’s a “win”), you’ll know that we’ve been in a build cycle and our mileage tops out at 18 this week.  After that, we’ve got a 20 next week and then one more pull-back to build to 22 before taper.

D’you even squat bro?

It’s funny how having done this before changes my perspective.  Suddenly, “it’s ONLY 16 miles….” Is a completely reasonably thing to say (and I’ve caught myself self-talking this way frequently).  After all, a marathon is 10 miles longer than 16 and 10 miles is a LONG way, so 16 miles is no big deal!  While it works to think of things this way when I’m preparing for a run, it’s not the best when I’m thinking about recovery.  After all, recovering from 16 miles is… kind of a big deal.  I need to give myself and my body a little more care than “just.”

I haven’t been sore (at least not from running, definitely from the lifting portion of my regime), but I have been tired.  I remember at this time of the marathon cycle last year, I had to boost my sleep hours to at least 9 per night if I wanted to wake up not feeling exhausted.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I think that we’re back to that place.  Being constantly tired all the time is just not a good situation for any part of my life, and if sacrificing another hour at the altar of a good night’s sleep every day is what I have to do to keep rolling then I’d rather take that hour to sleep than feel miserable all day long.

 

This is definitely easier said than done.  I am incredibly strict about my

DRAMATIC LIGHTING!

bedtime, and incredibly disciplined when it comes to actually going to bed, but still I can struggle with the choice between one more episode of whatever is helping me to relax after a long day or getting that good sleep.  Ultimately, I know that the sleep is going to benefit me more than whatever it is I’m doing instead, but seriously; the last thing I want to do is say “I can’t have fun anymore, I have to go to bed.”

It’s helpful when Mike and I go to bed at the same time, because peer pressure is a powerful force.  But we don’t always force quit our days at the same time; sometimes he has to stay up later than 9PM to get stuff done, and I’m on my own to figure out getting to bed and then going to sleep.  My regime basically involves reading; I have programmed my mind to think of reading time as sleepy time.  I don’t read anything interesting, often I read the same books over and over again because I know what happens and therefore it won’t stimulate my brain too much before bed.  Almost invariably, I fall asleep while reading and have to wake up to put my iPad away because it’s falling down on my chest since I dropped it while falling asleep.  I’m told that these rituals, things you do every night before you go to bed, can be immensely beneficial to a steady sleep regime.  It basically “primes” your brain to sleep if you’re used to doing the same activities, in the same order, before bed.  For me, it’s basically brush my teeth then read.

I’m curious though, what are some of your pre-bed ritual routines?

Shuffled off to Buffalo

It’s been very quiet on the Western front because I’ve had some big life changes: I accepted a job at SUNY Buffalo as a clinical assistant professor of theatre, giving Mike and I a single week to get our affairs in order and move to Buffalo.  I’m happy to report that we were able to do so and that we’re settling in to our new home.  The semester started yesterday, though today was my first day teaching.

Through it all, I’m pleased as punch that we haven’t missed a single workout.  We’ve kept the long runs on track despite everything else being in upheaval, and the rest of our training has fallen into place.  We were able to find a gym almost immediately here that caters to our needs, and we’ve been training regularly to support those long runs.

This was the first run in the new home!

From a life perspective that’s pretty amazing.  Marathon training is HUGE and a move this momentous and this sudden is basically total upheaval.  Focusing on training meant that I had a fixed point to stare at while we worked through the other stuff, and could continue to check boxes and accomplish goals even while we were dealing with what seemed like a stall-out on several other fronts.

While my training was on point, my nutrition fell to pieces.  We basically went a week without a kitchen, eating takeout food for every single meal.  While this may sound fun, trust me; it was not.  It meant that my sodium and fat numbers were through the roof, which in turn meant that my body bloated and workouts felt that much more difficult.  I tried to at least track what I was eating (to mixed success), but that can only go so far.  I was SO EXCITED to have our kitchen back as

Lifting at the new gym in my awesome INKNBURN kit. Mermaids and glass!

soon as we unpacked enough boxes to make it tenable.  The first few meals?  Well, we basically spent a week eating nothing but lightly sautéed vegetables and chicken breast cooked very plain because that’s what tasted the best to my over-indulged self.

But now: we’re back.  It’s taking a while for my body to level out after the nutrition DISASTER that was moving (and I’m sure the stress of moving has been equally, if much less visibly, problematic), but at least the rest of me is falling into step fairly easily.  Thanks to a few internet friends, we’ve been able to discover running routes close to home that are safe, and have the necessary resources to support marathon training distances (see: bathrooms mostly with the occasional blip of civilization in case we need a water bottle top off or an emergency rescue Uber).

The area around here is gorgeous.  Running along the Eerie canal is

I found a local ice cream place that made me an ICE CREAM SAMPLER!

beautiful and interesting, with plenty of historical flavor (just what I need to stay intellectual engaged on a very long run!). There are some lovely parks, and a large active community of local runners/triathletes.  People are very nice and I get loads of “good mornings!” midway through my mileage; two weeks ago I even got a high five from a stranger running the opposite direction.

In short: we couldn’t ask for a better place to complete our marathon training, and that’s great because stuff is about to get VERY serious.  We’re eight weeks out from Marine Corps, and that means we’re hitting some peak mileage for the marathon cycle.  We’ve got 18 on tap this weekend, then next week our first 20 of the cycle (and Mike’s first 20 ever!), then we do one more build cycle before taper.

So if you’re still with me, stay with me.  Things are about to get interesting and I’m pretty excited for it.  MCM: we’re on our way!

Fight the Boring

Marathon training, even marathon training using my cross-discipline method, means a lot of miles.  Miles, especially miles run solo, can get boring after a while… tedious.  It’s not the miles’ fault; doing any one thing for a long period of time can get boring.  But how do you fight the tedium?  Here’s a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way.

It Starts with Mindset

If I spend the week dreading my run, thinking about how terrible it’s going to be, how hot it will be outside, how much it sucks, how I’d rather be doing other things, then guess what?  It’s going to be that much worse.  My brain is primed to go right into “this is boring” mode; I’ve spent all week throwing shade and now that’s the first thing my mind will wander to.

So instead, I find a way to get excited about my run.  I find things that are going to be great about it, I focus on how much stronger I will feel when I’m done, I think about the end goal and why I’m running in the first place.  Mindset matters; and your mind can do incredible things; including help make your run better.

Plan a New Route

Route planning is a HUGE help to making my run feel fun.  Some people like to run the same loops over and over again, and I won’t lie: I definitely have old stand-bys that I like to run.  That said, I try to mix it up a bit.  I plan routes places that I want to go run; beautiful places, places I want to explore, or just directions I haven’t run yet.  Running a new route, even if it’s one that you’re familiar with walking or driving, gives new stimulation and feedback to your brain as your run and keeps things from feeling “routine” or “boring.”

MapMyRun is a big help with this.  It lets me do route planning and gives me instant feedback about distance, elevations, and landmarks on my way.  It’s even pre-loaded with most bike paths/hiking loops, so I can off-road a bt if I want to for portions of a long.  If you’re stuck in a rut, try something new; just make sure you give yourself time to plan how to execute the route safely (and always tell someone where you’re running, when, and when you expect to be back).

Entertainment

“Entertainment” can mean a lot of things: a friend to talk to while you run, an audio book you’ve been meaning to get to but just haven’t had the time, a podcast you love, a special playlist you only get to listen to while running; whatever is going to get your brain going.  For me, I usually have to switch between entertainment modes because I just get tired of one thing if I’m listening to it for too long; sometimes I’ll even take a spell without any kind of audio stimulus.  I love to run headphone free really early in the morning when the rest of the world is asleep; it’s so peaceful!

I will purposefully hold onto special episodes of my Podcasts that I really want to listen to so that I can listen to them on a run.  This not only makes me want to get out the door, but it also makes running feel like a special treat.  Win/win!

When I first started running, I need a LOT more mental stimulation.  At that time, I couldn’t run without something for my brain to bite into.  What I finally found that worked the charm was Zombies, Run!.  This app is essentially an interactive radio drama that plays you snippets of a plot as you run, your distance/time triggering various bits to play.  You play the part of “Runner 5”, running missions for your Township (Abel).  The 5K trainer got me to 5K when three rounds of C25K failed.  I found it far more engaging, and far more fun, than any other method I had tried.  Zombies, Run will work with most music applications, so you can have your music AND the ap running simultaneously, giving you zombie radio drama at the same time as your awesome playlist.  

Mind Games

This one is a micro-technique I use when I’m mid-run and my brain tries to quit on me.  I’m not talking “check out and relax,” I’m talking full on tries to talk me out of running because I’m hot, uncomfortable, in pain, etc.  I will start to count my steps.  “Okay, see how many steps it takes you to get to the next tree.”  “How many steps in a mile?” “I bet it takes 250 steps to get to the corner; let’s see if I’m right.”  This might seem small (and dumb), but it’s actually pretty engaging when you’re three hours into a long run with eight miles left to go and you’re exhausted and sweaty and just want to be done.  

I also set micro goals for myself, checkpoint en route where I can pause to refill my water bottle, use a bathroom, etc.  Breaking the run into several distinct sections allows me to better fathom the mileage; it no longer seems impossible, but rather a series of attainable goals.  This keeps my mind engaged, and allows me to perk up a bit every time I hit one of these goals.

What are some ways that you make your workout less tedious?

The Limit Does Not Exist

Someone recently asked me a really great question about running.  It’s a big question, and a question that I think cross-applies to any physical discipline.  It was about breaking the mental barrier; she knew she could run X number of miles, but when she went to run X+2 miles (or longer), it suddenly seemed like an impossible task.  No matter how much her logic-brain told her that X+2 wasn’t that much longer than X, it was having trouble convincing the rest of her.  So how, she wanted to know, do you fight that?  What do you do get the +2 in X+2?

This applies to CrossFit and lifting as much as to running.  X could be the number of pull-ups strung together, or the number of pounds lifted, or the number of wallballs you do unbroken as easily as it can be miles run.  X, basically, is your comfort zone; the thing you know you can do.  The thing you’ve proven to yourself, through induction, that you are capable of accomplishing.

So the question is a big one: how do you get out of that comfort zone?  How do you push into the next level, through the next plateau?  I think the answer has as much to do with mental grit and fortitude as it does physical abilities.  Provided you’re training properly, you’re not going to be trying to push out of X every single day.  Most days, you’ll be training for the moment you try to break X.  The physical training is your foundation, what’s much harder to come by is preparing your mind for breaking X.

The easiest way to think about this is to think about The Matrix.  Remember when Neo goes to see the oracle and there’s a kid in the waiting room bending spoons with his brain?  Neo asks the kid how he does it, and the kid says all he has to do is see the truth.  All he has to do is remember that there is no spoon.

X is the spoon.  To break X, you need to release the idea that X ever existed.  Easier said than done; I think any athlete is acutely aware of their PRs (be they distance, weight lifted, speed, etc.)  We keep track of these things and hold onto them as measures of how fit we are, as ways to describe the time and effort that we put into our sport.  But even as we do so, we need to remember that by holding onto these things we are self-defining our limits.  If you say “Oh, my Personal Record half marathon is 2:30,” and you get used to saying that over and over and over, you’ve conditioned your brain to think that’s how fast you run.  In actuality, it’s only a measure of the speed at which you ran on one particular day after a certain amount of training.  If you say “I’ve only ever run 5 miles,” 5 miles is all you will ever run.  

X is not a limit, it is a measure.  If we can reconceive of X that way, we can begin to see it as something fluid; ever-shifting as our bodies change with our sports.  Breaking X is about disposing of the notion that X is unbreakable.  In the immortal words of Cady Heron; “The limit does not exist.”

Crazy Dreams

Radio silence here on the blog, but I’ve still been out there grinding! Marathon training is in full swing (I’ll be hitting my first 16-miler this Saturday; a HUGE milestone for a marathon cycle), and (as you may have guessed) I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with INKnBURN as an ambassador this year. I’ve also been working through coach training at my box, and looking forward to my Level 1 certification after which I’ll officially be a CrossFit Trainer.

Working on that Pull-up still!

I think back on the incredible ways that running and CrossFit have changed my life and it’s pretty astounding. Unathletic little kid me never would have dreamed of even trying to think about lifting weights or enjoying a rigorous physical training regime… much less becoming a coach. I often do the thought-experiment where I can somehow go back in time and talk to myself… I’m honestly not sure I would recognize myself. I’m reasonably sure that past-me would find present-me intimidating and even a little overwhelming. Past-me was in no way a jock, past-me shuddered at the mere idea of sports, and past-me was more than a little afraid of physical endeavors generally.

So how did past-me become present-me? Well, I just kept checking off boxes. Being SUPER type A, I’ve always needed things to achieve and accomplish, measurable ways to show that I was doing something with my time. One day, “run a 5K” became a box that I NEEDED to check. So I trained, and I checked it. After that, it was only a mental game to check off 10K, half, full marathon… What I’ve learned from this? It’s about having big goals and the support structure to work your hiney off in order to accomplish those goals.

I’ve never been someone to shy away from a challenge, and so the idea that there’s something I “can’t” accomplish is the fastest way to make me want to try it. I believe in the power of hard work, and I believe in the power of positive self-talk. I think most of us have so much untapped potential that it crushes us into the false conceit that we’re incapable of big things.

Let me tell you right now: you’re not. Got something you kind of want to do that scares the poop out of you? That probably means you should do it. Seriously. Click the “registration” button. Go do it. I’ll wait.

As you may recall, 2017 is a year I set out to rack up 100 rejections. I’m well on my way to that goal, and it has already yielded some really amazing experiences when people said “yes” instead of “no.” One thing this exercise continues to teach me: try. Even if you think you might fail. Even if you’re pretty sure you’ll never hear back, or that you’ll never cross that finish line, or that you’ll never hit that goal PR…. If you’re not out there trying, then what’s the point in living?

Maybe it sounds maudlin, but big stakes are dramatic. Big stakes make you want to care with everything you’ve got. Big stakes are party so challenging because we care so much about them. Part of the mind game is telling yourself that it’s okay to care, that it’s okay to try, and that it’s okay to fail; failing to meet a big goal is a learning experience that will help you do better next time.

The marathon was my last scary goal; and this year I’m doing it again.

training in a weighted vest was DEFINITELY a new thing I added to my regime; spicy and badass at the same time.

Twice. It doesn’t seem so scary anymore. Because of that, I’m working on putting together my next scary goal. I’m thinking about it, working out the support structure that I’ll need to accomplish it, and critically examining the things that it would take to achieve. I’m not quite ready to share the big goal with the world yet, I still have a few things to test first, but I’m reasonably sure that it’s the right thing for me based on how “impossible” it seems.

So how about you? What’s your “impossible” goal, and what are you going to do to go get it?

Covered Bridges Half Marathon Race Recap

Remember WAY BACK WHEN I promised you a race report/recap of the Covered Bridges Half Marathon? Today is the day I follow through on that promise!

The basics: this is a point-to-point course through rural Vermont that takes place every year on the first Sunday in June. Since Vermont is a skinny state, this means you effectively run across a good chunk of it (pretty cool if you ask me!) Another really neat thing about this race is that all proceeds go to charity, and the race donates a lot of money to some very worthy causes. For more details on that, check out CBHM’s charities page.

Bringing this picture back because it’s appropriate; Mike and I scouted the course the day before

The course features rolling hills and a net downward grade with one seriously intense uphill right around mile 8. This hill was not fun, but there were loads of spectators there to cheer (it’s like they knew it would be tough or something!) so I would almost look forward to hitting the hill. The course winds its way through farmland, along a river, and (of course) past/through several covered bridges. All in all, it’s picturesque and lovely. If choosing a course upon which to suffer, this is a great one; lots of beautiful distracting scenery!

Since the course is point to point, you do have to arrive early to park and take a bus to the finish. There is NO parking at the start line of this race, so unless you have someone to shuttle you there you’ll be busing it with the rest of us. The bus ride was a pleasant 22 minutes, but leave extra time. The line to get in to the parking lot can be long and arduous on a one-lane road (much, I’m sure, to the chagrin of the locals). We managed to come at the parking lot from a direction that minimized this waiting, but when we arrived we couldn’t see the end of the backup from the opposite direction of approach. I definitely would have been anxious about getting to the start on time had I been stuck waiting in that mess.

Another quirk of this race is that bib pickup is exclusively at the start line. Usually, that makes me nervous; but after 26 years of running this race apparently the organizers have the whole system down pat. Despite my logistics nerves, there was nothing to fear; I was able to pick up my bib and make not one but two trips to the pre-race port-a-john with time to spare.

We were off in a timely manner (hooray for no delays!) and the day was a lovely one. A little chilly at the start, so I brought a throw-away sweat shirt, but by go time it had warmed up so that I didn’t need the extra layer. Perfect race weather, if a little warm by the end.

The course is well supplied with water stops, and bowls of ice at that giant hill (much welcome to this thirsty and hot runner!) I love when a race is well equipped, and this one was exceedingly thorough in their runner support. In addition to the water stops, I saw plenty of first aid bikers out on the course checking in on everyone and making sure we were safe; bravo CBHM!

The only real complaint I have about this race had to do with the pacers. As you may recall, I was ready to run a PR race this day so I can equipped. I brought a pace band for 2:30 (I love pace bands; they’re super helpful for type-A runners who can’t do math when working out… i.e.: me), I had my Garmin ready to go, and I was mentally prepared for the pain cave. I didn’t know the race would have pacers for us back-of-packers (some races only have pacers for speedier folk), so it was a welcome surprise to see a pace group at 2:30.

I started with the pace group, but wound up feeling really great so I outpaced them around mile 4. The pacers were nice and friendly, and the lead pacer told us that she was training up for an ultra in a few weeks. Talk about inspiration! She mentioned that usually she was a 8:30 miler or so, but she was slowing down to pace this group. Honestly? I could tell. I was well ahead of pace by mile 5, but I noticed that the pace pack was right on my tail (about 45 seconds ahead of pace at that point). I didn’t want to say anything (I work with a pacing company, and I know that this kind of strategy isn’t encouraged in the industry… but I didn’t want to come off as a know-it-all or obnoxious so I let it be and trust that the pacers knew their business).

At about mile 7, the pace group passed me even though I was about a minute ahead of pace at that point. I never saw them again. I finished the race in 2:29:08; a significant PR for me, but I estimate that the pacers finished at least 2-3 minutes ahead of me. That’s really not cool. Pacers should be prepared to run at exactly the pace they set, no more and no less. There was plenty of time to correct this (like I said, I noticed how far ahead of pace they were quite early in the race), but the pacer was either not interested in a correction or not paying enough attention. Either way: not optimal for runners looking to run a PR race at 2:30. Imagine dropping off the pace group, thinking that you missed your PR despite being well ahead of pace in actuality. Hard working brain doesn’t always think rationally, so such things might lead to all kinds of mentally giving up, despite what your watch may tell you. Anyway, if you’re looking to run a precise race, don’t trust the CBHM pacers. Bring a pace band.

Once you’ve crossed the finish line, you’re in for a treat. The finish area is

There were Llamas at the finish. This one shared my PR joy with me.

well equipped with some delicious goodies. The race takes place very near to the Harpoon brewery, so there’s fresh Harpoon galore! Also, the best array of snack foods I’ve seen at a race: apples, peaches, cookies, salty snacks, sweet snacks, pretty much anything you might want. Yum.

So would I run this race again? ABSOLUTELY. But be warned: this is a popular race. It sells out in minutes. Registration opens in early December and it’s like registering for a Disney race; you sit at your computer and hit “refresh” until the link goes live, then immediately register as fast as you can lest you risk losing a spot. Plan early, get excited. See you in Vermont!

INKnBURN: The Most Amazing Clothing EVER

It’s been a while since I chatted about some of my favorite gear, and I think it’s about time for a refresher! Anyone who knows me knows how much I loathe boring workout clothes. When I first started running, it was basically the bane of my existence that everything I owned was black and/or gray. Maybe I could work some solid-color tanks in there every now and again, but more often than not my clothing was just ho-hum run of the mill.

Then, one glorious day, I made a discovery that changed all of this: INKnBURN. INKnBURN is an amazing apparel company based out of California and they make clothing you have to see to believe. First things first: aesthetically, this stuff is gorgeous. It’s colorful, unique, and wonderful; I’ve never found another brand that makes anything like it. INKnBURN does limited runs of each design, so every item you get is unique and special. There’s a HUGE INKnBURN community on Facebook devoted to following the company, trying, and swapping designs since you just can’t get these pieces once they’ve sold out. As a result, they’re

basically collectors’ items; your very own wardrobe of wearable art.

These shorts? Oh yes. These shorts.

And trust me, they look like art. The colors are vivid and do not fade. I beat my clothes up at the gym, I wash/wear a LOT, and I have yet to be disappointed with any of my InB apparel. This artwork is built to last and can stand up to punishment.

Beneath the aesthetics is just incredibly designed apparel. It’s comfortable, functional, and just as hardwearing on the inside as it is on the outside. Marathon training, Crossfit, the works; you name it and I’ve put these clothes through it. Yet? They still look great, feel great, and function great. The ladies’ shorts (definitely my favorite design out of what I’ve tried so far) have POCKETS (so do the ladies’ capris by the way; and the capris have a large enough pocket to store an iPhone while running).

INKnBURN shorts were the first shorts I found that made me feel comfortable when I was out running. They stayed put, didn’t poof or bag in weird ways, and looked great/colorful. I remember vividly the feeling of buying my first pair; I had coveted them from afar for a long time, but I hadn’t yet developed the courage to wear shorts in public. I knew, though, that the colors and gorgeous print on these shorts was something I needed in my life… so I plucked up my courage. I told Mike that my goal for the year was to wear these shorts at a race, in public.

I didn’t have to wait long for the opportunity. An August 5K dawned hot and humid, weather that nobody in their right mind would wear anything but shorts to. I woke up and put on my shorts, but I was so nervous. I felt kind of naked… like parts of me were exposed that maybe shouldn’t be. It wasn’t true, of course, but rocking shorts for the first time is definitely a mental hurdle more than anything. The day was SCORCHING by the time I lined up to start, I knew that I had made the right choice; I needed all the help I could get to stay cool and anything more than shorts would have just been too much fabric.

Aforementioned Race picture

There’s a picture Mike took of me after the finish of this race, wearing my InB shorts. I look strong, I look powerful, and I in NO WAY look like a girl who is afraid to wear shorts in public. INKnBURN gave me a confidence with my body that I’m not sure I would have found any other way, and for that I am always thankful!

As you can tell, InB holds a special place in my heart. Their incredible clothing is a staple of my workout wardrobe, and I am always excited to see what they’re cooking up for their latest and greatest release. Dear INKnBURN: I love you in every possible way. Love, The Dani Beast.

Epic Adventures

Last weekend was a doozy!

On Friday night, we hustled our butts out of work and into the car to try and beat traffic and get to New York City. Hint: it didn’t work out that way. We arrived in NY late and basically went right to bed so we could wake up at the crack of dawn to get to the New York Road Runners’ Queens 10K in the morning.

Me and my dad crossing the finish line

It was the day before father’s day and my dad was running with us, so I hung back to pace him (to what I knew would be a PR day for him, but I didn’t tell him that at the start line). I really love the NYRR five boroughs series. I missed the AirBnB Brooklyn half this year (and I’m really sad about it), but so far I’ve run every other race in the series. It’s a set of six races designed to give runners the “best of the boroughs” and it includes: the Fred Lebow Half Marathon, the NYC Half Marathon, the Queens 10K, the Bronx 10 Miler, and the Staten Island Half. If you run 4/6 of these races, you qualify for guaranteed entry to the NYC Half in the next year. This year, I lotteried into the NYC Half (and OMG was that an AMAZING experience!). I’m so stoked that we’re going to be back to the Half next year, and running the five boroughs has been a really cool way to experience my city.

The Queens 10K took you around Flushing Meadow park, and gave you some up close and personal views of the old world’s fair site (pretty awesome!). It wasn’t terribly hot on Saturday but it was about 90% humidity, so running conditions were definitely sub-optimal. My dad was a total trouper though and ran a very strong race with a significant PR. It must have been in the air too because Mike also PRed his 10K by about 5 minutes (woo!)

Straight off of this victory, we got ourselves back into the car and drove home to Massachusetts. There, we did some light grocery shopping and heavy lounging because Sunday we had to get up at the crack of dawn to drive out to the Boston Spartan Sprint. The Sprint was in a new location this year (Treasure Valley Scout Reservation in Rutland MA). Scuttlebutt on the internet had told me that parking was going to be a bear, so I scurried in and grabbed a VIP parking pass to guarantee parking close to the event. I was the only member of my gym’s team who managed to grab one, so we all stuffed into my car and drove out to Rutland together.

The festival area, I’m told, was smaller than usual but it didn’t feel that way. Actually… it felt awesome. Since it was Sunday, there were fewer people on the course. The course was fast and fun; relatively flat for a Spartan course (I mean, it wasn’t on a ski mountain so that alone should tell you something). This meant we got to actually run a couple of the trails (we usually kind of slog them out since elevations are so intense).

The obstacles were awesome. The tire flip has returned and, unlike my experience in Montreal, this one was legit! 200 lb tires

In case you were wondering: this is how I look before I go to war with Troy

for the ladies, 400 lb tires for the men. The ladies tire was no big deal for me, but I couldn’t quite get the men’s tire high enough to transition from “pull” to “push.” This gives me my first big goal for next year: flip the men’s tire. I see many many deadlifts in my future.

The only other obstacles where I did burpees were the Twister (I did better on this than when I tried it on my Beast earlier this season, so I’ll take that as a win), and the ring rig (I have some issues transitioning on the Olympic rings. I’ll be discussing training strategies on this one with my coach). Miraculously, I was able to get through Olympus (I did have a spot from Mike, but it was an “honest spot” not a “dude carrying me across the obstacle” kind of situation).

It was again hot and humid, emphasis on the humid. The humidity was a real killer for me and while we didn’t carry water packs (it was a Spint and there were water stations every mile), I am REALLY glad we decided to throw some salt tabs and a packet of honey stinger gummies in our pockets. I definitely needed the salt and the blood sugar before the end of the race and, combined, these prevented a mini heat-induced meltdown around mile four.

The ropes were EXTREMELY slippery, but I was happy that my new modified J hook technique worked wonders. The trick is to wrap the rope around your foot and step on it rather than rely on the friction created between your feet to hold on. My trail shoes have really changed the rope climb game, but I’m ecstatic that I’ve gotten the trick of it now. Rope climbs are one of my strongest movements and I never want to do burpees at that obstacle again.

One of our best fire jump pics.

In brief, we had an epic weekend. This weekend is going to be nearly as epic with a trip to NY in the works to run two races (I’ll be volunteering one to get my +1 credit in). Stay tuned for more adventures of the Mike and Dani!

On Track While Away

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Las Vegas. As a result, you guys get another entry on how I stick to my program while traveling. Often, being out of your “home zone” can really throw you off nutritionally and from an exercise standpoint, but it doesn’t have to! Here’s how I stay with it even when I’m far from home.

Traveling, for me, almost always means sneaking in a trip to the local Crossfit box whenever possible. I love having the opportunity to check out different gym setups, sample different programming, and meet the lovely members of the greater Crossfit community. It’s like having a home away from home, since Crossfit will always be Crossfit even though you’re in a different setting while doing it.

Just Hanging Out at Mountain’s Edge

This trip, I dropped in to Crossfit Mountain’s Edge; what a welcoming and warm community of athletes! When I arrived, I was told that the box had just moved in to their new facility (and it definitely looked that way; very pristine for a Crossfit gym which is kind of amazing!). I did two days’ worth of killer workout routines, and that was a bit of a shock to the system.

Up until quite recently, it’s been pretty cool here in New England. The Las Vegas heat of 90 degrees plus definitely slapped me in the face, and then being asked to run in the Las Vegas heat was a bit of a challenge for this cold-blooded Northerner. After a warm-up 200, I realized that it wasn’t going to be safe to run much further than that at a single clip despite the fact that the programmed workout called for 800s (and I didn’t want to risk of getting lost in an unfamiliar area). I scaled the runs back to 200s; trust me, I still got an incredible workout in since the rest of the workload was pretty intense (and I grabbed weights that I knew would challenge me even while scaling the runs).

There was an additional consideration to this: running in that kind of arid heat is insane; my mouth was dry after a few steps out the door, and even though I was sweltering the sweat was just evaporating off my body almost as quickly as it was generated. I drank a lot of water during workouts, much more than usual, and rehydrated like crazy afterwards. Still, in spite of these challenges, working out in Vegas was a great time.

When I’m on the road, I usually bring a couple important mobility tools with me: a lacrosse ball, a golf ball, and (if I have room for it) a foam roller. Since I have a ROMWOD account, I can log on and complete a mobility workout at any time (and often do while traveling!). I find that a ROMWOD after a long plane flight is really helpful to get circulation going and just to stretch out those legs. After these workouts, it was pretty necessary to make sure I was taking care of my body and doing the regular maintenance to keep things in tip-top shape.

Hydrating is HUGELY important for me on the road. I find that airplane travel dehydrates me like almost nothing else. I always make sure to bring a bottle of water with me; while the TSA won’t let you bring a full bottle of water into the airport, they will let you bring an empty bottle. So that’s what I do: I bring my favorite water bottle, and then fill it up after I have gotten through the security line. I also take every opportunity to grab water when offered drinks on the plane; I’ll ask for a small bottle of water and whatever other beverage (usually coffee or diet soda). This way, I can stay hydrated but also enjoy a little treat (I don’t drink soda at home, so that counts as a special thing for me!)

Walking is perhaps the easiest way that I stay fit while traveling.

Protein in wine glasses…. because VEGAS!

It seems that no matter where I go, there’s always a good amount of walking to be done. My step goal is 10,000, and I generally struggle to hit that on a given day unless I’ve got running programmed in my workout somehow. While I’m away from home, it’s a different story entirely; I rely more on my feet for transportation and, because of that, I usually have no problem with a 10,000 step day (and usually it’s far more than that).

Nutrition is one I definitely struggle with. I try to pack a whole giant baggie of protein powder (along with a scoop) just to make sure I’m hitting my protein macros. I also try to lay off the booze, since alcohol is the easiest way for me to derail a day. Other than that, I log when I can. If I’m traveling for business, I am a bit more strict with my diet than if I’m traveling for pleasure (mostly because vacation should be vacation in my book, and you’ve got to relax sometimes and just enjoy life).

What are some travel tips that have helped you stay on track even when you’re not at home?