Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vegas, Baby - Yeah!!

This weekend I completed half marathon #10 in the fabulous Las Vegas. Why not do a crazy one for #10, right? I signed up for this race while in San Diego for the Rock n Roll Half Marathon there. It was expensive but when I heard they were shutting down The Strip at NIGHT for the first time for this ... I had to. High Five!

It was everything I expected it to be. Crowded, energetic and a little nuts. I loved it. We drove up from Phoenix on Saturday morning and went through rain and then SNOW which was crazy enough for a couple Arizonians. We checked into our hotel, had a bite and a couple beers and then headed to the Expo. Getting there was a bit of a challenge since there is no straight shot in Vegas -- they want you loop through each casino and be tempted to drop another quarter or dollar or more into the machines. We got trapped by the Stiletto Dash event and crowd and had to do some crowd surfing but then once we reached the expo, it wasn't as bad as I expected. We took the time to enjoy ourselves and take a few pics ...

Laura and I picked up our race numbers and swag bags ....

And got ready to ROCK!

Then we met up with some other friends who were in from San Diego and Detroit for the race as well. Stayed out late but nothing TOO crazy (in my book) - just catching up with friends.

Sunday was weird. The cool thing about a night race is that you can sleep in and you have all day to get yourself ready, hydrated, rested and fueled. But really, what do you do? What do you eat? We just sort of made it up and kept the day as relaxing as possible. And before we knew it - it was race time!

And I had to get my Elvis on ... I didn't go whole hog Elvis, I just went Elvis-inspired with a bedazzled "A" on my cape. But I was pretty awesome. We walked through the casino to quite a few looks of awe. I'm sure it was awe, wasn't it??
We made our way about a mile down to the start line and caught part of the pre-race Cheap Trick concert - they sounded great! I like the idea of doing it before the race. It was CROWDED. 44,000 racers? I expected it.
Here's a picture from a local newspaper of the racers headed down The Strip.
Since I've broken so many of my own records this year, I qualified to move myself up in the starter corrals. I originally planned to stay with my friend Laura, but she had just returned from a European vacation and was feeling jet lagged and wanted me to go off on my own at my own pace. My NEW predicted finish of 2 hours put me in either corrals 9 - 14. I'm always so afraid to commit to something I can't do and didn't want to jump into a corral I didn't deserve and so I chose 14. Silly silly me. First, there clearly were lots of people who didn't have those same thoughts. I spent the entire race passing people. People who had no business being that far up or that far over left ... but nevertheless.

I loved the energy of this race. I loved talking to other runners about their experiences and their expectations and why they love running. I love watching people help each other out. Yes, there are the rude people who push their way past you or won't walk back the 10 feet to the corral opening and climb over and kick you in the head (2 men in a row did that - the second AFTER he saw the first guy kick me) but the good moments outweigh the bad.

I loved running on the strip at night. So many people cheering. The lights. The energy. The drunk spectators were HILARIOUS. I liked the one guy who kept yelling at everyone that they were going the wrong way and then bending over with mirth at how funny he was. The bands were great (especially the Social Distortion cover band!). I had a great time. It was difficult constantly negotiating the crowd and frustrating when I got boxed in by people running together. But I wasn't bored. EVER. I felt like I was sprinting a lot and really started to wonder if I could get a new PR, even though I hadn't really set a goal for this race - Vegas was all about fun for me. But I really thought I was doing well - I didn't check my Garmin though until almost the end. I felt that if I didn't watch the street and the other runners at all times, I could really hurt myself. At miles 11-12 I was spent and took a couple walk breaks to check my Garmin - I wasn't going to break 2 hours so I just continued along. Even to the last .1 where I usually sprint it in, I was still trapped by the crowd. Crazy. But I came in to the band singing a little Beastie Boys - and that was cool and a good way to wrap it up.

Once I finished - it took a while to get out and I was FREEZING. But I really thought for 44,000 people it was pretty well run. My expectations were low. Don't get me wrong - 44,000 people is TOO many for that space - they could go smaller and make it a little tighter. And I was SUPER lucky. People behind me really ran into issues and there were some horror stories to be told. The Competitor Group has some work to do ... but my experience was good. I probably wouldn't do this race again - but it's the same reason I didn't want to do the Phoenix Rock N Roll again. It's too crowded for me and cost too much $$ to have to fight that many people. The Rock N Roll series are good for first timers but I'm ready for smaller more local races.

My official race time: 2:06:33. But my Garmin tells me I ran 15.1 miles (dodging 44,000 people) at an 8:20/pace. I WAS booking it - no wonder I was tired! So if I didn't have the extra miles, it probably would have been a new PR. Next time! Even at that time I still finished in the top 22% overall and in the top 14% of females and my age Division. Pretty amazing for a girl who just signed up for these things to finish. Yay! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

MandiRuns.com Is Too Sexy For Her Race Photos

And I .... am not. I don't typically take good photos. I just looked through her adorable Women's Running Magazine pictures and then ... mine.  When I told you I left it all out there ... now you will believe I MEANT it. I look like I'm getting teeth extracted with no laughing gas!

I've realized I *might* make it but am starting
to think it was the longest .1 miles of my life!

Now I'm starting to recover!

Maybe I can take lessons from Mandi!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

#Paleo Works!!

How do I know? Because I'm not doing it ... and I feel yucky!

I did SO well for my first 40-some days. And then I got off the mountain and continued a pretty good modified version (mostly Paleo with allowances to go out to eat once in a while) up until my San Francisco marathon. And then well ... while in San Francisco I had a cappuccino muffin (why not? I was going to burn a million calories the next day!) And then I had a granola bar from my swag bag. And then I had a latte with skim milk ...

And then I came home and my Keurig needs to be de-scaled or returned for repairs or something ... and so I had a few MORE lattes. Oh? It's pumpkin bread season? I could have a slice, I *did* run a marathon after all ... slide, slide, slide.

So now I'm sluggish. I've had two starts of colds. I've had heartburn for days and my tinnitus is worse than it has been in a long time. I'm tired.

SO. it could be the change in weather. It could be that I hit my 40 hours this week on Wednesday and I'm stressed to the hilt. It could be I'm worn out from all the running and traveling and stuff. But I'm willing to bet it's mostly diet. Time to get back on track. I guess it will be Monday. I've put a lot of people off while I've been cleaning up and working out. I've got an Ultra Team meeting tonight at a pizza place and I PLAN to have a slice and some vino. I've got plans with a friend for a lovely fondue restaurant (Happy National Fondue Month!) Friday night. And my friend Brad has been patiently nudging me about the Indian Food coupon he bought and we're going Saturday night. Sunday it's crazy Cruiserman race day and then I shop, chop and cook and I'm BACK ON.

Back into the cave!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Put your left foot in, take your right foot out ....

Do the Hoka poka? This really hasn't been a chick blog until now because I'm about to talk about SHOES! I was just walking around work today and reading Facebook posts about post-race sore legs when I realized ... I'm not sore! I'm mean, a little ... like a good workout sore ... but not leg sore, muscle sore, I over-did-it sore ...

Don't get me wrong, my toes never fully healed from the marathon and so I had to do a little surgery and some blood-letting last night - my toe is sore. Aaaand I broke the "no new things on race day" rule and the area where I lost skin due to the rubbing of my new arm warmers is sore. I appropriately earned my medal with a little pain.

Come to think of it - I wasn't really that sore after the marathon either! I thought it was because I'm faster and spending less time on my feet on the course - or maybe because I'm in better shape. But I really think it might be the SHOES.

Ever since my return to running as the newer stronger Amy, I've been experimenting with shoes. I'd spent many many years in Brook's Adrenaline - they gave me great support for my pronating feet. But after the injury I realized maybe I needed less help and more self-made stability and support. I put some serious miles in a pair of Newton running shoes, which are meant to assist with mid-foot landing and prevent heel striking. They did me pretty well. Then I bought some Saucony's which had way too much toe box room for me. And then a few weeks before the marathon I was told about Hoka One running shoe. I heard they were crazy looking, pretty tall but really really good for knee issues. I tried a pair out at a local running store, read a ton of reviews and decided to make the plunge. They are pretty costly but I thought it was worth a shot. They definitely start conversations while waiting in the port-o-potty line.

They are cushiony but not heavy. I worried if it would feel too soft after a number of miles, but they never felt heavy. I do find that when I get tired and start to shuffle, the shoes will catch and so I'm forced to continue to pick up my feet and keep my form. On trails, they really seem to grip the rocks well and I feel pretty comfortable making my way down a rocky trail.

Aaand, I'm not sore! Could it be the shoes? If only I could find something for my poor little toes ...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

PR, PR - 2011 is my year of PR's!

This morning I ran my 9th half marathon: The Women's Running Magazine Half Marathon. It's such a fun event! The Swag bag is pretty and I used last year's swag bag to carry lunches and stuff to work until it finally started to fall apart about a month ago. The Expo - also full of super cute girly running stuff and I dropped some $$ I shouldn't have BUT ... anyway!

The course starts in Downtown Scottsdale and ends in Tempe. It's a big race but not huge - about 7000 runners. Enough for a lot of energy but not SO much that it's a fiasco. Loved the course. We went through downtown, we ran along the canal and through Papago Park and then ended at Tempe Beach Park. Loved it.

I didn't have a STATED goal of breaking 2 hours, but it was a secret hope. And I made it! Just barely ... with seconds to spare. But I was SO SO pleased!

And I had nothing left in the tank - I left it ALL out there. When I realized I could make it - but might not - I had to push and I thought that finish line would never come. But it did - and *I* did it!

This race is significant for me because I ran it last year in a LOT of pain - on my tip-toes and found myself run-crying for part of it. It took me 2:35 to finish. It was amazing to feel SO GOOD this year and so strong. This made Personal Record #5 for me in 2011. It's been an amazing year!

Mimosas and Medals at the Orange Table to celebrate. Woot! Woot!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And sometimes it's nice to get a high five!

The committee places this on your lawn as a surprise
to let EVERYONE know about your award!
I had a great morning today. I was nominated and chosen as a 2011 Frances Young Community Hero for my work in the community. It's truly an honor.

Frances Young was an extremely active member of the Scottsdale community for many years. For nearly a half century she mentored, advised, assisted and championed numerous local organizations and causes — simply for the good of the community.  According to the committee press release, Frances summed up her life by saying, "I’ve gained far more than I ever gave. That’s what I want everyone to know."  Frances died in 2009 in her late 80s.

For 13 years a committee has received nominations and selected three people to be honored as "community heroes" -- I was selected for 2011 along with two other AMAZING people.
Matt Mays is a sweet spirit who advocates for people with disabilities and for
the arts as well. Pam Berges spent 50 years every Saturday volunteering at
Scottsdale Healthcare to make suffering people more comfortable. Inspiring! 

It's an honor but also quite humbling. I'm so happy that I'm able to inspire people and that I'm able to actually make a difference with my time and energy. But I look at so many other people doing so much more and feel like this "high five" was a nudge reminding me what I still can do. I've got more in my tank.

My parents had a BLAST and reveled in my praise this morning. They are so cute. And a little bit naughty ... but after I get copies of some of the pictures I might humor you with parent stories later.

Now off to bed. I have a Charity Chicks event to fret about all night. Ticket sales and Facebook RSVPs don't reflect the numbers I was hoping to see tomorrow BUT I expect a lot of last minute attendees and think the event will turn out GREAT. But I have some graphics and signs to build tonight.

You'd think with all the praise I get and awards I win, some day someone is going to figure out I don't really know what I'm doing!!  It always works out somehow ... !

(By the way, my nominee Jan Horne is also an incredible woman. She has such a warm heart and ever since we started working together has been very generous for all our ventures. High five, Jan!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Topics only a runner would love

The problem with hanging out with mostly athletes all the time is that certain topics become commonplace. When I met my Ragnar teammates last year as I climbed into the van that would be home for the next 27 hours, it didn't take long before we were comfortable and sharing facts about our bodily functions. It was easy and funny.

FYI, when you put on a dress and show up at an event where they're serving pink drinks from a punch bowl, they probably do not want to talk about how early you have to get up before a run so you can poop.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Objects in San Francisco Are Larger Than They Appear?

Just a couple random pictures for you ... things are HUGE in San Fran!

Found this apple in a market and had to share.
I tried to show perspective with the Vita Coco water -
I couldn't wrap my hand around it!

Biggest, fattest slice of pizza I've ever seen!
Even with my pre-race and post-race recovery off-plan time
I couldn't justify eating this. So to the chagrin of the man
behind the counter, I took a picture instead.

Please to enjoy!

Nike Women's Marathon 2011 - a Snapshot

When I put my name in for the marathon earlier this year, my thought was "if I'm meant to run, my name will get picked." And then I kind of put it out of my head. I think I was looking for the luck of the draw to tell me if my body really should continue to pursue this running thing.

This year's drawing couldn't have come at a better time. I had just had to put my beautiful dog Anna down after a tough struggle with Cushing's Disease the day prior. And it was my birthday. Receiving that email from Nike was really what I needed. I was meant to run and I had something to focus on!

I booked my room/flight package on my own in May since I wasn't traveling with a team and wanted to make sure I got a room close to the start line and as affordable as possible. I figured I would figure out my cheering section later. But October came MUCH faster than I expected and found myself traveling solo, which was a new experience for me. I wasn't worried. My hotel was going to be in the heart of the activity of 20,000+ women all doing the same thing. I knew I wouldn't be alone. And I wasn't.

Pinot: the secret weapon? I looked up restaurants near my hotel in advance and had picked out a place called First Crush that looked like a nice place for a pre-race dinner. When I arrived, there was a seat at the bar and I sat with another woman traveling solo for the race. I really wanted to have a glass of wine ... but drinking before a race? I do beer but usually just one. I couldn't help myself and ordered a "All Pinot All The Time" flight because it looked simply yummy. My new teammate I discovered had already ordered the same flight for herself. We were later joined at the bar by two other women preparing to run the race and the girl next to me ... also ordered the Pinot flight. Perhaps this is a secret pre-race nutrition trick I never heard of? I got a PR the next day, so I'm not disputing it!!

Nice things about being alone in a hotel room for a race?
You can lay out and fidget with your gear as many times as it makes you feel comfortable. If you don't want to tour around too much and just want to relax and focus - you totally can.

You can use the bathroom as often and whenever you want. I kept going until it was time to head out to the start line and I didn't need to use a port-a-potty until mile 13, which was awesome!

Enjoying my coffee and bathroom!

No waiting for the shower after the race. Already showered and now you want a bath? Go for it!

I wandered around the Expo and tried out things. I talked to random people and we shared our stories. It was super relaxing.

The start line was energetic and exciting. And then a little overwhelming. The "corrals" for pace groups were pretty loose, just some people holding a sign and then it was a free-for-all in the street for racers and spectators alike. There weren't any breaks to go to the Gatorade table or the gear check buses and so people just had to shove their way through the crowd to go anywhere. I was sure they were knocking all my necessities off my race belt. I found myself right before they finally started to race starting to panic a bit and saying in my head "never again ..."! But I focused on conversation with another solo runner to keep calm and to capture the energy for positive vibes.

CROWDED @ the start!
Since the corrals weren't obvious or enforced, I don't think people made much effort to organize themselves by actual pace group. Honestly in races where the corrals ARE organized people still don't heed the pace groups. I often wonder why someone who plans to walk the whole race puts themselves in Corrals 1-5 sometimes? I guess it's the fear of being slower and needing to start sooner?

Team in Training does a GREAT job getting first-timers ready to run or walk their first full or half marathon. They make them feel like a team and they raise amazing amounts of money for a very important cause. People are excited to be there and it's exciting to be amongst them.

That said: they really need to focus some energy talking about race etiquette. Walkers should move to the right and runners to the left. Runners should be courteous enough to give a verbal warning before passing on the left or right. Walkers should not span out 3-5 across and create a practical wall across the path. If you want to get things out of your fanny pack or stretch, look behind you before thrusting out an elbow or throwing out your arms. Step aside to stretch? Look behind you before entering the run path again. Simple concepts like that.

Everybody trained hard for this. Many took it on as a great act to do for someone else. So continue that consideration of others into race day. It would be a shame to injure someone on such an important day just because you weren't thinking about sharing the space.

The weather?
Couldn't have been MORE perfect if it tried! It was cool in the morning, but not cold. It stayed overcast the entire race and so it never got too hot. Beautiful. I felt SO blessed!

The course spectators, cheerleaders, volunteers, power song stations? Awesome. A few signs made me tear up a bit!

I loved the energy around me but have to admit feeling relief when we split off from the half and a bit of panic when we briefly rejoined the half as well. So many people at such different paces was challenging to maneuver for sure. My first 10k was much slower than the last portion of the race because I was so restricted.

The course itself was pretty nice. Scenic, lots of cheer stations, hills to make it interesting but not impossible, flat enough when you were tired at the end of the race -- I loved it.

And despite my few complaints - I had an awesome race and all memories are now fond as I look back!

My amazing finish
Found this shirt someone had made @ NikeTown - one of the reasons why we do it!

Some of the other perks of the race!
Unwrapping to see what this year's charm looks like
Post-race mess

Battle wounds!

Now it's as if you were there with me! You're welcome.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Run To Be ... Better

Last weekend I completed marathon #3 in San Francisco and it was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. On Sunday October 16, 2011 at 41 and a half years old, I realized that I could be anything I want to be and that I am truly capable of greatness.

It's an interesting concept and something most won't understand. I should already feel accomplished. I've been fairly successful in my educational and work worlds. I achieve my goals and I receive accolades. I work hard and am well respected by most ... (those who don't see that are just jealous - ha!).

I am proud of who I am. I'm proud of the work I produce. I'm proud that my charitable side has touched some people and inspired others. Even though I invest a lot of work into it and experience a good deal of frustration, I also am aware that it comes to me pretty easily. I am lucky that I'm creative and logical. It's a gift that I'm able to communicate my ideas and influence people to see what I see. I make good human connections and that allows me to pursue my charitable ventures. But I feel that it's simply who I am - and I'm just following the direction I'm meant to go. I've been given these gifts and I'm merely putting them to use.

But this running thing ... this is a whole new side to me. It's athletic. I was an asthmatic baby/toddler whose eyes were always glued together with some crazy infection. I was the child who got pneumonia at least 2 x a year, had chronic bronchitis & pleurisy of the lungs and probably missed 50% of my elementary school years from illness. I was the teenager with scoliosis who spent her high school years in a full back brace. I was the woman in her 20s struggling with addictions. I was never an athlete.

I've been active. We hiked and camped as a family. I've taken kick boxing and hiked regularly in town. I've enjoyed aerobics and weight training and have been in various states of "in shape" over my years. I've also been in various states of "out of shape" over those same years. The yo-yo of life!

This running thing came to me through that charitable arm of mine. I received a flyer about a marathon program to benefit the American Stroke Association and decided to check out an informational session. I heard statistics about people who suffer from strokes and learned the importance of knowing the signs. I heard about how the coaches could take you from couch to marathon in this time period. They gave fundraising tips and said people would help us with that. And then ... they brought up a family and their toddler son who nearly died from a pediatric stroke and told me I would be doing this for him. Check written. I registered. I was about to train for and run my first marathon.

The first 3 mile training run was my very first run. It was hard. My throat burned. My head hurt from not knowing how to relax my jaw and simply breathe. Over the course of the training I suffered many pains. I learned proper shoes were important. I learned bad clothing choices could leave you missing patches of skin. I learned running through the desert as the sun rises can be awe-inspiring and running through the desert as the sun beats down on you can be brutal and lonely. I learned you REALLY can't escape yourself out there pounding the pavement mile after mile and I shed many a tear while working through personal issues while my brain had nothing else to do but focus on them. It was amazing. I met a friend who was also dealing with some issues and we shared ourselves raw -- and developed bonds like I had never experienced before.

I ran my first marathon on May 5, 2002 in Vancouver BC with my new friend Rhonda. We completed it in 5 hours and 52 minutes. It felt great - and I was hooked. I was happy with my accomplishment and never anticipated being in the front of the pack. It was rewarding just to have run and completed a marathon.

I went back to the Stroke Association to participate and help mentor the next group of runners. Through that experience I met my now long-time running partner Laura who worked for the Stroke Association. We have been running and sharing and laughing and venting and crying together ever since. I've run consistently at times -- and let work and other priorities take over other times. Each time I come back to running and each time it's like starting at square one. But even when it was difficult, it's been rewarding in some way as well.

In 2006 I decided to run another marathon and I don't go small when I do things. The first time was complete couch to marathon in 3 months. This time I wanted to travel to Greece and run the ORIGINAL marathon! Rather than just train on my own, I decided to pour my energy into helping others run their first marathon and signed up as a mentor with Team in Training to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. As a mentor, I'm assigned a group of people and I make sure they attend training runs, help guide them through fundraising and wake up at 3 am Saturdays all summers to help the coaches set out water stations along the canal. It's no small task but find I do best when I'm focusing on helping others and not relying on my own willpower to push me through. It's motivating and rewarding.

I ran my 2nd marathon in Greece (from Marathon to Athens) in November 2006 and completed it in 5 hours and 25 minutes. I was pretty pleased with my time considering the course was 13 miles uphill. I was still toward the back of the pack but I knew it was an accomplishment just to have completed it (according to Wikipedia, the Athens marathon "is perhaps one of the most difficult major marathon races: the course is uphill from the 10km mark to the 31km mark - the toughest uphill climb of any marathon."). Plus I had shaved almost 30 minutes off my first marathon time - I did well.

It was after that race that I stated my next bucket list goal: some day I think I have a sub-5 hour marathon in me. I felt like doing one in less than 5 hours would make me an official athlete. It was the first glimmer I had where maybe just participating wasn't enough, I could actually improve and truly PARTICIPATE.

Unfortunately after Greece is when I really started to experience foot/ankle pains. I could focus another long blog entry about what I've gone through with injuries but this isn't the time.

I threw my name in the hat for the Nike Women's Marathon in 2007 (you have to be chosen through a lottery drawing) and had my name drawn! I signed up again as a mentor with Team in Training and helped guide a whole new group of people towards their first race. About a month or so prior to the race, I was sidelined with injuries and unable to attempt the marathon.

From the end of 2007 to end of 2010 is full of stories of injuries and small comebacks and perseverance and heartache. And when I thought running was completely over for me, I turned to Crossfit to work on my fitness and to see what else I could do for myself through strength ... and learned how strong my body can be. Through hard work and less dependence on technical shoes to control my motions, my body became stronger. And I started to run again. And I started to run more and more. And then I started running with a group of FAST girls who ran consistently, happily and loved to push and encourage each other.

I learned to push myself. I learned to celebrate victories and not let a bad day dictate the next day. And I started to get faster. I ran one evening with a 3-hour marathoner (Jake) who had some advice: he told me you have to be uncomfortable to progress. I've taken that to heart. I think of all the times I've probably held back to make sure I still had something in the tank at the end and probably kept myself too comfortable. And so I push. Some days the "I can't" in my head is stronger than I'd like and she wins; other days she does not.

I've made a lot of progress this year but I don't think I fully comprehended how much. I ran the San Diego Rock N Roll Half Marathon in May and got a PR of 2:15. Then in June I ran the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon and got a NEW PR of 2:07 (but it was mostly downhill, so it feels a little bit of a cheat to call it a PR).

I knew I had a sub-5 in me some day, but I honestly didn't think San Francisco was it. There were more hills than I wanted; I hadn't done a lot of long distances in training; etc.

I think it was mile 15 when I started to really hit my stride and looked down at my Garmin and realized I was doing well. At 18 I started to think, "I could DO this." And by 20 I finally figured out: "I'm GOING TO DO THIS!!"

I neared the finish line comfortably and started to realize that I didn't just meet my goal, I had CRUSHED it. I completed my 3rd marathon in San Francisco on October 16, 2011 in 4 hours and 39 minutes.

I couldn't stop smiling. I am an athlete. I was in the top 23% overall and 20% of my age group. I did it.

And ..... now I need a new goal.


The Nike campaign that drives this whole race is all about "I Run to Be ..." I run to be sexy. I run to be fearless. I run to be a survivor. I run to be free. After a successful completion of the marathon, you earn a Tiffany necklace unique each race year. On the back of my charm it reads "I Run To Be" and you can take it to the Nike Store to be engraved with your own personal mission.

Mine reads: I run to be better.

Better. Better meaning faster. Better meaning less pain. Better meaning a healthier me. Better meaning making healthier choices. Better meaning how I see myself. Better meaning I run to clear my head and make me a better me. Better meaning I wonder if I can do better next time?

I ran to be better - and was.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Fridge is FULL

Great Saturday today! The weather was beautiful in the morning -- I did a few (6) miles with some friends (and am a happy member of an official running crew with my running crew - kind of complicated) and then sat around shooting the breeze and sipping coffee.

Then I came home and took my dogs for a good loop around the park. I had hoped to munch a little and read a little but time is just not on my side. I had time instead for a shower and off to my neighbor's Celebration of Life memorial service. It was truly beautiful -- I didn't really know him that well, but worked with his wife on a few neighborhood committees. I liked him. I knew he was an artist. I was sad to hear of his passing. But today I really got to know him. His paintings are beautiful! The room was filled with people - art students of his, co-workers, neighbors, friends, family, grandkids. They all had a story to tell and a moment to share. He was a FUNNY man. A talented man. A loving man. A caring man. He inspired many. He made the world a more beautiful place with his work and the work he inspired in others. He made the world a better place because he was there. I'm sad I only got to know him after he was gone.

I didn't really talk to many people at the celebration but I listened and I was inspired. I know I want to live my life to its fullest. I know I don't want to let insecurity imprison my passions or my talents. I know I need to cherish every moment with loved ones and not let opportunities to love them and pass by. I think I have some calls to make this weekend!

By the time I left the Celebration, it was almost 4 o'clock and I've run, walked, drank coffee and had two tangelos. There was food at the event - but nothing I could eat. I was STARVING. I know why they say you shouldn't shop when hungry ... I had an expensive afternoon at Trader Joe's today.

I'm happy to report that while I'm living my life to it's fullest - I'm still trying to make it quality living! I spent an uncomfortable amount of time fondling chocolate products and all of the other delicacies they carry at Trader Joe's that are SO yummy. Instead I walked away with $90 worth of interesting vegetables, dried mango slices, chicken and more. I didn't really plan out full meals but I'd better get eatin some veggies tomorrow.

PALEO REPORT: I am down 10 pounds since I started. I made the full 30 day challenge plus some but I've allowed some room for creativity (i.e. non paleo choices) and my weight loss has stalled, my tummy is bloated ... I think it's time to get back on track and keep it going! More to come.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Amy and the Mountain

I have a problem with high-fiving before thinking.

Last year I was drinking my coffee at my friend's restaurant and she said "hey, I heard about this race where you go up and over a mountain and it's so hard grown men cry and throw up after crossing the finish line!" And I said "no way, it's so hard you're likely to vomit??! I'm in!" and we high-fived on the spot.

A month later we stayed up till midnight waiting for registration to open for the 2010 Imogene Pass Run. They only allow 1500 people to register and it closes out fast. Yes, it's THAT cool.

I registered and then I trained. Training involved getting up every day around 4:30 or 5 am and hitting a trail at the base of a small mountain pass in the middle of Phoenix. It's only about 3 miles total but I did it every day and worked on being able to run more and more of the trail until I reached the climb. Then I power hiked to the top. It wasn't a lot of miles, but I did it almost every weekday for a couple months.

This was a pretty big feat for a girl who thought she was done with running at the end of 2009. For a girl who was in constant pain with a tearing posterior tibial tendon who walked out of a doctor's office refusing his notion of surgery. I felt pretty good!

And so in September last year we climbed into cars and took the 7.5 hour drive to Telluride, Colorado. And on September 9, 2010 I pinned on my race number and hopped on the bus from Telluride to Ouray on my way for that crazy race that can make grown men cry. I knew I wasn't ready-ready, but I felt semi confident.

Here's a quick description from the website about the Imogene Pass Run:

The Imogene Pass Run (IPR) is a 17.1 mile point-to-point mountain race within the western San Juan mountains of Colorado, run along a route which connects the towns of Ouray (7810 ft.) and Telluride (8750 ft.) by way of 13,114 foot Imogene Pass. This spectrum of weather during the race is in fact part of its lure and mystique. In good weather years the challenge of the mountainous traverse is rewarded by unsurpassed vistas and no small feeling of accomplishment upon crossing the finish line. In bad weather years, the wind, fog, rain and/or snow along the course make the successful arrival in Telluride a virtual rite of passage into the realm of true mountain running.

Each participant should keep in mind that the IPR is a mountain run in every sense of the word, and that "The Mountains Don't Care". The reality is that despite whatever emotions we may have for the mountains and their environment, they are in fact unfeeling objects and they follow the natural rules of physics which are not always benevolent toward living creatures, great or small. It is up to the participants themselves to be properly prepared for the challenges of this alpine foot journey, fair weather or foul. Despite the enthusiastic volunteer support at intervals along the course, each participant is ultimately responsible for his or her own safety and risk.

Sounds fun, yes?

I started the race with great enthusiasm and was pretty quickly out of breath. It's a climb straight from the start - and there's no break. Coming from sea level Phoenix to a race that STARTS at 7,800 feet and starts climbing right away is no joke. It became clear that running it was not in my future. It became clear that continuous forward motion was my only strategy and I could only hope that was good enough. By the time I reached upper bird camp at 7.5 miles I had missed the cut-off time by at least 20 minutes and was officially out of the race. They allowed me to continue warning me twice that I was on my own, there was no race support and no one would be sent to rescue us. But the weather was great and I wanted to finish. And luckily I wasn't alone, another girl in our trip was in the same position as me and she also chose to press on. I was so thankful for her company! 

The next 2.5 miles to the summit was the longest 2.5 miles of my life! I was altitude sick and stumbling like a drunk person. A mere 20 yard hike left me out of breath as if I had sprinted around a track! I don't know how long it actually took us to finish last year - 8 plus hours? We watched the aid stations and port-a-potties get hauled away from the trail below while at the summit. When we reached the finish line .. there was no finish line. It had long been packed up but we were greeted by wonderful friends and I felt a HUGE sense of accomplishment.

Take to 2011

Registered! And did I train! And this year I was in MUCH better shape. 6 months of Crossfit training promoting strengthening and self-healing of my tendons. I was running on a regular basis with a group of girls who really pushed me to be better and faster and push harder. I had already run TWO half marathons and each time got a new PR (personal record). I was still struggling with some things with my body but so much better. My goal this year? SEE A FINISH LINE. Make the cut off time at upper camp bird. Survive again.

So nervous this year. So excited. So dreading it. I remember how I just wanted to lay down and go to sleep last year. How LONG those miles felt. And then I remembered how hard I worked. I made a plan to run for 4 minutes, walk for one until I was forced to only hike. I envisioned a 5:30 finish in my head and how I'd celebrate.
See that grey mountain looming behind the others
in the upper left? Yes, that's where we go up
and over and begin the descent into Telluride.
And then we started. I was amazed and horrified at how quickly my dream of running a major portion was squashed. The immediate and continuous climb hit me immediately and hit me HARD. I was in for another long climb. But I pushed on and pushed on. At mile 6.5, I didn't know if I could make the cut-off. And sure enough, I reached Upper Camp Bird and the cut-off time was 5 minutes passed. I was so sad. There was some confusion at the camp, with one women trying to teach me how to rub my chest for elevation sickness and another man scribbling down my number and asking if I had given up. Finally a woman asked if I planned to continue ... and I really thought about it ... a nice hike back to a comfortable bus returning me to Telluride and a cold beer ... but NO. Finish I must. The girl before me was still in the race - the girl after me, her friend, had also missed the cut off. But we pushed on. I even passed a few people on my way to the top. And after the summit, I actually ran.
At the summit!

On my way to the summit, looking back at how far I'd come.
Ouray is somewhere back there ...
It was hard. So hard. But not as bad as last year. That 2.5 miles from the camp to summit was long but not the longest of my life. Those 7.1 miles after the summit? Not so long - but still hard. My feet were tired, my ankles sore. But no so bad.

And guess what? I saw a finish line. With an actual countdown clock. And 20-some minutes to spare. And I got to run across it. AND I got a finish time: 6 hours and 38 minutes. And people finished AFTER me. Yeehaw!

So I need some serious climbing and elevation work. Watch out - next year 5:30 will be easy. HIGH FIVE!
Those mountains don't look THAT tall ... right?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sometimes it's the little things ...

It was one of those days today. I hit the ground running and had high hopes and a plan of attack for my ever-growing mountain of responsibility ... I had a GREAT workout to start my day ... had a great lunch packed that I made overnight in the crockpot, packed my iPod full of Podcasts and was ready to dig in ...

And then unexpected pleasures that are I.T. Where things go wrong and every phone call I took led to a solution that unveiled new problems and it spiraled and spiraled ... I was on the verge of stress hyperventilation multiple times today ... and I actually started to tackle my planned tasks at 5:30 pm today. UGH.

But I still had a few moments of pleasure:

There are some minor grammar errors on an application on our website and we received an email SCHOOLING us on needing to check our grammar. But of course, the email had a spelling error/typo. *sigh* is it wrong that I receive pleasure from someone failing while showing such attitude? I don't care if it is.

This email from my friend Brian (Hi CheapBlueGuitar!):
(I know it's silly - it really made me giggle)

And an amazing Paleo dinner leftover from last night: Sun Dried Tomato Baked Chicken with Turkey Bacon Brussel Sprouts (Thanks Every Day Paleo!) with a glass of sparkly water made in my Soda Stream.

Life is still good - and tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'm going to kill it. (I have to!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Paleo is doin its thang - scale headed DOWN!

I'm happy to report that on Day 28, I have stepped on the scale and I'm down 7 pounds from where I started 28 days ago -- woo hoo to that!! Now I'm at the number where I needed to lose weight before - lol. But still - progress. I see progress.

I'm in the range where I always seem to stall in the past  but I'm going to continue to push forward with this Paleo clean eating and see where it takes me! It's not stopping when I hit my 30 days!

I feel good. I feel in control in this area of my life and that's a good start.

MAYBE though I have to give some weight loss credit to this week's hair chop ...

Here's me last weekend making a maniacal joker face hanging out with my friend Brian. With my hair:

Here's me Wednesday night after the big chop and after what seemed like hours of blow drying and tons of product (and I couldn't see through my hair driving home):

And here's the normal sweaty face new me without all the salon-stylin':

I like it - pretty easy to manage and FAST to wash! The simplification of life begins?

Gettin' Creative with my Meat

(Did that make you giggle like it did me?) Doing this whole Paleo thing (Day 28!!) means a lot of meat and veggies. I've been experimenting with different things to mix it up a bit. Friday I bought some poblano pepper pork wheels from Fresh n Easy. I think pork probably isn't my best choice over lean chicken or turkey but sometimes I want a change ... they looked weird. Kind of like a cow patty.

Someone at a party told me the other night how easy it was to grill veggies (specifically eggplant) on the George Foreman grill and since I'm also looking to mix it up in the veggie department, I tried that as well. A half of zucchini (quartered) and some eggplant slices, rolled in some olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt on the George Foreman grill. Super simple - super yummy!

The cow patty review? Decent but not as spicy or as tasty as the label implied. I probably won't go back to get some more. But a pretty hearty lunch! (Obviously food photography isn't my specialty!)

Admission: while I haven't completed my 30-day "hard core paleo" challenge, I decided to make Saturday night a cheat night. The plan wasn't to go crazy with my cheat but to venture off plan just a titch. I won tickets to the Diamondbacks game at the TGIFriday's tables. We got these awesome seats and $90 in food & drink for the table! A pretty sweet win! The planned cheat? Beer. Beer at the ballpark - come on, I had to!!

I pre-studied the menu online so I would be prepared with healthy food choices. I felt confident I could go with minimal damage to my plan. Small snag - they post their menu online for the ballpark but during game time, they feature a smaller menu -- with none of my choices I had planned for. Then my table mates started talking appetizers and NONE were healthy. It sounded like I was going to have a plate of loaded potato skins in front of me ... uh oh. But after thinking about our $90, and the mystery price of the cocktails (Friday's also changes the prices of their drinks during game time to a higher cost and so the menu has no prices and when you ASK the price the waitress says "about $5.75" in a guessing voice ...), we opted to each get our own dinners and no apps. After some hemming and hawing, I came up with a turkey burger, no bun, avocado and a small side salad in place of the fries. Victory! Great game (Diamondbacks win!), great company and minimal damage and guilt. Happy Amy.

(Little whine to TGIFriday's - I get the limited menu so you can pump out food for the larger crowd in a quick time, but the mystery drink prices? Do you really have to jack those prices up too? Also, I ordered a soda water - most places treat it like a water because it is water with bubbles and a button right next to water on their soda fountain - they charged $3.88 for one glass of soda water. Lame.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Running with purpose

I found out today that a woman on our city's police force passed away yesterday of breast cancer. She was young. Too young. She was diagnosed in July of 2010 and I think at some point the doctors had given her a month to live, but she passed their date and came back to work while continuing to fight for her life.

This spring her fellow officers put together a 5k to raise money for her mounting medical costs. She participated in the 5k and her family flew out to participate. You could feel all the emotions as they spoke to the crowd - hope for the future, gratitude for being there that day, gratitude for the support of friends ... it was a good day. I ran in the 5k and was happy to be a small part of this event. While I didn't really know her, I heard great things -- and was very saddened to hear the news today. My heart goes out to her friends and family.

I've been struggling with my training this year and the Arizona heat has really gotten to me. Tomorrow my plan is to run 14 (or maybe 12) miles. It's supposed to be 113 degrees. I've been kind of dreading it. And then I thought of Julee. I CAN run tomorrow. So it will be a little hot, so I'll be a lot tired, so what. I need to remember to be grateful that I am healthy enough to do it - and to embrace every moment. It may be a somewhat corny saying but my mantra tomorrow is: Today is a gift, that's why it's called the present.

Have a blessed day - no matter what you do!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy FOUND Day to Mehmet

One year ago today I was up in Flagstaff hiking Mount Humphreys with some friends. It's a difficult hike - mostly due to elevation - and we were all tired. We drove home in the pouring rain and I went into my house with the top priorities of taking a shower and getting a good night's sleep. It was really raining with a major thunder & lightening show. As I walked through the living room, I heard the dog across the street bark and I could tell - he was barking at another dog.

I groaned, paused a few seconds and thought to myself: "If I don't look outside the window, I don't have to do anything." You see, I know that bark because since I moved into my house about 6 years ago, I've had over 10 dogs end up on my front lawn. Somehow they just seem to know this is where to go to get help!

Needless to say, I looked out the window and there was a little black blur streaking through the rain and flashes of lightening. Two plus hours of running through rain, sitting on a curb while he hid under a parked car (I'm in running gear and flip flops and freezing), I eventually called my neighbor to come help. She brought her car and we used her trunk liner to slide him out, I caught him in a blanket and this little guy came home with me:

Polly & Anna have had issues in the past with other dogs and so I never intended to keep him. I put his crate in my bedroom bathroom, put up a baby gate and put a sheet over it so he wouldn't have to spend the night with two strange dogs peering in at him. But Anna moved the curtain and spent the entire night looking over him.

I took him into a vet the next day - no chip. I spent a week putting him on every website I could think of and then pasted posters throughout the park. I drove to every apartment complex and condo complex up and down the Greenbelt (the park I live off of). Nothing. No one called. It was clear he needed a new home. I started that search - he went on two play dates for potential homes. The first one was another puppy his size and they fought violently. Then we went to another home who already had 5 other little dogs and he cowered in my armpit the whole time and I cried the entire time. He had already worked his way into my heart. He chose us as his new family.

His first bath:

His first haircut:

Polly and Mehmet - buddies at last!