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How to have a Ragnarly, dude! relay race September 5, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Races, Running.
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Today, we are a week out from Ragnar DC – squee!  I started re-reading posts this morning from Ragnar TN back in 2012, and it got me all excited for the fun that is to come.  But, I also started getting a little anxious about logistics and packing – after all, there are a LOT of moving parts when you’re talking about 12 people, 2 vans, 200 miles, and zero sleep.

There are oodles of blog posts about how to pack for Ragnar.  When I was prepping for Tennessee, the chronic overpacker in me got really frustrated – you want to have everything you could possibly need for 3 different “mini” races (and for lots of potential weather scenarios), but you also can’t take up so much room in the van that you don’t have any left for the really important stuff (otherwise known as your teammates and a cooler).

So, rather than put together yet another in-depth packing list, I’m going to talk about the things you probably DON’T need to bring to Ragnar…

Lounging/non-running clothes – Okay, so I’m not talking about clothes for partying after you finish the race, or PJs for in the hotel the night before the start.  I’m talking about clothes for DURING the race, after you have completed one of your legs and the waiting begins.  While I definitely recommend bringing three separate running outfits, there is no point in putting on “regular” clothes in between.  You probably won’t have time anyway.  Make sure you have flip flops or slippers or other comfortable non-running shoes, and call it a day.

Enough food for a small army – Yes, you will definitely eat a lot during Ragnar.  But, not everyone likes the same things, and even ONE person’s tastes will vary during a 30+hour period (for example, I liked pumpkin muffins at the beginning of Ragnar TN, but I had eaten so many of them by the end of my second leg that I never wanted to see another one as long as I lived).  Make sure you have plenty of hydration, and sure, pack some portable and chewable fuel, but remember that you can usually stop for food at least once or twice during the journey.  I distinctly recall both a Zaxby’s AND a Cracker Barrel stop during our van’s off time.  At the time, they were both the best meals I have ever had.

Full size pillows – They take up a LOT of room.  Chances are, not everyone will be sleeping at the same time, so you could always use folded up sleeping bags and/or blankets to rest your head.  If you have one of those airplane neck pillow things, all the better – it’s small, and it works for both sitting up sleep AND laying down sleep!

Your pet – I love my furbabies as much as the next person.  Probably more, come to think about it.  But as much as you don’t want to take Fifi to the kennel while you run around the countryside, do the humane thing and spare your dogs/cats/cockatoos the misery of being crammed into a van with a bunch of crazy, delirious humans.  Plus, you don’t want your best buddy breaking loose when one of your teammates, in a sleep deprived haze, opens the door to the van before you’ve actually put the leash on.

A bad attitude – Seriously, just don’t.  Ragnar is FUN!!!  If you come expecting to have a good time, meet some cool people, and enhance your existing friendships, you’ll be in great shape.  The opportunity to be tired and cranky will most certainly present itself, but don’t take the bait!

Anyone else have tips on what not to bring?

Running Up(s) and Down(s) September 4, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Races, Running.
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The downer is that I decided not to run the Marine Corps Marathon this year (booooo).  As thrilled as I was to win a spot in the lottery, the summer turned out to be way busier than I was anticipating, and training fell by the wayside.  There was no way I was prepared to run 26.2 miles, and I didn’t want to do it unless I could really do it well.  The good news is that MCM has a deferral program, so I paid a fee to guarantee my entry in the 2015 race.

So, what am I going to do to ensure that 2015 doesn’t go the way of 2014?  First things first, I had a consultation with a personal trainer last night – I think losing some weight and incorporating strength training into my fitness routine are both excellent ways to make progress towards next years race(s).  The workout was TOUGH, and I am still hurting today, but my miserable excuses for push-ups demonstrated that I need to get some expert help and not just focus on cardio.

Second, I am going to try to have a BLAST at Ragnar DC next weekend – hopefully, that will kick-start my get-back-in-shape campaign and renew my love of running and fitness.  Even reading some blog entries and recaps of last year’s DC Ragnar has started to get me in the spirit – so look for a post in the near future about things I am looking forward to (and hoping to do differently) during my second relay experience!

Summer Sun Safety June 29, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling, Pretty, Running, Swimming.
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For those who don’t know, I am a melanoma survivor – I was initially diagnosed and treated back in 1999, so ever since then I have been extra super diligent about protecting myself from UV rays.  Back in the day, that meant sucking it up and dealing with greasy, weird-smelling sunscreens that often clogged my pores.  Thankfully, in the years since my diagnosis, there has been tons of progress, even in the drugstore sun protection arena – but my favorite brand has to be Supergoop!

I first tried Supergoop! in a Birchbox – and as soon as I used the sample of the City Sunscreen Serum, I was hooked (and I have been using it ever since).  It is light and non-greasy, and it works amazing as a primer under makeup.  I feel good walking out the door every day, knowing that I have done something good for my skin.  But as much as I love the serum, Supergoop! has so much more to offer…

Through the Birchblogger network, I was chosen to take part in a Google Hangout with the founder of Supergoop!, Holly Thaggard.  In advance of the live chat, Birchbox sent four Supergoop! products for me to try.  DISCLOSURE: I received these products for free, but all of the opinions in this post are my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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The Everyday SPF 30 is, like its name suggests, a really great everyday sunscreen.  Yes, you should wear sunscreen every day!  It absorbs really quickly and doesn’t feel sticky or greasy.  Because it goes into skin rather than sitting on top of it, I felt like it really resisted a lot of sweat when I went walking with the doggie on hot, sunny mornings.  Of course, you need to give it time to sink in and then reapply if you do serious sweating/swimming, but since the scent is light and pleasant and the texture is nice and light, I think I’ll be much less hesitant to lather up repeatedly!

The Forever Young Hand Cream is the product I thought I’d like and need the least.  I am pretty good about moisturizing my hands (I truly believe your hands will tell your true age more than your face, if you don’t take care of them properly), and I honestly hadn’t thought about treating them any differently than the rest of my body when it came to sun protection.  But, this cream may have changed my mind!  Like all the Supergoop! products, the texture is divine – not greasy at all.  The scent is subtle, and for those of you who drive to work, the bottle fits in the cup holder so you can protect your hands while they are on the wheel!  A little of this cream goes a long way, so I think the 10-ounce bottle will last a long time.

The Anti-Aging Eye Cream is a freaking game changer for me.  Amazing.  It didn’t irritate my under-eye skin at all (and mine is VERY sensitive), and it was lightweight and soothing (the cooling tip applicator helps with the de-puffing).  Plus, it gives some extra SPF protection to an area that can really help keep you looking and feeling younger.  I am very excited to add this product to my daily routine.

The Mint Fusion Lip Balm may allow me to get rid of a few underperforming lip glosses.  It has a VERY subtle pinkish color, so it looks good on its own (I wore it to a party with a heavier eye, and it complimented the look beautifully).  But, you can also apply it over lipstick for shine AND sun protection.  Win win!  The mint flavor/scent was very mild – I would almost like a bit more.

I had such a good time testing all of the Supergoop! products, and I learned a lot from the Google Hangout.  Despite many years of being a serious sunscreen advocate, I picked up a lot of new tips (for example, I now know to put my sunscreen in the fridge for a cooling effect on hot summer days, and that drinking red wine the night before sun exposure can increase the risk of sunburn) and really enjoyed hearing all of the questions.  Supergoop! is definitely not an inexpensive line, but in my experience, the products are effective and long-lasting.  Much like Maria Sharapova (a devotee of the brand who recently became a co-owner!), I believe in the power of Supergoop! and will be using their products for a long time to come.  It’s so great for an active gal like myself to have reliable and skin-friendly sun protection!

Who else loves Supergoop! – and has anyone tried their new sunscreen oil?

OORAH! March 22, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Races, Running.
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I entered the Marine Corps Marathon registration lottery (since I didn’t do the Rock & Roll full, I wanted to add one to my race schedule sometime in 2014), and guess what?  I GOT IN!

Marine Corps Marathon

I won’t start really training until June or July, but I am pretty stoked – it is supposed to be a GREAT race!

Who else will be running with the Marines?  Any thoughts on training plans or coaches?

Rock & Roll Half Marathon race report March 18, 2014

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Way back when, before the winter that knows no end, and before the hellish work travel of death, I thought it would be a great idea to run another full marathon.  I ran one in 2010 and 2012, so it made perfect sense to challenge myself to 26.2 again in 2014.

Well…best of intentions and all that.  Long story short, training was lackluster and it would not have been prudent to attempt the marathon.  So, we decided to drop down to the half marathon, and the race was this past Saturday.  It wasn’t my worst half, and it certainly wasn’t my best, but overall I enjoyed myself and emerged from the experience with my head held high.

It was a BEAUTIFUL day for running – 40s at the start and 60s by the end, with a mostly overcast sky.  I love the Rock & Roll races because the bands keep it interesting every couple of miles (gives me something to focus on besides the clomping of my feet), and this was no exception – the water stop volunteers were super nice as well.  It was awesome to see the whole DC running community out in full force!  It makes me think I will do more to get involved with non-TNT running groups from here on out.

The course was different from when we ran this half in 2012, and for the most part I loved the changes.  The exception?  The MASSIVE hill coming out of Rock Creek Park into Adams Morgan.  Holy.  Crap.  It was practically straight up!  I was huffing and puffing just trying to walk, let alone run.  The payoff was a nice downhill once we got to North Capitol Street, and then a nice jaunt through our neighborhood (NoMa/H Street/Capitol Hill)!  I also appreciated that the finish was not SO far away from Metro (unlike the Army Ten-Miler).

Bottom line, I’m glad we followed through with the race, and I look forward to warmer weather and hopefully getting into the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon!  🙂

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Product review: the Basis B1 activity tracker February 28, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Running, Uncategorized.
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The men in my office had a little wager going during the holidays, to see who could drop the most weight (don’t even get me started on whose bright idea it was to do a weight loss challenge during the heaviest eating season of the year – needless to say, I did not participate).  Most of them invested in FitBits to track their steps – they were an army of wristbanded crusaders, they were!

At the time, I was thinking about getting activity trackers for myself and hubby, but the FitBit just didn’t do anything for me.  It couldn’t tell the difference between walking steps and running steps, and the reviews indicated that it was a pain to have to maneuver to the screens because they are teeny tiny (though, to be fair, so is the band itself).  Yeah, even before there was a recall, I was looking for something more.  I eventually settled on the Basis, though I honestly cannot remember how I found out about it.

According to the website, here’s what’s behind Basis:

Basis is much more than a personal health tracking device. It’s a system. A system based on exhaustive research and insight to how we can be our best for the long haul. A system created with the most advanced personal tracking technology on the market to provide the most detailed data possible. And a system that can interpret that data, give you insight and translate it into simple actions you can take every day. So that you can meet the demands of today’s world. So you can develop and discover the super human in you.

I haven’t yet found my inner super human, but for the most part, Basis delivers on the technology front.  I love love LOVE that I can get heart rate data without having to wear a chest strap, and in my experience, the device has been accurate regarding step counts and determining whether I am walking or running.  It is supposed to be able to tell when I am cycling, but I have only tried it once, so I’m not 100% sure about the accuracy there – to be continued, when the weather improves!  I have really enjoyed looking at the sleep data – it’s so interesting to compare how I feel in the morning with how well (or not…) I slept during the night, and you don’t have to tell the Basis when you are going to sleep, like you have to do with the FitBit (it figures it out on its own using heart rate and perspiration indicators).  I also definitely appreciate that you can sync the device with a mobile app via Bluetooth or on your computer by plugging into the USB cable:

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So far, the only technology-related negative is that there have been some sync-ing issues.  The sensors on the cradle don’t always line up easily, which affects the device’s ability to sync, and recently there have also been some network/system issues that have impacted sync-ability for days at a time (which has meant that I don’t wear the device as much).

The biggest con of the Basis is its look/size:

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It is very large, and not stylish at all.  In normal work attire, it doesn’t bother me as much, but when I am actually trying to look cute and fashionable and chic?  Yeah, I don’t want any part of it.  They just came out with a newer model that has a steel “frame” around the face, which seems to slim down the profile a bit and make it look more like a watch.

I am still on the fence about the whole Basis “system” of habits.  Basically, the website/app tracks different habits, such as “Wear It” (which encourages you to, duh, wear the device for a certain number of hours a day), “Step It Up” (which wants you to take 10,000 steps in a day), and “Consistent Bedtime” (I think y’all can figure that one out).  I mean, yes, I like to see when I have achieved a habit, which rewards me with points, which are redeemable for more habits to track, but I’m still not sure how well that works for me as a long-term motivator.  Perhaps when spring and summer are here and I am walking/running/cycling more overall, I will be more successful and enjoy the overall approach more.

All in all, I think the Basis was a good purchase, and I would recommend it for folks who are interested in tracking activities in a bit more detail than with the FitBit.  I will try to write a follow-up when we get to a point in the year when I am outside and active more!

Two by two January 27, 2014

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Two pairs of pants.  Two pairs of socks.  Two shirts.  Two jackets.  Two hats.

That was my wardrobe for my long run yesterday.  In case you couldn’t tell, it was a wee bit chilly!

We were originally supposed to run on local trails/paths, starting at Fletcher’s Boathouse in Georgetown, but apparently everything was still iced over.  So, we started at the Senate reflecting pool (at Penn and 3rd) and did 4-mile loops along the mall.  Most of the route was clear because it was on public sidewalks,  but there was still plenty of ice in the areas that don’t get as much sun and traffic.  Needless to say, it was more of an obstacle course than I would have preferred!

When it was all said and done, I got about 10 miles in, and even with 8/2 intervals I maintained a sub-12-minute pace.  Not too shabby, considering that I tweaked my calf the weekend before, AND the week leading up to the long run was less-than-ideal from a training perspective.

Oh, and I felt like a total badass.  🙂

Failure to launch January 21, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Fundraising, Races, Running.
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You may have noticed that the Nike Women’s Half Marathon is no longer on my “Upcoming Races” list.  I originally signed up with Team In Training to do both the Rock & Roll USA Marathon and Nike as fundraising events.  But since Jason and I have had a lot more trouble raising the funds for RNR than we anticipated, I concluded that it just isn’t realistic to raise the additional funds that would allow me to do Nike.  Even though I definitely think it’s the right decision, I am bummed, especially since the lottery period has ended so I don’t have another way to sign up for the race.

We have never had this much trouble fundraising before.  We have done TONS of events with TNT, raising thousands and thousands of dollars for a cause that is very important to us.  I haven’t quite put my finger on what has been different this time around, but I have some theories, and I suspect it’s a combination of a couple of factors.

We will certainly be adjusting our approach going forward, but for now, we are still looking forward to RNR.  Our training hasn’t been perfect, but we are hoping to still be ready for the full marathon.  If things don’t work out, we’ll definitely still do the half.

Since Nike is off the table, does anyone have suggestions for good half marathons in the April-May timeframe?  Also, has anyone planned to do a marathon but switched to the half at the last minute?  If so, why?  Were you disappointed?

Running out of time December 30, 2013

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling, Races, Running.
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When I sat down and began reflecting upon 2013 in terms of training and racing, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed.  Sure, I ran a half-marathon, a ten-miler, and a 10K, but they were some of my slowest races to date.  AND I backed out of the triathlon I was planning on doing in April.  I gained weight.  I didn’t incorporate exercise into my daily routine in as meaningful a way as I had in the past.  Overall, I felt like the year was…I don’t know…wasted?

Then again, this past year, I moved my career and my family and my LIFE to Washington, DC.  That kind of change is bound to take the wind out of your sails for a while, right?

On balance, while I may not have made as much progress in my training as I would have hoped in 2013, I think I made some important strides.  I joined Team In Training in DC and started working to build a new legacy of fundraising and racing for an amazing cause.  I started cycling to/from the office, when the weather permitted.  I definitely led a more active lifestyle in general, since we rarely drove and did a lot of wonderful walking with our pupster.

And, when I did run, I got views like this:

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And this:

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And, of course, this:

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So, I guess I’ll take it.  I won’t write 2013 completely off, but I will definitely strive to improve in 2014.  I would love to run the Rock & Roll USA Marathon in March in under five hours.  I’d love to run a sub-two hour half marathon at the Nike Women’s Half in April.  I’d love to join some other area running groups and build my training AND social circles.  I’d love to up my cycling game, not only by biking more, but also by moving from my bikeshare bike to my road bike for everyday commuting.

What are YOUR training goals for 2014?

Run, Run Rudolph December 16, 2013

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Ah, the holidays.  You either love this time of year or you HATE this time of year – and I ain’t judging either way.  I love the way things look all lit up, and I adore anything that combines peppermint and chocolate.  What I don’t love is the nonstop Christmas music (sorry – just being honest), the horrible holiday-themed commercials, and the bitter cold.  Oh, I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like the cold?  My bad.  Never hurts to reiterate.

We HAVE at least been getting a little more into our TNT marathon routine.  We went to Kickoff, we attended our first GTS (group training session – at least, that’s what we called it in Atlanta), and we hosted our first fundraiser (which was slightly disappointing in terms of turnout, but oh, well – the holidays ARE busy).

The unfortunate downside to doing more running/exercising is doing more laundry.  We don’t have as much cold-weather running gear, so we have to keep an eye on the hamper to make sure we’ll be properly insulated for the upcoming days’ runs.  I’m sure lots of runners are asking Santa for cold-weather gear this year – are you?  What is your favorite piece of running attire for the winter?

I am generally pretty loyal to Nike (for clothing – can’t wear their shoes), but I’ve also picked up some great winter running pieces from Athleta and Lululemon.  I can’t wait to hear what everyone’s tried-and-true duds are!