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OORAH! March 22, 2014

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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?

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

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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:

usb-cradle-4

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:

b1_black_front_1

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!

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!

Holiday ho-hums December 6, 2013

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I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but my motivation for exercise has been seriously sapped.  I absolutely SHOULD be working out – not only did I overindulge during Thanksgiving, but marathon training has officially started – yet I always find excuses not to.  Work is crazy.  I’m tired.  It’s too cold.  And so on and so on…

This weekend, we will be attending our first group run with Team In Training – it’s only 5 miles (see, I can’t be THAT far removed from running – I still use “only” to describe 5 miles), but hopefully it will provide a much-needed spark.  The social aspect of exercise always gives me a bit more of a boost!

Perhaps it’s a good time to start thinking about my 2014 goals – after all, 2013 is almost over, and the new year provides a nice (if a bit cliched) backdrop for self-reflection, evaluation, and target-setting.  Should I be focusing on weight loss?  Running a PR?  Getting back into yoga and/or cycling?  I think I will spend some time thinking about what I want to accomplish, and then I can come back here and jot everything down for accountability.

Till then, I will simply strive to enjoy this weekend’s TNT activities and carry a refreshed sense of positivity and enthusiasm into a new training season.

New challenges November 8, 2013

Posted by bettyjoan in Fundraising, Races, Running.
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You may have noticed that there are some new races in my “Upcoming Races” widget.  Not only am I running the Veterans Day 10K this weekend (on a whim, a girlfriend suggested the race and I decided to jump on board), but I am also signed up for both the Rock & Roll USA Marathon – yes, the full – and the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.

As much as hubby and I wanted London to be our 2014 marathon (I figure I’m up for one full every two years), his work situation has made international travel pretty unlikely for the next year or two.  Also, we were really missing being involved with Team In Training, so we decided to register for whatever local race they were planning for Spring ’14.  Bing, bang, boom – that’s how we wound up committing to the RnR race.  I decided to tack on the Nike half as an extra challenge (to avoid the usual post-marathon exercise slump).

Obviously, since we are training with TNT, we are also fundraising!  I need to raise $3,200 for my two races, so here is my fundraising page:

http://pages.teamintraining.org/nca/rnrusa14/bettyrh

Please stay tuned for training updates, fundraising events, and other super-fun marathon goodness.  🙂

What is everyone else’s race calendar looking like?

Army Ten-Miler race report October 22, 2013

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“Way back when,” when a colleague told me he couldn’t use his Army Ten-Miler bib, I bought it from him (gotta love races that allow folks to legally transfer numbers).  And “way back when,” I said that I was going to actually train for the race.  Well, “way back when” turned into “the race is this weekend,” and you can probably guess that training fell by the wayside, in favor of work and life and all of the usual excuses.

All of that said, I was still really excited about the Army Ten-Miler.  You see, I wasn’t a runner (or an athlete of any kind) when I lived in DC back in 2005-2008.  I was more of what you might call a drinker and a smoker (but not a midnight toker).  So, I have only recenly started seeing the District through a runner’s eyes, and I love what I see.  I couldn’t wait to run my first race in my new home, even if it was at a slow pace.

I went to the Expo on Saturday morning, and I zipped right through.  It was a large Expo, but it was still very well organized and easy to navigate.  Once I had my bib and shirt, I headed back home to relax and stay off my feet (by watching college football all day).  I made sure I had proper nutrition and hydration, and I went to bed early.  Since I didn’t have lofty expectations for myself, I wasn’t nervous at all and got a great night of sleep.

On race morning, I got up and geared up.  Even though it was pretty chilly, I opted for shorts and a tank, along with compression socks and arm warmers (which ended up being a great decision, since the sun warmed things up nicely).  After a quick bite to eat and a 5-Hour Energy, I jumped on Metro and made it to the start area really quickly.  I even had time for one more potty break before trying to find my orange corral.

The start area was kind of a CF.  There was “extra security,” which amounted to people being herded into one HUGE line, and then having to walk in front of law enforcement with arms up.  No scans, no wands, just hands up and a quick once-over.  There were colored balloon arches to tell you where to go for each wave, but there was no information and there were no signs indicating how to get there (and there were barricades everywhere, with no real sense of purpose or pattern).  Finally, though, the crowds parted enough that I could move toward where I was supposed to be.  I’m not sure what time we got started, but it was certainly after the planned 8:20 AM start for my wave.

In any case, we were off!  I tried to stay nice and steady in the first mile or so, since I have a tendency to let the adrenaline get the best of me and start off too fast.  The view over the Memorial Bridge was amazing, and running up Virginia Avenue was just enough of an incline to give me some good stretching.  We ran by the Potomac River for a while, and then we wound our way past a bunch of the monuments/memorials and through the Smithsonian area.  The last couple of miles, where we were on the 14th Street Bridge and the highway, were less scenic and not so interesting.  But the finisher’s chute at the Pentagon was definitely a welcome sight!  Overall, I really enjoyed the course.

Early in the going, I decided to do intervals (run 8 minutes/walk 2 minutes), which ended up being a great choice – I had almost NO PAIN for the entire ten miles.  I was able to finish strong and meet my goal of finishing in under two hours (official time was 1:58:14)!  The best part was that I still had a little bit in the tank, so if the race were a half marathon, I still could have completed it.  Win!

I didn’t stick around for the post-race festivities, opting instead to head home and eat all the food.  Bottom line, I would definitely do the Army Ten-Miler again.  I am really excited that it renewed my love of running – for reasons I’ll get into in a future post, I’m going to be running a lot more in the coming months!

Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon – the sequel July 26, 2013

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It has been a long time since I trained in earnest (thus, the lack of posting), so to say I had low expectations for the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon would be the understatement of the decade.  That turned out to be good news, as I was able to put aside my usual competitive and time-centric thoughts and focus on the beauty and fun of the race.  What an idea, eh?

I would still recommend this race to anyone – it is a fantastic course, you get awesome swag (this year’s medal doubles as a coaster!), and there is lots of wine-drinking, including around mile 10 when you run right past the Gundlach Bundschu winery (definitely worth a visit while you’re in town).  The expo was in a better location this year, but it is still very small, so make sure you bring all of your own Gu/sport beans/special electrolyte powder/whatever.  I forgot my race belt, and luckily I was able to buy a replacement.

The weather was ideal for running – cool at the start, dry throughout, and only got warm/sunny at the very end (and if you finished more quickly, you probably didn’t have to deal with any heat/sun at all).  The whole trip, which was just under a week, was absolute climate perfection, especially after leaving a heat index of 110 degrees in DC.

Now that my first “race” (I use the quotation marks because…well, you can see my time on the right toolbar) since Ragnar is in the books, the question becomes: what next?  I am signed up for the Army Ten Miler in October, but I feel like something in between might be smart, since N2S was a wake-up call in terms of my need to stay on top of my fitness.

Maybe a 5K/10K?  Someone suggested the Parks Half Marathon – any thoughts?

Ragnar Tennessee race report – part 3 December 10, 2012

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You wouldn’t think you could get decent sleep on the floor of a high school gym with 200 other people.  You would be wrong.  I completely zonked out and was disappointed, to say the least, when my alarm rudely awakened me to tell me it was time to get moving again.  The good news?  It was a BEAUTIFUL morning, and after two nighttime legs, I was downright giddy about running during daylight hours.  We gathered the Van 2 folks and headed to the last major exchange, stopping for breakfast on the way.

Van 2

Before we knew it, we were off and running again.  The last bunch of legs were tough – Shawn had yet another doozy full of hills, and Jeremy had his longest mileage yet – but the scenery was lovely, and it took us through some really ritzy areas of suburban Nashville.  I kept secretly hoping that a country music star would pop out of his or her house to cheer us on.  I mean, come on, Blake Shelton – is that too much to ask?!?!

Then, before I knew it, it was time for me to bring it on home.  That’s right, I was charged with running the final leg, the leg that would bring me into downtown Nashville and our whole team over the finish line.  The team planned to meet me a little bit before the finish, so we could all cross together, and I couldn’t wait to make it happen.  I started off feeling awesome, just happy that I wasn’t decked out with headlamps and blinky lights.  But it didn’t take long for me to realize that it was a LOT warmer than I had anticipated, and my body was just plain beat up.  I tried to power through, but the course was super confusing (read: demoralizing), there was construction everywhere (read: fumes), and I just couldn’t gear myself up the way I wanted.  I walked.  A lot.  I felt a little better when I saw a hydration station (yet again, I was running a no-van-support leg), so I could refill my long-since-empty bottle.  When I came through a lovely park near town, I started to hype myself up.  Your team is waiting.  DO IT.  I picked up the pace, and then WHAM.  Tourist-ville.  It was like a wall of big hair and cigarette smoke.  GAH.  I said a number of not-safe-for-country-radio words, but then I crossed the street and FINALLY saw my team.  Woo hoo!  We all ran across the finish line, in various stages of battered, bruised, broken-ness, and became Ragnarians.  We did it!  We ran from Chattanooga to Nashville and lived to tell the tale.  More importantly, we didn’t kill each other, and we emerged better friends than when we started the journey.

Finish

Bottom line: Ragnar was hard.  Like, REALLY hard.  There are definitely things I would do differently next time.  But there WILL be a next time.  I had a blast, and I would recommend the race to anyone.  I will always treasure the experience – and it is pretty badass to be able to drive home from Nashville to Chattanooga and think, “Yeah…I ran that.”  😉

Ragnar Tennessee race report – part 2 November 24, 2012

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After our first full cycle of both vans, our van decided to find something to eat and hit the local Wal-Mart before moving to the next major exchange for showers and possible naptime.  That turned out to be ill-advised, because a) the exchange didn’t open when we were ready, due to a high school football game, and b) Van 1 absolutely BLEW through their second legs, and they put us about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  So, I was naked in a locker room (after simultaneously the best and worst shower of my life) when I got a text from Van 1 that basically said, “Get ready, here we come!”  After some squealing and running around and minor panicking, we got our shit together and headed to the handoff point.  Unfortunately, this is where pictures get kind of spotty – it is hard to capture nighttime Ragnar-ing!

The second legs seemed to go really well.  They were a lot quieter than the first round – I think that makes sense, since they were in the middle of the night AND they were each generally a bit shorter.  We tried to stay close to our runners as much as possible, which ended up being fortuitous for Raphael, who took a wrong turn at the beginning of his leg and would have wound up in Ohio had we not seen him and put him back on the right path.

By the time it was my turn to run again, everyone had one thing on their minds – SLEEP.  I was less anxious about this leg, since it was half the distance and I had already survived one overnight run, but I gotta tell ya – it still worked my nerves.  There were dogs barking EVERYWHERE in the distance, and I was sure I was going to have a run-in with one of them at some point.  Thankfully, I focused on my breathing and I got through the 3.6 miles with my sanity in tact.  After passing the bracelet to Van 1, I headed into the high school gym and settled into my sleeping bag.  Two hours of sleep would have to do…

Ragnar Tennessee race report – part 1 November 18, 2012

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As I mentioned previously, Ragnar kind of snuck up on us.  Even though we had a team meeting and generally knew what our plan was, I woke up the Thursday we were supposed to depart and I was VERY nervous.  Thankfully, I had taken the day off, so I had plenty of time to pack and prepare.  I baked some pumpkin muffins for the team, dropped the pupster off at doggie camp, and worked for far too many hours on the shockingly difficult process of packing for an overnight race.  Seriously, it is HARD to pack for two days in a van.  I ended up bringing a completely different outfit for each leg (awesome idea), and some extra clothes for lounging (totally unnecessary, as there was not as much time/opportunity to change as I thought), but overall I tried to bring as little as possible.  I am a chronic overpacker, so it was quite challenging!

We met at our captain’s house around 6:30 PM, as not everyone had the luxury of not working.  We distributed some gear and goodies, and we were on our way.  By the time we arrived in Chattanooga, it was pretty late and everyone just wanted to get to sleep, so we decided to decorate the van the following morning.  Unfortunately, I slept TERRIBLY – I don’t know if it was excitement or terror or what, but I just did not get any quality rest.  Boo.  Soon enough, it was race morning – time to head to the start line and see Van 1 off!  Well, after a team picture, of course…

As soon as we sent Van 1 on its way, we headed to the Cracker Barrel for a good solid breakfast.  As soon as we ordered, I got a text from one of our Van 1 compatriots – turns out that Runner #1 decided to attempt a “running moon” and, well, it did not turn out so great.  Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt (well, I still maintain that we were all mentally scarred), but it definitely set the tone for the crazy journey ahead of us.  I mean, really – 30 minutes in and we were already talking about someone’s naked ass?  Oy…

With full tummies, we headed to exchange 6 for our Van 2 safety briefing.  Before we knew it, it was time for the handoff and for our van to take over.  Shawn was our first runner up, and after we passed him coming out of the park, we realized he was in for a MONSTER challenge.  As we drove his leg, our jaws just dropped farther and farther open – it was a really steep incline, and it just never seemed to end.  We got to the exchange and waited, and we were all so proud and impressed when Shawn crested the hill and passed the bracelet on.  Whew!  The next few legs were easy to moderate – Jason, Jeremy, Raphael, and Stephanie all did great, and we enjoyed cheering them on as we passed them on the road AND met them at the exchange points.  We also enjoyed a lot of funny looks AND mad respect for our injured comrades – Raph was running in his sling (dislocated shoulder), and Jaclyn was driving us around in her boot (stress fracture)!

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, it was time for my first leg.  It was already full-on dark.  I was full-on panicking.  I got geared up in my reflective vest, two blinky rear lights, and head lamp.  Stephanie ended up running the previous leg faster than we anticipated, so I had to bust ass to go get the bracelet from her – it totally wasn’t her fault, but it just added extra anxiety to an already nerve-wracking situation.  My heart rate was all over the place.  The first little bit was uphill, but then there was a serious and steady decline, and it. Was. HORRIFYING.  I mean, I am not trying to be melodramatic, but it may have been the scariest thing I have ever done.  Think about it – as a woman, you are always told, don’t run in the dark, don’t run by yourself, don’t run in areas you don’t know.  Well, I was knocking out all three of those no-no’s all at once.  Every noise made me worry that I was going to be attacked by wild animals.  Every curve or bump in the road made me terrified that I was going to fall and break my ankle (again).  INTENSE.  Thankfully, a lovely young lady from another team paced with me for a couple of miles, and it really helped.  After the long downhill, the leg become more challenging – a lot more climbing than I had anticipated.  Between the darkness, the terrain, and the solitude, I really think those 7.9 miles may have been harder, at least mentally, than either of the two marathons I’ve completed.

When I saw the “one mile to go” sign, I was super duper happy.  When I saw the lights and heard the cheers from the exchange point, I was even MORE super duper happy!  I passed the bracelet to Runner #1, and the rotation started all over again.  After hugs all around, it was time to find a shower…