Friday, December 28, 2012

Surviving Spin Class

In August I am going to do a 100 mile charity ride for JDRF. That only gives me 8 months to whip my fat ass into shape, which means spin class.

In case you've had your head buried in the sand for the past decade, spin class consists of riding a specialty bike for a length of time to "a pulsing soundtrack." The bikes at the local health club are designed by Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France back before there was a US team, so we're not talking the exercise bike your folks used as a clothes hanger back in the day. These are sleek, serious training machines.

The guy leading the class through increasing speeds and tension reminded me a bit of Brogan, one of the November Project tribe leaders, in that he was encouraging and pushed me beyond where I wanted to go... particularly when he cranked up the tension on me to remind me I'm stronger than I think.

The problem is the whole "pulsing soundtrack" thing. As someone who is not big on that modern disco sound that passes as music in health clubs, I wish I could force my punk on them they way they force their crap on me. Let's just say I'll be happy to hit the road in the spring on my bike.

Until then, it's time to start kicking ass and reducing mine. I survived yesterday's class. I have the schedule and it's time to map out a regular plan because my bike ain't gonna ride itself 100 miles.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

What are we? We are AWESOME!

Me on the right rocking my blue Hyannis
Marathon fleece at Monday's workout
Today marks one full cycle of workouts with November Project.  Friday I got one hill in, Monday was a Destination Deck and today was 6 flights at Harvard Stadium in the early morning darkness.

But yesterday I found myself trying to describe the group (yet again) to  someone.  We're not a running club, I belong to one of those and this is certainly not that.  We're not a boot camp, even though we do a boot camp style workout once a week.  The word I kept using over and over again to describe the group was "awesome."

Where else can you get the love and support and encouragement people like me get from hardcore folks like the core of the group?  I keep thinking back to that chippie in the locker room at the gym years ago who thought I should be embarrassed to be seen in a gym because I was too old and fat.

Those words ring in my ears when I least expect it.  I went to my first Harvard Stadium workout with trepidation and fear.  I knew I couldn't keep up with guys who could handily win the Big Man race (run a mile to a bar, chug a beer and eat a hot dog, repeat three more times) and were active rowers.  But they welcomed me, and others like me.  I can't run the Frogman 1 workout, I'm physically unable to do so but instead of chiding me for it, Brogan challenges me to do more than I think.

With that in mind, this morning I looked at that 6th flight knowing my asthma has been acting up (an unfortunate side effect of ibuprofen to control the inflammation in my heel) and made myself start up the stairs.  Yes I had to sit down at one point on the way down to use my inhaler.  Yes I finished it and yes I got myself together to head out to school on time.  But I know part of why I did it was because I know there are folks there that encourage and help me believe in myself.

So yes, the perfect word to describe this crazy group of fun I attend: awesome... because they are and they help me find the awesome in me.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Reunited (and it feels so good)

This morning was my first real workout with November Project.  Friday was a trial hill and it was good.  I was a bit stiff and my heel barked a couple of times, but it was good.  Today is a destination deck.  Since I'm back on my regular schedule where I'm only in Wednesday - Friday, it meant a day I could actually work out with the tribe.

I was welcomed back with a huge hug from Brogan and a chorus of Happy Birthday. :)

Today was the boot camp style workout starting with 5 sets of sprints.  I had to bag out of at least one set because my heel made it clear that it's good but it's not great.  Then it was onto 5 rounds of 5 stations: push ups; sit ups; air squats; plank and superman.  We moved in groups around the park behind Wentworth and Mass Art cheering each other on.

Our group got pretty silly.  During the air squats, we did a group circle counting off 1-2 around the circle or adding a loud grunt between counting.  We high fived each other during push ups, told jokes during supermans and even tried to do a round of "Row your boat" in a round (that failed miserably, but was still funny).

Yes, I have missed this heartily.

Wednesday I will hit Harvard Stadium early, before most of the rest of the tribe arrives.  The three goals I set for myself on Wednesday: 5 minimum, 7-8 is good but 10 or more would be freaking awesome.

In the end, it's good to be back and it won't be long before I'm back on track fully.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Everything's coming up Milhouse

This morning was my psychological return to running. I managed to get up, get my ass out the door and get one hill in this morning to the sounds of the Oyster Band and Ramshackle Army.

This was the view this morning, a full morning moon hanging in the tree with a nip in the air. I admit the minute or so that I ran before the heel said "no" was truly joyous and liberating.

One hill in, one day I know I may be broken but I'm not beaten. I'm back in the classroom today helping kids learn how to write... everything's coming up Milhouse.

Let my birthday weekend commence!

Monday, October 29, 2012

New Hotness or When You Need a Sign

Last night was a hard night for me.  Between clogged sinuses and my heel barking a bit, I was wondering how wise returning this week would truly be for me to start pushing myself to start working out again before the Nyquill kicked in and put me down for the count.

This morning I woke up to all Sandy all the time coverage of the storm.  I remember Irene last year and feeling so bad ass going for a 2 mile run on the leading edge of the storm.   This morning, I felt like a blob for not getting up and going to Charles River Kayak to work out with November Project because the plantar fasciitis thing and didn't know what to do next.  Drowning in a pool of self-pity, I sat on the couch getting ready to study for my history mid term (tomorrow night) and catch up on some of the school work I feel behind on

Then the Divine reached in and offered an opinion.

Remember when I realized I was developing Platar Fasciitis, traced a year's worth of injuries to a particular shoe and contacted Brooks to whine?  Remember when they promised to send me a pair of Adrenalines with their apologies?  Well, screw Sandy, Fed Ex delivers.

Fed Ex made it through the storm to deliver a new pair of hotness to me, these slick purple and black Adrenaline 12's.  They showed up on my doorstep the day after I realized a week of sleeping in a PF brace, extra stretching and lots and lots of anti-inflammatories were doing their job and maybe, just maybe, I should think about rejoining the November Project tribe Friday morning for the Brookline hills.

So today the bad ass award goes to the Fed Ex guys for delivering a Divine message to me that it's time to get moving again.  This week will focus on some floor stuff: working on the balance ball, deck of cards push ups and sit ups, cross overs and maybe some biceps/triceps work.  Friday I will WALK the Brookline hills as a way to start back up again.  I'll set a goal of going to next Monday's destination deck and 5 sections at Harvard Stadium to start to rebuild.

Not a bad way to look at a new year as my birthday rolls up in less than a week.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Taking Free Fitness to the Kids

My tenure as the PE teacher is coming to an end and I'll be back in my regular role as in school support, but before I leave, I get to apply what I do with November Project with the kids.  The idea that fitness is free, fun and something you can do on your own.

The kids have 6 stations: a scooter board, a step up station, a deck of cards work out, fitness balls, track and rest/water station.  It works the whole body but, most importantly, that deck of cards work out is something that is now working it's way into the curriculum across the board.  The workout modifies by age: for K-2 red = jumping jacks and 3-5 red = sit ups.  The black cards for K-2 = crossovers (elbow to opposite knee) and push ups for grades 3-5.

The other day, when we started this unit, I did the step up with the kids to remind them to go at a steady pace and make sure they had their fee fully placed on the mats without jumping.  We talked while doing this station, again to help them learn to pace, about how this is something you can do for free at home or anywhere there's a step.  I spoke about how I do the sections of Harvard Stadium and some of the kids translated this to: so if I walk up and down the stairs at home, I'm getting a workout.

On the deck of cards, the kids had mixed feelings about the randomness of what they had to do but were also up for the challenge.  Again we talked about how you can do this at home with any deck of cards.  We talked about how they can get out and walk or run around the block or even find ways to scoot around sitting on a skateboard to work their quads.

People spend a lot of money on gyms, personal trainers and boot camps only to give up or realize they can't keep up with the costs.  My hope is that these kids will take one major point away: I don't need to pay money or need fancy equipment to stay fit.  It's a life-long activity.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Why I love Marathon Sports and Brooks

See this spiffy shoe to the left?  It's the Brooks Adrenaline 12 and it will be winging its way to me shortly.

See, at the 2011 Boston Marathon expo, I went into the Brooks booth to take a look at the new Adrenaline.  I was wearing the Saucony Omni Progrid 9's at the time and they had just changed designs and I hated the 10's.  So I was in the market for a new shoe.

The nice booth representative convinced me I really needed the Trance 10's, not the Adrenaline.  It was the same shoe only cushier and "like running on a cloud."  I trusted the guy and went off to a running store that was NOT Marathon Sports because I had a groupon.  The other store (from henceforth known as the evil running store) and the guy didn't try the shoe on me, give me any advice or help.  He heard "groupon" and said, "Do you know what you want?"  I said the Brooks guy suggested... and that was all he had to hear beyond, "What size?"

The evil running store guy took my credit card for the price difference and couldn't shoo me out the door quickly enough.

For the past year, I have intermittent struggles with achilles and ankle issues that I wrote off as previous injuries flaring up due to my stupidity.  That is until the guys at November Project came along and convinced me to run to the T for a destination deck day.  A 2.5 mile run, no big deal that is, until I was heading home and realized my achilles was barking badly from out of no where.  Then came the turned ankle in Stamford and some symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis to convince me I needed to be taking it easy on myself for a bit until things felt good and strong again.

I suspected the Trance 10's had something to do with all this now and began looking through my running logs and realized that, yes indeed, the Trance 10's are logged on injury days.  To test the theory one last time, I wore them to walk to school the other day.  By the time I got home,  the Plantar Fasciitis stuff, something I had never experienced before last month, was screaming in pain and I was convinced the Trance were at fault.

But what to do?  I had this expensive pair of shoes that screwed me out of the better part of a year of running.  So I contacted Brooks.  Josh C, the customer rep on live chat, was professional and made a suggestion: perhaps you should be wearing the Adrenaline as it is the equivalent of the Omni.  He suggested I get fitted at a local running store and we'd set up an RMA to exchange my Trance for new Adrenalines.

Now why I love Marathon Sports.  I went into the store in Swellsley and the staff were everything I have come to love and respect about Marathon.  I told them the story.  They knew I wasn't buying but before I left, they made sure the Adrenaline fit properly, matched my stride and had the right support.  He had me run outside to check them and in the end, we found the right match for my feet so that the guys at Brooks could send me my new shoes.

I had a $50 gift certificate from November Project giving us swag for working out in July.  Instead of being all "get your shit and get out" like the evil running store guy, they were "Cool!  We heard about these guys, is it worth running with them?"  (Answer: Fuck yeah!) They told me to take my time, if I had questions no problems.  It was lovely.

So yeah Evil Running Store down in Hingham, totally on my shit list.  Marathon Sports, totally on my You Guys Totally ROCK list.  If you're in the Boston area and don't go to Marathon Sports, you need to readjust your thinking and get your badass self in for some great customer service.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Running on a full tank

I looked up at the calendar and realized it's October.

Say what?!

Last month flew by and I'm still feeling sooooo behind in my work. (Did you know PE teachers have paperwork?  I didn't before, but now I do.)  I had to drop my Monday destination deck work outs but I'm still showing up on Wednesdays and Fridays.  I've been rocking the PE position with the kids for the past month and I'm up to my eyebrows in course work.

There are big changes in my life that are really small changes that are adding up.  For example, everyday I pack a salad for lunch.  I fill the container with lettuce and broccoli or sunrise slaw mix then toss in a 1/2 oz of chopped nuts (usually pecans) and 1/2 oz of craisins (dried cranberries).  A little raspberry vinaigrette, a piece of fruit and I'm good to go.  Now that it's getting colder, I'm adding a cup of soup as well.

I also ride my bike to and from school every day I can.  It's only a couple miles a day, but it's 10 miles I work my body instead of driving.  I'm working on sneaking in an extra servings of veggies or fruit a day - an apple for a snack, a veggie omelet, sweet potato on my grilled cheese (well, that's Roxy's doing, but it's all good.... wicked good).

You get the point: never underestimate the power of little tweaks here and there.

So yes, I am getting up before the sun to get an abbreviated workout in on Wednesdays and Fridays.  It's OK, I'm getting it in.  This week I'll start adding running back in on the weekend ends.  Every morning I haul my backside out of bed in the dark, I know it's one more thing I can do.  The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and all that happy rhetorical, inspirational nonsense and such.  In the end, it's up to you to get your own arse out of bed in the morning and shoot down the excuses.

Friday, September 07, 2012

The only disability in life is a bad attitude

This week is my first week back at school - both teaching and attending.  Because my role at the elementary school is support, it means I must be flexible enough to fill in for anyone/anything.  I'm good with that for a number of reasons, not the least of which I get to know all the kids that way.  As I remind them, they only have to remember my name, but I have to remember 500 names, so if I call them by the wrong name (or by a sibling's name), it's not personal.

Last week, just before the start of the school year, the principal sent me an email asking me to cover for the PE teacher for a week.  I'm down with that.  I like filling in for her and she has requested me in the past as I know the kids and she trusts me to keep things safe and fun.  Besides, who doesn't love games that involve throwing yarn balls in an organized chaos manner?

Here's the tough part: making it to November Project Workouts and get home in time to shower and get to school.  Then, at least two nights a week, I'm on the FSU campus until 9:30ish taking classes.  It makes for a long day but it also is a chance to think about priorities in my life.

Which leads me back to the quote from figure skater Scott Hamilton I used here: "The only disability in life is a bad attitude."

Oscar Pistorius competed in the Olympics even though he was born without femur bones.  Often called "The Blade Runner" and "The fastest man on no legs," he sued for the right to compete with "normal" athletes and showed the world that he was as good, if not better, than the majority of us born with two working legs and just don't use them.  Jon Lester came back from cancer and pitched a no hitter and was the starting pitcher of the World Series game 4 in 2007.  Bethany Hamilton  is a competitive surfer who lost her left arm to a shark at the age of 13.  Jim Abbott pitched a no-hitter against Cleveland and was born without a right hand.  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and worked hard to make them regret that decision.

The list is long and goes on and on and on.  I did put up a bulletin board in the gym with many of those athletes to remind the kids that a scraped knee, yarn ball in the face or wearing flip flops do not qualify as good reasons for sitting on the sidelines.  Which is why, when one of the kids told me it was raining too hard to do a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g I showed him this picture:

Yep, that's the November project folks taking on the Frogman 1 challenge in the pouring rain.  And those were the early folks (including me hiding above the section so I could get a picture).  I told him I was so wet that it looked like I took a shower by the time I got home!

I should note it was not the same kid who mocked my "I run like a girl" shirt, but it was one of his friends.  I don't think those guys will give me any grief about this stuff in the future.

But Scott Hamilton's words speak to me as well.  I can easily say it's too much to get up even earlier to start my workouts early and be finishing when most everyone else is arriving.  I'll be honest, I missed the high fiving and encouragement at the beginning.  Even worse, now that I have some of the timing down a bit better, I'll be arriving earlier so that I can get in a full workout rather than have to cut things short to get home in time to be ready to get to work on time.  I need to change my attitude a little.

Another thing is some of my habits.  My husband helped this week.  He started making sure the coffee maker was ready to go so I could just push the button when I got home.  It's a little thing that makes a big difference for me.  I also know that if I pack my lunch the night before, it makes the next morning easier.  Breakfast is easy enough to make while the coffee brews and it's faster to ride my bike instead of drive.

Give up on November Project?  Not yet:

The only disability in life is a bad attitude.  What's your excuse?

Friday, August 31, 2012

It's getting better all the time

This morning I felt stronger and chose to do a test.  I walked down and up the Brookline hill this morning for 2 trips.

The hard part is trying hard not to run down the hill.  I've also started running up the hill for brief bursts with the goal of being able to run both up and down the hill by the end of September.  Today; however, all that was put on hold until my ankle is 100% again.

Now keep in mind that I suspect had my achilles been 100%, stepping in a chuck hole would not have mattered as much as it did.  But no matter, the stars aligned in a way to sideline me for a week and come back slowly, but come back I will.

I took Monday to support other folks working out and Wednesday I was a cheer leader for folks doing a tour of Harvard stadium.  Today I couldn't sit still.  I walked down the hill with an older gentleman from the neighborhood.  He told me he walks up and down the hills in the area for 90 minutes every morning, no matter the weather.  Now that's #weatherproof!  I made it up the hill and felt pretty decent and stopped to assess where I was at.  I felt I could handle one more tour and halfway up the second time, I realized I was done for the day.  There was a bit of twinge and it was clear I needed to rest.

Coming home, I iced and rested.  I feel good about moving my body today. We have Monday off for the holiday and Wednesday I'll have to get up early as I have to be at school for 8 am.  I'm covering for the PE teacher, so I look forward to an amusing week of making kids sweat and run in circles again.  A lovely way to start the school year. :)

In the mean time, enjoy Labor Day weekend.  Remember, it's one of the very few holidays we have that doesn't celebrate a war, so try and do something peaceful to end the summer months.  Perhaps a run or a walk around the neighborhood.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I could never....

If I could ban a three word phrase from the English language, it would be, "I could never..."  We limit ourselves so much with those three words:

I could never run...
I could never run a (insert a distance here)....
I could never do a triathlon....
I could never ride my bike (insert distance here)...

Instead we sit on the couch and proclaim what we can't do, lament our current state of being and long for something we wish we could be.

I am one of those folks.  At the beginning of the summer I kept telling myself, "I could never...." In my case, it was I could never get up early, go to a boot camp training and find a way to reach my goals.  But here it is, the end of August and I am able to do a half tour of Harvard Stadium in spite of the feelings of vertigo.  I can handle a 16% grade hill and I can do push ups/sit ups to correspond a deck of cards.  All things that I "could never do" last June.

But I want this to be positive, so I would change those three words to, "Someday I will...."

Someday I will run....
Someday I will run (insert a distance here)...
Someday I will do a triathlon....
Someday I will ride my bike (insert a distance here)....

I am now off the couch and moving.  In spite of an injury earlier in the week - and as a side note here, if your dog digs a hole in a public, please fill it back in - I am still getting up and cheering on those who struggle to get to the workouts the way I do.  (Never underestimate someone reminding you, "You got this," to help push you through when your mind wants to quit.)

If you walk away and just once say, "Someday I will," instead of "I could never," then you've taken a step forward and that's a good thing. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rising Higher

My wings lift me up
whenever I have fallen
and I soar higher


Today's music selection was Balkan Beat Box.  There's something about those crazy rhythms, accordion as a house music instrument and rapping in Bulgarian that makes me smile and inspires me.  Yeah, I'm weird, but it's all good.

Whenever I go out for any workout, I set 3 goals: minimum, expected and the "I totally rock at this" goals.  I also got through a half tour of the stadium.  Lately I've been pushing myself through 15 sections and usually around the 10th section I'm dying.  Today it was around section 15 when the jelly legs kicked in.  I suspect a piece of that has to do with the humidity and using my inhaler before getting started since my allergies are kicking up right now.  I admit that the half tour was my expected goal, 15 was the minimum and 20+ was the rocking goal.

But what struck me this morning was Brogran, the fearless leader of the November Project, reminding folks it's time to turn the fitness industry on its head.  While you respect that some people need those crossfit, PX90, gym memberships and running club dues, fitness is something that can be done for free and turning out with a growing group starts getting people moving.

It's true.

When I met Brogan at the Big Man race in June, I mentioned that I was thinking about signing up for a boot camp to get myself started.  He suggested I come and give the stadium a try.  It was free and I could do it.  With the economy what it is and my job on hiatus until Labor Day (for all you folks who think teaching is a piece of cake, you try going without pay for 3 months and tell me how sweet it is... yeah I saved some of each paycheck to get through the summer, but still, would you really tolerate that in your job?), I figured free is good and if it didn't work out, well, I could always sign up for a boot camp.

I'm 7 weeks in here and bootcamp isn't even on the radar any more. I'm sad that I won't be part of the bigger group once Labor Day rolls around and I have to be home no later than 6:45/7 so I can shower up and get to school on time.  I'll have to get to workouts early and finish when folks are starting on Wednesdays and Fridays.  I won't be entirely alone as there are folks who get there early so they can do a full frogman tour (50 sections), so I look forward to that bit.  I still have the rest of the month to go to enjoy a routine that has inspired me so far.  Yesterday I found myself pulling out my cards and doing a deck of cards workout while watching TV as sitting seemed too little.  I've been out walking, I'm riding my bike more and more.  While I love McGreevey the Wonder Bug so much (what's not to love about a black on black 6 speed turbo bug that can go wicked fast and has butt warmers for the winter?), I've spent less time in him these past 7 weeks than I have in all the years I've owned him.

This has changed my life.  It can change other people's lives as well.  Even if you're not showing up at Harvard Stadium at the butt crack of dawn on a Wednesday morning.  Imagine putting on shoes and walking out your front door.  Imagine walking up and down the risers at the local high school football stadium or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work.  We shouldn't be relying on other people to tell us what we can and can't do, we need to rely on ourselves.... and if you need a group of folks to help you do that and you're in Boston, then come join us.  It costs nothing but the feeling of "I should do something...."

Who knows, maybe it will get under your skin and you'll find yourself doing something crazy like feeling good about your jeans looking like mom jeans because they're so big and baggy or that shirt you wish you got in an XL and now wishing you had the M instead because the L is just a bit too loose these days.  Maybe you'll find that you really need that personal trainer to push you or that you enjoy the comfort of a gym, at least you'll appreciate those things a hair more.  What have you got lose... but some weight and self doubt?

Friday morning we'll be at the corner of Summit and Beacon in Brookline at 6:30 in the morning for our 5 hill repeats.  That is my expected goal of this week: walking up 5 times and running down 5 times.  I can do it.  Come see if you can do at least 1 or 2 trips up the hill yourself.  If nothing else, the view from the top looks pretty sweet and let everyone else guess why you're smiling as you sip your coffee with a new gleam in your eye.

Monday, August 13, 2012


"The best navigator doesn't know where he's going until he gets there.  Even then, he's still not sure...." - Jimmy Buffett

Today was a destination deck workout.  That means the November Project meets at a destination to do a deck of cards workout (red = sit ups, black = push ups and the number on the face is the number of how many you do).  I am far enough out from the meet up spot that I take the T in but I've started wondering to myself, how do I make it my destination?  I suppose I could get off at Kenmore and jog in.  Perhaps I could run to the T stop and take the commuter rail home.  Then I asked myself if that had to be the destination, destination or just a layover during the day.

When I got home, I regrouped a little and then got on my bike to ride a half hour to Weight Watchers and a half hour home.  In the end, I rode further than if I rode my bike to the T and home again as WW is over a mile past the T stop.  So today looked like this:

6:30-6:50: destination deck (we had 19 cards left vs last week when we had 29 cards)
9-9:30: bike ride
11-11:30 bike ride

I still have to walk over to the post office.  I think I'll walk up to the yarn store the next village over to scope out the new yarns I can't afford (seriously, bamboo yarn can cost as much as $49 for a skein... a SKEIN!) and then home again before tackling laundry and food shopping.

So what's my destination today?  Was it Copley Square for the deck?  Was it to WW or home?  Is it to the yarn store or errands?  Perhaps it's my bed tonight and the dreams beyond.  Who knows, I just know I'm on my way there.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Game On!

Today is Nike's "Game On" day, a day where they challenge everyone to run, walk or move somehow.  I also had a homework assignment this weekend from the November Project folks to write up my workout from this weekend.

Well boys, I did a couple.  My sister and I went out to walk a couple of miles yesterday.  We both needed it and it's something both of us would have had no time for if we didn't do it together.  It was hot and sweaty and it felt good when I sat down in my parents' air conditioned living room for a glass of water before I headed home.

This morning was the tough one for me.  I used to get up on a Sunday morning and go for a run as a habit.  I fell out of the habit a while ago and it's been a struggle to get out the door since.  I admit I was discouraged.  No matter how hard or often I went out to run, it always seemed like running continuously was just out of my reach.  When I got home last night, I told myself I had to run this morning.  There were no ifs, ands, ors or buts about it.  So before going to bed, I put my running gear in the bathroom so there'd be no excuse.

At 5:00 Odin cat work me up.  Yes it was a "If you can see this, you're awake enough to feed me" moment.  It always is that time of day and he gave my nose a little nip to make sure I knew he knew that I wasn't still in the land of nod.

I rolled over and drifted off for about 15 minutes while he head butted and squeaked and otherwise tried to get me to feed him when I finally gave up hope of sleeping.

Victory #1: I didn't give in to the thought, "I'll just go down and take care of kitties and then get dressed.  Instead I made myself get dressed and go downstairs.  I watched the morning news, reminded cats they don't get fed until after 6 (like they listen anyway) and dug out my running shoes, earbuds and case.

Victory #2: I was on the road at 6 am.  My initial thought this morning was running 2.6 - 1/10th of what the men would be running in London.  Instead I pushed myself.  I know if I can run 3 miles continuously, I can train for a half marathon.  Today wouldn't just be homework, it would be an assessment. (I'm in the teaching trade we no longer call them tests ;) )  How far could I run continuously?  Was I ready for some real training after 6 weeks of working out?

Victory #3: I set the Nike+ settings on my phone for 5k, started running and didn't stop until I passed the 4.6k mark.  That's right, just inside that 1/4 mile circle back to the house, my hips finally caught up with my mind and shut me down to a "walk it off" pace.  Too bad, I was on my way to a negative split until that point too.  But the point is, I ran 3 continuous miles without walking.

For some people, running 3 continuous miles is nothing.  It's a light workout.  For people like me it's that just one victory to get me on my way.  Not only that, my final pace - even with the walking - was 12:25.  When I got home to sync my run, the badge popped up to tell me I earned the Nike Global Game On badge for running today.  Perhaps I'll take a trip into Niketown later see if they have a special shirt or something... I feel like I need to celebrate this mental victory.

So now, with the sounds of the mens' marathon in London in the next room to encourage me, I'm laying out a training plan for the Tufts 10k in October.  I'll pick a half for some time beyond that.  So yeah, I did my homework and passed my assessment.   Life is good.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

We raise our banners high....

"Out of the dark the fragile come
into the bright of the day...
we rise and stake our claim
we raise our banners high and sing in union...
we live free and die free
we stand as one and take on all
on the road to victory."

Today's music was the Ramshackle Army, a Celtic punk band out of Australia that opened one of the St. Pat's shows at the House of Blues for the Dropkick Murphys.  Their song "Uprising Young Citizen" seemed appropriate today as we were asked to bring shirts to be tagged "November Project." It's a shirt I'll wear with pride because this is one I've truly earned.

The numbers of this group have grown exponentially since I started doing this.  Looking back over the last six weeks (has it only been six weeks?), there were about 40 people and today there were probably close to a couple of hundred!  How amazing is that?  We truly are a ramshackle army throwing off the conventional gyms and workouts to challenge ourselves on our own terms.  It doesn't matter if you're an overweight middle aged woman walking the stairs or a fit athlete that is doing "the Frog man" (50 sections in under 30 minutes).  We are there and we are high-fiving, cheering and encouraging each other to keep going.

Today I covered 15 sections in under 35 minutes a PR for me.  (^_^)  There were only a few "I think I want to die" moments and I realized how hard I was pushing myself when I understood why people puke when pushing themselves to the limit and beyond.  My water wasn't sitting well as I kept pushing instead of stopping.  I only paused a couple of times on the trips up and only sat at the top once.

One high point today, as I worked my way up a section about 25 minutes in, someone stood at the top and "reeled" me in to keep me going.  "We all need a little help sometimes," she said with a smile.  Another woman and I kept reminding each other "20 minutes to go, we got this..." "only 10 more minutes, keep going...." "you can get one more section, there's just under 5 minutes to go...."  At the finish, when we were picking up our shirts and getting ready for the group photo, people were all greeting each other in a similar manner: You looked good out there, how many did you get in today?

It is easy to work out when you have support.  It's also easier to push yourself when you see others doing so as well.  Let's get real, too often our minds quit on us long before our bodies do.  Whether it's the mental fight with the bed magnet in the morning, walking instead of pushing yourself a bit more when you run, that last set of reps that get the better of you... you name it.  We hold ourselves accountable more easily when we know we're accountable in public.

I will really miss this group come the start of the school year.  Most people have an extra hour to get their butts into work than I do.  I have to be in the building by 8, which means leaving the house by 7:40 and with a shower ahead of that, I have to be home by 7.  This gives me two choices: finish my work out by 6:40 or find a way to connect virtually.  Instead of Harvard Stadium, perhaps the football stadium at the local high school and the killer hill across from the high school that climbs over 100 feet in .23 miles similar to the Brookline hill we run on Fridays.  Deck of cards work out?  I have a living room floor and a deck of cards.... I can continue this and will have to mentally flash on the summer days where people smiled, high fived and called out encouragement.

So I will raise the banner of this ramshackle army high and with pride and really enjoy pushing myself the next four weeks.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Deck of Cards and Hubway

Today we met by the giant Arthur Fiedler head on the Esplanade in Boston for a 20 minute deck of cards workout.  Deck of cards workouts are when you assign a specific exercise to suits of a deck of cards and the number on the card is how many you do.

This was a first for many things today for me.  First I had to get to Boston and I can't take my bike on the T, so I spent a bit of time thinking things through.  First I realized that if I got off at Copley, I could grab a Hubway rental bike and ride over to the Esplanade and park there and grab another one back to the T.

Having never done a deck of cards work out, I wasn't sure what to expect there either.  They kept it easy for us in that it was red cards were sit ups and black cards were push ups (or was it the other way around?)  Our group made it half way through the deck in the 20 minutes.  Some of us took turns holding members' feet so they could do the sit ups and some of us switched off to  push ups on our knees to be able to do the full amount with good form.

The guys announced that part of the work out was how we got there.  It was a chance to run some miles or whatever it was we needed to do to add to that 20 minute core workout.  With that in mind, I decided to ride the Hubway bike all the way up Comm Ave from Arlington Street to Kenmore Square.

Here's the thing, the City of Boston has marked bike lanes (a new experiences for me), but it's on the left hand side of Comm Ave until you get to Charles Gate East where the Back Bay turns into the Fenway neighborhood.  Then the lane goes across all the traffic to the right hand side where cars are turning onto/coming off of Storrow Drive.  Fortunately, at 7 in the morning, traffic was light but I could see this being a nightmare during commuter hours.

I followed the bike lane around the outskirts of Kenmore and decided to go as far as the Landmark Center by the Fenway T stop.  Along the way I passed various other folks from the November Project heading out.  They had gone for a run towards home or the T and passed by in a couple of different spots along the route.  My early morning ride felt good and I parked the bike easily at Landmark Center and grabbed the T back to my car and home.

It was a good workout this morning, a couple of easy bike rides, a solid core workout and a lot of new experiences to get me going for the day and for the week.  I'm already checking commuter rail and bus schedules to see if I can take my bike into town for the morning and then find a pleasant ride home before school starts up and my mornings are booked with getting out the door to work.  Until then, I'll take full advantage of my 3 a week August workouts.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Get off my back!

Hawthorne had to wait
while I ran 4 hill repeats
in Brookline today


Today was 4 hill repeats, a new PR for me.  It didn't feel bad and, to be honest, I probably could have pushed myself to 5 but this damn Hawthorne paper is weighing heavily on me.  If you haven't worked hard for a grade in a class that should be in your wheelhouse but isn't, then it's hard to explain why the last few weeks have been all Hemingway and Hawthorne.    I am a writer, but critical writing feels so forced and tedious.  I just don't understand why it doesn't flow from my finger tips to the keyboard the way a piece of fiction or poetry does.  A 1,000 word column, no sweat.  A 1,000 word critical analysis of the role of gender in Hemingway... not so much.

On Monday, when I press the send button, I will feel free from Blithedale and the Utopian experiments of the mid-late 1800's New England and I have four glorious weeks of my style of writing before I go back to herding small children.

Unfortunately, Nathaniel Hawthorne stands between me and that sense of joy right now.  So up and down the hills, when I wasn't chatting with locals about what we were doing and why, I was trying not to run with dear old Nathaniel.  He was too sad and his whining about people not getting his vision of Utopia only slowed me down as it sat uncomfortably on my shoulders.

Instead I chose to put him down and fall back into Reverend Peyton's "Mama's Fried Potatoes" and Flatfoot 56's "Hoity Toity" to recapture the joy of running.  So back to ride the shores of sanity off the coast of vanity of Utopian societies in New England, grateful for that 50 minute escape I had this morning.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Eleven Easy Steps and Chet Stedman

Using music as a motivational playlist for your life is nothing new.  When I drive into Harvard or out to Brookline, I keep my iPod on shuffle to see what tone I need to set for myself.  Today's inspiration came from Trout Fishing in America.

Umm.... Trout Fishing in America?  That odd book by Richard Brautigan that inspired hippies everywhere back in the day?  Nope, the band from Texas that do acid folk and kids music that adults can listen to without wanting to stab their eyes out with a fork.  (Screw Raffi and the Wiggles, my kids grew up listening to Trout and They Might Be Giants... before they started doing kids' music along with good old rock and roll.)  Trout keep getting nominated for grammy awards and lose to Elmo.  When they lost to They Might Be Giants, it was all cool because that's kind of like Judy Dench losing the Oscar to Meryl Streep, it was a call that was more of coin flip than because someone was better than the other.

But I digress.  Trout set the tone today with their song "Eleven Easy Steps" and the declaration, "I know imagination is the only thing that can stop me."

If you have never done a stadium step run when you have a touch of acrophobia which leads to a sense of vertigo, then you know that your fears are in your imagination.  That image of your broken body after it's rolled down 30+ concrete steps to lie broken at the bottom of the wall is your imagination.  It is that "can't do" instead of your "have to." (For those of you unfamiliar with the "have to" speech, rent a copy of "Rookie of the Year" and it's that fabulous moment where even Gary Bussey realizes how incoherent he really sounds.)

Banishing the image from my imagination, I started up the stairs today with a new goal for August: how far can I get in 35 minutes?  This is important because come September, I have to be at school at 8 am, showered and ready to herd cats... I mean elementary students.  Thirty five minutes gives me a good work out and enough time to get home, shower and head into school ready to face the day.

Taking a deep breath, I let my good imagination kick in.  The one that saw me in a pair of jeans a size smaller before the school year starts.  The one that saw me getting stronger, faster and ready to rock.  Up the stairs, down the stairs and do it again.  Less breaks for shorter times, section by section I pushed and climbed and clambered down.

In the end I managed to cover 16 sections in 35 minutes, a new PR for myself.  Not bad given my hip flexors were flipping me off the whole time.  Had I let myself go to where I finished last week, it would have been in less time than I finished last week... either way, it works.  I went to the "have to" and my imagination didn't stop me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

My own pace

When Pikagirls run
They always go their own pace
and run their own race

#haiku #amrunning

Today we ran hill repeats and this week the goal was to beat last week's time.  My ambitious goal was to run a 4th hill repeat - unfortunately the flesh was willing but the spirit was weak as I still have "The Blithedale Romance" running through my head and the looming 12 page (minimum) cultural criticism in reference to Utopian communes and how that helps the reader understand the book.

Yeah... that's what I do to earn my teaching certification so I can continue to warp little minds at the elementary school.

As a result I had to fall back on beating last week's time which, according to my Nike+, I did by 30 seconds so take that Nathaniel Hawthorne!

Add this to beating my time for 11 sections on Wednesday by a minute and this week was a success.  My August goals will be to push myself to go a little faster and a little further.  Come Wednesday morning I'll be at Harvard Stadium ready to start pushing to a full tour by the end of the month and 5 hill repeats in Brookline.  Once I can do a full tour and 5 repeats, I'll be able to start pushing my pace.

For now, I'll throw myself into Hawthorne the way I threw myself at the hill this morning and the stadium the other day and plan to run another day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Halfway Point - 18 sections done, 18 section to go

View from the top after
17 sections
 There are 37 sections at Harvard Stadium and there are about 31 steps in each section.  On  July 3rd I was able to make it up and down three sections and spent several days wishing I could sit down without wincing.  I ate a lot of ibuprofen, drank a lot of water and prayed for the pain to stop.

The prayers worked... well, time worked and by the time the next work out rolled around I was ready to try again.  I made it up and down 5 sections and the next day I could sit without thinking about it and without ibuprofen.  Last week I made it through 11 sections and today, the goal was 15 sections.

When I got there, Brogan challenged me.  He asked my goal and then said, "Not to pressure you but we talk about half tours and full tours, shoot for a half tour."

Ummmm...right.  Fifteen maybe, but 18 sections?

I got to 11 and took a deep breath.  I knew I could push past this point and kept going.  Stopping at the top of each section, for a minute or so to assess and evaluate where I was: 15 sections and my goal.  Then slowly I ascended a 16th section, paused and came down before looking at the 17th section.  I started up and the steps again: left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.  I got to the top and smiled.  I did it, I was going to meet the 1/2 tour challenge when I went the rest of the way around and climbed to the top of section one.

As always, my fellow November Project members kept me going when my mind wanted to quit.  Between high 5's as I dragged myself up the stairs and the shouts of encouragement.

I made it all the way to the top of section one and yelled, "SHIT YEAH THAT MAKES 18!!!" and the response was cheers and applause from the folks who had finished before me.

For those who think that workouts are for losing weight or maybe about strengthening the body, but it's more than that.  It's about changing a perspective.

The feeling of invigoration after making a half tour was really amazing.  On the way home, I needed to pick up some half and half for my morning coffee and some OJ.  As I stood in the supermarket aisle, I noticed the yogurt and thought, "I haven't made a smoothie in a while and I think I still have some frozen berries in the fridge....."

Next thing I know, a container of Greek yogurt was in the basket and it wasn't long before I home and whipping up an old favorite: a cup of OJ, a container of yogurt and a cup of frozen berries.

Not that long ago a workout in the morning would have been justification to hit the drive through for an  egg and cheese sandwich and count it as healthy.  It's not that it's not healthy, it's just not the healthiest choice (particularly when you add some bacon... because an eggamuffin without bacon is just boring) or subbing that bland English Muffin for a tasty biscuit.  Maybe it would be the justification for a donut (hey I just did half a tour of Harvard Stadium, I can have a donut) or some other crazy thing.  It was easy to pass the drive through today, something that wasn't so easy my first time through when I stopped to get coffee and that oreo donut looked pretty good.

My work may not always show at the scale, but it certainly is showing in being able to push a bit harder along with little changes that will add up to a healthier life style overall.

Friday, July 20, 2012

uphill, downhill, lather, rinse, repeat

A haiku for the day:

What would be our sign?
Crazy runners in the road!
(we make this look good)

The hill we do repeats on Friday mornings rises 317 feet over the course of about 1/3 of a mile.  It's a steep grade and making it up the hill can be tough.

This week the goal was 3 hill repeats and it looked doubtful at first.  I went to the Warped Tour yesterday and wore flip-flops most of the day.  My left instep hates me and my calves aren't happy.  I wasn't sure if I'd make it this morning but pushed myself out the door.

I got to the hill and told myself: "I'll walk up the hill and run down it and see what happens."  At the bottom of the hill after the first round, I thought, "I can match last week's 2 up & backs."  One step at a time: right foot, left foot; I made it to the top and ran down.  I wasn't sure if I had a 3rd in me, but I told myself that I could make it to a set of traffic cones half way up.  Then it was making it to the summit, which was in sight.... which was in sight.... which was - hey, why does the summit keep moving?  Oh wait, there it is!

I averaged around a 15 minute mile, finishing the 3 repeats in around 36 minutes.

My instep felt much better with the support of my shoes.  Looking at my 5 workouts with November Project so far:

wk 1: stairs 3 full sections, a bunch of half sections in 27 minutes
wk 2: stairs 5 full sections in 25 minutes; 2 hill repeats in 25:33
wk 3: stairs 11 full sections in 29 minutes; 3 hill repeats in 37 minutes

What will week 4 bring?  It's hard to say, but I do feel my legs getting stronger and my breathing getting easier.

But the real highlight for me today was the older man who lives in the neighborhood struggling in his walk up the hill.  I passed him at one point and on my way down, we made eye contact.  I gave him a thumbs up and he gave me a big smile.  That and poetry are always a good way to start the day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Don't be a quitter

Today I pushed myself on the stairs at Harvard. Two weeks ago I made it up 3 full flights, last week it was 5 and today the goal was 7-10. I managed to make it up 11 flights.  My level of soreness also has shifted.  After that first day, I hurt for 3 days and could barely move. Last week my legs were all wobbly for a while, but the soreness wasn't there.  Today just feels good.

But I didn't do it alone.

Here's the cool thing about this group, we help each other. I was struggling a bit up part of the way through when someone high-dived me and said, "You can do it!"  With a renewed smiled, I pushed on.  As I sat at the bottom after 10, I figured I was done. Someone sat down next to me and we chatted as she took a break. She told me I had one more in me. She convinced me that I had one more in me and I figured, "Why not try?"

I pushed myself slowly up, one step at a time, until I reached the top. There I was, facing the end zone and the word CRIMSON in big white letters. I had done it. Eleven flights, 100 yards, 330 or so steps.

Today I fell back on one of my music standards to drive me on. Flatfoot 56 is a Celtic punk band from Chicago. I love the steady rhythm and they have one of the best pipers out there. (I love Spicy McHaggis from the Dropkicks, but Flatfoot's piper is better.) The other thing about Flatfoot is they have inspirational lyrics. Being a Christian band, sometimes the message can get a bit heavy handed but then you hear something like, "Be a man, don't be a quitter," when you're thinking you can't move another step and suddenly you feel the right foot step up, then the left until I was standing at the top.

Next week the goal is 15 sections. Friday I'm pushing for 3 hill repeats.that will make 5 workouts with November Project this month. I hope to get back to yoga soon and swimming next week when my schedule lightens up a bit. In the meantime, I'll use the insanity of these work outs to keep myself sane.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Out of my control

Sometimes I figure I need to let other things control a run. Today I took that challenge.

First I set my Nike+ to 30 minutes instead of a distance. That way it was as far as I could run in that time span. Next I set my music for shuffle and started off.

The music was everything from Bach's Brandenburg concertos to ZZ Top to Beck to whatever. It was an odd eclectic mix as I ran 2.5 miles in the humid morning. Sometimes it's good to let go like that and just see what happens.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Let your colors burst

'Cause baby you're a firework
come on and show them what you're worth
make 'em go "Oh oh oh"
as you shoot across the sky-sky-sky

There are days when music can really inspire a run.  Today was one of those days where the music and the run all synced up nicely and one of the songs that did it was Katy Perry's song "Firework."

We all have days when self-esteem is at a low and the "I can't do this" starts to kick in.  Recently, as I struggle to finish up classes (and everything else on my plate), I sometimes find myself overwhelmed.  I will sit for a period of time playing puzzle games: solitaire, tetris, word puzzles, mancala... you name it; as I sort through the checklists in my mind.  Those are the days when I need a run more than ever but finding the motivation to get dressed and get out there.  I am that plastic bag drifting in the wind on those days - which seem to be more frequent as some of the the assignments feel more and more pointless.

Recently I've used the motivation of the November Project to keep myself in motion.  Last week and this week I showed up to run the stairs at Harvard Stadium.  Today I made it to Road in Brookline to do hill repeats.  It's a steep, steep hill and my goal was to get one good up and down in.

Then Katy Perry broke through.  Like all songs, there is that one line that jumps out in those moments, in this time it was "you just gotta ignite the light and let it shine."

That little line was enough to make me ring the pole at the bottom and shoot back up to the top.  Running 30 seconds, walking 60, running 30, walking 60... until I got to the top and then run back down again.  Two up and backs.  Boom, boom, boom.

Next Friday the goal will be 3 up and backs.  Today was a reminder to myself that I can do this and I'm stronger than I sometimes feel.  Between now and Wednesday I'll get another run in because I'm strong enough to keep this going.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It gets easier

I went back to run Harvard Stadium this morning. This time I made it 5 full sections and 10 half sections. Instead of stiffening up like last week, my legs felt a hair wobbly for a few minutes and then they felt fine. I went swimming at lunch time and felt strong.

I'm planning on the Friday morning hill repeats with November Project. I'm going back to Harvard next Wednesday and I'm setting a goal of 7-10 full sections and continuing on with half sections from there. I'm also continuing on with yoga. After all, the reasons I run? I'm strong and amazing... And pretty bad ass.

Friday, July 06, 2012

We should all look this good

Yesterday the soreness from Tuesday had let up quite a bit so I went swimming.  I was excited that the senior center water aerobics ladies are back.  These women are funny, social women with a wonderful sense of snarkiness that never fails to make me smile.  There are also a couple of senior gentlemen that come with the group and they do laps while the women pretend to do some aerobics with the life guards.

One of the men is an older Asian man with a fascinating background.  Every time he's there, the women squeal and hug him.  They are always asking why he wasn't at dinner.... does he want to join them for dinner.... the bus is going, do you want to join us....  This guy gets more action than a lot of college kids at a party school!

While chatting with him and one of the women doing laps, I discovered he will be 100 in a month or so!  You could have knocked me over with a feather, he is so active and doesn't look that old.  He only learned to swim a few years back and he is lean and fit.

This morning on the news was a report that, according to a Canadian study, lack of exercise is more dangerous to our health than smoking or other well known risk factors.  I think about the seniors at the pool and how young all of them feel - in spite of quadruple bypasses, strokes and other things that come with aging.  There is a lesson here and may we all look, and feel, this good when we're their age.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Vertigo or The Real Stair Master

These are the stairs around Harvard Stadium, 37 sections of them. It seemed like a good idea joining The November Project when I woke up this morning, now I'm glad I joined them but I am totally questioning why I thought I could do this.

For 35 minutes we ran up the "big" stairs (the wide platforms for seating) and walked down the "small" stairs (the stairs you normally use to go up and down to your seats), section by section.  It doesn't sound like much - running up and down stairs - but there's a reason this is what athletes do to condition.  It's hard work.

Then there was a problem I didn't anticipate: vertigo from the top of the bowl when you're going down.  I got to the top of that first section and turned around and it was like a zoom lens was going back and forth as I looked at the bottom, looked at where I was and looked at the bottom again.  Gingerly I stepped back down one step at a time and tried the second section only to have it happen again.  By the 3rd section, I knew this was going to be all of the "official" workout I'd be able to do.  I then proceeded to only walk up the small stairs, grabbing handrails when possible, turn around and shield my eyes so I could only see my feet as I walked back down.

After 5 sections I knew this was all I would be able to do today.  I then started walking up about 1/3 of the way and back down again until my legs were like jelly.  I walked about a third of the way around the bowl to keep doing the 1/3's, maybe pushing it to the top of the entry tunnels if I felt braver.  I finished the bowl in 27 minutes by doing it that way and felt a bit like a wuss.

When all was said and done, I began talking to folks and learned I was not alone.  The down piece bothers a lot of people when they first start out and eventually you get used to it.  I'll see how I do next Wednesday morning.

Things I learned: this is wicked hard. I learned I have vertigo. I learned my legs hate me now. I learned my limit and pushed it a bit beyond which truly makes me somewhat bad assed.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Swimming with the fishes

On my 3rd day of a yoga/swim combo work, I asked my husband if he wanted to join me when I went to the pool.  He's not a big pool guy, he prefers the local public lake.  I figured it was better to have him come with me and go to the lake if it meant getting him out of the house for a bit.

So to the lake it was.

I don't like lakes.  If I'm going to swim in a natural body of water, I'm an east-coast ocean girl.  Yet I found myself sitting on the new docks at the lake.  Gone was the splintery wood from the past, now replaced with smooth recycled plastic timbers.  Also gone was the raft and oddly configured swim space.  Everything was now laid out geometrically.  Unfortunately what remained were the screaming, splashing kids that I avoid when I go for the "adult swim time" at the local pool.  Even though they are contained behind a floating line, their voices are not and hearing an excited child utter, "Mommy I went poo!" is not my ideal swim experience.

But sitting on the end of the dock, where the kids aren't allowed, with my husband was nice.  Our toes dragging in the chilly water as the sun warmed our backs, I was reminded of when we were first together and would often steal these kinds of moments while the kids safely played and swam in that contained area.

However, I was there to swim too.  I like swimming with my husband.  He used to be a diver and he a fluid motion when he swims, that efficient stroke and kick that divers develop to propel themselves and conserve energy at the same time.  I jumped in and swam to the far line of the delineated swimming area and called out, "What time is it?"  I wanted to time how long I was in for but my ironman watch is now taking in water, so I can only wear it as a watch or running until I have it fixed or replace it.

"I'm not going in," he called back, "I'm going to take a nap over on the grass."

Fabulous.  I gave up cycling and my comfortable swim zone for him and now he was going to sleep instead of swim.  It came out as, "What time is it?  I need to time how long I'm swimming."

"Quarter after..."

I then began the long swim, alone.  He watched for a while before he headed off to rest in the shade.

Reaching the far end of the delineated area, I felt something nip my foot.  Startled I kicked and splashed for a moment and then remembered why I dislike the lake: they stock it with fish who are sometimes aggressive with swimmers.  After 20 minutes of swimming (and fish fighting), I swam in to my chest height (still in the "adult" area) and did my resistance exercises.  While I held onto the edge of the dock for balance as I did my leg lifts and such, I noticed a fish under the dock.  It was just hanging there, suspended in the water watching me.  Soon it was joined by a couple of more fish buddies, all of them watching me watching them.  

It was a bit surreal.

I finished my exercises and did my achilles work before climbing out and heading in to rouse my husband.

Three full days of workouts and I feel stronger, but today I think I'll head to the pool on my own where I can see the floor of the pool, the clock on the wall and don't have to contend with fish or children.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Insanity Workouts

Today I had a good workout.  It was crazy but it was good and I feel strong.

It started with a 90 minute Flow Foundation yoga class.  I was sweating like a sinner in church during a heatwave.  I could see sweat dripping off my nose and feel it running down my back.  It was hard to find my center when I was mentally taking notes like: wear a tank top under my shirt in the future... noting where to place blocks and wondering if I looked as dorky and awkward as I felt compared to the experienced folks in the class.

Then I rode my bike from the yoga studio to the pool.  I locked my stuff up and went for a 30 minute run.  The first 7 or 8 minutes were fine and then my legs got my brain's attention.  I think the conversation went something like this:

Legs: "Hey, jerkweed."
Brain: "Are you talking to me?"
Legs: "Damn tootin' sweetheart.  What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Brain: "I think I'm running.  Why?"
Legs: "After 90 freakin' minutes of yoga?"
Brain: "Is that a problem?"
Legs: "It doesn't take Obviousman to know that we're feeling a bit tired here."
Brain: {thinking}
Brain: "Did you want me to slow things down?"
Legs: "Um... YEAH."
Brain: "For how long?"
Legs: {caught off guard} "Um... a couple of minutes?"
Brain: "Cool.  All you had to do was ask."

After a couple of minutes, I picked up the pace and about 7 minutes later, my legs requested another slow down.  I made it through 30 minutes and spent almost 1/2 a minute struggling with the new Nike+ interface (human design my left big toe).  Done with that, I was standing outside the pool and ready to just relax.

I like water workouts, they're essentially weightless.  Ten lazy laps, some hip strengthening exercises in the water (where the resistance is futile or felt) and a few minutes of floating, I dried myself off and pedaled home.

Who needs a bootcamp when you have insanity?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

One Misty Moisty Morning

It took everything in me to go out this morning.  I hate this feeling of running in a cloud where everything is little droplets that cling to you like barbs leaving you damp.  Not wet but damp like a dish rag on the sink.  Add a bit of clamminess to that and it's a good morning to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot coffee, a warm kitty and trashy TV.

No such luck for me.

The kitties are still skittish since they're new to the house (although Odin did a great job dusting the front end of the treadmill for me, no one made coffee and the closest to trash TV this time of the day is Fox News or MSNBC trashing their opponents.

After Sunday's race, I realized my Saucony Omni 9's were just flat out dying.  I love those shoes and I hated the feel of the 10's so I figured it was time to make a trip to Marathon Sports to look at the Hurricanes.  To my surprise, they had the Omni 11's and they fit like a glove.  All springy and happy and comfy, they hugged my feet the way my 9's used to.  While I'm a little sad they no longer come in alien green and now have blue shoes, I was sold and this morning they were truly my incentive for braving the cloud sitting over Boston right now.

This is perhaps the best run I've had since... well, I can't remember when.  For the most part, it was because I ran.  No run/walk (with the exception of a minute of walking about 7 minutes in), it was a 2 mile run.  Nice and steady up a hill, down a hill, back up a hill and back down until I made it home.  My legs were strong, my breathing was strong and my feet were smiling.

So the streak continues (even with a lame ass attempt on Saturday and another yesterday) and I feel just a little more badass than I have in a long time.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Smuttynose 5k

The name of this race is "Will Run For Beer," it even says so on the shirt. :)

Looking at the weather, I was a bit nervous as it looked like cold and rainy. If I hadn't arranged to go to the race with a friend, I might have blown it off. Instead, Tom pulled up and off we went to the wilds of Hampton, NH.

The race director had sent out a few emails telling people to show up early or you'd have to park a 1/2 mile from the finish line. What he didn't say was the finish line was almost a mile away from the start line. So before the race even started, you logged over a mile!

We got there at 9:30 for an 11:00 race and ended up in the far parking lot.. Fortunately, another friend got there early enough that she was parked near the finish line so we could sit in her warm car until it was time to walk to the start.

And walk we did. It was close to a 20 minute walk to the start and the crowd was huge. It took a minute and a half before I crossed the start line and fortunately people were running almost as soon as you crossed the start line. The first stretch was uphill and all I could see were a group of dotted colors of the runners. There was a see of safety yellow, bright orange, neon green and other colors all tightly packed up ahead of me.

This was a race over country road that looked like New Hampshire. There was even a covered bridge on the course. The first mile was mostly uphill. The mist that was falling would turn to rain at times and then back to mist. As I turned the corner and saw the first mile marker, I also saw a group of people holding "Go Runners!" signs and ringing cowbells. It made me smile because, while running in the rain can be pleasant, standing in it to cheer on runners is really special.

Running over the covered bridge I came up the hill and saw a couple of black llamas. That's right, a couple of llamas hanging out in a field next to a barn. My delight at the llamas quickly faded when we all caught the smell of the llamas and farm. Yep, there's a reason I live in the city and wet llama makes a wet dog smell good!

Mile 2 came up and I was still under a 13 minute pace. While the time had creeped up from just over 12 minutes/mile, it was still comfortably under 13. Here the course took a downhill turn and began to fold back on itself. It wasn't long before I passed the start gate and knew I was .8 miles from the finish. At this point I was feeling a bit winded. In the distance I saw people turning to the left and knew I was pretty much done. I crossed at the 42:10 mark on the clock but figured about 1:26 off that for the start. My final time was 40:17 for a 13:00 minute even pace.

I met up with my friends and we decided the beer line was too long, so we went out for ice cream instead. :)

Right now I feel pretty badass considering ran 2.1 in the rain and NH roadways.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Streaking 'round town

I didn't think I'd make it this far, but I've run 4 days in a row and I'm planning on a run after I get home today.

Last night it was 2.6 with the running club and I pushed myself a little more.  The push dropped me below the 13 min/mile mark.  That means over the course of May, I managed to shave over 30 seconds/mile off my time.  I'm shooting for a 12 minute mile by July 4 and this is the first time it's felt in reach in a long time.

Mostly I've been shooting to go out for a mile or two in the morning, but I want to try to mix it up a bit as I go into the end of the week here to see what kind of runs work best for me.  The general game plan is to stick to the plan: long run on Sunday, a mile or two daily until I meet up with the running club on Thursday and then a mile or two to end the week.

On Sunday I'll make the decision about a fall half.  Yep, I said it, a fall half.  I'm thinking the Smuttynose half in NH at the end of September.  My niece is doing the full, a bunch of friends are doing the half so it makes sense.  Perhaps I can get my sister to come too, that would be nice. :)

Right now, it's time to get ready for the day. :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This one's for Bama

A running friend posted she was going for the Runner's World 38 day streak challenge.  The idea is to run at least a mile a day, every day, from Memorial Day until the 4th of July.  No small feat for someone like me.

For some reason, it sounded like a good idea at the time.  I held off on my normal Sunday run and went out for a strong 2 miles Memorial Day morning.

It was a great run, everything felt good about it from the fact that I was taking 1 - 1:30 minute walking breaks after 5 or more minutes of running to the route and pacing to... well, you name it.  It all felt good.  I was pumped and ready to go.

Then I woke up this morning and thought, "Damn, I have to run today?!"  I had nightmares about it (mixed in with scenes from Kung Fu Panda 2 and the Avengers... don't ask) and this morning I looked out on a foggy day and realized there was no way I was getting out of my pjs to go for a 1 mile run.

The powers that be then took aim at me with a cosmic clue by four and smacked me the way Salty smacked that ball Saturday night into the bleachers.  There it was calling from across the room: my treadmill.

Really... a treadmill?  It's almost June and it's unplugged and folded up with my husband's glider behind it now.  Rather than risk another smack from the cosmic clue by four upside the head, I sighed and moved the glider, lowered the treadmill bed and plugged it in.  A mile later I was still cursing the powers that be, but it was done.  Day two is now in the books.  Miss Bama, this one was for you as another OFA participant.

Tomorrow I will dress and go outside because it's just not worth all that work for one mile.  On the other hand, knowing I can do that will deter me from saying it can't be done.

Two down, 36 to go.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Poetry in Motion

I blew off Thursday night's Marsh Post run because I was in a really bad mood.  Like a "you don't want to be anywhere near me..." mood that even inspired my son to take out the trash without being asked and people not saying a word as I watched trash TV all night.

When I woke up Friday, I was still feeling grumpy and made myself go out for the 2.6 miles I normally would have done Thursday night.  I'm glad I did.  In the early morning air, I felt renewed.  I also realized I'm starting to get over the hurdle that goes from "shit this is hard," to "I got this."  It's an important hurdle to cross.

Coming home on Friday, my copy of Writer's Digest arrived and the monthly poetry corner had an article on Quaterns.  Quaterns are 4 quatrains (a four-line stanza) with no particular rhythm beyond 8 syllables a line.  There isn't a rhyme scheme, but the first line of the poem is a refrain through out as the 2nd line in the 2nd stanza, a 3rd line in the 3rd and the 4th line in the 4th stanza.  I scanned the piece and then headed out to the mall to buy a birthday present for my mother.  As we pulled out of the driveway, I saw a runner and immediately thought: I went out running this morning.  Wait that's 8 syllables!  Sure enough, the poem followed:

I went out running this morning

I went out running this morning
the fresh air moved my feet along
the black, buckled asphalt pavement
in the early morning sunlight.

Other runners greeted me as
I went out running this morning
with the promise of summer's kiss
lingering on my sweaty face.

I could hear the sparrows singing
saw puppies pull their masters as
I went out running this morning
at the end of the spring season.

My spirt felt renewed, refreshed
as the squirrels and bunnies played
on manicured suburban lawns.
I went out running this morning.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

But first I'll run

It's that time of year where everyone is booked.  Between getting plants in the ground for the summer, cook outs, graduations, you name it, this is rough time of year for down time.

Or is it?

This morning I slept in until 6:30 (yes, that really is sleeping in for me) and looked at the day.  After thinking through everything, I decided one simple thing: but first I'll run.

Four miles, less than an hour out of my day to get a sense of me.  The other 23 can be scooting here and dashing there, but for just under one sole hour, it was me and the road.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Value of consistent workouts

Yeah, yeah, yeah, there's nothing new about consistent workouts making a positive difference but every so often, I have to find a way to remember that fact.

Sunday morning, I was pleasantly surprised when my 3.5 mile run went so smoothly.  I pushed myself for longer running times, took shorter/less frequent walking breaks and had a slightly less than 13:30 time.  Tuesday, I knew that I wasn't quite up for a run, but I was up for a walk so I walked 2 miles at a good pace.  Tonight I ran the Charles River course with my running club.  I shaved a full 15 seconds/mile off my time over last week's run.

Not bad at all.

That's the way it works though, if you're consistent in your training, your body responds consistently.  So now if I can get down to a 13 minute mile for the Smutty Nose 5k in a couple of weeks and a 12 minute mile by the big July race, I'll be able to think about which 10k I want to do this summer.

As always, one step at a time.  Just it's time for the steps to get a little quicker.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Poetry in Motion (Moody St 5k Race Report)

When Jim Walker (@brandnewwatch) sent out a tweet reminding folks that time was running out for signing up for the Moody Street 5K, I figured it was time for another race.  OK so I took a week off from running while I stressed over final projects for school and such and a race seemed like a good idea to get my butt back in motion.

I responded to him in haiku form:

Running Moody Street
5k on a May Sunday
hope the weather's nice

and he replied, "Hopefully we'll see some poetry in motion out there."

Hmmm... Jim, why'd you have to give me ideas? So I ran off to Target and picked up a cheap C9 wicking shirt and, in sharpie, drew a picture of a bear reading a book under some flowering plants and on the back I wrote:

Is there anything
as delightful as a run
in the morning sun?

I also added a couple of hashtags (#haiku #amrunning).  When I got to the race, someone said I should add my twitter name, so I found a sharpie and added @Karlsie.

The day started beautiful.  I left the house and the sun was out.  By the time I got to Waltham it was chilly and clouded over.  My husband was support crew and to show how supportive he was, he ran home and got a black compression shirt for me and drove back in time before the race start.  He now gets why I give myself a bunch of time before a race. ;)  I ran into a friend from the running club, we chatted for a bit before heading our separate ways for race prep.  We met up again just before the line up at the start of the race.  We realized there were a ton of kids from little ones up through high school as this was a race to benefit Waltham schools.  There were also a bunch of walkers, so it was going to be interesting.

We lined up on the bridge on Moody Street that goes over the Charles River, my friend near the front and me in the back.  A cold wind blew but just as the gun went off, the sun came out and the wind died down.  We started up Moody Street, which is a slight uphill.  I quickly fell into running 3 minutes/walking 2 minutes with a goal of a 13:30 mile.  This was my Sunday morning run and I wasn't going to push hard.  I had a goal of 42 minutes or less and the idea was to set a steady pace for myself.  We turned off Moody and down a side street at Mile One to loop around.  I was on track at a 13 minute pace and was relaxing into everything.  The loop was a mile through a side neighborhood with little glimpses of the Charles here and there.  At mile 2, I was still on track and we began the descent past the old Waltham Watch Factory and the DCR walkway along the Charles.  I loved being in the middle of the pack for a change at a race and really enjoyed knowing that there were plenty of folks behind me.

We wrapped down the side of the Charles and made the turn back onto Moody at the 3 mile mark.  Now here's were it got weird.  When I crossed where the start line was, you could hear the beep of the initial timer.  I kept running because the crowd seemed to be up ahead.  I'm glad I did because the finish was a good block or so up from the start line.  Had I slowed down/stopped at the beep, I wouldn't have finished the race.  As I crossed, the guy at the end yelled "41 minutes" - right in my goal range.

Later I checked the race results and saw that I did indeed finish in 41 and change with a 13 and change pace.  More importantly, nothing nagged, hurt or complained the whole time.  It felt good and I'm feeling a little more confident overall.

Another race is in the books and it's time to think about the next set of goals.  In the meantime, perhaps I'll put some of my haiku on the back of running shirts to inspire folks.  After all, poetry in motion is a good thing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Building blocks

After 5 miles on Sunday, I chose to scale back a little today to 2.5 instead of upping my mileage to 2.75.  It may seem silly to some that a 1/4 mile could be that big a deal, but I want to be sure that I'm not overusing or pushing anything to a breaking point.

It also allowed me to just focus on running longer.  No formal interval timing, just run until I wanted a little break, then walk a little until I felt like running again.  I focused on my posture and breathing as I ran along and had a really nice run this morning as a result, covering just over 2.5 miles in a little under 35 minutes.

Every run I try to notice something about the world around me and today it was the lilacs are coming out. I love lilacs, perhaps because they are only here for such a short time.  I love the scent, color and look of them, so it was nice this morning to get that surprise was just something worth smiling about.

Next week will include my 5 mile run on Sunday - I'm holding there for a bit, and a 3 mile run mid-week.  In a couple of weeks I'll split my mid-week run into two 2 mile runs and build from there.  When I have 1 5 mile and 2 2 mile runs, I'll start adding to the long run again.  Until then I'll keep going, one step at a time.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Doyle's 5 Mile

I love this race.

Have I ever told you that?  If not, I'm surprised because I love this race.

Quick recap: My goal was to run between a 13-14 min mile and finish in 1:10 or under.  I finished the 5 mile course in 1:09 before the rain came.

Full reca: All week long the weather has beautiful but today, the predictions were for rain and lots of it.  We need the rain as we're in drought conditions, but today?  Why?  At race time it was 55* and drizzly.  I could live with that, the hope was that the rain would hold off, and it ultimately did.  Gazelle Boy was shivering.  In his Kafka t-shirt and shorts, he was freezing in the raw conditions.  I know he likes to pass runners in these situations, but I was worried about him and wanted him to move up front.  He moved far enough front that I couldn't see him, but I had no idea where he was in the crowd.

To top it off, we were on our way to the race when I realized my watch and inhaler were on the coffee table at home (d'oh), so I took this as a a sign that I need to focus less on time and more on just running.  So I decided I would run through a song or two and then walk a song.

The start is always chaotic.  Two thousand runners trying to get across the start line is not a pretty sight.  This year was the first time the race was chip timed, so it didn't matter that it took a couple of minutes to get across.  I had somehow managed to start both the Nike+ GPS and the Nike+ - I'm not sure how but they were both battling for my attention on the course.   As always, the Boston Police Gaelic column stood at the 1/4 mile mark playing for us. :)

The drizzle stopped and we we were off.  I moved along to the my angry Irish run playlist and the beat of Floggy Molly.  Just before the 1 mile mark, there were a number of people jumping up and down trying to flag someone's attention.  I could see a small crowd gathered around someone and I said out loud, "Please G-d, don't let it be my son" as all I could see was a well toned leg in shoes like the ones he wears.  I got closer and caught a glimpse of the blue, long sleeved race shirt on the person and veered off.  Unless someone gave Gazelle Boy a shirt after he moved forward, it wasn't him.  There were a large number of people around the person, so I kept going saying a prayer that they'd be OK.

My heart went out of the race at that point.  I had no definitive way of knowing if Gazelle Boy was Ok or not, so I powered through.  He didn't pass me at his usual spot and I was starting to worry again until just after the 2nd mile mark I saw him in the distance coming down the road from the Franklin Park Zoo leg of the race.  I joyfully yelled my traditional greeting to him, "You're getting beat by a girl!"  He ran over and asked if I had an inhaler.  I said no, he said he was OK but... and took off in the direction of the last mile while I headed to the zoo and turn around.  A great weight had been lifted and I was back in the race.

I trucked along, pretty uneventfully, The women holding the 3rd mile marker were not in the right place, but it was OK since I knew about what I was doing.  I had settled into a good rhythm with some of the folks around me in terms of running/walking and passing/being passed.  This is perhaps my favorite part of the course.  Turning off the main road past the golf course and running through a wooded section with a little brook and ducks and green, green leaves of spring.  It's that feeling like you're somewhere other than the densest part of the city.  The final turn to go under the overpass and up the street to finish at Doyle's.

At the finish, I crossed at 1:09 and change.  My husband and Gazelle Boy stood there with a beer for me and we drank up.  I ran into one of my running buddies, couldn't find the others and we decided to get Gazelle Boy in from the cold and get some food.

Gazelle Boy's slow pace?  A 7:41 mile for 38:25.  My pace?  A 13:39 for a 1:08 finish.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On Top of the World

I love the Boston Marathon expo. It's exciting and inspiring. It was also one of those moments that strike you hard and stick with you. When I first walked in there was the Adidas/BAA display with a big "Adidas is all in" sign. There were people everywhere and the end of the song "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons was playing on my iPhone. The words ringing in my ears as I walked in:

‘Cause I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
Waiting on this for a while now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I’ve been waiting to smile, ‘ay
Been holding it in for a while, ‘ay
Take it with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child

And I know it’s hard when you’re falling down
And it’s a long way up when you hit the ground
Get up now, get up, get up now.

Summed up the journey for so many of the people walking through those doors. The expo is overwhelming and inspiring all at once. It's the time you get to talk to people who are runners or support runners for a living. You find people like you, meet people from all over the world and just drink in what it all means.

I love that the people are there and I can try on new running skirts and outfits. Last year I ranted about how so many companies don't get it. Big girls like me like to look cute too, and the folks at running skirts get that. I also look for this year's Boston shirts from Nike. It started a while back with the "Will run for chowdah" shirt. I also have "will run for a largah," and "Boston, it's wicked pissah" This year's was "Heartbreakah," which I wore with my new skirt this morning as I took to Heartbreak hill for a 4.5 mile run. I loved this morning's run. It was warm (in the 60's) and Comm Ave was busy with runners, walkers and local crews setting up for the Heartbreak Hill race this afternoon.

Tomorrow is the marathon and temperatures are predicted to be in the 80's, which is not good for marathoners. I know my water duties will be critical tomorrow. But today, today was a good day to run because I felt on top of the world.