Tag Archives: exercise

My Second 5K: The Monster Dash

The run is over, folks, and this Monster Dash 5K was even more fun than expected.

If you remember, I ran my first 5K just a couple of weeks ago. I registered on a whim, despite the fact that I’d already signed up for the Monster Dash as my goal event. That decision turned out to be a good move. Unfortunately, the day before the Monster Dash, I found out that they weren’t timing the 5K event! Since I had been training to break a time goal, this was disappointing. I had perused the entire website before registering for the 5K, and somehow neglected to realize that was the case. On the bright side, this took off the pressure to perform, which was a good thing – because Xavier had registered to run with me, and we wanted it to be fun!

Please indulge me while I brag about the man I love for a minute. He absolutely hates running, despite spending lots of time as a successful track and field competitor in high school. But he’s sweet enough to jog with me at least once a week, and determined enough to complete a five-miler out of the blue. (That is completely beyond my capacity as a human being and an athlete). I was so excited for him to join me in a race, but a little nervous. I had been training more than him – I didn’t want to hold back just for the sake of staying together on the course. So the lack of timing was a relief. It meant we could stick together and just enjoy the experience of running through the streets of downtown Atlanta, surrounded by people in costume.

(Of course, I used my Nike running app to time us anyway).

It was definitely fun to arrive to a race and find yourself surrounded by Halloween festivities. There were some really creative costumes out there. A few couples, especially, had really gone all-out with their ideas. One of my favorites was a pair that included a convict and a policeman. There were pirates, three blind mice, superheroes, and a whole lot more. Although I might be biased, my opinion is that our Greek Olympian costumes were the coolest of all – even if strangers approached my boyfriend to ask him what was under his skirt.

We aren’t hardcore runners, so when it came time to arrange ourselves in the chute, we debated for a minute. Should we line up at the 10:00/mile pace? What about the 11:00? In the end, we stuck to 9:30.

The gun went off and we took off, weaving in and around other runners for a couple of minutes until the pack settled into their paces. The course began right next to Phillips Arena and took us through the city streets. It was very exciting to be running through downtown Atlanta. Fortunately, we found ourselves towards in a clear zone relatively quickly. That was when the unexpected occurred. Barely a quarter-mile into the race and crossing a bridge, I tripped on a metal strut. I don’t know how it even happened. One second I was happily trotting along. The next, I looked down and tried to skip the metal thing. Then I was on my hands and knees on the asphalt.

The other runners were very concerned, but I bounced up immediately and was lucky to have just a couple of scrapes on my palms and knees. There was no blood whatsoever. The experience was a little startling. At least now I can say I’ve survived falling during a race!

Even considering that little mishap, the rest of the race was a great time. I loved running through all of Atlanta’s buildings, on quieted streets that are usually choked with traffic. Maybe because we were towards the front of the pack, we had mostly ample space to keep our pace, with minimal bobbing and weaving around other runners.

And somehow, we managed to beat my goal! I’d originally just hoped to break 29:00, knocking 30 seconds off my first 5K time two weeks prior. Imagine my shock when my Nike Running app clocked our 5K at 28:41. Although the race wasn’t officially timed, it was reassuring to have evidence of awesomeness on my trusty running app.

Tune in to find out what’s next…

Coming through the finish line

Worst blogger ever

Atlanta, dusk – my photo

So much for New Year’s resolutions, right? I started this blog to keep up with my writing and motivate myself to keep working out. Now it’s mid-March, two and a half months into 2012. Let’s do a little review:

– I wanted to write. I wrote a lot in January. In February, I got busy and stopped writing. March has been similarly barren thus far. Grade? Fail.

– Exercise. I wanted to work out at least four times a week. In January I faltered. In February, I ran a lot. Then I began experiencing stabbing pain in my ankles, not just during runs but all the time. I stopped running. But we did start rock climbing, and with that, attending an abs/core class at the gym. I can now climb a 60-foot grade 5.8 route with an incline. Not bad for a beginner. Grade? Pass.

– Learning. I wanted my Spanish to improve, my guitar playing to improve, to learn piano, to take more photographs, to apply to grad school. Well, it’s embarrassing to admit that I haven’t put much effort into any of that. Grade? Epic fail.

I could come up with any excuse in the book to explain how poorly I’ve been doing with my goals. But the truth is, it’s poor time management coupled with constant exhaustion. If we climb four times a week, then come home to prepare and eat dinner, I’m completely spent and will pass out on the couch by 11:30 at the latest. I must be awakened and dragged to bed, lest I spend all evening curled into a back-tweaking crescent shape against the angle of the couch. Also, we’ve been on a mission to eat at home as frequently as possible. There’s no excuse not to: I can cook, and it makes much more financial sense for us at the moment. But food preparation, and then cleaning the kitchen, takes more time and energy. It’s worth it, but between a full day at work, exercising, and then making dinner? There’s not much time for anything else.

Things are somewhat frustrating on the exercise front at the moment. I’ve been working out hard, putting on tons of muscle, and eating very carefully, but I’m stuck in that awkward stage that’s in between muscle addition and fat burning off. So the scale hasn’t changed a bit. My clothes aren’t fitting better yet. I’m trying not to be discouraged, but it’s hard to stay positive when I feel like my hard work hasn’t paid off. I am trying to focus on the fact that I feel stronger, better. And I know that muscle weighs more than fat, so the fact that the scale has stayed the same while my arms are jacked and a serious six-pack has taken up residence under my belly fat means that I have to have lost something. But it’s tough.

On a brighter note, climbing is awesome. I’ve been having so much fun! It’s so incredible to think about how far we’ve come in just a month. When we first set foot in Stone Summit, we were limited to the bouldering room. Bouldering is ropeless climbing, where the climber follows routes set along a 10-15 foot wall. It’s highly dependent on endurance and brute strength, and you spend a lot of time using your arms to hoist yourself up and do crazy moves across the wall. The routes are rated in difficulty from V0, which is basically a staircase set onto the wall, to much harder ones (V14, I think is the toughest). As the route difficulty increases, the holds are smaller, farther apart, harder to grasp, and set onto tricky slopes.

Where we started

At first, I could barely ascend a V0. It wasn’t so much the difficulty of the route that held me back. My issue was mostly in the comfort level of the climb, and my fear of heights. When you’re scared of heights, leaving the ground in any capacity is a challenge!  But I kept at it, and eventually I was able to reach the top of the wall and scamper down quickly.

After a couple of weeks, Xavier and I took a belaying class so we could learn how to top-rope and climb on the larger walls in the gym. Ever since, we’ve been having a blast. This type of climbing requires more endurance than brute strength, so there are many more options for us. We started on the easy walls, just to get the feel for it. Now, we’ve progressed to some of the more challenging routes. As I climb, I’m realizing that I’m doing things that I couldn’t do last month – lift my entire body weight with one arm, for example. I feel much more comfortable on the wall, and am having a great time. The panic still sets in sometimes, like when I look down from 50 feet up and my arms are so tired that I can barely hang on. But I know that I’m perfectly safe with Xavier belaying me, and that helps me to make it up and reach that last hold. It’s a really cool feeling.

Where we climb now- well, not the upside-down parts yet.

The only problem I’m having with climbing is that my hands are becoming very tough and callused. It’s not exactly conducive to shaking hands, giving massages, or really touching anyone without hurting them. Fortunately, my boyfriend’s hands are the exact same way, so I think he understands.

Does anyone have a story to share about their own mental blocks while exercising?  How do you stay positive when your hard work has resulted in your jeans still feeling quite uncomfortable?

Rock and roll!

I climb like this monkey now!

All right, it’s official. I am terrible at blogging. While I started with a burst of confidence and inspiration, my eagerness to post has quickly fallen to the wayside as I accomplished some of the goals that I wanted to blog about (obviously not the writing one).

Great news, though. My goal to find a form of exercise that I love? Achieved. Rock climbing is awesome. In the days since I last posted about joining the gym, many things have happened. First, we’ve been climbing at least three times a week. Second, my fear of heights has rapidly diminished. I can ascend to the top of a 15-foot bouldering route, slap the top of the wall, and climb down. Admittedly, when I reach the top and look at the ground so far away, I am completely overcome with the impulse to get down as soon as possible. But I’m much more comfortable climbing than I’ve ever been before.

There are a few interesting classes at the gym, and we’ve made a habit of attending “Abs Class.” It’s held once a week, which is just about all I can handle. In 45 minutes, we are led through a combination of core strength building, yoga poses, and intense ab workouts. The sweat starts pouring about ten minutes in, and doesn’t stop. I love it! Even after two weeks’ worth of courses, my abs are approaching rock hard status. The only problem is that they’re hidden under a layer of Ben & Jerry’s and Antico pizzas that I couldn’t say no to. But they exist!

We were able to make the leap from bouldering to actual climbing this week, which was fun. At Stone Summit, you need to pass a safety test before you’re allowed to climb on the massive walls. We took a belaying class last week, learning about safety, knots, and accidental falls. The class was fun but there were some incidents. I was belaying for another student in the class, and as I lowered him to the ground, my hand got too close to the metal device that controls the rope. The feeling of the skin between thumb and index finger getting simultaneously sucked into a metal chamber and rope-burned is not one that I ever want to repeat. If not for Xavier and the instructor jumping on the rope and pulling it out as hard as they could, my hand would be pretty messed up.

Despite the adversity, we apparently performed quite well in the class, and were able to pass the belaying test last Sunday. So we’ve been climbing on the real rock walls all week. That has been pretty awesome, and strangely addictive. It’s also been a good reason why my blogging has dropped down so drastically: I’m exhausted all the time. After work, we’ll rush over to the gym, and climb for a couple of hours. By the end, my forearms are burning so badly that I can barely open up my laptop, much less type. Most nights, I fall asleep on the couch before making it to bed. But it’s been so much fun that I don’t mind.

In other news, I’m really excited because we are approaching the first spring in my adult life where I live in a house with a backyard and can plant a garden. The only limitation? It’s kind of a small backyard, the soil is rocky, and I’m going to be sticking to containers. Still, I am approaching this activity with extreme enthusiasm. My little seedlings have already begun germination in the guest room of our house. If all goes well, we will be feasting upon Padron peppers, jalapenos, heirloom tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tons of herbs this summer. Baby steps, but for a first year, I’m going to take it slow.

This was a terrible update but I’m pretty excited to go climbing this afternoon, so it’s going to end here. Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Quarter-century down

Best birthday ever!

After a mere month of blogging, things got busy and I forgot to keep it up. Not good. In my defense, it’s been somewhat of a crazy week. To begin: I turned 25 last Thursday. If I’d gotten my wishes, this would have been a completely forgettable occasion. Aging ceased being fun after the 21st birthday. However, my birthday ended up being a surprisingly great time.

After ringing things in at midnight on the 9th with some of my favorite people in the world, I was completely ready to leave work a little bit early the next day when Xavier asked me to. (I’m not a work-slacker; I had the flexibility to go after working long hours earlier in the week).

Here’s some context as to why this was the best birthday to ever take place in the history of all human birthdays. As you might know, pizza is my favorite food (see the slice ranking system on What I’m Reading Wednesdays). You also might know that I love making pizza at home. Using a combination of recipes from Jeff Varasano, Peter Reinhardt, and lots of my own trial and error, I make an edible pizza. Unfortunately, as many pizza addicts know, the 550-degree heat produced by home ovens cannot come close to reproducing the magical pies that a 1000-degree wood-fired oven makes. It’s always been my dream to try making pizza in an oven like that – or better yet, to have one in my backyard!

Since we don’t have a 1000-degree oven, we often go out for pizza, and the place we go most often is Antico. Antico cannot be beaten for convenience, deliciousness, and the BYOB factor. Where else can you and your date arrive with your own bottle of wine (or a couple of beers), have a freshly-made pizza at your table in less than five minutes, stuff yourselves silly for $20 total, and have leftovers to spare? While we do love other pizzerias around Atlanta (Varasano’s in particular), for those reasons we find ourselves in Antico at least once a week.

Anyway, Xavier had told me in the morning that we were heading to Antico later. When he picked me up from work, he told me the surprise: he had arranged it so that I would be making our pizza! By the time we got to the restaurant, I could hardly breathe from excitement. But somehow, with the help of the awesome guys who work there, I managed to make a margherita pie with pepperoni. They even let me slide it into the oven from the peel, which I did with remarkable success, if I do say so myself. (It didn’t stick at all!). Xavier filmed everything, so there aren’t many photos, but here are some.

Me holding my pie, making weird face. Flour on my shirt? Comes with the territory.
Close up of the final product

I am so grateful to have an amazing boyfriend who is thoughtful enough to arrange such an amazing surprise for me! Seriously, what did I ever do to deserve him? Between him, my friends who came to dinner later, and the guys at Antico who made everything happen, there are some awesome people in my life. I’m a lucky girl.

Between stuffing myself with pizza and receiving not one but two birthday cakes (ice cream AND cookie – yeah, did I mention that I’m a lucky girl?), my fitness regimen fell to the wayside for a few days. But I have exciting news to report. After months of agonizing and weeks of seeking out options, we have finally joined a fitness facility. Best of all, it’s better than any gym we could have imagined – it’s the biggest rock-climbing gym in the country!

Stone Summit Climbing and Fitness Center
Our new gym has 30,000 square feet of indoor climbing surface. It also has a full workout facility, where the machines have individual TVs! Furthermore, they offer classes: spin, pilates, abs, etc. So now I have a place for cardio when the weather’s not conducive to a run or bike. All of that climbing will help to tone and maintain great physical shape; during our visit, I loved that the clientele was overwhelmingly thin and muscular. If we work out there with regularity, I can only assume that we’ll join their ranks soon! And the best part? The membership cost was considerably less than any other facility we looked into. Jackpot.
An added benefit of the new gym is that it’s going to help me overcome my crippling, overpowering fear of heights. When we went this weekend, just looking at the walls was terrifying and made me want to cry. But after a few attempts, I scaled my way to the top of some of the bouldering walls! Not the ones you see in the  previous photos, but the smaller ones in the bouldering room.
Bouldering room

The bouldering room doesn’t look intimidating, but it’s scary because climbers aren’t hooked up to any ropes. If you fall, you fall. Granted, the floor is soft and bouncy, but if you’re scared of heights, just being off the ground is enough to incite a stress reaction. On our second trip yesterday evening, I managed to overcome my fear enough to work up a real sweat tackling the climbs. There are some seriously challenging courses in that little room. My fear of heights still prevails, though – once I reach the top of the wall, all I can do is slap the taped-on target and then I shimmy down as fast as humanly possible. Today, I’m legitimately sore. It’s a good feeling.

So please pardon my absence from blogging, as this has been a pretty great week. I promise to make it a point to write more often!

Once a coxswain, always a coxswain

As a real coxswain: winning NY States in ’06

So, let’s get the good news out of the way first: I ran 10 – yes, ten – miles this week. For the first time since I set a goal of running four 30-minute sessions per week, I actually accomplished it.  I know there are people who run 10 miles in a single session, and I applaud you people. Maybe someday I’ll join you. But for now, coming back from a long hiatus, four 2.5-mile runs this week feels pretty awesome. I wanted to start slow so I could strengthen my back before getting into longer runs. This is critical since I tend to throw out my back like it’s my job, especially when I don’t run for a while and then bust out a super-intense five-miler. The slow approach seems to be working well, and I haven’t had any back pain.

Now let’s get the bad news out there: I think I ruined someone’s day today.

Here’s what happened. I was running my standard lap, the 1.25 mile loop around my house and the surrounding neighborhood. Long enough to keep things interesting, close enough to return home should I experience cramps, thirst, or tears. As I approached a crossroads with the main street, I saw two girls. They were jogging together, not quickly, and they made a left onto the road that I was following. No big deal. Then, at my snail’s pace, I began to gain on them from behind. This was slightly annoying. For some reason I felt weird about passing them, probably because I have lots of deep-seated doubts about my abilities as a runner. We began ascending a hill. About twenty meters up, one of the girls slowed her jog to a walk. Since I was going strong, I knew I was going to pass her fast.

But once a coxswain, always a coxswain. Despite the fact that I wasn’t thinking clearly (all the blood was rushing to my legs and lungs to fuel the run, my brain left completely out of the circulatory loop), I decided that I’d try to motivate her as I ran by. This was a perfect stranger. Now that I’m safely ensconced in my home office and my run is over, I have no idea what I was thinking, except I felt really guilty about going past someone who was having a hard time and wanted to show some encouragement.

So as I ran by her I yelled “You got this!” She kind of jumped, looked at me, and laughed awkwardly – you know, a standard reaction when a stranger screams at you in the street. Then she said “Oh, I’m so out of shape.”

I replied in a ragged gasp – “You can still do it! This is only my fourth run back out.” Intending to convey, of course, that she could just try really hard and run through the pain. But what I actually conveyed was something along the lines of ‘haha, I’m so awesome and I’m going to rub it in!’ I knew that as soon as she looked at me with something between horror and annoyance, and felt so bad. Instead of stopping to explain, though, I ran away. Because I was running. And it felt like a good out.

Girl-who-was-jogging-slash-walking-around-Piedmont-Heights today, if you ever read this, I’m sorry. I was just trying to help.

My outburst gave me something to cringe over and consider as I finished the run. The years of rowing definitely contributed a lot to how I exercise. It’s ingrained in me to always finish strong on a workout, ending in exhaustion. And I’m completely obsessed with my Garmin Forerunner, of which my coach was quite a fan. The technology has really moved forward in just the last five years. My college rowing Forerunner was a giant brick that strapped onto your wrist and prevented any hand movement, much like a splint. My grown-up Forerunner is a pretty gray and pink watch that allows me to hold Riley’s leash, daintily wave ‘thanks’ to cars that let me pass, and re-tie my hair. Victory, 2012.

Tomorrow is Sunday and I’m going to attempt three laps, that means four whole miles. Will update if I’m still alive. Hope everyone has a great weekend!