Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A breath of.. fresh.. Zzzzzzz

I've been long overdue for a massage and never got one after MMT back in May. Shame on me for waiting over 4 months. The GF does give some good rub downs and she came in handy when I could barely lift my arms after Angie last weekend. Oww. Note to self: buy more Tiger Balm. But she can only last so long and I'm not allowed to fall asleep (as I usually do with a real massage therapist) since I have to return the favor, or move from the foot of the bed.

I usually do my Crossfit workouts after work, but had to rearrange my schedule to accommodate my softball schedule. We had a make up game on Monday with playoffs starting Thursday whether we won or lost. Playoffs are also double elimination with games on Tuesday or Thursday and Monday and Wednesday reserved for make up/rain out days. This is really messing up my schedule, but the team needs at least 3 women on the field as well as a mobile shortstop. Having played softball in college and being the youngest member of the team by about 15 years is enough for me to have inherited the position.

With my Tuesday night now wide open, I was able to schedule an appointment with my usual massage therapist who only works Tuesdays. I lucked out as was able to get in, but wasn't lucky enough when I found out she was running behind schedule. Luck came back to me as she gave me an additional $10 discount since I had to wait 30 minutes (actually it was 45 min since I got there early, but it's not my fault that Metro was on time!). Woohoo! That's on top of a discount I already get, but it was short lived since I tip well.

How well do I tip?

This is my train of thought, so follow me if you will. I show up having climbed up the Dupont metro stairs (I can't stand to the right; too long) and I'm sweaty and probably a little stinky. Also, it was a last minute decision to schedule the massage and I didn't figure that into my 'should I shave this morning?' conversation I had with myself before laughing out "no!hahah! It's only been 4* days, silly!"** So there was some noticeable stubble to contend with. I don't have the greatest looking feet, either. I'm not one of those people who should really think twice about wearing sandals or other types of shoes that expose their heels or toes, but I'm not one to get pedicures. And they might smell a little.

Oh, yeah, and the biggest reason for giving a good tip is that she has to massage my ass. It's not that she HAS to or that I ask for it, but she knows what I do athletically and can tell/feel some imbalances in strength, flexibility, tightness, etc. I'm probably not the fittest, nor the fattest of her clients, but I like to call what she does to my ass muscles a GODSEND after Monday’s Crossfit workout:

20 walking lunges (10 each leg)
10 burpees
20 lateral lunges (10 each leg)
10 burpees
20 jumping split lunges (10 each leg)
(done in 27:10)

You, too, can earn an extra $20 if you can put me to sleep by kneading my butt cheeks!!

Yeah.. didn't think there would be any takers.

**This is a theoretical conversation with myself.
*This number does vary, but I won’t divulge which direction: +/-

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kelly was a friend of mine

It wasn't until I was college or so when I found out from my mom how I really met Kelly. She ended up being one of those friends you drift apart from as you get older and discover different interests. My fondest memory of her is having a sleep over at her place, watching "The Black Stallion", and taking the bus to school in the morning. She lived out in the country and was considered a 'busser' while I lived 6 blocks from the school and was considered a 'walker'. It was a whole new world to me. But it turns out I wasn't invited over to Kelly’s out of pure coincidence. My teacher had talked with my mom and thought it would be a good idea if my sister and I became friends with Kelly. She was shy and didn’t have many friends, and thought we would be a good match. I wasn't the most social kid then (nor am I now), but we got along and then eventually drifted apart. Thank god for Facebook!

I met another Kelly this weekend. She didn't promise any sleepovers, movies, or bus rides. She tortured me with 5 rounds of the following:

400m run
30 box jumps
30 wall ball

Kelly and I broke up after 3 rounds. I didn't like her anymore. She slowed me down on the run, raised the box up higher (it just seemed like it) with each jump, and made the 14lb medicine ball heavier. And the race the day before turned my legs to lead. Usually when I'm riding and feel like I'm going slow, I'll look down to see if the breaks are rubbing. During the 400m run, I often looked behind to see how big the piano was I was towing.


My legs were toast. I knew my limits. I was happy to do fairly well on the box jumps. The last time I attempted one was during my first workout - AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) in 20 minutes of 10 box jumps, 10 push ups, and 10 pull ups. I think the box jumps alone took me 3 minutes each. I didn't necessarily smoke 'em this time, but it was such an improvement confidence wise from that first week in June. Wall ball sucked as I kept pressing up through my toes instead of my heels. I stopped thinking about my form when I couldn't get the ball up as high with each toss. Meltdown.

Hopefully Kelly and I can get to know each other a little better in the near future. This first meeting, though, was a memorable one.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Setting my limits

When a run is free, is it considered a race?

Today was race day.

I participated in the Catherine's Furnace 50k put on by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. Nothing screams 'fun' like a long run in the middle of the summer in this area. The thermometer in the car showed 66F at 7:00am and 90F at 4:30pm. Within the first 2 miles (uphill) I was pouring sweat. My hat was sweating. It was pretty humid out there. I hadn't been on this section since my MMT debacle over 2 months ago and it hadn't changed a bit; it was still hard.

I admittedly haven't been running much. I've been playing softball on my company's team/league 1x a week, Pilates, yoga, and Crossfit. Once in awhile I'll go out for a run of 30-45 minutes. Back in the day, I wouldn't consider that a run, it was a warm-up. So I was relying on my overall fitness to carry me the distance.

It carried me only so far before I realized I knew I wouldn't be able to complete the entire course. My legs and feet weren't used to the pounding and my footing was just 'off' - twisting ankles and tripping up on roots and rocks. Even the downhills on the fire roads scared me and I trashed my quads by taking them too hard and too fast with no control. Instead of running the figure 8 route, I made it a figure 6 by taking the fire road back up to the first aid station instead of tackling the dreaded Purple trail.

My GF was there helping out at the aid station, so I chilled with her and waited for a few runners I had been running with. Once they arrived, I started running again and finished up the last 6 miles. I was ready for a beer and to have my shoes off. My feet have lost all their callouses and toughness, so I now refer to them as 'bitch feet' or 'pussy feet' since they can't take the pounding. I knew it and felt it early on which was part of my reason for cutting the run short. I had a handful of people telling me to press on and fight through it.

"Back in the day" is a term I use loosely as it refers events from 10 yrs ago, 5 yrs ago, and even 1 year ago when I'd do stupid things such as racing while well undertrained or fighting through the pain. I wish I could say that I know my limits, but I don't. I'm learning what my limits are and stopping before I injure myself. I probably could've done the entire course, but I would've been miserable. Total time on my feet was just under 7 hour and I was fine with that. Going from 30 minutes to 7 hours is a big jump even if a lot of it was power walking, but it's just mentally draining.

I would like to do MMT again next year, and part of that decision will depend on how I feel in the Fall. It's not how much running I do or how many push ups I manage, but how good I feel leading up to the day entry for the race opens. If my heart isn't in it then, it won't be ready race day. I have started looking at races for the Spring season, so my heart is in the right place. I just have to get my feet there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Because I'm a glutton for punishment

Monday, July 21, 2008

My first encounter with Angie

I have heard about her and read about her for a few months now, but I was pleased to make her acquaintance on Sunday. The date was set a week ahead of time, so as the days went on, I started to get nervous. Before our date I had a yoga class scheduled for 10am where I was hoping to get in a good, relaxing workout before our date. The instructor didn't show up, so I stayed and stretched for a bit and chatted with the others that were there to keep myself loose. I walked home and spent the rest of the morning A.D.D. 'cleaning'. I didn't get much done, but I made quite a mess of the living room, dining room and basement while doing a lot of little things (re: just moved a lot of things around and made a mess of everything).

At 11:45am I headed out on my bike to meet up for our noontime engagement. There were a few other that were going to be there with me, and I think it would be a first for them as well. We all gathered in a side room to work out some nervous tension before slowly filtering into the main room to meet her head on; face to face.

Everything started off smoothly with brief introductions before all hell broke loose.

I've never felt so abused from another girl – physically, mentally or emotionally. She hurt me all over and never let up. When I thought she was through beating up on my arms, shoulders, and back, she moved to my torso for more abuse. After punishing my core, she moved on to my lowering half, almost bringing me to my knees over and over again. What would've put a cherry on top of the situation would've been if Angie just kicked me in the gut to make me puke. I think I would've felt better after those 30 or so minutes.

This is Angie:

100 pull ups
100 push ups
100 sit ups
100 squats

I was set up with the rings and, since most of us can't do a pull up, we put one foot up on a box that was set up under our rings/bars to give us a little extra 'oomph' to get our chins up. My shoulders and lats were toast. I moved on to the push ups and started off on my knees while using the "Perfect Push Up handles". Okay, they were just regular handles and I wasn't simulating a punch, but did go deep and kept good form. I finally switched out and went palms to mat for the rest of the way. I don't know at what number I switched, but my sweaty hands kept slipping on the mat and I had a nice pool of sweat from my chin and forehead forming below me. Every time I went down, I touched chest to mat and tried to think about driving up with bellybutton first before my arms. Try to picture that; it forces you to keep your core tight and not sag. By the time I hit 70 or so, my arms were toast. I heard what number other people were on, so I didn’t want to rest too much between reps; it motivated me to work harder.

Once I hit 100, I turned over and laid in the puddle of sweat I created to start my 100 sit ups. These sit ups are knees bent, legs apart, toes up, dig your heels into the mat, arms stretched out overhead, hands over lapping, come up and reach through your legs and go back down sit ups. Get it? Good, now only 99 more to do. Crunches are easy to do, but I didn't want to blow up trying to do sit ups too fast, nor did I want to get too comfortable lying down. I stayed focused on my form and on my breathing an kept a nice, consistent pace the entire time. I only stopped a couple times near the end to catch my breath, but was so close to the end with the workout I was ready for it to be over.

Onto the body weight squats, and I thought it would be good to count to 25 four times. I figured aiming for a lower number will help me keep my mind off the actual total. And I should've known it would happen, but I ended up losing count; or did I? I still don't know. I lined up my medicine ball, stepped around and then in front of it, and started knocking out my squats – butt to ball. I focused on good form – exploding up and pushing through my heels. They felt so easy and went by so quickly that I wasn’t sure if I miscounted or not, so to be fair I did another set of 25 for a grad total of 100... or 125. Who knows?

It should’ve been for time, but I don't think anyone knows how long the workout took them. Next time Angie comes around, I'm sure we'll time ourselves so we have something to gauge our improvement off of. But for now, the coaches just wanted to give us a brief glimpse of hell.

It was nice to have finally met Angie. I only wish I could stand up and lift my arm to shake her hand.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pulling your own weight

I still can't do a pull up. I do push-ups on my knees. I'll swing kettlebells until my hands bleed.

But at least I can carry a 12lb package up 5 flights of stairs.

It's not like I was juggling it from hand to hand or trying to balance in on my head while trying to ascend the stairs to my office. I just put it under my arm and walked up.

At my job, frequently I’m asked to carry 'heavy' folders and boxes. I was expecting something via courier the other day and finally received a call from the Mail Center that it had arrived. The caller, in her two-packs-a-day sounding voice, suggested that I should use a hand cart to take it upstairs. I just told her 'thank you for the suggestion' and that I would 'manage'.

Next time I'll show off and do a few military presses with the box on the way up.

Maybe over the phone I sound like I can't carry something that weighs 12 lbs, but from all the times I've been called 'sir', I’d venture to guess I sound more like I can carry something that weighs closer to 50 lbs.

Give me some credit.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Can Jenny come out and play?

Whenever I take a trip back home to Michigan, the memories of my childhood come flooding back to me. (Yes, I went to college there as well, but those years of drinking have left the late 90s a daze of barley and hops.) I like to drive by my old elementary school to see where I spent many winters sledding and summers playing softball; "The Flats" near my old middle school (now a charter school) where the tough kids would always meet after school to fight, and my old high school (now the middle school) where I spent many hours out on the practice field for marching band practice, running the halls for basketball practice, and in the music room perfecting my senior solo on the marimba. I like to drive slowly down Main Street to notice the new stores and remember what used to be there. I end up on my street where I spent many years playing tennis, Frisbee, '500', roller-skating in the road in the metal skates that attached to your shoes; and in front of my house where we’d play "Pickle" between the front walks of my house and the neighbors, whiffleball in the backyard, and where we’d rake the leaves into 'houses'. We didn't 'do' piles; no, my father, who designed the addition to our house in the late 70s, taught us to rake the leaves in square ‘rooms’ as if you were looking at the blueprint of a house from above.

I remember the neighborhood kids and where each of them lived. Jason had the Atari and taught us karate in our backyard. He had a basketball hoop and we’d play 'around the world' in his narrow driveway. Occasionally the ball would get stuck up on the roof and we had to be careful of the windows. He was the big brother we never had. David was cross-eyed and had Legos, erector sets, and other 'boy' toys. I played more with him than I did with his older sister Becky. He thought his banana seat bike was faster than our 10-speed, so we'd have races down the street. Brothers Adam and Tom lived at the end of the alley. We didn't like them, so we'd routinely have rock fights with them. Luckily, no windows were broken.

We were always outside playing something - TV tag, frozen tag, bloody murder, climbing trees, etc. None of us wore watches, but we could tell time based on the front porch light; it was time to go in when the light came on. We’d beg our parents to stay out 10 to 15 minutes longer.

This latest trip brought back the same memories. I flipped through old photo albums with my GF and the house from those early 80s pictures looks very similar over 30 years later – the wood paneling, the dirty carpet (now dotted with carpet squares) the furniture, and the mess. The Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia set is still in "Grandma's room" along with childhood artwork, magic sets, roller skates, books, puzzles, and other memories. This is the junk room. To my mother, these are her memories.

The garage is my fathers junk room; those are his memories – shells from when he would trap snapping turtles, mounted antlers, old yard tools, fishing supplies, tools. It's 'stuff' he'll need. Sometime. The two car garage barely holds one car.

We stayed at my parents' cottage for the weekend; the cottage my parents bought from my grandparents in the mid 80s. It was our summer weekend getaway growing up, and is now my parents escape. The garage has become 'storage' for 'stuff' – my grandparents furniture (they both died in early 2000s), our life jackets when we were kids, fishing polls, tools (my grandfathers, my dad's wood chipper, grills, and chairs. I think of the monthly 'cleanse' I go through – getting rid of clothes and papers I think I need – and how my parents are overdue for one. They are about 10 years overdue. I look around the cottage garage and see so many memories, and I can understand why it's hard to get rid of the stuff. A lot of it is leftover from my grandparents – my dad’s parents – and getting rid of it would be like ridding the place of them. Yes, the comics on the wall give it character, but do we need the broken lawn chairs and old license plates?

It wouldn't be fair to throw things out without them knowing, so I wonder how I can do my part in helping them clean up. I want to hold onto some memories of my own without adding clutter to my place, and do that in the form of Lawn Darts. These are the jarts the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission warned you about. No foam tips on these puppies! I remember playing with these as a kid and no one ever lost an eye or was injured. I was happy to find them in the original box with everything still intact, ready to use.

I can't wait to have a "lawn games" themed party to bust them out. Maybe I'll grab a Frisbee to toss around, play Pickle, or dig out the Rollerblades and slalom skate around 2 liter pop bottles in the courtyard. I don't think there will be any rock fights, but give a bunch of 30 somethings alcohol and metal tipped flying objects and you never know what could happen!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Drinking the Crossfit Kool-Aid – OH YEAH!

Let me preface this by saying, no, I’m not crashing through any walls. Yet.

Earlier this summer I decided to make a change in my training regime. Not completing MMT left me in a bit of a funk so I took time off. I went from training to tapering to nothing. I'll fully admit that I love my sleep and I like to just flop on the sofa when I get home from work. However, all this sleeping and flopping (and pizza) led to clothes not fitting as well, or as loosely, as I would like them to fit.

Something had to be done.

I've stepped away from triathlon specific training this year and wanted to do something other than running, biking, or swimming to get back in shape. I was so used to having a good base and relying on that as a place to 'start over' (or even race at in some instances), but that base doesn’t seem to be stretching as far as it used to.

I decided to start over, bare bones, from ground zero. Step one.

I've known about crossfit training for at least 6 months and was very interested in that type of workout, but the DC/VA locations weren't as convenient to me as I would've liked them to be. It was about a month ago that I found out about a crossfit program in the Capitol Hill area, which was more appealing to me. The time and location was something I found doable with work. I was able to start biking to work on those days and then bike to the workout. With the monthly membership came two weekly yoga classes and a Pilates reformer session once a week.

I wanted to try out a yoga and CF class before ponying up the cash, and so I went. During my first yoga class it became apparent how far off the flexibility scale I have fallen. I quickly realized how far away my feet really are from my fingers when I try to bend over and touch them; when in the plank position I can barely get my foot half way up the mat when trying to move my foot up between my hands; and I have no curvature of the lumbar spine. Ask me to do a somersault and you’ll see me roll from my head to my shoulders, my upper back, and then slamming onto my butt. There is no ounce of gracefulness. I knew this ahead of time, but didn't realize how bad it was. Basically I have very minimal core strength and some pretty tight hip flexors!

At my first CF class, I eased into the WOD (workout of the day) with a simple session of as many rounds I could do in 20 minutes of 10 pull ups, 10 push ups, and 10 box jumps. I know I can’t do pull ups, so I jumped up until my chin was over the bar; I did my push ups on my knees; and I don't have a fast twitch fiber in my legs when it comes to jumping up 20". It was higher than it looked and there were a few times I jumped into the box instead of onto it. The bruises finally faded, but it was because I was thinking about it too much.

Dripping with sweat and covered in the nastiness of whatever was on the floor before I started doing push ups, I was hooked. And that was THE longest and slowest 1.5 mile ride home.

I have since been religious with my attendance. I hope to add the Sunday session in addition to the Tues/Thurs that I'm already doing, and somehow adding a third yoga class. I still can't do a pull up and I do push ups on my knees; I can step my foot closer up to my hands; I can almost get into Bakasana even if it isn't pretty; I’m twisting further with a little more ease; and I'm gaining core strength. I do feel stronger and a little more limber and the bike rides home aren't as painfully slow.

There are two things I've become more aware of over the past month – my core and my breathing. Having a stronger core allows me to have better form/posture when performing the crossfit moves. Having more flexibility in the hips allows me to go deeper into a squat without having to widen my stance. Proper breathing not only helps me feel relaxed, but focusing on that helps me get through the toughest workout whether it's a Tabata or a revolved side angle pose.

Now when I get home, I still have a tendency to flop on the sofa, but it’s out of pure exhaustion from the workout. It's a great feeling.