Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bidding adue to 2008

I don't plan to do much of a wrap up, but I figured I'd try to get in one more post before the end of the year. Good thing it's a slow day at the office (slow = I'm choosing to not do much work today) and I have the time to get a few quick thoughts together.

For many, this past year sucked because of the economy and the job market. I was fortunate enough find a new job in May and still have it at the end of the year. I had a talk with my Project Manager a few weeks ago about my job security, to find out if I should worry at all, and there is no need to worry. I wasn't concerned until she brought it up, but having had the discussion is a bit of a relief to know that's one less thing to think about.

With the economy tanking, so did the savings of many, myself included, as my 401k fell nearly 40% in 3 months. Fortunately I don't plan on retiring soon and have time to build it back up. It's one I had with my old job and will be eligible to join my current employers 401k program in January. I'm also starting a few new savings options with one of them specific for a down payment on a house. I don't expect to buy anything for a couple of years, but I want the security to know that when the time comes to buy, I will have the money available.

I've also been diligent this year in paying off my few credit cards and am excited that one will be completely paid off in July after 8 years of non-use. The other should be paid off in the Fall. I plan to put the amount I'd use for each monthly payment into savings. I've also been keeping an eye on my credit reports and FICO score to make sure there are no mistakes and my score is good for when it comes time to buy. I don't spend too much, but my GF and I plan to put ourselves on a budget so she can work on paying off her student loans and we can build a decent savings. It will be difficult to do both, but we'll do our best to curb mindless spending... but, damn it's fun sometimes!

I've been fortunate to be surrounded by good friends and family. I had another nephew join the mix in late June and have seen him three times since his birth. I was back in Michigan for a week for Christmas and had a ball playing with my nephews. I miss them dearly, but weekly phone calls and webcam chats will keep them closer. The three.five year old is certainly a chatterbox and full of questions. He is bright beyond his years and full of imagination. The youngest is just a sweetheart and has everyone wrapped around his little finger. At the Chinese Buffet last week, the entire wait staff was giving him pennies to toss into the fountain as well as pieces of hard candy. A little much for his two little toophers, but it was definitely entertaining.

I don't talk much about my relationship with my girlfriend, but this year has had plenty of bumps along the way. We aren't perfect and every day we're learning more about each other. Some of us aren't very trainable ;) She finally met my parents and older sister this summer and 'passed', and I spent some time with her siblings in January and again over Labor Day weekend. The real test will come this summer when she meets some cousins and aunts from Chicago when they visit DC for a few days. Good thing I have plenty of time to prep her and coach her for the onslaught ;)

I have been in good health and have been fortunate to participate in a number of trail runs. I started up with CrossFit in June along with yoga and Pilate's when I couldn't touch my toes or do a push up. I can do both but am always looking to do more, looking to challenge myself. I enjoy playing rugby and will probably do so for a couple more years as long as I stay injury free *knock on wood*

I did have a good trip home and got to enjoy 2 feet of snow on the ground before rain and 50 degree weather melted it away. I got my fix for the year and was happy to come back to mild temperatures in DC. I spent enough time with family, but was happy to get back to DC to my routine, to my bed, and to my girlfriend. Not spending the holiday with her was tough, and it probably won't happen again. It wasn't the same at home this year opening presents and I think we all realized that we're moving on and moving away from our holiday traditions. Somehow, I'll have to make sure to eat apple fritters and sausages on Christmas Eve wherever I may be.

There's a lot more reflection on 2008 I could be doing, but I hope to do more looking ahead to 2009 with a glass of wine and my butt on the sofa.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Holiday's and Time Away

I'm excited about leaving tomorrow for Michigan and hope my trip is better than last years debacle. At least I got a couple vouchers out of it and was able to use the second one to pay for 3/4 of this years ticket.

I haven't seen my nephew's since July, my cousins since last Christmas, some college friends since January, and high school friends in years. It will be great to spend a little time with everyone, but there's never enough time to see as many people and do as much as I would like to. It's nice to get away from DC, to enjoy all the snow that Michigan has been getting, and having a white Christmas that I've grown up to know and love. I love where I grew up and I love going back home this time of year.

I've had the same traditions with my family since I was a kid, and we've continued them almost every year for 30 years. Even as my older sister married and had her two boys, they were included in on our traditions while trying to start some of their own. Even as my other sister and I moved away, we always make it back to Michigan for Christmas. It's hard to hold tight when we're all growing up.. have grown up.. and have our own families and relationships.

It will be especially tough spending the holiday away from my GF as she heads up to New Hampshire to spend time with her family. We will be gone the same amount of time, but we are at the point where we want to start traditions of our own. It will be difficult to let go of traditions that have been so ingrained in me for so many years, but I'm looking forward to starting new traditions this New Year and carrying them over for years to come. It could be spending every other year with each others family, staying in DC or wherever we live at the time, or going on a trip to someplace warm or someplace with snow. The possibilities are endless, but I know I want to be with her Christmas morning for years to come.

Happy Holiday's

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Doing too much after not doing enough

I'll be the first to admit that I'm human.


It should be a given, but some people think that I'm super human. That I eat the healthiest foods and am SO GOOD about working out. If you want to know what I eat, here's a skewed sampling from the weekend.

Bag of mini Pringles (split)
Pint of Peanut butter Zig Zag non-diary 'ice cream' (split)
Pizza Boli's medium cheese with pineapple and green peppers (split)
Egg, cheese and sausage sandwich (Sat AM breakfast, but I make it at home and usually have it every other day)
*It's 2 eggs +1 full egg, half a slice of 2% provolone cheese, and a Morningstar breakfast sausage on a Trader Joe's whole wheat English muffin

See. Not entirely healthy. And I only ran 12 miles on Saturday, so that doesn't come close to burning off the calories I consumed. But hormonal surges made me eat it! So I did. No guilt, either, since I don't do it that often.

But I got back into the swing of things on Monday with a couple workouts. I planned a partner workout in the morning that looked like this:

Squats  KB Swings  Push-ups

100 40 25
75 20 15
50 12 5
75 20 15
100 40 25

1000m row - each person does 500m, feet out of the straps

The squats and swings were a combined total within each team while both people within the two person team do all the push-ups as prescribed on each round. There are a total of 5 rounds and 'Round 6' is an erg sprint - hop on and start rowing. Don't bother messing with the monitor because it will eventually turn on and start counting.

Say 'go' and you GO! No questions. This would make for a great timed workout as a solo or partner workout as I had it set up. Why? To work on communication. There's no sense in standing around talking about the workout when we all know how to squat, swing kettlebells, and do push ups. But who does how many reps? Hit CTRL + F on your computer and find the word 'communication'. Do the workout and figure that out while one person is squating. You want the first person to do all 100 squats? Go right on ahead. You figure out the reps each exercise and each round as you go. All you're given is the total that each team has to complete; it is up to the teams to figure out how to reach that total the quickest way possible.

There was an odd number of participants in the AM class, so I hopped in and did the workout, but took a couple short breaks to correct squating and swing form. We decided not to time the workout, but still wanted to get through it quickly, and we did. Everyone did a great job.

Turns out, we decided to do the same workout with the PM group, the timeslot I normally do the workouts. I partnered up with my sister and we did a good job of making quick decisions on the fly of switching up reps of 25 to 20 and then 10, to moving off the medicine ball so the other person could knock out some reps. She started on the erg first and I finished up the last 500m. I was gassed.

On top of that, I've put in two straight days of running. But don't you run EVERY DAY?? See. Another one of those super human myths. Truth is, I DON'T run every day, and sometimes it's hard for me to run 3 times during the week. I have no problem getting long runs in on the weekends, but 4-10 miles on the DC roads just sucks. My Tuesday morning was freed up and I should've done the run then, but I put it off until after work when I've been doing it the past few weeks. My GF asked me to take the dog with me and I reluctantly did so since running with him can be a very frustrating experience. On the airport side of Hains Point, at one point I grabbed him by the snout and through gritted teeth shouted "CALM THE EFF DOWN!. I don't care if 4 foxes crossed the road while we did our loop; I don't care about all the ducks in the Potomac; I don't care about that excited circle-run that you do after you poop. It's just. not. cool to do when you're attached to my waist and it's raining out. And don't look at me with those puppy dog eyes. I hydrated before I left, so find yourself a puddle... I'm good! And when you get tired, yeah, that's me yelling MOVE! behind you to get you to run faster. I've got a good pace going and don't want this umbilical cord dragging on the ground.. okay, I'll carry it the last 2 miles.

*shaking head*

I walked in the house and went up to shower. I got some food in me right away and got off my feet to rest up for my mid-week long run that I'd be doing in the morning. Right now, I'm just keeping them around 6-8 miles, which is plenty. I got some Tiger Balm rubbed into my quads while watching the Caps and just chilled for the night.

I stalled a bit yesterday morning but still got out and ran the same route as the night before - 6 minutes faster sans dog. Booyah!

The bad news is that I'm sore as hell. I know all about DOMS, but not even getting up and walking around throughout the day is helping. I figure it's good mental 'practice' for MMT when your quads are shot and there are still two big downhills to run - to the final aid station and to the finish. The stairs at work are my hills and I climb and descend them every day.

I still want to get in one more run this week before heading out to George Wash Nat Forest Saturday for an over and back run of Short Mountain for about 17 miles. I want to hit it hard and hit it early even if it does hurt. Come race day, I know there will be pain and a lot of hurt, but I want to be able to deal with it and to keep moving forward toward the finish line.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A challenging and fun workout and a return to the trails

It seems as if I'm losing some fitness even though I feel like I'm doing more. I drop back on something like push ups and burpees, but my push press and overall Fight Gone Bad score improves with little specific training. That, I am happy about, but want to see improvement everywhere!

My focus is not on the now, but on the five months from now when the 100 miler is scheduled. As it was earlier this year, that race is always in my thoughts - on the tip of my tongue or in the back of my mind. I know that everything I do leading up to it can affect my performance - good or bad - and I'm trying to learn from past accomplishments and failures. One thing that I don't think I had this year was adequate fitness that wasn't obtained by running, and specific enough workouts.

So last week I completed a workout that I was proud to finish even if I could barely lift my arms two days later. Damn you, DOMS!! It looked like this -

Reps of 40-20-10 of
1 KB squat clean press
tricep dips
renegade rows

We were told it was a strength based workout, so I knew right away that I wanted to push myself, and I grabbed the 35# KB. I've only used it for some swings or push presses and knew it would be a challenge, especially for my weaker left arm. But I was up to the challenge. My goal was to do 20-10-5 reps with each arm, and alternate arms with reps of 5 or 10. Within those sets of reps, I tried to do as many as possible before putting the weight down to rest. I also wanted to do a full range squat and then press up the bell as quickly as possible without too much arch in my lower back.

The first set of 40 reps seemed to take forever, but I was able to find good form early on. I knocked out the tricep dips next before moving on to the renegade rows. I used 20# dumbbells since I had a hard time balancing with the 20# KBs. This is a great core workout as you really have to focus to keep the incline plane position (think of a start position of a push up) and not shift your hips as you draw the bell up to your armpit and back down.

The second and third rounds went quicker, but I was taking more frequent breaks, and tried to keep them to only a few breaths long. I even had to dump the weight a couple times when I didn't get a good squat clean and was off balance. Better to be safe than to be injured. Everyone else had finished before me and started putting the equipment away, so I was left doing my final set of rows with 25# dumbbells, which wasn't too bad. The total workout took me 30-35 minutes. Next time I do it, I want to have a fast time, and use the 20# kettlebells instead of the dumbbells.

Saturday, I did a chilly 10.5 mile trail run as my official return to the trails. My last time out was back in September for the women's half-marathon. I took a lot of time off to focus on rugby and general fitness. My goal is to get to the Potomac Heritage Trail, Bull Run-Occoquan Trail, Prince William Forest Park trails, or further out to Shenandoah or George Washington National Forest every weekend, so this was a good first step.

I wanted to use the run to just focus on the mileage and focus in on the race five months away. The lottery for that race was Tuesday, and I was not one of the lucky 180 crazies to be selected. It was a frantic last few minutes watching the Dow Jones, and the closing number is used to determine where they start selecting from the list of entrants. Where I'm at right now on the wait list is a moot point. However, I look at it, and it looks like I have a looong climb before I get off the wait list and onto the entrants list.

I'll admit to feeling really down for a couple of hours after seeing the results. Knowing I was 'in' would be a whole lot less to worry about over the coming months. I had a run I wanted to do right after work and it would've been easy to crawl into bed and sleep it away, but I kept my promise and hit the pavement. I can't say I've ever experienced runners high in all the years I've been running, but it was a very cleansing run... of the mind, not the colon!

I'm going to keep focusing on the training program I have set up for myself and tweak it as needed. I will train as if I WILL get off of the wait list and be one of the crazies in May. I had my moment of disappointment and it has passed. Time to move on and look forward to more challenging workouts and runs.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Catching up on some posts

Things have been busy to the point that I don't get to post as often as I would like to. Looking back, I have 3 potential posts still sitting in "draft form", and they would be really outdated if I finished them. So now I'm looking to get some new material up including why I've been so busy, some workouts I've been doing, and my up coming ultra plans/schedule.

First off, I spend a couple mornings a week putting a group of rowers through some tough workouts. It's nice to be on the other side of the watch sometimes being the one that says '3..2.. 1.. GO!', but then later in the day I'll put myself through the same workout, if not a harder one. It's easy to say a workout is easy until you back up the talk and do it yourself.

For my own workouts, I've been trying to keep up with the burpees and push ups that I blogged about awhile back. I haven't been as consistent as I'd like to be, but I'm still doing them. I try to sneak in a few sets of 7-10 burpees at work when it sounds like the hallway is empty. I haven't been consistent enough to keep up with the 100 burpees challenge, and will probably start over. I've even been hoping on the bike on the rollers from time to time and doing a kettlebell workout. The night before Thanksgiving, I did a modified version of Angie, which I first did back in July. It was a little difficult to do 'jump negatives' with a door gym even when I switched grips frequently. Maybe I'd have better luck if I wore that snazzy get-up and kept my hair down. Next time. The push ups were done on my knees, and I when I finished those, I blazed through the sit ups and squats. Cake.

The running is starting up again, too, and I'm putting myself on training program. I don't want to call it 'strict', but I'm scrounging the internet and old training programs to come up with something that I can fit in and around my CrossFit workouts and training of others, as well as yoga, Pilate's, my job, my social life (or lack there of), and my relationship. I know, at some point, that something's gotta give and I will have to make sacrifices to my life, be it something from said list.

Right now, I'm gearing my training towards Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 mile Run, which I 'entered' this week. The entry process has changed to a lottery for 2009, so I won't know if I make it or make it on the waiting list until December 9th or so, but I'm going to start training and planning as if it I'd be at the ranch May 16th. However, the flannel sheets got the best of me this morning, so my 8 miler will be pushed back to tomorrow. See.. not very strict. ;)

Something has gotta give, and the lack of new posts shows that blogging took the brunt of me being busy, but hopefully I can keep things a little more up to date.. with pictures! Maybe..