Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I am removing the superfluous buns.

Who remembers this scene from Father of the Bride?

This has always cracked me up and sometimes when I feel like I'm being cheated or just frustrated by stupidity, I will blurt out, "I am removing the superfluous buns." It's a miracle I am married and have any friends.

I had this moment while at a local running store over the weekend. I needed replacement bottles for my FuelBelt. They are all a little funky but one of the bottles and caps was beyond cleaning and was retired to the recycling bin. That left me with only 3 bottles for my 4-bottle Fuel Belt. My favorite local running store (shout out to Frontrunner) doesn't carry FuelBelt brands anymore (boo!). While my FuelBelt is slowly disintegrating from lots of use (and its becoming too big as I lose weight, yeay), I really don't want to fork over $50+ to buy a new one just yet. After being inconvenienced for the past 4 months (yes, it's been that long) and surviving on just three bottles of water during my long workouts and confirming another running store carried the replacement bottles, I finally ventured to that side of town.
For those who don't know but are dying to find out what a FuelBelt is, this is what I'm talking about. It's a way to carry water, hands-free while you train for distance events. The Pilot calls it my super hero utility belt. This is very similar to the model I have except mine isn't pink and I have added another pouch to carry my cell phone, inhaler, tissues, Shot Blocs, a quarter (when I was 14 my mom told me to never leave the house without a quarter so I don't.),
a marble (in case I lose any)
and the kitchen sink....and I wonder why I'm so slow.

When I arrived, they didn't have any clear bottles. They only had bright neon colors. Well that's annoying. I'd be carrying three clear bottles and one neon color. Oh well, I opted for green so it looks like I'm drinking Cryptonite.
I also realized they didn't sell individual bottles. You had to buy two. Superfluous! But I rolled with it because my remaining three bottles are borderline questionable if I should still br drinking out of them.

Then I looked at the label. 7 ounce bottles. What? My current FuelBelt carries 8 ounce bottles. They also sold 10 ounce bottles. Why on earth would they sell the FuelBelt with 8 ounce bottles but then sell replacement bottles in 7 ounces and 10 ounces?? A very nice employee came over and asked if I needed any help. So I posed that exact question. She smiled and said she wondered the same thing. I responded, "well that's crazy." (Don't worry, I was being polite.) I also noticed that the replacement bottles didn't have the ounce markings on the side of the bottle. Madness! But not superfluous in this case because now I would have one LESS ounce of water.

Anyways, I ended up buying two green, 7-ounce bottles assuming they would still fit in my belt. As we left the store, I told The Pilot I was playing that scene from Father of the Bride in my head. I'm so cool. Despite being dramatic, none of this really matters. I have more than enough bottles now to go about me merry little way and have my water.

That is until as I was looking for pictures of the bottles on the interwebs for this blog post, I discovered that I can order FOUR 7-ounce bottles (in clear!) on the FuelBelt web site for nearly the same price I paid for TWO bottles in the store. Son of a! This also required some browsing at the new and improved belts. It looks like the new belts all come with either a 7 ounce or a 10 ounce bottle. No more 8 ounce bottles.

So then I just started to feel out of the loop....old school if you will. But what's new? I'm 31 years old. I prefer to shop in local stores where I can look at and touch the product I'd like to buy. I don't have a smart phone, I write my schedule on a paper calendar, I go to bed at 9 pm and I endurance train using an old school Fuel Belt with 8 ounce bottles. Maybe someday, when I've really made it, I will be able to get a new fancy Fuel Belt with all the bells and whistles...and 7 or 10 ounce bottles.

Or maybe I'll just wait until the phone books arrive and then I'll really be somebody.

Yup, definitely thankful someone agreed to marry me and I have friends who look past the crazy...or at least appreciate the comedic performances of Steve Martin.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Does that count as 2? How about 7?

I try to get in at least 4-5 workouts per week. Sometimes it's easy peasy. Other times I'm lucky to get in 1-2 solid workouts. I try not to stress over it too much because it all makes a difference. I'd like to know if you take a 30 minute "break" in between workouts, does that count as two separate workouts? I'm going with yes....because that's how I rolled on Sunday.

First up it was a TNT group training with the run and walk teams (training for Cap City 1/2, Cleveland 1/2 and Full, and San Diego 1/2 and full). I was coaching and my walkers had between 3 and 6 miles depending on their races. Despite the 19 degree temps, the sun was shining and we had about 25 participants show up. My last minute decision to add a layer proved to be a wise choice as I spent some time below my normal pace and it took much longer to get warmed up. I don't think my hands ever got warm.

I knocked out just over 6 miles with the team before rushing back to our starting point to change into my cycling clothes. I inhaled a Pria bar and a fruit strip (I swear there is crack in these things) before heading down the street to a group training for TNT's cycle team (training for the Lake Tahoe Century ride). About 30 minutes after finishing 6 miles, I found myself on a spinning bike.

Their coach, Tim, let me tag along again. Remember last week's hill climbing adventure? That was 90 minutes of torture fun. This week was going to be 2 hours. Say what?? This team is training for a century ride which is 100 miles. The triathlon's bike portion I will be participating in is only 17 miles. So why am I showing up to a 2 hour spinning class? I have no idea. It's fun?? I don't really have an answer to that other than I know I'm not a very strong cyclist and spinning in the winter will make the transition to road cycling in the spring a little easier.

My shoulders hurt for a couple days after last weekend's spin class (I was mentally cursing Tim every time I tried to put my coat on) so I raised the handlebars (correct term??) this week so that felt better. One thing you can't change on a spinning bike though? The saddle. You can change the position but you can't change the fact that the seat seems giant compared to my road bike. Contrary to what most people think, a smaller seat tends to be more comfortable than a large one. It all depends on the placement and how the saddle fits on your sit bones. The spinning seats do NOT fit my backside I guess. The second I got on the bike, my @$$ hurt. Yes, I realize it has been a while since I've been on a bike and typically it does take a couple rides to toughen up the backside again but I don't think there is any getting completely used to the spinning bikes. Maybe that's just me.

Tim had a 2 hour and 6 second playlist for us to ride our way through....including 30 minutes and 30 seconds of hill climbing. I have never been so thrilled to climb hills before because it meant I could get up out of the seat.

Last week, I apparently blacked out for one of the climbs and completely left out one of the songs in my post about the spin class. Tim read my post and pointed that out. So this week, he conveniently sent me the climb song list. I told him I'd have to start taking notes during class if it got any longer. My memory isn't so great, especially when I'm oxygen deprived when trying to remember something such a the song we are climbing to.

As we first got started and were spinning through a warm up, I mentioned that my skin was still cold to the touch from my 6 miles out in the cold. Tim told me not to worry, I wouldn't be cold for long. That was the truth!
Ahhh, Tim. Thank you for capturing me in all my sweatastic glory.

Climb 1:
"If Today Was Your Last Day" by Nickelback -
Tim reminded us about his hero who recently completed a round of chemo. Even though I was feeling the 6 miles I completed earlier in the morning during this climb, you CANNOT sit down when you know that the climb is dedicated to a young man fighting cancer for the 3rd time. I also noted that I was NOT cold anymore.

Climb 2:
"The Climb" by Miley Cyrus
Tim shared a story of a woman on last year's Lake Tahoe team who was afraid of hill climbs (I think I'd like to meet this woman!). One of the team hero's mom thought of this woman and told her about this song. While not many adults would admit to listening to Miley Cyrus, the lyrics really are appropriate when trying to climb. This was all it took for that woman to make it to the top of a large climb. And while I'm not a fan either, the song got me up an indoor climb without falling off my bike or passing out.

Climb 3:
"Right Now" by Van Halen
Another team hero was actually spinning with us. He is a cancer survivor and was in there surviving the 2 hours spinning class right alongside us. After his cancer diagnosis, he realized more than ever that you need to live right now. Be present in your life right now. I absolutely love this because this is one of my greatest struggles. Sometimes I get hung up on things that have happened in the past or even get way too wrapped up in planning for the future when I'm living my life right now. I won't lie though, I blurted out half way through this climb that "I'd really like this hill to be over right now."

Climb 4:
"Use Me" by Bill Withers
Finally! Another hill so I can get off this seat. I was trying to work though in my head what was the most polite way to say, "Holy crap, Tim, my @$$ hurts so bad!"

Climb 5:
"American Woman" by Lenny Kravitz
Before this climb officially started, I was up out of the seat. I kept the resistance on the bike down but I really needed to get off my butt. It was starting to get really uncomfortable. Tim decided to take the opportunity to dedicate the climb/song to the "Gym Class Dropout" turned Hill Climbing Queen" and told us to dial up the resistance. I was amused, which did make the hill go by a lot more quickly. I still hadn't figured out the polite way to say "Holy crap, Tim, my @$$ hurts so bad" so I'm pretty sure at some point, I may have just blurted it out just like that. Sometimes I just can't help but blurt out my thoughts....especially when I'm experiencing some discomfort.

Climb 6:
"Best of You" by the Foo Fighters
For some reason, during this song, I noticed how low my heart rate stayed through almost the entire song. Despite cranking out the same intensity (at least I thought so) as the other hills, I felt much more relaxed as we made our way up the hill. It wasn't until the last 90 seconds of the song that I noticed that it seemed like Tim was sprinting up his imaginary hill. If the coach is sprinting, them maybe I should to. I gave the last 90 seconds as much as I had. If I was going to spend time out of the seat, I might as well really take advantage of it. Or something like that.

Climb 7:
"Dreams" by Van Halen

The last climb before the cool down. Cool down? I was sweating like a beast by this point. There was only one other girl in the class (Go TNT Staff!) and we had been joking about how there was no way we were glistening. We were sweating hard core. I have also decided that 36 ounces of water for 2 hours of spinning is NOT enough. I could have easily downed another bottle of water while on that bike. I normally drink A LOT of water when I work out but the water loss was obscene. I lost about a pound of water during the morning's workouts. Can you guess what I spend the rest of the day replenishing??

I survived another crazy long spin class with crazy hills. So I was going to call that 2 different workouts but do 7 hill climbs count for anything extra? I'll need to think about that.

Last week I cursed Tim every time I had to put my coat on or when I would walk up stairs. This week, I'm cursing him every time I sit down. Which is a lot considering I have a desk job. But it's all in good fun.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I'm so obnoxious....but for a good reason

I already mentioned I am training for my 6th event with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. I've been sharing my training adventures and will do so for the next couple of months as I prepare for my next triathlon. But I haven't mentioned much about my fundraising since then.

Each Friday for the past several weeks, I have obnoxiously hounded my friends via Facebook . I call it $5 Fridays. If all of my FB friends donate just $5, I will exceed my fundraising goal! $5! That's skipping that fancy coffee or a trip to a fast food restaurant (both of which are probably not so great for you). Or don't skip anything at all. Dig up $5 from your couch cushions or from your car seats. There aren't too many people out there that don't have $5 to give to a great organization.

Since I started raising money for TNT back in 2004, I am a firm believer in donating as much money as you are comfortable with to organizations which you believe in. I support several other organizations (mostly through friends) but the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society(LLS) and the local Humane Society are my real passions. I believe in their missions and I believe that my donations, however small they are, really make a difference.

I have SEEN the difference especially with LLS. I have watched the cure rates increase over the last 8 years. I have seen the impact the financial assistance programs have had on families dealing with a cancer diagnosis. I have watched families get their lives back once they hear that word "remission."

So I am declaring today $5 Friday in the bloggy world. Whether you donate to my fundraising goals for LLS or to another organization you believe in, I encourage you to donate just $5. I promise you won't miss that money and someone else will appreciate the money more than you could possibly know.

If you do want to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, you can donate HERE.

End shameless plug. ;) Happy Friday!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Embracing the Climb Part II

I continued with my "embrace the climb" mission yesterday. My tri team had a group "ride" scheduled but we had to bring our own bikes and trainers (still too cold here for the average Joe to ride outside. Only the bad a$$es are riding outside right now). Queue excuses.....we are trying to sell our condo. We had an open house yesterday afternoon and the place needed a lot of work. We are also hiding all of our clutter in miscellaneous places (the car, the shed, my parents house, my in-laws house, etc). The bike and the trainer just aren't all that easily accessible at the moment. End excuses.

I did have the opportunity to participate in one of our other TNT coach's (Tim) spinning classes. It's at a gym with spinning bikes so all I needed to do was locate my cycle shoes and a sweat towel. Easy enough. I was in....and let the coach know I was interested. I then found out it was a 90 minute class. Lord help me. I haven't been on a bike of any kind since probably October. I was in for a treat.

I'm still smiling because we must not have started climbing yet...I was also sweating a lot which must have been why no one wanted a bike near me.

Not really knowing what to expect, I just went with it. We were spinning fast but easy. Tim gave us a heads up that a climb was coming. We heard the first few bars of the amazing "Baba O'Riley" from The Who....and where told to add resistance and get up out of the seat.

"Tim, please don't make me hate The Who because of this climb."

Tim then reminded us of one or our team heroes who's cancer recently returned and he's undergoing chemo again. I'm not going through chemo. The least I can do I muscle my way up that climb....all 5 minutes and 7 seconds of it.

We spun easy but fast again for a little while when it was time for Tim to pull out the big guns.

Knowing I am a huge Pearl Jam/Eddie Vedder fan, Tim was sure to point this out....and then told us to add resistance and get up out of the seat again.

"Tim, I can't sing and climb at the same time."

5 minutes later, I wanted to fall off the bike into a puddle of my own sweat. But I didn't. I'm too stubborn. And so I kept spinning.

We got a "rest" and time to let our heart rates come back from jacked up to slightly elevated.

We got a warning that we had another climb coming. What?? Did I really have another one in me? Embrace the climb, Amber, stop whining!

Tim then shared that when one of our other team heroes was undergoing treatment, he literally had to learn to walk again. And that's all I needed to get up out of the seat for another climb.

I was starting to feel really hungry by this point. Lunch time was approaching and I had been spinning for nearly and hour and a half. Remember, I haven't been on a bike in months. Let's just say that my derriere isn't used to sitting in the saddle. Towards the end of the class, I was more than ready to get up out of the seat. I would have preferred to get off the bike completely but that wasn't in the cards just yet.

Tim then pulled out a blast from the past. In a matter of seconds, I was transported back to high school.

It was a fun way to end the class....though another 4+ minutes of climbing was killing my hip flexors. We did spun out for a little while to bring the heart rate back down and then it was time to stumble off the bike. Even though it was crazy hard, I was dripping in sweat and it felt great.

It's now been more than 24 hours since the class and I have all kinds of reminders of my 90 minute spin (with 20 minutes of climbing). My shoulders HURT (I tend to raise my shoulders and tighten my grip on the bike when I start to get tired). My butt HURTS. My legs feel OK....until I have to walk up stairs and then I curse Tim the entire way.

It's a wonderful thing, embracing the climb.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Embracing the Climb Part I

Remember a couple weekends ago when I had a realization about hills? I've decided to keep embracing the hills rather than avoid them. Team in Training had a group practice on Saturday morning. I wasn't assigned to coach but we have a large group of walkers this season so I wanted to help out the walk trainer who was leading for the day. I also wanted to get a few miles in and "embrace the climb."

Training was at Sharon Woods. As wonderful as the trail is at that park, there are some hills. In the past, if I didn't have to be there, I would tend to go do my miles somewhere else. Lame, I know. But yesterday, I showed up. My plan was to walk one lap (approximately 3.8 miles) with the walkers and then once there were done, I'd make one more lap but I would run. I somehow stuck to the plan but once I finished with 7.57 miles, I was sort of thinking I should have stopped after one lap.

I felt completely hungover when I woke up, despite not having any adult beverages the night before. I stayed up way too late, then had trouble falling asleep. With that going against me, I also fueled up with pizza and a cupcake. Fail! I managed to drag myself out of bed and get to training on time. I felt decent on the first lap. I walked a pace close to my 1/2 marathon race pace for the first mile and a half but then slowed down and finished the lap with one of the current participants. I was headed back out when Lisa offered to go out with me. I don't think she intended to another 3.8 miles but she's a rock star and went with me anyways. Never mind the fact that she has a 1/2 marathon in a week and she's supposed to be tapering. Today is her 50th birthday so she must have had an extra spring in her step and dragged me through another lap.
Tiaras are totally acceptable when you are turning 50 and about to run the Princess 1/2 marathon at Disney World! She had to test out her new gear....because as we always tell our athletes, nothing new on race day!

About 1/2 way through the second lap, I hit a wall. Hard. Lack of sleep, poor fuel and the hills did me in. I was exhausted. Even a walk break didn't seem to help. If Lisa wouldn't have been with me, I would have certainly walked.....sloooowly the entire way back to the car. Instead we managed a run/walk and made it back. It's been awhile since I've bonked like that during a training and was definitely a reminder that you can't abuse your body and expect it to perform well. In the end, I got in a decent workout though. It's better than staying in bed and not doing anything (what I really wanted to do). And hopefully burned off that cupcake and at least one slice of pizza.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Virtual Run for Sherry

On January 7, the same day I was racing my way to a new 1/2 marathon PR, Sherry Arnold went out for a morning run in Sidney, Montana. She didn't come home. Days went by and all they could find was one of her running shoes. Not much information was released to the public but after several days, two suspects were in custody and one confessed to killing her. Her body still hasn't been found.

I've been following her story through the Shut Up and Run blog. Sherry was SUAR's cousin. SUAR's blogs have been heart breaking to read as she shared information about Sherry's death. It is scary to think that you could go out to do something you love, something that is healthy and good for you but bad things can still happen. Runners and walkers certainly aren't invincible.

I've always been a very cautious athlete. If I have to train alone, someone always know when I left, which direction I'm heading and when I'm expected to be home. When The Pilot isn't home, I call my mom or a friend. Someone always knows. And if it's dark, I just don't go. I refuse to go alone in the dark. This is the ONLY reason I have a gym membership. With the long winter nights, there just isn't enough sunlight to get in an outside workout during the week. Still, Sherry was killed on a Saturday morning in a sleepy town in Montana. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.

Today, people from all over the world ran and walked to remember Sherry. A Virtual Run for Sherry was organized. 500 people showed up for the run in Sherry's hometown today. A large group gathered in Boulder, SUAR's home base. Bloggers across the country ran for Sherry. The Runners World Facebook page was blowing up with people running for Sherry. And while I'm stuck in a hotel for work, I was sure to carve out 30 minutes to run on the treadmill for Sherry. It wasn't a great run (turns out a day of bad eating and a glass of wine at a business dinner doesn't provide the fuel for a good work out. Go figure.) but that wasn't the point. I stopped from my crazy day and thought of Sherry and her friends and her family.

Sure, running/walking can't bring her back. It may not comfort to her family. It doesn't change that there are sick, crazy people out in the world. But this is one of those senseless acts in which no one really knows what to say or do. So runners and walkers do what we do best. We pound out our feelings on the pavement or on the treadmill. It's how we process the tricky stuff in life. It's how we cope with emotions.

It does show the public that while runners and walkers come in all shapes and sizes and paces, different ethnic and religious backgrounds, male and female, we are one tight knit community. When something happens to one of our own, we don't just stand there. We band together and we make some noise. Whether it does anything or not, it's what we do.

Something that won't happen though, is no one will forget Sherry.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I hate hills. I hate walking up them. I hate running up them even more. I don't even like walking or running down them. Both directions are painful. Sure, I love the speed I pick up on the way down but I'm so slow on the way up that the fast downhill doesn't do me much good.

Because of this hatred of hills, I don't do them. I avoid them at all costs during training. Naturally this bites me in the a$$ when I'm faced with a hill during a race but after 8 years of endurance racing, I still haven't sucked it up and tackled hill training.

On Saturday we had a group practice with Team in Training. It wasn't my day to coach but I still came to get some miles in and to get to know the new participants. We met at Highbanks Metro Park which has a nasty hill. It's hard to get much distance in at this park without going onto the trails (we avoid taking the large teams on the trails because it can be hard to keep track of everyone and us coaches hate when we lose someone, especially in the woods). That leaves one nasty hill to climb and often times we have to climb it more than once.

I only intended to make one trip up the hill and back plus a loop around the bottom of the park for a total of 4 miles with my walkers. I made it back and was just hanging around chatting when my buddy Lisa came running by. It was one of her last long runs before she starts tapering for a 1/2 marathon and she had 12 miles for the day. The Team was all finished up but she still had several miles left and didn't want to do it alone. She trucked along beside me (at a much slower pace than her own) for months so the least I could do was run with her. I told her I'd do a loop with her (1 mile, I'm a lame friend). She gave me "that look" and I got suckered into climbing the hill again and adding 3 additional miles to my morning. But hey, what are friends for?!
Now for those of you who don't avoid hills or live in a more hilly region (it's pretty darn flat here in Central Ohio), this probably doesn't seem like much but for me, this is hard work. The first trip up was fine because I was walking. The second trip however was running. I warned Lisa before I started up with her that I had never actually run up the Highbanks hill before and I might not make it all the way. I made it but my heart rate was jacked up!

Later that afternoon I noticed that my lower back was sore. I was annoyed that I was sore and I came to the realization that I need to stop avoiding hills. I need to accept that the reason I hate them so much is because I suck at climbing. I suck at climbing because I avoid hills. Maybe if I ran/walked up hills more often, I wouldn't suck and then I might not hate them so much. Genius.

With that still fresh in my mind, I incorporated some "hills" during my treadmill workout tonight. Short on time and with a growling stomach, I planned on 3 miles. To make it "interesting," I slowly kept increasing the incline and then picked up the pace. I ran until my heart rate was jacked up (technical term) and then I started to decrease the incline but kept the pace the same. When I got back to a fat surface, I decreased the pace a little to let my heart calm down. I repeated 3 times. I didn't feel any worse for the wear afterwards so that's good. It really wasn't so bad....but then again, I had control over the steepness and the length of the "hill." You can't exactly do that outside. Oh well, this is just one step towards my journey to incline acceptance.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

And for my next trick....

So it took me a little time to come up with my next challenge. It's been a busy 12 months and I was thinking maybe I just needed some time to chill out (remember my New Year post?) but I quickly realized that this type A woman cannot chill out. I need a challenge. If I'm going to keep myself from turning into a chunky monkey again or if I'm going to continue my weight loss journey, I have to keep moving. In order to keep moving, I need a goal to work towards. Working towards the generic and vague "I'm going to lose x pounds" just doesn't keep me motivated. But a race sure will!

And for my next trick...

I will be competing in the Wendy's triathlon with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. As I head into my 8th year as a volunteer and my 6th year as a coach, I figured I might as well sign up for another event....my 6th fundraising event with the organization. And I'm so excited about it! This is another sprint triathlon but it's a different location the my last two triathlons (2010 recap and 2011 recap).

On June 10 I will swim 750 meters (about 1/2 mile), I will bike 17 miles and then I will finish it up with a 10k (6.2 mile) run. In addition to that fun, I am going to raise money to help fund cancer research and patient aid in addition to improving the quality of life of cancer patients and their families. The only way to do that is to ask for your help. Skip that fancy cup of coffee for a couple mornings and make a donation. Every single donation helps get us closer to a cure.

So while I solicit your help in reaching my fundraising goal, I'll be putting in the work during training. And it started this morning with the first official group practice. We had a swim clinic and it kicked my butt....and it was great. My coach pointed out that I have a lucky fin just like Nemo. I get a little lazy with my left arm stoke....and I completely wore myself out trying to correct the problem. But that's all part of the experience!

With some of my team mates after our hour long swim.
Exhausted but smiling and no one drown!

Thank you in advance for your support as I start out on another endurance adventure. Stay tuned for all of my training shenanigans. It's going to be a great season!