Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Across the Years Race

As I write this, my friend John Radich just completed running 100 miles in the Across the Years Race in Arizona. He's in the 31st hour of 72 hours of racing and is still going strong. So strong, in fact, that he is in 16th place!

A couple of months ago he asked me to crew for him, but we had a last minute change of plans, so I'm watching his progress through the webcast at Across the Years.

John is a super nice guy and very dedicated runner. We got to run together Christmas eve morning with his running group the Foothill Flyers. It was a blast and we had a chance to talk a lot about ultra-running and make some future plans. He told me later that after our 8-mile run (his warm up) he went for another 14 that day! And now here he is running for 72 hours with a goal of 300 miles by the New Year! Gotta love it!

I have to say I'm in awe of this guy. He's 54-years old and still going strong. He's run in Badwater--the world's toughest foot race--eight times now and is going again in July. 135 miles, 130 degrees, 60 hours. How's that for intense?

The coolest thing about John, is that he runs to support a good cause....The Way to Happiness. I really admire that.

Good luck John and see you next year!

photo by pixareus.com

Saturday, December 27, 2008

X-treme Fun

What do single people do for Christmas when they aren't visiting family? Well, I'm sure you could do the whole dinner with friends thing or watch a movie. But I'm sorry, that's too boring for me. Instead, I wrangled up some friends and took them to Big Bear with me for skiing. I've been wanting to learn snowboarding for awhile now and this was the perfect opportunity.

I already knew I was going to have fun. But this was beyond belief fun....Out of this world fun....Blown out of our minds fun....Insanely gleeful fun....It was fun beyond fun.

The trip itself was full of adventure and mother nature was in quite a "mood." But nothing deterred us from having a good time. It rained for most of the drive up to Big Bear with temps just above the freezing level. The long, windy road up the mountain was slushy. Not fun to drive in a tiny little 4-speed Saturn. Chains were mandatory, however none of us had put chains on a car before. So Celina read me the directions while I attempted to put them on. Haha. Not working. Their directions sucked! Of course by now, I'm getting soaking wet, even though I had one of those emergency poncho raincoats. The problem was it suddenly got real windy and the hat kept blowing off, the poncho kept getting in the way of my hands and face, and I still don't have the chains on my tires. OK, so we ask some people. They didn't know what they were doing either. Sigh. So I just look around and see someone drive on the chains and then tighten them. That made sense. Why didn't the instructions say that! I drive on the chains, tighten them and finally we are off again! Whew.

When we arrive it's overcast but snowing! Our timing couldn't have been better for this trip. In the last couple of days Bear Mountain received its largest snowstorm in 35 years...4 feet of snow in 2 days! Seeing the snow everywhere was so exciting. It was truly a white Christmas for us. And the best part was yet to come.

The first part of the snowboard lesson was learning how strap the the board on and falling techniques. I must have a big label on my face that says "PICK ON ME" because the instructor chose me to demonstrate all the falling techniques. And this wasn't even on the snow. It was on the hard ground. Ouch. Now if I could just put these techniques into practice. I noticed that when you fall for real you are not really "thinking" about HOW to fall. You just fall. And the reactive action is to do the wrong thing....like trying to brace your fall with your hands (bad) or falling straight back on your tail bone (very bad) instead of choosing the left or right butt cheek.

Falling is very much part of snowboarding. I knew that in advance so I was completely prepared for it. Over the 2 days there I probably fell somewhere between 50-80 times. Mostly on the butt, with a few good head bangs. Amazingly enough I'm not that sore. Except my shoulders and arms which I used to get back up every time I fell!

The class progressed nicely from movement to movement but as the lesson progressed so did the weather. We went from snowing with a few windy gusts to an almost full-blown blizzard. Early on in the lesson I had just gotten up and was preparing to take my turn down the slightly slanted slope and a big gust of wind hit me. I went flying (and screaming) down the hill not having learned how to stop. Well I knew one way. Fall. Thank goodness for the goggles. They saved my eyes from the stinging snow pellets. The instructors kept debating whether to stop class or not. People start dropping out of the class because the conditions are now so extreme. Celina and I didn't care a bit. We were dressed for it and having the time of our life.

Next thing we know, there are only 3 students. Cool. Semi-private lesson. We learned more in the next hour than in the entire lesson. Who cared about a little snow storm? We didn't. Besides it made it even more challenging. And believe me, snowboarding is a very definite challenge. But by the end of the class I had a clue. And didn't fall as much.

I am so hooked. I found a new passion.

I am seriously thinking about getting a place in the mountains and learning bar tending so I can snowboard all day and work at night. Crazy? Maybe. Possible? Anything is possible in my book. I'm already signed up for a virtual snowboarding lesson here in LA and am going back skiing next weekend. It's just too bad I'm going to be in Florida for all of January and February.

Big Bear is so cute. It was a little quiet on Christmas night but we managed to find some cool places. This place, "The Pub" was like a big living room with couches, a fireplace, pianos, and a small stage. I discovered a new drink....hot apple cider with spiced rum. Yum! We weren't out that long (so we could rest up for skiing), but apparently we got quite a bit of snow in that time. So much so, that my car got stuck. It had gotten stuck earlier, but I was able to get it out with some pretty aggressive handling. This time it wasn't working. It got to the point where I asked my 2 friends to go push the car while I tried to back it up. Some people saw us and wanted to help.

It was a couple and they had some cardboard in their truck. We tried putting that under the stuck tire. That didn't work either. Apparently the tire was in some kind of hole. Another guy came and went to get something from his truck to help us. Meanwhile, out of the blue, these 4 gorgeous men appeared and offered to help us 3 girls in distress. They went to the front of the car and practically picked it up. Just then, the other guy came back and offered to drive the car out. I let him. Yeah! We were out. I high fived all the guys and the last of the gorgeous men didn't let go of my hand for awhile. Finally he released it and wished me Merry Christmas. After my moment of "wow," I realized I didn't know his name, his number or anything. Darn. Missed opportunity but a happy memory nonetheless.

The next day Shannon and her boyfriend Dan came to learn snowboarding too. Fortunately they brought the sun with them so it turned out to be a beautiful day. As expected they caught the snowboard "bug" just as bad as me and Celina. We are all so hooked and can't wait to go back. By the end of the day I could actually board on the toes (going backwards down the hill) without falling. It was quite an accomplishment. I have so much more control now and am eager to go to the next level.

Here's Celina, Stacia, Shannon and me at the end of the day....completely spent and happy. I can't imagine having a better Christmas than this...one with great friends and having an awesomely amazing time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

All Gains Are Not Lost

Whew, I thought for sure I had lost all my CrossFit gains by not working out for two straight months.

Today, I realized that wasn't so. The muscles are still there. They've just been hiding under the extra pounds of fat that have accumulated since I stopped smoking over four months ago. By the way, If you ever want to quit smoking, just join CrossFit. You'll become so addicted to CrossFit that smoking just won't matter anymore. Besides you need really strong lungs.

So how did I figure this out? I did a 4.1 mile hill workout run today. It's one of my favorites because I can leave right straight from my house and within 4 minutes I'm on the fire trails. Shannon wanted to join me, so we went together. Along the way, my nose was running and I was coughing up more yucky stuff, but overall, the run felt pretty good.

It was so nice out too. Sunshine, beautiful sunshine. For me it was a wonderful change from the sucky rains we've been having. The trail was a bit muddy in places, but not bad enough to worry about slipping.

Shannon has become a really strong runner in the last couple of months and could definitely beat me, but for the most part we stuck together. Actually her running a slight bit faster forced me to keep my pace faster than I would have gone if I were on my own. Running with someone definitely has benefits. It's like a non-verbal self-discipline boost that keeps the negative internal voices at bay.

Time for the 4.1 mile hill-workout run was 41:44, my first hill workout since I got back from Florida and a personal record for me. So yeah, I was stoked. All was not lost.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

CrossFit Nightmares

Whoa. The last time I did a CrossFit workout was October 17th, exactly two months ago. As long as I can help it, I'm not gonna let that happen again, because I don't think my nerves can take it. There are definite reasons why this happened, which I won't go into here, but there is a solution now for the next time I work out of town. And I should be able to stick with it.

Usually I'm slightly nervous about CrossFit workouts, but today I was frightened! I even had nightmares last night of puking in the bushes and other strange things. I was pretty sure I could run, since I had at least been doing a bit of that, but could I lift any weights? Do push-ups? Or god forbid, box jumps? Even though I just ran a half-marathon 10 days ago, I felt really out of shape. And I am certainly not used to working out in the freezing cold. Brrrrrr. (Yes, I am missing those lovely temperatures in Florida.)

So what did we do today? The Miller. That's what the workout was called. Funny, seeing how that's my last name. It consisted of 5 rounds of:
-15 Deadlifts (M-135lbs, W-95lbs)
-400M Sprint
-15 GHD/Abmat Sit-ups

I had trouble right from the start, just in setting up my weights. I was so nervous I couldn't even add. Finally I realized I hadn't counted the bar weight. Duh. Guess 95 lbs. wasn't enough for me! Once we got started, things were better. My head was on a little straighter. Round number one went great. But after that it slowly went downhill, except for the final spurt of energy during round five.

Running in the cold burned my lungs and throat so bad I couldn't tell if that's how it's supposed to feel in the cold or if it was because my lungs hadn't fully recovered from the lung infection I just had. It probably was a bit of both because more yucky stuff came out of my lungs on the way home.

The weight seemed to get heavier and heavier. I tried really hard to keep my form, but I think that as I got more tired, I must have slipped up because my hip/lower back is hurting now. Or it could just be that I've irritated areas that never quite healed from months ago. (Yes, I still need to see one of those sports/orthopedic docs and would appreciate any recommendations).

All in all though, I am so happy to be back CrossFitting. This body needs it. On a regular basis. What was especially cool today was to see the new gym and have Vanessa as a coach for the first time. She's awesome and keeps my attention on good form. I feel really fortunate to be training at Team CrossFit Academy where the coaching is world-class, with no compromise to quality and care.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Handgun Training in the Desert

Front Sight Trained

There's nothing like a little 4-hour drive out to the middle of the desert to do some handgun training. And thanks to my tom tom gps I got to go through death valley for the first time. It was a beautiful drive with hardly any traffic. Translation: pedal to the floor and a happy inner speed demon!

Yes, I'm still sick with a cold, and probably quite nutz for spending the last two days in the freezing cold outside. But I was invited to this thing a couple weeks ago and I didn't want to NOT go. So even though I'm coughing up green phlegm now, I can say it was totally worth it.

Located just 40 minutes outside of Las Vegas, and occupying a spectacular 550 acres in the Nevada desert, Front Sight Training Institute is the first choice for those interested in the highest quality self defense and personal safety training. They train more students each year than all the other shooting schools in the US combined...Men and women, teens, families, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, teachers, military personnel, persons from all walks of life and all ages. And I can see why. The staff have the most impressive credentials I've ever heard of and instruct with consistency to the Front Sight method.

Front Sight's method is based on safety and drilling the fundamentals. With that, you gain the certainty that you can keep yourself, your family and others safe. It reminded me a lot of the crossfit method and its attention to form.

I learned a lot in the past 2 days, and even though I don't own a gun, when I do get one I'll have confidence in handling and operating it. The training was pretty intense and included loading and unloading; grip, stance, sight alignment, and trigger control; presentation; target engagement under time pressure; malfunction clearing; speed and tactical reloading.

In addition, important topics were covered like use of deadly force and the law; mental awareness; stopping power; and civil liability. It was extremely interesting to learn that if you use deadly force even if you are defending yourself, certain actions can land you in jail. Hopefully it will never come to that, but at least I know if I had to, I can take someone down.

The only thing I'd do different for next time, is to go a different time of year. I was freezing my ass off up there, despite my multiple layers! It brought back memories of my life on the road working outside in Chicago in December. Painful. Saturday was a little less cold, but we had these crazy hurricane-like winds. It was hard to stand up let alone shoot a gun! Our targets kept flying away which was quite amusing, but eating sand for hours was not. And, it took me almost an hour to brush my hair that night! Ouch!

On the way home I snapped some photos of the moon because it was so beautiful. And what do you know, I learned that it was the biggest and brightest full moon to be seen for 15 years. Each month the moon makes a full orbit around the earth in a slightly oval-shaped path, and last night it swung by the Earth at its closest distance, or perigee. It will pass by 356,613km (221,595 miles) away, which is about 28,000km closer than average.

The unusual feature was that the perigee also coincides with a full moon, which made it appear 14 per cent bigger and some 30 per cent brighter than most full moons this year. Cool, eh?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ocean Kim Koala

The koala has always been my favorite animal. As a child I had a stuffed one that I slept with every night. So once I found out that I could adopt one it was a no-brainer. Meet Ocean Kim, my newly adopted koala.

Ocean Kim, a tiny 0.455g joey, was found out of the pouch and under the body of her injured mother, Ocean Therese, on 26 June 2006. Ocean Therese had been struck by a car on Ocean Drive, a busy highway that feeds into the Port Macquarie industrial area. While her mother went into her own rehabilitation, “Kimmy”, as she became known, was fed formula and given pap milkshakes to inoculate her gut with the bacteria required for her to digest eucalyptus leaf. Kim responded well. She put on weight and, after a small mishap in her aviary, soon grew accustomed to climbing.

Kim was transferred to the hospital and placed into a yard with a tree so she could continue to acquire her “koala survival skills” before release. She shared yards with a number of joeys before finally being returned to the wild with her yard-buddy, Lake Christmas, on 22 August 2007.

Want one too? Go to The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, Australia

Monday, December 8, 2008

The First of Many

I survived two marathons in the last couple of weeks. The first was a work marathon. Talk about intense. I was working until 8 or 9 every night at my Florida job, then coming home to work until 1-2am for my California clients. Sleep? Some. Exercise. None. Why is it that everyone wants their stuff all at the same time? Do they just know that you are busy and purposely try to kill you? I wonder sometimes. And didn't they know I had a marathon to train for? Geez.

On top that, a virus was spreading around the office. I had successfully fended it off with airborne for over a week, but lo and behold on the day of the marathon I woke up sick with a cold. Seeing how I just spent $100 on my entry fee I wasn't about to miss it. Sick or not, off I went to the West Palm Beach marathon early Sunday morning and ran in the half.

I purchased an ankle brace and did a trial run the day before....only 2.5 miles. Previous training runs were 5 miles a week and a half ago, and my 20.5 mile run about a month ago. Obviously not enough training, but that was as much as I could do considering the work load and the ankle problem. The night before I had to pack, so I was up a little later than I wanted. I ended up getting about 6 hours of restless sleep. But I did eat well. I had a turkey burger and lots of spinach the night before. And no junk food the whole day.

On Sunday morning I woke up at 3:30am. I ate a light breakfast of one scrambled egg and 1/2 cup oatmeal. Got myself ready with the ankle brace and a slight adjustment, strapped the timing chip to my shoe, and put glide every where I was likely to chafe. I wore my goofy looking night running gear because it had a big pocket to put kleenex in, in case my nose started running while I was running. West Palm Beach is about an hour away so I headed out at 4:40am. What I didn't expect was traffic, parking troubles, and long lines for the restroom. The half marathon began at 5:55am and I got out of the restroom at 5:54am and barely had enough time to jog to the starting point. I never even stretched or warmed-up before the race. Boy, you sure learn a lot from these things.

Once the race began, everything changed. There was such excitement in the air. All these people. All out here for the same thing. As I started running I realized that I must have really been way back at the very back of the half marathon runners because for the first 2 miles I passed hundreds of people until I finally found MY pace group.

I never knew about these pace runners. They rock! With them you don't have to think about pace. Just follow along. It kept my running steady and at a just slightly uncomfortable pace. It was the 4:15 marathon pace group. Could I go faster? Of course. But I didn't want to burn out. And I was running faster than my target pace of 10 minute miles. So that made me happy.

The run felt surprisingly good. Here I am sick with a cold and it seemed to just disappear for awhile. The temperature outside was perfect. Probably 70 or so degrees with a nice breeze. I drank either gatorade or water at EVERY mile because I knew my body needed it. Actually I'm convinced I drank about 5 gallons of fluids that day between the marathon and traveling back to Cali. I just couldn't seem to get enough fluids. I also brought shot blocks. Had 2 around mile 5 and another 2 around mile 9. They seemed to help when I started feeling slightly less energetic.

The highlights of my run were at mile 6.25 and 8.7. The first turnaround was at mile 7, so when I was at mile 6.25 I could see the faster runners coming back my way. It was so exciting to see these athletes. They were beautiful. Men and women alike. I admired them and wanted to be where they were. I just couldn't stop smiling. There was so much cheering going on. This event went through local neighborhoods and people just camped out on their lawns to watch us and cheer us on.

There were different themed sections, mostly at the water stations...disco music, cheerleaders, pirates, the tie-dyed hippies, and my favorite, the male hula dancers. They were at mile 8.7. These guys were in grass skirts with coconuts on their breasts, and wearing wigs. It was hilarious. They were well coordinated and dancing in perfect sync. One just couldn't help but laugh. You've got to admit, these Florida people are pretty creative.

Time just flew by. At around mile 7 (shortly before the hula boys), I pulled ahead of my pace group. In my past training runs I've noticed that I run faster after I make the half way point, so I thought this should be no different. I must figure it's all downhill from there, so to speak. Besides I felt strong enough to go for it, so I did.

It might not have been a good idea because at mile 10 something happened. All of a sudden running became difficult. I started slowing down. I went from a 9:30 pace to a 10 minute pace then for miles 11 and 12 was almost at a 10:30 pace. I had eaten a shot block a little earlier and just didn't want to have too many of them. I wasn't even really having any pains to speak of. Sure I could feel blisters, a toe nail scraping skin, a mild ankle thing, and stiff knees, but that wasn't it. It was an energy zap. Like someone said you are done now. From here it just became a mental game. Obviously I kept myself going. But it was rough. I really had to talk myself into finishing. And I did.

Surprisingly the last few miles didn't affect my time that much. I still ended right where I wanted to be....at a sub 10 minute mile pace. Total time was 2:08:04. Here's my official race results:

Event: Marathon of the Palm Beaches - Half Marathon 13.1 miles
12/07/2008 06:00 am
Overall Place: 1002
Overall Time: 2:08:04
Gender Place: 412
Athletes in Gender: 1303
Division Place: 72
Athletes in Division: 198

I keep wondering what it will be like to do the full marathon. It seems like there would need to be a lot more conditioning to get this body ready for even longer runs. My knees were so stiff after this one. The ankle didn't hurt, but I could tell towards the end that it was just starting to get weak. It was a good thing I only ran the half.

Today I'm really sore. And much sicker of course. Traveling cross country right after that much running isn't such a good idea. It was too much time in the same position when I should have been keeping those muscles moving. A lot of lessons learned for next time. Now I just have to decide whether to do the Miami marathon Jan. 25th or the Ft. Lauderdale marathon Feb. 22nd or both since I'll be back in Fl those months.

Well, first things first. I need to get better. No looking back now. Marathons are definitely for me.