Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Thing About Big Sur...

After what has seemed like an eternity, I will be in Monterey in about 10 days for the Big Sur Marathon!

Except, not quite.

Registration for the Big Sur races opened on July 15th, a Monday morning, at 7 AM.  "The Ukrainian" was at work and registered at that time, while I was at the gym before work.  I got to my desk around 8 AM and immediately went on to register.

The "Marathon" button was greyed outSurely, this must be a mistake?  Some seconds later, I realized that it had sold out.  Argh!

Prior to that day, I had been having some reservations about registering for the full marathon.  I was perfectly content rounding out at 15 and backing off since I was having trouble sticking to a regular training schedule.  I guess the quick sell-out (59 minutes!) made the decision for me.  (I guess had I been prudent, I would have asked my love to register for me, but obviously I did not anticipate this issue occurring -- I read that next year, they will have a different entry procedure, so glad that I'm in for this year's!).

One of my lunchtime doodles -- okay, I was on a phone interview during the time.

I will still be at this race, starting at the 5-mile point.  Yes, that's a 21-miler, folks.  Auto PR!!  This gives me enough slack to run/walk this race, since I am desperately under-trained and wouldn't mind just enjoying the scenery.  I plan on carrying food, water and my phone with me.  Yep, it will be THAT kind of race.  And that kind of makes me look forward to it.  If anything, I am severely burnt out from not taking time off of work since November (I am taking a FULL DAY off after the weekend for this, whoop whoop! [slight sarcasm]).

In the meantime, I'm turning 29 in a couple of days.  My birthday always sneaks up on me these days, and somehow, the prospect of this one is not giving me the "omg, I'm so old" feelings that I used to get.  This could be because I have spent the last few years feeling this way, and well, nothing has changed.  Still, I think this year (as a precursor to my 30s) will be defining in its own right.

Monday, April 7, 2014

4:09:43 -- Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners, by Hal Higdon

It has almost been a year since the Boston Marathon bombings, and as I'm sure everyone else is saying, I can't believe it has been a year.  Since that time, marathon finish lines always make me think of that day.

I don't often read books that recap tragedies, but I made an exception for Hal Higdon.  Higdon's training programs were a staple for me in my earlier running days, and I will always view him as one of the most prominent members of the running community.  He is likely, in fact, the leader of the pack.

Hal Higdon was not present at the Boston Marathon in 2013, but due to his status in the running world, he received many accounts of that day.  In 4:09:43 (the time on the clock when the first bomb went off), Higdon recounts the collective experiences of approximately 75 people, who were mostly runners and also some volunteers and spectators.

Kathrine Switzer, a prominent runner/media person, writes the foreward.  The stories that followed covered those who were close to the scene as well as those who were far removed, as well as those who qualified by time and those who were running for charities.  Generally, they all kind of started the same way, the same as any story I'd have leading up to a race.  Everything played out like any other marathon (with some waxing poetic of the prestige of Boston, of course), until the last few chapters of the book.

I should add that there was a Boston Marathon course map printed in the book, and admittedly, it was my first time looking at it.  Due to my unimpressive marathon times, running Boston Marathon seems so out of reach that I never even looked at its specifics.  Well, I saw that the course traverses Framingham/Natick, an area that I had stayed in while traveling on business mid-2012.  Knowing this made me feel even closer to the stories because I could imagine the backdrop to it all. (Also, I feel like I have some sort of remote connection to Boston because I sort of lived there for a while in utero, but that's beside the point.)

Overall, I thought it was a good read.  I would have liked to hear more about the spectators who were injured, but I suppose their stories have been told numerous times in the media.  This book focuses more on the injuries that were supposedly not significant enough to count among the injured yet still traumatizing.  For example, minor shrapnel hitting a runner's foot to ear canal damage were not recorded but still very real.  It doesn't allude much to the culprits, which is a good thing.  It's a book written for runners, by runners, as a way of sharing and coping.

As the race approaches again (in the coming weeks), I look forward to following a completely ordinary day in Boston.

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of this book from Human Kinetics receiving no other compensation and am providing my honest opinion.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tracie Long Longevity Series: Staying Power

Being the DVD workout junkie that I am, I was excited to try out a new Tracie Long workout video, which comes out next week.

Staying Power is one of a series of new workouts by Tracie.  I have seen her DVDs on Amazon many times but have not had a chance to try one.

The series consists of:

Tracie Long Longevity Series: Defining Shape
Designed to increase lean muscle mass, this all-weights workout focuses on the lower body and shoulders.  

Tracie Long Longevity Series: Staying Power
An interval style that delivers a balanced total body challenge, this workout is designed to improve overall cardiovascular performance.    

Tracie Long Longevity Series: Step Forward
This step cardio workout targets the legs with a varying range of motion and tempos that will get you closer to your best legs ever.   

The run-time for each video is about 50 minutes long, which is perfect for those mornings when I wake up just a bit earlier to fit in a longer workout.  It is divided into a bunch of smaller sections that are focused on different areas -- arms, legs, cardio, core, seat -- using hand weights and a medicine ball.  I think having a 5-pounder and an 8-10 pounder would be perfect, but I only had 5's, which seemed to work out okay.  For convenience, there are customized chapters that group the exercises that focus on certain body parts, which range between 12-ish and 22-ish minutes.

As for the workout itself, it takes some acclimation. Since I am not familiar with Tracie's style, I had trouble keeping up with some of the footwork and sequences.  My solution to that is always to just keep moving until I get back on track, but that's just me!  It's not that they are difficult movements, but they do start up and progress quickly.  Tracie does seem to cue pretty well, though, which is important to me; I just couldn't keep up.  Also, there are a lot of forward/backward and side-to-side movements, and very little plyometrics, which are seemingly optional.  Besides the footwork, I was nervous to keep a dumbbell behind my knee in some of the seat exercises, mostly because dropping it would make my floor very unhappy.

I did work up a sweat and burned about 300 calories (your mileage may vary!), so while I wouldn't consider this a particularly taxing workout, it does equate to a steady burn.  I felt the biggest burn in my upper body because there is a push-up sequence that can get pretty tough, but I do think my upper body in general is weak.

Overall, this workout is a little more tame compared to the likes of Insanity or maybe even Jillian Michaels, but it is still vigorous enough to include in my growing rotation.