On Being Game Fit and Other Musings

After a whirlwind 24-hours in Philly, I came back with a ten-mile jaunt down Broad Street and a couple of beers and some mussels under my belt.
Last week, I ran exactly 1.25 miles after realizing that I was probably overtrained (thank you, Jonathan, for that insight). And after that short run, my calves were unexpectedly sore. I’m the first person to tell friends to trust their training going into a race. But this time, in building fitness and distance, I had essentially mis-trained, and I had no idea whether a one-week layoff would be enough. I did not trust my training.

So, much to my surprise and delight on Sunday, I turned in a game fit time under the 1:40 mark! And until the last mile – and who really feels good in that mile – the run felt pretty good. I credit much of my result on the net downhill course and deciding very early in the race to focus on staying on a painted line on a (mostly) straight roadway/course.
I’m pleased with my time given my current condition and the level of training I (over)did. Other positives: racers received free rides on the subway, the entry fee was a mere $43, there were water stations at practically every mile for those who like to have stomachs that slosh, and the mobile app was pretty effective.

But, the test of whether a race has grown too big for its britches is if the average-paced runner feels she has had a good experience. If logistics and planning go sideways – say, not so hypothetically, runners need to stop running before the finish timing mat because the crowd of runners who finished seconds earlier are still on the mats due to overall crowding in the chute – the middle to back of the pack is where that impact is felt.

So, as a middle of the pack runner, I’m not rushing to enter next year’s lottery. The race has reached its resources’ carrying capacity, and unless Broad Street has an emotional connection for the runner, there are other smaller races out there.

Like in the fall. When I’m better trained. 

On (Over)Training

The Broad Street Run is this Sunday! And I may be overtrained! But, it’s an improvement from lacking confidence, which is how I felt before the brain trust that I consulted reframed my ailments determined that I was overtrained.

And coincidentally, the local forecast spewed out this:

Just so we’re clear, I’m potentially “overtrained” for someone who’s doing essentially the couch to 10-miler. I don’t really run in the winter, nor do I train for spring races longer than 10K.

I realized two Sundays ago that I managed to write in my calendar some random training plan that had me logging 2 to 4 extra miles per week for the last month than I intended. And not surprisingly (in retrospect), for the last month, I have been complaining to a lucky group of people about how recovery is taking longer than it did 10 years ago. My legs started feeling tired at mile 4 of my runs and crushed by mile 6. Walking up the three flights to my office left me winded. Holding a Warrior 2 in yoga left my quads quivering.

It was demoralizing, and I was convinced that the last trip around the sun did a number on me. I tried eating more protein and sleeping more. And then I realized that I wasn’t even following a training plan.

I don’t know my regular resting heart rate and whether it’s become elevated, so really, I don’t have any measure of whether I’m overtrained. And there’s a certain level of weirdness to referring to myself as “overtrained” when I’m nowhere near peak-for-me speed. But it’s a reasonable explanation for my ailments.

It’s all relative.

Now there’s a rain event of ark-building proportions this week = forced rest for someone who does not have access to a treadmill, although I do plan to get out later this week to shake out the legs.

And yeah, for me, having things reframed as “overtrained” has actually helped my lack of confidence. Let’s face it: legs regularly dying at 10K when training for 10M is not inspiring. But with my brain in a different frame of mine, I’m looking forward to heading up I-95 to Broad Street.

Winter Yoga Retreating

A month ago, I found out that my restorative yoga teacher was looking for another person to assist at her annual retreat in the mid-Hudson region of New York, which is more or less where I spent the first half of my life. After a little deliberation (What happens if there’s another debilitating snow storm on the east coast? What does a yoga assistant at a retreat do?), I told her that I wanted to be an assistant. 

I arrived at Hogwarts the resort on Friday evening, a week after it had reopened to the public following a massive sanitation effort prompted by an outbreak of a gross GI bug. The resort is, simply, amazing. All it needs is a 2000′ vertical snow-covered slope, and it would be perfect for me, but who’s got time to pick nits?

I assisted classes.

I cross country skied in toasty conditions.

I ice skated.

And completely unexpectedly, I subbed the last class at the retreat. It was one of those clichéd “right place at the right time” moments and having the courage (or, more accurately, being only half awake and uncaffeinated) to say yes when the opportunity arose. It turned into one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had teaching yoga: after the class, one woman told me that it was the fastest 75-minutes she’s ever experienced!
I went into yoga teacher training 4 years ago to “deepen my practice.” Teaching wasn’t the end goal. I had done enough led Ashtanga, Iyengar, and traditions in between to know that I cared about alignment and wasn’t into binding into a pose just for the sake of binding into a pose. Besides, I have tight shoulders. From teacher training, I wanted to receive knowledge that I was unlikely to obtain from taking large group classes.
Being too groggy to pay attention to any gremlins that wanted to creep up and whisper to me not to teach on Sunday morning was a good thing. It essentially led me to step outside of my comfort zone, or take a calculated risk where I expanded the level of risk I was willing to accept. And really, the risk was just my ego, right?
Realistically, the class size was not much larger than classes that I’ve taught in gym settings in DC. The most nerve-wracking thing for me was that people had signed up for a winter yoga weekend with my teacher, not me. I wouldn’t have been offended if people had turned around and decided to go snowshoeing instead. But no one turned around. And although I think many in the group initially stayed out of kindness, I really believe that at the end of class, they were pleased that they remained.
I’m still riding the high from the weekend and excited to bring this energy to my regular classes this week….stay tuned!

February Musings

So I’ve been somewhat out of sorts for several weeks, despite a hybrid professional development slash ski trip to the PNW and SLC at the end of January. Usually, ski trips rejuvenate me, but conditions have been so meh this year, it’s been tough.
Heh. Google+ automatically “awesome-ized” this pic with the falling snow. It amuses me, so I’m posting it. In reality, it was pretty springlike at Mt. Hood Meadows, and I think Charlotte’s husband was delightfully surprised when at the top of this I nonchalantly said, “Oh, yeah, that’s skiable.”
But here’s something that cheered me up:
Now, I can’t take credit for this hack, but having my packs hanging rather than resting on the floor is awesome. I was a little taken aback by how small the Sea to Summit “accessory” biners were, though. I thought they would be normal sized but just not weight bearing.


And I have small hands, too!

On the horizon, I’m assisting my restorative teacher, Jillian Pransky, at her winter retreat at the Mohonk Mountain Lodge from February 21 to 23. The resort was recently closed for a possible norovirus outbreak – it’s scheduled to reopen tomorrow, and hopefully everything will be squared away by the time we arrive!

On Snow Juju

Last night, I received this text…

…which led me to pulling out the sacrificial goat from the ski bag.

Of course, this is good juju and means it’ll snow, right?

Intentions and Words to Live By in 2014

I spent the first 3 weeks of 2014 dealing with another weird lower leg injury and a never-ending minor (but annoying) upper respiratory infection. I’m still not completely 100%, and yesterday’s pre-snowstorm trail run reminded me of that. The forced timeout from physically feeling blah allowed me the opportunity to consider my intentions a little more, uh, intentionally, than my usual “Hey, it’s mid-January! I should blog about my intentions for this year!” My physical fitness, on the other hand, is kind of in the toilet. Anyway.

My words to live by 2014 are REFUGE and BELIEVE. 

If you had asked me on December 31 what I thought my word for 2014 would be, I would have said STRENGTH because that’s what I thought I needed. But in the course of a 4-hour slow flow, yin, and restorative yoga practice on New Year’s Day, it became clear to me that I had plenty of strength. Instead, I needed to believe in that strength and know when to take refuge. Refuge is not the same as being a recluse, which I was pretty sure I was becoming in the last two weeks of the year. Rather, refuge is a place a safety, and sometimes instead of finding that place and recharging, I hang out and weather the storm (see strength, above). 

On to the more tangible non-career intentions for 2014.

First, a few intentions to carry over from 2013:

*  PR in the 5K and 10K distances. A few unexpected things came up this spring and summer that I wanted to give priority to, so I had to put diligent and consistent training on the back burner. I don’t feel bad about having to do that and the things I gave priority to work ed out. But I do want to drop a few minutes (yes, minutes) off my current cruising times in these distances, and 2014 is the year to do it.

*  Run another trail race. So, given that training was on the backburner, a trail race didn’t happen either. I’m making space for it this year and looking for a few races.

*  Sleep in my tent at least one night. Uh, again, the things I chose to prioritize meant that I did not wind up in a tent even once. Wow.

* This is just going to be an ongoing intention and be integrated into my lifestyle: continue to nurture my friendships in real life. Preferably by adding skiing or running or yoga into the mix. Last year, I flew to Mississippi and ran a 5K with Michelle, a friend since high school. In 2012, we ran the Richmond half. It would be great to continue the streak in 2014. Skiing is a little tricky for me, and I blame my geography. I’m hoping to change that.

And then the new intentions for 2014:

* Learn the names of students in my group yoga classes. Back when I did my 200-hour yoga teacher training, one of the parting tips given to my cohort was to learn our students’ names. Funny thing, though, if you suck as a teacher, it doesn’t matter whether you know your students’ names. So I focused on teaching. And now I have regulars. Yes, I know a number of students’ names. But it’s tough to remember names when students are quasi-regular – they show up one day and not again for another 6 weeks. I want to be able to remember names even if I haven’t seen a student in 6 weeks. If this were a goal-setting post, I’d give myself some number of names per month. 
Uh. Yeah. That’s basically it. I’m basically all about setting myself up for success in 2014. 

Believe. And refuge.

The First-Ever Gingerbread House From Scratch Chronicles!

On the train back to DC on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it dawned on me: it was December 1, and I had done exactly zero planning for my made-from-scratch gingerbread house that I set as an intention for this year after being inspired by Amy Lavender.
By the end of the week, I was in panic mode: my as-of-yet unmade gingerbread house was being entered in a work-related gingerbread “structure” contest to represent the office. Long story short: with a little bit of Chicago-style voting, my first-ever made from scratch gingerbread structure came in 3rd out of 6!

Yes, gearheads, those are a pair of Rossi G7 skis on the porch.
5 mm underfoot, tinfoil/gingerbread sandwich construction.

The process:

Day 1 – Because my planning was subpar, I used templates from King Arthur Flour.

While the wall and roof pieces (and miniature skis!) baked, I got to work on the porch and melted what would become “glass” for the windows.

 I also assembled the first walls.

Day 2: I woke up, and to my utter delight, the structure was still standing! Before heading in to the office, I put on the roof and added a row of wintergreen candies to the peppermint bark “porch.”

When I got home, I worked on the pretzel fence for the porch, reinforced the walls with icing, and began decorating.
Day 3: Decorating day! I put up trees, shutters, a door, walkway, bunnies, and “piping” on the roof. It basically took the entire day…

Feeling at the last minute that the side walls looked naked, I added the m&ms, which are seen in the first two photos above.
Next year, I have to outsource the baking. I’m imprecise with measurements and don’t care about whether they’re correct, which is sort of a bad combo for baking. I actually made an earlier batch of dough that I wound up not using because it was incredibly crumbly. I blame that on looking at a stick of butter and guestimating that it was the right amount…better luck next year!