' Adventures with FitNyx: May 2016

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend

Whoopsies - I promised a Supplement Sunday and a couple of race recaps last Friday, and so far I haven't delivered.  Well, I promise I have good reasons!  I DID race this weekend, and the recap will be up in a couple days, but I opted to spend my Memorial Day weekend having more adventures instead of pounding out some blog posts.  After the fun and excitement of the weekend, I'm very happy with the decision I made to skip my Sunday post and delay the race recaps.

INSTEAD, I spent most of Sunday kayaking!  And I'm thrilled to say that this past weekend's experience was so much more pleasant (especially weather-wise) than the last time I went kayaking.  Sun, a light breeze, and great company made the excursion the perfect way to spend a lazy holiday weekend afternoon.  We launched from a friend's family's RV site, paddled about two miles up the Vermilion river to reach Lake Erie where we beached and enjoyed the sand for a while, then headed back for some riverside dinner, a little campsite stargazing, and an RV movie night.  It was a great time, and even gave me a much-needed upper body workout!

Then on Monday, after finally taking a day to sleep in (much needed and practically unavoidable after Sunday's exhaustion and a few bites of bad fish), I headed into downtown Cleveland for a blast from the past: the Great Lakes Science Center!  Even us big kids need educational field trips, and when the learning part just happens to be tons of fun, well it's just a win-win for another perfect day!  I got to tour all the exhibits and play with all the crazy science toys, see a couple amusing science demos, and check out the brand-new sports exhibit.  I left the center surprisingly exhausted but very satisfied with a trip that was even more fun than I anticipated!

So as you can see, I had a pretty full plate this weekend!  I'm sorry for not following through on my promise, but check back tomorrow for an exciting post celebrating Global Running Day and a recap of my May in Bay 5k from Saturday!  Be sure to take a minute to tell me all about YOUR awesome Memorial Day weekend down in the comments!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sharing the Love

Originally I was going to post something today, but instead I have a guest post over at The Simple Life, and I'd rather have y'all pop over to my friend Rachael's blog and show HER the love!  I'll be back for Supplement Sunday in between my races this weekend (I ended up with TWO to run, double the fun!), then of course my race recaps will be up next week.  You can also check out my latest video review - an unboxing of the May Runner Crate - to get a sneak peak before the full blog review comes out!

Have a GREAT Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I'm Free

Today, I'm not talking fitness.  I'm talking freedom.

A couple weeks ago, my divorce was finally signed into judgement.  While I'm still dealing with a little of the fallout (including an atrocious lawyer... or is that redundant?) I am, for the most part, free of one of the worst situations I've ever been caught up in.  Many things in my life changed over the past year since I finally made the decision to leave, and while at first those changes seemed completely awful in every way, I have learned that every change really DOES happen for a reason.  My world is a totally different place than it was a year ago - totally different from anything I even imagined, to be honest - but it is also an amazing place for the first time in a very, very long time.

It's appropriate that this week's Wednesday Word is freedom, because while the judgement was entered almost a month ago, it wasn't until the past couple days that I finally felt like I was actually free.  Maybe it's the changing weather, or realizing I have the power to stand up for myself and make my life better, or settling more and more into my new career path...  Whatever it is, this week I have been walking on air, feeling powerful and confident and ready to keep moving forward.  And that feeling makes me incredibly happy.

Could have been Genie being set free, went with Rescuers instead. Deal.

So what does freedom mean in your life?  Tell me what sets you free in the comments, or check out the Wednesday Word linkup to see how other bloggers find their own freedom!  Hosted as always by the wonderful Deb Runs, check back every week for another Wednesday Word and a new batch of great posts!
Deb Runs

Monday, May 23, 2016

Cleveland Rite Aid Half Marathon Race Recap

Half marathons are becoming a much more regular thing in my life - something I never in a million years thought I would be saying!  Last Sunday, I completed my fourth half over Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon weekend.  It also happened to be my second this year, and with another on the calendar for June 5, I'm now two-thirds of the way to qualifying for Half Fanatics...  But more on that later!  Let's talk about the Cleveland Marathon weekend for a bit!

Every year, the Cleveland Marathon comes through town, offering multiple race distances PLUS two-race "challenges", allowing you to run each day and earn extra bling.  The 5k and 8k events take place on Saturday, so this year I missed them while in Columbus for work; the full and half marathons, plus the 10k, are on Sunday.  The Marathon also boasts a surprisingly exciting expo on Friday and Saturday (with pre-race packet pickup required).  I made it back from Columbus with a few hours to spend at the expo.

Picking up my packet was at first a little confusing.  They require you to look up your bib number, which could be found online or in one of their printed booklets that were on tables right as you enter the expo, but then you have to find the pickup tables, which were hidden alllllllll the way in the back of the expo behind curtains!  I can understand placing the pickup tables in the back, because then you can guarantee your exhibitors that everyone will have to walk around a bit when they visit for pickup rather than grabbing at the front door and leaving, but hiding behind curtains was a little odd.  Emails had said I would need my ID to pickup, but no one checked anything, I just gave them my race number and received my bib and goody bag (with actual samples in it, not just coupons).  I went around another corner to pick up my shirt, and again no one verified my sizing despite all the emphasis on "NO shirt size switching" throughout the registration and email notifications.  Once I had my race materials, I spent some time (and more than a few dollars) browsing vendors and making new connections.

Race morning had me worried.  Not because I'm nervous about the run anymore, but because the forecast was dismal, predicting rain and low enough temperatures that there was talk of snow.  I had a little trouble sleeping and found myself watching the weather throughout the night, which gave me plenty of warning when it did in fact snow, and more than just a dusting: I actually had to get out early to clean my car off before heading downtown!  Snow turned to rain on my drive, and I hit road closures an hour earlier than advertised, so I had to make up a new route on the fly in the middle of an early morning downpour.  It was a bleak morning, and I wondered how many people would actually show, especially when I pulled into the Tower City parking lot to find it almost empty.

Once I went through the tunnel to the Q, where the start line was set, I realized the full and half marathons were most likely filled with dedicated runners who weren't about to let the very Clevelandian weather scare them away.  Thousands of participants were milling around in the Q and along Ontario street where we'd be starting - and somehow, out of the sea of people, I heard someone calling my name as I stepped out of the building.  As luck would have it, my cousin Brooke was running the half too, and happened to spot me early!  We met up, headed to gear check, took a last potty break, and found our start corral.  The rain was letting up, and before we knew it, Cleveland Rocks was blasting over the speakers and the race had begun!

With the weather holding off for a while, I got to thoroughly enjoy the first half of the course.  We ran past the LeBron banner then turned down Euclid to run through Playhouse Square under the beautiful chandelier.  We crossed the Lorain-Carneige bridge, which features the Guardians of Traffic, huge sculptures from the 1930s that were actually featured in the Towpath Half as the subject of the photo awards.  After the bridge, we split from the 10k runners and headed into Tremont, the area where my office is located.  As we ran by Lincoln Park, we hit the first of several advertised "neighborhood parties", which ended up basically being little more than a couple speakers blasting music.  I'm assuming the original plans for a more robust party atmosphere were squashed due to the weather, which started to turn sour again once we passed the park.

As the rain turned into pelting hail turned into snow then back to hail, we turned onto Train Ave and began what ended up being the worst section of course: a long, steady uphill under sketchy bridges and boring foliage.  I had been under the impression we'd be running through Ohio City, which would have been MUCH more interesting, and miles 6.5 through about 9 were tough mentally because they were boring.  Uphill wouldn't have been so bad, I could handle the weather as long as I was moving, but I signed up for this race to run through the city, not on an industrial street with a bunch of trees.  Could have been worse, but definitely not what I was expecting.

Finally we made it back to some more interesting scenery, and while there had been spectators all along the course (braving out the weather like champs), the spectator support surged in the final few miles.  We split from the full marathon around mile 9 I believe, and reached the shoreway just before mile 12 in the middle of more rain.  About a half-mile later, one of the "party" speakers was set up in the middle of the shoreway, and this is where my race nearly ended.  I have an interesting and rare condition called hyper-acusis, in which the shattered pieces of choclea in my ears (compliments of many concussions and ear infections) misrepresent the vibrations of low bass sounds and send neurological signals that create some semi-serious heart issues like v-tach arrhythmia.  Lay man's terms: when the bass is bumpin', my heart has trouble pumpin'.  As soon as whatever song it was came on, the bass hit me so hard I threw up immediately, and I'm pretty sure I blacked out too because I don't remember the rest of the shoreway.

Thankfully, I DO remember coming down the West 6th exit towards the finish line.  It was particularly memorable because the sun came out!  Adding to the moment of bliss was crossing the finish line with the winning marathoner (yup, he lapped me) AND snagging a PR!  With my time of 2:14:45, I cut about 30 seconds off my Sunburst half marathon time, even in the awful weather and hilly course.  I didn't actually learn about my victory until long after I crossed, because even though I finished in sunshine, it only took about 30 seconds for the weather to come back in FORCE.  I barely had enough time to snap a pic with my coworker Shannon, who had completed the half right around the same time as I had, before having to RUN across the field to pick up my gear check bag in the middle of the worst hailstorm I've ever seen.  My face hurts just thinking about the giant pellets coming at me sideways off the lake...

Grabbing our bags was just the beginning of our epic journey back to our vehicles.  Brooke and I had both parked near the starting line, not considering that the weather might be even worse after the race which ended on the other side of town from the start.  We did the best we could to stay in underground garages if we could, but most of the journey had to be up on the streets, in the wind, hail, and rain.  I had to ditch my post-race chocolate milk when my fingers became too frozen to hold on, and I actually had a panic attack thinking I had frostbite.  Never in my life have my fingers hurt so badly from the cold.  We got into the building where she had parked; I ducked into the bathroom to use the hand drier to warm up, but it only dried me out too fast and caused my fingers to SWELL, making them hurt even more.  Finally, I got enough blood flow to my hands to feel a little better and calm down.  We found her car, she drove me over to where I had parked, and I was able to get home with the heat blasting!

Post-race recovery became more of a battle to warm up than to tend to my aching body.  I went to brunch and celebrated my finish with a Dutch baby pancake before I passed out for most of the rest of the day.  I pulled on my favorite compression sleeves, and have spent most of the week wearing my new Telic recovery flip flops, a combination which seems to have me in excellent shape, physically.  Recovery is coming much easier to me now, though of course the additional training is what earned me the PR.  I'm still a little energy drained from battling the elements followed by a long work week, but my next race is just a couple weeks away, and promises to be equally hilly.  With better weather conditions and a few hill repeat days before the race, it's possible I could knock a few more seconds off my time, but I won't be holding my breath!  Mostly, I just want another excuse to pound down a Dutch baby...

Despite the weather I'm actually already registered for the half again in 2017!  They suckered me in with a special registration bonus: early entrants receive an "I Survived 2016" shirt that features the Cleveland skyline with weather icons representing the incredible range we experienced during the race.  It was too funny and memorable to pass up, and the options were to order one straight up for $30 or get an early registration price of $50 that included the shirt, which I thought was pretty much a no-brainer.  Even if I end up unable to run next year, I'll still get the race packet shirt PLUS the "I Survived" shirt, and that's good enough for me.  See you next time, Cleveland!

Cleveland Rite Aid Half Marathon Breakdown

Organization: Though packet pickup was a little confusing and my schedule had me cutting it close for the two day window for pickup, everything moved very smoothly at the expo.  Race day was about as smooth as it could be, all things considered.  Gear check was quick and efficient (and managed by the former Hermes employee who's departure had left the vacancy I filled, ironically), race instructions were very clear both prior to the race via emails/website and through announcements on race day, volunteers seemed knowledgeable and eager to be helpful, and the post-race festival area was easy to navigate.  A lot of people's memory of the race will be tainted with the awful weather, and I know at first all I really remembered was the hellish trek back to the car, but in all honesty, the race is incredibly well-run.

The Course: As I mentioned before, some of the course got a little stale, but the parts through actual downtown Cleveland were very cool.  I clocked the course about a half-mile long, though, and Brooke's GPS seemed to agree...  It's one of those things that makes me wonder what my actual 13.1 time would have been and how much more of a PR I would have had!  We tried to run all the tangents, but I suppose a few missteps might have added some distance.  Aid stations were ample and intelligently located - THANK YOU to vocal volunteers who clearly designated which cups were water and which were Gatorade!  Many runners will tell you this is incredibly vital at an aid station for a longer race, and we definitely appreciated it!  I could have done without some of the giant speakers, BUT that's a very personal and rare issue; most other runners probably loved having those spots out on the course.  The hills presented a challenge but weren't bad enough to make me hate the entire race, so kudos on finding the right balance!

The Swag: My race registration came with a very nice Brooks technical shirt, a goody bag that had more than just advertisements (a few samples, even small ones, are always a nice surprise), and a neat little medal with a spinning guitar when I finished.  Thanks to a promo code, even registering a little late I paid under $100 for the event, but with the exception of the Marine Corps Marathon, it's still the most expensive race I've run.  With a high quality shirt, an interesting medal, a major city shut down for a couple days, and the months of planning that go into executing an event like the Cleveland Marathon, I suppose those race fees are justified!  Of course, I'm going to say make the race photos free, but MarathonFoto is never going to let that happen at major races like this.  I thought about buying my finish line photo, but alas, their photographer was standing on the ladder with her camera hanging around her neck, and no finish line photos were taken of me.  The best photo from the course is almost completely whited out for some reason, so I will skip the mid-run photos for this race (I didn't take any myself because I didn't want my phone getting wet).

Bottom Line: Well, I'm registered for next year already, I guess that says something!  Though I'd love Train Ave to be removed from next year's route, the rest of the experience (hail excluded) was pretty amazing, and I even had a few moments when I unexpectedly teared up from pride and excitement.  Any race that can move me emotionally (in a good way) deserves my support, and with an early registration fee of $50 that includes extra goodies, this race is definitely on the calendar for 2017.

Will I see you there??

Sunday, May 22, 2016

VEGA Protein Powder

I'm all about protein powder these days.  It's a great way for a carb-lover like myself to do a better job of rounding out my macronutrition, and now that I'm a lifter, that protein is more important than ever.  I definitely play favorites with my protein, though, because when a powder misses the mark, it's difficult to choke down on a regular basis.  That's why I gave up VEGA protein powder ages ago - I simply couldn't stomach the flavors.  Recently, though, VEGA revamped their recipe and sent me some of their new formula to try.  I gave this plant-based protein powder a second chance.

I have to say, the flavors are MUCH more palatable!  Originally, the chocolate tasted like dirt and the vanilla struck me as rancid.  The newer formula definitely tastes like chocolate and vanilla, thank goodness!  Despite the revamped flavor, though, I still found the overall taste to be a little thin and watery, even in my half-sized shaker cup.  I've noticed this is a pretty consistent experience among plant-based powders, and wonder if that's just something I should expect in products like this.  The mocha flavor smelled like straight-up coffee, and it only took me one sip to realize the scent was a direct reflection of the taste!  For coffee drinkers, this is probably the perfect powder, but that flavor is definitely NOT for me!

While the flavors aren't as robust as some of my favorite powders (like my red velvet, review coming soon), VEGA Performance Protein actually packs an excellent nutritional punch.  With 30 grams of protein in each serving, it's already a substantial source of recovery proteins, but VEGA has also added other recovery elements like BCAAs, glutamine, and tart cherry, all excellent supplements for enhanced performance and muscle rebuilding.  I can deal with a little watery protein if it's going to give me so much additional benefit!  And of course, it's plant-based, which fits into many restricted diets.

Give the new VEGA formula a try, you might be surprised.  I sure was!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Live Infinitely Resistance Loops

Resistance bands are an incredibly versatile workout tool, and a vital part of any home gym.  I have a set of resistance bands that are shorter and narrower, and they've been excellent for workouts, so I thought adding these Live Infinitely bands to have a longer, thicker set would increase the variety of exercises I can do with resistance bands. Unfortunately, I think once again my height and size have given me the short end of the stick (get it?!)... The bands were so much longer than any others I've tried that I couldn't really get many of my exercises to hit the resistance - that is, I simply couldn't reach far enough to stretch the bands to the point of resistance. There was too much "slack" and I pretty much had to use the XX-Heavy band for most exercises to get any workout. On the other hand, the wider bands were much more comfortable when wrapped around legs or arms than the narrower short ones, which for things like resistance wall sits was a very welcome improvement.

Disclaimer: I received this product at no cost in exchange for my review.  All opinions expressed herein are, as always, my own.

Some exercises, such as leg lifts and resistance push ups, actually DID benefit from the longer straps, allowing me a greater range of motion to target different areas than my shorter bands, so it isn't a total loss. I was still able to perform quite a few exercises even if I did have to use a heavier band to accommodate for the extra size.

The bands themselves come in five different resistance levels and are VERY durable, they're just a little long for me personally.  As a fitness instructor, I do know there are many people who find the "normal" length resistance loop to be WAY too tight, so perhaps those people would get much more benefit out of these loops.  They're convenient for storage at home or on the go (I currently keep mine in my suitcase so I always have something to work out with when I travel) and come with a nice little storage bag.  Live Infinitely has provided a few other products that have become regulars in my fitness routine, and although these resistance bands won't be my first choice in most cases, they're certainly consistent with the brand's quality and are a welcome addition to my arsenal!

What's your favorite home-gym/personal fitness type of product?  Do you ever take fitness equipment with you when you travel?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

RIM Sports Knee Sleeve

Years and years of soccer and lacrosse have left my knees... not good.  Now I'm running, lifting, continuing to put stress on a weak joint, and I need to be more careful.  I have been searching for a solution to my knee pain, and a better way to provide joint support, for ages.  Along that journey I tried the RIM Sports compression knee sleeve, with the hope that the added compression and support from the sleeve would help me safely increase the weight I'm lifting and provide a comfortable alternative to strap-on knee braces.

Disclaimer: I received this product at no cost in exchange for my review.  All opinions expressed herein are, as always, my own.

Unfortunately, I'm a little disappointed with my knee sleeve experience.  Whereas a strap-on brace is usually a little too adjustable and I have difficulty finding the right spot for proper support, the pull-on sleeve has NO adjustability.  Maybe I have the wrong sizing, but the sleeve cuts into my quad, my hamstring, AND my calf with every move.  My range of motion is severely limited because of how uncomfortably tight the sleeve is around the ends - yet the knee support area doesn't seem tight enough to give me full support either.  I'm afraid that ordering a size larger (I received a medium) would end up with even less actually compression and support, rendering the sleeve completely ineffective.

You can see from the picture above the deep creases in my leg after only 20 minutes of wear.  I may be more muscular in these areas than other people who might wear this sleeve, but since this kind of gear is usually used by Crossfitters and serious lifters, that's unlikely.  I won't be wearing the sleeve unless I absolutely have to; hopefully I can find a better solution to stabilize my knee before it's time to increase my weights again!

Do you suffer from knee issues?  Have you found a reliable support?  What experiences have you had with sleeves and braces?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Letter to Mall Food

Dear Food Court and other Mall-Based Food Chains,

This is a love letter.  This is also hate mail.  I've been sitting in malls all week, assisting with registration and logistics for an extremely large race event.  My coworkers and I had to travel for this race, our days are long and sedentary, and our hotel isn't close to many options.  We have been stuck eating mall food for days.  I love it - and I hate it.

I grew up on fast food.  We had MANY home-cooked meals, whenever possible (and mom's meatloaf or porkchops or lasagna are still some of my favorite foods), but I lived an active, on-the-go life from an early age and fast food was just convenient.  My busy schedule was largely due to athletics, which meant that I was burning thousands of calories a day and could easily get away with eating all that junk.  Combined with my high young-person metabolism, there were days I could eat 5000 calories and LOSE a couple pounds!  While I'm still quite active, my metabolism has slowed considerably and I'm definitely not playing soccer for hours every single day anymore, and all that crap I'm putting into my body has started to add pounds.

But when you're trying to learn to eat better, and becoming more conscious of how you're fueling yourself or looking for ways to improve your diet, sometimes you are limited to what is available.  This is why I'm writing you this letter.  After five days of mall food options, I have yet to find something that is actually part of a good diet, and right now, you're all that is available.  While having a Cinnabon every day worked years ago, I know better now.  And Cinnabon, you can DO better, can't you?

Did you know a Cinnabon roll has over 800 ooey, gooey, carb-o-licious calories???  That's insane!  It may be insanely delicious (and trust me, it definitely is), but it's a horrible problem.  This isn't news, and Cinnabon isn't the only offender.  From my perch here in the mall, I have Auntie Anne's right in front of me (470 calories in a single cinnamon sugar pretzel), Sbarro (410 calories in a single slice of cheese pizza) and Panda Express (420 calories in a serving of orange chicken - usually served with rice and another entree serving) to my left, Cinnabon to my right, and Five Guys (840 calories in a cheeseburger) on the upper level.  Good lord, you guys, what are you thinking?!  A pretzel should be a SNACK, not a full meal on its own!  And an 840 calorie burger?  Better wait a loooong time before you eat again!

I know sugary, greasy, satisfying foods sell, and I get that opening a business is largely about making money.  Heck, I took a paycheck from McDonald's for years, and I definitely didn't mind serving that junk to people and taking money I needed to survive from the job.  But there has to be a sense of responsibility.  I didn't appreciate that back in the day.  I'm only just now learning how important it is to have healthy choices available.  It's hard to find something to eat that will be satisfying AND nutritional!  Not everyone has a full kitchen and storage available to make wholesome, home-made meals all the time.  Even people who do occasionally find themselves out of that environment and stuck with what's available, and the options are bleak.

Okay, what about you, Planet Smoothie?  Smoothies are healthy, right?  Well, some of them are.  The smallest, lowest-calorie smoothie you have is about 200 calories.  Not bad.  On the other end of the spectrum, though, some of your smoothies have over 1000 calories, making them the worst offenders in this letter!  You can do better.

At some point, you all have to start doing better.  You're killing your customers, which probably isn't great for business, long-term.  I know my constant patronage of fast food and mall food places is part of the problem, and I'm working to change that.  Now it's your turn.  Let's get some *actually* healthy items on some of these menus.  Let's find a way to make delicious food that is also good for you.  Can you guys get on this, please?

A collective "thanks in advance" - but only if you promise to make some changes!


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Run SAFE with RunLites!

Though Cleveland's cold, dark winter is finally (sorta) wrapping up, inevitably it will return.  Short days and overcast skies make safe running very difficult in the winter.  And of course, now that I'm stretching runs long and longer, eventually I'll be finding myself running in the early morning or late evening - again, very dark and difficult to stay safe, especially since I love running in parks, which aren't historically the best-lit places.  I struggled to find a balance between safety and training over the past few months, but honestly, more often than not it was training that took the hit in favor of staying safe.  Then, I finally saw the light.

RunLites, that is!  These gloves have had a huge impact on my training - most specifically, I no longer have an excuse to skip a run because "it's too dark."  I tried the fingerless glove options (they also have full-fingers) and basically fell in love.  The fit is perfect for me, and the gloves are made of very comfortable material.  They're not as breathable as I'd probably like them to be, but it's hard to make the back of the hand more open because of the light pockets.  Yup, light pockets.  Small, lightweight, press-on lights can be slipped into the backs of the gloves and anchored with velcro (which also allows you to seal those compartments if you choose to remove the lights).

I've run with blinking LED lights and a reflective vest before, to try to mitigate some of the danger of running in the dark, and it's a great solution - when it's just me.  But there's the whole "running with my puppy" thing, and a reflective vest on me doesn't keep HER safe.  Not to mention when there's wildlife around us and the other animals aren't wearing reflective vests...  The light from these RunLites is bright enough that I can 15 feet around me, just by pointing my hand at it.  In fact, when I'm out with the dog, the hand holding the leash is angled exactly right for the light to shine on Kaalia and the road in front of us, so I can always see our path.  My other hand is free to point out whatever area needs more light, including straight ahead when cars are approaching or to the sides when we're running through the woods and need to scan for danger.

No streetlights, no filters.
That's ALL RunLites in the middle of the night!

I'm so much less worried about running with Kaalia when my schedule forces us to run in the dark!  Being able to see so much more of my surroundings is a huge training benefit for the winter months and early mornings/late nights.  The gloves are comfortable and easy to use, and the lights are rechargeable, so there's no issue with using them up or worrying about replacement batteries.  And I'm not even using all of the features: there are bungee cords across the palm that are perfect for strapping down some running fuel, like gel packets, if you aren't taking a belt or don't have pockets.

Guess what - all of these awesome benefits can be YOURS too!  I'm giving away a pair of RunLites for a lucky reader!  As always, use the Rafflecopter below to earn entries into the giveaway; contest ends May 18th at midnight!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Destination Racing and My (Empty) Wallet

Now that I'm running more longer distance races (ten milers, half marathons, and oh yeah, that full marathon on the calendar), race opportunities around home are feeling a lot thinner!  Cleveland has hundreds of races available year-around (Hermes Road Racing alone has over 180 races on their calendar this year) but the vast majority of those events are 5k races, with a handful of 10ks and a few longer distances throughout the year.  So far I've managed to stay pretty close to home while adding a handful of distance races to my own calendar, but if I want to do different courses next year or find more events for the later half of the year, I'll have to start looking at travel.  This week's Tuesday on the Run has me thinking about what it will actually cost for me to start planning destination races - beyond just the entry fee!

I made a wishlist way back of my top ten destination races, but at the time that list had been one of those silly "what if" pursuits, especially since I wasn't really in a financial or career situation that would have allowed the travel even if my physical fitness would have allowed the distance!  But now, longer races and travel for running aren't just fever dreams.  I've already completed three half marathons, with my fourth just days away and a fifth on the calendar for June!  There's also the Marine Corps Marathon looming at the end of October, and that will be my first real "destination" race.

The MCM will be an introduction into the craziness of traveling out of state to a massive big city race.  Though I did travel out of state for the Sunburst half marathon last year, the number of people who showed up in South Bend for that series was nothing in comparison to the tens of thousands who will flock to the nation's capital in October.  Race day logistics, especially getting to the starting line, are going to be a nightmare, and I've never really experienced this before.  Time spent trying to get where I need to be will be the first unusual "cost" of heading to a destination race.

Actually, I'm going to be very fortunate for this race: accommodations are FREE!  My brother lives in DC, and I'll be mooching off his new home for the trip, which will save me a considerable amount of money.  Hotel costs are outrageous these days, and while I usually opt to stay in cheap motels rather than paying the heavy cost for a nicer room, something tells me trying to find a cheap motel close enough to DC to reach the starting line on race day in a reasonable amount of time is nigh impossible - and that's before I factor in the 30,000 other people who will be trying to get a room.  Not to mention the tendency of hotels to jack up rates during major events...  Yeah, staying with family is going to save me a bundle on my first major race travel experience.  Thanks, bro!

Of course, that doesn't help me actually get to the race.  Maybe he'll be able to help me get from his house to the starting line, but there are over 400 miles between Cleveland and DC.  I could drive, and shell out big bucks for the gas while putting hundreds of miles of wear-and-tear on my car and hours of wear-and-tear on myself.  Or I could fly, but something tells me airfare into DC on a major event weekend is not going to be cheap.  A train to DC wouldn't cost too much...  Oh, but it's a 12 HOUR TRIP.  Yeah, pass.  There's not really a winning situation here.

And then there's eating.  We all know how important it is to fuel properly before and after a major race, and when you're at home, it's a lot easier!  Dining in a different city can be tricky.  You're tempted to try interesting local places, but not every option is going to meet your needs or your budget.  Again, I'm fortunate to have family in town and this won't be as big a concern for the MCM, but I'm eyeing down a couple other destination races for which all of these facets would definitely become a major part of my planning.  Races are expensive enough just to reserve a bib, but when you add the high cost of travel and lodging, plus concerns about food, and let's not forget the opportunity cost - using vacation days at a job or missing pay completely if you don't have vacation time - you're looking at hundreds of dollars spent on an experience.  I know several people who regularly fly to Florida or California for RunDisney events, which are even more expensive than many other destination races, and I can't for the life of me figure out how they afford it!

So are destination races actually WORTH the expense?  It all boils down to the individual and the event, I suppose.  Would I want to invest hundreds of dollars to go run some average, local 5k somewhere across the country?  Probably not, but maybe someone else would.  Heading to Vegas for the Rock and Roll Marathon is a much, much bigger draw for someone like me - it's a total experience, not just showing up and running.  Same with MCM: there's going to be so much going on, and the overall experience will be so much more than just 26.2 miles of pavement.  To me, that all-around, all-encompassing atmosphere is going to be worth every single penny!  And since I have the luxury right now of looking ahead, you can be sure I'll be setting aside a little here and a little there to make that old wishlist become a checklist!

Tuesdays on the Run

Tuesdays on the Run are brought to you by My No-Guilt Life, Marcia's Healthy Slice, and MCM Mama Runs!  Click the linkup icon above to check out what other bloggers have to say about the costs of destination racing, and be sure to share YOUR views in the comments below!

Have you done any destination races?  What was your favorite part about the experience?  What was the hardest aspect of the trip to coordinate?  Was it worth it in the end?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Scheduling Issues

I have two of the greatest jobs in the world.  I have some incredibly fun and challenging hobbies.  And I have a handful of people in my life with whom I love to spend my free time - when there IS free time.  Lately, there really hasn't been much free time going around.  As a result, I (once again) haven't been posting as often as I'd like.  Today I'm taking a little time to think out loud about my crazy calendar and where my time is going.

Being a race manager is every bit as awesome as I expected, but it's also incredibly time consuming.  We handle so many events covering a very broad area, and many of my days are spent zig-zagging around town for meetings, course work, packet pickups, and any other little extras needed to put on a great event.  Weekends are booked with races, and while I love every second of being at event days, the early mornings are still hard to handle until I get a little more experience.  Once I'm more comfortable in the various roles I take on during my typical work week, and have a better feel for what to expect of different tasks, I'm sure I'll settle into the ebb and flow of the industry a little better.

Meanwhile, I still spend several nights a week at the gym, teaching back-to-back group exercise classes to some of the greatest ladies on the planet.  Mondays are the "big night", with an excellent Turbo Kick class preceding my Zumba-Pound twofer.  It's high energy and smiles for hours!  On Thursdays, my core and Pound classes are much smaller, and sometimes are empty.  I finally made the difficult decision to cut down to just Mondays to be a little more selfish with the time I've been spending traveling to the gym, waiting for a chancy class, and feeling burnt out when only two or three people show.  Having an extra night to myself - without pushing myself through two tough workouts because it's my job - will help me immensely with my ability to balance rest and hobbies with my work schedule.

Pretty soon, I'll be adding dedicated marathon training to the mix, and honestly, I'm a little worried about that.  Though I'm slowly developing better habits like coming home from work and running immediately, rather than "decompressing" myself into lethargy for the entire night, I've also experience many evenings of total exhaustion after spending days at a time running around town for my jobs.  Again, I'm hoping I'll eventually settle a bit with the schedule and things won't be so hectic once I have more experience, but what if that doesn't actually happen?  There's no way I can just show up to a marathon and expect to actually finish without some serious training, so I'm going to have to be careful and stick to my training plan amidst everything else.

Then of course there's the blog.  I have so many cool things to try during my training, and already am learning lessons that I'm dying to share, but with everything else on my plate, the time I have to write usually goes towards "me time" for now.  Yes, blogging is partially "me time" because it's something I love doing and actively want to do more often, but it's also something that requires focus and brain-turned-on-ness (okay, maybe that sentence proves it doesn't have to be turned on to blog) and lately there are many days when I don't have that focus.  Not having a place to set up a desk or office is another point not in my favor, though hopefully I will be able to find a place of my own soon.

On that note, I think a place of my own will make a LOT of this schedule headache go away.  Having a home-base, a safe zone where I can have my own things and my own space, will take a lot of the stress off my shoulders.  The transient feeling I've had looming over my head since leaving Chicago last year is in some ways a very heavy burden.  I know I'll feel much more grounded once I am able to settle down once again.  It'll be a mess, I'm sure, but it'll be mine and that's a big deal these days.

Sooooo...  All that said, I'm not sure how to wrap up this post nicely.  It's my first stab at Thinking Out Loud Thursday and I'm pretty sure I nailed it, but whaaaat do you say after you word vomit for so long?  I guess you say this: check out the linkup host Amanda at Running with Spoons and see what other bloggers are Thinking Out Loud this week!  And live from New York, it's SATURDAY NIIIIIGHT!