' Adventures with FitNyx: November 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

Life Update

So, I talked a little about the marathon and a few other little things recently, but then got real quiet again.  As usual, this indicates yet another crazy hectic time in my life (to be expected at this point, I should thing) during which my focus has been elsewhere and my schedule has not allowed me to sit and write anything of interest or substance.  As always, I appreciate the people who follow me even in these slow-posting times!  Here's what's been keeping me away from the blog:

Managing the Cleveland Turkey Trot

My full-time job as a race manager makes my life pretty hectic anyway, but with our biggest event of the year on my shoulders, the past couple weeks have been even more full of work stuff than usual.  While much of it is a little stressful, the Cleveland Turkey Trot is a huge event and it's pretty exciting to be taking the helm this year!  I actually ran the race last year, before having the opportunity to join the company, and despite some minor race day hiccups, I had really enjoyed the event!  Now it's my baby and I'm trying to take very good care of it, despite some setbacks that are making my job more challenging than it usually would be...  At the end of the day, I anticipate a pretty great race day (weather permitting) and would LOVE to have you join me!

Crap, I just realized I dunno where the turkeys are for this year's race.

Rebooting My Running

I did that little marathon a couple weeks ago, and while I honestly felt fine physically afterwards (besides my toe which needed a few days to heal), it took a while for me to start moving my feet again.  I've done a couple very short runs, but I've been so busy I haven't really put too much emphasis on running again.  With my ongoing goal of running a half marathon every month for a year, though, I haven't dropped out of running entirely!  In fact, I just registered for my November half (Amish Country, here I come) and plan to pound a little more pavement this weekend too.  I may not be in top form for the race, but I did my July half with even less immediate preparation and in far worse shape than I am these days, so I'm not too worried about it!

Accurate representation of every run since MCM.

House Hunting

My quest for a new home started months ago, but has really heated up lately.  I actually currently have an offer down and am waiting with baited breath to see how things turn out - there may be another offer on the table and I'm not about to get in a bidding war, but my fingers are crossed for the best.  It's been a year and a half since I left my home in Chicago, and while I appreciate my parents letting me crash in my brother's old room...  It's about time I got out of here and had my own space again.  And my own stuff.  That isn't crammed in a storage unit a half hour away...

Nothing in the house I want is this nice.  I'm poor.

And that's about it!  Doesn't seem like much when I list it out, but that Turkey Trot thing is about 90% of my life right now, and the house hunting is another 40%, and I'm pretty sure 130% is still accurate math on this one.  Once the Trot is over, I have only one more race to manage (and two races to run) for the rest of the year, so come December 12 I should finally be able to relaaaaaax!  Oh, and maybe blog a little more...

Monday, November 7, 2016

Marine Corps Marathon: The Bad

If you couldn't tell from my previous post's title, and still haven't caught on from this one, not everything in DC was sunshine and rainbows.  The marathon is one of the great tests of mental and physical strength, but it's also a test of patience and doesn't always provide the best running experience - as I was quick to learn at the Marine Corps Marathon.  Here's what didn't go so well last weekend.

A virtual lack of starting line "corrals" - and the agonizing weaving that followed.

Large races usually have some sort of corral system at the starting line.  For you non-runners, corrals are basically metered starting groups that are based on projected running time.  Fastest runners (the "elites") go before the more recreational runners who will be traveling at slower paces.  This system eliminates obstacles for people running for time by moving slower people out of their way.  Every race I've ever been to with actual corrals had roped off sections with assigned numbers or letters - and you could ONLY go in your corral, which was pre-assigned based on your projected times.  At the MCM, however, "corrals" were not so well designated, and were not at all policed.  This meant that people were on their own honor to follow the large posted signs indicating the proper place to line up for your anticipated finish time.  This also meant that a lot of people threw corral sensibility to the winds and lined up wherever they wanted.

Why is this a problem?  Weaving.  When slower people are ahead of you, and the course is relatively narrow for the number of runners, you have to go side-to-side along the course to get around people.  That adds time and distance.  That also has you slowing and surging more often.  You know how your car gets worse gas mileage in the city because of the stop-and-go?  The same principle applies to runners, with the added bonus of a higher risk of injury.  For me, the weaving curse led to more foot-swelling and toe-squishing in my shoe that quickly created a blood blister under my big toenail.  By mile 10 I was hurting badly, and still had a long way left to go - and most of that way was just as crowded as the first half, as MCM apparently never really thins out like other races I've run.

The rudest runners I've ever seen.  Ever.

Even as I write this, I realize a big part of this particular problem is that many participants in MCM really aren't runners.  This is "The People's Marathon", and they really mean it.  I saw all kinds at the race - and you know, that's not the part that bothers me.  I love that people who have never run a day in their life want to tackle a big challenge.  It's awesome to know a large number of participants are on the course to commemorate a lost loved one or family and friends still in the service.  The problem comes when those people aren't following race guidelines, common courtesy, or even common sense.  As mentioned previously, the MCM coordinators exacerbated this problem with a lack of policed corrals, but even so, you'd think people would have a little more awareness of what is happening around them.  It's easy to tell who has done big races before: they move to the side, put their hand up, and some even announce vocally that they will be slowing down or stopping.  Y'know, polite things that help prevent injuries and allow people to move about at their own pace during a huge event.

The non-runners, however, do NOT provide so much courtesy.  They walk with their whole group side by side, taking up the entire courseway.  They hold hands and stretch out around corners, forcing faster participants to have to go not only around them, but around the outside of the curve which adds distance to an already long race.  They STOP, with no warning, for no apparent reason other than they have decided it's time to stop, and they don't even look around before doing so to make sure they're not in someone's way.  I had several unpleasant encounters with the Sudden Stopper during my race, the first of which was during the Wear Blue Mile that honors fallen soldiers.  A whole group of people must have been watching for their loved one's photo along the course, and just stopped when they saw it.  I had no warning and had to execute a crazy maneuver to get around them, which twisted my knee very badly and affected the entire rest of my race.

But that's not even the worst.  I bumped people a few times trying to weave, and a few people bristled or shot me dirty looks, but the creme-de-la-creme was in Crystal City, somewhere around mile 23, when a group of girls decided to stop dead while I was trying to pass them.  Once again sacrificing my knee, I twisted and managed to get mostly around them, but bumped the one girl's shoulder a little as I passed, saying "excuse me" as I went.  I turned slightly to apologize, but before I could even get the "sorry" out of my mouth, the girl's hand was flying.  She smacked me across the face and swore at me!  I had struggled to get up to an actual run again at this point, so instead of stopping to deck her like I wanted to, I just kept going - while her friends started yelling at me.  Unbelievable.  I've heard of people hitting the wall in a marathon, but never hitting another runner!

The course.

Yeah that's right, I said it.  I don't even mean the hills or the out-and-backs that most people complain about.  The MCM course was a nightmare for totally different reasons.  Primary among those reasons is that it's way too narrow in many areas to accommodate the number of people, especially if pace groups aren't properly spread out (hence the aforementioned weaving).  A very close second is the horrendously boring stretches of barren highway that show up between miles 18 and 20 (the Bridge from "Beat the Bridge") and again from 24 to 26.  As if running a marathon weren't enough of a mental challenge, MCM takes away the surging course support for which it is known at two of the most difficult stages, leaving runners in miserable silence for miles at a time.  These stretches were only made worse by the surprise 80 degree temperatures that were totally unexpected at a late October race.  With "spirit squad" cheer stations along other parts of the course, I was a little surprised to find there weren't any cheering groups at least along the final stretch of highway, which could easily have accommodated some support.

Finally, for a "Marathon of the Monuments" as MCM is sometimes touted, we didn't really pass many monuments.  Sure, they were just a stone's throw from the course in some areas, but the only truly visible monument along the route was the Washington Memorial (and let's be honest, that's "visible" from all over the place).  Running along the National Mall was, admittedly, pretty cool, and we passed right in front of the Capitol - but I had been expecting FAR more bits of DC history and fame to be visible during my run.  I won't say I'm not disappointed that the course didn't live up to the considerable hype placed on the "running in DC" part of this race.

I ran WAY more than 26.2 miles.

My GPS got "ahead" of the course early, and never caught back up.  At first I was maybe a quarter mile early, but soon I was a full mile early, and it was very demoralizing to have my GPS say "12 miles" when the sign I passed a little later only said 11.  It continued to get worse throughout the course until finally I had to turn my tracker off.  At that point, my GPS had a total of 25.89 miles recorded, and looking at the map, it doesn't appear that my signal jumped or misread, it's actually following the course we ran.  Unfortunately, that point at which I turned it off wasn't just prior to the 26 mile sign, it was a quarter mile before the MILE 24 sign.  I was more than two ahead of the course, meaning the additional weaving I was forced to do throughout the entire race had upped my 26.2 to more like 28.5.  SURPRISE ULTRA!

It is possible that, when MCM made some course changes this year, they accidentally added some distance.  Many other runners have posted to the Facebook page about GPS tracking running longer than most races usually do (since most of us do know to account for the weaving).  Either way, if I had finished at the 26.2 miles on my GPS, I would have shaved almost 40 minutes off my overall time, putting me much closer to my goal even in the heat.

I didn't get any finisher gear, including the advertised freebie items.

It's my first marathon, and it's kind of a big deal to me.  But I'm a runner and I'll probably do another sometime (don't quote me on that quite yet).  So many of the people at the MCM are not likely to do another marathon, or even any racing.  It's one of the biggest accomplishments of some people's lives, and they usually want something to show for it.  I know I certainly do.  So when the MCM spent months advertising that every finisher would get a Mission: Accomplished jacket at the finish line like they always do, I was pretty excited.  Sure, it's just a slightly nicer version of the heat shields you'll see at most marathons, but it's a wearable that says I finished, and I love the whole "Mission Thing" that has been an ongoing theme of the Marine marathon.  When the jackets were nowhere to be found at the finish line, I was intensely bummed.  Yes, I know it was 80 degrees and most people didn't need the heat shield, but it was an advertised item (that we presumably paid for in our entry fees) that has meaning to the people who participated.  Even if "it's hot" was the excuse, the race had presumably already purchased the jackets for this year, so why not just hand them out?  A couple days ago, their Facebook account finally acknowledged questions about why the jackets were missing, letting us know there was a shipping error but making no mention of whether finishers would ever get one.

Additionally, the finisher gear store was sold out of all Mission: Accomplished gear long before even my cousin got there an hour prior to my finish time.  Had the jackets been available, this probably wouldn't even bother me (and they might not even have sold out), but because I couldn't get the jacket I had been promised (and technically had already paid for), I would have liked to buy the finisher gear.  Alas, out of luck, and the official word on whether there will be more available for purchase later is simply "whatever is left will be put online" - which probably means I won't be getting one.

Yes, I finished the course and earned my bling.  But was the Marine Corps Marathon all that it was made out to be?  Unfortunately, my race day experience left me more than a little disappointed.  My training was on-point; even the unexpected heat of the day wasn't going to stop me from finishing, but suffering injuries that could have been avoided by a little courtesy or better corral planning made it a much longer and more difficult journey.  Add to that the realization that some of the "highlights" of this particular race aren't all they were hyped to be, and I walked away from MCM with less than positive memories.  I'm going to be talking more in my next post about the "aftermath" of my experience, so I won't linger too much on that here - you'll just have to come back to see how I'm feeling about marathons and running in general a week after the MCM!

Read about the rest of my MCM experience!   Expo   -   Part 1   -   Aftermath

Have you ever participated in a race that let you down?  What made the experience so difficult to enjoy?  How do you manage negative feelings after a race?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

REDEEM Yourself

Nutrition.  My worst enemy.  As I confessed during the holiday season last year, I struggle with eating properly, which is a huge hurdle for many people.  I grew up on junk food back when I was a child and had a much faster metabolism and hours of sports practice each day.  My weight always managed itself - until I was no longer a full time athlete and started struggling to maintain the body image I had grown to accept as a given.  Part of the reason I started running and teaching fitness classes was to combat the encroaching weight gain.  My levels of activity are definitely going back up, but my metabolism is still slowing down with every birthday, and I know that workouts alone are not the full answer to the problems I'm facing with weight management.  I need to do better about eating.

Thankfully, I'm not alone in my quest.  I have supportive people all around me who are encouraging me to make better food decisions and acknowledging my successes to remind me that the hard work is paying dividends.  I have a big network of acquaintances, bloggers, and fitness fanatics who are facing the same struggles and sharing their experiences so other can learn for their own battle.  And now, I also have a supplement that is supporting my goals without slapping me across the face with side effects.

Appetite suppressants have never been something I thought would be a successful addition to my cabinet.  Most of them contain stimulants like caffeine (I'm highly caffeine-sensitive) and supposedly work through thermogenics (increasing heat in the body to burn energy), and I've always thought of them as kind of a crock.  I've even tried a couple in the past that did nothing for my weight, yet threw so many adverse side effects at me that I had to toss them in the trash before my health suffered any further.  REDEEM, on the other hand, had a noticeable effect on my weight with no unwanted side effects, and it only took a week or so for results.  Now THAT is something I can get behind!

REDEEM is stimulant-free and contains ingredients your body actually needs to function, such as thiamine and other B-complex vitamins that help you fuel efficiently.  I started taking REDEEM and at first questioned that it was doing anything at all.  After a couple days, though, I noticed I as already doing a little better with food amount choices - such as stopping earlier in a meal instead of shoving more food down my throat thinking I was still hungry.  My overall calories slowly started to decrease, and after a couple weeks I had noticeably lost weight!  To be honest, I was pretty surprised to find myself not only eating less, but considering more carefully which foods I would eat when I started to get hungry.

After a few weeks of consistent use, I felt much more confident in my nutrition decisions and my ability to say NO to more food when I had eaten enough.  So far my weight loss has been roughly seven or eight pounds, in a couple months, which is perfectly healthy for me - not that those numbers are even reflective of the total change that has come from REDEEM!  I've also been running much more and building additional muscle over that time, which has actually added muscle weight, so my overall fat loss is much more than the pounds that have come off the scale.  I've leaned out noticeably (and have received many compliments on my figure lately) which is almost completely attributed to my food successes since starting with REDEEM.

Though I still occasionally give in to cravings or overindulgence, on the whole my relationship with food is becoming much more healthy.  Rather than using REDEEM as THE plan for weight loss, I am able to use it as a true supplement in a more self-aware nutrition plan.  It's not the solution, it's a guideline for keeping on track.  I don't feel dependent on it, either, and have actually gone off it for a little while to test how effective my decision making is without the supplement influence.  I do waver a bit more when I'm not taking REDEEM (especially when the cravings hit), but I definitely continue trending towards healthy now that I've proven to myself that I CAN do it!  The chemical support of REDEEM just helps me continue to grow and build better habits, and I'll be keeping a place in my supplement cabinet for it for sure!

What types of weight/nutrition assistance have you found beneficial? Where are the greatest opportunities in your diet plan?  What are your biggest weaknesses when it comes to food?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Marine Corps Marathon: The Good

Continuing my Marine Corps Marathon recaps, today I'm looking at the highlights of race day at my very first marathon.  Originally, I had anticipated this being the ONLY post I would need to describe my experience...  But we'll get to that later!  So here we go for now, the best aspects of MCM!

Seeing my family on the course.

Without a doubt, this was by far the best part of this marathon.  My brother and his wife live just outside of DC, and hosted my mom and I all weekend.  They also handled 99% of the logistics for race day for me, including getting me to the race early with zero issues, and plotting out ways to get to various points along the course with hilarious signs to cheer me on throughout the day!  No one was quite sure how accessible the course would actually be for spectators, but as it turns out, they were able to walk right up to the road for full visibility - and for SWEATY HUGS!  They caught me at several points, including from a bridge above runners at mile 7ish and right in the middle of the National Mall.  Not only did I get a kick out of their awesome race signs, but they were also a hit with many of the spectators (a surprisingly large amount of GO TRIBE to be heard on race day)!  Getting to share the experience with them put the biggest smile on my face all day, and I can't thank all of them enough for everything they did all weekend!

Really, though, it wasn't just my amazing family - the crowd support throughout almost the entire race was unbelievable.  Hundreds of signs, dozens of crazy costumes, live entertainment almost every mile, Crystal City becoming the snack food capital of the world...  Plus, Marines at every turn.  Aid stations, water stops, you name it, they were there.  There's a reason runners love the MCM, and the people are that reason.

Running with my cousin and later with my (newish) friend.

I started the race with my cousin Brooke, with whom I have run other races in the past.  She's a far better runner than I, at least when it comes to distance, and has marathon experience in the past.  I wasn't sure I could keep up with her, but her plan sounded close enough to mine that I decided to try.  We had a blast for the first few miles, but it was around mile 10 that an unexpected injury started to take me out of the running (so to speak), and finally at the halfway point, it was time for us to separate.  She finished strong about 45 minutes before I finally made it in!  Between 13 and 15 I mostly ran alone, until I asked someone to take a photo of me with the Washington Memorial behind me and a voice from behind me said "Wait, aren't you Amanda?!"  A local running blogger buddy who I actually hadn't ever met in person before just happened to be right there with me!  Rachel's energy and enthusiasm carried me the next four miles into the middle of the Bridge, when again that injury finally demanded that I slow down and send another friend on to victory.  Though I'm so very happy that both of them finished the race in good time and had a blast, it got a little lonely later!  But I'd much rather connect when we can, and see my friends and family succeed, so CONGRATS!

I also got to see a running buddy I made waaaaay back in April at the Towpath Half - Kim actually spotted me in the sea of runners waiting for the start, of all things!  Against some crazy odds, we ended up right next to each other donating our throwaways while we waited for the Howitzer blast.  I later found out Kim and I finished just minutes apart, but weren't lucky enough to run into each other at the end for a final hug!  CONGRATS to Kim too!

I finished a MARATHON!

Okay so the whole point of this race was to run a marathon, and though I walked more than I had intended to, I really did RUN most of it, AND that doesn't even matter because I FINISHED and that's what counts!  And believe it or not, as I'm writing this just a few days after the race, I honestly feel like I could do it again this coming weekend.  My body suffered an injury or two during the race that will take a little longer to fully heal, but mechanically and mentally I don't feel like I've burnt out at all.  I covered the full distance (and then some, but we'll talk about that tomorrow), every photo taken of me all along the course has a big ol' smile, I earned my bling and my bragging rights, and did it all through my own power.  Not to mention all the training I actually stuck with leading up to the race, which might be a bigger accomplishment for me than dragging my butt over that finish line...  I am now officially a marathoner, and nothing will ever take that away from me!

There were a lot of little goods too, but most of the little ones roll into either great support, running buddies, or I just ran a marathon, so my three big categories above are probably sufficient coverage of the Greater Good of the Marine Corps Marathon.  Many things came together on race day, including surprisingly beautiful weather (another one we'll talk about tomorrow), but the biggest things that stick out to me are the friends and family - and the MEDAL, of course!

There's still more to come with my Marine Corps Marathon experience, and the aftermath of my first marathon!  Plus, I have dozens of pictures that need to go SOME where, so keep an eye on my Instagram channel for anything I might pop up there, and check out Facebook where I've created an album for many of them as well.

Read about the rest of my MCM experience!   Expo   -   Part 2   -   Aftermath

What makes a race great for you?  How much does course support affect your runs?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Marine Corps Marathon: The Expo

This past weekend, I ran my first marathon.  As one might expect, there is a LOT to say about the experience!  I'll be breaking up my tale into a series of posts this week and and next, taking my time to let my thoughts settle in the hopes of conveying a good sense of what it felt like all along my 26.2 mile journey.  Today's post kicks off with a look at the pre-race expo, which was one of the craziest rooms into which I've ever been crammed!

MCM's expo this year was held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, which I believe is a big change from years past.  Throughout the weekend, my transportation was provided by my wonderful brother who lives just outside of DC and was willing to donate his time to the cause, so getting to the Gaylord was not altogether difficult - we just drove.  There was a longish line to park, but we kept moving and only had a very short walk from our (unexpectedly $10) parking spot at the center.  There were other events going on concurrently so we had to make our way to the far back basement room to find the MCM expo.  Fortunately it was easy to find our way.

Packet pickup was a BREEZE.  I've never really had to wait long for a packet pickup before, even at some of the bigger races I've done, but I was still pretty impressed with just how smoothly I was able to get my bib and shirt.  There were dozens of Marines waiting at well-labeled booths, broken down by bib number, and thanks to the bib card (printable or mobile-accessible from email) the pickup staff simply had to page through the bin of ordered bibs to yank mine out and hand it to me.  I grabbed a commemorative program (and am kicking myself for only taking one) and my MCM patch, then headed over to the shirt tables.

My bib didn't have any markings for which shirt size I had requested, and I had forgotten what I'd put, but that didn't seem to be a problem as people just went to the size they wanted and were handed a shirt.  We weren't allowed to try them on but a small looked about right so that's what I grabbed.  It fits well, but the material is very heavy and it's a kind of putrid green mockneck, so there's a good chance I won't be wearing it much.  Good quality item, certainly, I just wish I'd come last year for the beautiful red ones!

Now that I was ready for the actual race part, it was time to check out the expo vendors.  First up: the Brooks gear store, which had a huge selection of MCM gear of all kinds!  It also had a line that stretched all the way back to the expo entrance, with estimates of about an hour wait time.  I'd arrived at the expo early on Friday morning, pretty soon after it had opened, so I was shocked by how long that line was!  As it was my first marathon, though, I was pretty determined to grab some MCM goodies to wear proudly back home.  My mom and brother helped me pick out a beautiful dark blue long sleeve burnout shirt and a UV protective tank top before we headed to the line.  After a while of waiting all together, my family told me I should go meet up with some of the people I had planned to connect with at the expo while they waited.  I was hesitant to abandon them, but also realized if we killed two birds with one stone, we could get home sooner.

I headed over towards the Motigo booth to meet up with Celeste, one of the creators of the Motigo app.  We'd been communicating about this awesome technology before the race, and had agreed to meet in person at the race.  If you haven't heard of Motigo, you need to check this thing out!  It's a mobile app that allows friends and family to record personal messages for your race, to be delivered at set points along the course.  MCM had provided a bunch of messages for this race as well, so everyone using it would have "cheers" and motivation delivered directly into their ears while running.  VERY cool!

After chatting with Celeste for longer than planned, I went back to Brooks to check on the line - and found my family STILL in the middle of the Cedar-Point-esque line lanes!  I joined them for the last few turns, during which we actually passed a Gatorade aid station in the middle of the line, a cheer station, and a candy station.  Though the long line was kind of annoying and the space was very crowded, the amusement of shopping line aid stations helped lighten the mood, and I must say I was pretty impressed with how quickly that line actually moved.  Eventually we were at the register, then through the register, and confronted with the madness that was the MCM expo.

I was so surprised to see how small the conference hall was.  MCM's field of about 30,000 runners is one of the biggest races I've ever been a part of, but the expo space was comparable only to races of about half the size.  Vendor booths were crammed in and people were shoulder-to-shoulder at most points around the hall.  All of the open space in which the packet pickup booths had been remained largely empty while the rest of the expo was shoved in whatever corner it would fit.  I felt like I was at Chicago's Wizard World comicon instead of a prestigious race expo.  Wading through the sea of humanity was less appealing than I'd expected, so I made rounds as quickly as I could to grab freebies but ultimately spent much less time connecting and browsing at the expo as I had intended.  I DID try to participate in any activity challenges that took place around the hall, as always, and ended up in my best-ever wheel pose every for a while, which stretched me out after the long car ride we'd made the day before!

Finally, after only one half-hearted loop around the hall, I called it a day.  I think this made my family very happy, but I was a little disappointed.  Still, getting off my feet a couple days before the race was ultimately the better choice, so we packed up and headed for home.  My bags were still brimming with goodies, and of course I had my bib which was the number one most important part!  Saturday was a full day of rest, with absolutely nothing race-related to post about - just a bunch of family gaming and Final Destination watching (side note: NOT a great choice before a big day, as I was starting to freak out about all the little things that could go ever-so-wrong), and of course that little INDIANS IN THE WORLD SERIES thing...

My actual race-day experience will be broken up into a couple different posts, and I'm still working on organizing my thoughts.  There was so much to take in and process!  As you've probably noticed in this post already, I took a lot of photos and my posts will be a little pic-heavy, but gimme a break!  It's 26.2 miles PLUS the rest of the "experience" thing, so deal!

Read about the rest of my MCM experience!   Part 1   -   Part 2   -   Aftermath

What's the best race expo you've ever been to?  What made it so awesome?  How about the worst?