' Adventures with FitNyx

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Time to Say Goodbye

Hello friends.

This is a difficult post to write, because it will be my last.

Obviously I have struggled over the years, and especially more recently, to keep this blog up and running with any kind of regularity.  Short bursts, sure, I was all over it!  But in the long run, it constantly became the Thing of Least Importance when it came to how I wanted (or was able) to spend my time.  Now, as I'm refocusing my life once again in hopes of finding better balance and more happiness, I'm making more time for things like a blog - but this is not the blog on which I want to be spending that time.

Recently, I decided to retire from running races.  After completing the Cleveland Half Marathon as my 28th half (and 26th consecutive month of half marathons), I have realized that the running does not "do it" for me anymore.  I started running a few years ago to deal with a difficult divorce from an emotionally abusive narcissist.  My networks were slowly being cut off and I was forced to create new connections for myself to keep my head above the emotional waters.  Running became my lifeblood for a while, providing me with supportive friendships, exciting opportunities, constantly evolving goals, and plenty of vigorous exercise.  Running branched into more generalized fitness, and eventually into a career path that seemed so full of promise.

Years later, I really can't complain about what the running industry has done for my life.  On the whole, fitness and fitness-related pursuits have brought me so far forward during a time when I could easily have let the tidal waves sweep me back into oblivion.  But the journey has not always been smooth, and some of the problems that have evolved out of this life pursuit are starting to wear me down once again.  The running itself, the fitness classes, the race management career - they're wonderful things, but they no longer fit into my life the way I expected them to continue as I moved forward.

And it's time to let them go.

I haven't yet left the race management job, and am not sure when I will, but I am starting to limit my time and involvement in many ways.  Especially in the past six months, I have sacrificed more than my share of family events, personal pursuits, general free time, and health in the name of my work, and it cannot safely continue.  While I still love much of what I do, I don't love it enough for the job to consume me completely.  I'll slowly be making adjustments that will allow me to get back into the things I have always loved, not just the things that have come up over the years to fill the gaps.

It's time to get back to creating.

If there's ever been one completely consistent thing in my life, it's been the power of creation and the way it makes me feel.  Crafting, writing, building, painting, weaving... whatever form it takes, making stuff has always made me happy.  I've tried dozens of different kinds of projects and while I've never focused enough to truly hone my skills in any one medium, I now have this massive repertoire of Ways to Create.  It's about time for me to spend more effort and investment on these types of things.  I know "making stuff" doesn't necessarily pay the bills, especially not right away, but I can't neglect the side of me that screams with creative energies anymore.  I'll do what I have to for money, as always, but I'm opening my mind to alternative approaches to a paycheck (mostly through freelancing) and looking for opportunities that will give me the freedom I need to be myself more often.

As I strive to find my balance again, I'll be launching a NEW blog/website shortly with the intention of sharing my creative journey into my future.  Not necessarily by highlighting the things I'm making, but by focusing on the progress I'm making.  I've had this project in mind since I left Chicago years ago, and some of you may remember my post about the Soul Pose festival that marked my last day in Chi-town - well, that "fiercely serene" mantra has stuck with me ever since, and I am very proud to announce that within a few weeks, you'll be able to find me at www.fiercelyserene.com to follow this new journey!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in the running and fitness world over the years.  You have inspired me, challenged me, believed in me, supported me, and shared so much of yourselves with me.  The impact you have made on my life will never fade and will never be forgotten.  You will forever be a beautiful addition to my story.  Please know that I do not leave this community behind just because I am stepping out of its activities.  Please stay in touch, I still want to celebrate your successes and enjoy the people with whom I have connected for so long.

Moving on can be very difficult.  This change of direction is no different, but there's something calming and, indeed, empowering about making the change willingly and for myself.  Too many of the upheavals in my past were predicated on someone else's decision making putting me in a tough spot.  Today, I'm the one in control, and I am taking control for my own benefit.  It's time to finally forge the future I have always wanted.

Join me for the journey forward.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MD Calf Sleeves - Tried It Tuesday

Recovery, recovery, recovery.  I have learned this lesson a thousand times over by now: after putting your body through athletic strain, it's ever so important to take good care of it properly to ensure you can KEEP pushing!  There are various aspects of recovery, including proper nutrition to replace what you've used up and to enhance muscle healing, active stretching and yoga, and light cross training.  My favorite recovery strategies, though, are the ones that don't require a lot of attention - which is why I LOVE my compression sleeves after long runs and races!

Disclaimer: I received these sleeves at no cost in exchange for my review.
All opinions expressed here in are, as always, my own.

Compression sleeves are designed to increase blood circulation thanks to "pressure points" along the length of the sleeve.  Each compression point helps squeeeeeeeeze along the direction of bloodflow to ensure your muscles are getting enough blood to keep them healthy.  Your blood also carries the building blocks for muscle tissue, so increased circulation can help your muscles repair themselves quicker.  Additionally, the compression helps push blood back up to the heart, carrying away the lactic acid and other waste products that are created by exercise.  Between these various benefits, the main takeaway is that your muscles will feel better faster, allowing you to get right back into training with minimal down time (and minimal hobbling after a big run)!

Though I've tried compression products before, these new MD calf sleeves might be my new favorites.  Other calf sleeves have been a little too long for my short little legs, so I end up with bunching around the ankle or knee (and with compression gear, bunching can be quite painful).  Compression socks have had too much pressure on my arch and made my feet go numb.  My MD sleeves, though, are just the right length and size for my calves!  Wearing them around after a race (like Saturday's Fall Classic half marathon) or even after a tough leg day at the gym is so easy: I just slip them over my calves and go about my life, then the next day I'm right as rain and ready to do it all again!  Seriously, you can't ask for an easier recovery booster.

Some people choose to run in their compression sleeves, too.  I have not found wearing my sleeves while I'm active to work for me, personally, but if you're suffering from poor circulation during races, maybe compression sleeves can help you.  To me, they're just too tight while I'm flexing mid-stride.  Maybe it's mostly psychological, but it doesn't work for me so I don't do it - that doesn't mean others don't benefit!  If you wear your sleeves while you run, post a comment about how the sleeves have helped you on the road!

If you haven't tried compression yet, or are looking for the perfect gift for the runner in your life, try out MD calf sleeves with 20% off on Black Friday!  These sleeves come in fun colors and are very true to the sizing chart posted, plus they're Prime eligible on Amazon.  Sleeves make great stocking stuffers!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fall Classic Half Marathon 2017 Race Recap

Okay, I'm going to skip a few of the recaps I'm way behind with and just try to get the most recent one up right away!  Yesterday I completed my 22nd half marathon less than 15 minutes from home at the Strongsville Fall Classic, hosted by the Cleveland West Road Runners Club.  I've heard good things about this race in the past and with my company timing it, there were no excuses to miss it this year.

It's a November half in Cleveland, so I'm sure it comes as no surprise when I start by saying it was COLD.  Saturday had seen incessant rainfall, so everything was damp and half of the local trail system through Bonnie Park was under considerable water.  Overnight, the temperatures plummeted and we arrived at the park in the middle of a snow flurry.  The freezing rain made the pavement slick right away, but we managed to get most of our timing gear set up during the lulls in precipitation.  We sent the half marathon walkers off about 45 minutes before race time, and I did my best to stay warm in the meanwhile.

Finally it was time for the half marathon to start, and I left the starting line to find an appropriate pace group before the gun went off.  Of course I ran into Cyndi, my favorite running buddy (who has logged over 2000 miles so far this year, wow!) and stuck with her for the first mile or so.  Obviously with her annual mileage, she's been training MUCH more than I have, so I knew I wouldn't be staying near her too long, but at least I got a solid start under my belt.  My first mile was a little rough in that the whole pack of about 800 runners was pretty stuck-together, and I had several people lurch or slip into my path causing me to make some dodging moves that twisted my knee a bit, but eventually we thinned out enough for me to run more safely.  The entire course is on a two-lane road, so there was ample space for the majority of the race.

I thought I was going to find a groove during the middle of the race, but it never quite happened.  Running on the road through this particular park meant a lot of winding - and the road was always pitched one way or another around each curve.  While the actual route was relatively flat, most of the road was diagonal to one side or the other, which put extra strain on whichever leg was lower and led to a LOT of muscle imbalance.  By the second loop of the course, I was hurting pretty badly.  The freezing weather didn't help, and the temperatures just kept dropping.  By mile 10, I was running into the wind with hail and hard snow pelting me in the face, while my hips screamed in diagonal-tilt-agony.

Despite the pain and the cold, though, I kept pushing for run-walk intervals, even if they were very short.  It would have been easy to convince myself to just walk for a while, but I tried not to let my brain take too long of a break.  A quick rotation of each leg in the socket helped alleviate some of the hip pain for short bursts, allowing me to pick up the pace for another couple tenths of a mile at a time.  Soon I was rounding the final curve back towards the starting area and could see the finish banners waving in the wind!  I pushed whatever energy I had left into my feet and crossed the finish line in about 2 hours and 45 minutes.  Honestly, with no training and the adverse conditions, I'm VERY happy with that time.  I've done worse in better conditions with better training, so I can't really complain!

I hobbled over to the pavilion to grab some of the Applebee's chili (they had more than enough to save plenty for us back-of-packers) and a few bagels before pitching in a bit to clean up the finish line apparatus.  Fortunately we had enough on our timing team that I really didn't have to work too hard after I ran!  We waited for the tail end of the race, picked up our stuff, and headed home.  I can't tell you how nice it was to have such a short drive home and to have my feet UP within 20 minutes of leaving the race!  I've had so many long-drive races lately, but it was so good to stay close to home.  I spent the rest of the day in my calf sleeves trying to heal up some of the damage from the skewed roadway.  Today I'm a little stiff but have most of my range of motion; by tomorrow I should be back at 100% already.  Guess that means I don't have any excuse to delay getting back into a real training habit!

Fall Classic Half Marathon Breakdown

Organization: Cleveland West has been putting on this race for 40 years, and the event shows their experience.  Early packet pickup at Second Sole was sponsored by a local brewery, so you got a free beer when you stopped in to grab your bib; race day pickup was equally easy though less libatious.  Plenty of volunteers were available for the course and aid stations, the route was well marked, and pre-race communication was very clear.  Timing was done by my company (in fact, done partially by me) so I'm going to say we did a great job, but I promise I wouldn't be the only one saying so!

The Course: I've never run a double-loop course before, and I can't decide if I liked it.  The flatness was kind of sabotaged by the pitch of the road, as I mentioned before, but it was a very straightforward route that was easy to follow.  Starting into the second loop at first seemed great ("oh I totally know this, should be easy now that I'm familiar with it") but later got into my head a little bit ("I could have sworn I was a lot closer to the finish when I passed this bridge...").  Ample room on the wide roadway for the out-and-back crowd made for a better course than the all-purpose trail running alongside the actual road, but the APT doesn't have the same banking built into the turns.  I guess to have the breathing room, you have to take the pitch of the road, and I guess at the end of the day I'd rather have the running space.

The Swag: Runners paid between $45 and $65 for the Fall Classic, which is probably on the higher end of the "local running club half marathon" pricing scale from my experience.  However, runners get a lightweight windbreaker jacket instead of another race shirt, and though I don't find it to be super high quality, it's a lot nicer than some of the junky cheapo shirts I've gotten at other local-sized races!  If you signed up for this race on the $45 end, you got a decent deal, that's for sure.  The medals are cool, featuring the fox logo, and the post-race food included fresh, hot CHILI which was a godsend by the end of this race.  They also offered free beer at packet pickup, and the goody bags had actual goodies in them (like Chik-fil-a gift cards)!  There's definitely a lot of "local flair" in this race, and it's affordable enough to enjoy the quaintness of the club and the focus on running for running's sake.

Bottom Line: It's a good, local half marathon.  There's no post-race party or flashy finish line stuff, but you get a well-supported course and good swag for a very reasonable entry fee.  I definitely can't complain about the experience (beyond the weather, which just can't be helped) and would definitely recommend this race to someone looking for a good half in November.  Nothing fancy, but a safe and solid course with lots of great competitors, which at the end of the day is what this is all about, right?

What are the goings-on in YOUR running world?  Anyone tried any new races lately?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

AARD: How strict are cut-off times for races/courses?

Today's question was originally asked by Joan Oliver Emmer (Women Who Run the World), but I chose this one for today because I recently had the same discussion with another runner friend who was curious: "How strict are cutoff times for races?  Why can't I get my medal if I am only a few minutes behind?"

Here's the main deal with cutoff times - they're not usually the race's choice.  Course limits are most often dictated by the venue where the race is being held, which for longer races that have cutoffs usually means a city.  There are lots of permitting points that I'll probably eventually discuss, but the most relevant today is the street closure aspect, and therein lies the basis for the cutoff time on a half or full marathon.  My best example is the Marine Corps Marathon: the famous "Beat the Bridge" cutoff is set at mile 20, which participants MUST reach by 1:15pm.  This is a hard-and-fast limit that is enforced by a line of buses pulling in front of the course.  All participants who miss the cutoffs are put on the buses and taken to the finish line, where they do not get a medal or a time because they didn't finish the race.  The MCM website is very clear about several cutoff points and the pace needed to "stay alive" on the course.

But why 1:15pm?  Why a 14-minute pace?  The 1:15pm time is the latest Washington DC will allow the roads to be closed around the capital.  Obviously, DC is a kinda important city for our country, and even on a Sunday, people need access to the buildings along the National Mall and other points of the course.  The 14-minute-per-mile pace is not some arbitrary "we think you need to be a better runner than this" decision, but rather a calculation of what it will take to make it to the Bridge by 1:15pm.  This cutoff isn't meant to discriminate against slower runners specifically, it's just a city requirement to have the streets cleared at a reasonable time.

Of all the first-marathon advice I received, "don't get on
a bus" was the piece that stuck with me the most!

Boarding buses at the cutoff, however, is NOT the universal solution for races with a time limit.  For other events, that cutoff time is a little more "soft", and most participants will still be able to complete the race and earn their medal.  If the venue/city allows it, a soft cutoff will see slower participants moved to sidewalks or all-purpose trails so the streets can reopen, allowing the participant to continue with their race at their own pace.  The important difference between these two types of cutoffs (hard and soft) is communication prior to the event.  MCM makes it very clear what will happen to anyone not meeting cutoffs, including when and where those sweeps will take place.  Other races plan for sweeps, but don't tell their runners what to expect - at these events, runners are surprised to learn they may not be able to complete their goal.  It is very important as a race director to make sure we're communicating our cutoffs and what to expect at those times, especially if a soft cutoff means fewer aid stations.

In very, very rare occurrences, a race will impose a cutoff time simply to allow the race workers and volunteers to go home.  I've really only seen this done for ultra marathons, if a company doesn't have a big enough crew to keep shifting employees throughout an event that might take some people 24 hours or more.  Some races will keep the course open but may not be able to keep volunteers on the course for the full time and cannot guarantee course support after a certain point; again, communication is key for these instances.

Finding a pacer can help you manage your race splits better
while also giving you an experienced runner's advice along the way!

I keep putting the onus on the race directors to ensure their participants are aware of a cutoff time and what it may mean for their experience - but it's equally important for race participants to do their due diligence in researching an endurance event.  While prepping for my MCM experience, I wrote a post about finding the right marathon for your pace, especially if you're looking to enter a limited field event.  It's just as important for runners to do their research before signing up for an event, and perhaps even more important for potential participants to be honest with themselves about making the cutoffs.  Be prepared for what you might experience at your race, and we'll do our best to craft races that can accommodate as many people as possible!  This whole crazy running business is a team effort, after all!

Have you ever been stymied by a course cutoff?  Have you ever been surprised on race day to find out you're in danger of an unadvertised sweep?  What other questions do you want to Ask a Race Director?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mission: Redemption

One year.

A lot can happen in one year.  This is a pretty common theme on this blog, really...  If you've been following me for a while you've probably noticed I have a relatively tumultuous life that changes constantly.  I'm never in the same place as I was a year prior.  This time, fortunately, I think I'm in the best place I have been in my life!

But that's not why I'm reflecting on "one year" right now.  True, in the past year I've bought a home, gone through a couple relationships, made a big job change...  But the single moment that matters to me right now happened one year ago today: I ran my first full marathon when I took on the Marine Corps Marathon in DC.  From Mission: Preparedness to Mission: Accomplished, it was one heck of a journey, but by the end of race day, I was pretty sour on the final experience.  You can read more about my MCM story in a series of posts from last year, if you're interested in the full details: Expo / Part 1 / Part 2 / Aftermath

To say I was disappointed with my first marathon would be an understatement.  I was so turned off by that experience that I was heavily leaning towards the "one-and-done" camp.  People who know me best, though, could tell right away that I'd end up doing another marathon, if only to prove I could do better than the first one - and as it turns out, they were right.

As of yesterday, I am officially registered for my SECOND full marathon!

I'll be staying local and running through my hometown this time around, doubling my previous half marathon experiences at the Cleveland Rite-Aid Marathon in May.  Coming back home a few years ago opened doors in my life that I'd never before thought possible.  Cleveland has brought me my dream job, a wonderful home, and some of the best friends I've ever made.  It's about time I applied the magic of the 'Land to my running schedule!

Of course, this registration brings with it new challenges, and new opportunities.  Instead of training during the nicest months of the year, I'll be training during the coldest, nastiest months.  I'll carry with me the lessons I learned from last time, and I'll build to improve upon them.  I have more realistic expectations for my race experience - especially having run the half marathon for the past two years, making me more familiar with the course.  Hometown advantage is great to have on my side, as well.  I can preview the course, take training runs along the route, and of course I'll be able to invite a larger support group since the whole family is right here in town.

Hopefully, Marathon #2 will bring me the redemption I've been craving for the past year.  It's time to start the new mission - wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

RICEing Just Got Easier

Aches and pains are pretty much a guarantee for those of us living an active lifestyle.  While there are plenty of good injury prevention practices, there's just no avoiding the occasional twist, sprain, or general overuse soreness.  Every athlete knows how to treat those minor injuries with the old RICE adage: rest, ice, compression, elevation.  But even if we weren't itching to get back to our movin' and shakin', this on-the-go world makes it difficult to take proper care of those aches and pains.  Who has time to sit still for an 20 minute ice application every few hours throughout the day?  Fortunately, gone are the days of needing a ziplock full of ice cubes to stay perched precariously on your sore knee or ankle.

Disclaimer: I received this product at no cost in exchange for my review; I received
no additional compensation.  As always, all opinions expressed herein are my own.

Paincakes are revolutionizing the RICE treatment for those of us who suffer from sprains or sore muscles but have to keep moving despite the pain.  While resting completely is certainly the best treatment, it simply isn't always feasible to take a day off work just to nurse an irritating minor injury.  For those days, an ice pack that sticks in place and doesn't leak is just about the best possible invention on the planet!

The science of the gel-based reusable ice pack isn't exactly modern marvel, but I've never seen one that is both flexible and self-adhesive until I found Paincakes.  In the past, if I wanted to use one of those gel packs, especially on a busy day, I had to monkey with an ACE bandage for a while trying to find a good combination of flexibility and stability that would allow me to go about my activities for the day.  If you've ever tried this delicate juggling act yourself, you probably remember being frustrated that you couldn't quite find the right level of tension to keep the ice pack where it needed application while still being able to move at all.  Paincakes totally solves this problem by sticking directly to the affected area - and staying PUT for as long as you need.

Paincakes - part of a balanced recovery routine!

I've been using my Paincake for almost a year now, and it sees action almost weekly.  The adhesive is still just as strong as it was on the first use!  In fact, the only signs of the frequence of use mine receives are the slightly peeling edges of the adhesive square.  Since the Paincake sticks so well, it takes a little effort to peel it off, and the repeated pulling is starting to pull the square up at the corners ever so slightly, but I supposed that's to be expected after quite a bit of use.  It certainly hasn't impacted my ability to use the ice pack, so I'm not really worried about it quite yet.  The product only claims to be good for 100 resticks which I hit quite a while ago, so I think I'm doing well!

My Paincake is great for icing the entire ankle area, or one side of the knee, at a time.  I can also target other painful areas, like specific points on my back that need iced down after a tough workout, or the bumps on my forehead when my dog knocks me into a doorframe because she's so excited I'm home (yes, that happens more often than you'd think - she's the best but she's a handful!).  There are also mini Paincakes that pack the same punch but in a smaller size!  Both the regular and mini Paincakes come in a waterproof ziplock pouch so you can tuck them into a suitcase while you travel, allowing you to take relief for aches and pains anywhere you might have access to a freezer.

Obviously last year...  #Windians

Having the ability to ice anytime, anywhere, without having to be careful about my ice pack slipping or falling off helped me get through last year's marathon training with minimal down time.  It's currently helping me ease back into teaching fitness classes on a regular basis.  And in the future...  Who knows what it might help me accomplish?  When I'm able to take better care of my body, anything is possible!  Kinda makes you wanna set a big new goal, eh?  ;)

What helps you take care of your body while balancing a fitness lifestyle and, well, a regular life?  Do you have a favorite RICE routine or product?  What's your next big fitness goal?

Monday, October 16, 2017

AARD: Is race directing a full time job?

Okay, I'm going to take a day to answer the question I hear the absolute most by far when people learn I'm a race director.  "Oh, a race director?  Is that like, part time?  Do you make much money?"  This is one of those jobs that a large portion of the population doesn't even know exists, and it's hard for people to wrap their heads around it - especially since it's a relatively rare position.  Even being in the industry for several years, I still only personally know maybe 20 people who make a full time living doing nothing but race work.  Now to be fair, I know there are many cities across the country and the world that have 20+ race managers/directors each, but that's still a lot fewer RDs than, say, teachers or doctors.  It's uncommon and it's unusual, so I can see why this question comes up so often.

For me, yes, it is a full time position and I make a salary that covers my expenses.  I've made enough in the past to accumulate some decent savings, but took a pay cut to move to another company that better matched my personal vision and goals in the industry.  My bills are always paid on time, I own my own home with a very manageable mortgage, and I have enough left over to do things I enjoy.  Currently, I have room to help my company grow and my compensation will match that growth, which will put me back at a very comfortable living very soon.  It's a great balance of affording a stable life while also working every single day with something I love and about which I am passionate.

My position is a little different than the majority of race directors, though.  I work for a major timing company.  We host 20+ races each year that we own and for which we do all the work, but a large part of our business is contracted out to local organizations who want to put on a race as a fundraiser.  Technically, every person from these groups who spearheads their event is a "race director".  Some may call themselves that, others will just say "oooh, I'm a volunteer and they asked me to be in charge."  The vast majority of the race directors I work with to manage, time, and consult on their races are either paid part-time for their race work, are salaried for a more generalized position that includes planning the organization's race event, or are true volunteers who are donating their time to charity in order to build a great fundraiser.

Honestly, race directing is basically just a form of event planning that focuses solely on running events.  When considered in this manner, the idea of a "full time race director" is a little less unusual than it originally seems!  I'm doing many of the same things a wedding planner or a conference planner might do, I just happen to do it for runners and I'm planning courses and coordinating timing instead of picking a menu or matching color palettes!  It's a very complex job with lots of facets to keep me on my toes and busy 365 days a year, and it's a blessing to have found such a perfect position for my career.  I hope everyone who gets involved in race management has as great of an experience as I've had!

What do YOU want to know about running and races?  I'd love to share my experiences and observations!  Submit your Ask A Race Director questions in the comments below or via email to fitnyx@gmail.com