Saturday, May 31, 2014

Living the Hard Boiled Life and Running Out Of Time

This week, I hard boiled eggs without screwing them up! This is kind of a big deal, as my domestic goddess skills aren't always spot on. (My poor Sailor...Okay, so it's not THAT bad, but you're welcome to pity him all the same. I mean, his wife couldn't properly hard boil eggs until, well, now.... and I'm 34 years old...) It's been really handy to just grab a couple and head up to the office when it's time to chain myself to the desk for a few hours. That and a quick salad or a piece of fruit and I have an instant snack/meal! I'm going to do more to these on a regular basis - at least a dozen handy in the fridge...
Courtesy of Gymdoll on Facebook.
All that aside, this week has been a true reminder that my ability to do what I do is truly a gift. To be able to move freely, 'suffer' from quickly healing sore muscles, and sweat through a WOD like a champ is a hard earned gift, but a gift none the less.

Because, no matter the bruises, bumps, and aching legs, they are all reminders that I'm alive - and well.

This week alone, I learned that a childhood friend passed away due to Leukemia. He was a year younger than me, and had some developmental problems, but as we were growing up, we spent several years being fairly inseparable. When we were kids, he seriously stuttered. I seemed to be the only kid with patience enough to see it through. We lost touch over the years, but to hear of his passing was a surprise. 

And then I learned that, while Kyndall's spirit is undeniably a bright one, a recent stroke and heart problems have left them with the realization that time is much shorter than anyone expected. They'll still do all they can to manage her symptoms and make her comfortable, but medical science doesn't have much left offer them. It's becoming clearer every day that time is running short.

The one guarantee about life is that no matter how strong and fit we are, no one makes it out alive. There are a million uncontrollable factors that can cut that thread short. It bares repeating that time is life's most valuable, and the most irreplaceable, commodity.

It's really made me examine how I spend that time.

I'm undeniably spending it with the right people. I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing people who are currently in my life, and the lessons learned from those who left it.

I'm undeniably spending it on the right things.  Friday is a great example. I spent Friday largely in the the gym, connecting with some great people, getting a good sweat on orchestrated by Trainer Guy, and followed it up watching Strong Girl have some real "ah-ha!" moments with her squats.  For those that aren't interested in lifting or athletics, that might not seem like a big deal, but think about the time you figured out something and how it felt when you had a 'light bulb' moment.  Or maybe you've been there for someone's light bulb moment. Just being part of that moment when the light clicks 'on' in a meaningful way for someone is exciting - and in more cases than not, something of an honor. It's a great reminder to me that I'm heading the right direction. Sure, I spent some of the day chained to my desk as well, but it's all the other moments that made the day amazing.

I also can't wait for tomorrow. Between feeding my inner Oly Girl with a new Olympic Lifting class on the agenda, soccer, Get Up Get Dirty, and some time with Strong Girl, it's going to be an awesome day. 

I never in a million years thought I'd look forward to getting up at 5:30am on a Sunday... but lately, between lifting, good friends, soccer, and the end of the day, Sundays are quickly becoming one of my favorite days of the week.

It's a bit mind boggling to think that we all have a limited amount of time with each other - and no one knows when that time is up. As an up-and-coming Trainer Girl, I can't wait to share that time (and many more light bulb moments) with others.

Finding a balance of how to spend that time is part of everyone's pursuit. But if we can make each other's time a little brighter - why not? We never know how long we have.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Murph - The Morning After

Yesterday, I had the pleasure and distinct oppurtunity to do 'Murph' (the workout seen above) with a great group of athletes.  And yes, I say 'athlete', because anyone who completes this has (IMHO) the intestinal fortitude to be labeled as such. Today, I'm actually not in as dire straights as I was yesterday. I was able to get through my Cleans and Split Jerks, Kettle Bell Swings, heavy squats, and all with just a little added rest in there.

If I haven't mentioned it before, one thing I adore about some fitness communities is that they really bring in people with every single body type known to the human race. Zumba largely attracts women, and Olympic Weight Lifting tends to attract more men than women. But Crossfit seems to attract both women and men, regardless of 'mileage'. 

What do I mean by mileage? Well, take a look at this photo of the amazing group of people that finished Murph along side me this weekend:

(Click here to learn why I love Namesake/Hero WODS - and to learn how Kyndall's WOD came about.)
Crossfit Narrows - I'm the 2nd from the right in the bottom row
If you look carefully, you'll see military men, moms, women and men in their 20's standing (sweating and crouching) along side women and men old enough to make my parents look young. It's inspiring to see so many people becoming stronger individually, yet supporting each other.  

Now, just to remind you, I've been in three Crossfit boxes now. The very first time I stepped foot one was in February for a Throwdown. And the very first time I met the crew from this particular box was today - for Murph. Apparently I know how to make an entrance...

That said, I was a bit of a wall flower during most of the warm up and the first couple heats of athletes. Being in no screaming rush, I signed up for the last heat (since all of the other slots were taken by people who needed to get going and get on with their day). 

I knew that meant that I would likely be the final finisher. (Nothing increases the hustle like being last in line!) 

That said, the workout calls for 'body armor' or a weight vest to be worn. While I consider myself pretty fit, I wasn't to the point where I was going to wear a weight vest. The weight I carried on Memorial Day wasn't one that you could see during pull ups, push ups, or squats. The weight was my father buried in Point Loma, knowing someone was likely visiting there today. The weight was being away from My Sailor as he slaved away on his Submarine.  The weight was knowing that we had expected to be able to do this together.  Instead, I brought him with me the only way I could...
I usually don't wear his tags. I carry him with me in a million different ways that don't usually include Navy branded clothing, bumper stickers, or jewelry. But today, it just felt completely appropriate.

The event opened with a reading of the mission that brought Murph's life to an end, and was followed with a brief prayer.

When the heats got moving, I mingled with a few folks as I stretched and hydrated. One big mistake - I realized I hadn't eaten anything significant all day.  Before the race, I had gotten a lot of water in, a banana, and a pre-workout drink... Now that I was in a later heat than I expected, I wouldn't be eating until after noon most likely. Oops... Luckily, I had some almonds in my car, and got to get a cup of them down before my heat started. In a way, it was lucky that I started later anyway. I was still sore from rocking 190lbs deadlift reps along with Kyndall's WOD on Saturday and Get Up Get Dirty the morning before. Maybe I should have prepped for this with a little more rest? Oh well - too late now! Lesson learned for next time...

The run wasn't so bad. By the time we got to it, I was itching to get underway and join the flock of sweat-ridden focused folks rocking it out. My goal was just to finish in 1 hour or less.  Due to my late start, it was becoming NECESSARY for me to finish within that time. I had a Power lifting friend who needed my help soon after Murph, and I couldn't be late for her.

The mile run started with a big, steep hill. I was one of the first up the hill, but then the rest of my pack overtook me by more than a few strides. It was okay though. I wasn't racing them. While that was a challenging mind set to retain in the moment, I focused on meeting my goals and finishing. Which would mean I needed to pace myself.

The good thing about running UP a steep hill was the blessed DOWNHILL at the end of the run! I made up some time there and stopped my timer as I hit the gym and the 1 mile mark. 7:33. And that was with keeping pacing in mind?! This running thing is really coming along for me.

I went to a corner of the gym and started on my 20 sets of Cindy (5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 squats). I opted to scale the pull ups to jumping pull ups to ensure I'd get through them, and I did. Those proved to be conquerable - especially since there were only 5. I kept a pretty strong pace for the first few rounds but... the Push ups...

I had started using Bench push ups, and then finally just threw myself at the floor for the last 2 rounds. Turns out they were easier from the floor. I'd been killing myself using the bench. I should have started on the floor... They were sloppy, but DONE! The squats were totally 'recovery'. Since I've been training in Olympic Lifting heavily, I am very confident in my squats and actually find myself enjoying the quick pace and the relaxing familiar movement.

Finally, I was the last person to leave for the run by 1 set of Cindy.

I made it up the hill and then the Endo kicked in. Of course, if it was going to kick in anywhere, it was going to be during the run.

Distracted by the golfball of barbed wire bouncing about in my lower abdomen, I made a wrong turn on the route and ended up in the wrong cult-a-sac. This didn't really change the run though. I just cut out a cult-a-sac further on the route and called it even on the distance. (The route went through a planned housing development, so everything is pretty standard.) In fact, I attribute the pain to making me run faster. I realized instantly that I had a clear choice. I could sit down, cry, and curl up in a ball on the sidewalk until someone came looking for me, or I could run the (insert-expletive-here) out of it. I decided the only way I was going to be found curled up in a ball on the sidewalk was if I legitimately passed out. Either Endo will own me forever and dictate my limits, or I'll dictate my limits and deal with the pain. Besides, I knew once I was done running, the pain would subside. The sooner I finished, the sooner I'd hurt less. Talk about incentive...

I gave myself a 10 step walk to get through that argument in my head and decide to finish. I was ALMOST done! I couldn't quit now. I repeated to myself "Earn this" a few times and bucked up to finish the run.

Still, I finished the 2nd run in under 8 minutes...
Slowest in my heat, but it didn't really matter. I'd finished. I don't need to be better than everyone. I just need to be better than I was. This time last year, I would never have attempted this - much less attempted it (and finished it) in under an hour.

The aftermath? I blew out two small veins in my upper arms from the push ups and I'm really  looking forward to my rest day tomorrow.

Thank you, Murph, and Crossfit Narrows, for making this Submariner's Wife stronger.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sleeping with Steel - Freedom Edition

Some people need a special day set aside to remember the troops.  Those that give their lives in the line of duty certainly deserve a national holiday - and more than people can ever repay them.

I never really understood what 'they' said when people said that "The family serves too".  In fact, I truly think it's impossible to comprehend what it's like to be on the end of this stick without, well, being here - and that's okay. Not everyone is meant to be a military member or spouse. Every life has value, no matter what occupation or relationship status is involved.

I'm as equipped as I can be to finish Murph tomorrow at a new crossfit box. I've been there before, but I'll be sweating it up with a whole new group of people that I'm at once anxious about and excited to get to know.

I'm guessing there are pretty good odds that I'll be the only submarine wife there. It's an exceedingly rare breed that can embrace the Submarine life style.

My Sailor had hoped to do this with me, but that's not possible. In many ways, Memorial Day is more challenging than major recognized holidays are. It's easy to get lost in the rush and the hustle of Christmas and the like, but Memorial Day is set aside specifically to honor the empty chair at the dinner table... 

No matter how you feel about politics, war, peace, our current world leaders, or the military at large, there is someone like me out there missing a son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father, or other relative due to the cause of protection. It's a human dilemma that's impossible to separate from the situation. 
I'm one of the lucky ones.

I have every confidence that My Sailor will make it back to his seat - eventually.  I push away nearly every other possibility, but days like Memorial Day bring those back-burner thoughts into frontal-lobe crystal clarity.

As much as I'm anxious for the day to come, I'm incredibly grateful for the chance to plug into the community and do something in honor of Murph, and all of those like him who have passed before.

So before Memorial Day slips away - take time to remember.

Friday, May 23, 2014

H.T.F.U. (Rated R)

So... it's been... a week.

I'm a reasonably stable woman. I've even been accused of being "Spock" (which I take as a general compliment). But even I have my triggers. With the Power Lifting competition cancelled, the news of My Sailor's indefinite deployment, the power blowing outside my house, technical issues that made the desk job a true crawl this week, no soccer game this week and Memorial Day coming up, I was already on edge this morning.

So today, when a power line outside the house blew, I went to the gym to vent some much needed frustration and actually do something productive. (Not to mention get a hot shower...)

On my way back, with my legs barely working, I decided to browse Facebook on my phone as I walked to Starbucks for a ride home. (Power got restored roughly 7 hours later.) In my browsing, I came across a new tank top that I'm seriously considering buying (once they make it in a women's size). I realized it was perfect timing, because the brand name (HTFU) is pretty much the theme for the day - or perhaps the week.

I could either dissolve into a puddle of self-pity for all the uncontrollable things that seemed to be going wrong - or I could look to my amazing friends for support and HTFU.

So, from here on out (at least on this blog), I think I'm going to call today's workout my HTFU work out. And since I was asked if I'd blog a workout today as well - here you go. Good luck.

Warm up -
500m Row,
400m walk,
400m Run

Work out -
 4 rounds
400m run (Buy In Only)
Hanging leg raises (or Toes to bar attempts) x10
Wall walks (10 steps each, with 20 second hold in highest position) x2
Handstand Push Ups x5 x3 (increasing depth each time)
300m run
100m sprint

Move to the Weight Room -
45lbs Bear Complex x3
55lbs Bear Complex x3
65lbs Bear Complex x3
65lbs Squat Set x5  x2
(For these purposes, the 'Squat Set' is 1 Squat Clean from the floor, followed by front squats, back squats, and overhead squats. So this first set would be 1 clean, 5 front squats, 5 back squats, and 5 overhead squats without putting the bar down.)
Double Unders x10
70lbs Squat set x5 x2
Double Unders x10
75lbs Squat set x5 x2
Double Unders x10
80lbs Squat Set x3 x2
Double Unders x5
85lbs Squat Set x2 (Took a couple tries to get the Overhead Squats in solidly)

Repeat first 4 rounds.

*For those unfamiliar with the acronym - it stands for Harden The Fuck Up.*

I have a little more confidence about completing The Murph Challenge on Monday after today. I was invited to watch Lone Survivor with the group and I'm still on the fence about it. While it would be great to meet new people before I go bust a gut trying to complete Monday's workout, that's a hard movie to watch. It was tough to watch when I saw it in the theaters (the last movie My Sailor and I saw together before he left), and I'm not sure how I'll react seeing it again.  And among strangers? Well, we'll see. I'm a definite Maybe.

All my sweat may not have fixed a darn thing -but it did ensure I'll sleep tonight.

No matter what, it's clear it's time to HTFU, harness the battle, and fight.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An Expert in the Art of Hate-Fu

"I'm furious, but I sure as hell am not going to waste it on a tantrum. I'm gonna mine it, save it,... I'm going to use every bit of it to take him down."  
"Wish I knew how to use that hate-fu."
 - May to Skye,  Agents of Shield.

This past week has been riddled with challenges. One question has been lingering around conversations so much that it necessitated a blog.

Disclaimer: I don't waste much time on 'hate'. It's a particularly strong emotion that takes up a lot of time and energy that I could put towards other things. That has its uses.

A friend asked me how I was 'really' feeling about the failed ongoing delays in adopting. I rattled off the usual (completely honest) reply, "I'm baffled and frustrated that a financially stable, happily married couple in their 30's, can't seem to 'get there' in 3+ years. It's not that we're 'waiting' for a baby. We want to adopt older, waiting, kids. I am at a complete loss. So I've done my best to shut that door, walk away, and not worry about it. It's entirely beyond my control at this point."   Usually the reply is, "Aren't you mad?! I'd be so mad if I were you! Hell, I'm angry FOR you!"

The answer? "Sure, I was really frustrated, but I'm somewhere else with it now. I'm to the point where 'I'm sorry,' can't fix it. Yelling, screaming, and throwing a tantrum won't help either. All I can do is wait - and either let it drive me crazy on a daily basis, or not."

"But how can you be so calm about it?!"

On another day, I also was out breakfast after yoga with a few friends and they chatted about Navy Submarine Wife frustrations. All very common and all things I 'get' in that way someone who has been in the situation can understand. But, while many vent to their sailors about it, I don't.  I figure he's already got a lot to deal with. He doesn't need me freaking out too. I am acutely aware that every communication we have may be the last, so I choose my words carefully. Long before we got married, we both agreed that words, once said, can never truly be taken back. You can apologize, but that's like putting salve on a wound. It can help it heal - but there is still a wound there. I realize he doesn't have a choice over his situation. It's not his fault - and screaming at the command or hating them only makes it even harder. At least for me. Conversation very quickly turned to "How can you be so calm?!"

As if to ice the (paleo, of course) cake, Trainer Guy walked up to me to start our session the moment I received word that My Sailor's return home has been indefinitely delayed. While I never know when exactly My Sailor is coming and going (and schedule changes are no big surprise in the Navy), I'll admit, the news was surprising -and disappointing.

I have to admit, Trainer Guy and the Navy had perfect timing. I couldn't have planned it better myself.  I was grateful to get the news just before my lifting session.

I had a way to flush out the stress immediately at my disposal.

Maybe the real question isn't, "How can you be so calm?!"

Maybe it's, "How can you be so patient?"

The thing about time is that it doesn't care if you're mad. It doesn't care if you're ecstatic. It's going to continue to tick by either way. It's arguably the only commodity we can't get back. So how I spend it, and what mind frame I'm in, is very important to me. Spending it angry or beating my head against a wall (any more than is absolutely necessary for self expression) is a waste of that commodity.

In some aspects of my life, I'm learning to be more patient (just ask Trainer Guy any day of the week about my First Pulls...). But in these situations, it tends to come naturally.

I take the unadulterated aggravation, express a bit of it, and file it away.  I have plans to let it out - so don't think that I'm swallowing it all.

This time, it'll be on Sunday - during the Power Lifting Competition. Usually, it's whenever I need it, doing something physical - going for a run, for example, or (as my current favorite tank top says) lifting heavy sh*t.

That doesn't mean it sits there and festers and takes hours off my life, or gives me a pessimistic view of life. It's actually out-of-sight, out-of-mind until I call on it, or someone brings it up. Both times it's a well controlled slow burn...

While my easy-going nature may make the ripples hard to see - I am human, after all.

Anger, like any emotion, can be productive. Discontent is often the first step to real, lasting change.  (When was the last time you changed something you were happy with?) But I only have so much emotional energy to invest every day. So, as one of my favorite characters/actors has said -

"To be angry is easy. But to be angry at the right men, and at the right time, and for the right reason…This is difficult.” – Armand Assante, The Odyssey.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Competitions, The Journey, Flying Solo, and Regional Insanity

This weekend, I had the marvelous experience of going to the Northwest Crossfit Regionals.

There are so many things I love about this event. In case you're just tuning into the blog, I competed in My First Crossfit Throwdown in February (click here to check out the blog post about that event), not long after My Sailor left for deployment.  It was actually my very first time walking into a Crossfit box, and it was incredibly intimidating.  Honestly, Crossfit Boxes are still pretty intimidating in appearance. They seem to have more in common with a horror movie than a conventional gym.  Usually, they are huge rooms with no mirrors or machines (other than a rower), and lots of ropes, bars, bumper weights, kettle bells reaching incredible heights (er... weights), boxes to jump on, giant rubber bands, and other instruments that might as well just be for torture.

When I did that Throwdown, my double unders looked like this:


As I mentioned in that blog, I just didn't have them yet.
Now? They are still a work in progress, but they look like this:
...Which is a far cry from February's attempts. (Don't worry about the dialogue. I'd whipped myself bloody with the rope earlier in the day, and suddenly had the bright idea to try double unders barefoot. The added incentive NOT to whip my feet proved to be just what I needed to get more in this 28 seconds than I did in the entire 2 minutes of the last event of the Throwdown.)
One goal I'm considering is doing the Crossfit Open workouts next year. It's on the table, but since the work outs won't come out until next spring, I'm perfectly happy to let that sit on the horizon for now and keep up with more immediate training, while keeping my conditioning up.

All that said, this isn't intended to be another progress blog.  Today I was reminded that my state of mind has changed a LOT from when I started. Going to the Crossfit Regional games really made me smile this weekend. Watching these talented, hard working athletes accomplish feats of strength, endurance, and passion was inspiring to say the least. But I won't lie- I got on the comparison band wagon.

I remember one woman finishing a particularly brutal event (64 pull ups and 135lb overhead squats x8 with a 6 minute time cap). She was the third or fourth woman in her heat to finish the pull ups, but there was something about the way she walked up to the bar and her build that made me turn to The Lady in Grey (one of my Games companions) and say, "She's going to knock this out. She's a lifter." And I wasn't wrong. She made it look easy. (I can ALMOST clean 135lbs from the floor - I'm about 10lbs away from that being my max, but locking it over my head and squatting after 64 pull ups plus the other events of the day?! That's nearly mythical.) 

Today, I looked in the mirror and the gym as I pulled 105lbs off the rack and into my shoulders.

I was reminded of that particularly strong female athlete - the set of her shoulders and her hips, the way she moved as she walked... she wasn't one of the smaller girls, but that didn't mean she was any less competition for them.  She was (and is) a powerhouse. 

It almost came as a shock to look in the mirror and see similar features in my own body. Being in this skin still surprises me all the time. But it's the changes in my brain that have been nearly as pronounced.

See, about a year or so ago, I would have been filled with, "I can't do that!" thoughts as I watched them swing through the pull ups, push through the squats, and battle with the box jumps. Now? Now I watched them closely to see what techniques they were using and what I could learn from them.  I looked for ways I might be similar to them. Yes, there were those tiny women who flew through the gymnastic bits (like rope climbs and such), but there were also the strong women who made lifting their event.  All were well rounded - no doubt, but in those bigger lifting women, I saw a bit of myself.

Now, this doesn't mean I'm taking aim at Regionals next year. The Open? Perhaps. Regionals?! That's a bar that's still a little high for me, but it was great to go and watch and I'll definitely be in the crowd again if I can manage it.

That said, I have my own competition breathing down my neck. I was hoping My Sailor would be able to cheer me on in person, but I'm still not sure if that's possible. This deployment has been especially rough on him, and (though I could face this alone as it's really a strength vs body weight competition) I've rallied the troops.

No one is an island.  I didn't have a ton of support for fitness and weight loss and all that when I started. I've always had his, and I count myself lucky for that, but I know well what it's like NOT to have that support as well. On a liquid diet, I had gotten down the 170lbs, gained some confidence, and my (now ex) husband felt that he wasn't needed anymore and looked elsewhere to find someone who needed him. Now, realizing I wasn't the love of his life and it was time for him to move on was probably one of the best  gifts he'd ever given me. Facing that fear (and that freedom) caused me to rebuild from the ground up. The BEST thing about ground zero is that you can rebuild. So I rebuilt into a more independent woman that didn't 'need' anyone, and it turned out I have this wonderful guy in my life that believes the same things I do about love and life Things like: Enable the dreams of someone you love, and never be afraid of a little adventure - or a big one.   It's taken me 2 years living in Washington to really have (what I would consider) a strong support system. That support system (largely forged at the gym) has been a great boon to me. They've really stepped up, whether My Sailor is here or not.

I'll take that as just another sign that I'm on the right path.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Changes I Never Saw Coming

I have to take a break from the trip recap to catch up with things since I've been back on the west coast for nearly 2 weeks now.  Life is still incredibly busy. I've been burning the candle at both ends, as usual. It's definitely teaching me the value of a good bubble bath, glass of wine, and my bed. But even that has changed.

Tonight, it dawned on me how much my life has changed, and how much I love the changes.

Let me shoot a few examples (both fun and serious) your way -

I NEVER thought I'd actually ENJOY wearing pigtail braids in my MID 30's!
Turns out, they are the perfect hairstyle for a fun, hot summer's day, no matter the fact that I'm not exactly a 'spring chicken' anymore. They look better now than they did when they were (perhaps) more age appropriate.

I NEVER thought I'd look forward to the challenge of new physical activities as much as I do now.  

Sure, I still get that little ball of anxiety. Sometimes it's louder than others, but there is something irreplaceable about feeling physically capable of just about anything. I recently had the chance to go Stand Up Paddle Boarding for the first time ever. I went with a small group of 4 girls - 1 of whom had been doing it once or twice a week for about a month. When it came time to get on the boards, the two other ladies were waiting for someone else to go first. 

Me? Well, I know how to make an impression apparently. Bocking like a chicken, I walked down the pier and started the journey. I had no idea what I was doing, but I know that (worst case scenario), I'm a very strong swimmer. So I might as well give it a go. I knew it was a challenge.  In case you're just tuning in to my blog, I'm not a small woman. I'm about 5'8" tall, and weigh in just shy of 200 lbs. I have flat feet, turned in ankles, and a million reasons why this should have turned into a swimming lesson. Instead, it was a great 2 hours paddling around the inlet, riding the wake of passing boats, spotting wildlife, and chatting with some cool ladies.  Now, I feel that familiar fear and anxiety and I embrace it - acting on it and focusing through the fear. A year ago (or less) I would have probably have been making an argument over why I shouldn't be the first one out... Now, I couldn't find a reason why not.

I NEVER thought I'd look FORWARD to vacation WODs. But the truth is, I do when I travel. I have a great time meeting up with people and working in a run, finding a local gym or Crossfit box and exploring it.  The crazy thing is - well, enthusiasm is contagious.  Now, when I travel to with friends or to visit family, I'm already asking, "Where is a local gym? Want to come play with me?" Some folks are a tad reluctant, but most just dive in when given then opportunity to come 'play' with me.  This past trip, I met up with a Facebook buddy (a bride who had finished running the Boston Marathon only a few weeks before) and got to put her through the paces. We had a great time and it was truly a highlight of the trip. And TheNurse is a great travel partner - always down for a run, handstand, tire flip, whatever. Now, I look for active things to do before I even start booking my trips.

I NEVER thought my body could, would, or even should look like it does today.

Progress photo time is coming up in a few weeks. Now, all that said, I was never training for a certain 'look'. That's more the body building world. It's a very specific subset of the fitness realm.  The point of my training when I started was to 'lose weight'. I haven't met the poundage goal I set then, but honestly, I couldn't care less. That's right - if I never lose a single ounce more, that's just fine by me. Why? Because I've NEVER been this healthy. I didn't see that coming. They body I thought I wanted isn't the shape I have. My shape is stronger than I ever gave my frame credit for. Yes, I still love my curves, but I have different curves then I did when I started. They are even drastically different than they were at the beginning of the year. I am surprised on a near daily basis looking in the mirror - as if I'm waiting for the fluff to magically reappear. But it isn't. Not because there is a 'magic' to it, but because I've changed.

I NEVER thought I'd TURN DOWN a theater role.
I recently had the chance to be involved in a local musical theater production. A role was assured. No audition necessary. But I turned it down. Why? My life is already really hectic. I know I can adjust my schedule right now - especially should My Sailor return. But a show (requiring weekend rehearsals all summer long) would force me to make sacrifices I'm not ready to make right now. While I do look forward to performing now and then, my venue has changed. Instead of a stage, it's a platform. My props? Heavy bars. I'm not really 'trading' one for the other. I still plan to support and volunteer with the theater whenever I can, but I like the flexible rhythm I'm in right now.

I NEVER thought my Highlight Reel would be so quickly outdated.

My Sailor barely got the chance to see it, and within a few weeks, it was outdated. When I compiled it, I was just figuring out my handstand. Now? I'm figuring out handstand push ups. I'm getting the hang of complicated lifts like the Snatch and I'm working on stringing together my double unders... Though it's a great way for My Sailor to catch up on what I've been up to since he's been gone, I'll have a lot of new tricks to share by the time he does return as well. With so many things to excel at, it's never dull. The goal is a moving target.

I NEVER thought I'd LOOK FORWARD to getting up early on WEEKENDS!In fact, I have to wrap up this blog so that I can catch some zzz's before heading to an Olympic Lifting Class in the morning... And tomorrow morning? I get up at 6am to join a great group of folks for a Crossfit style class... While I don't think I'll ever 'prefer' early morning workouts, I look forward to these mornings and miss the people and the classes when I can't go to them.

I NEVER thought people would find ME 'inspirational'.  Truth be told, everyone has a story. NO ONE thinks their story is special. There is something to be learned from everyone. I love hearing that my journey has helped someone else. It's a great honor to get to meet and work with these folks and watch them trade the scale in for weights and dethrone the scale as the measure of their self-worth.

The crazy thing about all of this stuff?
As much as I never anticipated any of this, I'm constantly surprised at the natural evolution it seems to be.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Expedition Everest Part 2 - GET A CLUE!

 So if you're wondering what the clues during Everest were like, here's the low-down on the clues, and how I figured them out. (Some of my answers came from an unconventional place, but were correct none the less!)

After finishing the 5k, and meeting my goal of setting a new personal record, the scavenger hunt was considered a "bonus". (A 'bonus' that included sprinting an additional two miles.) Special thanks to the YetiGirls for the great photos! My clues were pretty much ruined by the weather.

Clue #1 - Courtesy of the Team Yeti Girls
 This was where I was a bit stuck. The "item I was given" with this clue was a blue marker and a blue travel light. Of course, I thought they meant 'blue'. But then I was stuck! I knew Disney's Animal Kingdom like the back of my hand, and I've never  heard of the Palm Courtyard. I ended up following the crowd. Apparently it's the 'official' name for the entry plaza to the parks.

So I bounced up to my station, found the clue-giver and proudly called out "Blue!"

I was wrong...

And I was flabbergasted...

I begged for an additional clue and got one. "What color are the trees here?"
Answer? Green. Apparently this (poorly written) clue is based on the flags on the bibs (which you can't see, because you're wearing them...).

So I answered, got Clue #2, and sprinted along to my next station, reading the clue as best I could along the way.

Clue #2
 This one was another one I stumbled over... The text beside the green flag reads: "Strength: The mental and physical ability that both reenergizes you and helps you get the task done." You'll notice there are no references to numbers in that... So I saw someone checking out their bib and looked at mine.

Beside the green flag on my bib was the year: 2014. Figuring this must be what the meant, I added the numbers together (2+0+1+4=7). I bounced up to the clue giver, confident and threw out my answer: Seven!

I was wrong... again....

Completely lost, I looked at the text on Strength again.  Ignoring the parts of the clue that didn't make sense to me (at the time), I noticed that this was the only description that included references to more than 1 attribute. I honed in on those attributes and the word "both", which indicated 2. So I did some quick (desperate) math. Mental (1)+ Physical (1)+ Both (2)= 4. What was the worst thing they could say, right?

Well, I was right! My unconventional logic (or sheer luck) worked! I gained Clue #3 and dashed off to the next check point.

Clue #3
This clue made me insanely happy. I solved it in about 3 minutes flat. I write - a lot. I'm a word junky.  I love word puzzles. Confidence renewed, I turned in my answer, got clue #4 and zoomed off.

Clue #4 - Punch out the items that match the answer to Clue #3
Lucky for me, Clue #3 was a pivotal one. Since I solved that one correctly (and quickly), I was able to zoom through to Clue #4 and punch out the items that matched my answer to #3.
Then I was off to the 5th and final clue. On cloud 9, I was zooming through the tail end, finally gaining some confidence.
Clue #5
Holding my punched out card over Clue #5 gave me the directions for the final piece of the puzzle.
Clue #5  - Dash for the Finish Line!

By this time, it was time to dash towards the finish line. Singing to myself all the way, I confidently sprinted the last half mile into the finish line. All I could think was, "I'm gonna get my compass!"

 A team of four women were ahead of me, arguing with a final judge over the answer to the clue. How they got that far with the wrong answer to #2, I'll never know. A judge saw me coming and asked (yelled), "What's the answer?"

I held up four fingers.

She smiled with obvious relief, moved aside (before I even got to her) and said, "Proceed to the finish line!"

I was thrilled. The four girls ahead of me weren't.  They quickly looked over their shoulder, but I'd already dropped my fingers. Back to arguing and reviewing the clues they went - and on I went to the finish line.

I crossed the line and graciously accepted my medal from one of the voulenteers. Catching my breath, I walked through the tables of post-race goodies. They were packed with mini Cliff bars, Powerades, bananas, and water bottles. I grabbed 2 bananas, 2 mini cliff bars (to give to The Nurse, who was nowhere to be found just yet) and 2 bottles of water. She'd waited for HOURS in the rain with no shelter and little to no seating. She deserved whatever I could offer.

I stopped for a finishing photo as things slowly started to sink in...

 I walked into the surprisingly sparsely populated night, scanning the small crowd of spectators for TheNurse. She was nowhere to be seen and as I walked ahead, everything started to hit me.

Now, I consider myself a pretty damn good choice for a Submariner's wife. I can handle the long distance, the long silences, the one-way emails, and the crazy schedules with the best of them. (And, of course, it helps that My Sailor makes it completely worth it all the time.)  Most of the time, I find joy in 'flying solo', but sometimes, it hits me like a ton of bricks.

This was one of those moments.

It was just a 5k. I've run a few before without My Sailor. But all I could think about was how he should have been here. How much he would have loved the race. How much he would have loved having this medal. How much his full support behind me means to me. How badly I ached to hug him and celebrate this 'win', and the others he'd missed out on, from My First Crossfit Throwdown, to other prs and goals reached...  Child Overcome by unexpected emotion, I pulled off to the side and crouched for a moment as quiet, wracking sobs got the best of me for a few minutes.

I gathered myself, stood.

It proved to be good timing. I was wiping my face as TheNurse approached for a big sweaty hug. We chit chatted and headed into the real main event - the afterparty!

Because I'd been in an early wave, the park was nearly empty, which was fantastic. I had heard mixed reviews about the party. I had heard that it was crowded and not worth the money.  I felt otherwise. We had a great time. In fact, it was definitely a high point from the trip.

About 15-20 minutes into the party, I got my first taste of real potassium deficiency. My calves started to seize up. Luckily, I came prepared. I pounded down both bananas, and a large can of coconut water. That really helped, and after two rounds on a crazy mouse roller coaster, we stopped off and TheNurse bought me a beer. Sure, I'm grain free, but every once in a while I make an exception to enjoy a cold one. Tonight, I earned it.
Afterwards, we were able to ride Everest TWICE at night! It was a real treat considering it's rare that this park is even open after dark.

We capped the evening off with a BLT salad and a slow walk back to the car after catching the awards ceremony (the first 3 finishers in Men's individuals, Women's individuals, and Teams got special trophies in addition to the medals) and called it a night.

I'm very happy with having finished - and even happier to have one of the coolest medals in RunDisney history... and to have earned every ounce of it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Subwife Takes on Everest - 5K Portion

Run Disney photo. All Rights Reserved. I'm in yellow front and center.

This week, I competed in the 2014 Expedition Everest Challenge - my first RunDisney event and possibly not my last.
First off, I must admit, we planned really well for this race. I'm pretty proud of that. Knowing this was my first race in Florida, away from the comforts of home, and neck deep in the humidity, it was a little tough to know what to expect - much less what to expect my body to do.

On race day, we stuck mostly to the hotel, opting not to go to the parks at all. We had spent the 2 days before stomping around Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and the Magic Kingdom. We had hard tickets to the Expedition Everest After Party in Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and I knew I needed to rest my feet. We’d already logged about 10 miles on our feet per day – if not more – for 2 days. The die-hard Disney fan in me was overruled by my inner coach/athlete. We hit up the hot tub at the hotel, napped, and spent most of the day relaxing. This was probably the smartest way to spend the day.

TheNurse and I did venture out to our lunch at one of my favorite places,
Sanaa.  It is an Indian and African inspired eatery that overlooks a savannah full of free roaming African animals at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Zebra, giraffe, and greater kudu paced by as we enjoyed our meal. We took our time about it, laughed and joked, and I wasn't feeling the least bit nervous. I steered clear of grains, but enjoyed a delicious glass of wine.

We ate well before the race. After we returned to the room, I snacked on some fruit and nuts we’d bought and stored in the room when I got peckish, giving my (sometimes temperamental per competition) stomach plenty of time to digest.

My stomach didn’t really bother me this time. In fact, for first time in, well, ever, I felt as prepared as I could possibly be for this race. Armed with a solid training background and prepared with all of my usual gear, I knew that I was at the "what will be, will be" stage, for the most part.  All I had to do was try my best. In the gym lately, I'd been clocking fast miles, but I hadn't really run more than about a mile and half at a stretch. It had been pouring rain for 2 days but the race would only be cancelled or delayed on account of lightening. No matter the weather, I planned on showing up.

And show up we did!

Since we were driving our own car (and I’d heard horror stories of being caught in hellish traffic and barely making it to the starting line in time), we opted to show up around 7:30pm. The last thing I needed was to be rushing around, amongst the 5500 people trying to fit into my corral. The first wave didn’t leave for hours, but it was nice to get there before just about anyone else. I got my barings, locating the starting and finishing lines of the 5k portion and the start and finish of the scavenger hunt portion. We came up with a game plan and chit chatted for a few hours.

I'd drawn on my old running shirt and grabbed some photos before I put my sweater back on to shield some of the rain and stay warm. Back reads: "No P.P.Q. Just P.R.s!"
 My one concern about getting there early was that there was nowhere dry to sit. As you can see from the photos, the race begins (and ends) in a parking lot. We were among the first people there. It had been raining for several days, and rained on and off all day, so I was a bit concerned about wasting energy by standing around, but it gave me a chance to very slowly warm up as others arrived - and practice my squat. We were even there before DJ started the pre-race party. Thankfully, he had some dance moves that helped everyone stay warm in the rain. Snow machines launched bubble flakes into the air as well, but they weren't used very much. Bubble snow + Rain = Danger Will Robinson!
People showed up in costumes, which was fun to watch, but the serious runners weren’t dressed as characters. Most people were part of teams. Out of the 5500+ people there, only about 1200 were individual runners. About 690 of them were women running as individuals. That was my division

I didn’t spot anyone I knew going into the corrals. I have to admit, I couldn’t be MORE grateful for The Nurse’s support. She was my living locker, carrying my gym bag with water bottles, snacks, my sweater, and my throw-over pants, my photographer, and my support crew. (In case you’ve never seen me in the gym, I’m a fan of keeping muscles and joints warm, so I usually have a pair of pants I throw over my workout pants. Hence the name, throw-over pants.) She stood with me out in the rain FOR HOURS without complaint until the race started. My friends are pretty darn awesome...
I moved into my corral as soon as I saw other people milling about. I knew I’d need to have a clear path in order to give myself the best shot of hitting my goal – to set a new PR (personal record) of under 30:31.

Old PR from Zombie 5k in September, 2013
I tuned out the DJ (at this point he'd repeated his loop more than once) and generally and opted to listen to my Bluetooth headset instead as I eagerly awaited to be released into the chute. I was in the 2nd wave (Corral B) and was in the 2nd row as the first wave (Corral A) filled the chute. The rain started to come down and a light wind was whipping up. Having shed my sweater and pants when I stepped into the Corral, I was shivering a bit, right along with my fellow athletes. It only made me more eager to run, move, and get warm. I did my best to stretch further in the confined space, and warmed up with a bit of hopping (a J workout trademark – or bad habit – depending on who you ask).  Robyn, a friend of mine through Disney and Facebook, found me in my corral and gave me a hug for luck, before rejoining her team a corral behind me. The Hug and Hi gave me something to grin about for a few moments.

As the DJ kept the crowd engaged, the co-hosts announced a trumpet player would be playing the national anthem.  Just before the national anthem, the co-hosts asked for a moment of silence in recognition of the US military at home, abroad, and passed away.  I bowed my head and the hush spread over the mass of humanity (well over 5000 people) within a matter of seconds.  I smiled a little to myself, pleasantly surprised that a group this size was capable of such a feat.

About 10-15 seconds into the moment of silence, the hosts asked military members and their family members to raise their hands. 

I raised my hand – the only person within at least a 300 foot radius identifying myself as a military family member. If there was any question what “Subwife” on my shirt meant, that probably laid it to rest. Suddenly I wasn’t just another bright shirt in the sea of wet, anxious faces…

This got to my heart more than a little more than I expected. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you probably realize by now that I haven’t heard My Sailor’s voice in some time. Days have turned into weeks. Weeks have turned into months... We had discussed this race before he deployed. Knowing it was likely he wouldn’t be able to participate with me, he told me he wanted me to fly across the country and do it. It seems that even when he’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, he still finds a way to enable my dreams…

My Sailor and I at the Zombie 5k, September 2013
Voices from the crowd swelled around me with the national anthem. I knew that this was the time to see if my training would pay off. The last time I did a 5k, I ran with My Sailor. He pushed me along, and I reached a new PR of 30:31. This time, I had a faster goal, and I was flying solo.

Corral A left to a flurry of steam and fireworks. Then my corral moved into the chute. Walking anxiously to the start line, I found that I was no longer one row deep into my wave. I was in the front. The RunDisney tape was right in front of me. The pavement opened up in front of me, empty as Corral A runners faded around the corner across the parking lot. A few camera flashes went off, but surely they weren't taking photos of me, right?

Property of Run Disney. All Rights Reserved.
Wrong. Candid photos are a great reminder to me of how far I've come. I was surprised to see this one on RunDisney's Facebook page.  Not bad for my first RunDisney event.
6 minutes after the first wave left, we were unleashed. I started the timer on my ipod at the exact moment I crossed the starting line. I worked hard not to keep up with those that were going too fast out of the gate. I knew they’d regret it soon enough. 

Training in Washington gave me a bit of an advantage here. The constant drizzle and bit of a chill was nothing new to me – I’ve run over hills in my neighborhood in worse. I was as used to that as I was to the voice in my head telling me how I was nuts, that I was going to trip over an obstacle, that I shouldn’t be too disappointed if I don’t PR; after all, lots of things have been happening lately…stressful things… and here I was, out of my element, competing on my own…

Yeah – that voice is usually pretty talkative during the first 1/2 mile. Fairly sure I could outrun it, I sped up just a little bit.

The first mile was through the parking lot... at night... in the rain...

There is nothing especially magical about this part of the run. Disney had lit up an overturned canoe and a gator with it’s mouth open. Speakers piped in growls from the creature to keep things lively, but running through a dark parking lot in the rain is still…running through a dark parking lot in the rain…

The first obstacle was about 2/3rds of the way into the first mile.

It was hay bale hurtles. I could already tell that someone had taken a dive into one of the hay bales. It was destroyed. The ground was muddy and sandy. For a moment, I was afraid I’d twist an ankle attempting it, but I went for it anyway.

Glad I did. They were all doable, though a little too unevenly spaced to get a good solid hurtle pace going. (Didn't know I used to love hurtles in high school, did ya? Never did them competitively though -it was just a fun thing in PE class.)

Getting through them without breaking my face, twisting an ankle, or being slowed down more than a 15 seconds(ish) gave me courage to keep going. So I sped up just a little bit and decided to run to the front gate…

Then I got to the front gate. Next goal? The Tree of Life. It's in the center of the park and up a small hill. Thanks to hill training in my neighborhood in Washington, my legs knew exactly what to do.  I didn’t waste much time enjoying the view of the lit up Tree of Life. I just kept on running.

There were characters along the way to spot and get photos taken with. I wasn't stopping, but it was a fun thing to watch and wave. Disney Cast Members stood along the trail, cheering everyone on enthusiastically. That was a huge help to this solo flyer. Spectators were only allowed at the start and finish point.

The one challenge I ran into was foot pain.  While not intense or intolerable, my feet were feeling the ache of being on them non-stop for the better part of the week.  I did allow myself 10 steps of walking breaks here and there. I kept moving quickly and found that, with the small 10 step break, I was ready to break into a quicker run than if I'd tried to 'tough it out'. With no real blisters after this race, I'm going with it being the right call.

The second obstacle was tire stepping. I actually expected to have problems with this one. Again, it had been raining, so I could easily see catching a foot and taking a face plant, or twisting an ankle if I landed on a slippery surface.

Pushing those back, I decided to pick up my feet and bounce through them. I knew I could always walk through them if it was proving too dangerous.

Lucky for me, training kicked in yet again.

While I was in California going for my 'recovery run' through a local park, I decided to run on the ledge of a retaining wall. The wall was made of uneven stone and about a foot or two wide. Falling off the wall would have meant a 6 foot drop in some places, so there was LOTS of incentive to step quickly, lightly, and keep my balance. Not to mention, it was rattle snake season, so I knew that leaping out of the way of one might have been a hazard to contend with. (But I was having too much fun to care...)

So what were a few tires? I didn’t fall then. I took the first two or three tires tentatively, but I picked up my pace and passed several people, using the balancing skills I honed on that wall 2 weeks before. Instead of going side to side to pick my way through the tires, I opted for the straightest path possible and I was through them in no time. In fact, I passed several people...

Fast feet? Me? Who knew?

The course curved through the park and back stage. I ran into Robyn again where it doubled back on itself. It couldn’t have been better timed. I was entering mile 3 and getting tired. She waved and encouraged me to "Go get that PR!" Seeing a familiar face made me smile and put a spring in my step. I dashed ahead, singing along (as best as one can while running) to the Pandora jam playing in my ears. I got a lot of strange looks, but it got me through. I'm fairly certain mile 3 was the fastest of all of them, until the obstacle -

The final obstacle was a cargo net crawl. I debated running by this one, but opted to try it anyway. I'd finished all the others. Why skip one?!

I dove under.

Perhaps I should have skipped this one....

My hat kept getting caught on the net, halting my progress. I considered leaving it behind completely at one point, but then my pony tail caught on the netting. Had I not wasted valuable seconds fixing it, I would have likely had my hair even more entangled in the thin netting, so I pulled the hat back on and plowed through, shoving it back on my head and getting lower under the net. (You can see the girl behind me struggling to get up - her pony tail was stuck....)

Nearly falling....
Mission Accomplished!
 I probably lost a little less than about a minute here. I leapt out from underneath when I got to the edge of the net. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Stumbling and nearly tripping over the sandy, wet ground (and the photographer), I knew the finish line was close.

I let it all out and sprinted, mashing down on my phone to stop the timer just as I crossed the finish line. I clicked "stop" on the stopwatch - half expecting not to meet my goal.

This was later ‘officially’ confirmed as well by my timing chip. (Exact same time).

I looked at the clock and slowed to a walk, looking around for The Nurse to announce that I accomplished my mission. In 7 months, without specially training to increase my speed, I increased my speed enough to shave off an even 2 minutes.

Then it was off to the Scavenger hunt portion... but that's the next blog...

When all was said and done, I placed 58th out of 686 finishing individual women, and 104th out of 1071 finishing individuals (regardless of gender).

I'm more than happy with those results. Stay tuned for the clue portion later this week.