Monday, December 21, 2015

When the Off-Season Sabbatical takes a Sabbatical of its own...

Another comfort zone violation is in the works. I hate it when I do this to myself (well, sort of LOL).
A last-minute half marathon? Sure, why not?!
I take my off-season pretty seriously. I respect the rest/recovery/rebuilding a runner's body needs after a busy year of activity. Recently, though, I have found myself in a myriad of confusion, training dilemmas aplenty, a little bit of holiday stress, and a last-minute family vacation thrown in for good measure.

And I have been doing (what I consider) very minimal mileage, even with the Streaking (you can read about that HERE ). Most of my "regular" runs have been no more than 2-3 miles during the week (2-3 times), and I have been doing the minimal 1-mile "streaking" run on the usual days when I normally would not be running (but would have some form of cross-training on my schedule). My weekend "long runs" have been conservative as well, nothing longer than 5-6 miles in distance.

This streaking regimen has been ongoing since Thanksgiving Day....thus far (as of December 20th), I have 25 days of streaking completed. Imagine my surprise when I tallied up my streaking miles and arrived at 61 total miles! That's already three more miles than a year ago, and I still have 12 more days before the streak ends. Yikes.

Let me backup for a minute and remind you that I'm a proud University of Iowa alumni, and my beloved Hawkeyes are traveling to Pasadena, CA for the Rose Bowl. And the husband and I decided to go along with them and take the family there as well.

Necessary Rose Bowl attire
Sooooo, what's a runner to do? I'm not just packing up my running shoes (and appropriate running gear), but I found two races to do while in California. One race is a half marathon (on New Year's Eve morning), and the other is a 5K (on January 2, the day after the Rose Bowl). 

Have I been training for a half marathon? (no) But, am I excited to run a couple of races in California? (Absolutely!!) Do I have a strategy? (sort of)

I am not concerned about the 5K (there's also a 10K option); that distance is a routine distance for me and does not present any challenges unless I'm attempting to "race" it...but, hello? This is California! I want to enjoy the scenery and not worry about my finish time (besides, I will probably be meeting up and running with a friend).
Then there's the half marathon. I have run so many half marathons, I'm not really concerned about that event, either. This just seemed like it was meant to be. After all, what are the odds of finding a race on a Thursday morning? I have not run in warm weather for a few months, though, and (other than my 8-mile run on Sunday) I have not run farther than six miles since my last half marathon (in early November). I do plan to do another long-ish run (8-9 miles) later this week, and call it good. That will give me a solid week to (sort of) taper. Not ideal, but I think I'm a well-seasoned-enough runner for this kind of spontaneous event. I don't plan on racing this event either, and will take walk breaks if needed. I'm totally OK with that. Sound good?

Have you ever done a spontaneous race (or a couple) while on vacation?

I'm linking up with Holly from HoHo Runs and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin  for the Weekly Wrap. I invite you to head over and check out their blogs (as well as the other linked blogs) to see what the rest of us have been up to.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Stressed? Nah.....I call it priority-challenged

I have to of my skills (faults?) is taking on more obligations than I actually have time to take on.

The holidays are not any different, there are just several extra details that need my attention. Did I mention that I also have a job outside the home? A job that I LOVE, by the way. But as of late, my 30-hour work week has morphed into something much more and I'm having a hard time adjusting to the fewer hours I can allot to myself.

We have two kids home from college. The son arrived Wednesday and the daughter was due to make her grand appearance sometime Thursday, but her ride fell through (so Mommy Dearest drove to her college town and brought her home after my work day ended).....that means more food needed in the refrigerator and less time to shop for it.

The Christmas cards have all been addressed (that's early for this procrastinator extraordinaire), but the annual letter is still a work in progress. Oh, and I haven't gotten to the post office to buy the necessary Christmas-themed stamps.

A preview of our Christmas cards....
Oh, and there's my blog. I have been very disciplined about writing a little each day, and have several posts started....but in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, I had to let some things slide....and the blog drew the short straw (my bad). I have numerous blog posts (from others) awaiting my attention in my inbox, but just haven't had the time to read them (or comment on them either). Pathetic, huh!

UGH! The numbers don't lie.....173 unread (and unanswered) emails awaiting my "free time".....

So, I have been MIA from the blogging universe this week...what else have I been doing?


I have been a knitter since I was a kid, most of my creations are from original patterns I  design myself. This is a pic of some wrist warmers.
Adult coloring books are the latest craze, and I have jumped on the bandwagon
Turtle of my favorites!
I had the bright idea of doing the Elf on a Shelf game at work, which means I have been going in early to hide the Elf every morning...

Alas, all the details of Christmas are there because I choose them. I have learned that a lot of the extra details are not necessary and most are not missed (by others) if those details are not present. As our kids have gotten older, they don't share in my enthusiasm for decking the halls....and my enthusiasm is starting to fade as well. I still do the decorations, just not as many.

There are a few things I have let slide....for example, some of the "extras" regarding our decorations. Heck, I love the decorations as much as the next person, but it's usually ME who does most of the work and it's ME who has to take everything down and stash it away come January. My solution? I don't put as many ornaments on the tress as I used to do.....and honestly, you cannot tell from the outside, so it's all good.

This is the tree in the family room....lighted and adorned with ribbon.
When our family moved back to Iowa in 2002, I got the idea to make a tree skirt and put the kids' hand prints on it. This tradition continued, but every year the task became more of a chore. Last year, I had the hand prints traced out on newspaper, but never got around to transferring the prints to fabric. I accessed the skirt, and determined it looked pretty great as is, and called it good. Guess what? The hand prints are not happening in 2015 either, and I'm OK with that.

What this tree does have, though, is the hand-made tree skirt. I have traced the kids' hands every year (since 2002) and sewed them onto the skirt and embroidered their names or initials.
Through all of the hustle and bustle, I am keeping my workouts consistent. My streaking is going well. I'm three weeks in, and still looking forward to every run...and all of my runs have been outside, so that's a huge bonus for diminishing any guilt for my lack of blogging (sort of). I'm also doing well with my push-up challenge (100 push-ups every day in December).

Some times the streak runs don't happen until 9:00PM, but they are getting done regardless
Do you stress out over the Holidays? Have you had to shorten your to-do list?

**I'm linking up with Marcia from  Marcia's Healthy Slice for the Runfessions link-up. Head over and check out all the great reads about how we're all keeping it real and confessing....

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Santa Hats and Jingle Bells!

Sometimes, you just gotta put on the Santa hat and go!

My turn on the jolly old elf's lap

I have done several Christmas-themed races in my day. Actually, my first experience running in a holiday event was in December 2010, at the AIB Jingle Jog in Des Moines, IA. A group of co-workers and myself even had matching velvet skirts (adorned with jingle bells). This event also was my first-ever podium moment, earning first place in my age group.

Jingle Jog 2010

I returned to this event every year since (2011, 2012 and 2013), until the event was phased out (in 2014).

Jingle Jog 2013

What's significant about this event (to me, at least) is that I placed in my age group every time I ran it. For a middle-of-the-packer such as myself, that is, INDEED, a big deal.

Jingle Jog age group awards...1st in 2010, 3rd in 2011, 2nd in 2012, 3rd in 2013
Another event I have done a couple of times is the Jingle Jam, also in Des Moines and also no longer in existence (there seems to be a pattern here...). I was fortunate to place in my age group at that event one time as well. This event had really cool shirts...they changed out the colors of the logo each year.

Jingle Jam 2011, 2nd place (age group)

Last year, my friend, Barb and I ventured to Cedar Falls, IA to a new (to us) event, Santa's Snow Shuffle. This event is unique. It has a clock at the finish line, but no official timing mat to cross and no numbered bibs for the participants (they get bibs, to designate that they are legitimately registered for the event, but instead of an assigned number, the bib has the event logo on it).

Sharing Santa's lap...
2014 Starting Line Selfie
 Santa's Snow Shuffle, a 5K for runners and walkers, doesn't award overall "winners" or age group placings, instead all awards given are door prizes by means of raffle (and there are a few prizes for costumes, for individuals and groups, etc). Naturally, this doesn't attract a lot of competitive runners, but it has a limited number of available bibs (350) for participants....and every year it sells out. Everyone has an equal chance at winning. And, most of the participants are dressed in holiday attire (hello! It's a Christmas-themed event! Boo to the Scrooges who show up in regular clothing).

2015 Starting Line Selfie

I was on my own this year at the Shuffle (except for my sister, who came along and acted as my personal photographer). The weather was warm for December (low 50's) with some fog, but no precipitation! This is Iowa, don't forget, and I'm usually decked out in running tights at this time of year. For the first time ever, I got to run (bare-legged) in a Christmas-themed event!

Off and running!

Finally, on Sunday, I donned the Santa hat (again) and ran a 5K in honor of a race, Underground Polar Express Run, that I couldn't run in person. Rain was in the forecast, and it was coming down pretty hard when I woke up at 5:30AM. By the time we were ready to head out and face the weather, it had temporarily let up (coincidence?). None-the-less, we layered dry-cleaning bags over our colorful clothing, and all was good.

Got bags, will run!
Barb even brought along candy canes to hand out to any other runners (or walkers) we'd see along the way, and she had Christmas music cued up on her phone for some special holiday ambiance. Again, mild temps for Iowa in December (mid 50's), so this called for bare legs again (seriously, I could get used to this).

Our 5K "virtual" route

So, that's my experience with Christmas-themed running, and my Santa hat needs a bath (do you realize how much perspiration happens under that red and white fur?).

Have you ever done a Christmas-themed race? Did you dress in costume? Ever raced in a Santa hat?

I'm linking with Holly at HoHo Runs and Tricia at MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap. I invite you to head over and check out their blogs, as well as all the other linked blogs for some great reading!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The proof is in the planking

The proof is in the planking and this calls for a celebration.

"hair-in-the-face" plank
Case in point, I recently noticed my "fitted" skinny jeans feeling kind of not-so-fitted.

I have not been running crazy mileage (it is my off-season, don't forget), and I have not been doing any extra running than the absolute minimum. Currently, I'm two weeks into a STREAK, as a participant in the Runner's World Holiday Streak (since Thanksgiving Day), but prior to that I was only running a few miles every other day or so, and a moderate "long" run on some of the weekends.

But things have been toning up and trimming down.

It has to be the planking. I definitely do NOT have washboard abs (you'll have to take my word on this because I'm not gonna show you), but they are flatter and (dare I say?) firmer. I spent the month of November doing my self-hosted Planking on the Fly Challenge (you can read about that HERE ), which had me planking 6-8 minutes (everyday) for 30 continuous days. These were cumulative minutes, not long continuous planking minutes (though there were a few 4-5 minute planks on occasion). It wasn't until the third week in (or so) that I really started to see the results.

Hmmm, "what-will-I-make-for-dinner" plank
And, isn't it that way it usually happens?

(Another) case in point, P90X. Have you ever tried this 90 day program? I was introduced to this Tony Horton gig five years ago. I faithfully did the workouts, recorded my stats, and took weekly measurements. The first few weeks were SO painful. I remember how much of a struggle it was to simply brush my teeth, because my arms (and, actually, my entire body) were hurting-so-good. Then, about five weeks into the program, I noticed a dramatic shift in my measurements. Although I gained a few pounds (not a concern since I wasn't trying to lose weight anyways), I did lose several two inches just around my waist! By the time I had completed the 90 days, I had lost a total of 3 inches around my waist, and four inches around my hips. That's no lie...those "lost" inches went missing even though I wasn't aware that they needed losing.

This solidified the truth of the matter regarding fitness, new exercise programs, or temporary will see some minimal results pretty early, but you need to stick it out to the end to really see the transformation. You don't just see the results with your physical appearance, you will also feel the increased stamina and endurance that comes from doing the work. For example, for the past couple years or so, I have planked (almost daily) for 2-1/2 minutes each morning while my chai latte' is warming up. Planking for 2-1/2 minutes really isn't a challenge for me anymore...but doing it several times a day is. I can now hold a 4-minute plank without much effort, and I also can extend that hold for 5 or 6 minutes if I'm feeling ultra beast-like. I'd like to be able to hold a 10-minute plank....someday (there, I've said it).

I didn't have any specific goals with the Challenge other than reach (or surpass) a total of 200 planking minutes in November. The Challenge was, indeed, a success. I made it to 210 total planking minutes for November....and I kind of slacked off for the last few days because I knew I was going make it.

ugh...."the-camera-does-not-lie" plank (outside in natural lighting, none the less)
How did I make it happen? As mentioned, I did a 2:30 plank every morning. Each afternoon (if I was home) and each evening, I tried to do another 4-5 minutes of planking. I knew I needed to average just under 7 minutes of planking each day, so it wasn't hard to stay accountable. Some days, I had as little as 5 total minutes. Other days, I had as many as 8 total minutes. There even were a couple days where I had 10 cumulative planking minutes. Most days, though, I was right at 7 minutes.

"Go-ahead-and-make-my-day" plank
Although I varied the planking positions, most of the planking was done on my forearms. You should see the crusty buildup of the newly-toughened skin on my elbows. Total yuck. (Someone, anyone, give me a pumice stone--or a power sander--for Christmas, please). I also did a lot of side planks, and these did some major "love-handle damage." As mentioned, the skinny jeans are feeling kind of loose, especially in the upper thigh area. This has to be from the side planking, I predict. Holding a side plank not only requires core muscle power, but also inner thigh power to stay in position (to keep the "top" hip raised high and the lower hip from swaying downward). I challenge you to give side planking a try and see where you feel the most'll probably be in your hips and thighs. My only regret in doing this challenge is that I didn't take any beginning  measurements. Oh well. There's always next time (and there will definitely be a next time).

"ouch-this-tile-floor-is-kind-of-killing-my-elbows" plank
So, am I still planking? Absolutely! I'm still drinking my daily chai latte's, so I'm still doing the daily 2:30 minute plank each morning. I'll do an occasional long plank (4-5+ minutes), and I'm a big believer in the power of side-planking. I'm just not trying to do an excess number of cumulative minutes each day (for the time being). That challenge has ended;  instead, I'm doing 100 push-ups each day for the remainder of 2015. Oh, and let's not forget that daily running streak.

"desperately-trying-not-to-laugh" plank

Have you ever taken on a monthly challenge? Did you stick it out long enough to see (or feel) results? Did you continue after the challenge ended, or move on to a different challenge?

I'm linking up with Deb from Deb Runs  for the Wednesday Word link-up, today's word is Celebrate. Care to join the celebration? I invite you to check out all the blogs on the link-up....and see what everyone else is celebrating!


Monday, December 7, 2015

An ending, a continuation, and a beginning....

It's been an interesting week!

Most people are aware of my planking challenge for the month of November. If not, you can read about it HERE. November came to a close, and so did the Challenge. My goal was to have 200 total planking minutes, and I ended the month with 210. Stay tuned, there's a summary and some final thoughts on the Challenge coming.

Planking...yes, it sometimes happened in my street clothes

I'm currently taking part in the Runner's World Holiday Running Streak (you can read about that HERE. So far, so good. I'm hoping to do all of my Streak runs on pavement (and/or trails) other words, outside. The weather has been cooperating with that endeavor, and I currently have 28  miles logged since Thanksgiving Day, all of which have happened outdoors, in the fresh (though sometimes damp) winter air.
My most recent Streak run may have involved some colorful holiday attire
With the planking challenge coming to an end, I decided (rather late on the evening of December 1st) to start a new challenge to see me through the remainder of 2105. Apparently "simply" running every day wasn't tough enough. So, I'm also doing 100 push-ups every day. No, I am not doing all of these push-ups in succession, nor am I not doing all of them on my toes. But I am doing 100 of them. Daily. And the first three days my triceps, deltoids and pectorals were pretty angry with their over-achieving owner. That's life, and all is well.

Assume the position....

Finally, a sequel to my racing season was born. The University of Iowa Hawkeye football team received a bid to the Rose Bowl, you know, the "grandaddy of them all" bowl games. We have a soon-to-be college graduate, a second child in college, and our third will be in college in a couple years. We do not have too many opportunities for grandiose family trips with all three kids available. So, we're California dreaming, and that means I have visions of California running and racing. I have already scoped out a potential half marathon, as well as a 5K...and both fit nicely around the football obligations.  Yeah, I know. Priorities. 

I had planned on calling the racing season good and, other than a 5K this next weekend, considered 2015 a wrap. But let's be honest, runners are a different breed. If we travel, we usually bring our running shoes, and if we can find a local event....well, we're there with a race bib.

So, that's a brief wrap on the latest and greatest in my little corner of the world. I'm linking up with Holly from HoHo Runs and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap. I invite you to head over and check out their blogs, and all the others linked for some great reads!

Have you ever traveled to a faraway destination and spontaneously did a race (or several)? Have you taken on more than one challenge at a time?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I have a new Holiday Tradition...Streaking!

Anyone else doing the Runner's World Winter 2015 Streak?

This is my third consecutive year doing the winter streak, and also my fifth time streaking. The last time I streaked was the RW Winter Streak a year ago (you can read my recap HERE ). I also streaked in April of 2013, Winter of 2013 and June of 2014.

Let me preface this by coming clean and being totally honest..... I am not a fan of daily running. Some runners love to run everyday and don't experience problems in doing so. Myself, I love running but not enough to do it so frequently. Also, my body needs recovery time, and "easy" daily running is not 100% restful.

That said, I do enjoy doing the occasional streak because it gets me out of my comfort zone. It also confirms the fact that daily running is not for me.

So, how does this streaking thing work? It's really not that difficult. As a general guideline, we're asked to run one mile everyday between Thanksgiving until New Years Day. Of course, we can run further than the one mile minimum.
Streaking Day 1-Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving
My plan? Typically, I run 2-3 times during the week, and try to do a "longer" run on the weekend. The only thing I do differently while streaking is to run that minimum one mile on my usual rest days. I have a treadmill, but am hoping to do all of my runs outside for the Streak.

Streaking Day 2...before hitting the Black Friday scene
I live on a hill, and the block where my house resides is an exact 1/2 mile in perimeter. So, running two laps around my block is an easy option (and gives me some good hill work as well). There's a smaller block across the street from my house (also situated on a hill)....and three laps around that block also equals one mile. That's another option.

Streaking Day 3, sporting one of my Black Friday bargains
Also, did you know that a mile (usually) is equal to the distance of 10 city blocks? That's an average, not necessarily a hard and fast rule of city government. When in doubt, you can map out a course online, or use your GPS device.
Streaking Day 4 had me out at the local nature preserve for some (muddy) trails
I try to do a different route everyday...whether it's running the same block in reverse or running one lap clockwise and another lap counter-clockwise. Not only do I get bored doing the same route all the time, it's not good to always be running on the same incline, or always be making left turns, etc. It does your body good to change the terrain now and then. That's true for running in general, not just for streaking.

Streaking Day rain? Chilly temps in the high 30's? No problem!

And, I'll be posting my runfies (selfies while in running attire, usually immediately following a run) not only keep me accountable for getting the daily runs done, but also to see how many different (colorful) outfits I can create. You do what you gotta do to get it done, right?

Streaking Day 6, my coldest run thus far in the 33-degree temps and damp air
Don't forget, I'm in Iowa. We don't exactly have tropical conditions this time of year. I anticipate a myriad of weather conditions will be challenging me to stay inside...but I've done this streaking gig before, and I've been running outside (almost exclusively) for the past nine years. Prior to that, I spent my first year running on the treadmill. I have done it both ways, and outside is definitely my forte'.

'nuff said

So, anyone care to join me? I welcome your comments, and I'll gladly cheer you on and give you an endless supply of (virtual) high-5's! I'm linking up with Deb at Deb Runs today for the Wednesday Word, which is Tradition. Go ahead and check out her blog and all the others, as we share our versions and visions on this topic.