Friday, January 31, 2014

10 Day Cleanse Results and Upcoming Races

Between the holidays and a 5-day all inclusive vacation, I was more than ready to start a cleanse when I got back!  I had never done a cleanse until a little over a year ago and admittedly, I was terrified before I started!  The word "cleanse" just sounds terrifying right?  There are tons of different cleanse plans available today but I choose to use the AdvoCare 10-Day Herbal Cleanse .  After the first one I was hooked and now do a cleanse every 3-4 months to purge out the bad stuff, rid my body of toxins and give my body a good cleaning and maintenance.  (I refer to it as cleaning out the pipes #realtalk)  My favorite thing about this particular cleanse is that you eat real's not a juicing/smoothie fast.  I know some folks like that but this girl needs food, real food to keep me happy and fueled for my running.   I'm now on Day 9 of this cleanse and am so happy to report that I'm down 4.5 lbs and ironically 4.5 inches as well with my energy back and feeling back to my normal self!  This time around I stepped outside of my comfort zone and started adding in green smoothies as a snack to my daily routine.  Getting enough fruits and veggies into my diet has always been a struggle so I thought this would be a great way to add some in.  We've tried many different recipes and have loved them so far; even my super picky husband loves them!  While the cleanse will technically be over tomorrow, the green smoothies are definitely something we plan to continue!  For the past few months I have struggled to get back to a consistent healthy eating pattern.  I'd start for a few days and then derail, etc.  Things never really got out of control, but couldn't really get my rhythm down.  So happy that this time around I feel 100% back on track and that is a fantastic feeling!

With the cleanse out of the way and having enjoyed some extra downtime lately, I'm excited to start planning out races for the year!  My goal for the year is to focus on strengthening my weak areas and that has been in full force this month.  While this is my primary focus, I'm still keeping a few races on the books because lets face it, I'd go through withdrawals if I wasn't racing here and there to keep things exciting!  So far in 2014 we've run two half marathons and we're only one month into the year folks.  Luckily both of those races were intended as just fun events so the paces were slowed and no pressure of a "PR" was looming.

2014 Races - Part 1

February: exciting month!  Why you ask?  Well it's my birthday month, and yes birthdays are celebrated for an obnoxious amount of time in our family.  My 30th birthday should be celebrated for at least 30 days right?  I thought so too.  Back to the race calendar.... 
  • February 8th I'm running the Dallas Hot Chocolate 15K with a big group of friends!  I debated on signing up but I can't say no to the hoodie.  This girl loves a good hoodie and the one I got last year I still wear all the time. 
  • February 23rd won't be a race day for me, but more importantly I have spectator/wife/coach duty as my husband runs his FIRST full marathon at Cowtown!  I'm so excited and nervous for him!  
March: I always run the Rock 'n' Roll Dallas Half Marathon.  While I'm not a fan of the Competitor Group, this course has always been kind to me and produced good times so I have a hard time not running it.  So on March 23rd I plan to give it another go and see what happens.  

April:  anniversary month!  Brandon and I will be celebrating our 4 year wedding anniversary and this year one of our favorite groups, The Active Joe, is hosting one of our favorite races anniversary weekend.  The Fairview Half Marathon had it's inaugural race last year and it was fabulous.  (You can read about it here)  Maybe this year The Fairview Half will be included in our usual anniversary festivities?  Hmmmmmmm....

Given that the temps in Texas start to heat up drastically starting in May, racing becomes kind of a spur of the moment decision.  Now, if this cold weather would just make its way on out of here I'd be a happy camper!  Bring on Spring race season! 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Bahamas Half Marathon and Vacation!

I have a hard time calling this a "race report" because there was no racing to be had.  The purpose of this half marathon was to take in the sights and just have fun, mission accomplished!  So how did this all come about?  In September of 2013 Brandon and I were having a conversation about me turning 30.  He wanted to make sure my birthday was extra special so after a little researching and conversation, Operation See The World on Foot was going to make another stop and he booked our trip to the Bahamas and registered us for the Bahamas Half Marathon!  Not only would this be my first international race, but it would also be knocking off one of my bucket list races.  Is there a better way to kick off your 30's?!  I think not.....

On Friday we made our way to the airport and hopped on our 5:45 am flight (yawn) and were on our way!  Ironically on both of our flights there, we were seated next to a really nice young lady named Ann who was also on her way to the Bahamas for the race!  She was headed their to run her first FULL marathon and you could tell she was so excited but equally as nervous.  It made for some fun conversation!  After one connecting flight, sitting through the customs line for almost an hour, and being one giant wad of "I hate the airport" stress we finally made it to the Bahamas!  Our taxi driver was unaware that the marathon was going on that weekend which was a little odd.  You mean on this tiny island you have no idea that the roads are being closed for what is becoming one of your biggest sporting events?  (Note to the marathon marketing department, might want to step it up a notch.)  We got all checked in at Breezes and headed up to our room, when they say oceanfront room they aren't kidding:

I'm pretty sure that an all-inclusive resort is a runners only way to travel.  Unlimited food and drinks, yes please.  The only downside for us was that the tap water was awful.  For two people who drink a ridiculous amount of water every day, this was a little annoying.  We fired up Google to see if the water was safe to drink to which the response was, "While the water in the Bahamas is safe to drink, the taste is repulsive."  Let me start by saying I am not a water snob, I don't care if it has cute shaped bottle or an exotic name, as long as it tastes good I'm fine.  I sipped a little out of the tap and holy moly, that was awful.  It was basically diluted salt water, no thank you.  As someone who almost died from drinking the water in Mexico (not intentionally) I wasn't taking any chances.  Luckily we found a tap of filtered water down in the main dining area that the wait staff used.  We emptied it out at least once a day and pretty sure the staff hated us.  Sorry folks, all inclusive right? :)  The stress of the day started to melt away after seeing the beach and then it was time to grab a beverage and park it on the beach for the rest of the day.  The weather on Friday was a little breezy and a little cloudy in the afternoon, didn't stop us though. 

On Saturday we were up bright and early and took our appetites down to the breakfast buffet before heading out to the beach.  The french toast they served was hands down the best I've ever had, we ate it every day.  We snagged a couple of extra bagels so that we'd have them race morning when breakfast wouldn't be served yet.  Once you've run a few destination races you start to learn a few tricks of the trade!  We spent most of the day lounging on the beach and then showered up to head over to the expo for the race.  The expo was at the Wyndham which was about a .25 mile walk along the beach so it made for a nice little outing.  I guess I've been accustomed to large expos here in the US because the expo was more or less just packet pick up with some booths set up.  I honestly didn't have high expectations but I was at least expecting that they would have a little more than two boxes of GU available to sell...not an exaggeration.  Regardless, we got what we came for: t-shirts and bibs!
We got to bed fairly early and were up bright and early on Sunday!  The shuttle picked us up at our hotel and we were off to the start line!  It was really neat to be on the bus with so many people from around the world.  So many stories and accents, shapes and sizes, ages and experience levels.  One of the things I love most about runners is how we can all accomplish the same goal very differently and because of that, we're all equals and there's a mutual respect amongst every one.  We made it to the start line long before the sun ever came up, and at 6am we were off!

At the start line
In all of the races we've run over the years, this was the first race that Brandon and I have actually run together-together.  My speedster of a husband slowed it down to my super easy pace and we cruised through the 13.1 miles together!  Along the way we took in the sights, shared a lot of laughs, stopped for pictures, and never once thought about time.  In fact, we didn't even have our Garmins turned on.  A few pictures from along the course....

The lady in the yellow tank next to me is Lee.  She and her husband were staying at our resort and we became pretty good friends throughout the trip.  Ron was her cheerleader and we saw him along the course, very sweet couple.
Rare occasion!  Race photo taken of us together!  Love this photo.
This was around mile 10.  Gorgeous, just gorgeous views.  The ocean, not me ;)

Such a handsome husband I have.

Thank you to the sweet lady who stopped and offered to take our picture!  Runners are the best.

*A funny tidbit that fellow runners would appreciate.  At the halfway point of the race you know where they usually have a timing chip mat that you must cross to verify that you ran the whole distance?  Not in the Bahamas!  They have a man with a megaphone calling out your number as you pass to a lady with a clipboard to write it down and they verify later.  Fancy, eh?*

The weather felt great the entire race but by mile 12 that Bahamas sunshine was upon us and it started to heat up!  Not too long after we crossed the finish line with a cruising time of 2:25:07!  By far the most beautiful backdrop for a finish line I've ever seen:

Best. Birthday. Present. EVER.

 We have an ongoing joke that we always see a marching band during the wee hours of the morning at every vacation we go on.  Well, the tradition continued in the Bahamas:

These guys were definitely unique finish line entertainment and they were awesome!

So much fun at the finish line!  I like races that are smaller because you really get to relax after a race and just take it all in without fighting crazy crowds.

  After enjoying a cold Kalik at the finish line, we headed back to the hotel for a day on the beach!  This was definitely the most relaxing "post race" afternoon I've ever gotten to enjoy.  I wish every race ended with a beach and beers a pina-colada with coconut rum!

Perfect way to end such a great race day.

On Monday our laziness continued and we spent all day at the beach just laying around and doing nothing.  Our jobs and regular life back home is go-go-go so doing nothing is glorious.  Tuesday it was back home to Dallas and to see our pups who we missed dearly.  Thank you to my husband for truly making this a trip I will never forget.  I can't imagine taking these adventures with anyone else!  

My 30th birthday is fast approaching and it's shaping up to be incredible.  Bring on more adventures!  Next stop: Portland!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Protein. Pee. Priorities. That covers it....

Here we are two weeks into 2014 and I have to ask, have you stuck with those resolutions you proudly proclaimed a couple of weeks ago?  Things are humming right along with 2014 in our household.  We aren't really resolution setters because we adopted this lifestyle many moons ago so it's kind of just back to business as usual.

After one week of being back on track I am happy to report that I am down 5.5 inches overall and 2.5 of those are from my waist and hips, where it really matters right?  I already feel so much better!  Notice how I don't mention how many pounds I lost?  That would be because the scale is a lying SOB whose purpose in life is to mess with people's minds about how they should feel in regards to their bodies.  I swore off the scale a couple of years ago and honestly it's the best thing I ever did for myself.  I allow myself to weigh 1-2 times a month to make sure there are no drastic fluctuations.  This works for me so I go with what I know!  For anyone that I work with in regards to weight loss my main goal at the beginning is to get them to take inches measurements.  Inches matter more!  (I'll refrain from my jokes here)  Measuring inches and basing your success on that as well as how your clothes fit is key.

Getting "back on track" for me and our lifestyle consists of three main things:

1) Cleaning up our food selections and going back to the 80/20 rule.  We eat clean and choose the healthy options 80% of the time, and the other 20% we eat whatever we want.  The key to this is if you do NOT get your 80% in, then you don't get your 20%.  That's life.  #eatcleantraindirty

2) Protein shakes ,vitamins, and tracking water intake are back in the daily mix.
  • Protein protein protein!  Many people, especially women, grossly underestimate how much protein they need on a daily basis.  It varies person to person and your activity level, etc. but it plays a huge role in weight loss!
  • Water intake.  I'm a little notorious for "how much water do you drink?" being the first thing that comes out of my mouth when people complain about not being able to lose weight.  Drinking half your weight in water is a great place to start.  However, you have to factor in your activity levels, caffeine intake (caffeine can have diuretic effects) etc. when calculating how much you need.  For example, I weigh 135 lbs so by the general guidelines I should drink 67.5 ounces of water.  In reality because of my activity levels I drink 120 - 150oz of water per day and this over time has proven to meet my hydration needs.  Again, this varies person-to-person.  If you've never paid attention to the color of your pee then you should.  Here's a handy dandy chart that serves as a good guideline!
3) Workouts are back on track!   I took a few days off to recover from the New Year's Double and started back with the routine on January 6th.  Remember how I said that one of my goals for 2014 (and in general) is to become a stronger runner?  One of my biggest faults as a runner is not showing the love for strength training.  I don't like lifting weights, I am not a fan of traditional gyms, and after a year of valiant effort the home gym just wasn't doing it for me.  It was time to get serious so I started doing some research and wanted to fine someone local to help me.   I knew that by paying someone there was more on the line and I'd be more committed to it and would make it a priority.  I found Z Fit Training and started with them on Tuesday, January 7th!  Two days a week for 45 minute sessions, my body is being challenged in ways it hasn't been in years!  The focus lies primarily in strengthening the core, glutes, hips etc.  ALL the areas that I have so selfishly neglected as a runner are now feeling the love.  Stepping outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens and this is a HUGE step out of my comfort zone!  Waking up at 4:15 on these days isn't exactly magical, but it's all worth it once I've gotten a major sweat session done and I'm back home by 6am to start the day.        

Overall, I'm really happy with the way things are moving along so far and this is what works for us.  I need to vent just for a quick sec, okie dokie?  Remember that in your journey to weight loss and better health that this is something that isn't going to happen over night.  You didn't develop bad habits over night and they're not going to go away that quickly either.  They say it takes three weeks to develop new habits and that is SO true!  Be realistic with your goals and be honest with yourself about what you're willing to sacrifice in order to achieve those goals.  There are a plethora of methods to choose from and I've seen people use them all:  clean eating, smoothies, shakes, low carb, vegan diets, no sugar, etc.  I have opinions on just about all of it but whatever path you choose make sure it is something you can stick with.  I am a big fan of everything in moderation and see no need to cut anything completely out of your diet, but I'll end that opinion there.   

Making a change for 30 days and then going back to your old habits is a waste of time, money, and effort.  Choose something that you can stick with because this is about a lifestyle change.  Every morning from here until eternity you will wake up and face a new day that will present a new set of challenges and not every day is going to be on point.  Be honest with yourself and do what works for YOU!    


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Race Report: New Year's Double

For starters, Happy New Year folks!  A new year is upon us which brings new hope and new opportunities.  So how did you spend your first day of the new year?  This is the first time we've rung in the new year with a race, but it is definitely one of my favorite New Year's celebrations to date!  The hustle and bustle of the holidays provided a great distraction for the weeks leading up to the big race, but before we knew it New Year's Eve was upon us!

One of my favorite features about The Active Joe races is that we can customize our bibs!  It's starting to catch on with more races,  and it makes for a fun little keepsake afterwards.  For this race, my bibs had "Lovepepper Est. NYE 2008" because New Years Eve 2008 is what Brandon and I declare our first date.  If you had told us in 2008 that we would celebrate our 5 year dating anniversary by running a half marathon together, I would have told you to lay off the sauce yo.  But alas, happy 5 years B!

New Year's Double - Part 1 - December 31, 2013

Luckily this event is close to our house so we got to "sleep in" until 6:15, wahoo!  We did our usual race day routine:  roll out of bed and get dressed, consume bagel with peanut butter, pack our race bag, mix up Arginine and stock our fuel belts.  This race took a little longer to dress for because it was a frigid 26 degrees outside!  Things I'm not fond of?  Cold weather.  After spending about ten minutes debating over just how many layers to wear, we were all set and out the door.  Arriving to the race site was quick and easy.  We got there an hour before start time and the parking lot wasn't even halfway full but started to fill up not long after parked.  About ten minutes before go-time we made our way over to the starting corrals where we found Nancy (fellow NTX runner) who was the un-official race photographer for the event!  Our faces were frozen but we managed a smile:

The race started right on time and we were off!  With a banged up knee my goal was to take Day 1 slow and steady and salvage some energy for Day 2.  The course is entirely through a park trail so you don't have to contend with any street crossings.  The out and back loop format meant that we would need to make two loops to complete the race.  Once I found my stride I was a pretty happy camper:
Exhibit A
The format of the course meant that through pretty much the entire 13.1 miles we would be passing other runners who were coming back the other direction.  Admittedly, it resulted in some crowding on the path because some folks can't follow the rules and stay to the right.  However, I had a lot of fun seeing everyone out on the course!  Each day Brandon and I passed each other on the course about 3 times which always leads to a pick-me-up when you need it.  Despite the frigid conditions there were TONS of supporters out on the course!   One of my favorite things on race day is to read the signs people make which did not disappoint this year!  Coming up on Mile 12 I was starting to tire out but I saw Nancy again in her hot pink wig and you can't help but smile for the camera when you see it:

Exhibit B

Also by Mile 12 I was wishing I had opted for arm warmers instead of a full blown cold weather top, which also had another layer underneath it.  I was too lazy focused to stop and take it off though.  I mean what's another 1 mile-ish of being too hot?  Meh.  Rounding the corner into mile 13 I laughed to myself thinking "I have to wake up and do this again tomorrow?"  Yup!    

With an official finish time of 2:21:02 I was pretty happy.  This time is a far cry from a PR but it was what I was planning on, and I stuck to my plan!  My legs were of course a little tired but I knew I had enough left in me to tackle Day 2.  After finishing I got to pick up my medal for the race as well as my medal for completing three of The Active Joe races for the year!   

Day 1 Medal:

The Active Joe Race Series Medal:

 Day 1 Splits:

After completing Day 1 we headed home and prepared for the dreaded ice bath!  I'm not fond of cold weather which means an ice bath is pretty much the equivalent of a torture chamber.  I came prepared for this one though with a super thick hoodie and a piping hot glass of green tea!  Brandon dumped the ice in and I just jumped in.  The more you think about it, the more you just mentally torture yourself for the inevitable.  Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
New Year's Eve (that night) we spent some time over at my sister's house for a bit and then took our tired butts home.  We rung in the New Year on East Coast time and it was lights out at 11pm. 

New Year's Double - Part 2 - January 1, 2014

Goooooooooood morning 2014!  I was actually nowhere near that chipper when I woke up (I never am) but I proceeded through the exact same race day routine as the day before.  (I'm officially boycotting bagels for six months)   While the actual temperature outside on this day was warmer the wind was making a name for itself.  The wind chill actually made it feel cooler at the start than it had the day before.  Despite the wind chill I went with my gut and opted for arm warmers and am SO glad I did!   *FYI The Brooks Utopia Arm Warmers are legit!  So comfy, so warm, they have thumb holes (two cheers for thumb holes!) and the tops of them fold over so you can have mittens if you need them!*  Genius.  It felt a little like the movie Groundhog Day when we pulled up to the race site, especially since we parked in the exact same spot.  It was funny to sit and observe the runners getting out of their cars.  You could tell who had run the day before by the grimace on their face as they climbed out of the car.  While my legs were feeling ok, I was honestly overcome with serious doubt.  I had never done something like this before so it was that feeling of the unknown.  Would I be able to even run two miles?  Would I have to walk the whole thing?  One of the things I still struggle with is learning to trust my training.  Over the last few months I've logged a ton of miles, several half marathons, and a bunch of back-to-back high mileage runs in-between.  What was there to doubt? 

Brandon and I were both in the same starting corral so we ran the first mile of 2014 together!  I know, total Hallmark movie moment.  After the first mile I told him to go ahead and do his thing because I knew it was killing him to run at my pace.  (He's part Kenyan)  He took off and I settled in for the long haul.  As I look back, I actually think day 2 went by faster than day 1!  The crowd support was so awesome and they knew that everyone out there was hurting.  My goal at the start was to take it slow again, and run as much of the race as my body would allow.  Nancy snapped one photo from day 2, the jazz hands were eluding me but I was still smiling!

The mile markers came and went and before you know it, I had reached mile 12 again!  Holy crap, I'm almost done!  It was right at the mile 12 marker that my left quad started screaming so I decided to take a quick walk break.  Bad decision.  Two steps into that walk break and the quad started seizing up on me and I immediately thought, oh this was a bad idea.....back to the running.  I picked the pace back up and let the adrenaline of "I'm about to conquer this challenge" carry me to the finish line.   With an official finish time of 2:25:34 I can say that I did it!   Starting off 2014 by conquering a challenge I've never attempted before, two half marathons in 24 hours, felt so amazing!  I was also pleased as punch that my times were consistent across both days which means my plan of attack worked!

Brandon produced finish times of 1:43:51 (which got him 4th in his age group) and 1:56:45.  There is nobody else I would have rather done this with!

On New Year's Day you get a medal that is like the New Year's Eve medal just dated differently (lets state the obvious shall we) but both of those medals come together via the magic of magnets to create a gorgeous challenge plate!  All of the races put on by this group are incredible and my favorites to run throughout the year.  The medal is huge and heavy, but is such a great memory and reflection of all the hard work that it takes to earn one!  Always earned, NEVER given.

Day 2 Splits:

After the race was done we were so excited to go celebrate our accomplishments and to also officially ring in the New Year!  The Culpepper's love running, but they also love a top-shelf margarita. 

The soreness that began to ensue the rest of the day was brutal.  I actually think I can label it officially worse than any soreness I've ever had, even full marathons.  I imagine that if my legs were ever attacked by a leprechaun with a baseball bat, it would be the equivalent.  A nap, lots of stretching, icing, massaging with The Stick, and Advil helped a bit but yowza.  The soreness however resulted in a lot of comical exchanges between Brandon and I so it was all worth it.

Thank you to the New Year's Double for allowing an incredible way to end a year, and start the new one off the right way!