Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

Off to the Races

Post by:  Jake
6/13/11

Six-months ago if Veronica would have asked me what I thought of doing a triathlon or running a 10k I would have laughed (to myself) and then probably would have given her a look of “are you crazy?” Then I probably would have asked, “Why on earth would you want to watch me suffer in agony like an ant getting burned under a magnifying glass?”  Well, six months later I’ve not only completed my first sprint triathlon, but have also raced in the Black Bear Challenge adventure race, and have run a 3-mile and a 10k race!  I wasn’t in all that bad of shape last January, but since then I’ve lost nearly 25-pounds and now am in close to the best shape of my life.  It’s such an amazing feeling of accomplishment every time I get to cross the finish line at one of these races.  I genuinely feel strong, and I continue to surprise myself at how far (and fast) I can run.

We just finished the Governors’ Cup 10K on Saturday morning.  I posted a time of almost exactly 55-minutes, and Veronica was just a few seconds over 50-minutes.  I like to start the races near the front of the pack, while Veronica prefers starting a little further back.  My first mile is always my fastest as I try to separate myself from the crowd a bit.  I can’t stand not running at “my” pace simply because there are so many other people around me.  That makes for a fairly depressing rest-of-the-race though as I get continually passed for the remainder of the mileage.  Saturday’s race was no exception.  Between mile 3 and 4 I got passed by not one, but TWO old guys pushing strollers!  Talk about a blow to the ego. :-)   I just try to stay focused on running my race, and keep telling myself that “I’m not competing for first” and “I can’t imagine doing this 6-months ago with an extra 25-pounds”!

So what’s motivated me to keep going?  To lose the weight?  To get back into top shape?

1.)  Having a goal in mind certainly has helped keep me working hard.  First it was, “I need to keep working to get in shape for the adventure race” then, the triathlon race, and so on…

2.)  Having a group to workout with and a rigid workout schedule has been a huge help.  It has kept me on track by giving me structure instead of simply guessing at what I should be doing to workout.  And it’s been great to socialize and see each other progress throughout the weeks.  Each day I look forward to the social aspect of the workouts.

3.)  Rewards.  Knowing the rewards of getting into shape have certainly added to my motivation.  Backpacking trips are easier.  I can bike harder and go further.  Really, everything is easier, including yard work.

So, while I’m still far from an elite athlete, I’m certainly enjoying being in shape.  Knowing I lost the weight the right way (lifestyle change instead of a fad diet), I’m convinced that this will be lasting.  The rewards are too nice to give it up and go back to the shape I was in back in January.  It’s FUN being in shape! :-)

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I TRI with a little help from my friends

Post by:  Veronica
6/7/11

Twelve weeks and countless hours of workouts later, I can finally say that Jake and I proudly completed our first triathlon.  YAY!

Just a small sample of the first-timers. Waiting by the finish line to cheer on later heats of athletes.

For three months, we have been meeting regularly with approximately 20 other first-time (or relatively “beginner”) triathletes and our three coaches—sport veterans who wanted to share the “tri-bug” with the rookies.  Such AMAZING people—I’m going through withdrawals now that it’s all over.  Seriously, all I wanted to do on Tuesday was head to the pool right after work for social hour and swim practice! (Which is saying a lot given my lack of excitement for that leg of the sport!) Instead, Jake and I got a few chores checked off the to-do list and are planning to head to the pool for an anti-social pool workout later this week.  Not nearly as much fun.

Looking back, I wanted to reflect on how awesome this experience was.  In addition to the technical benefits of the clinic (I can confidently say that I swim MUCH better than I did before) the whole experience was enlightening for many reasons:

  • It confirmed my belief that the best way to get into something new is to join a group with similarly-experienced individuals that you can learn with. Now that the tri-clinic is over, I’m looking forward to attending a beginner-intermediate women’s group that meets Monday nights to bike (switching between road and mountain).  Groups provide a great outlet to meet people and provide the structure and support to keep you going.
  • I realized that although perhaps intimidating to begin with—experienced athletes, who are passionate about what they do, love to see new, excited people get involved.  And it’s a great community to be a part of.  The triathlon we did was geared toward beginners, but there were lots of veteran triathletes that volunteered or just came to cheer everyone on.
  • I learned that my body is much stronger than my mind sometimes believes.  And if you just keep kicking or putting one foot in front of the other, you can accomplish much more than you once thought.
  • It helped me to remember to celebrate what I do well (and yes, we all have our strengths) and remember that everyone has something they struggle with.  In our clinic, we had strong swimmers who weren’t so excited about the run and bikers and runners who felt like drowned fish at swim practice (Me!).  It’s really the beauty of multi-sport events like this.

As part of the triathlon clinic, we got a t-shirt that so profoundly states:  “I TRI with a little help from my friends.”  Great training buddies = a very rewarding experience. So shout-out to our clinic teammates and coaches—Congrats and thanks for such a great experience!

 

 

 

 

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Spring Running Apparel Demystified

Montana running can be unpredictable.  In one given day, the sun will shine, then it will rain and a snow blizzard will pass through.  Then the sun is back out and I start to wonder if the weather is having an identity crisis—“Uh…what season do I want to be today?  Winter, Spring, Summer?”

So when it comes to wanting to run outside, the weather makes it extra difficult to decide what to wear.  I recently had the opportunity to try some Brooks running gear, and needless to say, with the unpredictability off spring weather, Brooks has a great line of apparel to keep you running happy.

Great Picks:

Nightlife Equilibrium Long Sleeve Shirt

This shirt is unbelievably comfortable and very versatile.  Although I was a bit intimidated by the fierce color, it’s become my running shirt of choice when hitting the city streets.  Part of sharing the road is making yourself visible to others.  And although the shirt was designed for night running, it’s great for daytime too.  And for spring running I’ve found the shirt to be comfortable in both cool and warmer weather.  Breathable, moisture-wicking and true to size (athletic fit).

My only complaint is that the some of the reflective detailing (logos/lettering) has started to peel off of the fabric.  Now, the added reflective features are nice, but let’s face it—I’m running in a bright, lime green top!  If you can’t see me, we have other issues.  Certainly not a deal breaker.

 

Infinity Women’s Beanie

The best part about this hat is that it keeps my ears warm, but doesn’t make me too hot. (I hate headbands…) The fleece band is comfortable and helps wick moisture while the main body is a not-too-heavy stretch polyester/spandex blend.   It’s lightweight and fits nicely in a jacket pocket if I decide I don’t need it along the run. And so far, the reflective detailing has remained intact.  There is even a built in ponytail  door for those who want their hair up—personally, I find it to act as a nice built-in vent!

 

Glycerin Hybrid Jacket (pictured below)

Unpredictable Montana Weather: Case in point. This picture was taken in late April. With the cool weather and skiff of snow, the Glycerin Hybrid Jacket was perfect.

This is a great spring jacket.  It would definitely be too heavy for warmer days, but on cool, crisp evenings or for brisk walks, it’s great.  The company advertises the jacket for use in 45-65 degree weather.  I personally have found it great for temps down to 35 degrees but probably wouldn’t use it above 55 degrees.  The material is soft and comfortable and the style is semi-fitted with a stretch banded bottom that keeps the jacket from riding up while you run.  The sleeves are longer than usual (which I love) and the cuffs have thumb-holes for added comfort and functionality. There is even a waterproof MP3 interior pocket that is a great bonus.  Overall—great fit, comfortable, must have for those cooler weather days.

(The Brooks Glycerin Diva Jacket the closest thing available online.  Same concepts but an updated, more feminine cut.)

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Triathlon training week two–What am I doing here?!

Post By: Veronica
3/15/11

In the middle of the timed two-mile test I was running for the Triathlon clinic, a girl next to me asks, “So are you a mountain biker or a road biker?”  Taken aback by the fact that she was able to think of anything other than the burning in her legs AND could muster up enough oxygen to utter a complete sentence, I shook myself out of my running trance and answered, “Not really either.”  Then I thought to myself,  ”Actually, I don’t bike, I never learned how to swim and I’ve never been a distance runner…what am I doing here!”

One week later, as the “Adaptation Phase” of our training comes to a close and we’re finally getting the hang of things, I feel much less out of my element.

From spandex to swim caps--my new athletic gear is taking some time to get used to. We're no longer on the volleyball court Toto!

For our training clinic, the group meets three times each week with the coaches.  Tuesday and Friday we are in the pool and Wednesday we’re on the track for a run.  The rest of the week, we bike, lift and usually do another run workout on our own.  Originally I thought it odd that we never meet for our bike workouts, and instead have two swim workouts as a group.  But I soon realized that I was not the only one in the group who felt least comfortable with the swimming component of the race.  In fact, the majority of our group had signed up specifically to improve their swimming comfort and ability.

You see, the beautiful thing about a multi-event sport like a triathlon is that everyone has a component they are confident with and everyone has a component they struggle with.  For example, someone can be holding their own in the pool workouts, fall behind and hate the run days, but then when you see them in the spin room…they are in their element, in the zone.  Personally, I come out of swim class like a drowned rat, am so-so in a bike workout, and am (to my own surprise) loving the run workouts.

So the question could be raised, “Why don’t you just stick with what you like and/or are good at?”  Fair question.  Personally, being pushed out of my element is helping me grow, both mentally and physically as an athlete.  Every day works a different set of muscles and for the first time in my athletic journey, I am genuinely excited to master a weak skill.  Seriously, I’ve spent hours watching YouTube video after video on swimming techniques.  And practicing the motions in my living room!  From mastering the stroke, to figuring out how to breath.  And, when I start getting frustrated about not catching on as quickly as I’d like, I get a confidence boost at the run workout the next day.

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And The Beat Goes On…


Post By: Jake
3/12/11

Week two of Triathlon training is now behind us!  Our first actual training event was a swim trial, to help sort the group into “like” swimmers.  Our instructors split the group of 20 into 3 tracks, Fast, Faster, and Super Fast. Although I didn’t feel like I was any of these,  I chose the “faster” group since I knew how to swim, and once upon a time (nearly 20 years ago) I was on a swim team so I knew the basics. Our instructors yelled to us to do a quick down and back however we wanted… 7 people in a lane designed for 1 must have been comical to watch us bumping into eachother, swimming into walls, and overall getting in eachother’s way (much like a triathlon I imagine). Our instructors then told us to keep to the right, give eachother a few seconds lead time and swim down one side of the lane and back the other… and do it again… On the second lap I looked up and realized I wasn’t catching the person in front of me, and quickly realized the person behind me was about to catch me, I kicked it into high gear and by the time I got back, I was ready to be done for the day, out of breath and satisfied with my workout for the day. On no… it continued for another hour, back and forth, back and forth… I didn’t think I had it in me, but by the end I smiled, realizing I had been pushed further than I was comfortable, and I lived.

Day 2 was the running trial.  We were to run a timed one or two mile route (our choice) to establish our baseline speed (which assumedly it would get faster throughout the training). The course was a bit snowy and icy, and the air was pretty brisk (30 degrees), not exactly conditions we’d expect to be setting  speed records. “GO!” was shouted and we all took off. Initially I sped up from the pack a bit just to get away from the pack. I am NOT a runner.  I told Veronica the other day, if God would have wanted me to run, he’d have given me longer legs. But there I was, legs a kickin.. I was fully intending on running the one mile course, however when I got to the turnaround point, no one was there. Not knowing where the turnaround point was I kept running, only to be told I was doing the full two mile course! My goal quickly shifted from “turn in a decent one mile time” to “try and simply run the two miles without passing out.”  At about a mile I nearly fell over dead, but managed to struggle on, and miraculously by 1.5 miles I was catching a second wind and actually increasing my pace.  I ended up at 16 minutes 10 seconds for the 2 miles, by far my personal best (although, I haven’t run a timed distance in probably ten years).  Proud of my achievement, I walked home… while Veronica ran.

 

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Need a fitness kick in pants? 5 tips to get started

Post By: Veronica
3/08/11

For about two months, Jake and I have been regularly exercising.  On average hitting the gym 3-4 days each week for about an hour each time.  Yes, compared to the 2+ hours, 6-7 days a week I was used to in college, it seems like it should be a walk in the park.  But add full time jobs, family commitments, house projects and the occasional social gathering and 4 hours a week quickly becomes difficult to obtain.

Needless to say, our efforts have paid off.  Both of us have started to shed the extra “winter layer” we’d put on over the past few years, but more importantly, we each feel better, more energized and are all around healthier people.

For those of you who, like me, have taken so much time off from working out that you’re not sure how or where to begin, I thought I’d share a few tips that have helped us stay focused:

1.  Have a partner–one who will actually hold you accountable.  Motivation is something that comes and goes–and when it’s gone, it’s extra important to have someone there to say, “Hey, it’s Wednesday and we haven’t worked out yet this week.  Let’s go right after work instead of waiting until after dinner.”  Honestly, sometimes the hardest part is getting yourself out of the house and to the gym.

2.  Set a goal.  I know this is almost cliche and growing up in sports, goal setting didn’t make sense to me.  I played to win, not to improve my endurance or work on my technique.  But as an adult, when it’s not about winning or losing, but about being fit and healthy, goals become more important than ever.  Perhaps it’s to lose 5 pounds or to try something new–goals are not only the motivation for getting to the gym, but they also set the pace for your workout.  Just remember:  realistic and obtainable.

3.  Listen to your body.  This has been one of the hardest things for me.  In my mind, my body is capable of doing what it did 5 years ago when I was working out 20 hours each week in college.  In reality,… let’s just say things are a little rusty.  And yes, sometimes it is OK to take the night off.  Just make sure you and your workout buddy are committed to giving a serious effort the next day.  Whether training seriously or exercising leisurely, full rest and recovery are an important, and often forgotten, part of the formula.

4.  Make sure your iPod or other personal music device has been updated with great up-tempo songs.  I guess music choice while working out is a personal preference, but find something that will keep your mind off the exhaustion.  Personally, I find it really helpful to use the up-beat chorus sections of a song to increase my running tempo.  I’m then adding some intervals to my workout and I don’t have to think about when to push myself.  Just follow the beat.

5.  Mix it up.  One of the things I love about the Tri-training that Jake and I are doing is that in one given week, we bike, run, swim and do strength training.  So everyday is something different.  Hitting the treadmill five days a week may be great if you have a serious passion for running.  But if you’re looking to simply “work out” chances are you will get really bored, really fast.  Plus, mixing up your activities will work different muscle groups–making for a much more complete fitness program.  This also means doing something FUN and active.  Have a racquetball day, hit a Zumba class or shoot some hoops.  Just because you’re “working out” doesn’t mean it all has to be “work.”

If you are just thinking about starting a new workout plan and want to stay on track, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic to get started.  Happy running!

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