Saturday, August 27, 2011

Earning my Tiara - Part III: Down to Business

Once December hit, so did reality. Hard. Up until now, it had been all fun and games. Now, I'm a MASTER at starting projects, but normally when I take on something new and different like this, I start off gung-ho, but the novelty soon wears off, as does my motivation. I've found that one of the best ways to honor a commitment to something is to start telling people (seriously, anyone who will listen...or at least pretend to listen) about it. It's like a pregnancy...if you don't tell anyone about it and something happens, you're not left to face the fallout. In this case, the opposite is true. I wanted to know that the fallout was looming and that everyone would know if I quit.  

I spent a lot of time researching different training plans, and it was honestly a little intimidating. I stuck to the "beginner" plans since many of the intermediate plans required workouts at specific paces...which assumes you actually know what pace you're trying for and can quantify it in more detail than "don't die." I wanted something simple to follow, so I went for one that simply dictated how many miles to run each day. The plan was just to slowly build my endurance over the next 3 months.

Even narrowing down plans this much left a TON of options. I finally just took a couple different ones, put them into Excel, and calculated a happy medium between them. I manipulated it a little bit because I also wanted to incorporate one day a week for my TurboKick class at the gym (Hi, I'm Janet, and I'm a TurboKick addict). Here is what I ended up with:

A training plan is like a recipe. There are a million different ways to bake chocolate chip cookies (hmm, I'm hungry), and none of them are wrong. You can use more/less of certain ingredients, substitute ingredients, bake at different temperatures for different amounts of time, etc. Regardless, you still end up with chocolate chip cookies. When you pick a training plan, it's important to pick one that works with what you have. You may only have 3 days a week to run, or you may want to incorporate weights or other cross-training. You may need to re-arrange your schedule on certain weeks. I believe there are 2 key ingredients in a beginner's training plan: 1) Consistent weekly runs to get your body used to pounding the pavement, and 2) Slowly-increasing long runs to build endurance. The other details can be changed as needed, but if you follow this recipe, you will end up with a delicious chocolate chip cookie...err, race. And you will totally burn enough calories to make up for an entire batch of cookies!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Earning My Tiara - Part II: The Right Accessories

Simple birthright (or a strategic marriage a la Kate Middleton) does not a princess make. No, a princess has to look the part. Real princesses have tiaras and other jewels. Half marathon princesses in training have running gear – sadly not funded by taxpayers.

So, to bring you back up to speed, it's August, and I've just registered for the race and picked out a 12-week training plan (more on that in the next post). The race is still 6 months out, giving me plenty of time to relax, reflect on the terrifying task ahead of me, and start easing my body into running. More importantly, it gave me time to find the perfect shoes. Now, I would NEVER underestimate the importance of shoes in a girl's wardrobe, but when it comes to running (unless you're one of those crazy barefoot runners...seriously, I will never understand that trend), they're pretty much the only thing that matters. Seriously, I once saw an ad for a race run naked. First off, no. Second, OUCH. And finally, no. 

I have SUPER high arches. I saw a whole slough of podiatrists throughout college. One said I had the highest arches he had ever seen, and another told me to never do any sports that involved running (umm, so track was a bad idea?). So, all my previous attempts at running resulted in major shin pain (my teammate Molly and I both once broke out in tears simultaneously during a track workout in college once). I knew that any chance for surviving this undertaking would require the right shoes. I did a ton of research online and chatted with the experts at Garry Gribble's. I ended up at The Sports Medicine Store where I bought the Mizuno Wave Inspire 6. 

I was also considering a pair of Brooks (I believe Adrenaline), but the Mizunos were cuter. :)  Seriously though, they were also cut quite a bit lower on the ankle, and they felt a lot lighter. The folks back at Garry Gribble also recommended Archmolds. These are orthotics that start off super high and then mold to your feet after you put them in the oven. I have been thrilled with these and would highly (pun intended) recommend them for people with high arches. For those with flat feet, I would think they wouldn't be as helpful though. In addition, just to be safe, I also bought lots of socks that had extra arch support as well.

Now that I had prepared as best I could with the functional gear, it was on to the fun stuff! I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was to buy workout clothes. Knowing most of my training would be in cold weather, I needed to stock up on tights and long-sleeved shirts. But also knowing what a baby I am when it comes to cold weather, I planned on doing some of my workouts on the treadmill at the gym, so I bought some tanks and short-sleeved shirts too for good measure. Target, a.k.a. my money pit, has lots of great tops for working out, so I went ahead and stocked up, just to be safe. But there was one more thing I needed. When I was little, my parents would get on to me for having the sleeves of my sweatshirts pulled down over my hands. So, maybe it was a rebellion thing (yeah, I’m a bada$$), but from the moment I saw the cute workout hoodies with the thumb holes cut out, I had to have one. I’m really good at setting expectations unrealistically high for things, so I wouldn’t rest until I found the perfect one (that wasn’t more than $60…I just can’t do that for workout clothes).  I finally found an affordable one at the Nike outlet, and I’m really sorry to report that it did not live up to my expectations…meaning it didn’t actually do the running for me. It was super cute, but the thumb holes kind of dug into my hands, and along with the cold air, it just made my hands really dry and irritated. So, the lesson I learned here is to not have such high expectations about a shirt…which is why I now put all my faith in shoes, purses, jewelry, jeans,….. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Burnin It Up in Colorado

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to escape the land of 100+ degree temperatures to spend a few days out in Colorado for a friend's wedding. We drove out on a Thursday afternoon.  Those of you who have been lucky enough to experience first-hand the drive through KS and eastern CO can understand how relieved we were to finally reach our destination, Evergreen, that evening. It took us 2 frantic stops at closed liquor stores before we finally found one that was open. Seriously, aren't you missing a significant amount of sales when you close at 9pm?! After picking up some wine and beer, we were off to our home away from home for the weekend, Bauer's Spruce Island Chalet, a.k.a. the only place remotely near the wedding that still had vacancy by the time we made reservations. Try as I might, I can't figure out why they were the last to sell out. It certainly wasn't for lack of elegant decor. As an added bonus, the act of killing all the bugs in our room when we got there totally works in lieu of a fitness center.

But the most excitement was definitely in the middle of the night our first evening there when I woke up to a room full of smoke and a horrid smell of burning rubber. I woke up Adam, and we quickly realized that the owner had turned on the heater prior to our check-in…which is of course logical in 80-degree weather when you’ve also left the windows open for us. In our haste to get unpacked and settled in once we arrived, Adam had set his running shoes on the ancient heater just below the window (yes, with the chair leaned up against it and the curtains literally on top of it). 

Of course they began to melt and burn. I should add that another feature of the Chalet is a smoke detector without a battery.

And yes, I’ll admit Adam shouldn’t have put his shoes on the heater, but there’s a reason hotels are required to have working smoke detectors. Anyway, the owner was less than willing to provide us any sort of apologies or compensation for having to wake up in a room full of smoke. I believe her exact words were, “Well, clearly you’re unhappy here, so why don’t you just leave?” Yes, waking up to a fire in a room with a battery-free smoke detector makes for an “unhappy” guest. She’s just lucky we’re not the litigious type.
Anyway, despite the fact that our first night there was miserable, we woke up in high spirits on Friday. All our clothes reeked of burnt rubber, but we had a date with our friends (and Chalet neighbors) Scott and Genevieve to go white water rafting. We drove to Mile-Hi Rafting on the Clear Creek River. Our guide was John, and I can’t say enough about how great the experience was! Our boat was just John, Scott/Genevieve and Adam/me, but we kind of stuck with a couple other boats on our trip as well, and I can honestly say that none of the other boats had as much fun as we did. He took us “surfing” a few times and just made it a great day. The other boats weren’t quite as lucky. We overheard one of the guides telling his passengers, “When I say, ‘paddle,’ you paddle. It’s not that hard.” Later, a couple of their passengers were asked to leave the boat for not pulling their weight! Hilarious. Apparently they were rather overweight and had a little trouble staying put in the boat.
 Since the wedding wasn’t until Saturday evening, we decided to get up and go for a hike on Saturday morning. We opted for something close to town since we got a bit of a late start. We drove just around the corner from the Chalet and found what was supposedly a 4-mile hike. It turned out to be only about 2.5, but it was a nice easy stroll through the woods and offered some good views.
 Since the hike didn’t take long, we went back to the Chalet for a little wedding pre-party. Nothing says “classy” like a bottle of wine and a game of horseshoes! For the record, I am much better at washers, although I did score a couple points…at least by our standards. I have no idea if we were playing the game correctly or not!

Then it was time to head to the wedding. It was on a golf course in Evergreen, and the weather could not have been more perfect. We were pretty excited on the way there to spot some mule deer (at least that’s what Adam said they were. I would have probably called them “reindeer”) in a person’s front yard. Our cab driver pulled over so we could take pictures.
The wedding was short, sweet, and beautiful. One of my favorite moments might have been the dogs that served as flower girl and ring bearer. My least favorite moment was definitely when a guy and his son pulled up to the tee box right in front of the wedding (literally less than 25 yards from the couple), stands at the tee box for a while, looks at the couple who are currently saying their vows, looks back at the tee box, thinks about it some more, and then decides to TEE OFF! All I can think of is the bit on SNL Weekend Update that Seth Meyer and Tina Fey did called “Really?!” Lesson learned: being a member of a country club does not imply that you have class, sir.

How do you keep a bunch of drunken idiots entertained for 5 hours? 2 words: Photo. Booth. 2 more words: With. Costumes. Now, this was fun. I’m working on getting the online version of these pictures, as they were hilarious. My favorite were definitely the Kanye West glasses!

On Sunday morning, we checked out of the Chalet (thank God!), and Adam and I drove up to Estes Park. The drive took a little while, but the scenery sure is different from what you see in Kansas! We drove through Rocky Mountain National Park (which scared me s***less). I took a ton of pictures, but none of them really do the scenery justice. I was floored that there was still snow on the mountains, even though the air temperature at the snowy spots was 65 degrees. But after the crazy heat we’ve had here, I was more than happy to have to wear a hoodie!
I did spot a few elk, and we caught a distant glimpse of a moose, but my favorite view was this random lake I stumbled upon while Adam was napping in the car.
I could have strolled around forever, but Adam had a pretty nasty blister on his heel from hiking, so he wasn’t feeling it. We drove back to Denver and had an amazing dinner at a place called Sushi Sasa. The next morning, we were all set to get up and drive back when we got a message that Adam’s dad, Dallas, was in Denver and wanted to meet us for breakfast. Dal is a banker and spends most of the work week at his Denver office. He met us at Sam’s No. 3, which was super delicious and affordable, and then we went to his office, which has a gorgeous view of Coors Field and the mountains. I really wish we could have spent more time in downtown Denver because it seemed like a pretty nice area. Unfortunately, we had to leave and drive back to home sweet home. Fortunately for me, Adam took the wheel all the way to Topeka. I just tried to not pay much attention because from what I understand, we were “making great time.”

It was a great trip with great friends, beautiful scenery, and beautiful weather. I decided if I won the lottery, I would love to have a summer home somewhere in Colorado, but with as much as the mountain driving terrifies me, it might take years off my life to live there!

Earning My Tiara - Part I: The Decision

"The Decision" - Do you think ESPN will give me an hour-long special to discuss this?

My first attempt at blogging centered around my quest to complete my first half marathon. After a few posts, I realized that my weekly workouts weren’t really the most interesting of topics. That being said, behind my wedding of course, the half marathon was definitely one of the top 5 days of my life. And, fitness is a huge part of my life, and seriously, if I can do it, anyone can do it, so I really want to document the entire process. To spare anyone reading this, I’ll break this into several posts.

And so our journey begins…

I had always wanted to run a half marathon…or really rather to be able to say I had run a half marathon. But then again, I’ve also always wanted to be able to say I’ve gone skydiving, and sometimes I think jumping out of a plane might be slightly less terrifying than running 13.1 miles. I’ve always been an athlete…even a runner (at least in high school), but before I tried training, I could count the number of times I had run 3 miles on one hand…actually on one finger. See, one day in high school, it snowed, so track practice got cancelled, but my mom couldn’t pick me up right away after school. There were others in the same boat, but they were all distance runners. They went on a “short” run which was 3 miles…not to mention one that ended with a huge hill (I think the street name was Pamela – someone from JC back me up on that). But, being the competitor that I am, I had to prove I could keep up with them. I was pretty miserable every step of the way, but by god, my pride wouldn’t let me quit. Fast forward 13 ½ years to July, 2010 when completely out of nowhere, I was reading random articles online about fitness, and I came across one blogger who had competed in the Disney Princess Half Marathon. If you’ve known me for a long time, you know I’ve always been quite the tomboy. But seriously, how can you resist tiaras, sparkles and pink tutus?? So, I did a little more research about the race and noticed that the race beneficiary was the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society…a cause which is obviously very near and dear to my heart. That almost sealed the deal for me, but I was still a little unsure. As I glanced down at my calendar, I realized that I was learning of this race on the 4th anniversary of the day my mom died.

At that point, I was 99% committed…all I needed was someone to go with. Adam’s an amazing husband, but this couldn’t be further from his comfort zone. So, I asked my 2 closest friends who I thought would be into doing a half marathon. Much to my delight, my best friend from age 3, Kelly, agreed to at least consider it. We gave ourselves a month to think it over, until the early bird registration deadline (although seriously, what’s an extra $10 when you’re paying $120 for a race?).  I have always admired Kelly’s spirit of adventure. She was even less of a runner than I was, but she was completely up for giving it a shot. In August, we were still not too confident in our abilities to actually do a half marathon, but we decided that nothing was going to make the decision any easier, so we chose to just suck it up and sign up. Talking via IM the whole time, we registered together…our favorite part definitely being when it asked us our favorite Disney princess (I chose Jasmine, and Kelly chose Ariel). Which would you be?