Tag Archive | running

Serious Warrior Sillyness


“At what age will I outgrow this sillyness?” asks my dad. Well, if I have any say in it: NEVER! Life is too short not to have fun. Yes, it’s a little messy but the mud will wear off and the memories will last forever. The Warrior Dash may not be the cheapest race around but it’s less expensive than therapy! And it’s a great way to connect with your spouse.

Have you ever lept over fire hand in hand with your husband? I have. Have you ever climbed for your life to catch your spouse up a muddy hill, sliding down a step for every two step you progress? I have. Have you hever swam in mud, with mud in your eye and in your teeth? I have.


In my teeth.

Thankfully, I have the photo evidence to prove it. Our supportive friend Stewart (who personally has no interest in getting mud anywhere, much less in his teeth) was there at the finish line to snap the picture I so eloquently called for (with only one eye open) before I could dump some cold, clean (ish) water on my face to rinse it off. lol

For the third year in a row, I participated in the Warrior Dash 5k. It’s the second year that my husband ran with me. And it just gets more and more interesting every year. This year was the most fun, by far, culminating with not a mud crawl under barbed wire at the end but a SWIM in 3 feet of muddy water. It was absolutely hilarious (though I really could have done without the guy in front of my splashing it into my eyes). We definitely had a lot to talk about on the way home! The only thing missing was our friends who couldn’t make it (and those who we missed because we weren’t coordinated enough in advance this year).

My husband and I were there together with our friend Kristi, who makes up for our small crew by taking in the whole experience and having a blast with us. I am inspired by friends who tackle such events as this without even a hesitation! Our friend Dan, too, signed up without blinking an eye once he heard about it from us. I love that. Next year, we hope to be able to experience the event all together.

There were a few changes this year, mostly for the better. There were also some things that didn’t change. Like my lack of confidence in transitioning at the top of the obstacles and Matt’s super speedy climbing! I don’t konw how he does it, but Matt can fly up that slippery hill like I’ve never seen, passing up buff 18-year-olds and more experienced runners (like me :) like a pro.

In the end, we both finished well, shaving a few minutes off the time from last year. I finished in 32:07, which was 718th overall of about 8800 runners, 23rd of 1223 in her age group and 92nd of 4320 females. I know I could do even better so I am motivated now to have a goal for next year. No more cake mud walks. This warrior is serious now! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!

Screw your shoes

Saturday was our MUDD running club’s Frosty 50K/50M. Because of the aforementioned achilles and knee problems, and that I haven’t been training for it, I didn’t sign up. But, I still wanted to go and be an encouragement and support to my friends who were crazy enough to spend 8 hours or so running the snow-covered hills at Veteran Acres … and maybe get in a few miles myself.

My husband and I decided to run one 5-mile loop with our friend Scott who completed his second 50k that day, awesome! I had two major concerns about this endeavor: cold, wet feet and slipping on the snowy hills.

Because the weather has been so warm, we’d barely had any snow or ice this winter until the week before. I am not confident about my ability to keep footing and I REALLY didn’t want to do something to hurt my already sore knee or heaven forbid the “good” one! Besides, the only shoes I have to run in right now are summer road shoes with a mesh top (great in the summer, not great when you are considering a windchill factor). I thought about buying shoes with a non-breathing upper but wasn’t ready to commit to a new pair of shoes just yet (do I buy trail shoes which is where I do most of my running or road shoes in preparation for the half marathon in March?). I hemmed and hawed for a few days.

In the meantime, I looked into YakTrax, which you can slip onto any pair of shoes, as a compromise. They are expensive though and nobody’s raving about them.

Then I heard about screw shoes. Now, this sounds more like my style. Cheap, anyway.

Saturday morning, I had to take Avery around town to find some new snow boots (What kind of snow boots allow water in so my poor baby’s socks are soaked and her toes freezing? Fashion ones. I won’t make that mistake again!) so I stopped at Goodwill and found, as I had prayed for, not one but two pairs of size 10 Skechers with synthetic leather uppers. The $5 I spent on one pair was worth the investment to test out screwing the bottoms.

So, I stopped at Menards next door and picked up a 100 pack of 3/8” hex head sheet metal screws for about $2. (You can use 1/2” for most shoes, but these had a pretty thin sole.)

Okay, so I had Matt do the labor for me, screwing 8 into treads of each shoe with his cordless drill. Just in time for us to go meet Scott for miles 20-25. We spent more time hanging around and waiting at the pavilion than we did running so I was cold (and thankful for a warm fire). Running warmed me up though, the weather actually was just about perfect for a winter running event. My feet were (mostly) dry and warm and the screws were great for gripping the hills (though I was still cautious especially on downhills). So glad we waited around after we finished too, I was honored to run a .75 mile loop with my friend Brandi who was finishing up her 50K. I had a harder time with the deeper snow though, where there hadn’t been as much traffic yet.

But overall I was pleased. What an easy, quick, inexpensive to a problem. For $7 I have a pair of winter and sloppy weather running shoes! This is definitely not the last time I will be screwing my shoes. Especially this spring when the snow melts and the ground turns to a muddy mush, I know I’ll be prepared to run like a true MUDDer!

Running like crazy

I finally read the last page of the “controversial” book Born to Run by Christopher McDougal. It was a fun, interesting read (albeit a bit ADHD) and incredibly eye-opening at the same time. I feel a bit like I am the last to know about minimalist or barefoot running (I did *notice* the FiveFingers shoes and disregarded those runners as crazy). But I figured I’d write about it, just in case there are others like me who just love running and don’t so much follow the trends. But you might want to take a look at this one. It’s a new idea that’s really not new at all, which is my favorite kind. And it goes against what most consider to be conventional wisdom, even of doctors, major shoe companies and running magazines. Bonus!

The author suggests that our bodies were built for running. Imagine that, a perfect Intellectual design! It was only with the advent of the modern running shoe in the 70s (blame Nike here) that people focused on longer strides and striking heel first, which has led to injury-prone runners (who then visit podiatrists and buy new shoes … sound suspicious at all?).

More complexity, higher technology, super cushioning, pronation prevention and stability control cost more money and are marketed to help runners avoid injury. However, all that technology actually interferes with how the muscles of the foot and leg respond to the ground. One researcher remarked that the extra cushioning is akin to navigating in the dark. Without tactical input, the foot is missing adequate stimulation to avoid injury. And, in fact, weakening the arch and other foot muscles, causing common running injuries like plantar fasciitis. Running is, no doubt, hard on the body. But McDougal adds that attempting to protect the body this way is like wrapping an egg in cushioning then slamming it onto a hard surface. It will still crack.

I was suddenly grateful that I have always bought cheap shoes! They may actually be better for you in the long run. And you really may be better off in your old, worn-out shoes than new-fangled ones with all the bells and whistles (don’t miss this part: *especially* if you have flat arches, pronate or are prone to injury). Of course, if you want, you can jump in on the trend that brand manufacturers are taking advantage of and buy a minimalist running shoe at a price. Or, go old school and wear inexpensive plimsolls like our parents used to.

The key is to run the way your body is meant to. When done correctly, the body is built to absorb the shock.

The best way to describe the “correct” way to run is to mimic the body form of sprinting: torso leaning forward, knees bent, landing on your foot’s midsole. Take off in the grass barefoot and you’ll start to understand. Run like a kid again! When I watch my son run, he has perfect natural form. And he’s fast. It’s awkward at first to change my stride and the way that I run, but it’s starting to feel more natural after a couple weeks. I must be doing something right because my calf muscles are killing me. As an aside, while I agree that there’s some awkward changes, the important thing is to feel what’s natural. I don’t think everyone should try to copy a particular person’s running style. Have you ever seen women’s marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe run? Did somebody just NOT tell her she’s not supposed to bob her head while running? She holds the women’s course record for the Chicago Marathon from 2002 also. I remember because she finished just as I crossed the halfway point. Ugh. I tried to mimic her style to see if it helped me run faster or longer at the time. It didn’t. So, keep it simple. Run what comes natural, just natural without the “aid” of running shoes.

The realization that shoe marketing is misleading will come gradually as runners figure out the truth, which they have been and will continue to when they actually try it.

Granted, I’ve read one book. I maybe should have done a little research of my own before I jumped on the bandwagon, but author Christopher McDougal already did all that work for me! From high-tech science labs to the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s treacherous Copper Canyons, his adventure to search for answers makes for a pretty rock solid case that everything we thought we knew about running was wrong.

He builds the case following a cast of characters (a bunch of lovable but crazy people, if you ask me) who in the end become friends in a fifty-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country, that pits the rag-tag bunch of Americans against the tribe. It’s a compelling, heartwarming (leave it to me to get emotional!) story.

My favorite quote of the book is a life lesson we could all learn from and is a Biblical principal, even if the book isn’t at all spiritual. It was about Scott Jurek, whose journey to become a star ultrarunner started in high school in the back of the pack and launched when he ran, and came in second, in his first 50-mile ultra on a dare by a college buddy. His passion for running was more about connecting with others and being a part of something outside himself: “But the joy he got from running was the joy of adding his power to the pack. Other runners try to disassociate from fatigue by blasting iPods or imagining the roar of the crowd in the stadium, but Scott had a simpler method: it’s easy to get outside yourself when you’re thinking about someone else.”

I got chills when I read that not only because I’ve never been able to articulate my desire to keep my mind in tune with my body and surroundings when I’m running but because it’s a principal for life. In our small group, we often talk about life’s paradoxes. God seems to turn everything upside down from the way that we think it should be. Because so much of what the author writes sounds upside down, I’m thinking he just may be on to something. Injured? Run with less support instead of more. Feeling pain? Embrace it, run faster. Exhausted and feeling sorry for yourself? Find out how your neighbor’s doing. Afraid? Take a leap of faith and do something crazy.

I’m thinking I need to get in touch with my crazy side more often.

“I have not been called to the wisdom of this world
But to a God who is calling out to me
And even though the world my think
I’m losing touch with reality
It would be crazy
To choose this world over eternity

Call me crazy
You can call me crazy
Call me crazy”

Warrior dashers

Warrior DashWarriors Kristi, Sara, Katie and Matt

Crazy. Haven’t you ever just wanted to do something crazy, just for the sake of saying “I did that.”? Okay, maybe it’s just me. Anyway, last year my running buddy Susan and I ran in the Warrior Dash in Joliet. We were a little nervous but a lot excited to try something new and different. We were hoping to get a group to join us but everyone was full of excuses (okay, okay, so it did fall on Father’s Day)! However, that just made us even more determined. In the end, we had a blast! The run was hot and muddy and the obstacles a challenge but the satisfaction that came with the finish line made it all so worth it. After we survived and came back with pictures and stories, we were able to pique interest for this year’s event in Channahon (the location and obstacles vary).

So, yesterday, I was able to tackle the treacherous 3.28 obstacle-filled miles with a group of 7, including my husband, Matt! It’s definitely more fun with more runners, even though we were all of different abilities. Some of my friends were very thankful for some of the obstacles because they provided rest from the cardio, including Matt who is a superfast climber! I was really slowed down by most of obstacles (which were MUCH harder than last year, seriously!) but had no trouble with the running, even the monstrous hills, so that evened things out at least between the two of us.

There was lots of mud and water, walls to scale, fire poles to slide down, cargo nets and ropes galore, tires to jump, “stairs” to climb, cars to scramble over, muddy embankments to slip and slide up and down, a fire to leap over, and a two feet of mud to crawl underneath barbed wire. Oh, and when you are all done, get sprayed down with a fire hose! What’s not to like?!? Tip: Bring several junk towels and be prepared to leave your shoes and even some clothes on site. Please note that the picture above is *after* cleanup.

It’s definitely an event to remember. If you ever get the opportunity to run in something like this, get a group together and just go for it. Novice and expert runners are welcome! Your average 5k time is no indicator of how you will do, although the more your run beforehand, the better. The median time for the event is about 50 minutes. Of 8,200 finishers on Sunday, less than 20% were below 40 minutes. There also are lots of walkers who are there for the experience and some take up to 2 hours to finish.

Warrior Dash map

In the end, my husband and I crossed the finish line hand in hand in 36 minutes. It was INTENSE. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Video taken by one of our crew before and after the run: Warriors on Youtube

Ahhh … spring!

There is just something about spring! I just cannot deny that it feels so good to come out of the dead of winter with warm breezes, hope for fun summer plans and … deer on the trail! I saw two sets of 2-3 deer two times this morning (usually by the second pass, they are long gone). It was a great morning run and I am looking forward to hitting the trail more regularly—and to running with my friend who took the winter “off,” instead of going solo. I don’t blame her, I usually don’t run once it goes below 30 either.

But, this year I successfully survived my first “run through the winter” challenge. I ran 120 miles between November 1 (about when I usually quit) and February 28, averaging about one run per week. I missed a few weeks due to Bilzzaster 2011 and snot-freezing temperatures, of course. I did make up for some of that with a week in February—the only week I ran that month—when I did 4 runs in 4 days. There also were the 40 miles I ran the week I was in Arizona for Christmas. But still, that total is about 120 more miles than I usually cover in the winter! And I usually barely get started by March so I am way ahead this year. Bonus: I gained 3-5 pounds instead of 15-20. My weight goal was to stay under 135. Honestly, I did not think it was possible with Thanksgiving, Christmas, yummy winter comfort foods and … general hibernation. But I am breaking all kinds of rules these days so I am so excited to have made it to (nearly) spring with that goal in tact.

It helps that I continued to watch my diet. I haven’t changed much except to allow a few more indulges. Unfortunately, candy is still a problem. I recently started to allow myself some candy now and then. It was okay at first, but it quickly escalated to the point where I would eat half a large bag of peanut M&Ms in a day. It blew my mind. It just goes to show how messed up people are. I am so ecstatic to have reached my goal weight and I feel really great about myself, better than I have in a long time. I learned my lesson, right, I now see how important it is to be careful about unhealthy snacks. I finally have what I want … and it’s not *that.* Yet, I still find myself with my hand in the candy bowl.

So, I’ve got to be more intentional about having treats in moderation. For anyone who has quit soda cold turkey knows (and I don’t know anyone whose done this successfully for more than a few weeks), sugar is an addiction! Okay, maybe in their cases it’s the caffeine … and I suppose it could be for me as well since my primary vice is chocolate. Either way, the more I have, the more I crave. It was definitely harder not to go for those comfort foods in the winter, so it’s just another reason to sing the praises of spring!

Back at it

I have been eating as if each day was a birthday party and not exercising, so … you do the math. It is amagaZING how quickly we can fall out of good habits and into bad ones. 3 weeks. That is all it took. Actually, all it took all of a few days. Once the decision was made to break the cycle, I found it easy to just keep right on going. Not that I am making excuses, but I am not without reason. After a super-crazy-busy week before Charlie’s birthday, school started. Adjusting to the new schedule has taken some time and we are all still pretty exhausted. Getting up BEFORE the family rises at 6:45am is out of the question. But, I was able to trade back with a previous small group member who had lent me her double stroller so that I could take Charlie on the trail with my old single while Avery is at school. So, the past 3 of 4 days I was once again hitting the pavement–albeit slowly (I might as well have rested for three years, not 3 weeks!) but I’m out there. I’m hoping to relax the tension on my waistband before the snow hits the ground or I am going to be replacing my wardrobe before Christmas!