Water aerobics? Yes, please!

I’m totally doing water aerobics when I get older.  When I went to the pool yesterday for a little hour-long aquajog, I stumbled across one of the liveliest groups of senior citizens I’ve ever seen and it wasn’t just because they were laughing and chatting so loud that I thought I was the butt of their joke.  These sisters were getting after their fitness in the shallow end!  Rockin’ out to The Mamas & The Papas, early Billy Joel and Earth, Wind & Fire, these blue-haired divas sported adorable non-skirted one pieces and sass to match.  I bet the lifeguard teachers love heading up those classes!

It’s easy to laugh at the idea of things like water aerobics because we associate it with old people activities and the idea of old people activities sounds stale and likely smells a bit like mothballs.  Don’t shoot the messenger, but the reality of it is that we’re all going to be old someday, and it’s how we approach those golden years that will make them enjoyable or simply place us in God’s waiting room.  I completely buy into the theory that you are as old as you feel… well, maybe not always physically, because any distance runner can tell you that there are days when you know there are more spry 80 year olds out there.

I regularly find myself being told that I do not look all of my 29 years and while that can be annoying at times, I often appreciate that observation and enjoy the fact that my age doesn’t even really match my mindset.  Sure, I have the life experience of a 29-year-old and find myself wise beyond my years in some capacities, but my approach to living matches the enthusiasm and somewhat reckless abandon of someone who just doesn’t know how not to try.  I don’t know when or even if there will come a turning point when I “grow up” and either lose that approach or realize it’s best to just tone things down, but if I want to continue enjoying my experiences, feeling young & lively and believe that failure is not an option, I have to block out that little voice that tells me, “No!”  Why should getting older mean having less fun?  I’m still meeting people, learning new things all of the time and discovering just exactly what it is that makes me, well, me.  If one day those things just cease to exist, I might just have to knock on that waiting room door and ask, “Mind if I cut?”

Living where I do, I see a, um, mature population all of the time and can’t help but notice how different the life in the years of some people can be.  You’ve got your “Don’t look a day over 65” 90-year-olds and your “Help! I might break a hip!” 65-year olds.  Given my diatribe on aging and my genetics (you’d never actually correctly guess how old Carol and Dan are.  Trust me.), I’ll likely be the former, and am most definitely terrified of the latter.  While my hips and knees may not age flawlessly, I’d like to think that if the time comes, modern medicine can help a sister out and get me back into the active world within a few weeks.  In the meantime, I can join the ladies at the pool and work on my tan while staying cool… and whisper about that cute lifeguard boy and how my granddaughter would be perfect for him.

Post 60-minute water run. The ladies of the shallow end had sadly departed, but I know they really would have appreciated my commitment to looking cute in an argyle bikini while being sporty.

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Un-booted!

It turns out I run something of a hotel for runners out of my place and I kind of like it!  I’ve had long-term guests, overnight guests and week-long guests and most of them have been runners who were in town to see the magician, John Ball, to fix their running ailments.  It’s always interesting to get other people’s perspectives on a variety of things or to witness habits and tendencies, but mostly I really enjoy making new friends in the running community because we’re a small little circle, so it’s nice to be able to go to a meet and say hi to more than one or two people.

As I may have implied earlier, I had a bit of a hiccup with my left foot, my calcaneus to be exact, and had to keep almost all of my weight off of that foot when I was not actually running a track workout.  As you may imagine, my life quickly flooded with marathon Alter G sessions (one long run where I seran wrapped my laptop to the monitor so I could watch “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Mad Men” to pass the time) and a whole lot of biking in order to maintain my fitness.  Therein lies (laid?)  the problem.  I maintained fitness instead of improving it and had a race at the High Performance Meet at Occidental College in LA last weekend that reinforced that fact to me.  While my head was fully engaged in the race- a departure from my first steeple at Payton Jordan- and my instincts were to stay out of trouble near the front of the pack, I simply ran out of gas with about 3 laps to go.  Yeah, it was disappointing, but I showed up to the meet hotel in a walking boot to be nice to my heel; clearly I was not at my best.

Today, Saturday, marks the day that I get out of that clunky thing and can start motoring around town in matching footwear once again.  Very exciting, but also a little scary.  I want to make sure I am treating my foot right and doing as much for it as I can when I am not running.  I have a 30-40 minute run this morning in a cool 70 degrees (that’s practically hoodie weather after the 103+ degree weather we’ve been having) that I hope will help to reinforce what my team has told me: you’re ready.  I race in Portland on June 9th and I am looking for a “third time’s the charm” kind of situation where all of my stepped up training will pay off.  I’m focused, getting more prepared every day, seeing the people I need to see, and have nothing short of crazy desire to hit my standard.  I don’t necessarily believe that if you want something bad enough, you’ll get it because that seems reckless, like you’re simply leaving things up to fate.  I believe in preparation, a method.  I believe that with the right amount of work, heart, desire and a little bit of luck, you have the ability to make your wildest aspirations a reality.

Now I gotta get off my couch and get to the Greenbelt for my run.  Happy Memorial Day weekend, y’all!

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Here’s day 1 with the boot. Don’t even ask why I’m smiling.

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Immediate popsicle melting weather is upon us in AZ

It’s hot.  Damn hot.  Real hot.  And it’s only going to get hotter.  “How exciting!” says the runner in me with a strong insinuation of sarcasm.  I was up before 6am this morning so I could get to the track before things really started heating up, and even then it was almost 90 when I started my workout.  I saw my friend, Ryan, also a Michigan native, at the track and asked him how he was ever able to get used to the heat.  He didn’t really have a good answer for me, other than you have to shift the times that you workout and head out for runs.  Fair enough, but it gets so hot in AZ in the summer that it never truly cools down at night and in the early morning.  I sense some uncomfortable workouts and perhaps a lot of treadmill time this summer to escape the heat, but with the right amount of focus, hydration, preparation and sweat towels around, I think I’ll be able to do this.  Man, I can’t wait for even more extreme sports bra tan lines…

This might seem hot, but not too bad, except for the fact that it’s the forecast for MAY 16. Not August 16.

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PS- it was 108 degrees in my car tonight at 6:40. Ugh.

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A swift kick to the rear

This is an Olympic year; it’s big.  You’re an athlete and we’re going to do this.

This was what my coach said to me this past weekend when I was on the verge of a pity party due to having a hiccup with my left foot.  I had been a little mopey and worried about how my fitness was going to fare with some restrictions on my dry land running, but Chris gave me a strong dose of reality in the best way possible and it got rid of my cranial-rectal inversion pretty much immediately.  I’m feeling more confident in my running than I have in a while, despite the fact that I am doing considerably less of it right now.  Sometimes you just need brutal honesty to get yourself out of a pit of despair.  Thanks, coach.

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What’s another 4 letter word for fail? BONK

So it turns out that when I bonk, I bonk HARD.  I had my first steeple of the season at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, CA and I was feeling ready.  I had a time goal in mind, but that took a backseat to my primary goal of staying competitive and mentally tough throughout the race.  On Sunday, I managed to run one of the most unsuccessful openers of my career most likely because I failed miserably in the mental toughness department.  Off the line it was a giant cluster of women vying for good position within the pack while heading into the hazard of the most dangerous first barrier, which is 200 meters into the race.  Things never actually seemed to spread out, at least not while I was actually in a competitive position within the race.  Imagine trying to hurdle a barrier while surrounded closely on all sides by women who are also trying to make room for themselves while also trying to avoid errant legs, arms, spikes and elbows.  Hot mess.  Even in the first lap I felt discouraged and irritated by the bunching but it did not dawn on me to throw in a surge and make a move to get around the traffic.  That might have saved my race.  Instead, I chose to slowly drift to the verrrrry back of the back and just run my own, much slower race.  Not a great idea, and the fact that I had several terrible water jumps due to the bunching and a wonky landing in the pit certainly didn’t help my cause.

I ended up running 25 seconds slower that I had planned, had sluggish legs and never fully engaged in the actual race that was happening way up front where my fitness indicated I should have been.  And I think I sprained my big toe.  Insult?  Meet injury.  What a gong show.

I was pretty disappointed in my performance, as you may imagine, but I don’t have any choice but to pinpoint my failings in this race, work on them for my next race and move the heck on.  Bigger and much faster things await me, so if I have to have any feelings towards the opener being a giant dud, I choose to feel like I can’t take racing opportunities for granted and need to be prepared on all fronts of my race if I want to reach the goals my coach and I have set for me.

After seeing several friends run killer races this past weekend, I could easily be more disappointed in my own race, but I’m not choosing that route at all.  I am very happy for my friends’ success, and it doesn’t take away from my own goals or success, in fact, it should simply motivate me to train smarter, be on top of my pre-hab and know that even though we run different events, we’re supportive of each other and all in this qualifying thing together.  A friend once told me that I can only be concerned with me because what everyone else is doing is not going to make me better or worse.  It’s true; I’m in control of my own preparation and my individual approach to things may be different than someone else’s, but that shouldn’t make me question my process.

I’ve always had a positive attitude towards things- even when training was terrible or I was injured- and that has afforded me some great opportunities, so even if things didn’t go as I planned this past weekend, I need to understand that I can leave that race there, resume my training and focus on my next valuable racing opportunity.  One in the same?  I think so.

Enjoy a few photos from the water jump portion of my race.  This may provide a little more context for the jumble of appendages I referenced.

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Heading through the first water jump at Payton Jordan.  There’s actually more cluster behind me.

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Getting on my mean face outta the pit.

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This has been deemed my “Kung Fu Fighting” photo.  Yes, it was a little bit frightening.

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Being a horse, but with a cute outfit

Hey all-

So I talk about the steeplechase a lot because it’s my signature event, but some of you may still be in the dark as to what I actually do.  When I explain the event to a layperson, I often ask, “Have you ever seen the horse race where they jump over barriers and water?”  Usually people can understand that but then think I’m an equestrienne, which is actually the opposite of what I do; I’m the horse jumping over those barriers and water on a track.  Basically the event breaks down to this:

-The race is 3,000 meters (200m shy of two miles)

-I have to jump over a 30″ immobile barrier every 80 meters

-I have a 12′ long water jump that I have to almost completely clear (I only get one foot wet) each lap.

What I like about this race is that every 80 meters, I am facing a new race, which helps to break up the monotony of some distance races.  I started steepling as a junior at the University of Michigan and have been loving it ever since.  I did my first water jumps of the year today and got them on video.  Though they’re not my best, I thought I’d show you what a water jump looks like.  I should be staying lower while pushing off the water barrier, but I’m lucky to have long legs, so even though I popped up, I still get pretty far in the pit.  Check it.

I race tonight at 6:22pm Pacific time and what’s completely awesome is that Flotrack is doing a live feed of this high performance meet, so you can watch my race.  I’m in the second section of the women’s steeple and will be shooting for my Olympic Trials “A” standard of 9:55.

Allie Kieffer, who is running the 10k tonight and also shooting for her Olympic Trials “A” standard (32:45), has been one of my travel buddies for the meet so we thought it only appropriate to get a track photo:

Allie and me, the giant

Doing some hurdle drills to warm up

Getting over some back-and-forth barriers

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Point: Dave Brandon

Clearly my diatribe on the Michigan Marching Band not making the trip to Texas for the Cowboys Classic had a profound effect of U-M Athletic Director Dave Brandon.  Check the link below from my favorite Michigan Football blog, MGoBlog:

http://mgoblog.com/content/band-dallas-brandon-jerryworld-dollars

The blog directs you to this formal update:

http://annarbor.com/sports/um-football/michigan-marching-band-informed-it-will-be-attending-2012-football-opener-in-texas/

OK, I know it wasn’t all me and my mad amounts of Benjamins getting the band to TX, but I’d like to think that with the support of you fabulous readers, we helped to contribute to the cause.  You’ll see me on September 1 in Cowboys Stadium rockin’ appropriate “Go Blue” apparel, losing my voice to the fight song and high fiving every single person around me after touchdowns.  Don’t worry, the experience will be documented!

Prepare to be dwarfed, young scoreboard.

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