Wednesday, December 14, 2016

#WellnessWednesday - Workout Adventures in DC

I took a break from blogging recently due to my annual trip back to DC and my crazy work schedule the weeks leading up to trip.   In this week’s #WellnessWednesday post, I wanted to tell you about the gyms I visited while in the DC metro area.

My old neighborhood and morning running route

The metro

Christmas tree at my old metro stop

The afternoon of my first full day in the DC area was spent at one of my old gyms, X Sport Fitness - Merrifield.  I remember this gym being built and joining as a charter member before the gym had even opened. I don't recall how much the monthly membership was, but it was low enough to capture my attention. 

X Sport is on the main level of one of the first two buildings constructed as part of a brand new development called the Mosaic District.  When I moved back to the Midwest in 2011, they had started construction on the other phases but only the front two buildings were complete.  Now the Mosaic District has just exploded and continues to expand both towards Dunn Loring Metro Station and towards my old office.

I remember swimming laps several mornings a week at X Sport.  I regularly used their whirlpool and sauna.  This is where my running journey began and I met the trainer that showed me that I could run, I just had to start slow (actually I just never sped up J).  All the equipment was shiny and new and I don’t remember any equipment breaking down and being out of order.  I had this image in my mind of how things used to be when I went into X Sport that day, and I was definitely let down.  The daily pass used to be $16 or $20 and now it was only $10.  The Yelp and Google reviews talk about how crowded this gym gets around 5 p.m. and how it is very difficult and confusing to cancel your membership.  Back when there were only two buildings in this new district, we didn't have the crowding issue and cancelling my membership was a breeze.

I still wanted to try it, so I went in a purchased my day pass.  To my surprise, staff did not have me fill out a liability form or guest information sheet - nothing!  That was odd, but I still wanted to work out so it didn't phase me.  I ended up staying at X Sport for a few hours that day.  I used an elliptical, treadmill, some of the weight machines, and the steam room.  I was excited to try X Sport again but also disappointed to see that the gym had not been maintained well.  It just wasn’t as good as I remembered, but it also really made me appreciate the gym I work at in St. Louis and it made me very proud of how hard we work to maintain and then regularly upgrade our equipment.   In the end a $10 day pass to a gym with an indoor pool, steam room and saunas in the locker rooms, rows and rows of cardio equipment, and a variety of classes is still worth it.

Thursday of that same week I ended up taking a Body Pump class in Bethesda and an interval training class in the Mosaic District.  Body Pump was scheduled via my favorite fitness app, Class Pass, but more on the app another day.  I haven’t taken a Body Pump class in years, so I was excited!  The class was taught at the Sport and Health in Bethesda.

I didn’t have an opportunity to tour the whole gym and I was strictly there for Body Pump but from what I did see, the locker rooms were clean and quite large, fitness studios and sport courts were on upper levels away from the main cardio and weight area, they offered towel service, and they had free coffee!  Since this class was from Noon - 1:00 p.m. on a weekday, there were less than 10 of us in the class.  The instructor made the effort to ask the names of those of us she did not already know.  The equipment was what I remembered, just an updated style and the format was the same, just newer music.  I knew I would be sore from this class, but I continued to push through the moves even if I had to decrease my weight all the way down to body weight only.  If you have the opportunity to take a Body Pump class, I highly recommend trying it out.  Don’t be intimidated by those using more weight than you, they had to start somewhere too!

By Thursday evening, I was back on the Virginia side of the metro area and back in the Mosaic District.  I signed up for a 5:30 p.m. class at Elevate Interval Fitness through the Class Pass app.

When I signed up for the class, they sent me an email confirming my reservation and sending me a few tips to prepare me for my first visit:
  • Arrive 15 minutes early. We'll have some paperwork for you to fill out and the coach will give you a walk through right before class.
  • Bring a photo ID.
  • Wear athletic clothes and shoes and bring water. You may need it. 
  • We offer smart lockers and showers, so if you have valuables or need to wash up after, we have you covered.  
  • If you can't make it, please call or email us and let us know so we can give your space to someone else and reschedule your Introductory Workout.
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day and get a light meal in at least 90 minutes before the workout.
  • Don't forget to inquire about our 1-Week Trial offer after your workout!
What drew me to the class at this gym was that it sounded a lot like classes offered at Orangetheory, Shred415, and other treadmill classes I have taken before.  Little did I know that this would be much more difficult than I had anticipated.

When I walked into Elevate, a staff member greeted me immediately. After I signed a waiver, he introduced me to the trainer of the class I would be taking.  I explained that I had taken classes with a similar format, but was brand new to this particular gym.  The set-up was very similar to Shred415 in St. Louis. There were several lockers available for members but also a few cubbies in the classroom itself.  There were restrooms, showers, and towels available for your workout.  There were three of us that were new to Elevate that night, so the trainer showed us around the classroom, showed us how to use the equipment, and how the format of the class is displayed on the overhead tv's.  It all made sense and seemed straight forward at first.

The warm-up included running specific distances on the treadmill followed by push-ups on the treadmill and then kettlebell swings before repeating the combination.  Difficult, but a simple enough pattern to follow even though I was slower than everyone else.  After the warm-up, we partnered up and alternated between treadmill work and riding the wind bikes.  This is where I got lost.  I kept looking up at the overhead tv's and then watched the demonstration by the trainer, and I still wasn't clear on what we were supposed to do and when.  We turned the treadmills on manual mode for this segment.  Now I have used this treadmill brand in manual mode before, but only to run.  This time, we were doing walking planks and donkey kicks in manual mode which is beyond difficult for someone like me that is still working on even perfecting the plank.  Because my core is weak, I opt to do planks from my knees in fitness classes (which usually isn't an issue), but the trainer of this class just would not let me do that.  Although he kept encouraging me and correcting my form, I just got more and more frustrated with myself because I lacked the core strength to do the walking plank and donkey kicks without wobbling and falling frequently.  I was so frustrated and embarrassed and just wanted to quit.....but I didn't.  I did the best that I could and then switched my partner.

Once that segment was over, I was hoping for something that would be "easier," but our next station included segments on the TRX.  Ugh!  Again, core strength is required, so I did the best that I could until the timer hit 0:00.  I was glad that I tried this workout, but my body just was not prepared for it.  This workout was far more difficult than any of the treadmill classes I have ever taken, including those at Shred415, but it showed me what I needed to work on.....which is apparently a lot!

After the class, the gentleman at the desk asked me what I thought, and I was honest and told him that it was the most difficult workout in recent memory.  As I waited for my ride, I told him how I used to be a member at X Sport when it was brand new and before Elevate was even built.  He said that this location had been open over a year and they were still building their membership.  Within the Mosaic District there is a Zengo cycling studio, Solidcore fitness studio, X Sport fitness, and a Gold's Gym close by.  Closer to the metro station there is also a brand new Orangetheory, so there is a lot of competition within a few miles.  I really hope that they continue to grow, because it is a tough workout and worth a visit.  I just hope that I am much, much, much stronger the next time I take a class at Elevate Interval Fitness!      

My week in DC ended with my bachelorette party.  I rarely drink and I didn't want a "typical" bachelorette party, so I opted to get a few girlfriends together for tapas followed by candlelight tours of colonial-era sites in Old Town Alexandria.  The picture below was taken at Gadsby's Restaurant and Museum, where the ladies forced me to dance with this gentleman during the English Country Dancing demonstration.  I honestly would not have tried it had they not forced me, but I was so glad that I did it.

This trip made me realize that although I seek out the abnormal and the unique, I also tend to live in my comfort zone a little too often.  I just need to keep pushing and stop comparing myself to the person on the treadmill next to me and stop being embarrassed that I can't do something 100% correct yet.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Turkey Trot STL - St. Charles course

On Thanksgiving Day 2015, I ran the Hungry Turkey 5k race held in downtown St. Louis prior to the Thanksgiving Day parade. Because there are so many Turkey Trots in the St. Louis metro area, I decided to try a different location in 2016, so I signed up for the Turkey Trot STL - St. Charles course.  The St. Charles race started and ended at the Family Arena and although the course was not scenic compared to the Hungry Turkey race, I wanted to try a race in my old neighborhood.  

Race Highlights:
  • Great pre-race communication with weather prediction, parking information, directions, and race day instructions
  • Packet pick-up available on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Fleet Feet store or on race day
  • Multiple swag options including the option to receive a $10 gift card instead of swag (which I chose since I need new Adrenalines!)
  • No official corrals or wave start, but there was an attempt made to line people up by pace
  • Plenty of porta potties
  • Personalized post-race email with your finish time
  • Many runners dress up for this race
  • All ages and paces seemed to be represented
  • 3,000 finishers in the St. Charles race alone
  • Post race snacks were distributed through two tents with multiple lines each for chocolate milk, bananas, granola bars, and pastries

Waiting to start!

The only down sides to this race were:
  • Congestion for most of the course due to the width of the course and by people not lining up by their correct pace. I ended up running on the other side of the posts because I could not pass otherwise.
  • Getting into the parking lot was easy, leaving was not.  There are so many parking lots around downtown St. Louis that leaving the Hungry Turkey race in 2015 was a breeze, even with the traffic for the parade that followed the race.  But at this Turkey Trot in St. Charles, it took me almost as long to exit the parking lot as it did to run the race (and you know that I am not fast).  Now patience is a virtue, so be sure to pack your patience if you run this race and remember to be kind. 😊
I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!  Until next time...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

#WellnessWednesday - Heart Rate Based Training Clinic at Big River Running

Last Thursday evening, I took a class called Treading at NutriFormance gym.  Pasted below is the class description:

An instructor will cue you through changing intensity levels by manipulating speeds and simulating a variety of terrain. Take your treadmill workout to the next level. Heart rate monitors are recommended.

My trusty Polar heart rate monitor shows that during the 45 minute class, I burned 800 calories (including pre-workout warm-up and post-workout cool down)!  My average heart rate was 155 and my maximum heart rate hit 185 beats per minute.  The Treading class was tough and left me sweaty and breathless.  Even though the other participants around me were running at faster paces, I never felt left out or like I was behind in any way.  In addition to being a great class, it was also a perfect way to kill time before the Heart Rate Based Training Clinic at Big River Running - West County, which was scheduled for 7:00 p.m. 

At some point, my name and phone number were added to the marketing list for Orangetheory Fitness because I get a call from one of their St. Louis area locations about once each month.  Every time they call, I am offered a free class if I wanted to come in and check it out.  Why don't I take advantage of this offer?  From what I have read, my Polar heart rate monitor would not be compatible with their system, so I would have to purchase their heart rate monitor.  No thanks!  I am still intrigued by Orangetheory's workouts and heart rate zone training, so this workshop was a perfect way to get more information without being pressured to purchase a membership.

The presenters for this workshop included a personal trainer/coach and a manager from one of the St. Louis area Orangetheory Fitness studios.  The personal trainer/coach started by telling us about the many benefits of high intensity interval training, especially for runners (see below).  My notes just quote the trainer when he said that running longer doesn't make you faster; running faster will make you a faster runner.  

The trainer then explained the different training zones used at Orangetheory Fitness and how to calculate the lower and upper limits for your zones:

I used the first and simplest formula from the options above and then I noted my lower and upper limits for each zone on our handouts.

In order to take advantage of the Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) effect that Orangetheory bases their workouts on, you must stay in Zone 4 or the Orange Zone for 12-20 minutes during your workout.  By meeting that goal, you have a greater EPOC effect which means that you end up burning more calories in the 24-hours following your workout than if you had stayed in Zone 1, 2, or 3 the entire time.  I personally love seeing the number of calories that I burned during my workout, so knowing that I could be burning even more post-workout was exciting news!

Since I had just completed the Treading class, I had a great example to compare to the Heart Rate Zones from Orangetheory.  My Polar heart rate monitor has three intensity zones rather than Heart Rate Zones, but they are adjustable and similar to the five Heart Rate Zones above.  

  • Intensity Zone 1 = 93 - 101 beats per minute
  • Intensity Zone 2 = 102 - 138 beats per minute
  • Intensity Zone 3 = 139 - 175 beats per minute

During the Treading class for example, I stayed in intensity zone 3 for 46 minutes, intensity zone 2 for 6 minutes, and intensity zone 1 for 6 minutes.  So although my Polar intensity zones don't compare apples-to-apples with the Heart Rate Zones, I am going to assume that at least 12 of those 46 minutes were spent in Zone 4/Orange Zone, meaning that I was able to take advantage of the EPOC effect.

Going forward, I may adjust the intensity zones on my Polar heart rate monitor to more closely match the Heart Rate Zones so that I can make sure I stay in Zone 4/Orange Zone for at least 12 minutes.  Now that I know about the EPOC effect, I want to achieve it as often as possible!

This workshop was definitely worth my time, especially since I have my own heart rate monitor.  Without a heart rate monitor, I think I would have been a bit lost without that basis for comparison.  I LOVE my Polar heart rate monitor and it syncs with a most of the cardio machines at the various gyms I visit, but there are other brands out there.  Orangetheory Fitness has gyms located throughout the U.S. and abroad.  Check out their list of studios here.  I believe all locations will give you the first class free, so check them out if you have the chance.  

Weekly Goals:
  1. Plan meals for the week days - 50% Met - Still struggling but I did at least opt for the lower fat/healthier options when purchasing items for our Thanksgiving meal.
  2. Practice Yoga at least once per week - 0% Met - I downloaded the Down Dog app but haven't had time to use it yet. I know.  It should be so easy, yet I make it seem so impossible.
  3. Run at least twice per week - GOAL MET  - I took the Treading class and a treadmill class at Shred415 this week.  
  4. Foam roll at least once per week - GOAL MET - I foam rolled once last week and again this morning.
  5. Attend a boot camp at least once per week - GOAL MET - YES!!!!  I am double counting the Shred415 class here because we were on the treadmill half the class and then at weight stations the other half,  I took a boot camp at a gym near my house this morning too.

Have a great Thanksgiving and good luck to everyone running Turkey Trots tomorrow!!!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

#WellnessWednesday - FREE class at Sweat Gym

If you didn't know this about me already, I LOVE Groupon because saving money is an absolute thrill for me.  Every few days I scroll through the deals and if they meet my criteria of either being a good deal or something/someplace I have wanted to try but didn't want to pay full price for, I will make a purchase.

Several of my Facebook friends have checked in or mentioned a gym in Clayton, MO called Sweat.  It is a boxing gym that also offers personal training, corrective exercise, massage therapy, and nutrition counseling.  When I saw the Groupon offering four weeks of unlimited boxing classes for $39 instead of the normal $80, I clicked "purchase" right away.

The next day I emailed Sweat to see how I could get started with the Groupon and they informed me that my first class was FREE and did not count against my Groupon.  In fact, EVERYONE gets their first class free.

I decided that I wanted to go ahead and use my free class this past Saturday at 9 a.m. for the Punchers Class.  I selected this class in particular because it is supposed to teach you:

I have taken boxing boot camps before but I still could not tell you the difference between a jab, cross, hook, etc. and I wanted to learn the difference so that I will eventually look like I know what I am doing during class.  I showed up 15 minutes early as recommended, and the trainer told me that it would be a full class.  Just before 9:00 a.m. we all walked into a rectangular-shaped classroom with punching bags hanging from the ceiling.  When the trainer said that it would be a full class, I thought he meant that every bag in the room would be in use by one participant.  What he actually meant was that we would have to double up, if not triple up per bag.

Once everyone found a spot, we started throwing punches.  The trainer would tell us which punches to throw in the combinations, but I still felt like I was winging it.  As I looked around the class, some people knew what they were doing and were very serious about it while others were in the same boat as me.  Regardless of whether my "jab" was actually a jab instead of a hook, I burned over 700 calories during class and I was exhausted!

My Groupon expires at the end of December, so I am going to wait to activate my four weeks of unlimited classes until after my trip to DC.  I will keep you posted on how that goes!

What is provided at Sweat:  
  • Showers are available but bring own towels
  • Workout towels are available at the desk
  • A few pairs of boxing gloves area available at the desk
What to bring to Sweat:
  • Water, but you could purchase a bottle of water if you forget your own.
  • Boxing gloves if you have your own (I personally do not like sharing those)
  • A great attitude!  You may have to share your bag with someone else and you will all be working out in a small room together.  You will see all levels of boxing skills in class, so don't be intimidated.
  • Be ready to WORK!  Sweat's boxing classes = a high calorie burn.

Weekly Goals:
  1. Plan meals for the week days - 50% Met - I am slowly getting better at this.  When I don't have a plan or a quick/delicious option ready to go, I am easily persuaded to select a not-so-healthy option.  This week was still around 50% successful.
  2. Practice Yoga at least once per week - 0% Met - I just didn't find the time this past week to fit it in.  I really need to just download an app or have a dvd on stand-by so I don't have ANY excuses anymore! 
  3. Run at least twice per week - GOAL MET  - I took a treadmill boot camp class and ran a 5k this weekend.
  4. Foam roll at least once per week - GOAL MET - I foam rolled last night after a cycling class and this morning after a boot camp.
  5. Attend a boot camp at least once per week - GOAL MET - YES!!!!  Last Friday I took a treadmill boot camp class, Saturday morning was my free class at Sweat, and this morning I attended another boot camp.  
I feel like this past week has been very successful and I feel more motivated to work out because I love seeing how many calories I burned during class.  Now I just need to keep the ball rolling and plan more of my meals and find a no-excuses way to fit yoga into my week.

Have a great week and weekend!!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Litchfield, IL Route 66 5k

I set a new 5k PR for the year this morning!

All year I have been finishing 5k's in 42-ish minutes.  The MO' Cowbell 5K was my fastest this year at 39:01.  Last weekend's Veterans Day 5k time was 40:24 and the Cahokia Mounds trail run was over 43 minutes due to the difference in terrain.  Last night and this morning, I thought about walking the 5k because I was sore from the boot camp classes I took Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.  They had a high calorie burn but they left me sore and wondering if that soreness would negatively affect my 5k time.  But as it turned out, the soreness didn't affect my time today and I finished in 37:39!

I had signed up for the half marathon originally, but I was not properly trained so I switched to the 5k.  The last time I ran the half marathon here was in 2014 and I LOVED it!  This year, both my mom and my step-dad met me for the race.  Litchfield is about an hour from St. Louis and an hour from my hometown in Illinois, so it is a nice place to meet up with my family for a race.

We ate dinner at the historic Ariston Cafe again and stayed at the Quality Inn again just like we did in 2014.  I highly recommend staying at the Quality Inn because you only have a 5 minute walk to the start/finish line.  This is the only race I have run where I was able to get up 45 minutes prior to the race start because I didn't have to worry about driving and parking.  You really can't beat that!

This is a smaller race, but I love the hometown feel.  Packet pick-up was at the Holiday Inn and it only took a few minutes per person to get our packets.  This year is the 66th anniversary of the Skyview Drive In theater in Litchfield, so we received an iron-on patch at packet pick-up with our long-sleeved shirt.  This year, the 5k racers also received medals and they had a drive in movie theater theme that is really unique.  The course took you by Ariston Cafe and on Route 66.  It was an out-and-back course, which made it great for the spectators too.

Race day packet pick-up was available and was located right in between the start and the finish line.  There were four porta potties at the start/finish area which seemed to be enough for the runners and spectators.  The day started with a 1-mile dash, followed by the half marathon start, and finally the 5k start.

Give this race a try in 2017 if you haven't had the opportunity to experience it yet.  Check the Racemaker Productions website for all of their upcoming races and be sure to like their page on Facebook for updates and discount codes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

#WellnessWednesday - Week 1

My first week of setting goals and actually working towards something was mostly successful and I learned a lot about myself and ended up trying new things.  The one goal I need to work on is my meal planning because when I end up working later than anticipated or anything else unplanned pops up, it throws me off.  I have a feeling this will be the goal that will elude me the most.

When I hurt my back last Spring, I started doing Yoga at home with videos we could stream through our Roku box.  I thought that I wanted to start practicing Yoga at my gym since it was a free class, but I found it difficult to relax and unwind because people around me were coughing, I was too worried about how I looked in poses because everyone else seemed to move much more gracefully, and I could hear other members boxing in the adjacent room.  It's all in my own head but I think I will stick to the at-home videos for now so that I feel more comfortable and don't have to wait around for a scheduled class.

Goal three was to run more and I actually ran more this week than I had in a LONG time!  I found a great running group through that meets Thursday evenings.  The paces range, which is what I was hoping for since I am currently slow.  The assistant organizer actually ran with me most of the way, and it made me run faster that I would have made myself run which was the goal of joining a running group.  I can't make it every Thursday, but I am planning on going again this week.  This weekend was also rare in that I had two races planned, so I ended up running three 5k's this week.  I need to stay motivated on weekends and weekdays that I don't have a running group or a race, so that is something that I need to dig a bit deeper into.

Although Goal four was met, it was only because I JUST remembered that I needed to complete it.  It needs to become habitual, but I may try to attend another foam rolling class to remind myself why it is so important.

Goal five was to attend at least one boot camp, which I met before the weekend.  The plan was actually to have gone to several this week but that didn't happen.  Again, I need to set a plan and stick to it as if I were going to be charged a cancellation fee if I don't go.

So for next week, my goals are the same but I am going to tweak how I approach them.  I think they were all attainable, so I am not going to decrease or increase anything for now.

Weekly Goals:
  1. Plan meals for the week days - I was only 50% successful at this, so hopefully week 2 will be better.
  2. Practice Yoga at least once per week - GOAL MET - I took a 90 minute Yoga class Saturday but found out that practicing at home works better for me, so that is what I will do for week 2.
  3. Run at least twice per week - GOAL MET -  I actually ran three 5k's this week between a new group run and two races.
  4. Foam roll at least once per week - GOAL MET - I only just completed this goal this morning, so I will still try to be better for Week 2.
  5. Attend a boot camp at least once per week - GOAL MET 
I have another 5k scheduled for this weekend, so you will likely see a race recap before the next #WellnessWednesday.  Have a great week and weekend!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

City of the Sun 5k Trail Run

Today I ran another 5k, the City of Sun 5k Trail Run at Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site.  I had multiple alarms set due to the time change this morning, but I ended up over-estimating the time it would take me to get to Cahokia Mounds and it only took me 30 minutes!  When I was pulling into the visitor's center, the adjacent field had a family of deer quietly grazing in it.  It was so quiet and peaceful at that time of morning.

The race didn't start until 9 a.m. but packet pick-up and race day registration began at 8 a.m.  There was plenty of parking adjacent to the visitor's center and start line and plenty of real restrooms within the visitor's center.  Packet pick-up was quick and easy and although there were no race shirts, our goodie bags were filled with numerous coupons, a sample of biofreeze, a temporary tattoo, a Cahokia Mounds Museum Society labeled armband for your smart phone, AND a coupon for 1 Free iPod tour that is good until 12/31/2017!

The race started promptly at 9 a.m. after a few announcements about the course.  I knew this was a trail run when I signed up, but it didn't really dawn on me that I might be running through mud, which is exactly what they told us to expect in the pre-race announcements.  Luckily I had packed extra clothes, shoes, and socks just in case.

The first part of the course was on a sidewalk, then we transferred to a rock trail, and then eventually to a grass and dirt trail.  We were spread out enough so that the width of the trail was never an issue.  We didn't start encountering standing water until half way though the race, but there were several areas with large puddles.  At first I tried walking in the prairie grass around the puddles but eventually my shoes became soaked so I just went straight through them.  I rarely run on nature trails like this so my ankles started feeling sore towards the end of the course.  Around mile 2.5 or so we transitioned back to rock and then to concrete.  After running on much softer, natural surfaces for most of the course, the concrete sidewalk actually felt horrible under my feet as we approached the finish line.  As we neared mile 3, you could hear the cheering from the runners who had already finished.  The finish line was different from any other race I have run because women finished on one side and men on the other.  Then they tore a piece off of your bib that you had written your name and age on so that they could register your results since there was no timing strip on the bibs themselves.

Post race food included water, Gatorade, fruit, and Gus' Pretzels.  Awards seemed to follow shortly after I finished and my super fast friend ended up getting 1st place in our age group!  I should have taken a picture, but her award medal was really nice.

We had both driven over from St. Louis County and since it was such a beautiful day, we decided to walk around and learn more about this historic site after we changed into our clean shoes and clothes.  We walk by many of the smaller mounds and climbed to the top on Monk's Mound, which offers a great view of the St. Louis skyline.

We opted not to use our Free iPod tour coupon so that we could come back another day and spend more time going through the visitor's center, but we ended up walking the trails until around Noon. We will definitely be back to learn more about this Illinois State Park and World Heritage Site.

I really enjoyed this race and it was a nice change of scenery and terrain (despite the mud).  The 2017 date is November 5 in case you would like to check it out next year!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Veterans Day 5k Recap

This morning I went to downtown St. Louis to run the Veterans Day 5k.  Normally I pay to park at Union Station for all of my races downtown, but the race director suggested exiting at 14th Street and utilizing street parking.  I ended up finding free parking behind St. Louis City Hall, which was right by the start/finish.

I arrived a lot earlier than I needed to and I had already picked up my packet, so I sought out a coffee shop to kill time.  Google maps led me to Mississippi Mud Coffee Roasters.  Not only did they have coffee on a chilly morning, but the space also doubled as an art gallery, AND they had a real restroom so I could avoid the porta potty lines.  If you get a chance, I recommend giving this place a try.

As I crossed Kaufman Park heading back to the start/finish I came across plenty of porta potties, National Guard vehicles and staff, race day packet pick-up and registration, several food trucks, the post race snack tents, as well as several vendors.  The area was not crowded at all and it was a breeze getting to the start line.  After the National Anthem and some announcements, we were off and running.

Race Highlights:
  • Long sleeve tech shirts
  • Great pre-race communication
  • Plenty of volunteer support
  • The course had some hills, but they weren't the steepest hills downtown
  • Friday night packet pick-up or race day packet pick-up
  • Plenty of parking available near start/finish
  • Post race food included water, chocolate milk, bananas, granola bars
  • Food trucks selling food
  • Kids Dash and 1 mile run options
  • Veterans Day Ceremony and Parade followed shortly after the races

Overall this was a great race and I would do it again.  Be sure to thank our veterans for their service and have a great Veterans Day!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

#WellnessWednesday - Making a Plan

Since I had enough runners use my MO' Bassador code for registration in any of the MO' Cowbell races, I earned a free race entry for the 2016 races and I could have used that entry for a marathon, half marathon, or 5k entry.  At the beginning of 2016, I had planned on registering for the half marathon, but my training has been non-existent as I have been trying to fully bounce back from my spring back injury that occurred after a year of dealing with plantar fasciitis.  I had actually signed up for several half marathons this fall, but eventually I decided to just "call a spade a spade" and admit that I needed to downgrade to the 5k at all those races.  Luckily I had registered so early for all those races that I beat the price increases and didn't end up losing much money, if any at all.

I knew I needed a plan going forward if I was ever going to get back to the fitness level I was at in 2014 and the years prior.  I felt like I have just been winging it ever since then.

One of the very first running blogs I came across when I started blogging was Road Runner Girl.  Her blog is not only an easy read, but I really like the way that she lists her goals for each week in her Weekly Chase posts on Mondays.  She gives us a recap of whether or not she met her goals from last week and then she lists her goals for the current week.  Some goals will stay the same week-to-week, but others change depending on what she is training for and what is going on in her life.  At first, I thought that was a bold move to put your goals out there for everyone to see, but then I realized that it was a great way to hold yourself accountable.

There it is, the definition of accountability in plain English.
  • Have I been holding myself accountable for my training?  NO
  • Have I been making excuses to skip workouts and runs?  YES
  • Have my excuses been very clever at times?  SURE
  • When I eat unhealthy food or eat too much food do I avoid documenting it in My Fitness Pal because I don't want to see how those poor choices actually affect me?  DEFINITELY
Wow!  I think Road Runner Girl was on to something.  Somehow writing down the truth is therapeutic because I can't hide it from myself anymore.  

So here are my goals for this week.  I am sure I will tweak them along the way, but this is where I am going to start:
  1. Plan meals for the week days (no more winging it)
  2. Practice Yoga at least once per week (my legs have been so tight which is still affecting my lower back)
  3. Run at least twice per week (need to run consistently again and stay motivated)
  4. Foam roll at least once per week (I have take the class through Fleet Feet twice now)
  5. Attend a boot camp at least once per week 
So now we start Week 1 on a #WellnessWednesday.  I will check back in next Wednesday to let you know how I did.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Run Steff Run: St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll Guest Recap

I had signed up for the Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis 5k and half marathon via Groupon, but then life got in the way and I just needed a weekend OFF!

I noticed that one of the runners I follow, Run Steff Run, was coming to St. Louis from Pittsburgh to run Rock 'n' Roll this year.  I asked her if I could share her race recap with you since I was skipping the races this year and because she would be able to offer a different perspective on the race since she wasn't a local.  Luckily, she agreed!

So for your reading pleasure, I would like to share the Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis 5k and half marathon race recaps from Run Steff Run's perspective:


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Medals4Mettle St. Louis Chapter Coordinator needed

You have seen me post once or twice about volunteering with Medals4Mettle, where we have visited local children's hospitals to distribute half and full marathon medals to hospitalized children.  Volunteering for the medal distributions has been a rewarding experience and the reactions from  hospital staff, parents, and the medal recipients is well worth the hour or two you take to volunteer.  Our St. Louis Coordinator is searching for her replacement so if you live in the St. Louis area, scroll down.  If you don't but are interesting in finding your closest chapter, click here.

Mary Ruth Casey is the current St. Louis Coordinator.  The amount of time she spends per month varies and is totally flexible.  She also currently has quite a few donated medals and ribbons for the new coordinator to start off with.  She has already developed relationships with several of our local hospitals, so she will have the contact information ready for her replacement.

Click here to see photos from Medals4Mettle on Facebook to learn more about what happens during the medal distributions.

If you are interested in the St. Louis Coordinator opening, contact Mary Ruth Casey at 636-524-5038 or for more details.  If I wasn't working so much and in the midst of planning a destination wedding, I would have snagged this great opportunity already!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Have you looked yourself up on Athlinks?

By now you have likely seen articles or ads on the internet telling you to "Google yourself" and see what happens, right.  Well have you been on yet and typed in your name to see what happens? Luckily, my name is fairly unique and I also caught onto this website fairly early on, so it was easier to sort through the results when I created my account.  But when you type in my step-dad's name without any filters for example, you get over 2,000 results!

A week or so after each race I go to the Athlinks website and type in my name to see if my new results show up in the unclaimed section.  When they do, I just log in and claim them to add them to my existing list of results.  This allows your results to be saved in one place so that you don't have to go to each race's website to see your results.  You can also quickly see your PR's in all distances.

Click here to learn more about how your race results appear on this website.  Create your account today and start following your running buddies too.

Monday, October 3, 2016

MO' Cowbell 5K Race Recap

You know my opinion on this race will be a bit biased because I am a MO' Bassador, but I am still going to be as thorough and honest as possible.  This is a great race not only for locals, but also out-of-towners because St. Charles is so close to the airport and Main Street is such a fun place to visit....and there are two casinos close by if you are feeling really lucky.

The Highlights:
  •           Great pre-race communication via email and social media.  Emails were both informative and entertaining.  The pre-race emails were also broken into more bite-sized emails so that they weren't too overwhelming.
  •       The expo was at St. Charles Community College, which was a bit of a distance from the actual race course, but it also allowed ample parking.  Back when the expo was at Lindenwood University, I remember parking being an issue.
  •       The expo had a lot of interesting and unique vendors.  The Brooks trailer and the Alter G treadmill experience were outside in the parking lot.
  •       You could sign up to become a MO' Bassador at the expo!
  •       I worked the morning shift of packet pick-up on Saturday, and it seemed to go smoothly from my perspective.  Some times were busier than others but I didn't really have too many questions so the process must have been pretty straight forward to runners.
  •            Road construction affected our race day drive, but we were alerted to that in pre-race communication as well.
  •       Shirt - The shirts this year were made by a company called tasc.  The shirts were very soft and partially made from bamboo.

  •      Super generous t-shirt exchange policy -  If when you pick up your shirt it doesn't fit the way you would like, bring it to the shirt exchange tent (near the stage) at Runners Village on race day (sorry not at the ExMO'). If we don't have the shirt size you need, we will order you a shirt and get it to your local Big River Store to pick up.  How many other races do that?  We love our runners!
  •       On race day, you were encouraged to arrive at the start early due to the road construction and to get good parking.  We arrived around 6 a.m. for the 8 a.m. 5k and we parked right on Main Street by the shops.  At that time, there was still plenty of parking available.  I knew the gazebo had real restrooms underneath, so we parked pretty much adjacent to the gazebo.
  •       I loved that this 5k was part of a longer day of races.  You never felt alone because you were always surrounded by other runners and the cheering at the finish was pretty amazing!  In fact my fiance and I came back around 1 p.m. and there were still tons of people in the runner's village and around the finish line.  
  •       Did anyone notice the similarities between the Rio 2016 Olympic medals and the MO' Cowbell medals?  

  •        The MO' Cowbell PR bell!  I didn't get to ring it though :(  At least I "won" a gold medal!

  •       There was a coffee food truck this year!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

U.S. Air Force 5K Race Recap

So let me just start this recap by saying that I really do love this race, but I had a better experience when I ran the 5K and half marathon in 2011.

Registration was a breeze and the pre-race communication was excellent.  The expo was packed with unique vendors and other races that I would not have heard about or been interested in had I not interacted with them in person.  Picking up my packets, since I had registered for both the 5k and the half marathon, was quick and easy.

After packet pick-up, we checked into our hotel and relaxed before the 5k that evening.  This downtime gave me an opportunity to look through my goodie bags.  Included in our bags were our race shirts that were a different color for each race, iron-on race patches, race hats, and a race weekend booklet.

I didn't post pictures of the 5k and half marathon shirts above because I wanted to mention that my half marathon shirt from the 2011 race is one of my absolute favorite race shirts.  I still have it and have worn it in so many races through the years.  That year, we received gender-specific New Balance shirts that were 100% polyester, but had a jersey texture and a breathable feel.

Then this year, we received my absolute least favorite shirt, also 100% polyester.  The shirts came in bags and were folded with tissue paper so that the screen print would not transfer to the folded part of the shirt.  They feel awful and not breathable at all.  In fact, the care tag says "professional dry clean recommended."  Are you kidding me?  A race shirt recommending dry cleaning, that's crazy!

Needless to say, I am very disappointing in the shirts this year.  So much so, that I probably will never wear them.

The 5k was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. but due to road and parking lot closures, we decided to leave at 5:15 p.m. in order to arrive well before the start.  We arrived with plenty of time to relax, people watch, and snap a photo of the post-race food.  There were at least two more rows of food not shown in the photo below, so there was plenty!

As the minutes passed, I noticed that the sky to the West was looking dark and ominous, so I opted to run our phones back to the car just in case.  Then as the start time drew closer, the announcer mentioned that they were monitoring the bad weather heading our way and they may start the race early as a result.

There were no corrals, just a wheelchair start that took place a few minutes before the rest of us were released.  The waiting area for the start was cramped between the start line and the finishing line.  My guess is that the course would either be slightly too short or too long if they just used the same spot for the start and the finish line, but the placement was awkward and wouldn't have allowed for a corral start anyway.

We were underway at 6:30 p.m. and the first mile was fine.  Then as we looped back towards the main part of campus, I could see lightning.  You may remember that I ran my last half marathon in the rain, so I knew they would let us continue to run if it started to rain while we were on the course.  But when I saw lightning, I began to wonder if we would be pulled off the course for our safety.  Everyone just kept running and the volunteers didn't seem concerned, so I just followed the crowd.  I think we had just hit mile two when we moved from the road to sidewalks on campus that were only two, maybe three runners wide at most.  This was not a small 5k, so this area quickly became congested with runners and you couldn't really pass in certain areas because of the congestion.  Luckily, the further we went on campus, the more the runners were able to spread out once again.  As we continued running, the sky got darker and the lightning became more frequent and I think this made me run faster than I would have otherwise.

I ended up finishing just before my step-dad and just before the rain started, but my mom was still on the course.  After my step-dad and I grabbed our post-race snacks, we started hearing announcements that lightning was in the area (obviously) and we were to take shelter either in our cars or in the Nutter Center, but there was NO mention about the runners still on the course or the volunteers during any of those announcements.  What were they supposed to do?  Since volunteers were still waiting at the finish line and more runners kept coming, we just waited in the rain and lightning until we saw my mom in the distance.  There were still other runners behind her, which seemed so strange since they kept telling the rest of us to seek shelter. Aren't they supposed to pick up runners off of the course when bad weather threatens their safety?  I know they have for other races.  It was just bizarre.

My mom was clearly in pain as she finished.  She had just had a knee replacement last Fall and her bad knee really bothered her during this race, but she finished.  She received her medal from a high-ranking Air Force member (I couldn't tell you his rank) and we finally headed to the safety of our car.  Between the sweat and the rain, we all were soaked!

We decided to grab a light, post-race dinner at Panera (a.k.a. St. Louis Bread Company as we call it in St. Louis) since we received coupons in our virtual race packet, and we recapped our individual race experiences.  All three of us were surprised by the fact that they were telling finishers and their families to take shelter, yet they weren't pulling volunteers or the remaining runners off the course.  We also don't remember there being as many strollers in the 2011 5k.  It's great that parents of young children are active, but the course became so congested with runners in some areas that it caused issues when the runners with strollers would try to pass and there just wasn't that much room.  In fact, my mom was hit by strollers multiple times during the race.

Since my mom was clearly in pain post-race and Saturday's race would require quite a bit of walking and standing for both runners and spectators, I opted to sleep in and just workout at the hotel instead of running the half.  I had planned on walking the entire half anyway since my spring back injury still haunts me at times, my training was not where it needed to be, and the race was also walker-friendly (I would have had 6 hours to finish).   But during one of my training walks, it took me roughly three hours to go 10 miles and I just didn't want my parents to have to kill time and wait on me that long, especially since my mom was in pain.  I do remember reading about runner only shuttles to the start from the Nutter Center, so I probably could have gotten to the race on my own, but I really wanted my family to be there so I didn't explore this option any further.  Maybe I will keep that in mind for next time.

Needless to say, the weekend did not turn out as we had originally planned and I can honestly say that my 2011 experience was far better.  The medals were still nice and I enjoyed my weekend in Dayton seeing family and Wright Brothers sights, so it was still worth the nearly 6 hour journey.  I will likely do this race again, but want to wait a few years before I make the trek again.

Some areas for improvement that I saw for the 5K:
  • Corral start needed since there are so many runners
  • Select your "category" at registration like they do at the Indianapolis 500 Festival 5K and potentially have a "stroller" category

  • Larger area for runners to line up for the start
  • Have separate kids races of shorter distances so that the kiddos aren't forced to do a full 3.1 miles (I saw several kiddos being forced to run by their parents and they were NOT happy)
  • Separate stroller start as the very last corral to allow the field to spread out more before they come through
  • Have a plan for bad weather that includes keeping the volunteers and those still on the course properly informed
  • Go back to the gender-specific, jersey-style shirts that don't recommend dry cleaning
The volunteers were amazing and I applaud them for continuing to cheer us on even as the weather took a turn for the worse.  Volunteers rock!

Hotel recommendations:
  • Fairfield Inn - Dayton Fairborn
  • Hampton Inn - Dayton Fairborn
  • Homewood Suites - Dayton fairborn
  • Holiday Inn - Fairborn/I-675 (this is where we stayed)
All of the above hotels are walkable to the expo and 5k start.

Remember to add your race reviews on BibRave.