2012 Black Girls RUN! Race to End Hunger 5K & 10K presented by Coca-Cola recap

September so far has been spent on the road! I was first in Las Vegas for a bachelorette weekend. Fourteen girls descended upon Sin City to have a little fun. And believe me, we did.

This past weekend I rolled into Atlanta for the inaugural Black Girls RUN! Race to End Hunger 5K & 10K presented by Coca-Cola.The entire weekend was so much fun and very motivational. There were activities planned on each day to keep participants busy. The race expo opened Friday evening. The line for Black Girls RUN! gear started early.

Later that evening, there was a mixer held at the host hotel where ladies from all over the country connected. The Run, Learn, Live Series conference seminars took place on Saturday. The nerd in me loved the learning portion of this weekend. Topics were running related and ranged from nutrition to running psychology. There were too many for me to attend them all!

The first seminar I checked out was yoga with Michelle Johnson. Besides a few post run downward facing dogs, I haven't done a full yoga workout in months. It felt great stretching my body and relaxing my mind. Next, I got an unexpected workout during the Strength Training for Runners sesssion.

Our instructor, Jasmine Graham, explained the principles of Tabata and HIIT workouts. We did a series of squats, lunges, planks, sit-ups, leg lifts, and high-knee intervals for an all-over body workout. I was drenched in sweat afterwards. After a much needed shower, I attended a seminar on nutrition called Foods that Love You Back, with Koya Webb. I have a few new recipes I'm anxious to try out. Lastly, I checked out Tackling Your First TRIathlon. I've already completed my first tri, so obviously I cannot get enough of learning about this sport.
Bethany Rutledge of the the Atlanta Triathlon Club covered all the bases of what to expect during a triathlon race. She had her all her gear on hand and answered the many questions the group had.

Later that evening was the Black Girls RUN! Honors Dinner, where the keynote speaker was Ernestine Shepherd.

I've only recently became aware of Ms. Ernestine. Let me tell you, she is truly a joy! She explained how and why she got started her bodybuilding journey at the age of 71! She wasn't afraid to show off her skills with a few push ups. Just a few.

Black Girls RUN! co-founders Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks also recognized the efforts of all the ambassadors and group members. The ambassadors were given a few tokens of appreciation during the weekend. I've been acting as an ambassador in Chicago since the running groups were created by Toni and Ashley and this is my first BGR! gear! Shame on me, right?

On Sunday was the 5K & 10K race. I originally registered for the 10K but was so exhausted between recovering from Vegas, flights, and seminars, I decided to run the 5K route. I'm glad I did, because the hills on the course were killer. I've become very spoiled running Chicagoland's flat terrain.

Everyone's energy was so positive. It was a very inspirational weekend. Women (especially Black women) are often accused of not supporting each other and instead tearing down each other. There was none of that this weekend. We were all excited to participate in the festivities. I can imagine next year's race being at least twice the size. I had better start hill training now.

2012 Fleet Feet Supersprint Triathlon recap: My first triathlon

Wow, I completed the Fleet Feet Supersprint Triathlon. Participating in this race has been a goal of mine for over two years. After being mortified about my lack of swimming skills in a swim class a while back, I tried to abandon the idea. But it kept nagging me. Getting involved in triathlons was something I really wanted to do. And now it’s done! This summer spent taking swim lessons in the pool and waking up early Saturday mornings to train in Lake Michigan has paid off. Here’s a recap of my race day experience:

Setting up in transition: Concerned about parking, I arrived about 5:15 am, forty-five minutes before the transition area opened. The parking lot was totally empty when I arrived. I wish I could have gotten that time back to sleep! There was one transition area for the bike and run. I racked my bike, and laid out a towel with everything I would need for the bike and run.

The swim: The start of the race was very relaxed. Participants, spectators, and families stood on the beach while each wave lined up to start. It was in stark contrast to run races where athletes are packed like sardines into corrals standing for 30 minutes to start the race. There were 8 waves ahead of me, so I was able to watch quite of few complete the 375 meter course before I entered the water. I only started to get nervous right before my wave started. I made sure to be the last person to enter the water in my wave. My heart rate was through the roof! So much so, about 25 meters in, I stood up (yes, the water was only about 5 feet deep) to catch my breath and calm down. After that, I just tried to swim slowly and methodically. I really started moving through the water then. I even passed a couple of ladies in my wave. The swim went really fast after I got control of my breathing. Also, wearing a wetsuit was amazing. It really helped with buoyancy and being lighter in the water.

The bike: Transition went fast. It was not nearly as chaotic or stressful as I was lead to believe it would be. I think attending the tri seminars and clinics really helped me get mentally prepared. Getting out of my wetsuit was a breeze. I unzipped and pulled it halfway down on my way to transition. We had to run through the beach to get there, so I wiped all of the sand I could from my feet and put on my socks and shoes. My lips were so dry. I was glad I added lip balm to my bag. I swiped my lips, threw on a bandanna and my helmet and headed out. The bike course was three loops totalling 6 miles. I took it pretty easy on the bike. This is probably where I lost the most time. I was concerned about how my legs would feel for the run, so I held back. I think next time I will focus on reducing my time on the bike to cut down on my overall time.

There were all levels and abilities in the race!

The run: Transition from the bike to run was also quick. Racking my bike bike and removing my helmet and bandanna was no problem. I grabbed some energy chews before headed out for the last leg. I felt a little crappy the first quarter mile. Coming off the bike to run is a similar feeling to coming off of roller skates to walking. I felt slow and heavy. The sun was also getting higher and hotter. I felt most of the participants on the course were equally as drained, which made me feel ok about moving slowly. I only had 1.55 miles to run, which I knew would go quickly. I tried not to think too much and just run. The volunteers on the course were amazing at giving motivation and even other participants gave thumbs up and encouraging words when they passed by.

When I crossed the finished line I was very energized, like I wanted to do it all over again. I sprinted the last 100 meters. That’s how I knew I had a little left in me. I’m definitely ready for the Sprint tri (double the distance) in 2013. My friend Tracy completed the Sprint distance the day after my race. We shared a beer at the finish line to celebrate our training and medals!

I plan to take a swim course during the winter to continue to work on my skills and speed in the water. I have so many triathlons on my radar for 2013 it’s scary! I love that running has lead me to the sport of triathlon!

Introduction to Crossfit

I've really been enjoying leisurely jogs with my dog and have very little interest in attempting any long distances anytime soon. I'm really enjoying swimming, too. But one thing I've been dying to try is CrossFit. It seems to be all rage lately. Some of the workouts I've seen look a little intimidating: pull-ups, dead-lifts, and tire flipping. Sidebar - The whole concept reminds me of Rocky IV when Rocky went to the Soviet Union and trained in a shed to fight Drago for killing Apollo. He came into the ring looking like a beast!

It peaked my interest and I wanted to try it out for myself. I visited Bulldog Bootcamp & CrossFit for a free intro class last night. It was interesting. I learned I have zero upper body strength. The workout we completed was pretty simple, but I was drenched in sweat by the time it was over:

Run around the block (about 300 meters, less than 1x around the track)
40 squats
30 sit ups
20 push ups
10 rings dips (arm pull ups with those rings gymnasts use)
Run around the block again

The workouts move fast. It took me 14:49 to do all of that. The push ups were the hardest for me. And of course, I was last to finish. Our instructor said the workouts can range from 5 to 45 minutes. The average being is 30 minutes. Bulldog Bootcamp & CrossFit will welcome us back to try things out 3 more times within 10 days for free. I will definitely be back again to tryout the different workouts. UPDATE: I like the concept of Crossfit, but the lifting required in the beginner workout was a little too tough for me. I'll continue to use the interval training method in my workouts to get stronger and perhaps revisit a Crossfit Box.

Inaugural Chicago Women's Half Marathon & 5K recap

Well, I finished. I completed the inaugural Chicago Women’s Half Marathon.

This was a fun race to be a part of. I think all the participants were excited because it was the first, and it’s an all women’s race. A ton of ladies from my Black Girls RUN! Chicago group participated. This was for many their first 5K or half marathon. Fleet Feet Sports Chicago provided our group with our own tent to congregate and encourage each other before and after the race, which was very nice! Their team has been super supportive of our movement. The course was out and back on the path along Lake Michigan. The volunteers were awesome. Some of the male volunteers were calling us beautiful (yeah right)! I was glad I got there early to listen to the very cool female DJ spin some tunes during the warm-up, chit-chat and take pics because by the time I got to the finish line, most runners had finished and gone home and they were starting to tear down the race site.

My time was sub 3:33. Not great, but I didn’t have time goal. I just wanted to finish before the course closed, and I cut it pretty damn close. It took me over half an hour longer than my first half marathon in 2010. A bunch of ladies from the run group stayed until the very end cheering on finishers. This was very sweet, because I was out there a LONG time.

It was very hot Sunday. Clouds rolled in a couple of times during the race, but it did not rain like I hoped. I felt o.k. up until about mile 6. My pace was about a minute faster than it had been during in my training runs. At mile 7 my friend and co-worker April showed up on the course to cheer me on with baby in tow!

Between there and mile 8, I pretty much wanted to quit. Things really started to move in slow motion after mile 9. And at mile 10 I think the mental block kicked in because my pace went to hell. I was walking a lot and my foot was pretty sore. At mile 12 my co-ambassador for the run group joined me on the course to finish the race.

The day after the race I had normal soreness. I iced my foot before leaving the race, and took and ice bath when I got home. I continued to ice it off and on the rest of the day Sunday.

Monday I attended swim class. It felt great being semi-weightless in the pool for an hour. I was able to stretch out my muscles really well after swimming too. Swimming is the best recovery workout! I feel pretty good today. I feel such a sense of relief having finished the race (new) injury free! I’m extremely happy I didn’t have a major tendinitis flare up either. I think focusing on staying slow and walking when I needed really helped to keep me from over doing it. Next is focusing on improving my swimming skills and strength building for the Chicago Supersprint Triathlon in August. I’m planning on tackling some open water swim practice at the lake this weekend. I’ve been learning a lot during swim lessons these past few weeks, and I can’t wait to share in an upcoming post!

2012 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle recap

I survived Shamrock Shuffle 2012. What a fun race! There were nearly 35,000 runners that looped through downtown Chicago and finished in Grant Park. This was my first time participating in this race, and I hope to do it again next year. I did a combination run/walk for the 5 miler, running the first 5 minutes, then starting with two minute run/two minute walk intervals. After the first mile, I realized that my foot felt ok, so I started to run more. I kind of lost track of my intervals and just focused on maintaining a pace faster than 15:00! This race is a Chicago tradition, and there are plenty of people who run it year after year. But as a first time participant, I had fresh eyes. This is my take on the Shamrock Shuffle 2012.

Because there were so many participants, we started in two waves and I don’t even know how many corrals. Because I entered the max time to finish (1:15/15:00 pace) I was placed in the last corral of the second wave.

I ended up arriving at the race about an hour earlier than I planned, so I stood on my feet a lot longer than I probably should have chatting it up with some ladies from the run group and waiting in line for the port-a-potties. I waited until the last moment to line up in my corral and once I got in there, waited another 15 minutes to start.

I was a bit anxious to get started. Though, there was plenty of entertainment to keep distracted from all the waiting like crazy themed outfits and this treasure.
One of the ladies in my run group snapped this pic. This gives you an overall feel for the race! Once we got out on the course I was appreciative of the corrals being really spread out. There was no issue of overcrowding. Once I saw the final number of finishers, I was impressed because it did not feel like there were that many out on the course.

The night before the race, I surprised myself when I realized I hadn’t so much as glanced at the route. Normally, I like to have a general idea where I’m running during a race! The course started out similarly to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago half, but then it switched up.

We were of course taken past the Chicago Theatre, and over the Chicago River. I loved running under the El tracks between miles 3 and 4. I don’t remember doing that in the Rock ‘n’ Roll. The only time I got annoyed was after the 4 mile marker when there were a lot of walkers and I found myself darting in and out of folks. The route was enjoyable, not boring at all.

There were tons of volunteers at this race. The water and Gatorade stations were well manned. Also on the course was a promo truck for FRS passing out their Healthy Energy drink. I’m pretty sure they were not there as part of the race, rather seizing the opportunity. The only problem I had with it is the fact that runners were dropping half consumed cans on the ground after taking a couple of sips. Unlike the aid stations where volunteers sweep up the cups, I didn’t see anyone from FRS picking up the many cans of their product that littered the road. I hope that someone did afterwards. The race had plenty of aid stations as well. I was pleased to find a bag of ice at an aid station very near the finish line. I was able to ice my foot right away, which I think helped with keeping the tendinitis in check.

I can see why the Shamrock Shuffle is such a popular race. It’s not only exciting because it's the racing season opener for Chicago, its actually a fun race. It’s a great distance for beginners, yet still long enough for marathoners to enjoy. The day following the race, my right foot was very stiff, but I had no pain. I massaged it against a golf ball on the floor (my new favorite thing) off and on throughout the day, and then soaked in an Epsom salt bath in the evening. Today, it feels great. I’m very excited that it’s responding so well to more miles! I plan to start training for the women’s half in June this week. Hooray!