Thursday, February 27, 2014

New Running Shoes!!

Four years ago I had severe IT Band Syndrome with little tears in my IT band, and I had to do physical therapy for it.  Last year during my training for the LA Marathon, it flared up again, but I pushed through because it was my first full marathon and I was running it in memory of Mom for MDS awareness.  I ended up injuring myself further, and quite frankly haven’t been running much since I completed my marathon last year.  That was last March.  Recently, I finally decided to ease back into it recreationally without the pressure of having a race on the calendar.  Unfortunately, every run I’ve been on ends somewhere between 5-10 minutes because ITBS flares up and I feel the pain on the lateral part of my knees.  So I Googled “how to alleviate ITB pain” and I found everything I’d read before:

1. Rest/Ice/Compression/Elevation: check
2. Reduce activity: how can I reduce a 5 minute run?!
3. Foam roller: check.
4. Anti-inflammatory medications:  check.
5. Running shoes:  ahhh….there we go.

I had been running in my Nike Frees, which are great shoes and I love them.  However with my IT band issues and the fact that I supinate (ankles roll outward), they don’t provide the necessary cushioning that my body needs.  I decided to pay my local running store a visit to help find me some new cushioned shoes that would work.  After chatting with the shoe expert and him seeing how I run, he recommended Brooks Ghosts and Nike Vomeros, two shoes that I’ve worn in the past and loved (I honestly don’t remember why I switched).  Anyhow, I tried them each on and went for a test run.  The Ghosts were similar to what I remember, but they felt a little stiff and my ankle felt like it was sliding from side to side.  The Vomeros were a completely new design and they felt as though I were running on clouds.  Also my ankle wasn’t slipping around.


I ended up buying the Vomeros and as soon as I got him, I laced up and took them for a spin.  For the first time in a very long time, I was pain free.  It was incredible!  They were so cushiony and supportive, I felt like I could run forever.  I even set a PR for my pace (10 min/mile).  Yay!  I am so happy I invested in a new pair of running shoes that work for me.





Saturday, February 22, 2014

SoCal Spartan Race Recap!

The SoCal Spartan Races were held in Temecula, which was about an hour and a half drive from us.  The drive was easy and the only traffic we hit was to get into the event parking area.

The event was a three-quarter of a mile walk (uphill) from the parking area, and once there, we checked in and received our bibs, timing chips, headband with number, and free beer ticket then checked our bags at the bag check.  My cousin and I did the Spartan Sprint (3+ miles) and my cousin’s husband, my brother, and my brother’s friend did the Super Spartan (8+ miles).
Me and my brother
Me and my cousin
My cousin and her hubby
My cousin and I were in a wave nearly an hour before the boys, so we said goodbye, wished them luck and were off to our corral!

The Obstacles!
If you are unable to complete an obstacle, you have to do a set of 30 burpees.  To do a burpee, you squat, kick your legs out behind you so you’re in a plank position, do a pushup, jump your legs back to your hands, then jump up with your hands over your head.  If you’re a visual person like me, check out this video to see a burpee.

Mud pits
Run through sludge!  The first obstacle was a thick mud pit and my shoes actually got stuck and slipped off!  I was able to retrieve them and put them back on.  I tied them so tight, there was no way they would come off again!

Wall climb
The walls varied in height, and they seemed to start out short and became taller and taller as the race progressed.  There was even a 5 ft wall to jump over to get into your race corral before it even began!  It was pretty awesome.

Hills
More like mountains!  Temecula is quite hilly, so there were constant running up hills then coming back down.  One was so tall and steep, and that was the most challenging obstacle for me.  Gotta do it though!

Wading through rivers with waist deep holes
There was one part near the beginning of the course that was a gamble…you could go left for the “Harder but Shorter path” or right for the “Easier but Longer path”.  We opted for harder and shorter and it was a narrow river we had to wade through.  It looked like no big deal until splat!  I fell right into a hole that went waist deep in mud. I wiggled myself out and then my cousin fell into another hole waist deep!  After the river, we had to run through a forresty-area and then back to another hill where the other shorter/easier path met up.

Monkey bars
I haven’t done monkey bars in probably 20+ years.  Hanging, my feet were only 6 inches off the gorund, but man was I scared for that first swing!  I would almost start, then hold myself back because “what if I missed the next rung and fell?”  Well, then I’d drop those 6 inches, no big deal.  So I pushed myself forward and grabbed the second rung.  Then I swung my body and grabbed the third..and so on.  I made it just before the last rung when I fell, but I got back up from the end point and swung two rungs to make up for it.

Swamp running in the lake in neck deep muddy water
Part of the lake was blocked off for us to “wade” through.  The water was as dark as coffee and the mud on the bottom was like wet cement married with quicksand {thankfullly I had tied my laces super tight after the last mud pit!}  It was waist deep sludge, then it got deeper, and deeper, and finally came up to my neck.  At that depth, it was hard for me to get leverage to rip my feet out of the mud below the water, so I ended up swimming the rest of the way.  By the way, the water was absolutely FREEZING!!!  My legs went numb.  After the swamp running, of course there was another hill.

Ladder climb up then down
The hill led to a ladder climb over a cargo container then back down.  The bars were pretty spaced out, so you had to make sure not to slip with your muddy shoes and fall.

Barbed wire crawl
Then there was the barbed wire crawl over wet muddy gravel with small muddy water holes throughout.  The length of this obstacle was long…probably about 50 feet.  I first started to army crawl, but my elbows were getting ripped up.  I saw someone roll, and followed suit, which made it much easier.  I’d roll under some wire, then plop down under another wire into a muddy water hole, then climb up trying to avoid the next line of wire, then roll again and repeat.  My cousin, who was with me, opted for a back bend/crab crawl style that worked very well for her!  There were also volunteers along the sides spraying us with fire hoses!
Me in the background sliding down a mud slope in between the barbed wire
Over-under-through walls
And then there are the three back-to-back walls.  The first 6 ft wall we had to climb over, the second we had to roll/crawl under, and the third had barbed wire on the top and a small square hole in the center that you had to jump/crawl through.  These were fun and very simple.

Ladders up to the bridge of planks to walk across then climb back down
Similar to the ladder climb up and down I mentioned above, this obstacle was double the height, and the top was just planks going across length-wise.  There was no solid bottom at the top to walk across, so we had to walk the planks (literally) to get to the other side to go down.  Once my cousin and I got to the top, though, we noticed an older woman struggling to make it.  She voiced she was afraid of heights, and we responded with “you’re awesome for doing this” and gave her our hands to pull her up and over.  She made it!  Sidenote:  There is such a sense of commraderie, teamwork, and encouragement at the Spartan Race, which was apparent the entire time!  Every participant was willing to help orthers, and it was so heartwarming to see and experience.

Carry 50lb bag of rocks up a mountain
This obstacle was no cake walk.  We had to grab a 50lb sack of rocks (not the most comfortable thing to carry since they dig into you) and carry it up a very steep, rocky and sandy mountain.  The bag was hard enough to lift from the ground up to my shoulder, and now I have to carry it up this unstable mountain?  Ok, let’s do it!  I first put the bag on my right shoulder, and the rocks were digging into me, so I readjusted and ended up carrying it in my arms in front of my stomach.  I was the only one carrying the bag this way, but it made it so much easier for me. At the top, my cousin had to readjust so she dropped her bag.  I dropped mine to help put hers on her back across both of her shoulders to distribute the weight more evenly, then picked my bag up, and down we went.  This one definitely made my heart rate skyrocket!
At the top of the mountain
Tire Toss
There were monster truck tires lined up and you had to flip it 3x one day and 3x back to move on.  I guess my biceps are quite strong because this was super easy for me.  Done!  On to the next!

Lateral wall climb using 2x4”s as hand and foot holds to get across
This obstacle was an insane forearm workout!  It was a long wall we had to climb laterally (side-to-side) using only little 2” by 4” wood planks at eye level and foot level to grab onto and step on.  And no grabbing the top of the wall!  This was super challenging, and my midget legs struggled to reach the next pegs, but I did it without falling!  My forearms though were screaming at me.

Inverted wall
Of course once my arms were on fire from the lateral wall climb, we had to run down a hill to a very tall inverted wall.  That means the top of the wall is closer to you than the bottom.  There was a plank near the bottom to step on, making you inverted, and yet I still couldn’t reach the top to hoist myself over.  Then I hear a guy yell “Get your footing, I’m giving you a shoulder boost” and I felt this guy use his shoulder to push me up so I could grab the top.  I pulled myself up, threw one leg over for leverage, and pulled the rest of my body up and over while profusely thanking this guy.  He then did the same for my cousin, and I ran back up the wall (it was inverted away from me now so I was able to run up it and grab on), grabbed my cousin and pulled her over.  Then we both jumped down, and it was a high jump!

Herculean hoist
After the inverted wall was the Herculean Hoist!  The obstacle was to hoist a 60lb cinder block off the ground about 20 feet using a rope pulley system.  I was waiting in line to complete and saw many women struggling.  Then I saw the woman in front of me walk up to it and beast it out!  I looked at my cousin and said “Im going to do what she did” and I walked up to the rope and grabbed it and thought ‘holy shit it’s heavier than I anticipated’ and pulled like hell, one hand over the other using my body weight to pull down, and ta-da!  I was at the top in 10 seconds!  Beast Mode Engaged!  The hardest part was actually letting it back down because you couldn’t just drop it or it would shatter and cement pieces would go flying everywhere.  So you had to slowly release it, and that rope wanted so badly to slide through my hands, but I wouldn’t let it.

Mount Everest
After the Herculean Hoist we thought we were nearly done because this was just after the 3 mile mark.  Afterall, we were doing the 3+ mile Spartan Sprint.  Nope.  (The course ended up being 4+ miles.)  Then there was a mountain.  A very steep, rocky mountain, that we thought was only for the Super Spartans (8+ mile course).  Up we went!  My cousin was killing this one!  I, on the other hand was struggling.  “Almost to the top” my cousin would say.  “We’re not even half way” I’d respond.  Panting, we were at the top.

Very tall wall climb
Of course while we, er, I was out of breath from Mount Everest, there was a really tall 10 foot wall we had to climb over.  I got a running start, jumped and reached the top, pulled myself about half way, then fell.  Round two, over the damn wall.

Log jump
The log jump wasn’t so bad.  It was a line of maybe 10-12 logs sticking out of the ground, all different heights, that you had to jump on to get to the other side.  I stepped from the first one to the second, and realized my stride isn’t long enough to maintain a strong balance, so I jumped faster without pausing, and made it to the other side without falling.  Phew!

Tractor pull
Once again, we thought this obstacle was for the Super Spartans, and once again we were wrong.  There was a hill, and we had to drag a 50lb cinder block tied to a chain up this hill and back down.  My cousin and I teamed up, and thank god we did.  This was so hard!  The hill was covered in loose dirt, so the cement block kept getting stuck.  There were people who stopped and broke down in tears, this obstacle was so hard.  My cousin and I worked out a system though, and through great teamwork, we completed this obstacle.

Javelin toss
This obstacle was a crap shoot.  I have never thrown a javelin, but I’ve seen a lot of movie and shows where they do through javelins and tried to channel their strategy.  Arc it, don’t through it straight or it will nose down.  Mind you, the woman monitoring this obstacle was giving out 30 burpee sets like she was handing out free candy at a candy store.  One guy missed and asked to go again, and she said “you have 30 burpees, ifyou miss again, you have 60, and I’m counting.”  Well, he missed, and she literally counted each of the 60 burpees this man had to do.  I hadn’t done burpees yet and I wasn’t going to start now.  I threw my javelin and it landed at the bottom end of the haystack, but it stuck!  I was allowed to move on, no burpees necessary.

Rope climb straight up to ring a bell
We could see the finish line now, but there were still a few obstacles to complete.  One of which was a verticle rope climb the height of two cargo containers with a bell at the top to ring.  I looked at this, looked at my cousin, looked at the beer tent past the finish line, and we both said “burpees?” and laughed.  30 burpees it was!

Slippery wall
Then there was a wall built at a 45 degree incline covered in mud and water.  There were ropes coming down to grab onto for assistance in getting over this one.  I grabbed the rope and made it to the top but couldn’t figure out how to get over because the rope ended.  Still holding the rope I put my knees down {bad idea because the gritty muddy water cut them up}, and a guy from the other side reached his hand over and gave me the leverage I needed to get over the top.  Then it was an easy climb down with plank rungs.

The final mud hills/pits with one last wall climb swim
There were several 10 ft incline mud hills with muddy water pits on the other side.  It was a lot of up-and-over, trying to maintain footing so as not to slip.  The water pits that we had to wade through were deep and freezign!  After three up and overs, we stood on top of the last mud hill to see a wall in the muddy water pit.  At first I thought we had to jump over, but then I noticed the top was laced with barbed wire.  How do we get over this?  Then I saw someone swim under the wall.  We had gotten this far without having to swim through muddy water so it was completely unexpected.  I knew I couldn’t think about it too much {bacteria getting into my ears?} so I slid down the mud mountain into the water, plugged my nose, and went under.  It was pretty gross, but the coldness of the water felt very refreshing.  We did it!!!

Jump over fire
I have to admit, the fire pit we had to jump over was much smaller than I expected, but it was still pretty cool.  My cousin and I held hands, ran, and jumped!

Battle three gladiators with the foam
The very last obstacle was to pass three gladiators who try to knock down runners with pugil sticks.  We ran through and dodged them all! Woohoo!

After crossing the finish line, there was an option to do 40 extra burpees for a second medal.  After all of that, who can say no to 40 burpees for a SECOND medal!  Of course we did it :)

After earning our burpee medal, I noticed my knees were bleeding from the slippery wall at the end.  BATTLE WOUNDS!!  But a shower, clean clothes, and bandages could wait…a celebratory beer was the priority.  We got our free Sierra Nevada and it went down so easily :)
Cheers! 
Bloody knees from the Slippery Wall
We then headed to the bag check for our bags with towels and clean clothes, then hit the showers.
Ice cold outdoor "shower"- a line of hoses with nozzles 
I was about to change right there in the middle of everyone using my makeshift towel shield until I saw a tent that read ‘Women’s Changing’.  After an ice cold outdoor shower in my underarmours and tank, we ventured into the tent and changed into clean dry clothes, then grabbed another beer while we waited for the boys to finish.
When they finally crossed the finish line, they looked exhausted yet very triumphant!  They did it!  They are going for the trifecta (sprint of 3+ miles, super of 8+ miles, and beast of 12+ miles all within the same calendar year).
The Spartan Race was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.  It made other mud runs and obstacle courses feel like child’s play.  I am so proud of myself, my cousin, and the boys for dominating this race.  WE ARE SPARTANS!!  AROO!!!



Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Oatmeal Review!!

Last week I posted about an opportunity I received to review some custom healthy oatmeal products from MyOatmeal.com.  Well, I tried three wonderful flavors and my thoughts are written below.  Also, scroll to the end of this post to learn how to receive 15% off YOUR order at MyOatmeal.com :)

Banana Bread with Walnuts
-Gluten Free Quick Oats
-Banana Bread flavor
-Banana Chips
-Walnuts
-Monk fruit (plant, calorie free) sweetener

When I opened the bag, it smelled like fresh baked banana bread and my mouth started salivating!  I looked on the back for the cooking instructions, and they were a little more labor-intensive than your regular store-bought sugar-loaded crap.  After all, this is natural and organic, so of course there is more finesse and care in cooking this!  I followed the directions and microwaved 1 part oatmeal with 2 parts water for 1 minute, stirred, microwaved again for 45 seconds, stirred, and microwaved again for 30 seconds.  After letting it cool for a minute, I took my first bite, and it was delicious!  It was a little sweet, but the banana flavor was very nice.  It was cooked perfectly because the texture was fluffy and thick, and the walnuts added a nice crunch.
I would definitely order this combination again, but probably do without the sweetener.

Strawberry Shortcake
- Organic, Gluten Free, Thick Rolled Oats
-Strawberry Shortcake flavor
-Chipped Coconut
-Strawberries
-Chia seeds
-Monk fruit (plant, calorie free) sweetener
 Similarly to my banana bread experience,when I opened the bag I was greeted with the smell of fresh strawberries.

I’m a huge strawberry fan, so I was very excited to try this flavor.  Since these were the thick rolled oats, they had different cooking instructions.  I assumed they were the same as the banana bread oatmeal, so I didn’t read them before I started nuking in the microwave per the previous instructions.  They still came out tasty, but they were slightly more crunchy (which I actually enjoyed).  This flavor was quite sweet, and once again I’d probably do without the added sweetener.  But the added strawberries and coconut chips were absolutely delightful!  They added a perfect amount of flavor and texture (chewy strawberries and crunchy coconut).
I definitely enjoyed this concoction.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter
-Gluten Free Quick Oats
-German Chocolate Cake flavor
-Peanut Butter flavor
-Monk fruit (plant, calorie free) sweetener

I have to admit, this flavor was my least favorite of all three that I tried.  When I opened the bag, I got a faint whiff of peanut butter and even more faint smell of chocolate.
I cooked these the same as my Strawberry Shortcake since they, too are, quick oats.  After cooling for about a minute, I took my first bite.
They were thick yet fluffy, a texture I enjoy in oatmeal.  However, the flavor wasn't there.  All I could taste was sweetness from the Monk Fruit sweetener.  Both the chocolate and the peanut butter flavors were missing.  I'm a HUGE peanut butter fan, so I was expecting more.  It still was tasty and I ate it, but it tasted more like a sweetened plain oatmeal.  I probably wouldn't order this combo again.

Summary

Banana bread wins!  It was by far my favorite flavor, with Strawberry Shortcake in second.  I will definitely be ordering more from MyOatmeal.com in the future, and I recommend you do the same!  Please enjoy 15% off your order with the code healthy15.


My Oatmeal did provide me with a free sample to try and review, but this fact did not influence or alter my opinion of the product.  All views in this post are my honest assessment of the product and I am not being financially compensated for these views.