Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Packers Training Camp 5K Recap

Now, the official end of Packers Training Camp 2012, seems like the perfect time to finally get around to recapping the 5K race, no? 

The Packers 5K, my second of that day, went surprisingly well, and even though I did it solo, it was fun. In fact, there were benefits to running this race on my own, and the first benefit came about 10 hours before the race even started.

After the Brewers 5K I debated whether or not I would shower. I had some packing to do, it was incredibly hot outside, and I had another 5K to run later that day. On the Pro side, I had a 2-hour drive to make and didn’t want to smell. So I showered. And I drove. And I arrived in Green Bay with more than 3 hours to spare, so I picked my race packet up early. But I knew that, because I was driving and running my second 5K alone, I COULD’VE not showered if I had wanted to.

That’s what counts.

The Start
The Packers 5K was incredibly well organized. There were thousands of participants and every monitor in the Lambeau Field Atrium had a map of the race route and the color-coded pace group corrals (to correspond with your self-determined color-coded race bib).

Yes, not only did the 5K have pace groups, but they also had stationary corrals. It’s enough to make you weep.

The Route
Lombardi Ave was closed in front of the stadium and there was plenty of room for runners to line up. The route had a bit more incline than the morning’s 5K, but I totally passed former Packers, Chris Jacke and Mark Chmura, before I hit the Mile 1 marker and they had started at least 2 pace groups ahead of me at the very beginning.

The Stadium
I had planned to take my time on the field and walk through Lambeau, but there was such a bottleneck to get in that I didn’t want to waste any more time. Plus, they opened up the stadium for race observers and the crowd was cheering us on so earnestly. I did NOT attempt a Lambeau Leap – despite what it looks like on TV, that wall is really freaking high and I had no chance of coming close to making it.

The Results
They had a neat set up at the end where you could check your time immediately after getting your snacks and water at the finish line, and my official race time was Tramon Williams : Aaron Rodgers. Slower than I expected, but after running a 5K that morning I’m okay with it.

The Conclusion
In conclusion (lamest conclusion statement ever, amiright college essay graders?), the Packers 5K was the best organized 5K I’ve ever run. From registration to packet pickup to pace groups to finish, it flowed so well I wish I had gone with a group so I could’ve utilized the alphabetized flagpost runner reunion stations. Seriously, they even helped you find your friends at the end.

What a great “kickoff to training camp,” though it was neither a kickoff nor was it the actual start of training camp.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brewers Sausage Race 5K Recap

On Saturday, July 28th, thousands lined up on Canal St. by Miller Park to race with the Brewers Sausages - Chorizo, Italian, Bratwurst, Hot Dog, and Polish - and I was one of them (one of the thousands, not one of the sausages). Below is a full recap of my experience, but if you want the short and sweet version...

  • Organization of the race from start to beer could have been vastly greater.
  • I finally got to see Miller Park the way Aoki, Hart, Lucroy, and Braun see it. 
  • A special thank you goes out to the Milwaukee Police Department for scheduling Officer Man Candy to work that day.

The Start
A more disorganized beginning to a race you will be hard pressed to find. Thankfully, organizers cap this race, but, unfortunately, the pace markers were not only NOT well marked, but there wasn't enough room at the start line for everyone. Maybe 500 feet separated the 6-minute mile group at the start of the line and the walking group at the end. The walkers, I should note, were meant to start 15 minutes after the runners. So why they were lined up with the rest of us I do not know as 15 minutes is plenty of time to move them from the adjacent parking lot to the start corral.

Meanwhile, the packed crowd left precious little room on Canal St. for the rest of us in the middle. Though we tried to pack in, hundreds were left in the Brewers parking lot to fend for themselves and try to get in line once the race started.

I know what you're thinking.

The timing chip on your bib doesn't start until you cross the start line.

Am I right?

Well, it's true, BUT, as I've seen in most every race I run lately, race etiquette is not so common, which makes a difference when you're running for time.

Understandably, many people complete these 5Ks for fun. Just as many people, however, are racing against their time and use these races either to achieve personal records or to train for longer distances.

To make a long story short, getting a good start is important, and the 7 women chatting and walking abreast of each other in the 8-minute mile pace group at the start line will be on the receiving end of some bad karma if I have anything to say about it (which I don't).

For those new to running and races, one of the most important rules you should follow (and I claim this as the most important because I see so few people do it) is that slower runners and walkers stay to the right while faster runners pass on the left. Like driving, still with me? So if you're running and get a stitch and need to walk (we've all been there) take a quick glance behind you before coming to a dead stop (another pet peeve of mine) and if there's no one directly behind you slow down and move over to the right. Then slow down to a walk.

 Please do this. It makes everyone happier.

The Route
This 5K was one of the easiest I've done in awhile. No major hills and mostly open pavement, which is probably horrible at the peak of a hot summer day. The crowd thinned out after the first 10th of a mile, and the streets were wide enough for all of us to make space.

That is, until volunteers started yelling at us to move to the right because the lead runners were lapping back. Ugh, I know right? Those lead runners are such show offs!

Ultimately though, the route was nice and apparently Officer Man Candy was scheduled to work that day and did his job very well, observing the race, blocking traffic, and looking fine for us lady runners.

The Stadium
I've never been in the bowels of Miller Park before, in fact, I'm not even sure they have public tours on a regular basis. I do know, sidenote, that you can pay $100 for a tour on game day and go down Bernie's slide, but that's limited to 6 people per game day.

The route took us through the media entrance and onto the field along the first base line, and then we ran out past third where Braun stands. Most people I noticed ran full out during this phase as excitement levels were high. I made the decision to walk through in order to extend my time and take a look around.

It was pretty awesome, gotta tell ya.

There was a video playing on the screen of Brewers personnel and players thanking us for joining the race, which was a benefit to the MACC Fund. It was a nice touch.

The Finish
By the time I finished there was a crowd at the end of spectators and runners who had just finished. The minute I crossed the finish I hit a wall of people that volunteers were hopelessly trying to move.

ProTip: Set up barricades to corral the runners immediately away from the end and to provide a permanent, immovable space for the finish line. Folks can still observe and hang out, but it's much easier to keep people behind a metal barricade than it is to move a sea of humanity with just the sound of your outdoor voice.

The price of race registration also included a hot dog and beer, which they served out of the Sausage Haus, har har. There were 5 lines. One for the hot dog, one for the water, one for condiments, one for peanuts, and another for beer. Rather than utilize the nice, long, counter space in the Sausage Haus, the hot dogs were served at one window, the water across the building, the peanuts next to the water, the condiments diagonal from the hot dogs, and the beer outside.

Confused? Yeah, us too. I skipped the peanuts and water line, wondered why they didn't just line stuff up at the counter more than once, and, ultimately, enjoyed my hot dog and beer at 9:30 AM.

The Surprise
Despite the very odd choices race organizers made in organizing the event - why the DJ booth and incredibly loud speakers were located right next to the Info booth, for example - I had fun, got my hot dog and beer, and...


Randomly met up with my friend Meghan, who was in town visiting from San Francisco!

It was pleasant surprise, more pleasant than enjoying beer at 9:30 AM, and vastly more pleasant than being passed by the 17-minute 5K guy as I rounded the 1st mile bend.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Charity Miles: With One App, Anyone Can Become a Sponsored Athlete & Change the World

Last night I was listening to an NPR segment on Jeremy Lin's shiny new contract with Houston and why the Knicks likely couldn't afford to match it (speculation is that it wasn't the luxury tax after all, but Dolan's hurt feelings).

I started wondering if there was still a sport in the U.S. that anyone played professionally just for the passion of it rather than the huge contracts, signing bonuses, and endorsement deals.


Which made me sad, because in most every other industry and field professionals can easily have passion projects where they explore their skills and put them to use in whatever way they see fit. But you don't see many professional athletes being able to explore any passion or interest beyond their chosen field - at least for the duration of their pro career - because of time constraints and even contractual constraints/obligations.

I suppose I shouldn't feel too bad because these men and women are getting paid enormous amounts of money and are able to retire at a young age and THEN pursue such passions. But still, it was a moment of reflection.

Which is a tenuous way of introducing a new gizmo I found today for your gadget. Charity Miles is a smartphone app that suddenly transforms us regular plain Janes into "sponsored athletes."

I'll let that soak in for a minute.

But instead of doing it all for the money and being obligated to wear a bunch of logo-bloated merch or drink only grape-flavored HEED, this sponsorship is strictly of the do-gooder variety. When you use Charity Miles, corporate sponsors will donate $0.10 (biking) or $0.25 (walking and running) per mile to the charity of your choosing. Pretty neat, huh?

Here's how it works:

The 2012 Olympics in London are about to get underway, during which we will see a bevy of advertisements by athletic sponsors. Some will be good. Others will just be annoying.

Download and use this app to help pave a new road to corporate sponsorship - one of amateur and novice "athletes" logging the miles on behalf of their favorite charities.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Race for the Bacon Recap

This was one of the funner races I've done in recent history. The weather was warm, the course circled the Milwaukee Mile, we ran past the deep fried smells of State Fair Park, and there was bacon, bacon, more bacon, and beer at the end.

When Race for the Bacon was first announced, I signed up not caring if I knew anyone else participating. Of course I would have friends participating, but I didn't feel the need to gather a group to join me, because I. Was. Going. To. Eat. Bacon. Dammit.

And I did. Immediately upon crossing the finish line I was handed a packaged of Patrick Cudahy bacon. FTW. The after party was one of the best I've experienced, with Saz's Catering providing bacon pasta salad, BLTs, bacon mac and cheese, deep fried bacon peanut butter balls, and, just for good measure, a chafing dish full of bacon.

Can you tell by my recap that I really just ran this race for the after party?

I treated the 5K itself like a workout and just took my time, had fun, didn't sweat too much as @kbctourcompany said in comparison to @MRC58, and met up with a group of running FitMKE pals, most of whom I've met either through Twitter or Team Challenge.

It was grand. One of the best times I've had at a race in awhile.

The Route
I had never run a race at State Fair Park before this one, and I gotta say it was nice. Closed course (minus a little IndyFest traffic here and there), circling the Milwaukee Mile (we would've likely been able to run on the track itself if not for it being the same weekend as IndyFest), and a short jaunt through the fairgrounds. Flat, easy peasy, and fun.

The Crowd
I was surprised there wasn't a crazy amount of people, but I know they capped registrations which I appreciate. I hate when races have unlimited registrants and then the crowds get out of hand for the space the route provides, the after party is then also crowded, and it's just a mess. I'm looking at you Storm the Bastille.

I signed up for this run not knowing anyone else who was attending, but assuming that surely, with bacon and beer involved, I'd find a few friends. Rather than making an ass out of you and me, this assumption was correct and I spent pre-race and post-race with some running buds I've met through Twitter, FitMKE, and Team Challenge.

The After Party
The Bacon Bash was one of the most fun after parties I've been to in awhile. Saz's Catering outdid themselves with delicious, bacony food, and we each got two drink tickets to spend on beer. Or, you know soda (rolls eyes). The band was covering some fun tunes, and we had at least 3 top age-group finishers in our crew who all received bacon bling.

Somewhat related, and an unexpected surprise, was at the finish line I was handed a nice package of Patrick Cudahy bacon. I guess the top 100 finishers or some such received one. *shrugs* I'm not complaining.

The Swag 
Race for the Bacon definitely takes the prize for coolest race shirt ever. Eschewing tech shirts or cheap Jerzees boxy tees, they went with adorable sporty v-necks designed by Brew City Brand Apparel. In my humble opinion, this was a brilliant move. I'm much more likely to wear the crap out of this cute casual wear shirt than I am an ugly, boxy, el cheapo tee covered in advertisements. I usually send those straight to Goodwill. The tech shirts, to be fair, I wear when working out.

Overall, I would highly recommend this race to anyone. I saw strollers, walkers, one guy who ran the 10K in 32 minutes (show off), and a "mature" woman running with her walker (you go, girl). It was very well organized, and from registration to after party, provided a delightful experience.

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi needs a new running goal! State-to-State? US-to-Canada? Elliptical marathon? She's looking for something weird and challenging. Leave a comment with your suggestion!

Follow her journey.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Expiration of Running Goals & Challenging Yourself

The thing no one tells you about setting a fitness goal is that usually you achieve it.

Then what?

So you set another goal.

And achieve that one.

And so the cycle continues.

But what do you do when you "run" out of goals?

That's where I am today. I ran my first half marathon last year after collecting 5K's here and there for years. I ran my second half marathon for my birthday this year, and am signed up for an unmentionable number of 5K's throughout the summer.

I think that a lifelong goal of mine will be to run one half marathon every year, and never the same one twice (or, at least the duplicate won't count as that year's half marathon goal).

That means I'm all checked off for 2012 as far as half marathons go, but I want to challenge myself to something even more. I don't want to run a marathon. Perhaps one day I'll want to try running a marathon or aspire to ultra running, but right now I like painting my toe nails too much.

But I want some kind of unique, challenging goal that I can keep track of on this blog and that will drive me to keep running and training.

I've come up with a couple of ideas, but would love a few more to consider. Here's what I've got so far:

Run Every Marquee Race in the State
Now, due to my semi-noviceness and sheer number of running events in WI now that it's become a "thing," this goal will have to have a few stipulations. I'm thinking, in particular, any race 5K to half marathon that draws over 1,000 participants. Adding a 5K and/or Fun Run to any ol' event is now becoming the norm, so I'm hoping that by putting the participant stipulation on it, the goal will narrow down to a couple hundred races. And by "marquee" races I mean those that everyone talks about, that people travel for. Think Storm the Bastille in Milwaukee, Bellin Run in Green Bay, Gopher to Badger in Hudson.

According to one online database, the qualifications above amount to 172 races in Wisconsin.

This goal would, naturally, need a multiple year commitment, but the thing I'm most concerned with is the race fees. Budget just $30 per race and that's over $5,500 in fees alone, not to mention shoes, gear, and recovery beer.

But I still kind of want to pursue it. What do you think?

Interstate & International Races
While this goal may not specifically drive my day-to-day running in the short term, it's sort of a bucket list goal that I want to achieve. By "interstate" and "international" races I mean races that begin in one place and cross the border into another.

The Gopher-to-Badger and Ragnar Relay are good examples. Are there any that start in the U.S. and end in Canada? Because that would be awesome. And though it kind of scares me at the moment, the idea of a cross-country, days-long running goal interests me. I wouldn't be able to physically do that for at least another year, but it's on my radar. Think MS on the Run or Venture Expeditions. Naturally my heart for the nonprofit sector would need to be combined with such a marathon achievement.

Currently, I am scheduled to fulfill one new goal this summer: WI Sports Race Day.

The Brewers have been hosting a 5K event called, obviously, The Sausage Race 5K for a few years now. The Packers, in turn, started hosting a 5K to kick off training camp in 2010.

Unfortunately, for the past 2 years these events were held on the same day.

This year, however, the Packers 5K (they need to come up with a catchy name for this race) begins at 6:30 PM.

That means, crazy sports fans like myself, can run with the sausages in the morning at Miller Park, drive the equivalent of the Ragnar Relay up to Green Bay, and arrive in plenty of time to run the 5K through Lambeau Field (no leaping allowed).

So that's what I'm doing. And I'm checking it off the list. If you can think of any other fun races or endurance/fitness challenges I should undertake, let me know. 

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi needs a new running goal! State-to-State? US-to-Canada? Elliptical marathon? She's looking for something weird and challenging. Leave a comment with your suggestion!

Follow her journey.

Monday, May 7, 2012

WI Half Marathon Race Recap - No Holds Barred

My second half marathon is now firmly under my belt, and a new PR has been recorded, but, as is true for any blogger, it ain't officially over until you can answer the question, "but what did it mean???" in a wordy post.

So here goes.

But first, a word of caution.

There may be some instances of TMI in this race recap. As the bumper stickers say "Running is Sexy," er, until it isn't. This recap will cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of the expected and unexpected portions of the WI Half, and I will try to warn you before you delve headlong into the ugly just in case you want to skip to the end.

The Good

The Route
The WI marathon and half marathon course wound through the nice parts of Kenosha and along the lakefront. It was a nice, flat run (thank you Jesus), and the route double backed on itself so us slower runners could see some of the pace booty at the front.

Buff guy in the yellow shorts with no shirt at the 7-minute mile pace...thank you, sir.

Kitty likes it too.
The Medal
When I was looking for a birthday half marathon to run, I narrowed it down to three options: WI, Lake Geneva, and Cellcom. Cellcom was quickly thrust aside as this year's route does not include Lambeau Field. The Lake Geneva half marathon I'm sure will be gorgeous, but it's on the same day I'm celebrating my birthday and 13.1 miles and lots of beer do not generally mix well. The WI half marathon came out the winner mostly because of the medal. You can't quite see it in this photo, but Door County is a beer bottle opener...a most appropriate use for Door County if ever there was one.

The Weather
I woke up in Milwaukee at 4:30 AM to rain and started praying the wet weather was confined to north of Kenosha. As I drove down to Kenosha I realized this wasn't the case and started praying it let up before the race started. This was the case. The temperature was a pleasant (in my opinion) chill that worked well with my long sleeves and only at the end made me wish I had brought gloves. I have no idea how golden shorted hottie at the front was running shirtless.

The Mile 8 Water Stop
Manned by my pals from Team Challenge. It's just the point of the race when you could use friendly faces, and there they were with Gatorade in hand right by the turn in front of Carthage College. I also really appreciated Darth Vader coming to see us all off at the first mile turn in downtown with a sign that read, "May the Course Be With You." Nice one, Darth.

The Bad

The Weather
I'm pretty sure it got colder as the day wore on because by the end of the race we could all see our breath. This did not bode well for post-race stretching or, really any post-race activity. Race organizers promised beer and brats at the end, but the line was so long and the wind chill coming off Lake Michigan so fierce that I abandoned the 20-minute wait (for Miller Lite, ugh) and hobbled three blocks away to my car (it seemed close enough at the beginning of the race, excruciatingly far at the end) to warm up and make my way home. You know it's bad when they're handing out the silver hypothermia blankets along with the race medals.

As I drove the 45 minutes home I kept turning up the heater in my car, and by the end of the ride it was blowing 85 but still feeling like 60. I grabbed a beer from my fridge (Lakefront Klisch) and drank it in a scalding hot shower that somewhat managed to warm me. I think I finally became warm enough once my heat was turned up to 70, I was fresh from the hot shower, bundled in sweat pants and a sweatshirt under a blanket, with a kitty space heater on my stomach.

Mile 4
Even lining up for the race I was wondering why I was doing this to myself. My mind was not in a good spot for this half marathon. I kept doubting myself and constantly had to overcome the mental tirades "My knee hurts," "I haven't trained as much as I should've," "What happens if I can't finish?" "If I quit I'll feel so disappointed," etc. This took place up until Mile 4 and changed when I pushed myself mentally to just get over it already "You're breathing just fine," "Your legs are strong," "It's the perfect race weather," "You're this far you might as well finish," "You can do it; you ARE doing it," "There's beer at the end," "The medal is a bottle opener," etc.

In truth I felt pretty dang good the entire race physically, but mentally I was a mess. Hey, it's a cliche for a reason. I didn't have my headphones with me (the forecast predicted storms the entire race time and after my 8th grade science teacher was struck by lightning when it was just cloudy out I don't take any chances), so I couldn't lose myself in tunes. It took me awhile, but once I dug in and found a few folks to run with, by mile 7 I knew it was a sure thing.

The Ugly
Disclaimer: Okay, kids. I'm going to get real here. You've probably heard rumors about what happens to your body when you run long distances, and heck, you may have even experienced some of them yourself. A half marathon isn't in the realm of super long distance running, but still things can happen and I'm about to attest. This is a no-holds-barred post mainly because I follow a lot of running blogs that are the same and appreciate when someone can be honest and let me know that these types of things don't just happen to me. So to those that want to skip the gory details: feel free (I'm progressing from least offensive to highest TMI). To those that read on: these things don't just happen to you, K?

The Muscles - Gross Out Threat Level Green
The last time I ran a half marathon my calf muscles gave out at mile 10 and I walked the last 5K simply because that was the only way I'd finish. I could barely walk hours later my muscles were so tight and sore, and I didn't have adequate pain meds and ice therapy available at the hotel. This time my legs felt pretty great the entire race, but my quads really started tightening up at mile 12. I pushed through to the end, and it was only standing in the bracing, chilly gusts off the lakefront at the after party that my legs really started freezing up and hurting. I hobbled home, warmed up, stretched, iced, and took some Advil. I rested. Standing up and sitting down were big issues the rest of Saturday, as was my cat's insistence on sitting on my lap (ouch). I spent most of the afternoon napping on the couch with a kitty heating pad on my stomach.

On Sunday my legs were feeling better. I met some friends for breakfast, and then spent a few hours watching The Avengers mostly because I didn't want to walk up and down my stairs again before I had to meet some other friends for dinner.

Every time my legs felt tight or started hurting throughout the weekend I would either ice or try stretching again. Walking around the mall and my neighborhood helped as well.

Compared to last time, my recovery is going much better, probably due to being more prepared and conditioned pre-race, but also better aftercare. I think I'm still going to sit out tonight's softball game and pick up running on Wednesday.

The Sports Bra - Threat Level Orange
You know how when men run long distances their nipples sometimes bleed from the constant friction with their race jersey? I didn't see any of that during this race (surprisingly...I mean, it was COLD), but I did feel a glimpse of what that must be like. Did I mention it was FREEZING on the lakefront? Well, what happens to your nipples when it's cold out? And sorry men, but you don't corner the market on this one. Even with a sports bra, t-shirt, and long-sleeved shirt on I still experienced some chafing until my body heated back up. Not enough for a gross out factor, but enough to be uncomfortable. No, the gross out factor came after the race.

You see, my sports bra's seam under the cups runs along the inside of the fabric. I had forgotten about this issue from my last half marathon. In fact, I have to wonder if it happens at all to smaller chested ladies. You see, when you run, no matter your cup size, things tend to bounce around a bit. Usually this isn't an issue. I mean, that's what sports bras are for, right?

Right. But while sports bras help prevent a lot of bounce, they can't eliminate chafing. Because what else happens when the girls are bouncing, even if they're only bouncing a little bit? Your sports bra undoubtedly rubs up and down a little bit. And what happens if your sports bra rubs up and down a little bit for a long period of time?

I won't entirely spell it out for you, but just know that it kind of looks like I might've had breast implant surgery done recently. And I only now remember this happening after my last half marathon. And I wonder if it only happens to us ladies with big girls, or if my sports bra is somehow to blame. I mean, I've heard rumors that when you run marathon distances your toenails can fall off from the constant abrading against your shoe (thankfully this has never happened to me), but people don't blame that issue on bad shoes, right? It's just's a sad truth that at a certain cup size no sports bra can be expected to eliminate 100% of the bounce.

And yes, I watch The League. I've seen the bounce test episode.

The Un/Expected Visitor - Threat Level Red
I'm sure men can draw some comparisons to my sports bra issue, just, erm, in a more "southern" way. However, one thing they should feel lucky to know nothing about is a certain visitor who came to cheer me on on race day (all the female readers are now groaning). I knew she was coming and had adequately planned for it, just in case she arrived at mile 1, 5, 10, or even post-race, but usually when she visits me I get really sick. I'm talking lady pain, migraines, and nausea.

This I wasn't prepared for.

The WI half marathon was the first race I ever had to use the facilities. Again, I've heard horror stories from other runners, and thankfully have never experienced them, but at mile 12 I couldn't tell if it was leg pain radiating up or lady pain joining forces in my abdomen. I warded off two bouts of nausea at mile 3 and mile 6, but had to have a moment to myself at 12.5

Again, I won't entirely spell it out for you, but I don't know if the rest of the day was so bad strictly because of the thigh muscle soreness, or if it was also the lady pain that created one large conglomerate of punishment. Aunt Flo is a bitch.

The Awesome
Welcome back all of you who skipped to the end. You didn't miss much, I promise.

If you recall, I set a lofty goal of running my half marathon in 2:30, a realistic goal of 2:45, and a "don't want to embarrass myself" goal of 3:00. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I HAVE A NEW PR!

When I crossed the finish line, the clock said 2:47 and change. The official race results came in at 2:44:50! I even beat my goal by 10 seconds! Which, I realize, isn't much but, hey, the goal in running is to beat yourself not anyone else. So woohoo! Let's celebrate with a night on the town! Pub Golf, anyone?

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first marathon! Her next goal is running a full half marathon (no walking!) by her next birthday (May 13, 2012).

Follow her journey.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Seis de Mayo is Going to Blow

Tomorrow is the Wisconsin Marathon. I will be running the half, and, I admit, am kind of freaking out about it.

Part of the reason is that I am a planner by nature and I only realized two days ago that I wasn't receiving all of the e-newsletters with the race info. Therefore, I've only been "planning" for the past two days - directions, when I'm going to wake up, where to park, race route, what to pack, etc.

I like to have these details hammered out at least a week or two in advance. Or, I like to participate in destination races with a team so I don't have to think about any of this and I can just show up for a bus.

I'm picking up my race packet this evening - all the way in Kenosha, egads - and will find out if I'm actually registered or not. Perhaps they just missed my email on their database gliche, y'know?


I'd like to say that I'm all ready to go and I've never felt better for a race, but that would be a lie. I'm more prepared for this half than I was the Wine Country Half last summer, but that's not saying much. My pie-in-the-sky goal is to run a 2:30, my more-likely-to-become-reality goal is 2:45 and my don't-want-to-embarrass-myself goal is anything under 3:00.

To be fair I ran my first half marathon at 3:01 after starting the first 7 miles or so at a 2:30 pace. I bonked out at mile 10 and had to walk the last 5K.

This time I've been running regularly 3-5 miles 3-4 times per week. However, the most mileage I've done recently is 7. I've heard that if you can do 8 miles adrenaline and sheer determination will carry you through on race day. That's what I'm hoping for...that and the promise of beer and margaritas post race.


As far as nutrition goes I haven't done too much these past few days. I usually eat pretty healthy, i.e. clean, and I've just been focusing on salads, protein, and adequate carbs. Except for that one donut I had for breakfast on Tuesday.

Today I'm loading up on protein for lunch and am planning some carbs for dinner. I've read a lot of advice regarding pre-race nutrition, but it basically seems that, if your stomach gives you problems then watch what you're doing, otherwise it's best to not stray too far from your current (assuming healthy) habits. So that's what I've been doing. Pretty much the same with a few tweaks.

I have gels to carry during the race. As I understand they only start handing those out to the marathoners after the half mileage point. I plan to drink at every water stop regardless of whether or not I'm thirsty. I plan to partake in the post race beer.

Race Day

I went back and forth a few times on whether or not I'd book a hotel room for tonight. Kenosha is only 40 miles away, but it's nice to be exactly where you need to be on race day. Or, if you do have to travel, have a bus or family to drive for you.

As this is my first solo half marathon, I'm just going to wing it and hope it works out. I'm planning an early morning (god help my cat if she pulls any of her "keep Mandi up all night" shenanigans tonight), which ultimately is good because it gives my stomach a chance to settle down and digest breakfast as I drive down I-94 and through Kenosha (egads) to line up.

I hope parking doesn't suck too bad.

I hope I can easily find where I'm going for bag check, line up, and the like.

I hope I get there on time.

Post Race

I have plans set for brunch on Sunday and I have a softball game on Monday. I left the rest of Saturday open to pass out and/or stretch. If my last half marathon is any indication, I won't be moving too well the rest of this weekend, so bear with me if I'm late for's just me making my way down the stairs.

I'll post an update on how the WI half went on Monday. Until then I bid you adieu!

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first marathon! Her next goal is running a full half marathon (no walking!) by her next birthday (May 13, 2012).

Follow her journey.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Does Running Lead to Better Sexy Time?

You heard me.

And I think it's safe to say that yes, yes it might.

I stumbled across an article on Yahoo that talked about what men and women find most attractive in each other upon first meeting (I know, I know...I just wanted to affirm that my decision to grow my hair long despite its inherent annoyances would pay off in the end, right?).

What I didn't expect to find was a reference to a 2007 study in the American Journal of Cardiology titled "Heart Rate and Blood Pressure Response in Adult Men and Women During Exercise and Sexual Activity."

Yeah. It's a mouthful.

Basically, the researchers gave a treadmill stress test to participants, both men and women, and monitored their heart rate and blood pressure. They then also monitored their heart rate and blood pressure during sexual activity (using noninvasive, take home, monitoring devices) to compare the difference.

They found that sexual activity provides moderate physical stress, which, sure is interesting, but not as interesting as other findings.

First, researchers found that age correlated inversely with duration of sexual activity (and treadmill exercise, but that's less interesting). Basically, that means that your sexy time decreases by 1 minute for every year as you age.

Second, and here's what prompted this blog post, researchers found that the duration of treadmill exercise predicted sexual activity duration. In other words the longer, a.k.a. farther, you run, the longer your sexy time.

Just remember THAT next time your plodding through your miles at the gym.

Specifically, the study found that there was a 2 . 3-minute increase in sexy time duration for every minute of treadmill exercise. The researchers didn't cross check their findings with pace or mileage, just time spent on the treadmill. So suddenly I'm okay with my 11-minute mile if it means I spend more time on the run.

My question now is, where should I focus my Pace Booty attention? On the back-of-the-pack half marathoners? Or those dudes who finished the Icebreaker Marathon in a little over 2 hours?

In the Discussion section of the study, the researchers do explain that they encouraged participants to give "maximal treadmill exertion," which I take to mean "go as hard and fast and long as you can." During the treadmill exercise, they noticed that once participants reached a moderate level of physical stress, they "continued and intensified the exertion." In other words, they pushed it.

As as a result, researchers found that "At maximum treadmill exertion, virtually every measured variable exceeded the corresponding peak sexual activity variable."

I take that to mean the longer you run equals more sexy time, but ALSO the harder you run means more sexy time. At which point I leave you to go flirt with the men lined up in the 7-minute mile marathon pace group...

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first marathon! Her next goal is running a full half marathon (no walking!) by her next birthday (May 13, 2012).

Follow her journey.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It Just Sort of Happens...

As you all know I've been gearing up for my birthday half marathon the past couple of months. I haven't so much been training as generally running every day and getting used to that before I add on the miles.

It's been working out.

Pun intended.

Now that I'm staring May 5th in the face (proverbially speaking, and from a training standpoint), my goal is to dust off my old Team Challenge training plan and put it to good use in the next 6-8 weeks.

But this is all just a side note.

What I'm really here to tell you about today  is that working out regularly and eating healthy(ish) can really help you lose weight.

Oh, really Mandi! I've never heard that before!

Yes really, and you're lying about that last part.

You see, when you start exercising about a hundred times more than you usually did, the weight tends to come off naturally. Something about extra muscle movement and these weird things called...dramatic pause..."calories" (use your Morgan Freeman voice).

There's something even more compelling I'd like to tell you about though.

Oh, really Mandi? What's that?

I'm glad you asked. It's called "a Smartphone App," and, specifically, "Lose It."

Basically, it's an app where you type in your weight, what you'd like your weight to be, how many pounds you want to lose each week, and then it calculates how many calories you can eat daily and when you can expect to reach your goal weight.

I know, not rocket science, but the thing is...

It's working!

I say that in a whisper because I'm afraid to scare it away if I draw too much attention.

Seriously, though. Tracking what you eat seems like a time-consuming, overly complicated endeavor, but I find that when all of the information is at your finger tips it's pretty easy. I wouldn't, for example, log into a website every day to do it, but when it's right there on the home screen of my phone...easy peasy.

There are plenty of other app choices out there for you to use if interested. Fit Gizmos rated their Top 5 here. I liked Lose It because it included the balance of calorie intake and output. I still use Daily Mile because it's better at logging my mileage to stay on track with training and see where I've come, but in Lose It you can log the amount of time you exercised and it will add it to your daily calorie bank.

I've found that I feel really bad when I've only just met my goal for the day and not overachieved in some way. Maybe that's why this kind of weight loss works for me - I'm a bit Type A.

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first marathon! Her next goal is running a full half marathon (no walking!) by her next birthday (May 13, 2012).

Follow her journey.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Heart My Gym

I've never joined a gym before. The closest I ever got was using the rec center and pool in college, and even then never on a regular basis.

Hey, step off. It was 30-minute walk across campus to class every day. My freshman 15 happened in the negative direction thankyouverymuch.

Why Running Outside is Awesome
When I trained for my half marathon last summer I logged all of my miles outside. I enjoy running outside. I like running through my neighborhood and planning the landscaping do's and don'ts of my future home. Then I run through the Highlands and convince myself I'll NEVER buy a home because it's an anchor weighing down any possible career move and the ROI of my rent is in the shoveling, raking, and mowing I DON'T have to do and tens of thousands of dollars in home repair I won't ever have to pay. Not to mention a house in the Highlands will set you back $500K at the bottom end of the scale.

Then I look at the cute backyards and imagine how nice a gazebo would be with a fire pit and hammock for my lazy Sundays. I imagine nice neighbors who really do have a cup of sugar for me to borrow when I'm baking a cheesecake for a Cherryland's Best & MKEFoodies contest, which, naturally, will be shared with them after I take 2nd place.

By this point I'm on the loop back home and I pass Janet's house, Kelcey's house and then Jennifer's. I may wave as I pass, or stop and say hello. If it's Janet's house you better believe I'm stopping for a beer. Then I realize, hey, even though I rent in this neighborhood I still have the nice neighbors, the backyard, the fire pit (in a different neighborhood, where I am referred to as "The Squatter"), and really everything BUT the ability to turn my front yard into stepped flower beds and backyard into a natural herb garden.

I then arrive back home and realize I've just completed over 5 miles and didn't even know it because I was so busy with my thoughts above. This is why I like running outside.

Why Running Outside Sucks Balls
But then winter hits. In Wisconsin, this usually lasts late October to early May...roughly 7 months of rain, possible snow, ice, and cold temperatures. If it's not too cold I can bundle up and suck it up. When it gets frigid my lungs freeze. If there's ice all bets are off - I can barely walk from my door to the garage without injury, much less run. All it takes is for one jerkoff neighbor to not shovel the snow off his sidewalk to ruin my stride. Four of my broken bones came from ice-related activities, and I've come to accept that I'll never be one of those runners galloping through the winter.

This, then, means I'm on my butt for roughly 6-7 months of the year. Unless, of course, I pay for a gym.

The issue became a dilemma this winter when I was signed up to run the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay with 3 other lovely ladies. I had a team depending on me, and I needed to train sans injury.

So I debated on a gym membership.

I considered the Y, the WAC, and Snap Fitness, all of which have pros and cons (con: price, size, pro: pool, showers, etc), but ultimately decided on a gym a quick drive from my house, with tons of equipment and minimal extras. I don't need extras. Like the opportunity to pay more money for a class. Or daycare...don't need that.

And so I came to Anytime Fitness. Not only is it pretty big for a strip mall gym, but they also have a big parking lot. The staff is ever-helpful, ready to answer your questions and/or leave you the heck alone to your sweaty workout. Free banana Wednesdays, combined with weekly chalkboard drawing, and annual membership appreciation days are little extras that don't necessarily inspire awe, but are nice just the same. Anytime Fitness is also located right across the street from Ray's, which now acts as my proverbial carrot as I run my miles on the treadmill.

I never really ran regularly on a treadmill before. It's not my favorite, but it is easy to get just as lost in a TV show or movie as it is my landscaping dreams above. It's also pretty great for working on my pace. And if I'm a little sore or my feet are tired from yesterday's 6-miler, I can swap the treadmill for the elliptical to give my legs a break. Variety is the spice of life (and building a routine of exercise) and a gym allows me to switch it up by machine, with classes, and with weights. If I need a little extra help I can sign up for personal training. And, once summer hits, Anytime Fitness is a great distance for me to run to from home, stop in for weight training, and then run back.

Oh, and one last thing. I live in a city. A city that sometimes has crime. I'm also a single gal. Running outside poses a certain risk - or, honestly, perception of risk - that I don't always enjoy...especially when it's dark outside. A gym that's open 24-hours, even if it's not always staffed, to me, is better than getting the urge to run at 11:30 PM (it's happened) only to be deterred because I'm afraid of drivers not being able to see me at street crossings.

Last Words
Ultimately, this is my first gym experience, and I'm really digging it. I like going in and seeing the same folks each night, being left to do my thang (I'm an independent gal, after all), in the safe confines of a locked gym. With the florescent lights of Ray's illuminating my imaginary race track. And Project Runway, Chopped, or Being Human making me forget about the miles I'm logging. And I am logging miles for all of the reasons above and the one simple reason that doesn't hurt to reiterate: I like it.

That's what a routine exercise plan is all about...finding something you like and sticking with it because you like it.

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first marathon! Her next goal is running a full half marathon (no walking!) by her next birthday (May 13, 2012).

Follow her journey.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wisconsin-Area Fun Runs

 Every day I hear about some new awesome 5K or 10K or the like that I want to sign up for entirely for the medal, the novelty t-shirt, or the refreshments at the end. In no particular order, here are a couple that I'm considering running this summer...if my bank account doesn't get mad at me first.

Race for the Bacon
This sizzling race is your choice of a 5K or 10K that will be held Thursday, June 14th at the Wisconsin State Fair park (of course, where else but the land of fried food?). My biggest motivation to join this race is not that I'll have a t-shirt that says "Bring Home the Bacon," but the words "post-race bacon party" in the description of events. And even though I have no chance of being a top finisher, those that do will receive "a big hunk of bacon." Priceless.

The Color Run
One part art class, one part workout, 100% awesome, The Color Run is a race in which participants start out with a white outfit and end coated with multi-colored hues on their shirt, shorts, shoes, arms, faces, hair...
I'm surprised goggles aren't necessary for this one, but then I suppose you're always free to close your eyes. At the moment there is no Wisconsin event scheduled, but the run in Chicago goes down June 2nd. As of last week they hadn't even started taking registrations; today I checked and they are at capacity but are "working on options to allow more participants." So stay tuned. Sidenote: The Color Run in the Twin Cities is still open and will take place July 15th.

The Sausage Run/Walk
The Brewers page on doesn't have much info on the Sausage Run/Walk, but it's just like you imagine. A 5K race in steamy July or August with hundreds of Brewers fans, running around Miller Park with some poor sots sweating away in giant foam sausage costumes. I think you get some tailgating afterward though, so there is that. This is one of those races I'd like to complete simply for the t-shirt I'd get. Let me know if you hear anything about when registration opens - I know it books up fast.

Packers Training Camp 5K
The Packers 5K started two years ago and, as I had never been to training camp before, I decided the inaugural 5K was the perfect reason to check it out. The race was organized very well considering I went in it's first year. The course takes you through the neighborhood around Lambeau Field and then, the big novelty factor, through the stadium and around the field itself. It's an awesome way to get field-level and see yourself on the big screen. The Packers don't have info up for this year yet. Check back here in a couple of months.

Gopher-to-Badger 5K
Here you have a choice between a 5K and a half marathon. I've been wanting to do an inter-state run just to say I accomplished the big, scary accomplishment of racing across state borders. Doesn't that sound epic? This one will take me across the Hudson bridge from Minnesota to Wisconsin for the low, low price of 3.1 miles. It all goes down August 11th.

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first marathon! Her next goal is running a full half marathon (no walking!) by her next birthday (May 13, 2012).

Follow her journey.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Trail Running

Sometimes I enjoy trail running.

It's a hot, sweaty summer day and the canopy of the trees provide some nice shade. I'm staying at camp for the week and the woodsy trails are my only choice for a light jog.

And sometimes I just like to get off the concrete and give an uneven, rooty, dirt track a try.

However, there are reasons I prefer sidewalks to swamps, pavement to pine forests, highly populated areas to ghostly abandoned backwater trails.

I went to Google to prove my point:

Kiwi (1/6/2012)
Missouri (12/20/2011)
California - Calabasas (9/4/2011)
Hollywood (1/21/2012)
Milwaukee - East Side (9/11/2011)
Milwaukee - OC (1/24/2012)

Tell me I'm overreacting (I am). Tell me it's a rarity (I suppose it is, relatively speaking). Tell me I watch too much Law & Order (that's definitely true).

But trail running, especially early morning trail running, never fails to make me imagine what I would do if I were the unfortunate one who found a body in the empty forest.

This, in turn, leads me to pack my ID and cell phone before I head out - two things I (regrettably) rarely bring with me.

This train of thinking then makes me wish I had some sort of small packable weapon to bring with me *just in case,* not to mention makes me rethink living alone (you then there's at least someone on the planet who knows when I don't return on time).

Then I think about how glad I am I live alone because then there's no one to be angry when I lose track of time and turn my planned 3-miler into a 6-miler.

Then I remember to pack along some cash in case my 3-miler actually does turn into a 6-miler and I need to stop at the gas station for a bottle of water.

This, in turn, makes me wish my SPIbelt was one of those fancy ones with water bottles attached, because then I start thinking about how many plastic water bottles we use and throw away every year.

Then I start thinking about how I live in a concrete jungle and once, just once, it'd be nice to run surrounded by nature - smelling the fresh air, hearing the birds chirping, and occasionally spying a cute little bunny.

Then I end up right back where I started, mapping out a trail run at any number of Milwaukee's local parks.

And now you know the frightening reality of how my mind works.

____________________________________________________________Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first marathon! Her next goal is running a full half marathon (no walking!) by her next birthday (May 13, 2012).

Follow her journey.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Race Recap: Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay

Guess what friends? I just finished my first MARATHON!

Okay, so it was a relay and I had the help of 3 other fabulous ladies (@mkemom, @rshill37, @bananza...look 'em up), but it was still 4 hours of fun running in circles.

The Venue
I've never run in the Pettit Center before and I wasn't sure what to expect. The track was a narrow two-lane, which was better once the faster teams finished and runners thinned out. The air was colder than I'm used to and very dry.

The Marathon
My team broke up the 26.2 miles, or, 96 laps, into 4 sets of 6 laps each. Four laps would've been nice and comfortable for me as I didn't really train as much as I should've (story of my running life so far), but it was nice to push myself.

Because the air was colder than I was used to, my lungs were the biggest hurt and by my 4th leg it was hard to catch a full breath, which, in turn, affected my muscles. This continued the rest of the evening - me not being able to breathe deep - until the lung inflammation settled down. I'm sure that's super dangerous and bad news, but I'm still alive.

The run itself was rather nice. It was great to circle around the track and see SO many people I knew. There were at least 4-5 other teams I knew who were all situated at different points along the track, so it was motivation to go and get your cheer on. FitMKE and Team Challenge had great representation.

Team "Avoid the Lap" finished at 4:11:andchange...nearly 2 hours after the fastest team (seriously, I think those guys were doing it's a FUN race, right? AmIright?). We had a great time cheering each other on and eating rice krispy treats.

The Recovery
I recovered better from this race than I did the half marathon in July. Likely because I was going in short spurts and only completing 6.55 miles to July's 13.1. The one thing I would do differently is bring a chair or yoga mat and sit during the down times. The laps weren't so bad as running on concrete isn't any different from running outside on pavement, but standing for 3 hours in between the running is what hurt my feet. Before my last leg I figured it out.

The Lessons
As I said before, one thing I would do differently is to bring something to sit comfortably on during the down times in order to rest my feet. Another thing I would do differently is train more in cold weather. I have a VERY bad track record on ice - nearly all of my broken bones (4 out of 7) are from encounters with ice in which the ice won. So you can imagine why I'm a little gun shy when it comes to training outside once winter hits. Because of this I've spent the past month in the gym, which, as I stated earlier, didn't help my lungs come race day. It is what it is, they're still not 100%, but I'm alive.

And that's about it. My team members had excellent advice pre-race, so I brought a bunch of layers to bundle up with in between laps. I brought lots of beverages and food as I prefer to not eat much before a race. And my only goal was to finish, which I did.

Looking forward, my next goal is to run a full half marathon by my birthday, and I'm looking at the Lake Geneva Half on May 12th, as that's the day before. Yes, my birthday is on Mother's Day this year.

____________________________________________________________  Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first half marathon, traveling to California's wine country to benefit the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. Her next goal is the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in January.
Follow her journey.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This Just Got Real

Saturday is my marathon.

Three little days away.

Make that 21.2 miles away.

Because I predict that I'll be able to run about 5 miles before I die. I am, ahem, a "bit" unprepared.

Luckily I have a team to run with, and, with four us I only have about 6.5 miles to run total. And we're planning to switch off every 4 laps (approx. every mile).

This is good.

I'll still be slow, I'm sure.

For those of you wondering how an indoor marathon relay works, here are some tips.

I'll let you know how it goes after the fact.

____________________________________________________________  Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
Mandi recently completed her first half marathon, traveling to California's wine country to benefit the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. Her next goal is the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in January.
Follow her journey.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 Fitness Goals

I finally did it. I broke down and bought a gym membership.

I used to think that throwing on my gear and heading out the door were enough, but then winter would hit. And we all know my track record on ice. So if there was ever the least bit of ice on the ground, I'd be too scared of breaking my face (or arm, twice) to brave the outdoors.

So then I would go 4+ months not running, and by the time Spring came back I was happy to continue sitting on my arse with all of my indoor projects.

This year I pledged to be different, and, finally, I put my money where my mouth is.

I signed up with a team to run the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay (our team name is "Avoid the Lap" ~ Jimmy Dugan), and am committed to train. A few weeks ago, at the first sign of snow (granted, a small one), I signed my credit card and first born child over to Anytime Fitness...mainly because I can use any of their facilities with my membership, including the one conveniently located a few blocks from where I work.

Now that 2012 has come and I'm staring down my 30th birthday, I've devised a set of fitness goals I'd like to achieve this year.  They're not resolutions, because those are dumb. I made a few of these goals a few months ago, and now am making them official via the interwebs. In no particular order:

Twenties in the Rearview, Fitness Goals:
  1. Run all 6.55 miles of my Icebreaker Marathon Relay commitment - I gots a team and they need me to RUN!
  2. Run a full half marathon by my birthday - this one will likely be the Lake Geneva Half, as it's where I work and will allow me to reach my goal on May 12th, the day before my birthday 
  3. #Runstreak - So far I'm 5 for 5 in 2012, and I want to make it at least to my 30th birthday. I'm taking a  page out of the Beer Runner's book and justifying my oat soda consumption with mandatory exercise. Thanks for being my accountability partners. 'Sides, it's no accident my new gym is right across the street from Ray's.
  4. Take part in an Inter-state run - This one will likely be the Gopher to Badger run in August. I was thinking the Ragnar Relay that crosses the WI/IL border, but the distance makes me twitchy.
  5. L-L-L-LAMBEAUUUUU! - I want to do the Packers 5K again this year so that I can, once again, run through the tunnel and around the field. I considered the Green Bay Cellcom Half for my birthday run, which would've also taken care of the Lambeau fix, HOWEVER, Lambeau's not a part of their route this year. Made that decision easy.
  6. Sausage Race - In any other city this would be a black mark on your record, but in great ol' Milwaukee it's a golden goose. I'm not going to lie. The main reason I want to do the Brewers Sausage Race 5K is for the t-shirt.

For now I think that's enough, don't you? I might add in some goals for personal training sessions, but for now my wallet is satisfied with the cost of a straight membership and entry fees for all of the above.

What are your goals in striving to stay fit and live a healthy life?

____________________________________________________________ Mandi Current Couch Potato | Aspiring Runner
 Mandi recently completed her first half marathon, traveling to California's wine country to benefit the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. Her next goal is the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in January.

Follow her journey.