Sunday, March 31, 2013

Overcoming Fears

This past Saturday, in the freezing 44* weather, my family and I competed in the Reebok Carolina Spartan Sprint at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC.  If you are not familiar with the Spartan Race series, then go check it out here. We ran the sprint distance, which is a minimum of 3 miles and 15 obstacles for each event. Our race was 4.5 miles and minimum of 18 obstacles (I cannot remember all of them for an accurate count).

 Whether it was your first race or your 50th,  you had fears going into the race, even if it was never said aloud. It may have been the temperature, the potential of swimming in an ice bath, or a specific obstacle one had seen or heard about. 

Mine? Mine was the monkey bars. I could handle the cold, the mud, and the potential ice cold water, but those monkey bars haunted me. You are probably thinking, "really, girl?" but you gotta remember one thing. MUD. 
(And North Carolina doesn't just have mud. We have red clay, which is worse.)
You are coated in it. The thousands of people before you are coated in it. The bars are coated in it. 
Oh those monkey bars. I remember them so well from last years race in New Hampshire. I couldn't even make it to the second bar. Sad, I know. 

Well this year, upon arrival, we were able to watch the earlier heats attempt the monkey bars while we parked. 
This. This right here, scared me even more. These Spartans are CAKED in mud. 
I stood watching these Spartans attempt the monkey bars for a good 5 minutes. I saw ONE person make it across, and he was as clean as a whistle. It didn't make sense. However, the kind parking attendant gave me piece of advice I never once forgot, "the trick is to clean your hands with pine straw." 

After a few more minutes watching, we made our way to check-in to prepare for the race. 
Bro and JS getting marked with their bib numbers
Post marking
Securing timing chips and bib numbers, and layering on more clothes
We then proceed to check our bags, warm-up, and stretch for the start of the race. 

I think we stayed dry for close to a mile, or whenever our second obstacle started. We had to climb into a muddy bath with barbed wire above it. It was all down here from there.  When I stated ice bath earlier it was a figurative term, but the water was as cold as an ice bath because we were climbing in rivers. Warning: water in March has NOT had the time to warm up.

A few obstacles later, we were lucky enough to have my Sis and one of her best friends, Ace, cheering us on and taking pictures of our race.
Climbing mounds of mud and sliding into moats of  cold water
Bro and I
Mom and Dad
Mom and I climbing under barbed wire

 After the barbed wire crawl, we ended up back in the woods for a little bit. I kept waiting for the monkey bars to appear, I knew they were close. In the parking lot, I had every intention of skipping the monkey bars and completing the 30 burpees one must due when they fail an obstacle. But, I am not one to give up. It took 2 miles of running, and a lot of courage, but I finally talked myself into attempting the obstacle. 
Then, there they appeared. 

I waited patiently, and scoped out my track to follow. I looked to the left and saw that EVERYONE had attempted the monkey bars over there, so I opted for the right side, the cleaner side. 
I cleaned my hands the best I could.
I watched my dad complete the monkey bars.
I watched more people fail the monkey bars. 
I jumped on the starting block and wiped my hands on my legs to grab the bars. 
'WAIT. Whoopies, more mud on my hand.' 
I jumped back down, cleaned my hands. Again.
I jumped back into position. 
I remembered what my dad told me last year, and again this year. "Two hands, one bar." 
Pretty much, don't swing like a monkey.
I swung onto the first bar. 
Swung to the second bar. 
'Phew, already farther than last year.' 
I started repeating my running mantra, over and over again, 
'Dig deeper. Push through. You got this.'
I added, 'Be patient. Take your time.'
If I rushed, I was doomed. 
If I took to long, I was doomed. 
Now, I am a mere two bars away from the finish. 
Everyone is cheering me on.
'Wait. I can do this'
Next thing I knew, someone was encroaching on my monkey bars. 
I hear and feel him getting closer. 
I could hear spectators and other Spartans, talking about it.
I stopped moving.
He was one bar behind. 
What now?
Now, you have to watch the video to see what happened...
I was so nervous when I heard him closing in on me. Everyone around was nervous for me. 

I turned around and told him, "I am not moving for you." He understood and waited patiently. 
Because he jumped the gun, and I wouldn't move quicker for him, he fell. I felt bad for half a second, but who cares...
I was the SECOND female ALL day to complete the monkey bars.
I was high on life the rest of the race. I was ecstatic with myself. And to think, I almost skipped it all together. Boy am I glad I didn't. 

We quickly moved on. Back into the woods and more obstacles. 
Bro, aka Thor, crushing the rope climbing
By the time we reached our last stretch of obstacles, my arms were dog gone tired. I ended up doing ninety burpees. It was one set more than last year, but I was okay with it. 
I faced my fear, and I smashed it into the ground. After that, nothing else mattered, other than the finish line. 

We began as a team. We competed as a team.
We helped each other through the mud and ice cold water.
We helped each other over 8 foot walls.
We helped each other pulling cinder blocks up hills and lifting them off the ground.
We cheered each other on when that was all we could do. 
We finished as a team.
We became Spartans as a team. We became Spartans as a family. 

Team 'It's a Family Affair'
Do you have it in you?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Running Mantra

A few weeks ago I started running again and I am complete addicted! No lies. 
I cannot get home quick enough to start my run, and once I am done, I am ready to go back out.  It is kind of ridiculous. 

At first, I was naturally slow and I wasn't happy about it. I have never in my life run a mile with a 10 minute pace. So, rather than dwelling on it, I took action. I gave myself a few weeks with a 10+ minute pace over 3 miles to get back in the swing of things. I was afraid that if I pushed too hard, too early, I would hate my decision to start running again. 
Running view on a  cold, rainy day
This week, two weeks later, I decided it was time to start pushing myself. I was well versed, my body was acclimated, and I had no reason to lollygag anymore. 

I decided that I would push myself  hard for one mile. I needed to prove to myself that I could still run a mile in under 9 minutes, which to me is still too slow, and I did. I shaved almost 2 minutes off of my average pace. I finished in 8:41. However, I knew one mile was't going to be my issue. I was worried that if I continued to run 3+ miles that I would maintain my 10+ minute pace. Gag. 
Run put me on my behind. 
Yesterday, I set out on my run, relaxed, and no intentions of breaking records. When I finished my first I heard 9:30 flat. I was thrilled, but again, I firmly believed I would slow down. I quickly pushed those thoughts to the side. I mentally did not want to say, "hey, it is okay to walk," or "hey, it is okay to slow down." Instead, I repeated my new running mantra in my head:

"Push through. Dig deeper. You got this." 

I was not trying to push my body past exhaustion, but I did want my mind to finally match what I knew my body was capable of. When needed, I slowed down, but after a few paces I repeated my mantra and picked my pace back up. Doing so I finished a 5k in 29:54 or 9:40 a mile. I was ecstatic. 

I still have a long way to go. But I know my running mantra will help me mentally push through to my goal and during other events, like my Spartan Race tomorrow. 
New England Spartan Sprint 2012
At the finish line with my dad by my side

What is your mantra when working out?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ah, Sugar Sugar

One of my newest adventures is eating healthy. I have done a LOT of research on what you should and should not consume and how it affects you. Two topics I have focused on are processed foods and sugar. 

Processed foods can be traced to 4 of the top 10 chronic diseases: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. By cutting out processed foods, not only are we lowering our risk of these four diseases, but we will also gain energy, lose weight, improve regularity, and feel better as a whole. Why wouldn't one want to cut out processed foods?

Don't know what processed foods are? They are foods that have been altered from their natural state such as: white flour, high sodium canned foods, boxed meals, processed meats, sugary breakfast cereals and packaged meals, snacks, and sweets. 
However, some foods should be processed or are not harmful after being processed. 
For example, milk does not have to be processed, but it should be processed. 
If you do not pasteurize your milk, you will not kill the bacteria that it contains causing food-borne illnesses. You also need to homogenize it to keep the fat from separating over time. 
Other items such as frozen berries and veggies are not harmful because freezing them actually helps in preserving their vitamins and minerals. 
100% whole grain breads and oatmeal are a few processed items which are not only okay to consume, but should be consumed. 

You should check out these videos about the aging of processed foods.

Excessive Sugar intake causes weight gain, cravings, binge eating, and heart disease (noticing a pattern yet?). It has also been linked to depression, migraines, poor eyesight and autoimmune diseases. 
According to USDA the average American consumed 152.4 pounds of sugar in 2000
That is an increase of 32.8 pounds since 1950-1959. 
Are you sick to your stomach yet? Well, if not, here is a fun fact from USDA:

"In a sense, sugar is the number one food additive. It turns up in some unlikely places, such as pizza, bread, hot dogs, boxed mixed rice, soup, crackers, spaghetti sauce, lunch meat, canned vegetables, fruit drinks, flavored yogurt, ketchup, salad dressing, mayonnaise, and some peanut butter."
Hot dogs? Lunch meat? Pizza? These were my favorite lunch time meals as a child. Heck, I still love them. I always knew they weren't the best for you, but sugar?  I don't even want to know what else that little guy is hiding in! 

The American Heart Association recommends that we limit our daily intake of sugar to 7% (100 calories) for women and 9% (150 calories) for men. 
Did you know that ONE can of soda contains 130-150 calories? 
Okay, quick fix. Drink diet soda. 
Wrong. Diet soda contains aspartame, which not only is linked to cancer, but causes you to crave sugar more than real sugar. 
Could you imagine the improvements we would make to our bodies by changing these two things? Maybe heart disease wouldn't be the leading cause of death...just maybe.

Are are interested in making these changes to your life,but are still struggling on what to pick up?
Look for products of nature  
Shop the outer ring of the store: meats, dairy, fruits, veggies, whole grains etc. 
Read your labels. 
Look for items that have 6 ingredients or less. 
Avoid high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. 
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I am not perfect, and I don't want to be. I will still eat processed food and sugary snacks on occasion, but my goal is to control my intake of it, not let it control me. So, I welcome you to join me in my triumphs and downfalls in leading a healthier lifestyle.