Thursday, May 30, 2013

JDRF Rock the Run Race Recap

On Memorial Day I took park in a race to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation called the Rock the Run 5K.  This race is in its 3rd year and is still growing a following.  The race is held at the Rogers High School cross country course and yet somehow I didn't realize that it was a cross country style race!

The race began in typical cross country style...runners spread out across a long line and when the horn blew we all raced to the narrow trail beginning.  We had to run across some taller grass until we finally hit the manicured trail of the actual cross country course.

The race was 2 1/2 loops of the course and it included two chances to run a series of 3 bunny hop hills.  These little hills were there just to mess up your stride! I wasn't really sure what to do to tackle them!

My first loop felt okay but I could tell that my legs were tired.  As I moved through the second loop I started to lose that race motivation and the race quickly turned into a well supported workout for me.  I just didn't have the heart to race and even took a few short walk breaks which I haven't been doing in races for a while.  My legs felt horrible and that just messed up my mental strength.

I was happy to finish up the second loop and head out for the short finish loop.  It was great to finish and then cheer on the rest of the finishers.  It was a small race and they were really fast at getting the results posted for all to see.  They had the awards ceremony going on within an hour of the start which was great.

Overall, not a bad workout/race after a hard weekend of a long run and long ride workout.  My time came in at 32:17 and this counts as my 5K race for the Running Bloggers Virtual Race series.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A trip to Jurassic Park

Sunday morning at o'dark hundred I met up with Mandy for a 3 hour tour.  The skipper wasn't able to join us on this tour though but we figured it out for ourselves.  Our tour was a bike ride to visit Tower Hill for the first time of the year.  We started at 6:30 so we could beat the heat and get the workout done early.

There were rolling hills throughout the ride but the Tower hill is it's own special bugger.  It is a climb that lasts about 1 mile.  It is tough for the first half of the climb but then it levels out to a smaller grade incline for the top half.  We hit the top of the tower and were almost at the perfect half way point for the 3 hours that Mandy needed for her training plan.  We had a detour planned on the return trip of the ride to stop at a gas station for water bottle refills but first we got to ride down the Tower hill.  It is one hill where I don't squeeze the brakes too much since it is fairly straight and low traffic.  I think I topped out around 31mph.  My Garmin says my max speed for the ride was just over 39mph but it doesn't show that anywhere on my speed graphs so I'm going with the 31mph that is on the speed graph.

We did our detour to the small gas station that is off a back country highway only to discover that they are closed on Sundays.  That's okay we had other options and luckily enough water to get us through to those options further into the ride.  After making our way to the next gas station option we began making our way back to Mandy's house.  We were peacefully riding along when Mandy spotted something out of Jurassic Park.  It was a large snapping turtle and it had huge claws.  Mandy was brave enough to snap a photo and she gave the turtle plenty of distance.  It was just sitting right there on the side of the road.

It was definitely a unique sighting...we've seen quite a few small turtles crossing the road but never one this big or mean looking.  We returned back to Mandy's without any further crazy animal sightings...except for the buffalo but he seemed happy in his yard!  Once we got back, we quickly changed out our shoes and took off for a 20 minute transition run to get our legs used to switching from the bike to the run for upcoming triathlon season.

We finished up the workout and had some recovery smoothies made with a mixture of fresh and frozen fruit and protein shakes.  The smoothie tasted awesome after a long hard workout.  It was a great workout and left me feeling better prepared for triathlon season.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Mystery Race Recap

It was a dark and stormy night...perfect for a mystery! Just kidding...It was actually a Thursday night when about 100 runners gathered for a Mystery race.  A Rush Running buddy, Jeff Genova, had put together a fun race format for the night.  He promoted the race as the Mystery Race...the distance would be anywhere from 4-8 miles and racers would have up to 4 hours to complete.

When we checked in we all received an even number race bib.  This was a critical piece of the race!  We received our bib inside a Ziploc bag which also contained a list of 10 clues.  The fastest to cover the ground between all 10 clues would be the winner.  One clue included a 5 minute time bonus and was optional but had to be done to receive the bonus.

Most of the crowd took off in one of two directions from the square heading to some of the easier clues.  There was Bogle Park and The Hare which seemed to be the two popular ones.  The Hare is a sculpture on the paved trail to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  It is actually just one half of the sculpture...The Tortoise and The Hare.  There was quite a backlog at the stop as people searched for their page number within the book there.  Remember how we all had even number bibs?  That allowed us to tear out our page from a book so we could confirm we had been at the stop.

The complete list of a Mystery Locations was the list of clues below. We were given boundaries for the search area so that we knew at most how far a place could be.  The boundaries included three trail systems...the Slaughter Pen single track trails, Crystal Bridges art trails, and the city's paved multi-use trail.  We also had other resources like cell phones and people we might encounter which we had to use a couple of times.

5. Rock
The Place Where They Cry
Angus Chute 10
Base of the Bush Push
The Track
The Hare
Safety Point 16
Bogle Park
Park Springs Spring
Safety Point 14

The hardest places to find were the 5 Rock and Angus Chute 10.  The 5 Rock is one of the numbered rock sculptures along the Crystal Bridges art trails.  There is just a small problem...they aren't placed in numeric order.  We finally ran to the front of the museum and asked the shuttle driver where the rock was and he pointed us in the right direction.  There was no one searching for this particular clue so we felt like even though it took us a while to find it we were ahead in the long run.
Rock 5 and getting our sheets out.

The other challenging location was Angus Chute 10.  We knew that this was a checkpoint on one of the trails called Angus Chute.  We just couldn't figure out the best way to get to that point on the trail so we got some extra trail time in and we even bushwhacked our own path to connect to the Angus Chute trail from the Urban Trail.

Finally found it! 

Running the single track

The Safety Points were two safety entrances to the Slaughter Pen trail system...both of which were well hidden by the spring foliage   Also on the trail system was the Base of the Bush Push.  This is a notorious hill that was ridden by former President George W. Bush when he visited the area and rode mountain bikes along the trails.  The Slaughter Pen trail system is something that we are so lucky to have just a short 1 1/2 miles from the town square.

Off the trails, there were a couple clue spots including the local Track where the book was hidden near the PortaPotty.  Park Springs Park is a park near the track and Bogle Park is about 3/4 mile away closer to the downtown square.

One clue that could have gone two different ways was The Place Where They Cry.  The options were either the Crystal Bridges Hill or the local Cemetery.  Both were within the boundaries of the race course.  We were closest to the Crystal Bridges hill after doing our jaunt through the art trails so we went ahead and checked that location and sure enough that's where it was at!  The book was on the other side of a small creek so we nominated one of our crew to get all of our pages!
Rock 5 helped us out for a group self portrait. 

Our race crew was Mandy, Jody, Mark and Pauline, and me.  We stuck together pretty well through the first half of the race.  We split up around the half way mark so that a couple could walk out some leg cramps thinking that by the time they walked to the next clue we would catch up to them.  We did not estimate how long it would take us to find Angus Chute 10!  We regrouped at the last clue and ran it in to finish together.

Joining me on the run was my dog Sidney...I was expecting to run about 4 miles which is the perfect distance for Sidney.  Surprisingly we went over 7 1/2 miles for the night.  It was Sidney's longest run ever and she was a total champ.  I took some walk breaks with her over the last mile.  The race was a lot like doing intervals.  We would race to get to a clue spot and then have a little time to breathe while getting our pages torn out and figuring out where to head to next.  Sidney won the dog division...she was the only dog tough enough to enter!

Overall, it was a fun race event.  It was similar to the Hash House Harrier runs that I did when I lived in DC. It's not really a race but rather a scavenger hunt for grown-ups!  We came in within the top 25 and our mileage was right in the middle.  The shortest distance was somewhere around 5 1/2 miles and the longest distance people traveled was over 13 miles.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We've got a new swimming hole!

Growing up I heard stories of my dad and his brothers spending time every summer at the swimming hole.  My dad grew up in Nebraska and is one of five boys.  Of course the stories when told by my dad and uncles appeared larger than life to me as a kid.  My sisters and I didn't have the same type of stories since we didn't have a swimming hole...but we did have swimming pools!

As a kid and adult living in a more city setting, the local community pool became my swimming hole.  Recently I got the chance to preview the newest city pool and water park in Rogers, AR.  The Rogers Aquatics Center was funded in 2011 by a bond issue voted on by city residents.  It will open on Saturday, May 25th and will be open Monday - Saturday 11-8 and Sunday 12-6.

The Rogers Aquatics Center is more than just a city swimming is a full fledged water park.  It offers double racing slides called the Tree Top Drop, a swirling bowl slide called the Super Flush, two flume slides called Hawk's Nest Falls, a lazy river, Toddler play area, and the Otter Holler play the Ole Swimming Hole and Cement Pond.  There are so many activities to do for all different ages.
The park
Racing Slides
Lazy River
Well shaded Toddler play area
Snack Stand

The park holds about 1100 people at a time and the city is committed to making sure that all guests have a great time.  There is a great snack bar with quick service food options.  The locker rooms are full of beautiful wood ceiling details and have plenty of shower stalls and restrooms.  There are even power outlets by the mirrors...a little pet peeve about one pool that I go to is that there are no mirrors by the power plugs.

The Cement Pond is a multi-purpose pool with two springboard diving boards.  It can be set up as a six-lane 25 meter lap swimming pool as well.  The center will have a youth swim team and may even host some small kids swim meets during the summer.

The best news about the Rogers Aquatics Center is that through this Saturday they are offering a half price punch pass for purchase.  There are separate fees for Rogers residents and non-residents.  The tickets are sold based on height above 48" or below 48" since you must be above 48" to do some of the bigger slide attractions.  Children under 36" are free for admission.

Half Price punch passes can be purchased through Friday 10-4 and on Saturday 10-12.  The pass card can be split among family members so you can use it as 10 visits for one person or a family of 5 could use one card for two family visits.  You can get your hand stamped for re-entry and use just one pass per day.  For a resident, the half price punch pass will cost around $42.50 or just over $4 per visit to the park.  For non-residents, the price is just $49.50 or just under $5 per visit to the park.

I hope to see you at the Rogers Aquatics Center swimming hole this summer! I'll give you a little warning though...make sure you readjust your suit before you get up out of the racing slides since they are wedgie inducing slides! My family and I had a blast playing in all the areas of the park and we can't wait to go back once it is open.  I bought my punch pass on Monday...I couldn't pass up the savings opportunity and I know that I'll be at the water park for some summer fun!

Follow the Rogers Aquatics Center on Facebook for more information about special events throughout the summer season.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ch...Ch...Ch...Chia! HumaGel review

A few weeks ago the team at Huma Chia Energy Gel reached out to see if I would like to try out their new gels.  I hadn't heard anything about their products so I first visited their website to learn more and discovered that Huma gel is a chia seed based energy gel that is 100% all natural.  In my reply back to the Huma team I acknowledged that I hadn't heard of them and they let me know that they were very new to the scene with the company starting at the beginning of 2012 and the gels only launching in November 2012.

Disclosure: I received one packet of each flavor of Huma Chia Energy gel to sample and review.  All opinions expressed are based on my experience with the product.

Huma gel came out of two very different places...Iraq and Mexico.  One of the company founders, while serving in the Armed Forces in Iraq, was reading about the Tarahumara tribes of Mexico and how they fueled for ultra distance events through chia seeds.  That gave him the idea to create the Huma Chia Energy Gel.

The gels come in two great flavors...Apples & Cinnamon and Strawberries.  Huma gels have an ingredient list that doesn't require any help to read.  Every thing on the ingredient list was something that I recognized starting with fruit puree.  I liked knowing that there weren't any crazy chemicals in the gel and that I could understand the ingredient list.

I tried out both flavors of the gels during two workouts.  First up was Strawberries...I started my run hungry and opened the gel just after the one mile mark in the run.  I don't typically take a gel in that early but I was running a little later in the morning and didn't plan out my nutrition properly.  I took in about 1/3 of the gel and it helped stave off that hungry feeling I had and got me back into better shape for the run.  The consistency was not what I expected...I was expecting a chia seed filled gel.  I've seen several Pinterest boards for incorporating chia seeds into a clean eating plan and chia seeds plus water looks like a lumpy gel and that it what I was expecting.

I was very happy to discover a smooth consistency that wasn't seed filled at all.  The chia seeds used in the Huma gels are ground chia seeds and that is why they achieve a smoother texture.  The texture reminded me of a fruit puree that you might discover as garnish on a dessert plate.  The taste was very fruity and not at all sugary sweet.  I drank water with the gel but found that I didn't need to slosh water around my mouth to get rid of that gel feeling on my teeth.

I finished up the rest of the gel later in my run and it wasn't hard to finish the packet at all.  Sometimes with other gels you get half way through the gel and it just gets hard to finish.  I still had a tough hill to tackle on the rest of my run and I would have made if my dog hadn't decided we needed to walk the last few hundred yards on the hill!  The gel kept me from feeling ravenous but didn't leave my stomach feeling upset at all.

And now for my PSA...Make sure you dispose of your gel wrappers properly...I like to pack a Ziploc bag so that I can store my trash until I either pass a trash can or get back home.  I hate seeing gel wrappers on the ground when I'm out do your part and don't litter!

A few days later I tried out the Apples and Cinnamon flavor and it was just as good as the Strawberries.  It reminded me of apple pie flavored applesauce and I could easily see taking in either flavor during a run. I haven't mastered the art yet of eating gels while in motion on the bike so for the bike I might stick with my energy chews!

You can find Huma gel online and in select retailers.  Below is a fun Infographic that the Huma team put together to remind you of the importance of having a nutrition plan for your endurance activities.  You can also take time to review the full FAQ's including my favorite question..."If I eat a Huma gel, will I win my race?"  While there are silly questions like this one, there are also answers to some great questions that explain how the mixture of ingredients compares to other gels made with maltodextrin and how the chia seeds help stabilize the sugar spikes that can occur with high glycemic index foods.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco no Sinko!

Today is Cinco de Mayo and in the midst of my swim warmup I decided it was important to come up with a holiday themed workout.  Now we all know that once you have started a workout, math becomes challenging.  I jumped out of the pool to quickly sketch out some workout ideas on the pool whiteboard.  My idea was simple...5 sets of 5 intervals! But we needed a workout that would hit our goal distance for the workout but also was something we could complete in 45 minutes.  Our Sunday Funday swims have just one  requirement...they must finish at 5:00 so we can have maximum hot tub time before the pool closes at 5:30!

Without any further delay here is the Cinco no Sinko workout...and I'm happy to report that no one sunk during the workout so our mission was accomplished!

#1 - 5 x 100 on the 1:50
#2 - 5 x 75 on the 1:20
#3 - 5 x 100 on the 1:45
#4 - 5 x 75 on the 1:20
#5 - 5 x 50 on the 1:00

My workout partner and I swam differently during each set based on our abilities.  Brent is faster than I am so he did more IM work where I spent most of the workout swimming free and adding in some pull as well.  We ended with a slower interval on the 50's so that I could swim stroke and still have recovery time.

During the 50's set I realized that outdoor swimming is just around the corner.  Our pool is set up as long course during our lap swim hours which means that I need to get to work on swimming 50's of each stroke.  Normally I just do stroke/free in order to stay on the same interval as my faster friends.  Today I did the first 4 in that manner as back/free and then on the final 50 I did it all back.  It was pretty painful towards the end so I will definitely need to work on that over the next few weeks.

This week was light on swimming for me since I have accepted a new position in my department.  The transition is going well but on three days this past week I missed my lunch swim due to meetings.  I really hope this week will be better.

This Cinco no Sinko workout was followed up with a hot tub and then the awesome TriSwim products to get the chlorine out of my hair and skin.  I'm so grateful to be sponsored by TriSwim because it keeps my hair soft and healthy even though I swim 4-5 days a week.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Performance Sleeping

As athletes we sometimes forget that there is more to training than simply running or swimming in practice to prepare for a race.  The things that we do in our everyday life matter just as much such as staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep.  Disclosure: The following post is about recent purchases that I have made.  I have not been compensated for this post.  All opinions are my own based on my own purchase of these items with my own money.

A while ago I learned of a performance bedding product called Sheex through advertisements in several triathlon magazines.  Mirinda Carfrae is a sponsored Sheex athlete and one of my favorite pros to watch. I shared my recap of Rinny's Twitter Party for Sheex in this post from November 2011.  Her connection to the product peaked my interest and made me look into it.  The concept is simple - it is a sheet set that is inspired by the performance fabrics used in athletic clothes to offer temperature regulation and ventilation to improve sleep quality.  I was very interested but then I saw the price tag for the sheet sets.  I'm choosy about how I spend my money and the high price tag of these sheets threw me for a loop.
Fast forward to a few months, and I was shopping at Walmart when I saw an endcap fixture of Breathe Performance Sheets.  They had a fabric sample and I felt the sheets and knew I had to buy some.  They were about 1/3rd the price of the Sheex brand and offered many of the same features.

1) Temperature Control - more effective than regular sheets at regulating body temperature.
2) Moisture Wicking - it's just like performance fabric we wear!
3) Breathability - breathes 50% better than cotton sheets.
4) Precision Fit - the fitted sheet really stays put.
5) Ultra Softness - soft and smooth to the touch.
6) Durability - resists fading, shrinking, and wrinkling.

Sheex and Breathe have partnered with the Sleep Foundation to offer some tips for athletes on having a sleep fitness plan.  Check the list and see how well you are doing at being a performance sleeper!

Sleep Fitness Plan Tips:
Exercise Daily
Set a sleep schedule
Make time for sleep
Wind down before bedtime
Get exposure to morning sun
Make your bedroom a sanctuary
Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet

We need good quality sleep in order for our bodies to repair and rebuild and I have noticed a huge improvement in my sleep since starting to use the Breathe sheets.  I fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly throughout the night.  The sheets are the softest sheets I have ever slept on and every night when I climb into bed it feels heavenly.  The only unique thing to manage with these sheets is the care process.  Since these are a performance fabric, you need to make sure that you do not use any fabric softeners with them.  I simply remind myself to remove the Downy bar from the dryer before drying them and then I'm good to go.
Dreamfinity Cooling Gel and Memory Foam Pillow
In addition to adding new sheets to the bed I have also changed out my pillow.  I picked up a new pillow at Sam's Club like this one here that is a memory foam pillow with a layer of cooling gel on it.  The gel layer keeps you cool and is supposed to improve your sleep as well.  I can definitely feel a temperature difference when I lay down on this pillow.  It feels great and has become my favorite pillow of the many that I have on the bed.  I have been using memory foam pillows for a while but this one just feels so much better.

My sleep plan helps me complete my training since it helps me perform better both physically and mentally.  When I am well rested, I react and respond to things better which means I'm less likely to skip workouts or fall victim to overeating sugary sweets to handle stress.  For less than $100, I've been able to upgrade my bedroom and improve my sleep quality. If you have a few extra dollars to invest in your sleep, I would check for these products in your area.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Race for the Cure 10K Race Recap

Saturday I woke up to a rainy and dreary morning.  It was mentally tough to get up and moving but I had a race to run!  I signed up for the Race for the Cure 10K race with a team at work.  Because I joined a team, I received my bib and timing chip at work a few days before the race.  Since I had my chip, I had no choice but to run the race in order to return my chip!

I headed to the Pinnacle Promenade for the race and parked near the middle of the mall area.  With the chilly temps, I wanted to be close to the car in order to grab a jacket if I needed it after the race.  I made a trip to the indoor restrooms and then walked towards the start line area.  There weren't that many people out and about...I'm guessing all the smart people stayed in their cars until the last possible moment!  About 5 minutes before the start time, the radio dj's encouraged runners to move into the start corral.  I was surprised to see how many people appeared then!

Waiting in the start corral I ran into fellow Tough Chik Erin and we chatted for a few minutes.  We hadn't seen each other since the F5 Triathlon Club team meeting about 6 weeks ago.  The race started on time but included a small flub when the honorary chair starting the race didn't work the starting gun right.  The crowd moved forward and headed up the first of many hills.

The race was laid out as two big squares.  There were several water stops in the first 5K and then just one water stop along the 2nd half of the race.  There seemed to be lots of uphills and very few downhills during the course.  I did my best to avoid checking my watch for pace to prevent any mental freakouts.  There were always people nearby which kept the energy up throughout the entire race.  I stayed near the same group of people the entire race and used them as my pace rabbits.  The 5K race started 30 minutes after the 10K start so when we hit mile 5 the course merged back and the course became crowded with both 5K and 10K runners.  I lost sight of a couple of my pace buddies but think I still managed to stay on the pace.  I was pretty happy to hit that final downhill stretch into the finish.  There was a steep downhill and then a turn into the mall and as soon as I made that turn it got tough to hold the pace.  The downhill really helped increase my turnover and switching to the flats made me realize how much assistance gravity had given me just a few steps before!

I was happy with my finish time of 1:02:41. The course was hilly and I am still rebuilding my fitness after my foot injury earlier this year.  One thing that was very strange with this race this year was that the race timing/registration aged everyone up.  They used triathlon age systems which mean I was put into a different age group.  I thought that I had made a mistake in my registration until I learned that others had the same problem.

After the race, I met up with several friends that had done the 5K race.  We hit up the vendor booths and all took home a bag full of samples and goodies.  Our favorite find was the TCBY girls handing out soft serve and gift cards for $3 off our next visit.  Even though the temps were chilly we all enjoyed the frozen yogurt.  One vendor booth was very concerned with how people visited their tent.  They instilled a line system with volunteers blocking entry into the tent.  It was pretty intense compared to the other tents but worth it for the great samples that they had.  I'm stocked up on makeup remover wipes, travel band-aid packages, and mini lotions for my gym bag!

I am counting this race as my 10K race event for the Running Bloggers Virtual Race series.  Because of the rain, I didn't take any photos before/during the race.  I've got a few more events to complete in the race series including a 5K, 21K bike, and a swim event.