Friday, January 31, 2014

I'm going to Miami! And then running to Key West!

One week from today I will be running.

From Miami to Key West. Yup. I'm doing Ragnar Florida Keys and we start bright (dark?) and early at 6 a.m. Florida time one week from today.

I'm. So. Excited.

It all started way back in August. I was in the starting corral at the Madison Mini waiting for the race to begin. Standing with me were my friends Erica and Aaron. And before the anthem was sung and the starting gun sounded, Erica turned to me and said, "You totally want to run Ragnar Florida Keys with me."

I smiled. Laughed. Said it sounded like it would be fun and I'd let her not. Not completely intending to even really consider it.

But I did. A lot. And eventually I fired off an email to Erica that simply said, "I'm in."

 None of my legs run over the 7 Mile Bridge, but I'll be driving over it!

I decided to do it for a couple of reasons.

It's Ragnar Florida Keys. I've never been to the Keys and what better way to see it than by foot?
  • Of the 11 other people I'm running with, I know a handful of them. But they're cool people. And those that I don't know? Well, I'm pretty sure I'll get to know them better by the time we hit Key West!

  • When I decided to do this in September, little did I know what this Wisconsin winter would have in store. But it turns out that this was a pretty perfect year to schedule a mid-winter vacation.
I'm runner No. 5, so I get legs 5, 17 and 29. I don't know a ton about each leg but I do know:
  • Leg 5 is 3.6 miles through what looks like a Miami neighborhood. If we run our legs according to our estimated paces, I should be running this at about 9 a.m.
  • Leg 17 is my night leg. It's 7.1 miles along US Highway 1 through Key Largo. It actually looks like I run a substantial portion of Key Largo. If all goes to plan, I should be starting this leg around 8:30 p.m.
  • Leg 29 is a 5.2 mile leg that takes me across bridges! According to the map, I start on Ramrod Key, I get to cross a bridge over to Summerland Key and then cross another bridge over to Cudjoe Key. I end my leg on Blimp Road, where I'll apparently be greeted by something called the Fat Albert Blimp. If all goes to plan, I'll start this leg sometime around 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
  • Once all my runs are done, I'll have run 15.9 miles over the course of 24 hours.
I haven't even thought about packing yet, but I do know I'll be taking the GoPro camera that I bought with some Christmas money I got. I haven't gotten to play around with it too much yet, but I'm hoping to test it out this weekend. Because I want to get some cool video footage on my runs and during our cheering and of course during the rest of my Key West vacation!

That's right. In planning my trip, I decided to stick around Key West for a couple of days after we finish Ragnar, to relax, have fun and enjoy myself. I know a few of us are planning a jet ski adventure and I'd love to try stand up paddle boarding or some kayaking adventure while there.

Now, once I get back I'm pretty sure I'll have multiple blog posts to share. But if you want to follow along on the adventure in real time, you can always catch me on Twitter, @BadgerJen2002. Or for all of my team's shenanigans, you can stalk our team #whale at @TridentKillaz.

Can't wait!

Monday, January 27, 2014

My will to run went down the Polar Vortex

I was getting into a workout groove.

And then winter happened in Wisconsin.

No. No. I take that back. Then that dang Polar Vortex happened. Not once, but twice.

Temperatures in the single digits. Some days not even breaking zero. And if we do break into double digits, most likely there's a nasty wind, sending the "feels like" temperature plummeting to double digits below zero. And there's been snow. And ice.

In other words, it's been pretty dang miserable.

There used to be times when I was OK with throwing on multiple layers and heading outside for a run. But not any more. I've become a cold weather running wuss.

What's that mean? Lots of treadmill and lots of running in circles on the track at the YMCA, where 11 laps equal a mile. And that's gotten hard. And working up the motivation to run on a treadmill to no where or run in circles is hard. Really hard.

So hard I may have missed a long run or two. Or three.

And remember that cross training kick I was on? The P90X and Body Pump that I've been so good about going to each week? Well, when I go to leave work and it's -9 with a "feels like" temperature of -31 and my car sounds like it's not going to start, those are the days I think it's better to just go home and curl up under a blanket.

Which is exactly what I did tonight.

The only thing keeping me going at this point is that in 10 days I escape from the cold and head to Miami. Can't. Wait. But that's another post.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Getting ready for spring

Now that the calendar has flipped to 2014, it's time to start thinking of a spring race schedule.

I don't have a ton of races on my schedule at this point, actually only two real event: Ragnar Florida Keys in February and the Cellcom Green Bay Half Marathon in May. I might add on a second half marathon (either Oshkosh in April or the Wisconsin Half Marathon the first weekend in May) and there may be a 5K or two sprinkled in. Oh, and I'll be back for Ragnar Chicago in June.

While I haven't set my race schedule in stone, I have given my training schedule a bunch of thought. Mainly I'm not going to slack this year.

After two solid years of chasing PRs in 2011 and 2012, I kind of took a step back last year. My training wasn't so rigid, I may have missed some long runs (OK, a lot of long runs), but I still ran half marathons. The big difference? I wasn't chasing PRs, I was running to have fun with friends. And I did.

But I have the itch to get back to some faster times (well, fast for me anyway) and try to get some new PRs this year.

I know that will take work though and I'm ready to do it.

For starters, when I registered for Green Bay, I took advantage of a deal they had running with RunCoach, an online training program that is customized to each runner and can be tweaked if needed throughout. Normally it runs $20 a month, but through the Green Bay registration process I got 4 months of online coaching for $20. That's a deal to me. My plan starts today with a rest day. But of course, I'll be running since I didn't venture out onto the roads yesterday since they were literally skating rinks.

The next thing I'm going to do is keep up with cross training and strength work.

Since October I've been taking advantage of the free classes offered at my YMCA. I've always found strength work intimidating. I need someone to tell me what to do. So I started going to a P90X class on Monday nights and a cardio abs class on Wednesdays. And I love them. The P90X class doesn't follow the actual program exactly, but the instructor incorporates all of the ideas from the 90 day program into our classes and changes up weekly so it's never been the same class twice and the cardio abs class has a similar P90X feel.

While I'm going to keep going with P90X, I'm changing up my Wednesday night class. Starting last week my YMCA started offering Body Pump. Actual weights work with weight plates and barbells. And so many squats and lunges my legs wanted to cry. Oh, and I totally realized I have absolutely no upper body strength. And I'm also going to try to add a small bit of yoga once a week.

So there you have it. My plan to regain some speed: 4 runs a week, one night of P90X, one night of Body Pump and a little yoga.

Now if only the weather would cooperate so I could run outside instead of indoors on the treadmill or around in circles on the indoor track.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Polar Bear Dash 5K race recap

My first race of 2014 was in the books a mere 12 hours after the new year began.

I was down in Milwaukee celebrating New Year's with friends. We didn't get dressed up all fancy or anything. Nope. The theme of the night was yoga pants, t-shirts, a smorgasbord of food, beer and Cards Against Humanity. Oh, and the 90s Spotify station.

We woke up to a fresh 4 inches or so of snow on the ground New Year's Day and snow still falling from the sky. Oh, and coldish temperatures. Not quite the single digits we had last year, but still kind of chilly.

Soon we were off to Grant Park in South Milwaukee for the Polar Bear Dash 5K.

There was light snow falling when we lined up at the starting line and even though it snowed overnight, the road we were running through the park on was fairly clear. That was good news for me, since I don't have Yak Trak and I neglected to through my trail shoes, which have a little bit better traction, in my car when I left for Milwaukee the night before. So the roads were good, but there were still a few spots with a little iffy footing, but nothing too bad.

Oh, and there was some wind. Mostly a crosswind, but it really wasn't a problem. Well, until we got to the last two-tenths of a mile.

Remember, I'm running a New Year's Day race through a park that sits along Lake Michigan. Oh, and the race logo includes a swim trunks wearing polar bear.

So of course we run down a hill to a boat landing area. I get to the edge of the parking lot, where I'm supposed to start running on the beach and I see I'm not only going to be running on sand, but also through snow drifts that hit me at mid-calf height. It was tough.

I make the turn and it would only get tougher. Remember the wind I talked about? Well, when you're running mere feet from the shore of Lake Michigan, the wind picks up. And now not only am I running in snow drifts on a sandy beach, but I'm also running straight into a nasty gusty wind.


But I finished. And no. I did not opt to jump into Lake Michigan after I crossed the finish line. That would have been crazy.

And cold.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 reading review and 2014 reading goals

When I set my reading goal a year ago, I was pretty sure I'd be able to read 40 books. But I never dreamed that I'd finish the year after revising my goal four times and tallying 76 books in the "READ" column.

But I did.

First, a look at some stats. I finished 76 books and 27,055 pages (give or take a few pages since some were Kindle titles that I had no page information for). That's a lot. A lot of books. A lot of pages and a lot of trees that are probably dead. Fear not, I'm starting to save a few trees by reading more titles on my Kindle, which I love. Each book averaged 356 pages. I finished an average of 6.3 books and 2,255 pages per month.

Other numbers that jump out?

The shortest book I read was The Prince by Kiera Cass at 64 pages. OK. Maybe it's more of a novella, but it's still on my list and therefore counts as the shortest thing I read. The longest was A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin, which came in at 1,177 pages. That was a beast, but so so good. There were a couple of authors that showed up on my list multiple times, including Tammara Webber (2), Nicholas Sparks (3), Veronica Roth (3), Lauren Oliver (3), Jamie McGuire (4), George R.R. Martin (3), Miranda Kenneally (2), Lauren Kate (2), Charlaine Harris (2), John Grisham (2), Tana French (3), Gayle Forman (4), Gillian Flynn (2), Kiera Cass (2) and Rachel Astor (3).

My take aways for the year?

I love, love, love George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. While HBO's Game of Thrones is some pretty spectacular TV viewing, I think the books are one hundred times better. So much detail, so many different story lines, so much drama! Seriously. These books are long and kind of intimidating, but they seriously suck you in and you don't realize you just finished a 1,000 page novel. I have the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, sitting on my table, just waiting to be read. I've just got a few short books from the library that I have to finish off first.

I got a chance to check out some new authors this year. One that quickly became a favorite was Tana French and her Dublin Murder Squad series. Maybe it's because I like crime-type stuff, but I liked how French wove a crime into a real story. Good stuff. Check her out.

Like always, I aimed to read at least one "classic" in 2013. I managed to squeeze in two last year: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, both were pretty good. I'm not sure what classic I'll tackle in 2014, but there will be at least one on my list.

Throughout the year I did a fairly detailed monthly review of what I read. Check out the links for lists, ratings and a sentence or two about what I thought.


Which brings me to goals for 2014. I know 76 books was a lot last year, and honestly, it might have been a perfect storm of conditions being right for me to even be able to read that much. But I want to try to read 77 books in 2014 with at least one classic. I know I like the Young Adult genre, but I'm going to try to broaden my tastes a bit and not read quite as much YA (yeah, that may not happen).

So what are you reading goals for the new year?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

December reading recap

76! I did it!

Guys, I accomplished my Reading Goal Version 4.0, to read 75 books in 2013. I actually finished book No. 75 Sunday, but I figured I had just enough time to sneak one last title in before I headed out for New Year's Eve festivities. I ended up reading eight books in December for a total of 2,785 pages.

I'll leave the final year stats for the overall year in review post. I just wanted to do a quick rundown of what I read in December.

How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer
Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
Learning to Stay by Erin Celello
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins
Rumor Has It by Jill Shalvis

So it was another month of so-so reading and a month that was heavy on the chick lit. What? Sometimes you just need 31 days of mindless fluff reading, especially in December.

And now for the brief reviews, complete with number of stars given out on GoodReads. Follow me here if you’d like a more timely update on what I’m reading, what I think and what’s been added to my to-read list.

How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer  ***
I've read this author before and liked her, so I thought I'd give this a shot. Umm, let's just say it was somewhat forgettable. Something about teens working at a fairy tale theme park. It was OK, but I don't recommend wasting your time. Find something else.

Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin ****
Cute, quick read. I feel like I've read this before, but I couldn't find it on my list anywhere.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich  ***
I've got a lot of friends who like this series, so I thought I'd give it a try. A quick read and there are plenty of titles available. I may read a few more in 2014.

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman  ***
In my professional life I write about criminal justice issues, so this was a natural to pick up. Parts of it dragged a bit, but it was interesting to hear about life inside a prison from someone who's gone through it. Also interesting to read about the relationships the inmates form.

Learning to Stay by Erin Celello  ***
Decent story dealing with veterans, PTSD, a traumatic brain injury and dogs.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell  ****
I've heard so many good things about this one. I liked it. A lot. Not sure why I didn't give it 5 stars though.

Until There Was You by Kristan HIggins  ***
Chick lit. Enough said.

Rumor Has It by Jill Shalvis  ***
More chick lit. I liked this one though.