Friday, April 27, 2012

"I Can Do Hard Things"

by Tami Allen

I remember exactly where I was standing when I got Emily’s email. It read, “Southern California Ragnar, April 2012!” My extended family, husband and daughter have ran the Phoenix Del Sol Ragnar many times. I knew exactly what was involved…or so I thought. A 200 mile race, 36 hours, no sleep, 3 legs each, day and night runs, and vans full of memories. No thank you. I enjoy my sleep.
 But as I thought about it for a week, and got the support of Dave, surprisingly I found myself replying to Emily that yes, I would indeed participate. I had six months to prepare. I could do this. I set my goal and leaned on friends and family and the beginner training schedule. I kept thinking, every run, “…if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear!” I was actually preparing for a huge goal. Yes, I got easy legs, but for me, they were monumental. I had run a slow half marathon, 10K and 5K, but nothing like Ragnar. 

My adventure was about to begin. I found myself feeling very inadequate. I was surrounded by fantastic athletes and women, whom I felt I couldn’t compare. Their constant encouragement meant more than they will know. Time really didn’t matter in Ragnar. It was the camaraderie that most impressed me. My preparation came in small and simple steps around the block, then a jog to the baseball fields, the canals and a very few hills. I didn’t enjoy running, and I could easily find a reason not to run that day. I found that music was my motivation. If I kept it loud and fast then I could keep moving. By small and simple steps, great things are possible.

Jane and Julynn kept me very focused on our runs around the neighborhood. I was the runner who would recommend “let’s walk at the next light”. It seemed that during training, after two miles, I was about done. My first leg at Ragnar was 4.6 miles, and I am proud to say that I ran the whole thing! I knew that Van One would be waiting and cheering at the next exchange and our other Van Two was also depending on me to finish. These thoughts and watching amazing determined moms/friends, helped keep me calm as I would panic about what was ahead. 

My night run was the most difficult for me. I was all alone, and tried listening to quiet piano music. That did not work. I needed Michael Jackson to help me up the hills filled with avocado farms. In the dark, I ran through a hilly golf course, puddles of water, dirt roads and random sprinklers. As I reached the top the of mountain pass, (yes I walked some) I felt the most amazing breeze blowing and I thought “I am not alone!" I struggled the next few miles, as the sleep deprivation grew and the fun had worn off. It was now 1:00 a.m. and I did not prepare for a run that early in the morning. In addition, I had not trained enough hills. That was very evident. My time was slow and I was exhausted, but I finished. Slow and steady seemed to be my motto! 

We tried to sleep in a dark, quiet Burger King parking lot -- NOT! There was not going to be any showers for our van. But my last leg was a blast! I had just a few miles to complete my portion, and it felt like I sprinted the whole thing! I was so happy afterwards, that I fell backwards into a planter full of purple flowers! I was content. I was satisfied and I was LOCO!

Crossing the finish line as a team is a must! I will always treasure that afternoon on the beach, celebrating with great ladies. I was thrilled to get the medal and car sticker! I had completed a Ragnar. My legs were still tight, and I was beginning to be exhausted. I slept really good that night at the beach house. When I arose, I discovered that my thighs, glutes and hamstrings were sorer than they had ever been. I found that sitting and standing were a struggle. It felt so good to rub the sides of my thighs. Getting in and out of the van was an intense chore. Complaining didn’t help! I didn’t have any room to murmur. We were all in the same boat, and all walking a little differently. In fact, I think we are all a little different now that we completed the Southern California Ragnar -- for the better!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RAGNAR, It's Awesome Sauce!

If you're not familiar with the event called RAGNAR, allow me to fill you in on the basics.  A team of twelve runners in two vans run from point A (Huntington Beach for RAGNAR SO CAL) to point B (Coronado Island) passing a snap bracelet between them for 200 miles, each participant running three legs and finally crossing the finish line together as a team.  Got it?
Team iAm the before shot
 Our team of 12 was comprised of friends, cousins, in-laws and even a few outlaws from Arizona and Utah.  We met up on a Thursday evening, and settled into our deluxe accommodations known as Seahaven in Coronado.

Little did these RAGNAR virgins know that those swanky digs would be so close - yet so far - a few hours later.

I'll spare you the gory details -- hot temps, challenging hills, detours via Fashion Valley mall, scary night runs, and something we lovingly referred to as "leapfrogging".  But we crossed the finish line together on Saturday afternoon all smiles and hugs and congratulations on a job well done.

12 running gals and 200 miles later....still lookin' great

If you ever decide to attempt a RAGNAR (they're held all over the US in some fantastic locations), here's my suggestion for what to brush up on besides running....

Accounting:  Divide the cost of two vans between 12 runners, deducting the cost of one rental day to the ladies who flew over and then adjusting the gas charges for each runner times the days they were in the van.  Then add and divide the cost of the t-shirts and the printing, remembering that some ladies ordered three and some ordered one, but deduct that from the gas/van rental I owe you and adding on the cleaning fee at the beach house.  Factor in the group meals, six packs of Gatorade, Ciff Bars and bottles of Excedrin.  Ready.  Set.  Go.

Navigation:  Drive 350 miles from Phoenix to Huntington Beach, start your race, then meet Van 2 at the correct parking lot at the right time without missing a beat or forgetting that dang snap bracelet.  Attempt to follow the RAG Mag directions to your middle-of-the-night exchanges avoiding potholes, back roads, alleys and major intersections all while your iPhone sends you in a more "direct route" or your former So. Cal resident knows a better way to get there.  (If this happens, just let her take the wheel).   Try to laugh it off when Van 2 drives to the wrong exchange at three a.m. when you're just about ready to fall asleep standing up (or laying down in the van). And learn to find the most remote and dark yet "safe" parking lot in the area, where the ground looks soft and the birds don't chirp and you can sleep all six of you in a van with three rows.   

Socialization:  Realize ahead of time that spending 30+ hours in the van with even the NICEST people is taxing even to the BEST of people.  Farting in the car is not an option, though the smell that wafts out when the sliding van door is opened is something you might call "gamey" and surprisingly not offensive to the rest of the runners in the van.   Smile when the tensions build and laugh when it all "pretty much" comes together.

Documentation:  Take lots of photos that show that you actually ran that 11-mile leg and polished off an unheard of 20+ miles over two days.  Embrace the photo ops with bed head and sweaty faces.  Don't be afraid to pose for photos at Lululemon as they ask to put you on their Facebook page because you're mid-race and you've stopped for a cute tank top and pair of running shorts.  Enjoy the day.  And the night and the day. 

RAGNAR, if you're crazy enough to get there, you're crazy enough to have a blast.  Make a great memory, then sleep on it.  Because you'll need that sleep before you ever decide to run it again. 

Emily's I Am...
You really can't go wrong running in Southern California
Greeting runner number 12 
Leg Three.  Got 'er done!

Whew!  It's done! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Love This

My friend Margie took this on her morning walk today.  Talk about inspiration!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rylee and Ryan about to jump into lessons
You know it's summer when you can hear screams and crying echoing from the home on Val Vista Drive.  Baby tantrums abound in my backyard pool this time of year. It's inevitable. 

See, I've been teaching swimming lessons here for 12 summers and another 16 years at other pools before that.  Twenty eight summers of helping toddlers grab the edge and potential swim teamers perfect their strokes.  I'm not afraid to wipe snot with my hands or have pool water spit in my face.  It's all part of the job. 

What works?  What doesn't?  While every child is different, here's what I've found about my precious baby swimmers:

Endure the crying and don't make it personal.  I once had a mother tell me that she promised her daughter I wouldn't put her head under water during class.  I wish I could teach a child how to swim across a pool without getting their face wet, but the term for that stroke is actually doggie paddle.  I'd rather have a child be upset with me for a little while so I can teach and reemphasize correct swimming and floating techniques.  Don't let it bother you as a parent when your child cries, eventually it will end.  I promise. 

*  Start lessons as early as two years old.  In my opinion, the longer you put off lessons, the harder it will be to teach your child how to swim correctly.  Five-year-old swimmers who have never had a lesson in their lives have often developed poor swimming habits, i.e. fighting their way through the water and tilting their head too high for a breath.  In contrast, two-year-old babies will pick up the strokes and floating more quickly each year, even if they hated swimming the previous year.  Start em early, it works. 

(Side note: I know there is a survival type instruction that I am not certified to teach that people swear by.  Worth looking into.)

*  Don't Panic!!!  When a little one falls off a step or let's go of an edge and is submerged and you see it -- don't jump in fully clothed if a teacher is nearby.  Alert the teacher and let her help guide the child back to the step or wall.  Number one, it teaches the child to be a little more cautious in the pool.  And number two, it provides an opportunity for child to learn from experience and practice their survival techniques. 

* Reinforce swimming at home.  Swim with your child as much as possible.  Practice floating and "big arms".  If you don't have access to a pool, work on the lesson drills in the bathtub.  Have the child teach their dolls in the water and recreate their lessons.   

* Join swim team as early as possible.  Joining a swim team is the best way to become a stronger swimmer.  It provides opportunity to perfect the four strokes and learn swimming endurance.  You can swim for the rest of your life.  Why not develop the skill today so you can really enjoy the sport!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Packing For RAGNAR

I loved this blog post on how to pack for RAGNAR so much I thought I'd share it with you.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Boston, Baby!

It's that time of year again, the best of the best runners around the world assemble in Bean Town to pay homage to the sport of running.  The city billboards scream glad tidings of great joy from Nike.  The malls are filled with spectacular bodies with less than 10 percent body fat and defined legs that even LOOK fast.  And everyone who is running is wearing the year's new Boston Athletic Association's participant jacket.

Looks like this year it's gonna be red

In case you hadn't remembered here are the Boston Marathon qualifying times:

Age Group Men Women
18 - 34 3:05:00 3:35:00
35 - 39 3:10:00 3:40:00
40 - 44 3:15:00 3:45:00
45 - 49 3:25:00 3:55:00
50 - 54 3:30:00 4:00:00
55 - 59 3:40:00 4:10:00
60 - 64 3:55:00 4:25:00
65 - 69 4:10:00 4:40:00
70 - 74 4:25:00 4:55:00
75 - 79 4:40:00 5:10:00
80 and over 4:55:00 5:25:00
The Mall decor tells it all...

So it all comes down to this.  You have to be a respectable runner to join these ranks.  And if you are and if you go, you'll be part of the best running event you have ever imagined.   The Boston Marathon lives up to the hype.  The start at Hopkinton is quaint yet huge at the same time.  The stacked crowds cheer for nearly all of the 26.2 miles of the course.  And you CAN really hear the screaming co-eds yelling and screaming for the runners from Wellsley college nearly a half mile from campus.

In 2011, I was lucky enough to be part of this race.  And this year, the girl who got me there, Amy Sessions will take her turn on the course, with a qualifying time much more impressive than mine.  She is going for a "sub-three" race on Monday.
Fast Amy with her son, Nick.
If you think about it, send her some positive vibes out on Patriot's Day, April 16th.  She'll be wearing race bib 4292.  And the rest of my running buddies, Kim, Barbara, Scott and the rest of you, run fast and stay safe.  Good luck out there!  I'm so excited for you!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Ticking Time Bomb

I couldn't resist buying a Finis tempo trainer after reading this:

Develop consistency and avoid lulls with a personal pace coach, the Tempo Trainer Pro.
The small, waterproof device easily secures under a swimmer’s cap and transmits an audible tempo beep. Athletes use the beep to train smarter and discover their perfect pace. Now with the option to replace the battery, the Tempo Trainer Pro will last multiple lifetimes. The advanced unit also has a new sync button and a new mode in strokes/strides per minute for increased functionality. The Tempo Trainer Pro includes a clip for dry land exercise.

Well it does all that.  And I can see that it is a valuable tool.  But I need to get past the ticking time  bomb I feel when I wear it.  I can wear it for spurts, but not for too long.  I'll keep trying.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Spirit of The Brumbys

Sometime after our cycling friends organized themselves into a cycling group, a fellow rider labeled our gang The Brumbys.  The name originated from the movie The Man From Snowy River, where wild horses were center stage of this period drama.  On lucky mornings, we would occasionally catch a sighting of our own local feral horses along the Salt River.  And these brumbys became the heart and soul of our group -- symbolizing the spirit of the "stay-in-a-pack" mentality.  

Years later, the Red Mountain Brumbys still receive weekly emails of when and where to meet for the group rides.  In addition, our leader, Sterling Baer, helps maintain the spirit of the no-drop code of honor by reminding us to look out for each other, to stop and help a stranded cyclists, and to welcome others into the group whole heartedly.

On Saturday's ride, three cyclists from another group, RACELAB, were hit and seriously injured when a distracted driver in an SUV swerved and hit their pack of cyclists.  As luck would have it, four Brumby riders rode up on the accident and helped stabilize and save the lives of the injured.  Tonight, the three victims lay in the hospital, one of them with life threatening injuries.  It is a sad day for the cycling community.  

Only a few days ago, Sterling had sent an email out to the 500 plus cyclists in the group to remind them of Brumby comraderie.  He included a video clip of the real Brumby horses in Usery Mountain Park in a series of photos shot by a park ranger.  The horses are attempting to cross a deep and treacherous section of the Salt River, and one of the smaller colts is on the verge of getting swept away in the current.  But a larger horse she calls Champ turns back and rescues the little one, making sure he is safe the the pack remains together. 

Here is the one-minute video and a portion of Sterling's email:

Over the past 12 years riders have come and gone but it has always been my primary goal to never lose this Brumby spirit of camaraderie, community, and selflessness. My objective and hope is that whenever anyone rides on any of our rides, whether it is a Mon/Wed/Fri or Tues/Thurs or Sat ride that we always keep that preeminent look after each other and help the weaker riders. I must admit, that the rise of the group to the fastest levels and exit to team riding versus group riding has strained this spirit and sometimes folks have left the pack. 

It is my primary goal to continue to promote "the Brumby way" that we all started with and ensure that we always have a "White Stallion Champ" out there riding on our rides. I will look forward to trying to always rally the "Brumby Way" everyday and I hope that there are those leaders among us who will step up as Champ did and always look out for each other from stopping to help fix flats and re-grouping for those who drop or bonk when having a bad day.
Sterling Baer

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Saturday Ride To Saturday Market

Spring cycling in Arizona is simply magical.  The desert is dotted with brilliant color from the cactus blooms and the air holds in it's last grasps of coolness that will dissipate into the afternoon heat.

But perhaps the best thing about riding your bike on a weekend morning is the carrot dangling at the end of the ride, also known as Saturday Market at Vincent's On Camelback.

Vincent's Market Bistro is located at 3930 E. Camelback Road, just west of 40th Street in Phoenix.  From October to mid May Head Chef Vincent Guerithault opens his side patio to local farmers and vendors who sell organically grown produce, homemade granola, crusty breads, buttery croissants and sweet jams and jellies, among other mouthwatering delights.  The staff from the restaurant are continually sliding fresh crepes off the griddle, while the boys from Brophy Prep are peddling take-away brownie and cookie mixes with all proceeds going to the charity of their choice.
Photo credit here

Vincent's son, Daniel, mans the panini station, where he will toast you the best hot sandwich you will ever eat.  And the piece de resisitance, the lemon souffle, made by the Chef, himself.

With just a handful of Saturday Markets left before the summer heat takes over, make the time to ride out to this special place and sample some of the best food you will ever experience at a farmer's market.  Don't wait until it's too late.  The magical days of April and May will be gone before you know it.

And so will that lemon souffle.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Measuring Your Swim In The Open Water

Photo credit here

Measuring the distance of an open water swim can get tricky.  I personally use a Garmin 310xt for my triathlon training and open water swimming because the watch is waterproof.  But I have found that the best way to measure my swim distances at the lake is to tie my Garmin on a string to the zipper on my wetsuit and place the watch under a swim cap.  This seems to provide the most accurate swim measurements for me.

I've often referred this this blog and you might find it helpful, as well.
Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True