Monday, March 30, 2009

Yoga: a stronger addiction than 5 Hour Energy

At one time I was addicted to 5 Hour Energy but I've kicked that habit, especially since it's now $3 at my work instead of two. Yoga is my new addiction that I don't want to kick. Ever. I've been to three fundamentals classes here and one at Gold's Gym and am totally hooked. I can already feel a difference when I stretch after runs. I have a bit more flexibility and can hold stretches for a bit longer. My hamstrings don't feel quite as tight as they used to either. "Yoga Homework" is working! Just a simple get the breathing right, go into a pose with your open hands touching the ground, straight legs with a very slight bent, for two minutes at night. Well, in the morning too but I'm not so good at doing homework then.

More seriously, once I get a bit better controlling breathing, practice poses on my own, and keep going to fundamentals class, I'll improve quite a bit. I can already do a passable shoulder stand pose after only being able to hold it for 1/2 second last Thursday. Now my pose isn't anywhere near as complete as this one, heck my toes will probably never touch the ground behind my head but it's acceptable to me. I'm a lot further along than I'd ever thought I would be. Maybe now I will even start trusting my own abilities. I'm starting to with my running, and with yoga.

Now to break out the kit and DVDs I ordered.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Yoga Project launched!!!! and Volunteering is a good thing

I've got a lot to cover since I haven't blogged in a while. The Yoga Project has officially been launched! I am two weeks into yoga at Pure Prana in Alexandria. I have really enjoyed the fundamentals class so far. I've already learned a ton about breathing, stretching, and relaxing. I'm sure I'll get better as I go each week, if I can remember what the instructor has taught me about pushing myself to just before it gets uncomfortable instead of pushing to the max. So far, so good. Even in a beginner class, I was very nervous on my first night that I would be overmatched. That didn't happen, the only time I felt lost was on shoulder stand pose. That will take a bit, the instructor helped me a bit this past Thursday but my back is still too tight to pull that off. It will come with practice, as a friend of mine said there's years of damage to be undone, which is very true. I'm going at least once a week now, and this week is week one of a new rotation, so now that I know I like going, I'll start somewhat anew.

Not only am I a limited talent but dedicated yoga student, I am also a great volunteer. Not a Tennessee Volunteer mind you, but I decided I needed to give back to the running community. So I signed up to volunteer at the National Marathon this past weekend. Friday night I was working a t shirt table, handing out shirts to participants. Other than running out of small shirts (oh how I sometimes wish I could fit into one!) it went well. The people and nearly all the participants were fantastic, handing out shirts once in a while is the least I can do for a community that has given so much to me.

That's not to say I wasn't tired when I left and a little apprehensive about waking up at 4:15 am for a volunteer shift that started at 6 am. But I made the 5:27 am Metro train in plenty of time, got to my shift location at 6. Let me tell you, I'm not sure if Team in Training could not have done more to make me feel welcome and valued (I signed up online on my own a couple months ago and was matched with them). Just a fantastic experience, even if I almost crashed into fellow volunteers twice while handing out Powerade at Mile 3! Mile 3 was very hectic as we had both marathoners and half marathoners passing by. As was the hour before the race started; mixing Powerade, pouring tons of water, moving tables around twice. But everyone was so welcoming and hard working that the time flew by.

I have an entirely new appreciation for event volunteers and the work that they do while we are running all over the place. The effort that goes into putting up something as seen as simple as putting up a few tables and placing cups of water on them, it's a lot, lot more than you realize. Breaking down tables, helping street sweepers, it's a lot of work. I am very very glad I did this, and will do it some more this year. I also pledge to be even more gracious to volunteers that I already was in the future. Giving back gives rewards in more ways than one.

I know I didn't save the planet, or even anyone. But everyone can give back to his or her community in many ways. I'm sure I was able to help someone's run a bit because they were a bit more hydrated after taking a cup of Powerade from me. Running is a great fitness and health tool. It felt really good to know I helped people works towards a great physical challenge. And had fun and met some fantastic people as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

George Mason mini-mounment, yes it exists!

Lots to talk about here, two Mondays ago I went on another personal running tour. The blah, Hains Point is not really a good place for some interval sprints, not the wide open, flat stretch I was looking for, forgot about the side parking. The good, I rediscovered the George Mason Memorial. If you're driving home on 395 south over the Potomac, just as you drive under the signs telling you about Exit 10, on the ground beneath the bridge and accessible from the footbridge via stairs is the monument. George Mason wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights. And was involved in drafting The Constitution. Read more from people who write better than I can. I was happy to find this memorial to an often overlooked Founding Father. I will need to visit Gunston Hall sometime this year. Maybe combine it with a run in Mason Neck State Park.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Yoga Project on hold, but I joined a new team

The yoga project is on hold for at least a week. Why? Because I'm disorganized and did not register for the Yoga For Runners class until it was too late. I was so upset with myself for being that disorganized that I became depressed for a bit. That combined with a crappy run last night, running pants issue last night, and two rough days at work made me a mess for 36 hours.

But that doesn't matter anymore. Because I joined a new team tonight. Team Cannondale! I bought this amazing bike - titanium grey color! I can't wait to pick it up tomorrow and ride it Sunday morning before the Capitals game. And tomorrow afternoon. And tons of times after that. I'm in a very good mood now.

While I'll have to wait until Thursday for a fundamentals yoga class, owning a new bike makes me want to jump up and down like a nine year old at Christmastime. It amazes me how quickly my overall mood changed. It shouldn't change like that but it does. But it's going to be 70 tomorrow and Sunday. And close to it on Monday. Lots of biking and running. I am jacked up! Daylight savings time: I'm a big, big fan so I will definitely take advantage of the warm temps and extra daylight.

BTW, that guy should have never been thrown out of the window for suggesting they no longer buy Bud Light at the meetings. That was a very good idea, if you're gonna blow money like that, at least buy Yuengling or better beer. Just sayin'.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

First long race of the year, a smashing success!

After my still can't believe it time in the Chocolate Mile three weeks ago, I started to get really fired up about long race season. Until I heard the weather forecast for possible snow showers, or much worse, cold rain. Then I wasn't so fired up about it. I made the drive to the hotel nonetheless; I was not leaving at 5-5:30 to drive nearly 50 miles that morning knowing that I still needed to pickup my race packet and the Beltway is always questionable. No drama there, hotel had a microwave, I found a Wawa with bananas for the morning, I was good to go.

After a great (especially for hotel) night's sleep, I was off to Severna Park (MD) High School for the first half marathon of the season. I was all jacked up, although very cold once I got out of the car at the school. So I went into pre-race routine mode, the race number and chip were all set, a brief run and stretch, followed by fixing my watch so I could track my chip time. I was good to go at the starting gun.

I didn't really know what to expect from this race as it was my first long race in winter conditions, or my second race of longer than one mile in winter conditions; the 4 miler on New Years Eve was fun but not really a race. I had a goal of finishing under 2 hours, with 1:55 the "get under that and I'll be thrilled" line. 1:50:39 I ran in Richmond? Not happening, too big of a difference in conditions and on top of that, while I have gone on several long runs on the weekends, I had a lot more races under my "recently run belt" when I ran Richmond.

The course was just about all on the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail, which does not go all the way to Baltimore but I digress. After running through a middle school parking lot, the course proceeded to the paved trail. The trail was open to cyclists or other runners during the race, but I only saw three other runners and no cyclists since it was 7:30-8 AM on a crappy Sunday morning. Nice running surface, not chopped gravel, a couple slick footbridges but heck it snowed a bit the night before so it goes with the territory.

I'm running, staying hydrated, settling in when I came to the one hill at the turnaround, up and down, all under US 50. That was a bit tough but after that my pace per mile kept on getting slightly faster. I didn't look at my watch all that often during this race, pretty much just at the mile markers. I started to notice I was getting close to the 8:30 mile pace. Cool! I knew that 1:51:21 was 8:30 for a half marathon but didn't think I was running that fast. But I kept on keeping on, taking advantage of the water stops, using my own water belt (4 tiny bottles attached to a belt) to help with hydration...and....started to hurt a bit around mile 12.

But I dug in and finished with a chip time of 1:51:09, exactly 30 seconds slower than the Richmond race. I am VERY HAPPY with this, especially given the conditions. I'm so glad I went now, a new experience, chatted with a few people, and verified that my time last year wasn't a fluke. I recommend races put on the Annapolis Striders. The race premium was a light zip jacket that helps with wind prevention, that's a great bonus but both races I've run with them were very well organized (the most important thing by far). I can't wait for the 10 Miler in August!!!

Finally, it looks like I will be making my yoga debut on Saturday at Pure Prana. I'm sure my super duper sized audience is greatly awaiting news of that.