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Hey Everyone!

I know what you’re thinking.  Where in the world has Adventure Foot been!?

Adventuring, of course!

IOU some major blogging and I’m really going to get it done this week, so check back often.  I have to tell you about my run at the Allerton Trails Half Marathon and Bridge the Gap Half Marathon, about getting my bike professionally fitted, and the Folks on Spokes metric century bike ride we did a few weeks ago, what I learned about the curse of flat tires, our Ride of Silence Event… I’m just saying, there’s a lot.

How’d I get so far behind?!  That’s primarily due to my Quincy Bicycle Club media blitz!  I was recently elected President of the Quincy Bike Club and my first order of business was getting the word out that it’s the best club to ever hit wheels.  To that end, my outstanding Vice President and I got on the horn to the local media and booked gigs with The Quincy Herald Whig, KHQA-TV, WGEM-TV, Y101 Radio, and WGEM Talk 105 all in the same week.   Also, I redid our entire website.  Check it out at http://www.quincybikeclub.org

Anywho- excuses aside, I’ve got announcements RE: Adventure Foot Contest Winners and my excellent blog sponsors!

As you all know by now, Adventure Foot is proud to be an ambassador for Nuun Hydration and VI Fuel Endurance Gel.  These are two products I really believe in and use allllll the time on my adventures.

Nuun Hydration tabs are electrolyte drink tablets that you just drop into your water bottle.  They’ve got lots and lots of great flavors (my faves are Lemon Lime and Tri-Berry) so I’m sure you’ll find one you love.  The best part about Nuun is that these tabs are not over-sweet like many sports drinks.  That kind of gatorade junk upsets my adventure tummy- especially in extreme heat when you need hydration the most. Nuun is delicious with just a hint of sweetness and the electrolytes keep me going!  Nuun tabs come in a handy little tube of 12 too- so they fit in your bike seat pack or that little pocket on your hiking bag or wherever!  I also love that they create so much less waste than a big plastic-bottled sports drink.  Oh! And if you’re out adventuring to loose weight, Nuun is the electrolyte drink for you!  While a bottle of Gatorade has 75 calories per 12 oz (or 130 for a 20 oz. bottle), Nuun tabs have only 7 calories!  It’s a good decision!   Check out my Official Nuun Ambassador Page by clicking here! 

Anyway- by random number drawing- the winners of a Nuun Water Bottle and 1 tube of Nuun are Cindy and Jacob!!!!!

cindy

Cindy’s yoga Adventure Feet!

jaco

Jacob out for an Adventure Foot bike ride!

Now, onto the second sponsor!  I first discovered V-Fuel Endurance Gel through a friend in the Heartland Roadrunners Club.  I was in the middle of training for my 2nd half marathon at the time, and I’d had a “bad day” of running after eating 2 Gu brand gels on my 10 mile route. I think runners can all relate to what I mean by “bad day.”  Anyway, my friend Dave said that I should try a different brand of energy gel, V-Fuel.   He promised it was different.  He promised no upset tummy.  He promised great flavors.  And he promised better performance.  Guess what?  He was TOTALLY right.  Seriously you guys.  This gel is different.

V-Fuel comes in 3 flavors: vanilla, chocolate and peach cobbler.  The consistency of the gel is thinner than what you expect from a Gu, which I really like on the run.  And the boost in performance is huge, especially on the long runs or rides when you’re trying to avoid the dreaded “bonk.”   But the very most important thing to me is that V-Fuel doesn’t upset my stomach and has never, ever caused an unexpected bathroom break. I asked the creators of  V-Fuel why it was so much easier on my tummy and here’s what I learned:

“VFuel, like other energy gels, starts with maltodextrin as the primary carbohydrate. But from there, we take a very different path. Most other gels use Fructose, or some sort of rice syrup or evaporated cane juice, all containing Fructose. VFuel uses Dextrose as its secondary carb, a more expensive (on our end) option, but one that is drastically easier to digest.”

All of that adds up to a happy Adventurer!

And speaking of happy Adventurers… I have 3 winners to announce for V-Fuel prizes but you are ALL winners today!  V-Fuel has offered my readers a SPECIAL 20% off Discount for your first order! Believe me when I say your first order won’t be your last.  Some people buy their significant other chocolate for special occasions…. my husband and I buy each other chocolate V!  (That’s true.  You just ask him what I got him for Valentine’s Day!)  So where was I?  Oh yeah. Discount.   Type in ADVENTUREFOOT and save 20%. Woohoo!!

And here are the winners!!!

stephen

Stephen coming with the double threat… cycling and ultimate frisbee! That’s the kind of multi-tasking I can get behind!

sarah

Sarah with the tron-looking 5 fingers!

jared

Jared out on a “casual” birthday ultra-run 🙂

Congratulations to all my winners! I’ll be putting together a new banner this week featuring your Adventure Feet!  Everyone else, please check into these two companies and click their links.  I wouldn’t endorse them if I didn’t think they were the very best for my money and for my adventures.  Folks local to Quincy, you can find Nuun Hydration at Madison Davis Bicycle Shop as well as Hy-Vee on Harrison in the heath food department.  V-Fuel is only available online at this time, but my code is good through July, so order some today!  I happen to like chocolate best, but I think the most popular flavor is peach cobbler.  If you have any questions about either of these products, please don’t hesitate to ask!

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Doug, Glenn and I show off our medals after Run the Bluegrass

Doug, Glenn and I show off our medals after Run the Bluegrass

When I signed up for the Run the Bluegrass half marathon in Lexington, Kentucky, I had many lofty expectations that probably seem silly.  I pictured rolling green pastures, enormous old estates, chickens in the yard, babbling streams, horses running the fields, and miles and miles of white fence framing it all in the perfect picture of the South.

As it turns out- I was spot on.

Pre-race Sponsor Pics! It's Nuun Hydration and VFuel! Love it! Click here to enter my contest to win both!

Pre-race Sponsor Pics! It’s Nuun Hydration and VFuel! Love it! Click here to enter my contest to win both!

I came to this race by way of another race selling out really fast. I had originally intended to run the Quivering Quads half marathon through Cuivre River State Park, but when it was full in a day, I did what any red-blooded American would do: whined about it on Facebook.  A high school friend who once lived in Lexington posted a link to what was billed as “One of the prettiest half marathons in America,” and I was sold.  I quickly talked my training partner Doug into the race, and not long after that- primarily by reminding him that Kentucky was the heart of bourbon country- I had convinced our friend Glenn from the running club to join us too.

Training for this race didn’t always go smoothly.  The first few months of this year, our hometown was blanketed by over a foot of snow not once, but three separate times. It seemed like our choices for times to run revolved around which was worse: freezing temperatures or freezing rain. But we slogged through long runs and hoped for spring to relieve the need to run bundled up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Night before the race drinks in the hotel lobby. My first ever bourbon. When in Kentucky...

Night before the race drinks in the hotel lobby. My first ever bourbon. When in Kentucky…

Due to a death in the family and an unexpected trip to Chicago, I arrived in Lexington late Friday night, after 10 hours in my car, having missed the expo.  My friends Doug and Glenn were already there, and I was barely in the door before Glenn had his expo prize out to show me: a bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon that was specially-selected for this race which he had gotten signed by Runner’s World’s Hal Higdon.  The guys had also each purchased an etched Run the Bluegrass rocks glass, and Doug had kindly picked one up for me too.  Happy to finally be out of my car, we all went to the lobby to have a nightcap and then were off to bed at a pretty decent hour.

We woke up at 6 am for the 9 am race.   We stayed at the race hotel, the Hyatt Downtown, so we were pretty close to the race start.  We grabbed breakfast at the hotel lobby. I had hot cereal and some fruit, which is evidently my pre-race ritual now.  Then we were off to the race.

Beautiful drive to the race.

Beautiful drive to the race.

The drive there is worth mentioning actually.  There was a low fog hanging over the low spots of the farms along the way, and temperatures just around freezing had frozen the fog in spots and added a gorgeous sparkle to the landscape. The sun was working hard to burn the fog away and the scene was another perfect picture of the South.

We arrived at Keenland Thoroughbred Race Track over an hour before the race.  Walking up to the spired main building I could see the finish line off to my right.  Perhaps the little detail of pre-race that made me the happiest is that the racetrack had plenty of inside bathrooms.  There is nothing in this world better than knowing you don’t have to go to the port-a-potty before a race.  I popped a lemon-lime Nuun Hydration tablet in my water bottle (what, you didn’t think I was going to mention my sponsor!?  CLICK HERE to see my brand new Ambassador Page!!) and then it was time to go.

I'm betting on the right horse to win!  These ladies did the whole race in costume. Awesome.

I’m betting on the right horse to win! These ladies did the whole race in costume. Awesome.

We made our way down to race start about quarter to nine, and maybe it’s just the speed of the South, but no one seemed in much hurry to get to the start.  We found our spot in our corral among the other 4000+ runners and chatted with the people around us.  Mainly, I talked to a guy named Andy, who was funny and kind and kept my mind off of the 13.1 hilly miles in front of us.  The race started just a little late and by the time we hit the start line, the temperature outside was absolutely perfect.

Go ahead. Count the hills. But it will only make you cry. (chart from Taz Running.com)

Go ahead. Count the hills. But it will only make you cry. (chart from Taz Running.com)

Now, dear readers, I’ve been thinking for 5 days what to tell you about the race.  You see, I don’t want to scare you off because you should definitely do this race.  I’m not going to lie to you though, it’s hilly.  Real hilly.  And if I do this race again next year, I shall never, ever skip one of Brian Pahlmann’s hill repeat training sessions down at the river. Ever.

I noticed the first long hill we climbed had a name: Songbird Hill.  It was a good name, since I could hear some meadowlarks off in the field. The next hill was also graced with a sign at the top dubbing it Rose Hill.  And at the top of the next hill there was another sign and another name and I remembered what someone in the bike club once told me, “It’s only a real hill if it’s got a name.”  Well looking from the crest of the hill we were on across the rolling landscape in front of us, I thought, “Gosh, there are going to be a lot of names.”

Kim and Laura and myself at around mile 8...we stopped for a picture!!

Kim and Laura and myself at around mile 8…we stopped for a picture!!

In spite of the fact that we were woefully underprepared for a course like this, both Doug and I were surprised to see the first several miles melting away.  The course was very well-marked and large flags called out each mile.  Intermittently along the course there were bands playing a wide variety of music (Seriously: there was some screamo at one corner and a bluegrass band at the next.  WIDE variety…) but mostly the course was a quiet country road with little to hear aside from footfalls.

Another post race pic!

Another post race pic!

Near the bluegrass band was one of those scenes I’d clearly imagined before the race- a yard full of chickens and one proud Tom turkey out strutting his stuff, wearing his feathers tall like royal regalia.  Not far up the road was the first close-to-the-fence horse, a big black and white draft horse who stood by the fence waiting for the next runner who would come over and give him a scratch on the cheek.  He was very sweet and made me smile.  That sort of thing really helps me get my mind off the primary problem: the hills.  My god, the hills.

We were struggling mightily up one hill that Doug named, “The Widow Maker,” when (now don’t miss the irony here) a little old man came by us and said, “You know what a little old man once told me about hills?  It’s just ground!”

Somewhere just past the halfway point, I called out, “Well there’s no turning back now; it’s further to turn around!” which drew a laugh from a couple of girls in the vicinity.  The girls were named Kim and Laura and we ran with them on and off for the rest of the race.  Kim is also a blogger and writes one called This Healthy Endeavor.  It’s got recipes and race reports and more. You should go check it out. Half way is also the point I chose to eat a second V-Fuel Endurance Gel. The VFuel really helped me get through this tough race and didn’t give me any tummy problems at all.  That’s why I love it.  (Click here to see my contest to win Nuun and VFuel!!!!!)

My race goodies! Yeah, I splurged for the bottle of bourbon.

My race goodies! Yeah, I splurged for the bottle of bourbon.

Probably the most beautiful moment of the race for me was at mile 8.  We crested *another* hill and at the top there were 3 sets of mares and foals running wide arcs around their fenced pasture.   It was breathtaking to watch, and even though I was getting pretty exhausted, their enthusiasm for running returned the spring to my step and the smile to my face.

I’m not going to get too much into the end of the race… it was hilly, I was undertrained, and I did a lot of walking.   That’s okay though. Doug stuck right by my side and we did the thing together.  Then, just past a little marching band stationed at the last corner (WIDE variety of music…) the finish line came into sight.  We ran out the last “point-one” as quick as we could and were presented with what is probably my favorite half-marathon medal to date.

Sorry this blog got so long folks! Thanks for sticking with me! Run the Bluegrass was a terrific race.  I posted a personal worst time- but I also feel like I worked really hard for it and was super proud anyway.  I couldn’t have done it without my training partner Doug, who helped me through the long, bleak winter training and shared in the fun in Lexington.  Glenn finished in front of us, but he was great to have around and was fun the entire trip.

Doug, Glenn, Race Director Eric and I after the race (and after a Kentucky Ale!)

Doug, Glenn, Race Director Eric and I after the race (and after a Kentucky Ale!)

Special thanks go to the race director Eric Marr and his team for making every part of the race beautiful.  From the specially chosen barrels of Knob Creek Bourbon, to the ribbons based on the silks of the famous thoroughbred filly Genuine Risk, this was a race with an eye for the details that make an experience special.

Also, a big shout-out to Andy, Kim, Laura, Amanda Jones and her friends, and Lisa- new friends from the race.  I absolutely loved the size of this race. It made it easy to meet people, share a Kentucky Ale, and lament the hills like we’d been running together forever.  Lisa if you’re reading this: I’ll see you this weekend in Allerton. I can’t believe we were both silly enough to sign up for the same two half marathons on back-to-back weekends.

Doug at the Town Branch distillery tour.

Doug at the Town Branch distillery tour.

If you make it down for this race next year (and you totally should) make sure you take a little time to explore Lexington. It’s an awesome town with lots to do.  We toured the Town Branch Bourbon Distillery after the race and also got a taste of downtown at a really great creole joint called Bourbon and Toulouse for dinner.  Then we treated ourselves to pie by the famous Missy’s Pies at Ramsey’s Restaurant for desert.  I had coconut cream.  Wow.

Just remember: If you sign up for this race next year… don’t skimp on the hill training.  🙂

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It’s BIG news Adventure Foot Readers! I’m announcing my first ever sponsored blog contest featuring FABOULOUS PRIZES from my blog sponsors: Nuun Hydration and V Fuel Endurance Gel!

3 Winners will be chosen to get a box of V Fuel Endurance Gel.  It's awesome.

3 Winners will be chosen to get a box of V Fuel Endurance Gel. It’s awesome.

Here’s how the contest works:

Take a gander at that super sweet banner at the top of my page.  See how it has 5 Adventure Feet pictured?  Well, I am going to update that banner with 5 brand new feet- and if I choose yours- you will win a fabulous prize!

What are the prizes?

3 Winners will win their choice of a 24 Pack of the very best endurance gel on the market, V-Fuel.  You can have Peach Cobbler, Vanilla or Chocolate (my favorite!).

2 Winners will win a Nuun Hydration Prize Pack which will include a Nuun Hydration Water Bottle, one package (12 servings) of Nuun Hydration Lemon Lime (also my favorite) and a super sweet Nuun Hydration white vinyl sticker.

2 Winners will win One tube of Nuun, One Water Bottle, and One Sticker!

2 Winners will win One tube of Nuun, One Water Bottle, and One Sticker!

How do you enter?

FIRST you MUST “Like” Adventure Foot, Nuun Hydration and V Fuel Endurance on Facebook.  You’ll be glad that you did- ‘cause these are great companies making great products.

Then you upload a PHOTO of your Adventure Foot on my Adventure Foot Facebook page.  I don’t care what kind of footwear you chose- just get out there and snap a picture mid-adventure! I’m looking for some creativity here people, so have fun with it.  You may also include a sentence or two explaining what kind of adventure you’re having!

How are the winners chosen?

I’m going to put all of the photos which are entered in numerical order and then I’m going to use a random number picker to choose winners. DEADLINE FOR ENTRY IS MAY 15th!  (This is extended… so get your photos in!) People who had their entries in by April 22 will get additional numbers in the drawing so that it’s fair!

Adventure Feet

Adventure Feet Example

Fine Print?

You have to like all three pages on Facebook or your picture will not be eligible.  By entering a photo, you agree to let me put it on my blog and in my new header if you’re selected to be a winner.  I will not put your name on your photo or spam you or anything like that.  Also, I’ll do my best to contact you through Facebook but sometimes people have Facebook settings so tight that a “page” cannot send you a message.  This is my first contest so I’ll do my best to make it fair.  I’m going to say- void where prohibited and no purchase necessary to win.  Since I don’t sell anything, I believe that is enough legalize.  I’m thinking I will announce winners on or around April 30th.  Stay tuned for that.

Anything else?

YES!  You are already a winner because

V Fuel Endurance Gel is giving MY READERS ONLY a SPECIAL DISCOUNT!!!!!!!!!!!!  20% off all orders through the contest period by using the code AdventureFoot at checkout.       

 

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nufit-headerJust before I sat down to write this blog, I stumbled across an article about how 1/5 South Korean women have had some kind of plastic surgery.  Often it’s to lighten their skin, widen and round their eyes, and even to shave their jaw bones to make their chins come to a heart-shaped point rather than look square.  They basically want to look more western and go to great lengths to achieve this arbitrary standard of beauty.

original

From the gawker.com article on South Koreans and plastic surgery.

I think the knee-jerk reaction to an article like that is, “Thank god we don’t live in a crazy country where those kind of extremes are so common!”  But really when you think about it, American women do go to some pretty amazing extremes and hold ourselves up against standards of beauty that are pretty much impossible.

Some of the things we’d like to change about ourselves can be addressed in healthy ways.  Each time we eat some veggies and not a Snickers, we’re making a healthy choice to change the way we look and feel.  Each time we choose a bike ride over a TV show or a video game, we’re choosing to honor ourselves and add to our fitness.   And all that’s great, but too many women, especially young women, get so caught up in the pursuit of beauty that it becomes destructive.  These women might be suffering from diseases like anorexia, bulimia, or depression.  They might have internal struggles with weight and beauty that cause a lifetime of self-doubt that affect every facet of their lives from relationships to careers.

Prevention of those kind of struggles is exactly why I’ve never more strongly endorsed a program than the one I’m about to tell you about.

A local fitness facility called NuFit for You is offering a new pilot program called the Mirror Image Project.   Owner of NuFit Angie Asmann explained, “The purpose of the project is to focus on building healthy body image and self-esteem in women of all ages. Total wellness starts from within. We plan on revolutionizing the way women view themselves internally and externally, and to raise awareness on what a healthy women is supposed to look and feel like.”

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A local mother/daughter pair who will be participating in the program. Also: some of my best friends!!

This initial program is designed for mothers with daughters ages 8 to 12 years old.  The best part is that the program will be FREE for these mothers and daughters.

“8-12 years old is a crucial time for young women,” Asmann explains.  “It’s when they’re really developing a sense of who they are and who they want to be.  It’s the right time to teach them positivity about who they are.”

Tiffaney_Rains_1_p

Tiffaney Rains, of NuFit

The program will be led by Tiffaney Rains, a personal trainer and Master’s Degree in Community Counseling candidate at Quincy University.  She’ll be teaching classes on Understanding Self Image, Learning about yourself, Media Messages and Myths, Beauty Within and  Positive Self Image Lifestyle Choices.   The course begins February 3rd and lasts for 6 weeks (meets every Sunday 7pm).

If you know a mother/daughter pair who would benefit from these important classes, DO NOT DELAY!   Since I was writing this blog today, I talked the NuFit crew into extending the deadline to apply to the program through Monday, Jan. 21st at 8 AM!   All you or the mother need to do to apply is write a paragraph about why you should be considered for the Mirror Image Project and email it to angie@nufitforyou.com   This first program will be limited to between 6 and 8 mother/daughter pairs. (I should say, if you’re an aunt/niece or … you know, any other arrangement of important woman to important young woman, I’m sure you can apply too.)

I think it’s wonderful that NuFit is helping young women to find their voices and believe in their own beauty.  I hope this program really blossoms and that all the women of the area can learn just a little more self-confidence because of it.

“Throughout a daughter’s childhood, mother and daughter become like mirrors for each other’s sense of self.”  – Doctor Laura Arens Fuerstein, author of “My Mother, My Mirror.”

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2011 Veteran’s Day Run

 

The weather is cool, the leaves are turning and it’s a great time to run in the Tri-States.   Whether you’re embarking on your first 5K or your 50th, there are so many oportunities to try an event, that you just can’t miss!

November 3rd:  Tri-State Warrior Dash 5K, 10K or 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk

This event has been renamed from the national Veteran’s Day run from last year, but comes to you from the same great crew that put together a fun race last year. I ran in the 11K last year (This year it’s a 10K.  11 was for 2011) and it was actually one of my very best runs.  Read about last year’s event here and sign up for it here! Proceeds benefit area veterans.

November 10th: Beat Beethoven 5K

Says the website, “At 8:00 am Beethoven’s 5th Symphony will begin… can you finish the 5K before it ends?”  The symphony is in the neighborhood of 30 minutes, so you’ll have to hurry!  Register here.  Proceeds benefit Symphony of Trees…which benefits local music programs.

November 22nd: Quincy YMCA Turkey Run

It’s a Quincy Classic! The 33rd Annual Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk includes 5K and 10K runs or 1 mile and 5K Non-competitive Leisure walk options. There’s also a family rate for up to 4 runners.  Proceeds benefit the YMCA.  Read about my 2011 Turkey Run here and sign up for the race here.

December 1st:  Ring a Bell Run, 5K run or walk

The Jingle Bell run for the Arthritis Foundation is not making a return to Quincy this year, but the Kroc Center is filling the gap.  The new Ring a Bell Run Proceeds supports The Salvation Army annual Christmas Campaign, which provides Christmas food baskets, toys for children, and the community Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. These funds also support year round services such as food pantry, rent and utility assistance and emergency shelter for those in crisis in our community.  Sign up for the run by clicking here!

 

 

 

 

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Justin does some TRX bicep curls. Look at those guns!! 🙂

Nothing gets my Adventure Foot out the door quite so well as the promise of a brand new way to workout, so when I heard that NuFit for You was offering sample TRX Suspension classes I said two things:

  1. Sign me up!
  2. What is TRX Suspension training?

… in that order.

TRX training uses your own body weight as resistance in different exercises against an apparatus suspended from a ceiling.  The TRX equipment is beautifully simple- it’s basically just adjustable straps with handles attached that can be used to perform dozens of different strength and core training exercises.

The system was designed by a member of the US Military who wanted a very compact piece of equipment that could help him work out wherever, whenever.

Everyone in the class learning the ropes.

When my husband and I walked into the class at NuFit, I must admit I was a little intimidated by all of the TRX straps hanging from the ceiling, but I was quickly reassured by Kenji Freedman, a visiting TRX training expert.  As I’ve come to expect from the staff at NuFit, we were greeted with a warm smile and assurances that we’d catch on in no time.   We took our positions and Kenji took over the class and explained the TRX Trainer.

It couldn’t be easier to use.  There are essentially 3 lengths you can adjust the TRX straps to; and all it takes to change the lengths is to slide a buckle up and down the straps.  The buckle automatically locks in place wherever you stop.  Kenji then demonstrated a few of the major positions you could stand to do the exercises, for example, a push-up position, a rowing position, and a curl position.

Here I am trying the tricep press motion. This was a tough one!

He must have seen the look on my face that said, “oh god… I don’t really do push-ups” because the next thing he explained is how you can increase and decrease the difficulty of each move.  For example, in the push-up position, you can start by standing nearly vertical and do push-ups from there.  You can try what I mean at home: lean against a wall and try a push-up from a near-standing position.  Now do it with more angle. Get it??? Good.

Well, I may be no good at push-ups, but I can take a little more than standing straight up, so I backed my feet up by two feet or so and did my set of push-ups with a little more angle.  My husband (who is quite good at push-ups) went down to a much harder angle for his set.

And that’s kind of the great thing about TRX.  My husband and I have vastly different levels of upper body strength, but by using different angles with the equipment we could vary the intensity of the workout so effortlessly that we can be in the same class at the same time doing the same number of repetitions and still get a workout customized to our ability.

Kenji was a fun instructor!

The rest of the 30 minute workout just flew by.  We tried each different workout position for a short time, took a 30 second break, and then tried another.  I think the one that I liked the most was the bicep curl exercise (because I feel tough doing that one!) and the one that was the toughest for me was the Pilates-like plank push-ups.

You must be wondering how I felt after the workout.  Initially I was good, but the next day I was sore.  I’d say it was a good kind of sore though.  It helped me to realize that maybe all of my cycling has made my legs strong, but my upper body and core could still use some attention.  All of the core work will certainly help me to be a better all-around athlete and adventurer,  so it’s definitely something I’d like to try some more of.  My husband absolutely loved it- he always likes this kind of thing- and he said it was a really challenging and fun workout.

If you’re interested in trying TRX out, visit www.nufitforyou.com and check out their class schedule.  If you haven’t been to NuFit before, your first class will be free!      Also read about my very favorite NuFit class: CycleLattes!

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Most of the Heartland Roadrunners that made the trip to the Illinois Marathon. Doug, Jeff and I missed the pre-race picture while we were stuck in traffic.

I wasn’t really sure where to go with this race report.  I didn’t personally run very well, and since a day after the race I was sitting on my couch with a sore throat and fever, and by Tuesday morning  I was at the walk-in clinic getting antibiotics for a  sinus infection,  I think the explanation for the slow run is now more clear.  So, I’m going to give you my impression of the Illinois Half Marathon and I-Challenge and I’m going to try to keep my not-feeling-good whining to a minimum.  Suffice it to say, I think I was on the verge of a pretty icky cold while I was running 16.2 miles in 12 hours, and that may have colored my experience a tad.

The Lead-Up

The days before the Illinois Marathon were simply full of obsessive weather-watching.  Was it going to rain? Storm?  I heard wind! Cold?  What am I going to wear?  Packing my bag on Thursday, I decided to not make a decision and just bring every piece of running gear I owned.

The Expo and Check-In

We took this photo at the expo…

I was super impressed with the organization of the check-in process.  I remarked to my friend Doug that it was easier to check in for this race of 20,000 people than it was for the comparatively small Turkey Run back in Quincy!  (No offense meant to the Turkey Run, which was also fairly quick!)   There were plenty of volunteers, the lines were organized by race and number, and there was really no wait when we arrived.

After we checked in, we headed over to the Expo.  As we were walking in, Ultra-Marathoner and Everest-Climber Marshall Ulrich was leaving.  I actually had not heard that he’d be there or I would have made a point to get there a little sooner- he’d be one inspiring guy to meet!  Anyway, Doug and I wandered around a while and looked at booths from other races and checked out some of the merchandise on sale.  The selection wasn’t nearly as large as the expo at the Little Rock Marathon, and I was disappointed that none of the vendors had any women’s trail running shoes, because I really wanted to try a few pairs on and take my favorite home.  I bought a poster and a pint glass and Doug got a new water bottle and then we were off to the hotel.

The Hotel

I only mention this in hopes of saving other people: do not stay in the Red Roof Inn in Champaign under any circumstances.   The beds were rocks, the highway was so close I thought a semi would come through the wall at any moment, and the whole place shakes when someone in another room flushes a toilet.  Worse yet, they charged $114 a night, with taxes almost $130… and that was just outright robbery.   Not a place for a pre-run rest.

The 5K

Some of the Heartland Roadrunners before the 5K. We were all participating in the I-Challenge by completing the 5K then a half or full the next day.

The skies were swirling and grey when Doug and I headed over to the 5K on Friday night.  It wasn’t raining, but it wasn’t pretty.  We met up with some club members and snapped a photo and danced to a Michael Jackson song playing over the loud speakers.  Someone said “Go!” and the 5500 participants all took off.  Most everyone in our club was taking it easy on this run since we were all doing the half or full in the morning, so a lot of silliness was in store for the 5K.

“The Dougster” goes off course… 🙂

I ran backwards underneath the Champaign and Urbana Fire Truck Arch (They actually had one fire truck from each township) and Ali snapped a picture.  The route ran through campus and the downtown area, and, at one point, Doug and I heard a big commotion off to our left.  To neither of our surprise, at the center of the cheering were 3 members of our club off of the course and on the lawn of a sorority house chugging beers.  I love our club sometimes…

After the 5K.

Running backwards under the fire truck flag arch!

Strangely enough, that’s really all that I found particularly remarkable about the 5K all the way to the finish line.  If there weren’t 5500 other runners, it would have just felt like any of the club runs we do in our town every day.   The finish line is pretty darn neat though!  After cruising through town, we headed back to the campus and toward Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois.  We ran through the tunnel and onto the football field, sprinted the 100 yards downfield, and made a U-turn to run to the finish positioned on the 50 yard line.  There were lots of cheering spectators in the stadium, and as an alumnus of the University of Iowa Marching Band, it brought to mind my college days and the excitement of a Big Ten football game.   Doug and I got our medals, met up with some of the other club members near the food area, ate a banana and were on our way.

I guess the weekend was just not going my way at this point, because leaving the stadium my medal broke, we couldn’t find where we parked the car and had to wander 4 enormous parking lots for way too long, and it was almost 9 pm by the time we ate dinner.  And of course, after that, we were back at the hotel, and I’ve already mentioned why that was no good.

Race Day

At about 4:50 am- ten minutes prior to our alarm- torrential rain, thunder and lightning woke us up.  The first thing I heard was Jeff laughing.  That’s just what we needed… a thunderstorm.  When we poked our heads out the door of our hotel we saw many other poorly rested runners looking out at the same thing: a cold and soggy race day.  There was nothing for it except to get ready and head back to the starting line though.  I fussed over what to wear and finally decided to go with pants, an Adidas technical short sleeved shirt and my windbreaker jacket.

Doug crossing his first half marathon finish line!

Since everything had conspired to be more difficult than it should be, we managed to make the 3 mile drive to the stadium take 40 minutes.  We finally gave up on the traffic, pulled the car in to a hotel near the congested intersection, and started walking to our corral.  I think that’s when I noticed that it was only 8 minutes to the start of the race and that we were nowhere near where we were supposed to be… so we started running through crowds as best we could to get to the start line.

The Half

The sprinting to the start, as it turns out, was really unnecessary.  We were in the second to last corral based on expected finish time, and by the time we crossed the start, we’d been waiting about 17 minutes.  17 minutes was just enough time for the wind to make us really cold after our warm-up sprint…

I don’t want to sound so terribly negative about the half.  All I know is that I couldn’t get my head in the game.  I wasn’t feeling really ill (like I am today) but I also couldn’t get excited to save myself.  Was it the weather? The hotel? The lack of sleep? Was I starting to get this chest cold/sinus infection so my energy was just low?  I have no idea.  I don’t want to make an excuse.  I just didn’t feel real good at the start of this thing and I didn’t feel better as it went on.

The Prairie path was at about mile 9. This is where the wind really kicked up for us.

The rain had tapered off by the time the race started, but I think the weather still kept many spectators at home.  The ones that braved the elements were enthusiastic though, and they cheered as we ran down the main campus area.  I could tell Doug felt pretty good at the start of the race and was enjoying the feeling of his first big event.  It was only a few weeks ago that I had that rush of adrenaline for my first big race at Little Rock, so his enthusiasm made me smile.  We trained together for this race and had decided long ago that we were going to stick together for it.  Even though I wasn’t feeling great, he honored that plan and stayed right beside me the whole time.  It meant a lot to me that he stayed, and there was more than one moment where having a friendly face made all the difference to keep going.

Lots of hardware to bring home.

Let’s see… highlights of the spectators included a pair of signs that read, “Go Faster,” and “That’s What She Said,” and a stop for beer and bacon.  There was a little brass band huddled in a bus stop shelter to keep out of the cold wind but playing a jaunty little polka, and later a kid with a trumpet playing out of his pep band folder, which were both fun.  There was a spectator holding a sign that said, “Worst. Parade. Ever.” And Doug really got a kick out of that one.  The best water stop on the course was one where everyone was dressed like pirates and called us “matey.”

Logistically the course was fine.  It seemed like water stops were well-placed, there was GU available, and there were bathrooms at water stops.  There were lines at all the bathrooms though, so I’m glad I didn’t have to stop.  They could probably double the number of porta-potties and help a lot of people out next year.

Doug and I celebrating completing the I-Challenge.

Scenically, this was (and I’m really sorry Champaign…) sort of a dull course.  While other race courses cross rivers, go through historic neighborhoods or pass important landmarks, this one just kind of meandered through the campus and some subdivisions.  There was a mile or so of the course that went through a restored prairie park which could have been neat, but the plants aren’t high yet, so it was just a windy, cold grassland.  If you’re looking for a flat race, this one is for you.  If you’re looking for a scenic one, maybe not so much.

I was really tired… 🙂

The course once again ended on the 50-Yard line of the University of Illinois stadium.  It was somewhat less exciting to be doing that for the second time in 12 hours, but still neat.  I was completely spent by the end and glad to grab my medals, snap a couple of pictures and get going.  Probably the biggest highlight of the day was crossing the finish line with Doug for his first half.  We trained together and it was great to share the moment.    Our time was a 2:51, which is a slower per-mile time than all of our training runs and which is completely on me.  I guess it was just a confluence of circumstances that led to a crummy run.

Post-Race

Medals from Left to right: Half Marathon, I-Challenge, and 5K

I don’t want you to come away from this race report thinking I’m really down about the whole thing.  I didn’t run great- but you know, sometimes that happens.  Doug was emboldened by this first finish and we had only been home a few hours before I got a text from him saying, “You wanna sign up for Tulsa?”  I laughed to myself and replied back, “I probably do, but you need to let me eat my chicken before you ask me to sign up for another race.”  (btw- Mr. Bills fried chicken is an excellent post-race reward.)

So there you have it.  It’s a tale of perseverance mostly.  I’m glad, low energy or not, that I didn’t quit.  I’m glad Doug finished his first half.  I’m glad lots of Quincy runners completed I-Challenges, Halves and Fulls.  And I’m glad that I run, even on days where it’s hard to find the sunshine.

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