Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Year in Review

It feels like 2013 has been my most out-of-shape year ever, but in reality it wasn't a total bust.  It also feels like I'm finally on an activity upswing.  This year, I had a lot of fun doing a wide variety of exercises, events, and sports:

  • The Tough Mudder Michigan
  • The Color Me Rad 5k
  • The Totally Gay 5k
  • A naked 5k
  • The Grand Rapids Mud Run 5k
  • The Warrior Dash Michigan II 5k
  • 144 miles of running on trails and roads
  • 179 miles of biking
  • 51 miles of walking
  • 10 weight lifting workouts
  • 11 games of dodgeball
  • 20 volleyball matches
  • 1 swim workout
  • 1 snowshoeing outing
  • 2 trampoline workouts
  • Kayaking in Florida
  • several matches of tennis 
  • several rounds of Frisbee golf
  • several evenings going out to dance
With the setup of our active media room, the hubby and I have been moving a lot more in the last month.  For Christmas, we added a stationary bike that we can both ride (instead of just my bike on a trainer, which was too small for the hubby), and we're considering finding a second cheap treadmill.  Watching movies and playing old X-Box games have made exercising for an hour or two so easy!

I even tried the My Fitness Pal app for my iPhone for a week before the holidays.  I have always been curious about how many calories I eat in a day, so I decided to track my food for a week and see where I came out.  I feel like I have a ballpark idea now despite a lot of likely calorie count inaccuracies.  But I did not continue using the app after that week, as I did not like the mindset it put me in.  I started to think things like, "I shouldn't eat this" or "I should stop eating for the day so I can come under my calorie goal" even though it was not my intention to lose weight.  I love food and the freedom to eat anything reasonable in moderation, and I much prefer to exercise to maintain my health and fitness than to obsess over numbers.  I have never weighed myself much.  I try to eat well and stay active.  If I feel good, my doctor is happy, and I like how I look, then everything is as it should be.  I did like the app in general, and I understand why some of my friends find it useful as a guide.  I'm just a happier person without obsessing over eating.

For 2014, I have not made any big race plans yet.  I expect that the hubby and I will do a few color and/or mud runs.  The big event that I'm considering is the M-22 Challenge in northern Michigan in June.  It is a run/bike/kayak race, which I think sounds like a blast - like a triathlon but without the swimming!

I'm excited for the new year ahead...  For new adventures and active fun as always!  Happy New Year 2014!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hiking Cowles Peak in San Diego

The hubby and I took a short vacation to San Diego this past week, and I thoroughly enjoyed a hike with our friend Megan up to Cowles Peak.

Trail Map
We took the Mesa trail up to Cowles mountain for a total of about 4 miles.

Fall Color on the Trail
Living in Michigan, I sometimes forget that hikes in the mountains can lead relentlessly up or down hill for miles.  But I love the challenge!  

Up, up, up!

Cowles peak was an easy to moderate hike offering some lovely views of the San Diego area and the Pacific ocean.  It was a great time!

Josh and Megan
From the Summit
Requisite selfie with me and the hubby

Less than 2 days left to fund DIVISION!

I'm so excited for my friend, Cat, as she nears the end of the KickStarter campaign for her film, Division!

Less than 2 days to go and she's so close!  Please check out her page and consider helping this project come to life.  What an amazing Thanksgiving that would be!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Moving Media Room


The hubby and I finally completed a project that we've been talking about for months now.  We turned one of our bedrooms into a moving media room!  In other words, we set up a movie and video game station in front of a treadmill and a bike on a trainer along with a bench, some hand weights, and some resistance bands.  Now we can exercise during the time that we would otherwise be sitting on our butts!

Bring it on, winter!  We're ready for you!

Yes, we still play games and run movies on our trusty original X-Box!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bike Bridge over Division

The new bridge over Division and a gorgeous fall day!

A nice new bridge has been built on the Southbelt trail where it crosses Division Ave on the south side of M-6.  It looks like it has actually been there for a while, but last week was the first time I actually used it.  It's in a great place allowing cyclists and other trail users to cross a dangerous road.  A trail head parking lot was also built on the west side of the street for bike path users to congregate.  Sadly, the path does not extend any further and there is not even a sidewalk on that side of the street, so it doesn't go too far in connecting this portion of the Southbelt trail to the Kent trails.  But just having a safe road crossing for the youth who live in that area is a great thing.  Having been hit by a car just down the street from there, I can personally attest to that!

Now if the city someday builds a protected bike path on one of the bridges crossing US-131, it would be a beautiful thing!  Maybe with some of the parks millage money that just got approved... (One can hope!)

The path switches back from the bridge down to a parking lot

The bridge and the highway barrier wall extending into the distance

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Division - An Instagram Movie

Hey, blog friends!  I don't know how many people stop by here anymore, but if you do, I'd love you to spread the word around for a friend of mine.

My best friend, Cat, who has been at my side for many fitness adventures as evidenced in this blog, is making a movie called Division!  It's a cool suspense story set in the woods around an abandoned asylum in Traverse City, MI.  But what makes it truly unique is that they are filtering the whole thing through Instagram.  This will be a first.  Awesome.

Cat just launched a Kickstarter to fund the effort, and she has some beautiful sample content on the page to check out.  If you think this is cool, please consider backing the project.  Even if you don't help with funding, consider telling your friends about it, if it's something you would support.

From the Kickstarter page

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mile Repeats

When I'm not following a training plan for an actual race or event, my workouts are usually driven by whatever sounds fun/interesting/good at the time.  After a long day at a job site in Maryland last night, I decided I had enough daylight left to get a run in if I just stayed near my hotel to do it.  Staying near my hotel meant running around a half-mile loop of road lined with hotels and industrial businesses.  *sarcastic cheer*

As I started running, I had no particular plan in mind.  But I ran a decent 9:00 first mile which made me pretty happy in my out-of-shape state.  I walked for about a minute and did a second mile in 9:15.  Not an even split, but not bad.  So I decided to take a longer recovery walk and then try to get a negative split for a third and final mile.

The loop I ran, even with its far-from-exciting scenery, had one thing going for it.  It had a long uphill and a fast downhill, which at least made the distance varied and interesting.

I started my third mile on the downhill stretch, letting my legs fly and accepting as much speed as I could milk out of it before hitting the climb.  I knew the uphill would hurt, but I had to run the loop twice for a mile, so I focused on how awesome flying down that decline would be the second time around.

I'm fairly proud of my last mile split...8:00!  I pushed it pretty hard, but I know I could have sprinted a few more seconds off of that.  Just to know that I can still run a 7-something mile makes me feel good about myself!  

Just think what I could do if I trained for short distance speed.  It's almost tempting to this endurance junkie.  I like to think I can defy the slowdown of age and still hit my high school best mile time.  But I have little interest in trying for that record and am more than satisfied coming within a minute of it.

Good times!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Warrior Dash Michigan II 2013 Report

I know I'm way behind my report of the Warrior Dash Michigan II (Grand Rapids) which took place on September 21!  But here it is at last.

Due to a sore Achilles, the hubby did not run the race with me this year.  But I went on my own to have a fun 3.3 mile obstacle run.

In past years, we have parked our car at local parks or other nearby parking lots and walked into Millennium park.  This year, the roads to every possible parking area within a mile of the park were closed by the police.  I was forced to park in the race-provided parking lot, which cost me $10 and which took an excessively long time to exit after I ran.

The race registration and bag check, however, were well organized.  Since the hubby was not able to attend, I asked the registration desk for his race shirt and warrior hat.  I was a little annoyed that they would not give it to me without speaking to him on the phone to verify his registration information.  But I did eventually get the hubby's stuff after waiting in a second line and handing them my phone.  I also purchased a long sleeved hooded t-shirt for myself because it was actually a cute piece and only $10.

But on to the important stuff...the dash!

I would have to say that the course this year was just OK.  I think it did improve over last year.  There were some new obstacles that were interesting such as the heavy cargo net that you had to crawl under while climbing a hill and the arched ladder climb.  But I was disappointed by a few aspects of the course:

1. There were 2 or 3 very long stretches of running with no obstacles.  How this can happen in a race that his only 3 miles long is unclear, but I would have liked to see the obstacles more spread out.

2. I missed the really cool water obstacle from last year in which you got in the lake and had to pull yourself onto and over floating rafts.  In fact, there were no obstacles that took advantage of the lake at Millennium Park at all.

3. You never got dirty until the very end of the race.  There were a couple obstacles that sprayed water on you, but there was only one obstacle that got you into the mud at all.  My best memories of Warrior Dashes past are off getting absolutely filthy.  That did not happen this year.

I am excited that the Iron Warrior Dash came to GR this year.  This is much longer distance version of the race, which I believe they started to compete with events like the Tough Mudder.  I saw a few markers for turns on the Iron race course, but it was not clear where that race started.  It appears that it was going on at the same time as the many waves of the regular distance Warrior Dash.  I ran past several obstacles that our course never led us to do, which was actually kind of sad because they looked fun.  Maybe I'll have to try the Iron distance next year.  Though, if it is anything like the 3 mile course, I'd rather do the Tough Mudder again.

After finishing the race, I found a friend who had also finished just ahead of me and we indulged in our free post-race tall can of Miller Lite together.  I was sad to see that the bananas and granola bars that have been offered in the past were only being given to the Iron runners.  The only other food available was for purchase.  I also never found a shower setup on the race grounds and never saw another runner who looked like they had been able to rinse off.  Maybe I just missed the hoses, but if that's the case, they were not made very accessible.

I did really like the finisher medal.  It is one of the better medals that I've gotten for a run.  Medal/bottle opener.  Not to bad!

This post sounds like I'm criticizing the Warrior Dash pretty hard, but I did have a good time.  It's always a fun run and I think they are improving this new WD location each year.  It's hard to be awesome on your first few tries at a new site.  But I was disappointed by the absence of things that I have enjoyed at WD's in the past.

I certainly plan to do the event again next year, but I will plan ahead for some of the inconveniences.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Section on a Local Trail

One of the things that excites me most is exploring new trails or new sections of trail that I have not previously run, hiked, or biked.

Yesterday, I got a huge surprise when I was running one of my "home" bike paths and discovered a brand new section of path branching off from it.  I was planning on just a short run. And I didn't know how far this new section would go or where it would end up.  But I couldn't resist checking it out even if it added more time and distance to my outing.

It turns out that it connects the Paul B Henry Thornapple Trail to what used to the the eastern most terminus of the East-West Trail in Kentwood.  I love both of these lovely paved paths, so this made me skip and squeal just a little bit.

The new section boasts smooth fresh asphalt and I'm guessing almost a half mile of wide, beautiful boardwalk elevated over the marshy ground along the power line corridor.  Super cool!  

So I turned off from the Thornapple trail, ran the new connector, and then took Kalamazoo Ave back home creating a loop of about the same distance as if I had run the Thornapple trail between 44th and 52nd as an out-and-back.

I look forward to enjoying a new route this fall and will incorporate this section into longer bike rides and runs!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Running and Hiking in Edgewood, MD

I'm travelling for work again, and as always, I've been exploring the area for great places to hike and run.  As often happens, the area immediately around my hotel is no fun for running with busy, narrow-shouldered roads.  And it has taken some effort to find accessible hiking trails nearby.

Earlier this week, I first tried to visit Harford Glen Park off of Wheel Rd west of Hwy 24, which has a nature trail circling a reservoir for a 4.5 mile route.  It is an educational organization, which is really cool.  Unfortunately, it appears to be closed when school is in session.  I drove up to the entrance to be greeted by locked gates.  So disappointing.

Then, I tried a few separate times to find the trail head in Winters Run Park.  I did finally find a trail entrance along Philadelphia Rd near Fashion Way.  The trail here is more of a mowed grassy stretch along the creek than a dirt trail.  It looks like it's main purpose is to provide access to maintenance crews along the creek.  It was neat to see bamboo growing here, but the creek was a little smelly.  I wasn't a huge fan.  However, I only went as far as the I-95 bridge, and as I look at the Google satellite view now, I see that the trail continues north into an area called Winters Run Conservation Area.  It looks like the trail is accessible from the back of a Lowe's parking lot.  I need to check that out on my next trip.

Today, I decided to visit a couple parks after eating lunch, the first of which was Edgewater Village Park off of Hwy 40 near Emmorton.  This park hosts what looks to be a nice recreational building, but the park itself is a bit run down.  There is a pond with a decaying asphalt path running around it.  There were many neighborhood kids playing in the area, but I was hoping for something more wooded.

Flowers at the edge of the pond at Edgewater Village Park

Lastly, I drove over to Leight Estuary, which is another educational organization.  It is open about 4 days a week and has several trails through the woods for walking and bird watching.  There are about 2 miles of trails in total.  I was mildly annoyed by the large number of tiny bugs that seemed to adore buzzing around my eyes, but the park was very nice and had the rougher, hiking-friendly atmosphere that I wanted.  I was also impressed that the trails were well marked with signs and blazes.  I will definitely be back to the Estuary on my next trip to Edgewood.

Yellow Loop at Leight Estuary

Pier at the end of the Blue Loop at Leight Estuary

Yellow Loop at Leight Estuary