Monday, August 30, 2010

Grand Rapids Mud Run 2010

Saturday, our team consisting of me, the hubby and our friends Jair and Cat ran in the first annual Grand Rapids Mud Run. It was a blast and a great first attempt at the event!

The Team Before the Race

The pros:

--Fun course
--Upbeat music created a great atmosphere
--Good turn out
--Water, punch and snacks after the run
--Hoses to rinse off
--Very reasonable entry fee
--Plenty of parking at the event location

The cons:

--We weren’t told ahead of time that the race would run the course twice – we found out after the first lap when we went by the finish line but had to keep going.

--The wall climb obstacle was a huge bottle neck – needed more walls. Also needed ladders on the back side of the walls so you didn’t have to jump down if you didn’t want to (someone seriously hurt an ankle that way).

--The buildup to the start was awful – there was pumping music and a countdown on a big TV screen that the crowd got really into and expected to start running. But when we hit “…3-2-1!” we didn’t start. Instead, the announcer started talking about the sponsors, showing a cheesy video and explaining how the start would work. It was a real buzz kill. All of that should have happened 10 minutes before the start time, so the energy and excitement built up in the crowd could have flowed into actually running the race.

--The results still aren’t posted

The Team After the Race

I also come to the Mud Run having done the Warrior Dash this summer. The Warrior Dash was a better organized event and offered a lot more fun as an overall experience. I enjoyed the way the WD charged up each individual heat of runners before their start. I liked getting beer and BBQ after the race and meeting other runners at a huge, muddy party.

But I really think the Mud Run can learn from its shortcomings this year and come back better than ever. I would definitely run it again next year! I think this is a great event to have in Grand Rapids. It was a lot of fun and great for the community.

Me and Cat

Friday, August 27, 2010

One hundred push ups

I work in a small office with a fantastic group of guys (I'm the only woman).  We have a lot of fun as an office going out for sushi lunches, playing frisbee in the parking lot, mountain biking and talking up the latest video game.

Well, it seems that the latest fad in the office is the One Hundred Push Ups program.  I've never been particularly motivated to do a lot push ups, but I am motivated to encourage fitness amongst my office mates.  At least half of the office has done the inital test to determine which track of the workout to follow.  So I did my test today, and I'm ready to go.  The real work starts on Monday!

I'm not sure I can do 100 push ups, but it'll sure be fun trying to reach the goal together with my coworkers!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mountain Biking Vacation on the Horizon?

Last night I was tempted by Pedal GR (which sadly I have not yet tried out) and mountain biking co-workers, but instead the hubby and I played a super fun and rousing round of tennis. I think doing the triathlon this summer increased my general athletic confidence because the competition between us is a lot closer than it used to be. I’m a little quicker and more aggressive on the court.

In the end, I won a match and the hubby won a match. It was a series of tight games.

After tennis and a tasty dinner of French bread pizza, we watched Rome – a documentary on mountain biking made by The Collective. We were both in awe of what the amazing riders can do flying down a mountain at high speed. Some of the drops they took without a flinch made us both nervous just sitting on the couch!

Between this film and a PBS special last week on biking in Ontario around the Georgian Bay area (which I used to visit as a kid), the hubby has been talking about doing a mountain biking vacation. Awesome! I can’t believe it, but I’ll take it! He never realized that mountain bike meccas like Whistler, BC and Moab, UT existed. Places like this are beautiful and have some unbelievable trail systems.

So the question is, where and when to go?!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Does easy access to fitness infrastructure improve community health?

The following guest post is contributed by Paul Hench, who writes on the topic of masters in public health. He welcomes your comments at his email:

I actually would have made the opposite argument, but maybe that's just my personal taste for easily accessible fitness infrastructure like bike paths and affordable gyms, when I'm already planning to exercise.  I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this topic!

Does Easy Access to Fitness Infrastructure Improve Community Health?

A recent discussion with a few friends and family members saw us divided over the issue of whether easy access to fitness equipment made us healthier and fitter or lazier than ever before. I was among those who insisted that it’s the people who have a whole gym set up at home who don’t find the time to exercise. They have all that they need at their disposal; however, they don’t have what they need the most when it comes to working out – motivation and dedication.

I know it sounds like an irony, but when you have a treadmill, an exercise bike, dumbbells, and/or various other exercise paraphernalia at home, you get into what I call the “complacent mode”. Your mind believes that you have all the time in the world to exercise, whenever you want, simple because you don’t have to adhere to gym timings or worry about the weather or the safety aspect outdoors. However, what really happens is that you keep putting off your exercise time – you wake up too late to exercise and you think you can squeeze in your routine when you come home in the evening; but then you’re too tired and promise to wake up earlier the next morning. The following day however sees you too lazy to work out and you prefer to spend a quiet morning alone, and you tell yourself you will make it up over the weekend with an intense workout. The weekend brings its own social plans and the next week starts the same vicious cycle all over again. So at the end of it all, you have fancy equipment that gathers dust even as your body gathers rust – you lose your health and fitness and gain quite a few pounds in the process.

So this begs the question – is the same true of a community that has easy access to fitness infrastructure? If your neighborhood had affordable gyms that were open throughout the day, if you had easy access to parks and stadia where you could go for a peaceful jog or just go through your workout in the open air, would you jump at the opportunity or would you keep putting off your exercise needs? The answer lies in the individual motivation one has to exercise – no matter how easy your access to fitness infrastructure and equipment, no matter how convenient it is for you to exercise, you tend to work out regularly only when you are motivated enough to do so.

Some people find their motivation in the need to stay healthy; others go with vanity because they want to stay in shape; yet others find that exercise does them a world of good so they don’t want to give it up; and for the rest, it has become a way of life that they cannot and do not want to change. For these people who are motivated and dedicated, it does not matter that they do not have easy access to fitness infrastructure – they go where they need to in order to find it or they make do with what they have.

A very few people do tend to get tempted and swayed when they see gyms and parks around them and people sweating it out morning and evening; however, even though they start exercising, it is motivation that makes them stick to it. So coming back to the question in the title – irrespective of the ease of access to fitness infrastructure, a community’s collective health depends on the motivation that each of its individuals have to exercise and stay at it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Family Anniversary and History

The hubby and I met my mom and her husband and my grandma and grandpa in Lansing yesterday to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. How cool is that?!

But this was also cool. My mom showed us the July 2010 issue of Hour Detroit magazine featuring an article about a heat wave in Detroit in July of 1936 (read the article here). Page 41 of the printed magazine displays this picture of “Children swim[ming] at Detroit’s Waterworks Park, July 10, 1936.”

Photo courtesy of Hour Detroit magazine, courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

The little boy at the front of the picture with the cap on holding his swimsuit is someone I know. It’s my grandpa! It’s neat to see my family in the history of Detroit.

I also noticed a couple of bicycles in the photograph leaning against the park bench. They have full fenders and look ready for the stylish, practical Detroiters of the 1930’s to ride!

From the left: the Hubby and me, Grandpa (74 years later) and Grandma, Jim and Mom

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Team MUD Players is a go!

I went for a run last night right after work. It was hot, and I feel out of shape. I even walked a couple house lengths. But I’m still feeling confident about the Grand Rapids Mud Run coming up on the 28th.

Even though I felt slow running yesterday, my pace was an 8:49 average mile over 3.5 miles.

For the Mud Run, I’m running on a team of 4, and two of the teammates are not really runners. The rule is that we have to finish all together as a team, so I expect this to be an easy, fun, muddy adventure as opposed to a race against the clock. I’ll be in good shape for that. I’m really looking forward to it!

It looked like we weren’t going to be able to do the Mud Run for a while there due to a wedding in the early afternoon. But the start time for the team races got moved an hour earlier, so we’re back in! Team "M.U.D. Players" is a go! Yah! Let’s do this!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beer as sports drink?

Last night, the hubby and I went to a bar to see one of his co-workers off to a new job. The bar was called the Winchester. I couldn’t help but hear Simon Pegg in my head all night saying, “We’re going to the Winchester!”


First of all, this is the Winchester’s cools sign.

Second, upon setting my glass of wheat ale down on the bar’s provided coaster, I noticed this.

Erdinger Weissbier Alkolholfrei - “The sports and fitness drink.”

What?!?! Beer as a sports drink?! Apparently this German low-alcohol wheat beer is a very popular post-race beverage at triathlon, running and biathlon events in Germany. The Erdinger website says this:

With its isotonic effect, ERDINGER Non-Alcoholic is particularly well suited to regenerating the body after sport, as it quickly replaces the liquids and minerals the body has lost. In order to popularize the positive properties of its sporting thirst-quencher, ERDINGER Weissbräu launched a cooperation with professional triathlon couple Nicole and Lothar Leder in 2001. The two athletes were convinced of the regenerative effects of ERDINGER Non-Alcoholic and still actively promote the alcohol-free weissbier today.

Lothar Leder is the guy riding his bike on the coaster.

So, I understand that beer contains carbohydrates, water and probably some minerals. And if it’s low-alcohol, it won’t dehydrate you too badly after sports. And don’t get me wrong – I enjoy a beer with friends after a good mountain bike ride or mud run. But can beer really “regenerate the body after sport” as well as an actual sports drink with electrolytes (AKA salts), carbohydrates and water?

Maybe so. Maybe my consumerist, American sentiments are just skewed by Powerade and Gatorade commercials away from the time honoured European belief in beer as a recovery drink.

One way or another, I was surprised and amused by this marketing strategy.

Has anyone out there had Erdinger Alkoholfrei after a race? How did you like it?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cycling News from Detroit

The Detroit Free Press published this article today about Tom Regan, a recumbant bike commuter in Royal Oak, and the upcoming Green Cruise.
On Saturday, Regan will join other bicyclists on a 23-mile morning tour of Ferndale and parts north and west during the sixth Green Cruise, a yearly celebration of alternative transport held the weekend before the glitz and glam of the gas-laden Dream Cruise along Woodward Avenue.
Another positive step for cycling and other forms of alternative transportation in the city of Detroit!

Getting ready to run dirty

I decided to run last night, but I waited until about 7:00. It was still hot but not as bad as it was earlier in the afternoon. I ran a 4 mile course and tested out the split capability of my new sport watch for the first time. It was interesting to see the effect of the hills on this route. And the heat. Though I slowed down significantly in the middle, hilly portion of the run, I brought my last mile pace back up close to my first again.  

***4 miles in 33:30 total - 8:01, 8:27, 8:51 and 8:10 splits – 8:22.54 average*** 

Not bad for being largely out of the running routine since my tri earlier this summer. That makes me happy because in just a couple weeks, I’m running the Grand Rapids Mud Run on a team with three friends. I need to get ready to run dirty!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Start the dang stopwatch!

The hubby and I went for a run last night. The hubby hasn’t been running as much as I have lately, so I let him set the pace. I was impressed over the 2.5 mile route that we did as every so often he sped up a little. By the end, we were running at a pretty good clip! As we approached our driveway, we both sprinted in for a strong finish.

After catching our breath, he asked, “What was our time?”

I said, “I don’t know, I didn’t look at my watch.”

“At the beginning of the run or at the end?” the hubby asked incredulously.

“Neither!” I answered, realizing that maybe he had pushed the pace to improve over the last time we ran the same route. “Sorry! I’m so bad at remembering to start my watch.”

Ha ha ha. Oops! Well, at least we had a good workout!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grand Rapids' First Complete Street

Apparently I missed this about a month ago, but Grand Rapids has its very first complete street!  A section of Lake Drive now has a bike lane, cross walks at every intersection, seating at bus stops and nice new pavement.  I don't know how long this stretch is, but it's a great step for the city of Grand Rapids!

Thanks to all of the advocates, officials and community members who got this done.

Here's Mayor Heartwell doing the dedication.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Luton Park

I visited the mountain bike trails of Luton Park in Rockford, MI for the first time on Thursday with a co-worker. It was a really fun trail! Actually, it’s a multi-use trail system, so people can run, hike and bike on it, which I think is cool.

The system is broken up into a main easy loop (Blue) and five loops of varying difficulty (Green, Orange, Black, Red and Yellow) that branch off from it.

Compared to other trails in the area, Luton Park has relatively little climbing but a great deal of tight twists and narrow passes between trees.

There are also a few logs, rock gardens and plank sections to ride over.

These trails will definitely hone your riding skills. Since it was my first time there, I took it slow and really enjoyed myself. There was lots of camaraderie on the trail that night, too, as many people were out for a ride on a beautiful evening.

I would love to ride at Luton a lot more. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a drive from my house. It makes me wish I lived on the north side of town where most of Grand Rapids’ great mountain and road biking trails are.

So, Luton Park – lots of run to ride! I’d highly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Common Cycle

Yesterday, Trisha at LGRAB did a profile of Molly Kleinman, a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan and a cycling advocate working with a bicycle collective called Common Cycle.

Common Cycle, started in February 2010, is working to make Ann Arbor a better place for the cycling community with education, bike repair through their Mobile Repair Stand and eventually a shared workspace where bike-loving people can work, learn and hang out together.

I was really excited to see what Common Cycle is doing, because there was nothing like this in Ann Arbor when I lived there as a student. I even tried riding my bike around campus, but I found it too hard with the challenges of weather and pedestrians. If I had known more about cycling laws and bike repair – really any support from other cyclists – I might have stuck with it.

Common Cycle is in the midst of an ambitious fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $5000 by August 31, 2010 to buy tools and trailers for their Mobile Repair Stand. If you make a donation to their non-profit organization, they’ll send you cool stuff – the rewards get bigger the more you give! So go check out a great video explaining who Common Cycle is and consider pledging as a backer here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Running - Coming Home

As the name of this blog might suggest, I’ve fallen in love with cycling.

I’ve been road and mountain biking for about three years now. When I started cycling as an adult, especially on my first road bike, it felt so natural. Like I was born to ride a bike. I wondered what would have happened if I had discovered cycling earlier in life. I probably would have raced in high school or begged my parents to take me to state parks to explore the trails.

But I didn’t discover my love for cycling early on. The sport that I first developed a passion for was running.

I started running during the summer before my freshman year of high school, at age 14, when one of the cross country moms invited me to check out a summer group run. I showed up at the middle school down the block from my house wearing Keds canvas sneakers. Running shoes? What are those?!

I think we ran a mile that first day and continued to work up to three or four miles over the next couple months. And for some reason, I kept going back. I think I was just too stubborn to give up on something I had started.

When school began in the fall, I went to a meeting for those interested in joining the cross country team. The coach asked us all to write down what our goals for the season were. People said things like “improve my times,” “improve my endurance” and “get in better shape.” I remember having to ask someone what “endurance” meant.

On the first day of cross country practice, the coach had us run a pretty intense workout – something like 6 one-mile intervals. That made me nervous, but the veteran runners told me not to worry. The coach was just weeding out who was really serious about being on the team. And I knew I was.

From cross country, I naturally moved to the distance events in track (also the high jump and some hurdles!).

I was never very fast, but there was always something about running that kept me doing it. Like I’d be missing something if I quit. I ran CC and track all four years in high school. I became a captain on both teams and earned a varsity letter in both sports.

My enthusiasm for running has had its peaks and valleys over the years since high school. Running is a sport that you can carry with you your entire life or let it drop and never look back. I love that running is still a part of my life, and I hope to be one of those awesome 80 year olds who is still running in races for fun.

Even though running can be a painful endeavor, there is just something about it that keeps me coming back. The challenge, the workout, the satisfaction, the accessibility, the health, the accomplishment, the high.

I do love cycling, but for me…running will always feel like my athletic “coming home.”