Saturday, April 30, 2011

In California for work

I've been in the sunny state of California for business all this week and next.  It has been beautiful out here!  Unfortunately, I've been working really long days and have not had a chance to really go outside.  I haven't gotten out for a run once since I've been here.  There goes two weeks of my marathon training!

Oh well.  It's early yet.  I'll just have to work out some catch up plan when I get back home to Michigan.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Off in the morning

On Thursday, the hubby and I went mountain biking at Luton.  It was fantastic as always!  Practicing at Plaster Creek allowed me to hit some obstacles at Luton that I've never conquered before.  That felt great.

Saturday was a long run.

Early tomorrow morning, I will board a plane for California.  I mentioned to my coworker who has been to this customer's location before that I plan to run while I'm there.  He told me about a nice paved bike path right near the hotel that I'll be staying in.  Perfect!  I can't wait to run in the sun!

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Mountain Biking
9.5 miles
Luton Park

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Long run at easy to moderate pace

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Portal 2

For the geeks out there...

It's not often that I like a video game so much that I don't want to stop playing it.  Seriously, almost never.  I'm not that big into gaming.  But right now I'm 2 hours into Portal 2 and wishing I didn't have to get up for work in the morning, because I'd keep playing the campaign right through to the end.  And when that was done, I'd drag the hubby away from playing co-op with his friend so he could play co-op with me.

If this is all Greek to you, no worries.  I'll get back to speaking bikes and runs tomorrow.  ;)


My run today was a series of Fartleks.  As Wikipedia says, the word Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play".  In running, this involves a series of time spans at different intensities (or speeds) that incorporates both aerobic and anaerobic exercise into the workout.  These varying intervals could be fast running, slow running, walking, sprinting, or even hills in a repeating cycle for the desired amount of time.

Some Fartlek workouts are rather structured - more like tempo runs, really - such as run 4 minutes fast, run 1 minute easy, and repeat 4 times.  Other Fartleks are fun and free and random - truly at the whim of the runner at any given moment.  I picture playing soccer or flag football or doing Parkour.  (Not that I can do Parkour... I'm just saying.)

In any case, the benefits of Fartlek workouts are many.  They can be fun and freeing.  They teach your body what it feels like to give a surge of speed.  They get your body used to maintaining a harder effort when you're tired.  They simulate varying terrain or even obstacles.

For my workout today, I gave the more structured version of Fartleks a try: 4 minutes fast, 1 minute slow for 20 minutes.  I really focused on maintaining the fast pace during those 4-minute periods, and let me tell was a hard workout!  This is how you get stronger and faster in running - pushing outside of your comfort zone.

The feeling that I worked hard today was encouraging.  I'm still doing low mileage in only week 2 of my training plan, but I feel that I'm doing the right work to improve my endurance for the longer runs to come.

3 miles total of Fartleks
Warm up, 4 minutes hard/1 minute easy for 20 minutes, cool down

Just a run

I don't have much to report today, other than my run on Monday.  Just a 3-miler at a quick pace as my training plan indicated.  Tonight...Fartleks!

Next week I'll be travelling to the warm, sunny land of California for business.  It's supposed to be in the 70's and 80's and sunny every day.  Joy!  I will be working extra hard to prioritize getting out there for my runs despite the long work days.

3 miles (short type run)
Warm up, 2.5 miles at moderately high intensity, cool down

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Didn't think we'd do it, did ya?

Yesterday after work, the hubby and I went for a run.  The hubby was running significantly faster than normal.  So much so, that I was having trouble keeping up.  I asked him where all this speed was coming from, and he said that his quads are feeling stronger since we've been mountain biking and that's just how fast his legs wanted to go.  Well,!

Later in the evening, our friend Jair (who just got the new mountain bike) called taunting us about when we were going for our next ride together.  It was super windy, cold, starting to rain, and getting dark, but Jair suggested, "why not tonight?"  Despite the weather, we were up for an adventure and said, "why not?"  I don't think Jair though we'd actually agree to go for a ride right then and there!  When the hubby told him to grab his gear and come over to our house, it took a second for the reality of that to sink in!

At this point, the creative streak in my hubby kicked in and he started rigging flashlights to the stems of our bikes.  He was so adorable.  He was excited that he had come up with such an ingenious idea for make-shifting a light on a bike.  He started talking about product ideas and how I just had to blog about this!  I almost couldn't bring myself to tell him that the flashlight thing has been done before.

Then the hubby also grabbed his oversized camping headlamp and attached it to his bike helmet.  I put my flashback on my hydration pack and pulled out my windbreaker.  When Jair arrived, we were ready to go to Plaster Creek!

I definitely prefer to be able to see what's coming in front of me on the trail, but as long as I took it slow, the ride was fun.  I know that many people mountain bike in the dark...with much better lighting equipment than what I have.  I don't think I'll be investing in that stuff anytime soon, though. ;)

Also of interest, the strong winds of the day had knocked down several trees in the woods.  Two of them fell across the trail in one area.  We tried to move them off, but they were too heavy.  So we ended up clearing a path around the fallen trees in order to complete our ride for the night.  The city will have to come out with a chainsaw to finish clearing the trail at some point.

After about 5 miles or so, our legs - already tired from the afternoon's hard run - started to protest, and the rain started to pick up, so we headed back home.

I love these little athletic adventures!

2.5 miles total
Warm up, 2 miles at moderate to high intensity, cool down

Mountain Biking
5 miles total
In the dard and rain

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Remember...this is supposed to be fun!

Last night I did my scheduled training run – just a short 2 miles with warm up and cool down – 2.5 miles total. But it was one of those runs that felt terrible. I don’t know if my body was tired from mountain biking Tuesday night or if I just didn’t have any gas in the tank (I was super hungry right after work). But those days happen sometimes.

This is the last easy week I’ll have for a long time. Training will just continue to ramp up throughout the summer and into the fall until race day on October 9. I’m a little nervous about such a long training period. I’m nervous that I’ll go biking when I should be running, and I won’t be ready for a marathon. But this is something I’m committed to doing this year, and I will do the marathon no matter how slow. I’m not planning to aim for a fast time – just to enjoy the experience. So I should worry less this early in the game and remember to enjoy the summer.

2.5 miles total
Warm up, 2 miles at moderate effort, cool down

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A night of firsts

As I mentioned yesterday, our good friend, Jair, successfully bought his first real mountain bike yesterday! He went with a Trek mountain hardtail 29-er – I believe it’s one of the 6 series bikes. It fits him really well, and he loves the 29 inch wheels! They just roll right over stuff.

So, right from the bike shop, Jair came over to our house to go for a ride. Since it was already 6:30, we decided to ride down to the Plaster Creek trails near our house for an introductory ride.

First of all, Jair is a natural! He immediately started exploring the capabilities of his bike and trying every obstacle in front of him. Jair and the hubby teamed up to encourage me, too, as we stopped and practiced log pyramids and steep drops over and over. The energy of the group was great, and I rode obstacles that I’ve never done before on any trail!

We had so much fun that we were out until dark. I look forward to a summer of riding with our new recruit.

I’m also excited because Jair has wanted to get in better shape. He’s the one who owns the P90X system and has been doing it with the hubby and me. But when he runs or does the P90X workouts, he gets overheated really easily. So we thought that Jair would enjoy mountain biking as a form of exercise for several reasons. The variety of terrain would hold his attention and prevent boredom. The constant room for technical improvement would appeal to his analytical personality. And the flow of air while riding at speed would help keep his body at a manageable temperature. It seems like we’ve found a good fit so far!

This is the first person I’ve truly had a hand in introducing to the sport of mountain biking. And it feels good to help someone find a form of exercise that fits them well. If Jair really takes to riding this summer, I think he’ll see an increase in his fitness and be very encouraged!

And now back to doing new obstacles for the first time… I’m so proud of myself. I was terrified to ride over log piles for the first time. They totally look like little walls of wooden death. But I watched the guys do it, and I knew it was possible. That moment just before your tire actually hits the first log…oh my gosh! Scary! I took me several run ups before I just committed to giving it a try. The first time, I stalled at the top of the pile. But on the next try, I was over and down the other side! Woo! After that, I rode all the other log pyramids in the park without hesitation. It just takes a little speed and a little lift of the front tire.

The same went for a steep downhill drop. I’ve done lots of downhills before, but this hill looked particularly intimidating. However it was short, and I knew that all I had to do was shift my butt behind my saddle and let gravity do the work. With my friends cheering me on, I mustered the courage and rode the hill like a pro.

Now I’m ready to hit the log piles and steep hills on other trails, too! I love that about mountain biking. Once you’ve tried a skill for the first time, it’s not so scary anymore and you can do it anywhere.

Last night was a great night of firsts!

It’s going to be a tough summer – choosing between marathon training runs and mountain bike rides. What a hard life, huh? LOL :)

Mountain Biking
11.8 miles
Plaster Creek Trails

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New recruit

I'm super excited!  The hubby and I talked a friend of ours into trying out mountain biking.  He's buying his first real mountain bike today (a Trek hardtail 29-er).  Another rider enters the fold!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm not a doper

It’s good to be sore.

On Friday night, the hubby and I did the P90X legs and back workout. This thing is an hour of alternating leg exercises and pull ups. It was hard! I knew I’d be sore the next day, but I was determined to go with some coworkers Saturday morning for a mountain bike ride on my favorite trail, which finally opened up for riding this week. So with sore quads and gluts, the hubby and I bravely rode Luton Park on Saturday. Our legs were fried after just once around the loop, but it was so worth it.

Sunday, the rest of the sore muscles started showing up. It was kind of funny. This week sometime the hubby made a comment that you know someone is taking steroids if the muscle along the side of their back is big. It’s a muscle that doesn’t generally get developed without steroids because it’s hard to isolate in a workout. But apparently we do use this muscle when doing pull ups, because mine are sore. And no, I’ve never taken any kind of performance enhancing drugs. LOL!

Though it’s hilarious to wince like an 80 year old when I stand up from the couch, I kind of enjoy a certain level of muscle soreness. I feel like I’ve done something to get stronger.

And the timing of feeling stronger is good because this week I start my mildly intimidating, 26-week marathon training plan. Though I have a running schedule laid out that should prepare me for the 26.2 in October, my goal is to remain flexible enough to ride my bike when I feel like it or take a few days off when I’m getting burned out and not obsess over doing every workout on the schedule.

Ready, set, go! The journey to my first marathon now begins!

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Friday, April 8, 2011

The Detroit Dorais Velodrome

I was reading my copy of Bicycling magazine last night, and suddenly I was looking at a picture of the abandoned Fisher Body 21 plant in Detroit. It was the article, “Off the Beaten Track”, about the uncovering of the old Dorais Velodrome in Dorais Park near this old GM plant.

I grew up just outside Detroit in Redford Twsp, and I never knew about this bike track. Of course, it hasn’t been used I was a little kid, it was 25 miles away from my house, I didn’t know anything about cycling at the time, and the neighborhood was really rough back then. So no surprise that I didn’t know of its existence.

But last summer a group called the Mowergang cleaned up the track and now bikes and motorcycles can use it again. It’s full of huge cracks and weeds, so it’s rough now just like the neighborhood that bore it. But it’s there! It’s full of graffiti, too, which is kind of a cool way to mark the history of the place.

When I’m back in the Detroit area this summer, I hope I will be able to check out the rediscovered Dorais Velodrome – now renamed the Thunderdrome. I’d love to ride a few laps around a race track in a historical spot in the drastically changing city of Detroit.

It’s funny how a little bit of the love that built this track in the 60’s is coming back to the city with more people riding bikes and groups like the Mowergang who are fixing up abandoned public parks.

Here are a few more cool links about the Dorais Velodrome:

Thunderdrome Blog

Video of bikes riding on the track

Video of the track and some motorcycle racing

Google maps satellite view

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Struggle

Our friends often marvel at how much the hubby and I have in common – values, life experiences, things that make us happy. We enjoy doing so many of the same activities for fun, too.

It’s fantastic. We hardly ever run out of things that we want to do together.

However, it’s a rare thing when we enjoy doing the same thing for the same reasons.

Take mountain biking, for example. The hubby likes to go fast. To push hard. To try the obstacles he doesn’t know he can do yet without fear even though there’s a good chance he’ll crash. I prefer to ride steady and long. I work up the courage to try new obstacles after several passes. I prefer to keep the rubber side down.

Or playing board games. The hubby likes to compete. To analyze every possible strategy. To play again and again even though he loses. I prefer to just play and have fun. I’ll look back at mistakes I made and ways I can improve, but in the end I just want to enjoy the time with my friends.

In most activities, the hubby likes competitiveness, aggression, and energy. I do, too, to some degree. But I tend toward the stable, consistent, dependable.

In most cases these differences aren’t a problem as long as we’re both having fun. I’m comfortable having different reasons for enjoying the same things. But the hubby sometimes doesn’t get what he wants out it – that energizing experience that you get when you’re along for the ride with someone who’s just freakin’ jazzed passionate about their hobby.

I can manufacture that jazz once in a while, but it’s not my regular state of existence like it is for the hubby.

Does anyone else out there struggle to strike this kind of balance with their partner? What have you tried that helps solve the problem for you?

Hip update and first MTB ride!

Last week I completed my prescribed sessions of physical therapy for my hip. I can definitely say that it’s better. It feels stronger and doesn’t hurt in some of the situations that it used to.

It’s not perfect yet, so I’ll continue to do my exercises and stretches at home. After another month or so, if I’m still having problems, I’ll check back in with the PT to look for the remaining missing pieces to my hip rehab.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing short runs with the hubby a few times a week. Even though he hates running, we’ve been having fun working out together. I love that, and I hope he’ll continue to run and ride with me when I start marathon training in a couple weeks.

And last night we even went for our first mountain bike ride of the season!

It was so cute! The hubby was all excited about these trails that he found while out for a walk with his buddy. He took me to the trail entrance that he found tucked behind a Valvoline and a Burger King. Funny thing is, I realized as soon as we arrived that I’d ridden these trails before. It was part of the Plaster Creek system! Only I usually enter the park from the other end near our house. It was fun and satisfying to explore all the different loops and off shoots of these familiar trails with the hubby for the first time.

After that, the hubby did succeed in introducing me to a new section of paved bike path northwest of the Plaster Creek trails. We didn’t ride the path all the way to the end, but I think it might head up toward the Grand Rapids Bike Park. I will definitely have to explore that area this summer!

So temperatures are starting to rise and despite the April showers, trails are starting to dry out. I am SO ready to take spring and run with it (pun intended)! ;)

Friday, April 1, 2011

FlashBack Review Part 2 - Visibility at a Distance

For this second part of my review of the FlashBak, I enlisted the help of the hubby as my cameraman. I hopped on my bike last night after dark and rode down my street wearing the FlashBak. At the end of the road about a quarter mile away, the flashing lights were still visible, even when competing with an oncoming car.

While you can never prepare for that driver that just isn’t paying attention to the road, the FlashBak will certainly get the attention of someone driving up behind you at a far enough distance to give them warning that someone else is on the road.

So far I can honestly give the FlashBak a high recommendation for ease of use and visibility.

Check it out for yourself at their website –