Friday, March 30, 2012

Being Flexible

When I moved to France for a year to work with a campus ministry, the company put us through a fantastic orientation.  One of the things that stuck with me throughout that year and beyond is the necessity of being flexible.  When you travel overseas, you cannot allow your expectations to get the best of you.  Some aspect of your plans always gets disrupted, delayed, or destroyed altogether.  You've got to be able to just let it roll of your back.

I've found this attitude to be incredibly freeing in many situations.  It can seriously prevent the "everything is going wrong" kind of stress.

For example, I'm travelling to a job site to provide 2nd shift support during a system go-live.  My flight is delayed, so I will not make it to the site at the scheduled time.  No big deal.  It can't be helped.  I make the phone calls to inform the necessary people, make sure someone from my company can stay on shift an extra hour to cover me, and sit peacefully in the airport waiting for my flight.

This is not just applicable to travel or work.  Flexibility has also allowed me to enjoy my athletic life more.  Let's say I'm training for an upcoming race, and I have something filling my after-work schedule every single day this week.  No need to fret.  I'll bring my running clothes to work a couple days this week and get a workout in over lunch.

Or perhaps it's race day.  I've been training for months to maybe get an age group placement.  I've got all my gear dialed in.  I've got my goal time in mind.  I've got family in attendance to cheer me on.  But it's 15 degrees hotter than I'm used to.  The sun is blazing.  I'm tired from a long week at work.  I start the race feeling OK but quickly start to drag.  The hills are killing me.  I'm not going to meet my goal.  I could get upset and disappointed.  All the work I've put in is not paying off as I had hoped.  But I can be flexible.  I can shift my goals.  Instead of running for speed, I'll run to enjoy the woods.  I'll run because I can.  I'll picture myself staying strong through the hard days so I can keep running like this 10 years from now...or 20...or 30.

Right now, I'm in the middle of one of those busy weeks where I wouldn't have gotten a single run or bike ride in if I had limited myself to doing it after work.  So I ran over my lunch hour.  It was perfect.  And I will enjoy my weekend, too, before flying off to SC for another 2-week work trip.  More opportunities to be flexible, I'm sure!

It's not always easy to stay in a flexible frame of mind.  Emotions can get the best of me.  Stress can make my heart rate soar and my temper flare.  But if I remember to think about it before a trip or a race, flexibility can save the day.

This week so far:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Ran 5.7 miles total from my office - Ran 2 to Cascade Park, did 3x2:00 and 3x2:30 AI's through the park, Ran 2 back.  Total time 52:38.  Avg mile 9:15.
There are some brutal hills on the road to the park!  Combine that with 25mph winds, and it was a tough run!

Thursday, March 29, 2012
Ran 6 miles with 4x1:30 AI's and 6 strides.  Total time 54:26.  Avg mile 9:04.  
The run felt tough, but it was still a faster pace than yesterday!  I hope I can continue to get faster.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Black Star Farms

From this weekend...

Cat and I in front of the inn at Black Star Farms on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kickass 10 Mile Run in TC

This weekend, I got to spend a couple days in Traverse City with my friend, Cat.  We had a seriously activity packed weekend including a fantastic 10 mile run!

Friday night, I arrived around 9:30, and we decided to go to a restaurant called Firefly.  It sits right on the edge of one of the bay inlets where you can launch kayaks or paddle boats.  We enjoyed a huge avocado salad with an incredible lemon basil dressing (I have to find a recipe for this stuff!) and black bean cakes with salsa.  I tried a drink with rum, Kahlua, and ice cream.  Yum!

Saturday started off with power smoothies – yogurt, strawberries, banana, honey, coconut milk, and whey protein.  A perfect fuel source for our 10 mile run.

Cat planned a fun route that started off on a lakeside path about 20 feet from her door.  So jealous of that, let me tell you!  Then we wove through the cute downtown area passing by morning café patrons and dog walkers.  On our way to the bay, Cat started giggling and said that we were about to pass her favorite place in TC so far.  It was the Dairy Lodge!  While Cat is an ice cream lover, it wasn’t the treats that she loved.  It was the ridiculous sign! 

What is this?!  A woman suggestively riding an ice cream cone?  Many phallus jokes ensued.  We later heard from a local that the owners recently touched up the sign to make her bust bigger and her hair blonde instead of brown.  Can you imagine little kids munching on their kiddie cones under this crazy sign?   It’s just wrong!  This cracked us up.  Once on the bayside path, we ran to Cat’s new office and turned around to retrace our steps back home.

We started out at a fast pace, that I did not expect to be able to keep up.  But surprisingly, we did!  All the catch-up chat, the dairy hilarity, and the joy of running with a friend kept our energy and our spirits high.  I haven’t run a long distance at speeds like that in a long time.  It was so encouraging.  It reminds me that I can push harder and longer than I think I can.  I forgot to use my stopwatch to time the run, but judging by the time that we started and ended, we ran close to 8 minute miles!  I’m seriously proud of us.

After that, we got some Mexican food for lunch and took an exploratory drive up to the Leelanau Peninsula.   We stopped at an art gallery and two vineyards to taste their wines and bought some raclette from a local cheese maker along with olives infused with herbs de Provence and cornichons.  We explored the little town of Suttons Bay briefly before taking our snack array to a café back in downtown TC called Brew to enjoy as a pre-dinner appetizer.  Good coffee there!

We did a little window shopping and then made our way home for omelets with veggies cooked in balsamic vinegar topped with some melted raclette cheese.  Yum!

Following dinner, we got dressed up and went to the State Theater to see Moneyball.  The theater is showing a full week of movies for free during spring break.  Then we stopped in at a gay dance club called Side Traxx, which we passed by during our run.  Gay clubs are so much fun!  We expected to check it out and head home after an hour or so, but we met a group of people from a travelling theater group who had performed a show in town that day, and we ended up closing down the bar with them.  These people were indescribably funny, witty, and just a riot to hang out with!

At 3am, we finally walked in Cat’s door and crashed for the night.  Sunday morning came early with a walk for Cat’s little Jack Russel/Chihuahua mix, Emma.  For breakfast, we went to a local co-op organic grocery store and ate some smoothies, baked oatmeal, and breakfast burritos in their café.  One the way out, Cat commented on a man’s University of Michigan sweatshirt, and this sparked a 2-hour conversation that ultimately pulled in 5 people in the café – all of us ex-Detroiters.  What a small world!

Next we went back downtown to check out a doggie bakery, where Cat got some rather tasty looking Easter treats for Emma.  Our appetites re-awakened by the treats (not that we ate them…they just looked good), we stopped for lunch at the Blue Tractor.  Cat had a flavorful veggie pizza, and I had a beef brisket dish from which I ate the hottest slice of jalapeño I’ve ever swallowed.  Holy cow did that make my throat burn!

Aside from all the activities and events, Cat and I had a great time catching up and talking endlessly about hipsterdom, music, running, family, work, food…on and on.

Thank you, Cat, for hosting and planning such a great time and for being such a good friend!  I can’t wait for our next visit!

This week:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Run 3, 2x2:00 and 2x2:30 AI's, Run 2 (total 6.25 miles)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Walk 2.5 miles with the hubby to the bank and to get dinner

Thursday, March 22, 2012
Dodge ball season 2 game 2 (missed the first week) - We won 12 to 5!

Saturday, March 24, 2012
Run 10 miles - pace around 8:00 avg

Friday, March 23, 2012

Co-Ed Naked Running

(Do you all remember those t-shirts? LOL)

Many people don’t know this, but I’m married to a celebrity.  The hubby is the official winner of the unofficial 1997 University of Michigan Naked Mile.  He was a 2-time runner back in his undergrad days, winning the race the first year that he ran.

That’s right.  My man let it all loose and hauled himself through the campus of U of M one April in nothing but running shoes.  As he tells the story of that fateful spring evening, he came barreling through the gap between the Grad library and Angel Hall at the corner of the Diag to encounter a crowd of on-lookers standing around on the race course.  A loud scream of, “Naked man coming through!” quickly cleared the horrified bystanders from the path making way for a first place finish.

Months later, the hubby was sitting in his parents’ home watching TV with them.  One of those “Extreme” reality shows came on, and suddenly a large, slightly chubby, glowingly pale man was bounding in front of the camera on the campus of the Maize and Blue.  The hubby saw this, had a small stroke, and then realized that his parents had been distracted by something and missed the footage.  Sheew!

OK.  So an anonymous appearance on cable TV may not make him a celebrity, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.  J

Back in our college days, I would not have been caught anywhere near the Naked Mile.  Too immodest.  Too dangerous.  Yet somehow intriguing!

Over our 8years of marriage (our anniversary is coming up next week!), the hubby’s free spirit has rubbed off on me.  I have become more liberal-minded.

So as an open-minded lover of the sport of running, and a woman soon to approach the years known as middle-age, I have tried several new and exciting running adventures recently.  I have done trail runs.  I have done a triathlon.  I have done obstacle/mud runs.  I have run a marathon.  So what else is there to try?

A naked race.

Yes that’s right.  I have signed the naked mile champion and me up for a clothing-optional 5k.  I’m not going to tell you when it is or in what city/state.  No stalkers allowed!  But I promise to post pictures with REALLY BIG black rectangles covering strategic areas.  Or maybe not.  This is the internet after all.  One cannot be too careful.  We’ll see!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Arnold Sports Festival - Part 7 (The Last) - Expo

And for those who are tired of the Arnold Sports Festival Expo, here is the last of my stuff.  Enjoy!

As promised, something for the man-attracted persuasion! The lovely gentlemen (OK, they’re hot guys) of the Grenade booth. I believe the guy on the far right is Richard Elston.

Sassy Brit at the Grenade booth.

I don’t even remember what booth this was, but she was a sweet girl.

Is this what I would look like if I used the PowerBlock dumbells? I hope not!

Clarex booth babe.

Drea, spokes model for Bone Breakerz (,, XFE Cage Wars Host, XZONE TV host, Round Card Girl Recruiter.

Finally, I just thought I’d throw some recognition out there to a couple of companies that I thought were cool:

Trainer Space – – Connecting trainers and clients in a format similar to FaceBook

ISSA - – Nationally Accredited personal trainer certification

Well, there are more pictures, but they came out blurry and aren't worth posting.  So that's all for the 2012 Arnold Sports Festival!  I hope to attend another event like this some day!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Arnold Sports Festival - Part 6 - Expo

More from the Arnold Sports Festival Expo...

Matt Hughes, 9-time UFC Welterweight World Champion, UFC Hall of Fame

Me with Matt Hughes after he gave me his autograph at the Lone Star & FinaFlex booth.

Allison Ethier, IFBB Fitness Professional, 2008 Arnold Amateur Fitness Champion, 2009 North American Fitness Champion (on the righ) and one of the many competitors (on the left) posing for a pic with Matt Hughes.

Allison Ethier autographed pic.

TwinLab booth babe.

IsoFlex booth babes.

Competitor at the Nutrex booth. I believe this was Larissa Reis. I didn’t get her autograph, though, because you had to buy it, so she must be a big name.

High Performance Series booth babe.

This week:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Run 2 miles, 2x1:00, 2x1:30, 2x2:00 AI's, 2 miles on the trails of Anne Springs Close Greenway in South Carolina

Thursday, March 15, 2012
Run 4 miles, 3 strides on the trails in SC.  It was hot, and I ended up walking a lot.  I'm not used to temps and humidity like that yet!  I also scratched pasts something and picked up a little poison ivy.  Nothing too severe - still well worth the trail run.

Sunday, March 18, 2012
Mountain bikes 14.8 miles on the paved paths with the hubby and friend, plus 1.2 mile run.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Arnold Sports Festival - Part 5 - Expo

I talked quite a bit about the expo in Part 1 of this series, so I’ll just get right into the pictures here. I did my best to name everyone, but I wasn’t sure of all of the competitors and models. If you fan boys and girls out there know who someone is, feel free to comment, so I can give credit where credit is due.

And "Why all the photos with booth babes", you may ask?  These women aren't just pretty faces.  They are in great shape, too!

Noémi Oláh, Arnold Classic 2012 Bikini Champion, poses at the QNT booth.

Oxygen Magazine models pose with fans at the MuscleMag booth. This hairy guy got a lot of laughs from the crowd, but the girls handled the situation like true pros.  The blonde model at the bottom is Caitlin Hixx. I’m not sure of the other two.

Supreme Protein booth babes.

A competitor – not sure who. Sorry for the blurry image!

STS booth babe.

Are you a UFC fan?  Check out my next post!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Arnold Sports Festival - Part 4 - Figure International

The Figure International competition at the Arnold Sports Festival is the least focused on muscle mass and most on feminine (but still fit) figure. The contestants strut their stuff on stage in bikinis and try to be the most lean, proportioned, and beautiful woman in the bunch.

Winner, Nicole Wilkins, of Sterling Heights, MI with Arnold

But don’t sell them short! When Arnold congratulated the 5th time winner, Nicole Wilkins of Sterling Heights, MI, he asked her what she did to continue improving as a competitor. Her reply was that it’s 80% nutrition – oh, the discipline! – and that she increased her workouts from 5 hours per day to 6 this year. Six hours per day for the least bulky competition? Oh. My. Gosh.  Let it not be said that these women don't work hard in their sport.

Top 6 from left to right:
Heather Dees (5th place), Candice Keene (3rd place), Erin Stern (2nd place), Nicole Wilkins (1st place), Ava Cowen (4th place), Teresa Anthony (6th place)

After the show was all over, the hubby and I walked downtown for some dinner stopping long enough to pull a “Kids in the Hall” shot in front of the Columbus City Hall.

“I’m crushing your head, Christopher Columbus! Crush! Crush!”


On a training note, I got to run on the sweet trails of the Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill, SC yesterday.  I did a run-intervals-run workout that took me through the woods to an old railroad trestle and a former mill.  I'm not sure of the exact distance because I don't believe that the map is to scale.  But I'm guessing I ran around 6 miles total.  It was super fun, but it was tiring.  I felt wiped afterward.  So, I don't think I'm ready yet for the trail half, but I have to remind myself that I still have some weeks of training to go.  But as always, the run confirmed one thing...I love trail running!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Arnold Sports Festival - Part 3 - Fitness International

The Fitness International competition at the Arnold Sports Festival, in my opinion, looks for the all-around top athlete among body competitors. The winner of this contest must have the best strength, flexibility, endurance, acrobatics, and lean muscle.

Winner Adela Garcia

Each competitor performs a routine that incorporates dance, flips, pushups, various body supporting stands, jumps, stretches, and their own personality flair combined with the music and costumes of their choice. A couple of my favorite stories told through the women’s routines involved a matador, a homeless drunk, a puppy, and a sexy Darth Vader.

It looks like it would be super fun to be a fitness competitor! If I had the time (in other words, if I didn’t have a full time job), I would consider getting a coach and making a go of an amateur contest. Except for one problem…I’ll never have the gymnastic skills of these women! And I doubt I could ever support my body weight on one arm. Or do one-handed pushups. OK, so that’s more than one problem. Oh well! It’s fun to dream anyway.

The Top 6 from left to right:
Tanji Johnson (5th place), Oksana Grishina (3rd place), Adela Garcia (1st place), Camala Rodriguez (2nd place), Bethany Cisternino (4th place), Myriam Capes (6th place)

This week:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Run 2, 5x1:00 AI's, run 2 - Included a couple long hills on the way to Stanaback Park.  Ran the intervals through the park, and then back home.  It was windy, but 60 F!  What a taste of spring!

Thursday, March 8, 2012
Run 4, 4 strides, a few high knees and butt kicks - Total time 34:44, Avg mile 8:41

Saturday, March 10, 2012
Mountain bike on the paved trails 7.25 miles - First ride of the year!

Sunday, March 11, 2012
Run 9.25 miles - Awesome weather around 60 F and sunny!  This run felt hard - kicked my butt.  Maybe my 2 hour trail half goal is a little ambitious for the training time I have left.  Hmm.  Total time 1:26:52, Avg mile 9:23.

Walk on the Ken-O-Sha trails with the hubby - 2 miles

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My evil deed for the day

A quick break from my Arnold reports to share this little story...

Yesterday I decided that I wanted a break from running, so I got my mountain bike ready for the first ride of 2012!  It was a lovely, sunny, warm-ish day for a ride on the bike paths.

As I approached a corner to wait at a stop light, a runner also came up to wait.  We started a delightful conversation in which he told me about how he's running to stay healthy and to keep up with his 10-year-old son and 10-year-old nephew.  He said that he was 32, and when I said that I was, too, he couldn't believe it. 

The day was beautiful, I was out on my bike, and people were friendly.  Wonderful!

The light changed and I continued on down the bike path.  Not a quarter mile later, I caught up to an older couple on their bikes riding side by side.  As usual, I came up and matched speed behind them, and indicated that I would pass on the left.  Well, I must have startled the older gentleman.  Or maybe he's had some bad experiences with cyclists racing up and blowing past him.  In any case, when he heard my "on the left", he glanced back and then jerked his bike to the right directly into his wife's.  Their tires rubbed, and he lost his balance falling sideways and tumbling into the bushes.

I stopped to make sure he was OK and that everything was intact.  I was terrified that the curled up heap of elderly man on the ground was going to be broken in some way!  But he picked himself up, and said he was OK.  A lens had popped out of his glasses, but he found it, and joked that he was fine due to his hard head (no helmet on).  I apologized for what happened.  And then he scolded me for not giving him more warning before passing.

OK.  I take that to heart.  The reason I didn't yell earlier was that people never hear my quiet voice if I yell too early.  That's why I tend to ride behind a group matching speed to give them all the time they need to rearrange.  But with timid looking riders, I guess I'll try to announce myself sooner.

At the same time, I think this guy just kind of freaked out.  He didn't notice that I wasn't rushing up on him.  Or that I still hadn't made the pass even after he fell.  Honest mistake, I guess.  Bruised ego even.  I can see things from his perspective.  And I accept my part in the accident.

But, *sigh*.  I still don't like being blamed when I'm pretty sure I followed proper trail etiquette.

Oh well.  That was my evil deed for the day.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Arnold Sports Festival - Part 2 - Ms. International

The Ms. International competition at the Arnold Sports Festival is one of the major women’s body building competitions in the world. This year, 14 competitors pumped and flexed to win the judges’ approval.

It was interesting to sit in the audience for this competition. You would think that a body building competition would be a demonstration of women’s empowerment. In many ways, it was. The raw physical power of these women was undeniable. The dedication that the competitors have to their sport is impressive.

At the same time, the hoots, hollers, and judgments from the men in the crowd made me question whether a large part of the sport still maintains traditional gender roles. Maybe people from the audience yelling, “Yah! Squeeze it girl! Keep it tight! NO! Not that side! The other side!” is the way that supporters do their thing in this context. I’m not familiar enough with it to say. But it felt condescending in some cases.

Despite any dumbasses in the crowd, these chiseled women deserve huge respect. I applaud the competitors and congratulate them on the fruits of a ton of hard work - especially to Yaxeni Oriquen, who came out on top as Ms. International for the 5th time! Good luck to all of the competitors in your future endeavors!

From Left to Right:
Unknown, Debi Laszewski (2nd place), Yaxeni Origuen (1st place), Alina Popa (3rd place), Brigita Bezovac (6th place)

And as a little bonus entertainment while the judges discussed their rulings, we had the opportunity to see Dominic LaCasse perform his amazing feats of strength and grace as the “Flag Man”. He makes it look so easy to hold himself sideways on a pole. What a gymnast!

(P.S. Thanks to the hubby for taking pictures!)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Arnold Sports Festival - Part 1

Sorry for the long delay in posting!  For the past week, Internet Explorer 8 would not load my Blogger dashboard page, so I finally decided to try a different browser, and...voila!  I'm back.

This weekend, the hubby and I had the opportunity to attend the Arnold SportsFestival in Columbus, OH.  This is the largest multi-sport event in the US.  Forty-five different sports – body building, fitness, dance, cheer leading, fencing, boxing, martial arts, and more – hold competitions, and 700 product and equipment vendors show off their stuff at a huge expo.  What a fascinating event! 

One of the hubby’s clients was a vendor and sponsor at the show, and they gave us 3rd row tickets for the women’s Ms. International, Fitness International, and Figure International Finals competition on Friday night.   (Thanks, Twinlab!)  The women body builders were impressive.  The figure competitors were gorgeous.  But my favorite part was the fitness competition.  These women have it all.  They are strong, flexible, and beautiful.  Each competitor performed a routine designed to show off their strength, flexibility, acrobatics, and overall badassness.  The music was exciting, the costumes were sometimes hilarious, and the flips, pushups, and feats of balance were amazing to watch.

We spent the entire day Saturday walking around the expo.  It was so packed that we were shoulder to shoulder pretty much constantly.  Most of the product samples were for body building supplements that I have little interest in, but we did get some good stuff like protein bars, energy shots, and t-shirts.  It was fascinating to learn about some of the sports nutrition and equipment products that are coming out into the market.

The expo also gave us the chance to meet some of the competitors from the show the night before and to indulge in a little star gazing.  We saw a number of athletes and actors such as Arnold (of course), Lou Ferrigno (maybe best known for playing the Incredible Hulk on the old 80’s TV show), Mario Lopez, and famous models like Christina Halkiopoulos.  I got a few autographs and had my picture taken with a series of booth babes.

Over the next week or so, I’ll work on posting many of my pictures.  I’ll do my best to identify everyone shown, though I know I’ll miss a few.  And while I have some pictures that will no doubt please the lovers of the female form, I have some treats for the opposite persuasion as well.  So, come back to check them out!

Skye Taylor for Champion Nutrition
"Melissa, Stay dedicated & determined! <3 Skye"

Last week:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Run 2 miles, 5x1:00 AI’s on the trails in Ken-O-Sha Park, 2 miles – untimed

Thursday, March 1, 2012
Run 4 miles, 4 strides – Total time for 4 mile run 36:29, Avg mile 9:07

Sunday, March 4, 2012
Long run 8.35 miles – Total time 1:18:19, Avg mile 9:22