Running is fun again!

Prior to moving to Colorado I loved running. I did it everyday, down to the beach and along the boardwalk. It was my stress relief during a very rough period of my life, my confidence builder during times I was shaken and one of the only things keeping me healthy. I channeled that love in to training for half marathons, excited to move to a town that was a running mecca.

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This was all before I learned what elevation did to my lungs. My first day here I burst out the door on my first run and barely made it half a mile without gasping for air. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am very sensitive to altitude and moving a mile up into the sky wrecked my endurance. Instead of pushing through it, I allowed myself to make excuses for not training and running fell to the wayside.

About 8 months after moving, I decided to try to pick it up again now that I was adjusted to the altitude, but then I broke my ankle and was benched for 5 months. Ever since then, I would sporadically get the urge to run, strap on my shoes to pound the pavement and find myself so discouraged that my mile splits were almost two minutes slower per mile then when I left LA that I would stop.

Recently I’ve gotten the itch to get back into running and searching for races online. The past week I ran everyday, trying to focus on enjoying the run and not constantly staring at my watch to see what my pace was. Today I went for a trail run, forgetting until I arrived at the trail that it had recently snowed meaning the trail would be icey and muddy.

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This meant that there were portions where I had to tread lightly, balancing over icy rocks and splashing through mud to get to the free space where I could stretch my legs and burst through the woods. My mind was focused on my steps and enjoying the beautiful snowy landscape around me.

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I loved it. I didn’t care about my time, I didn’t care about the distance. I was running for the pure joy of running, for probably the first time in over 2 years. Sometimes its good to leave the watches and measures behind and remember why you love doing something in the first place. Simply because it makes you feel alive.

Inspired by Competition – Tuff Love

This weekend my box hosted a competition called Tuff Love. 90+ people from boxes all over Colorado, as well as a couple from New Mexico and I think one from Wyoming, showed up to compete at a pretty elite level. The competition was a boy/girl team event, so there were about 45 teams total. We had 9 teams from my box compete, a couple of whom had never competed before but kicked some major ass! The competition had three events, “First Date”, “Second Base”, and “Walk of Shame”.

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“First Base” was a crazy 10 min AMRAP mix of rowing, hand stand push ups, toes to bar and burpee box jump overs that required a killer engine.

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“Second Base” was a clean and jerk ladder complex, with 1 power clean, 1 hang clean, 1 squat clean and 1 jerk, all done without putting the bar down. There was one woman who kicked complete ass and got up to 195. 195. I was so impressed. A couple of our girls PR’d, including one girl who double PR’d, which is incredible after having already tired herself out going up the ladder and with having to do three cleans! She had a whole bunch of people from our box cheering her on and she said it helped push her through.

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I love CrossFit competitions for so many reasons, but one reason in particular is the support that everyone gives all of the athletes. This especially showed on this ladder.  As athletes got higher and higher in weight everyone came forward to cheer them on, not just their own teammate. When the woman who got 195lbs attempted 205, the whole box erupted to cheer her on and help her shake it off when she didn’t make it.  When one of the guys went for 265 and got it, everyone cheered, even his competition. I love that.

I also love CrossFit Comps because I find them so incredibly inspiring. Seeing people push past that “dark place” where they feel they can’t go on anymore, to keep going and truly dig deep to give it their all. All those months of hard work paying off. The look on their face when they finish and are proud of what they accomplished. I find it truly moving. The couple that ended up winning it were recent additions to my box, after having moved from a different box in Boulder. The female qualified for the games last year, but couldn’t go because of her work (she’s a marine). Watching her do butterfly pull ups was truly beautiful. She moved so gracefully and so fast, we all just watched her with our jaws dropped to the floor. It was also great to see just how proud of her her boyfriend was (who is also ridiculously good at CrossFit). I love seeing couples that are that supportive and proud of each other.

Two girls from my box asked me this weekend if I wanted to do two different competitions with them in may. My response was that I don’t have pull-ups, doubleunders or hand stand push ups solid enough to compete. But, I’m gonna try hard as hell to get them up to par by April (at least enough to qualify to compete) and I would let them know. By Apri 1st my goal is to have 10 pull ups, 20 double unders strung together and at least 2 hand stand push ups. I am not quite sure if it’s possible, but this weekend really made me want to get out there and give it all so I’m gonna do all I can to get there.

What motivates you to compete?

What sport/type of competition do you like watching best?

Handstands, Powder, and Green Chicken

Although I’m not the biggest football fan, it’s hard to walk around today seeing the sad faces of all the Broncos fans whose dreams were shattered by yesterday’s game. Like a lot of people, I watch the game just so I have something to talk about with coworkers and for the commercials. I thought last nights commercials were pretty decent, minus the random Maserati one and the annoying bud light one. My favorite was the Budweiser puppy/horse one because I’m a sucker for emotional animals. Remember that happy elephant video that literally made me cry? Yah, it was around that level.

Prior to the game, I went to a WOD and stayed after to conquer my fear of doing handstands. Two weeks ago they made my stomach drop and tears come to my eyes, but this weekend I made some major progress.

Hand Stand Push Ups here I come! Just kidding, that might take a bit while to accomplish but being able to do a handstand is the first step! Just gotta work on keeping my feet together.

On Saturday I went up to the mountains with my boyfriend and our friend from CF because there was some ridiculous storm that dumped over 24 inches of snow, which is about waist level. I know this because I tried to walk on what I thought was solid ground in an attempt to sneak into the words to, um, relieve myself and fell in past my waist. Snow down my pants, not so fun.

ImageI had never snowboarded in real powder and it was a lot of fun. We went to the side of the mountain that isn’t groomed, so there were lots of bumps which was a bit rough for someone with not so much experience like me. At least when I fell it was like falling on a cold, damp cloud.

On Thursday my coworker had brought in some Green Chicken that she had made from a NomNomPaleo recipe. It was so good that I decided I had to recreate it myself Friday night. It’s supposed to be grilled, but (a) it was snowing and (b) I guess more importantly, I don’t own a grill. So I baked it. It was still delicious. I added some cabbage and beets that I had cooked in water/apple cider vinegar mixture (also courtesy of my coworker). I love cabbage cooked this way and thought it was also amazing.

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Did you watch the Superbowl? Were you rooting for either of the teams? Which commercial was your favorite?

What’s your favorite winter time activity?

Thanksgiving Break Recap

I know. I realize it’s Wednesday and Thanksgiving break ended a couple days ago, but it’s finals season and as much as I would prefer to be blogging, any free time I have is devoted to CrossFit and even more studying. Life is so fun right now…. not. Luckily, I had a great week off last week to squeeze in some fun before the next two weeks of my second to last finals ever (thank god). I celebrated Thanksgiving with the new boy in my life (like how I snuck that in there?) at his sister’s house in  Denver.

We started the day off with a turkey trot of our own in an attempt to counter act all the food we would be cramming in our faces soon enough. It was a gorgeous day, so I was glad to spend some time outside

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I didn’t have to cook anything, which was kinda nice to be able to just sit back and have people bring me food. Though at the end I felt a little like Jabba the Hut.  The food was delicious and included a maple bacon wrapped turkey. It. Was. Amazing. And the gravy was even better.I could have eaten it plain. I took home a big tupperware of it and have been putting it on everything I eat.

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I’m usually not a big fan of black friday. I think it’s hilarious (in a bad way) that a day after we celebrate and be appreciative of everything we have to be thankful for, we go out and fight people over items we feel we need.  That being said, I did head out to buy something on Friday to take advantage of some deals. I got new snowboard boots and bindings! During the course of putting the new ones on, I was told that I had been set up improperly and had been riding the wrong way this whole time. At least I found it out at some point!

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So on Saturday I headed up to Copper Mountain and the day could not have been more perfect. I started the morning with a beer at 9:30, because that’s what you do when you snowboard.

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Then I tried out my new binding set up and boots. It made SUCH a difference and I was able to get off the beginner greens and onto the intermediates. Black Diamonds here I come! (Not really.. I’m still scared to go too fast). It was a great relaxed day, with a couple runs, then a beer, then a couple more runs and another beer. I like this whole snowboarding thing.

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On Sunday, me and the boy decided to go get some trail running in while the ground was still free of snow. We went out to Matthew Winters Trail in Morrison, CO. I highly recommend it. It’s a 5 mile loop that allows bikers and runners, with some challenging terrain to keep you entertained. It had a nice incline that made me feel like I was dying from breathing too hard and left my booty a little sore after, which is my favorite.

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But every time I started to want to stop, I would look ahead and realize my companion was wearing a 30lb weight vest like a crazy person and still trudging on, so I pumped my arms hard and pushed through.

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Going down was a lot more fun. We made it down just as the sun was setting on a beautiful weekend, with a lot to be thankful and appreciative for. Hope you all had a wonderful break 🙂

First day on the slopes!

Today someone found my blog by Googling “fattie meatloaf”. To that person – I applaud you.. Hope my Bacon Meatloaf helped make your day that much better.

Sunday was my first day up on the slopes this year! When I moved to CO I had wanted to get really good at snowboarding. I went twice my first year and three-four times my second. Turns out, you have to actually practice something regularly to get good at it. Fancy that. A month ago I went to this ski/snowboard movie with some friends and was totally inspired. Not that I ever have any plans of jumping out of helicopters to fly down a mountain, but being able to get off the easy greens would be nice. So, I decided to get my ass in gear and get up on that mountain early in the season so I can really make some progress this year.

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My amazing friend has come with me the past couple times I went to help teach me, since she rocks the mountain and makes it look easy. She is super patient and encouraging, yelling out “Yah Fiona, you go it!” super loud and drawing attention so that people zooming by me began to comment “you got i!” and “making progress”.  I’m getting better at connecting my turns and not making it so I have to go super wide, but I still am petrified every time I start picking up speed and throw on the brakes. I’ve been told it’s like riding a bike and it’s actually easier once you have some speed, but I still just picture myself rolling down the mountain and breaking my face every time I get going. Anyone have any tips for getting over that?

We were there for about 4 hours, but then it started to get dark, icy and cold, so we decided to call it a day. I love driving through the mountains at night, nice and warm in the car staring at the dark snow covered trees. It was the perfect way to close out the weekend and, hopefully, just the start of many days up in the mountains this winter.

Into Thin Air – 2nd Highest Peak in the Lower 48

On Sunday I decided to go climb the second highest peak in the lower 48 states. A looming 14,443 feet, complete with snow, strong winds, and about a 24 degree temperature. Oh, and that nasty little thing called altitude sickness that decided to tag along for the ride. To say this was one of the mentally toughest physical activities to get through was an understatement.  I have never before in my life thought I could not physically finish something until this adventure. But, let’s start at the beginning.

My friend from training (who I went paddle boarding with) and two of my friends from Denver decided it would be a tough challenge to go hike a 14er (Colorado speak for mountains over 14,000ft) at the end of September, when it had already snowed up there. We thought it would be badass. And it was. Maybe a bit too badass for me. The hike was 9.2 miles round trip, with a 4,700 foot elevation gain. The 30-45 minutes were in the forest and, while steep, I could still catch my breathe through the panting. We emerged from the woods to see this:

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See those peaks? yeah, we had to go over those to get to one further on that we were going to. I definitely didn’t realize when I signed on that the hike would be this long, but I was still excited at this point. So, we trudged on. Once we got past that second tree line the wind picked up. Hard. And it did not stop. It was so strong and so cold that when it hit you head on it literally knocked your breathe out of you. Multiple times I felt like I was suffocating and had to turn my back to take some breathes. This may sound dramatic, but it was 100% real for me. I am VERY sensitive to altitude. For the first couple weeks after I moved to Boulder I would get winded walking up stairs, went to bed by 9:30 because I was so exhausted and would get major headaches.

But we kept going, with my companions being very kind and taking frequent breaks when I needed them to turn my oxygen deprive hyperventilating back to normal panting.

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Photo Credit Kristin Burkholder

Around 12,500ft I started feeling nauseous. We stopped to eat and I forced myself to take a bite of a Lara bar, but my mouth would not physically chew it. I ended up spitting it out and just drinking lots of water. If I ever do something like this again, I will definitely bring chicken broth so that I can drink my nutrition and have it heat me up. A couple passed us and we asked, pointing at a peak above us, if that was the summit. The woman shook her head and said that was a “fake summit” (one that appears to be the top, but is followed by others behind it) and that there were 3-4 more fake summits to go.

The guy saw the look on my face at this point and said “Just go 10 more steps. Anyone can do 10 more steps. Then, try to do another 10.” I literally repeated this in my head the whole rest of the way.

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Photo Credit Kristin Burkholder

We got to 14,000 feet, with only 400 feet more and I nearly quit. I stopped, sat on the ground, trying to stop my head from spinning and resisting the urge to start dry heaving. I had a conversation with myself in my head about how I was feeling crappy now, but that in about 6 hours I would be home in bed, cuddled up with my dog,  feeling perfectly healthy and would be super pissed off at myself if I had not gone to the top. This was only temporary. With some encouragement from my friends, one of whom was also not feeling so hot at this point, I kept going. And I’m glad I did, because the view at the top was unbelievable. Just like everyone had promised.

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I’m pretty sure we only stayed up there about 5 minutes, as it was sub 24 degrees and super windy. Just long enough to snap some pictures and start back down.

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The hike down was really fun for me. Going down fake summits is far more fun than going up them, complete with sliding on the ice/snow (as my friend did, on her butt, for a good portion of the way. She had also had some Fireball at the top, which probably made it even more delightful for her ❤ ). With each little bit I felt better and better, and by the time we reached the trees again I was back to myself. And starving.

Overall, I am still very happy I did it. It was definitely a rush.  I don’t think I could have done it without the support of my friends, talking me through it and being willing to stop whenever I needed to.  I’m already planning to do another one next year with the same people… though maybe we will go a bit earlier, so as to avoid the snow and the super cold wind.

On the drive back home my friend asked why people climb 14ers. A lot of people respond with “because they are there”. My friend said because it reminds her that the world is far more beautiful than her everyday life. While valid, that’s not my reason. There are hikes that are just as physically challenging, as far as steepness, that are at much lower elevation and would provide a great workout and time spent in beautiful nature. For me, the reason I have done 14ers is because it’s good to challenge yourself mentally like that sometimes, to push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of in a situation where you can’t just slow down or stop to make it easier (like on a run). Obviously, do that within a safe limit, with the ultimate ability to leave (turn around and walk down) if you really need to.

But sometimes, you need to have that inner battle with yourself to see what you are capable of overcoming.

Hope you all had a great weekend, filled with fun, laughs and love.

Dispelling CrossFit Myths – Base Camp Week 1

I have not been asked by CrossFit Sanitas to endorse this gym. All opinions in this blog are my own

Well guys, I have officially drank the kool aid. Today was the end of week 1 of my 2.5 week CrossFit “Base Camp”. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4:45am I got out of bed and drudged out into the snowy cold and headed towards CrossFit Sanitas like a moth to a warm flame. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:30am I excitedly texted anyone I knew who was awake at that time (mainly my parents on the east coast and my boyfriend) everything we had done that day, what the WOD had been, what my time was, what technique methods the coaches had used and how excited I was for the next class. Needless to say, I’m hooked.

I thought I’d start out by going over some of the many things I had heard about CrossFit and whether or not I found them to be true.

Myth #1: The coaches lack in training/aren’t educated well enough. FALSE

Doesn't really apply, but makes me laugh anyway.

I wanted to start with this because it’s one of the ones I’ve heard most often and because of the amazing experience I have had with my coach, Dan, so far. My CrossFit box offers an 8 session base camp to all incoming CrossFitters to help teach proper technique. Each workout begins with about a 30 minute “skill” session (this is true for their regular WODS outside of base camp too, I believe). Each day we focus on 3 main skill sets (for instance: deadlifts/sumo deadlift shoulder raise/press or squat/push up/ring row). Dan not only was able to demonstrate each move slowly, while articulating exactly what he expected of us, but would walk around individually correcting each person’s form. Prior to even adding any weight we had to do about 30 air/body weight versions of whatever move we were doing.

Now youmay be thinking – well how do you know what good instruction is? Thanks to my trainer boyfriend, I watch strength and conditioning videos all the time that focus on proper technique. While I am far from having perfect form, I do know the areas I need to improve on and Dan called me out on all of them. He would also continue to do so during the actual WOD, even AMRAP WODs which focus on a high number of reps where your form can easily get sloppy. So, as far as qualified coaches go, I’d give him as an A+.

Myth #2: CrossFit is only for super intense crazy people who like flipping tires, climbing ropes and wearing tiny spandex. FALSE

Not my box, but this grandma is kicking some butt.

Not my box, but this grandma is kicking some butt.

The group of people in my base camp are so incredibly diverse. There’s 14 of of us total, a surprisingly large number for a 5:30am class, and the participants range from a trainer at CU who wants to know what the fuss is about to a group of amazingly bubbly and motivated moms who want to get more fit to be good role models for their kids to twenty something’s looking for a challenge. Each WOD we do can be adapted to each individuals level of fitness and abilities to make it perfect for people of all ages and fitness level.

MYTH #3: CrossFit workouts only last about 10 minutes and aren’t actually that hard. FALSE

I aspire to be Andrea Ager.

I aspire to be Andrea Ager.

The opposite of the myth above, but also one I have heard (conveniently from people who had never tried CrossFit). Before base camp I also believed that people just came in, did the WOD and left. As I mentioned above, however, there is a whole other section prior to the WOD that focuses on skills and lifting heavier for shorter reps and is a whole other workout in and of itself. While I haven’t tried a non-basecamp workout yet, I’m hoping to try one this Sunday so I can get the full idea of what this pre section is like. Also, a lot of the olympic lifting moves are combined with dynamic athlete moves (box jumps, lateral jumps etc) that will help any athlete improve. Lastly, we are encouraged to stay after the WOD to do some more cardio or work on things not covered that day to help us reach our own individual goals.

Myth #4: CrossFit gyms are small and dingy. Definitely False.

Does not even begin to capture it. Also, that's my coach. Hi Dan!

Does not even begin to capture the Sanitas Box. Also, that’s my coach. Hi Dan!

I know that my box is exceptionally nice, but literally I could not ask for a better CrossFit gym. The space is HUGE, brand new, with every piece of equipment you could ask for from competition kettle bells, tons of barbells and racks, boxes, ropes, rowers, sleds and even a turf area. Plus it has childcare. Not all boxes have to be in someone’s basement.

Myth #5: They will pressure you to be Paleo.

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My second class we had about a 5-10 minute talk on nutrition. It basically came down to “Do what works for you, but try to follow the basic principle of ‘If man made it, don’t eat it'” Simple. True. No pressure. We also were given a packet on the first day that had further information on nutrition, should we desire to know more, as well as information about lifting techniques we would be learning.

Myth #6 It’s a cult that will suck you in and make you never want to stop. TRUE & FALSE.

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I don’t like the word cult, as that has a negative connotation. I don’t associate loving something that is beneficial to your physical and mental health with the dangers of a cult. I do believe that it feeds on human natures desire to work as a community to succeed, while also individually pushing yourself past your own personal limits. I didn’t realize how motivating it would be to be working out with a group of people and how much harder I would push myself when doing it. I also didn’t realize how exciting it would be to see everyone, especially the people who were struggling, complete the workout. It motivates you to work harder, because if they are pushing themselves through the pain, you can too. I remember reading somewhere that a great thing about CrossFit is that the loudest cheers are for the last one to finish. I definitely think that is a reality.

I have so much more to say, but I can save that for another post about what we actually did during each session, but hopefully this helps convince some of you who may have been on the fence to give it a shot.