Ragnar 2015 Recap: My Runs Along Cape Cod

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IMG_3631Before I go onto to multiple posts about the bonding and the beast mode and the best trail mix ever, I will simply recap my role in this relay race with all the bells and whistles of my Nike Running App, Fitbit Charge HR, and Ragnar materials along with a fashion play by play brought to you by my obsession with Athleta.

IMG_3641For those who don’t know, the Ragnar Relay Series is a series of overnight relay races in cool places across the country where teams of 6-12 runners run various legs from one point to another covering about 200 miles in about 2 days. Historically, the non-running teammates follow along in a rented van that also doubles as a hotel room for most teams. With a few half marathons under my belt since I ran for the first time in 2011 (2 miles at 14+min/mile), I thought it was time to mix it up. So when a Facebook friend asked for a couple of more teammates for her Ragnar Cape Cod Relay team I was intrigued and felt up to the challenge.

My husband and I essentially joined a team of strangers, hence our not-so-original team name “Never Get in a Van with Strangers,” nicknamed #StrangersInAVan for race weekend social media shenanigans.

We all met for the first time about about three months before race weekend. We picked our legs based on known abilities and desire. With a 12 person team, we were each destined to run 3 legs each. I was in van#2, runner#9. I was scheduled to run a 3.2 mile easy run, a 5.6 mile hard run, and a 7.3 mile very hard run. I was concerned by the incremental increase in difficulty as time passed but the ninth spot was a good fit for me with other spots being better for others in my van.

Strangers In a Van: Van#2

Strangers In a Van: Van#2

A few days prior to race weekend, my final leg was increased to 9 miles. Ugh. With just 7 on the docket, I hadn’t run more than 6 miles since the Disney Half Marathon in January. But, it was what it was and I was in. All in. And so it began. My first ever relay race.

On race weekend, van#1 started in Hull, MA at 7am. Using the Race Pace Calculator, we needed to arrive at the first major exchange at Duxbury Beach by 10:30. My first leg began in Plymouth MA. Here’s how it went.

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I ran in my Athleta Be Free Knickers and a mesh run top from last season. As with all the runs to follow I ran in my Newton Fates, RoadID sneaker pouch, Asics Kayano running socks, Under Armour Braided head band (discontinued as far as I can tell), Shock Absorber run bra and Nike sweat band (really any sweat band will do). Since it was daylight I also work my Nike Running sunglasses (Nordstrom Rack purchase from ages ago-but they never slip or fog and haven’t been damaged in multiple trips). It was warm inland where I started so I did not wear a jacket (I had brought along 3 Athleta running jackets for contingencies) and unfortunately this ended up being a really chilly run for me as I approached the ocean. I never warmed up and I think the cold made me run faster than I every have before for this quick run which sadly had little in the way of a view but had plenty of horse poo to assault the senses along the way.

After van#2’s first round of runs, we stopped for dinner and a quick rest before our overnight runs began. I curled up in the fetal position resting my head on my husband’s shoulder as he leaned against the window. In this gloriously comfortable position I got about 45 minutes of restless sleep. Then we were off to van#2’s second round of runs. Mine began in Yarmouth MA. Here’s how it went.

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This was my overnight run. I have run in the dark before to prep for Ragnar but never truly in the middle of the night. The light and reflective gear made it impossible to garner an action shot but I ran in my Athleta Be Free tights and Stripe reflective, waterproof running jacket. The mist was heavy that night and it kept me dry. My Amphipod Xinglet reflective harness, Petzl Tikka+ headlamp, and Nathan strobe light met Ragnar code and totally did the job during a really, really, dark run. About a mile in a lovely young woman named Lindsay came up beside me. “I hope you don’t mind me shadowing you?” she asked. “I am really nervous in the dark.” I didn’t mind at all and we ran the remaining 4+ miles nearly side by side. It was reassuring when there were animal sounds by the roadside. I will say, though, that this stretch of run had one of the most generous side walks ever and that was appreciated.

When our second round of runs were over the sun was rising. We were at a critical decision point. We were close enough (an hour round trip) to our overnight cottage rental in Truro to refresh with a proper shower or we could try to catch 2-3 hours of sleep at our next exchange point in Eastham MA. As a trauma surgeon who often must function at a high level of performance for 36-40 hours in a row, I know that a shower is equal to at least 4 hours of sleep so I chose the shower. We all met up again at the exchange point in Eastham as van#2 began its final set of runs with my personal anchor run to begin in Wellfleet MA. Here’s how it went.

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This was my unexpectedly long run. It was hot. The elevation was a bitch. I was on just 45 min of sleep but at least I was clean when I took off in my Athleta Maze Be Free knicker  and Forerunner Tee (discontinued as far as I can tell). I wore my Brooks ventilated running cap (a TJ Maxx purchase from long ago) over my Under Armour headband to keep my head cool. I was a mess after this run. It was long, hot, and uphill. I was lucky that the van could stop at multiple points along the way to give me water and cheer me on.

As you can glean by the stats on my distance, pace, and heart rate, things got harder for me as time, distance, and elevation simultaneously increased. My heart was clearly working hard, at points clocking in at 170 bpm. You will also see that the Nike Running App running on my phone’s GPS, the Fitbit Charge HR app running on an accelerometer on my wrist, and the Ragnar maps are pretty good fidelity for a novice leisure athlete like myself in terms of mileage and route for each of my Ragnar legs. In the end, despite the challenges, I felt like a beast when it was all over and I know my teammates did too.

BragnarFinish

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A trip to Target: In 51 thoughts

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I love Target.Embed from Getty Images

In fact, if you ask my husband, he will tell you I love Target maybe a little too much.  Here is a typical trip to Target for me… in 51 thoughts.

 

1.  Okay, I only need toothpaste and lightbulbs.

2.  This will only take 15 minutes.

3.  Mmmm, that popcorn smells good.

4.  Nope, resist the slushie, resist the slushie.

5.  This will be it – this will be the trip where I leave this dang store and only spend $25.

6.  Stay focused, toothpaste and lightbulbs, toothpaste and lightbulbs.

7.  Let me check my FitBit.

8.  Cool! I only need 1,000 more steps today to reach my goal.

9.  I’m going to take the long way around towards the toothpaste.

10.  Socks – I totally could use some new socks.

11.  Actually, the whole family could use new socks.

12.  I swear my dryer uses socks for fuel instead of electricity.

13.  Why not?  I’m already here, I might as well stock up.

14.  Target has the cutest maternity clothes.

15.  Thank God I’m not pregnant anymore…

16.  Probably should get some more diapers while I’m here.

17.  Ooh, that’s a cute swimsuit.

18.  Dang, they have sunscreen on sale!

19.  Wait – It’s 20 degrees outside, don’t buy the sunscreen.

20.  That picture frame would look perfect in my office.

21.  I really, really, need to organize my photos.

22.  I wonder if I could pay someone to organize my photos…

23.  And put them in that cute photo album.

24.  Office… that reminds me – I really should pick up some pens while I’m here…

25.  And, some post-it notes.

26.  I could totally use that desk organizer.

27.  Those dishes are cute.

28.  That reminds me – we need more spoons.

29.  Ugh, why do we always seem to need spoons?

30.  I think the dishwasher eats them.

31.  Oh yeah, we are almost out of dishwasher detergent.

32.  I’m thirsty – I totally should have gotten the slushie.

33.  Wait, why am I thirsty?

34.  How long have I been here?

35.  An hour, I’ve been here an hour?!?

36.  Don’t forget… toothpaste and lightbulbs.

37.  Dang, I forgot the toothpaste.

38.  Well, at least I made my 1,000 steps crossing the store…again.

39.  Wow, this cart is heavy.

40.  Maybe this counts as exercise?

41.  Toothpaste aisle – maybe I should try a new one?

42.  Might as well get two tubes

43.  Ooh – I’ve always wanted to try that Eos lip balm.

44.  Hmm – those Yes to Cucumbers face wipes won the Allure Beauty award.

45.  Yep, I should try those face wipes.

46.  Okay, I really need to get out of here.

47.  My total is $150?!?!

48.  (*%^*!  My husband is going to kill me.

49.  Well, at least it was less than $200.

50.  I still don’t understand, how did I spend $150, I only needed toothpaste and lightbulbs.

51.  F*&!  I forgot the lightbulbs 😦

Avoiding a Vacation Set Back: Day #1

I am heading out  today for a much needed two week vacation. In years past, I had a tendency to gain 5-7lbs for each week of vacation. Too much foodie tourism and too little movement. Things are different now. Or least I like to think they are. I still plan on eating well, just not with reckless abandon; and I plan on tempering the eating with exercise or at least of lot of steps logged every day.

So, my vacation blogging goal is to post at least one fitness achievement or workout fashion statement for each day of vacation.

Today was Day#1 (though I did go to our weekly 6:30am meeting at work). I was exhausted from one on call day and two late nights packing but it was really beautiful out (and at least when I made the decision not too humid) so I willed myself to get out there. It was not pretty. Honestly with how bad I felt with the hills and the humidity (it had really gotten moist by 9:30am), I was wondering how it was that I finished a half marathon just 7wks ago. But I got her done at a sub-11min pace (yes, that’s pretty speedy for me and no it’s not about how fast you are; it’s about having put in the effort no matter how fast or how slow.)

Here’s my other summer lemon workout look. Puma running capris and an Under Armour ribbed tank.

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Fitbit count >15,000k steps before making it to the destination. (Yes, I am publishing this from 30,000 feet–yah! JetBlue in-flight wifi.)

 

If I am naked, will my steps still count?

The other day, the battery on my Fitbit unexpectedly died. It was a new battery, just two weeks old, so it took me by surprise. I wasn’t prepared with an immediate replacement battery. I was also traveling at the time so it wasn’t like I had a stash at home to run to. So there I was, in the middle of an active day feeling naked because my Fitbit died, lamenting all the steps that would go uncounted.

I got the Fitbit Zip about 6 months ago to participate in a work sponsored team walking event. They gave out T-shirts and cheap clip-on pedometers. When I broke the latter immediately after taking it out of the box, I had to find a replacement. I did some quick research online to decide what to get to replace my now broken cheapo clippo. I studied the various options from the various brands that do and do not offer fitness tracking (e.g. a simple step counter that you manually reset and manually record should you choose to track from day to day vs. something that syncs with an app and become the ‘Big Brother’ of every move you do or do not make).

fitbit-contentsI decided to get the Zip because it would do what I needed (count steps for the then upcoming 30-day walking challenge with colleagues), minimize the effort required on my part to count said steps (auto syncing with my phone/laptop and reseting itself every night at midnight), and was reportedly durable ($60  for a strong clip in a discrete form factor that is water resistant compared to $15-20 for another cheapo clippo that I would immediately also break). Did I need a sleep tracker? I thought “No.” I sleep like crap. I am a trauma surgeon who does most of her academic work in the middle of the night as well. “So what’s the point,” I said to myself. Finally, every day I wear a watch on one hand and a bracelet on the other. There’s just no more room on my wrists for some of the more high end fitness trackers, not to mention that I would have gone insane on the days the fitness band clashed with my choice of outfit.

In the 6 months that have followed, I have clipped the Zip to my bra every day. Yup, every day. My everyday bras, my going out bras, my on-call bras, my sports bras, and my strapless bras worn under ball gowns. I. CANNOT. LIVE. WITHOUT. MY. FITBIT. (And yes, I guess I have a lot of bra categories and no you won’t read about them here since my dad and many male colleagues follow the blog).fitbit-bra

So when that battery died, I might as well have been topless. I was a frantic mess knowing that my stroll to the bathroom from the armchair in the corner of the hotel room was not being measured, knowing that my steps around the convention center that day were not tallied, and knowing that my deliberate choice to walk back to the hotel after dinner to repent for the bread and dessert would go uncounted.

Why did losing Fitbit’s diligent counting of my steps leave me feeling so exposed? Why has the Fitbit become the accessory (yes, not a scarf or a particular shade of lipstick for this fashionista) I cannot leave the home without? Because…

1) Fitbit keeps it real. Despite trying to be a fit and healthy person, I was blind to how sedentary I can be on some days, in particular non-clinical days, before the Fitbit came to rule my world. Now, I know the good days and the bad days. There’s no lying to myself.

2) Fitbit changes mundane behaviors. Since my office is 8 doors down from the division’s admin office and  7 doors down from the billing office and since the bathroom is past those two offices, the pre-Fitbit me would have gathered my mail and my billing and dropped it off on my way to the bathroom. Now, I take three separate trips to drop off billing, drop of mail, and answer nature’s call. Some other more obvious examples include parking in the regular garage even when my on-call status allows me to park in the much closer trauma attending parking spot or always taking the stairs on rounds, no matter how high the floor. It’s not like I didn’t know these things before but somehow knowing that the Fitbit is watching makes me more diligent.

3) Fitbit helps overcome mental exhaustion. Mental exhaustion tends to deplete me as much as physical exhaustion. There are days when I have been rather montionless, no where near my daily goal of 10K, but I still feel exhausted perhaps due to a trying OR case or a challenging grant write-up. Before the Fitbit took reign over me, such exhaustion had a 100% chance of leading to me being glued to the couch eating a bowl of chips or a box of caramels if I was lucky enough to go home that night (if on call, it led to the very disheartening inner voice chanting for a quiet call night). Now, most of the time seeing the frowny face on my Zip’s display get’s me to the basement workout room (most nights) or the work gym (if on call) for, at the very least, an easy jaunt on the treadmill or elliptical. All the steps, even a low speed, count.

4) Fitbit provides positive reinforcement on the good days. Who doesn’t want to know that they walked a half marathon a day for three days in a row at Disney? Who doesn’t want to get a congratulatory e-badge for exceeding 40K steps on the same day they get a real medal for completing an actual half marathon? That’s right, I like being congratulated for my achievements and Fitbit’s tracker is a master congratulator for movement related achievements. Go me!

5) Fitbit feeds a competitive streak. Using the Fitbit app one can connect with other Fitbit users no matter which particular Fitbit device they have chosen to track with. We can egg each other on (umm, and also support one another) to see who moves the most in a given week. I love checking the app to see who I am better than in a given week. And if I am doing worse, well see #2 and #3 above. Time to get moving.

6) Fitbit syncs seamlessly with MyFitnessPal. I have been an on again, off again MFP user for nearly two years. When I track, I achieve my weight-related goals, when I don’t the weight slowly creeps up (so yes, in many ways, MFP is to calorie consumption as Fitbit is to moving). I get derailed when I get busy or eat a complex meal because I lack the time or mental capacity to log every calorie in or every calorie out. Manually tracking steps in MFP is cumbersome (not because of the MFP app makes it difficult but because, really, though it is easy to make note of 30 minutes spent walking the dog or running, how does one measure the steps accrued during various trips to the billing office or the bathroom). So, that the Fitbit automatically tells MFP exactly how many steps I moved in any day is truly a tracking victory. And, while MFP  allows me to up the calorie out for more intense movement, if I get too busy or forget to log concerted exercise, at least the baseline calorie burn from the steps taken during that exercise is measured with any extra effort on my part.

7) Fitbit is easy. All I need to do is wear it and be near my smart phone to get all the benefits listed above. The device and app do the rest. It’s all uploaded over the cloud to all versions of software. Voila. I am held accountable to myself for my activity or lack of it.

So, without my Fitbit clipped closely to me I wonder about all those steps I may or may not have taken and I feel utterly, completely naked.

fitbit-views

[NB: in general the battery lasts 4-6 mos and this was truly unexpected and in no way detracts from my wholehearted recommendation for the Fitbit Zip.]

NOTE: From time to time we will write about some of our favorite things. Unless specifically noted, we have purchased these items on our own and have not received any royalties or other perks for sharing our product opinions with you.

10 Reasons To Cure Myself of Not-A-Morning-Personitis and Conquer Morning Workouts

I am decidedly NOT a morning person. I have often thought that this was a key factor in my career choice since trauma and acute care surgeons are often expected to be on their A-game in the middle of the night. I am a pretty amazing middle of the night person and, if that night stretches into chronological morning, I can keep the A-game going. But, if allowed to put head to pillow, dawn will yield a very cranky person.

In college I avoided classes that started before 11am. I am pretty sure I showed up at that one 8:30a Tu/Th class only for exams (physics 1a/b anyone?). Med school started every day at 8am during pre-clinicals and I often struggled with that arrival time choosing to put forward my best effort for labs later in the day (thank you lab mates who were excellent note-takers!). On clinical rotations I figured out how to show up for 4:45a pre-rounds, but I am pretty sure that only worked because it was still technically the middle of the night so my body was okay with that.

Even now, as in every day during residency and fellowship, when there are patients waiting at the other end, I can make early am arrivals happen albeit with a fair bit of crankiness as my poor husband kicks me out the door with coffee in hand. Honestly, it’s a miracle I ever chose a career where 5:30a rounds, 6a meetings, and 7a pre-op times are the norm. And on the days when there are no patients waiting at the other end, I continue to struggle with human functions in the morning. People at work often ask me why I am angry as they pass me in the halls at 6, 7, 8am…. I’m not angry. I’m just a cranky Not-A-Morning-Person.

Unlike my college and early med school days, these days an 8:30a start of anything (signout rounds, soccer games, flights…) would be welcome. Eleven am is shockingly late to me now; so in that regard my Not-A-Morning-Personitis has abated somewhat over the years.

But here I am. It’s the life I have chosen. Most of my work days start well before 8am and last well over twelve hours. Typically, I work 26 such days a month. And the Not-A-Morning-Personitis is still severe enough that I have been unable to incorporate pre-work early morning exercise into my daily regimen. Interestingly, when I travel (both with and without family) I am somehow able to swing pre-dawn jaunts at the hotel gym or outdoor runs. Perhaps this is due to the unfamiliar bed causing less restful sleep or the fact that even most surgery meetings don’t start until 8a or the allure of a new venue to run or the proximity of a Pure Barre studio or the late nights at the bar with colleagues (remember Vegas friends? I still got my money’s worth from the $15 gym fee)…

But, in the past I have not been able to recreate this early morning motivation in my home environment. Until last week, I could count the number of my non-weekend off morning workouts on the fingers of ONE hand.

Last week I was jet lagged; and since the current me is actively trying to dispel excuses to not exercise I channeled my wide awakeness at 3:30a into several morning workouts in a row. The jet lag dissipated eventually, but then I found myself angling for a morning workout anyway. This was, in fact, a miracle.

I could hardly recognize myself. Six morning workouts in a row including a post-call workout on my first week back in the country. They weren’t always hard workouts but I was up and I was moving. And my Fitbit was congratulating me for all the extra steps squeezed into my day. I have now exercised in the morning on 9 of the last 10 days with an evening workout on the off-day.

Here’s why I think I have to make this work and rid myself of my chronic Not-A-Morning-Personitis for good.

1) I don’t spend the rest of my day with my inner voice badgering me about how I have to swing an evening workout only to feel bad when I don’t make it happen.

2) I save my hair and the environment by cutting down to a shower a day since the post workout rinse doubles as the morning rinse.

3) I get to catch up on DVR’d episodes of House Hunters because, let’s face it, the 10p weeknight airings of new episodes are just too late for someone who is as tired and as cranky as I am.

4) I don’t have to have the difficult inner debate between choosing ME and my workout to be healthy vs choosing being available for the kids’ bedtime routines to be a good mom.

5) My morning crankiness dissipates during the workout so fewer people are frightened by me when I finally get to work.

6) Post-workout endorphins, which propel me into a happier rest-of-the-morning after am workouts, tend to result in undesired sleeplessness after pm workouts.

7) However, sometimes I still feel like working out again in the evenings and I like 2-a-day workout me much better than Not-A-Morning-Person me.

8) It propels a cycle of positive self re-enforcement; I find myself more likely to engage in healthy work day behaviors like taking the stairs or skipping the bowl of Twix in the ICU when I already feel good about having conquered a morning workout.

9) Who wouldn’t want to see Fitbit’s crazy happy face before dawn; it is one of the few positive digital messages I ever get these days.

10) I will occasionally catch a pretty sunrise.

All you need is a pair of shoes…

When I first started running, a friend of mine was extolling one of its many virtues by stating that “All you need is a pair of shoes.”  Well, that was right up my alley.  I get to buy shoes and that’s it?  Sweet.  I am a shoe shopping expert.  So, I set out to Athletic Annex to go buy my pair of shoes.  I introduced myself, and shared that I was never a runner and had signed up for a 5K.  The sales person was very nice and supportive, and then stated that we could start by videotaping me running.  I literally almost turned around and walked out of the store.  Are you kidding me?!  You want to videotape me and my bouncing post baby belly running?  He obviously noted my stricken face and quickly reassured me it was from the knees down only.  Whew… Once I started breathing again we did the videotaping bit, he analyzed my foot strike and got me into a great pair of shoes.

 Saucony-Ride-6-Medial-Side
A couple of weeks into the couch to 5K program, a personal trainer at my gym was talking to me about my newfound fitness plan and started telling me about the benefits of exercising with a heart rate monitor.  To be honest, I wasn’t really sure about it, but figured I would try it.  So, I bought a Polar heartrate monitor and actually have been very pleased with it.  On my long runs, when my heart rate starts to go up, I know it is time to hydrate a bit more or have something with some calories in it (I’m a big fan of the sports jelly beans instead of the gels).  It also helps me more closely approximate my calorie burn which I use in the My Fitness Pal app.
polarheartratemonitor
Well, about a month after adding my heartrate monitor I was on a run and totally bit it.  I was watching this teenager who actually looked about 12 years old and was so focused on him not hitting me with his car that I literally face planted.  Although I was able to complete my run despite my newly skinned knees and torn running pants, I realized that I probably should start running with my phone.  Therefore, an arm band was added.  Because I was now running with my phone, I added the Map My Run app.  It keeps track of my running workouts, and since it uses GPS, it literally maps my route and calculates the distance traveled and the pace.  
 
My son thinks that my phone is the most fun toy ever made.  It lights up, makes sounds, and is super fun to teethe on.  Sigh.  Since the iPhone is not drool-proof, it now does not play music or transmit sound through headphones.  Running with my phone had spoiled me with my music availability and now used to running with music, I felt lost without it.  I then began “borrowing” my husband’s Ipod mini and using a wristband to have easy access to change songs or playlists as needed.
 
About two months ago, I hit a weight loss plateau.  My weight was Not budging.  I added additional workouts, tried to change up my diet, and nothing was working. One of my friends started telling me about her FitBit One and how much she loved it.  Needless to say, I splurged and got the FitBit One.  And, it really is great.  It tracks steps taken, flights of steps, calories burned, and my (lack of) sleep.  The other great thing about it, other than its ability to sync wirelessly with your phone, is that it links to the My Fitness Pal app.  I log my exercise and food intake into My Fitness Pal and this then transmits over automatically to the FitBit app.  
fitbitone 
So yes, I probably look ridiculous when I run.  I started with a pair of Sauconys, and now have a heart rate monitor, my heart rate monitor wrist band on one side, an Ipod mini on my other wrist, my iPhone on an armband, and my FitBit One on my hip.  My iPhone apps also reflect my increased amount of technology.  I started with My Fitness Pal to log my food, and now have added not only Map My Run and FitBit apps, but also the Pure Barre App.
 
Some people may say all you need is a pair of shoes, but hey, I’ve always liked accessorizing.