Does Anyone Actually Like Yoga?

Runners are frequently asked, “Do you actually enjoy running?” This is a question that I never really understood. Of course we love it! Why in the hell else would we sacrifice hours, money, and toenails for the sport? Well today I took my first yoga course and I left thinking, “Does anyone actually enjoy Yoga?”

I signed up for a summer gym pass and paid the extra $25 for access to all the fitness classes at the UW rec center, mostly so that I could do morning spin classes. During my undergrad at Mizzou I completely took for granted the gym pass included in my student fees and the great list of classes that were available. Determined not to make the same mistake twice, I’ve decided to try out a bunch of the different classes at UW this summer.

This is just the indoor swimming complex at the Mizzou rec center. I didn't even know how good I had it!

This is just the indoor swimming complex at the Mizzou rec center. I didn’t even know how good I had it!

I want to try all of them this month for a few reasons, but mostly so I can avoid classes packed with 18 year olds during the “free week” where everyone tries out the gym, determined not to gain the Freshman 15. This way I can bumble my way through Zumba and Core Crunch, without feeling too ridiculous.

I jokingly blogged about becoming a yogi now that I’ve moved to Madison. Well, lo and behold, today I set off for sunrise Yoga prepared to have my life changed forever, as all those Yoga nuts proclaim. (I apologize for the sarcasm, but fitness freaks are cult-like in their devoutness. CrossFit fanatics, Marathon Maniacs – we’re all the same, we just have different addictions.)

Now let me first preface this by saying that it was a great experience and I will probably, albeit still reluctantly, be going back. So all this lamenting is really just that “I’m new, awkward, and have no idea what the hell I’m doing” phase.

The Powerflow course listing promised “45 minutes of a combination of Yoga and Pilates, with a fitness twist!” “Improve balance and increase joint flexibility!” When I read “Mats provided!” I was even ready to buy in for just two easy payments of $19.99.

The infomercial-esque claims were just that – loosely accurate but kind of a letdown. Refusing to buy into the Yoga culture just yet by buying my own mat (I’ve decided I need to go to at least 5 classes before making that investment) I showed up ready to borrow one of the gym mats. Apparently yogis are typically a max of 5’2″ because mine was heinously too short for me. Having my toes hang off during Downward Dog was just the first comical part of the experience though.

Yoga3

Now here is where my question for Yoga-lovers “Do you really enjoy it?” stems from. How does anyone actually achieve the airplane stance? I felt like a doomed 747, going into a nose dive.

This is way harder than it looks. Seriously, quit laughing at me and try it. Who's laughing now?

This is way harder than it looks. Seriously, quit laughing at me and try it. Who’s laughing now?

Goddess was a pretty cool pose, but with all the mirrors I was worried I might turn into Medusa and scare myself to stone!

Yoga4

But, who can really complain too much when the class ends basically with a nap on the floor as you decompress. 45 minutes later, after more lunges than I’ve done in my life and secretly disguised planks, I will be the first to admit that Child’s Pose is one I can really rally behind.

Maybe if I was doing all this Yoga on the beach like in these pictures it might be a little more enjoyable.

Maybe if I was doing all this Yoga on the beach like in these pictures it might be a little more enjoyable.

The instructor was pretty great though. After class I asked her just what she meant every time she said, “Bring your belly button to your spine” – huh?! “So, do you just mean suck it in?” She chuckled and acknowledged that was the less whimsical way of saying it.

Now that I know some of the secret Yoga language I might feel a little more comfortable during round 2. I can just hope that during Triangle pose all of the other girls in the class were feeling equally as awkward and uncomfortable as I was.

Let’s see if after a few more sessions the claims of improved balance and increased joint flexibility are actualized. I can only hope so, otherwise we’re going to be a plane wreck every time!

  • What were your first experiences with Yoga like?
  • Does it get better?
  • How long did it take before Yoga “clicked” for you and you stopped feeling ridiculous?

Yoga7

Namaste.

While We’re on the Topic of Transitions

Tri1

I recently announced my next endeavor, post-packaged meats, pursuing my MBA at the University of Wisconsin. Other things are changing with the move too, and I am done with being just the “runner girl”. Now that I’ve got a place to live and don’t just have hotels to jog around, I’m going to start diversifying. Now, I have decided to flood my friends and family with updates not just about pounding the pavement, but also about swimming AND biking. That’s right – it’s about time to do a triathlon again!

It has been about a month now since I jumped into my first lap pool and things have been going surprisingly well. I mostly used that swim as an excuse to test out that fancy-schmancy Garmin910XT I splurged on at the Indy Mini-Marathon (–LINK–). Sure enough, it’s waterproof and does a great job counting laps. My first workout I did at most 200 yds straight, without stopping. This week – I did my first mile swim! 1,750 yds!

Screen shot 2013-07-14 at 8.01.58 AM

Admittedly, the segway back into swimming has been a lot easier than biking. Mainly, because I don’t have a bike. Instead, I bought a summer pass for the fitness classes at UW and sucked it up to do my first sinology class since undergrad. It was great, but I felt that was a little like cheating so I decided to test out a real bike.

Madison has a program called B-Cycle all over the city, which allows you to rent bikes for short rides and has docking stations all across town. Tonight I gave one a 12 mile test run, riding past the beautiful Lake Monona and through the UW Arboretum. Sure enough, I knew I needed to get on the real deal – my legs were decidedly more jello-esque after an actual ride than after spin class.

Tri2

I haven’t picked out a triathlon for this fall, so if you have any suggestions – let me know! I am excited to be mixing up my workouts again, not relegated to just running like I had been the last year. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a Yogi too while I’m at it!

Also, if you are on GarminConnect I’d love to connect with you! My username is KGold818

Race Recap: DeForest, WI 4th of July 10k

10k4

I’ve done 5ks.
I’ve done half marathons – lots of them.
I’ve done marathons.

But somehow, the 10k has alluded me these last two years of running. For some pretty silly reasons too.

First, they’re just not as common, so the opportunity hasn’t presented itself as readily as other, longer races. “Why do a 10k, when I can get a heavier, swankier half marathon finishers medal?”

Ok, if that sound like B.S. – you’re right. It is.

Here’s the real reason I was a 10k virgin until yesterday – I’m a BIG FAT WUSS.

See, with the 5k I know what I’m getting into. In the world of long distance running (it’s all about perspective here) the 5k is virtually a sprint. I run 3 miles all the time without stopping. I can handle that. Run it fast – got it.

With the half marathon, which is definitely a long race, I know how to approach that as well. My pacing strategy always comes down to 3 mile blocks, with water/walk breaks at those points. Run it steady – got it.

But the 10k – who knows with that one?! For me, the 10k is perplexing. Three miles is no problem to run, even five miles I can do without stopping. With that background, I feel like the six miles of a 10k should be no problem. Except there has always been a mental block for me. It’s JUUUST long enough to be intimidating to run my heart out for, but JUUUST short enough that I can’t simply zone out for a couple hours.

I decided to man up this week and at the last minute registered for this 10k in DeForest, WI. It wasn’t really motivated by anything other than I hadn’t done a race in awhile and since it is a holiday I figured this would be a pretty fun and lively one. I already needed to do a medium-length run for marathon training, and for $25 it delivered a new course, some comrades, a free t-shirt, and lunch. Not a bad deal.

10k3

Being over enthusiastic, as per usual, I dawned my red, white and blue. Pigtails (yeah, it surprised me that I did that too) flag ribbons, and a blue star clapper completed my ensemble. I figured I would be the “Freedom Fairy” with my little star clapper along the course.

10k2

I assumed I would fit in with the fine freedom-loving folks of DeForest, WI. Doesn’t everyone look for an excuse to get dressed up? Apparently not, because 98% of people were just there in their LuLu Lemon and Nike clothes. DID YOU MISS THE MEMO: It’s Independence Day. Hello! (I was a little disappointed I didn’t even see one person wearing a birthday hat for the occasion. Come on, that would be hilarious!)

I felt like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde showing up to the “costume” party in a bunny outfit, while all the Harvard YoPros (that’s young professionals for all you non-YoPros out there) wore their suit jackets and cardigans. After I recovered from my (very mild) embarrassment I was ready to run.

Let me tell you about 10ks. They’re not that much different from 5ks. Or half marathons. You run. And you do that for about 55 minutes. And then you’re done. I stopped for water, just like any other race, and I sprinted to the finish, just like any other race. Talk about building something up too much in my mind, again – as per usual.

I finished the 10k in 55:28, just south of the 9:00min/mi pace I have been striving for lately! I would have placed in my age group (W20-24) but being a small race the age group I fell into was W20-29. Either way, I walked away with a PR!

Bomb pops at the end - how perfect!

Bomb pops at the end – how perfect!

Having gotten my workout in for the day, I celebrated our nation’s birthday like I’m sure the founding fathers would have wanted us to – with a flag cake! (That’s what they envisioned when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, right?) And yes, I kept the red, white, and blue theme going all day – because I love America, that’s why.

10k

Race Report: Run the Bluegrass – Lexington, KY

Screen shot 2013-03-31 at 8.43.13 AM

I am frequently asked if being on the road, traveling the country in the Wienermobile, has allowed me to check off a lot of states on my Race for 50 States. Sadly, the answer is no. While I get to run in quite a few cool places, because I typically work the weekends I am unable to actually make it to races.

(Of course, there was that one time that Abe met me at the finish line in the company car, I washed my hair out with a water bottle, and then we hauled buns straight to work!) 

I have gotten lucky and squeezed in races in Utah, Idaho, and New Mexico, and now I can add Kentucky to the list with the Run the Bluegrass half marathon in Lexington yesterday.

It worked out perfectly that I was able to make the race. I am actually on spring break right now in Louisville, KY. (That’s right, spring break – we get vacation time from our year long vacation!) Since I had a free place to stay I figured I should probably run Kentucky while I had the opportunity to do it on the cheap. Apparently Easter weekend isn’t a big weekend for races (which is strange considering the need to burn off all those Cadbury eggs) and Run the Bluegrass was the only race going on in the area. It touts being one of “America’s Prettiest Races” and I was sold on all the horse imagery and bourbon references. This is a true “Kentucky” race if there ever was one!

Naturally I tried to corral some friends along. Running pals Tim and Kathy both politely declined after informing me they both got their PWs (personal worsts) at the race the year before. “It’s gorgeous, but you will have just gotten to the top of one hill and not be able to see over the next one,” was all Tim had to say about it when I talked to him at the Mississippi Blues Marathon in January. I also tried to talk my friend David into doing it for his first half marathon. He was smart enough to read the reviews and passed on the opportunity to tackle one of the hardest half marathons in the country as his first.

You would think that at this point I would have realized it was going to be hilly. Somehow it still didn’t really register with me. “Oh all races have hills. It’ll be fiiiiinnnneee.” So I registered in January.

And then, I pretty much forgot about it. Well, I pretty much forgot about running altogether. I put on some treadmill miles here or there, got in a few long runs when I was feeling dedicated, but really only used the word marathon when referring to the massive quantities of time I spent watching The West Wing on Netflix Instant instead.

There was no shortage in youthful arrogance in my approach to this race, and “I’ll just wing it” was definitely my attitude.

I spent the two weeks leading up to the race sick at first and then using beer therapy to cure it the second week. It’s spring break – who needs sleep or exercise? By the time I made it to packet pickup on Friday I was already exhausted just thinking about having to run 13.1 miles on Saturday.

The expo was certainly energizing though. The drive to Keeneland was spectacular – sprawling horse fields with gorgeous barns and fences. It was like driving through a postcard. The claim of being one of America’s prettiest half marathons was definitely accurate.

Made a pun-filled sign for the Wienermobile to encourage runners for the race. What can I say, I'm kind of a corndog!

Made a pun-filled sign for the Wienermobile to encourage runners for the race. What can I say, I’m kind of a corndog!

The best part of the expo though was meeting Hal Higdon. I used his plans to train for both my half marathons and my full marathons, so I owed the guy a thank you. Not just on behalf of me, but all my running friends and family who also used him as a resource. I know he gets that all the time, but who doesn’t love hearing thank you? I wanted to show him an even bigger gesture of gratitude with a ride in the Wienermobile, but we never did get to “ketchup” for that!

RTB6

The next day, after less than quality Zzzzs, I headed back to Lexington. There was heavy fog and absolutely no traffic – it was eerie. I started to actually freak out when a mile away from the race there were still no cars in sight. Was the race actually at Keenland, where packet pickup was? Did it start at 8 a.m., not 9 a.m.? What’s the deal!? Turns out all the traffic was coming from the other direction. Apparently traffic (and the fog) was so bad they had to delay the start by 15 minutes. There was some sighs about that at the start line, but we got some motivational words from Hal Higdon that kept the enthusiasm up.

Spotted in the parking lot at the race start. I hear this guy runs half marathons.

Spotted in the parking lot at the race start. I hear this guy runs half marathons.

Weather for the race was spectacular! I was afraid I would be too cold and had actually switched from shorts to capris. That was a great idea while at the start, while I was shivering, but it was so sunny and bright out that during the race I almost could have gone back to the shorts! It was probably 50 degrees without a cloud in the sky.

RTB10

The weather is a lot more fun to talk about than the race though. Holy Hills! Why didn’t anyone tell me?!?! … Oh wait, they did! It wasn’t one or two big hills, it was hill, after hill, after hill, after hill, after hill. Get the point? The hills just kept coming!

This was the quietest race I have ever done. For 13.1 miles there was almost no talking or cheering. Everyone was so focused on tackling each hill that no one could spare any extra energy for pleasantries! At the end of the race I talked to one woman who said she counted 42 hills. I couldn’t believe she counted, but she said she literally had nothing else to focus on!

Had all my "peeps" cheering me on during the race. Too funny for an Easter race!

Had all my “peeps” cheering me on during the race. Too funny for an Easter weekend race!

I got exactly what I was looking for out of this race though – a true Kentucky experience. The scenery was beautiful. I had forgotten to start my watch and so I spent more time enjoying the scenery than looking at my Garmin, like I am occasionally criminal of. Horses were out frolicking in fields the entire race, clearly enjoying their flat pastures more than our hilly half marathon. Farmers had their tractors out hard at work. We inhaled the smell of horse manure as we climbed to the top of the hills. This was exactly what I wanted for the race, an experience I couldn’t get in another state … horse poop in the road and all!

(I wish I had pictures from the course, but I was worried if I stopped moving to take pictures I wouldn’t be able to get moving again!)

Uhh. Race photos - who really knows what is happening in them. I guess I was "wink wink - nudge nudgeing" the photographer. Credit to "Novice Photo Guy" who was just testing his camera. Great work!

Uhh. Race photos – who really knows what is happening in them. I guess I was “wink wink – nudge nudgeing” the photographer. Credit to “Novice Photo Guy” who was just testing his camera. Great work!

At mile 11 I did make one friend, a dentist from Nashville. I told him I had been pacing myself off of him the whole race. “If I can just keep up with the red shirt guy” I thought to myself over and over again. (You know that strategy.) Apparently the pacing was mutual. We pushed through the last two miles together. Of course, I had to ask if he had ever worked on any famous teeth, being a Nashville dentist and all. He said that yes, he had had several noteworthy mouths over the years! (Apparently he is not the kind of dentist who sells cavity stories to the tabloids and I didn’t get any juicy details of which country singers forget to floss!)

RTB12

The race ended and I felt a swell of pride having earned my membership to the Run The Bluegrass PW club. I didn’t bomb too badly and finished with a 2:07:37, a time remarkably close to my first half marathon. With all those hills and all that training I didn’t do, I walked away with my medal pretty darn pleased.

The only horse photo I have from the race, but trust me - there were plenty more!

The only horse photo I have from the race, but trust me – there were plenty more!

In addition to being a gorgeous race, the finishers food was equally eye-pleasing. Shot glasses filled with M&Ms (I’ll take three please!), cookies, and chocolate milk!

RTB2

The middle schooler in me was delighted with lunch that day!

RTB9

I had planned to stick around Lexington and see the city a bit, but was too wiped out from the day that I elected to head back to Louisville for a nice long shower. That turned into three hours just laying in bed. I wasn’t really doing anything – just laying there. Yeah, it turned out to be one of those days. Could have gone for a post-race massage, that’s for sure!

RTB1

With a proud Personal Worst and a great ass from all the hills, I have officially checked Kentucky off the Race for 50 States!

Screen shot 2013-03-31 at 8.58.57 AM