Monday, November 28, 2011

Running for Life: Helping the Runner, Helping the Community

Welcome back from the Thanksgiving Day weekend! I hope you have all survived your food comas. I know that it was a bit rough for me to get out of bed this morning and drag myself to work. It was also a bit tough to get on the scale! Luckily, there wasn't too much damage done. I'm still averaging 3+ hours of workouts per week for the month of November, so that's good news!

Today's post is actually a guest post (a first!).  I was contacted by Jackie Clark a couple weeks ago who wanted to share her message of running races for charity. It's a worthy message to share!

"Like most Americans I had struggled with my weight since I was in middle school. I was always the girl picked last in gym class and never played sport because frankly I was too heavy. It wasn’t until after college and loosing a close friend that I decided to get into shape. I started running. I ran and I ran, I was running as a way to clear my head and in the process I was shedding those unnecessary pounds. I finally realized that I could combine my weight loss efforts and fight cancer at the same time. I started researching various marathons and found dozens are out there. I started slow with half marathons at 13.1 miles and am still working my way up to a full marathon. My plan is to run in the Golden Gate Triathlon in June of 2012.

As a new marathon runner I knew what it was like, raising money, training hours a day, and having the emotional stress of every day life as well. Due to this, I decided to change things up and step out of my comfort zone yet again. I had the idea to organize a charity run for a close friend who passed away from cancer. Below outlines the steps needed to organize an effective and profitable run.

The first thing to do is to take inventory of the people who need to be involved in the planning stages. This can include everyone from running partners, business associates, or owners of companies interested in sponsoring the run. These people should plan to meet at a specific location at a certain time and discuss logistics. Perhaps over a series of several meetings, these people should discuss how many people to plan for, what charity to support, and the day of the event. Having companies sponsor the race can be a huge boon for both advertisers and for the event runners. If the event is going to be somewhat smaller, it may be best to simply charge each runner a registration fee, and use the proceeds to support overhead costs and the charities themselves. Law enforcement should also be notified of these plans, to account for any possible obstructions or limitations.

Picking a charity to run for can be a challenge in and of itself. Breast cancer is often a popular choice. If the organizers wish to donate to this charity, there may be trademark issues associated with the famous pink ribbon and certain expressions. Obesity is also a popular cause, partially because running is a solution in and of itself. With over 60 million obese Americans, this issue is the number two cause of preventable death across the country. Less well known is the disease of mesothelioma. This malignant cancer occurs in individuals exposed to asbestos, which was at one time thought to be harmless. This tragic illness can suck thousands of dollars from individuals seeking treatment, and any money given to such charities is definitely going to a worthy cause.

Once size, cost, and all the other logistical factors are set in place, promotion becomes the biggest issue. Unless organizers are trying to limit the size of their event, getting everyone and every company who would be interested is advisable. This means going to local newspapers and TV stations, scouting for volunteers, putting up flyers in athletic supply shops, or even just putting up flyers around town. Sponsorships are always a great way to add publicity and acquire donations as well as other free goods, such as water, hats, towels, or other items.

On the day of the race, there will most likely be observers as well as runners. Whoever shows up, it is important that they be handled respectfully. The most important aspect of a run is enjoyment, and with proper planning, this will happen on its own. Hope to see some of you across the finish line!"

Unlike Jackie, I haven't yet ran a race for charity, but after talking with her I am certainly tempted. SO many people are affected by cancer and other illnesses and I need to do more to help out.

Have any of you readers ever ran a race for charity?  What was the hardest thing about it?  What was the most rewarding part?  Can't wait to hear about it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Las Vegas Ragnar Relay Race Recap (a whole month late!)

Apparently I needed one month to reflect on the awesomeness (awfulness?) of this race.  This one was a doozy.  Ragnars always have a bit of drama, and this race (for me) was chock full.  Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

Our team's name was To Hell & Back (foreshadowing...?) and I was in Van 1 with Miss Jess.  It was a super fun van to be in.  The great thing about Ragnars is that the atmosphere really makes the pain and misery of the runs totally bearable.  It's worth the pain just to have the fun!
Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 011
Everybody dance now!
As you can see, we were all business in our van.  Serious applicants only.  No funny business allowed.
Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 019
Starting line!
 The starting line is always a fun place to be.  The setup is awesome and gets you pumped to being the event.  The safety briefing (while a bit long) is usually pretty funny.  It's also a blast to watch the starting line and see the different waves take off.  One team that started at the same time as us stripped down from their button up shirts and pants to nothing but a bow-tie and a speedo!  It was pretty freaking sweet.

I was runner #6 and my first leg was a mostly downhill leg.

I started around 11 am and it was getting HOT outside.  Vegas heat in the desert is nothing to mess around with!  I was thankful for the canyon breeze that I had.

Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 180

 This leg was my easiest of my three runs, but that doesn't mean it was easy for me.  This was my first run after my marathon (yikes) and I was nervous about my IT band.  Thankfully, that wasn't an issue for me the entire race!  My pace had slowed from my pre-marathon days, but that was to be expected.

What wasn't expected was my janky heart rate.  It was through the roof!  I normally don't track my heart rate during my runs because it doesn't matter much to me.  However, a little over halfway through this leg my heart started hurting bad enough that it almost felt like I was having a heart attack.  I ignored it for a while (because I'm a genius) and just kept running.  However, it eventually got back enough that I decided to walk and check out my heart rate to see if something was up.  Sure enough, my heart was pounding at over 195 beats per minute.  Considering my max is supposed to be 193, I wasn't really happy to see that number.

I begrudgingly walked for a while so that I could let my heart rate recover.  However, after a minute or so of walking my heart rate remained unchanged.  I typically have a good recovery rate, so this was really shocking.  I don't know what was wrong, but my heart stayed up above my max for the rest of the run.  Finally I got so frustrated that I just said "screw it" and picked up my pace.  I realize this is completely illogical, and I'm working on it.  One day it just may kill me.

I had about a quarter mile left of my run (and was really feeling the pain) when I looked up from my misery and saw not one, but TWO familiar faces! Rachelle and Julia had passed by in their van while I was running and decided to hop out and run into the exchange with me.  I cannot tell you how happy I was to see their smiling faces.  They seriously saved me.  It was the boost I needed to get me to the finish line and back to my team.  These girls are seriously so sweet and amazing.

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Rounding the corner on the exchange!
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Smiling with my heroes after finishing!  Love these girls!!
Overall, here's what this leg looked like:

Having the high heart rate left me exhausted, so I was glad to settle into the van with some AC blowing on me.  I drank a whole bunch of gatorade to make sure I was properly hydrated, and then settled into a relaxation while we waited for Van 2 to finish their legs.

My next leg was during the night, which I was extremely grateful for.  As you might have guessed (by the run before), my body doesn't do so well during heat.  It seriously screws me up.  Because of that, I was thankful to be running at night in temps around 65 degrees.  My second leg was a slow and moderate uphill.  I hadn't done any hill training (oops) but figured that I could power through it because I had a good base from my marathon.  

This leg ended up being my best leg.  Even though my pace was slower than leg 1 (due to the uphill), I felt the strongest on this leg and it wasn't misery.  It ran through the outskirts of Vegas in some smaller communities.  There was one turn we took that I was convinced was going to take me straight into the heart of the ghetto at night, but it ended up being sketchy for only about a block.  I was mostly by myself on this leg, so I was thankful for that!

The only frustrating part on this leg was when I was a quarter mile from the exchange and the volunteers started giving directions.  Usually, this is a super good thing but in my tired state I found myself a big bugged.  


Well, the first volunteer said, "You're almost there!  It's just up and around this corner!"

Once I rounded that corner, there was another volunteer: "You're here!  Just up the stairs now!"

(My thoughts at that moment: "STAIRS??  WHY????  WHY WOULD YOU ADD STAIRS???")

After I finished the brutal stairs, there was yet another volunteer: "Okay, just up this hill and you're there!"

By that point, I was having a hard time trusting the volunteers, but I could actually see the exchange at that point so I knew I was finally at the end.  It was rough going up the stairs and then having to climb a short but steep hill.  I wanted to walk SO badly on that last 100 foot stretch, but my pride kept me going.  Nothing like a mob of 100s of runners to keep you going!  :)

Overall, leg 2 looked like this:

Glad my heart rate had calmed down a bit!

After my leg, we went to the next major exchange and curled up in our sleeping bags and tried to fall asleep. I'm not going to lie; this Ragnar was the most brutal of the three I did this year, and one big reason for that was the serious lack of sleep.  I usually average 3-5 hours of sleep per Ragnar, but this one left me with less than 2.  That was not ideal.  Oh well--I knew I would be sleep deprived when I signed up for it!

When we got the call that Van 2's last runner was on the road, we hurried and packed up our gear to finish up the last of the night runs.  It was about 3 am at this point.  Jess had a brutal uphill run, but she totally rocked it!

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Nothing but a sea of reflective gear!
After she finished her leg, we were greeted with a lovely sunrise over the Las Vegas desert.  Desolate but beautiful!
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Pretty, even though this desert later tried to kill me.
We then decided to update our van and cross off the legs we had ran.  This is always such a nice moment.  Such a sense of accomplishment!
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Normal face...
Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 247
....NOT so normal face!  I can't help myself!
As the other runners in my van finished up, the temperatures were once again steadily rising.  I began getting really nervous for my last leg, which I knew was going to be the hardest of the bunch due to it being a straight uphill:

I do not like elevation gains like this.
I'm not gonna lie.  This leg was brutal.  Worst run I've had in over a year.  It was hot.  It was dusty.  It was a steady steady uphill.  I felt awful within the first few feet of the run.  Those who have ran Ragnars before know that leg 3 is brutal on your legs; they are so saturated with lactic acid they just don't want to move.  That's bad enough.  However, the dust was really screwing with my lungs and I just couldn't get in gear.
Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 276
This is the only photo from this leg where I am smiling.  It's totally a fake smile.
There was a LOT of walking.

I kept trying to push myself to move, but it kept getting harder and harder.  I felt off.  Really off.  I couldn't get my breathing right.  I was in trouble.

I was less than 2 miles into my 6 mile leg and I was really struggling.  My van had just given me water and checked on me to make sure I was okay (they had seen the walking).  I told them I was hot and that I would be fine.  Famous last words, eh?  

Anyway, as they drove off they asked one last time, "Are you sure you're okay?"  Stupidly, I lied and said I was.  As I watched them drive, I suddenly felt my lungs constrict.  It's the feeling that I dread more than anything.  As much as I tried to lie to myself, I knew I was starting to have an asthma attack.

Now, I've been running for over a year now and haven't had an asthma attack related to running in that time.  Beating my asthma was my main motivator for choosing running as my workout activity.  It hasn't been an issue with me in so long that I no longer carry my inhaler with me on runs.

Yeah.  Think about that.  I'm in the middle of the hot desert having a massive asthma attack with absolutely no inhaler and no one around to help.

Pretty much the scariest moment of my running life to date.  

I just couldn't get it under control.  I was gasping for air and coming up short.  By this point, I had long given up on any hope of finishing this leg.  I just wanted to get to my van (where I LUCKILY had my inhaler by sheer chance) and get some oxygen in my body.  I'm not going to lie; I was pretty freaked out.  I knew my van was likely to stop to cheer for me again somewhere around mile 4 of my leg, which meant I was a good two miles away from safety.  That doesn't sound very far, but when you can't breathe and you realize you are going to have to cover that distance before you can, it is REALLY far.  I couldn't run.  I could barely walk.  My pace was something like a 17 minute mile.  If you do the math, that means it would be 34 minutes before I could get my freaking inhaler.

So awesome.

After about a mile of this, I was so freaked out I decided that maybe I should just try and run for it.  This, by far, was the dumbest decision I made during this race.  Seriously.  I don't even know what I was thinking, except that I must have just been realllllllly desperate.  Running just made it ten times worse (duh).  By this point, I'm sobbing.  Asthma is scary, kids.  And when you are without your saving inhaler, in the middle of the freaking desert, it's super scary.  I was freaked.  So yeah....lots of tears.

Luckily (so very luckily), right as I was about to pass out, a gentleman runner caught up to me and said, "You are clearly not okay.  I'm going to walk with you until we can get you some help."  There wasn't much he could do for me, but having company with me during this ordeal was greatly appreciated.  I just didn't want to die alone in the desert with the cacti.

Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 283
This was nearly my final resting place.
The landscape that I had previously thought was desolate and beautiful became straight up terrifying and ugly.  I just wanted to get to my van!  

I had a glorious moment when I crested a hill and saw my white van about a half mile off.  I knew I was so close to safety.  By that point, I had calmed down enough to get my breathing somewhat steady.  I was feeling okay enough that I sent my hero on ahead of me to finish his run.  (He seriously was a hero--he is a Naval Commander in the Marines and does a whole bunch of other awesome stuff.)

Unfortunately, my brain must have been mush because when I got close enough to the van I realized (with quite a bit of dismay) that it definitely was NOT my van and that my van was still nowhere in sight.  Talk about disheartening!  I had even ran (again--so not smart) to get to this van after my hero left me, and so I was once again in a full out asthma attack.  Awesome!

FINALLY, I got caught up to my van.  Apparently my runner buddy had found them and let them know I was struggling.  They were just getting ready to turn around and come get me when they saw me approaching.  Jess ran out with some fluids to give me, and I was SO HAPPY to see her face and know I was going to survive. 

I dug through the van, and after a brief panic, finally found my inhaler in my bag (I had thought it was in my purse).  It took a lonnnnnng time for my breathing to finally be consistent.  That was officially the longest asthma attack I have ever had.  And scariest.  I have no intentions of repeating that disaster again.  I had never ran in dust before, and apparently it is a big no-no with my lungs.  Lesson learned!

When I reached my van at mile 4.15 and the leg was a total distance of 6.1.  I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to get my asthma under control enough to be able to finish, and I'm pretty sure my van wasn't about to let me try.  One of the runners in our van volunteered to finish up the last of my leg (seriously--this is a big deal since all the runners were done but me and we were all ridiculously sore).  It was good to have someone so ready to take my place, but I have to admit I was incredibly disappointed to go out of the race on such a bad note.  I've never had a DNF in my life.  Big bummer.  I know it technically doesn't count since the Ragnar race isn't ran like that, but I must admit it was a big hit to my pride.

My team was awesome though.  They couldn't have cared less that I didn't finish or that my pace was crap.  They were just glad I was okay.  They took excellent care of me, and once all our runners were done we went to our hotel and celebrated.  Running aside, this race was so much fun.  Our team was incredible, and not one person had a bad time. 

Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 298
Will I run Ragnar Las Vegas again?  Probably not.  Clearly the dusty roads are not my friend, nor the heat.  The scenery was the least pretty out of the three Ragnars I've done, and I don't feel a strong desire to do this one again.

Will I run a Ragnar again?  You betcha!  The new Colorado one would be amazing!  And I would love to run Northwest Passage as well.  Ragnars are the best!

They also have some pretty sweet bling...

Awwww yeah! 
I had three medals waiting for me at this finish line!  One from finishing the race, Deuces Wild from running Florida Keys and Vegas, and Saints & Sinners from running Vegas and the Wasatch Back.  I do love me some medals!

I also love this girl and was so glad she could be part of the crazy adventure with me!  She is the BEST!
Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 313
Friends for LIFE!
Vegas (the city) is also pretty sweet to look at once you've showered and recovered enough to actually enjoy it:
Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 329

Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 343
This water show is so much cooler in real life!
So there you go.  If you read through the entire thing, you deserve a big award!  I mainly write these recaps for my own memories later on, although this is one race I probably could use some amnesia on!  :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unintended Self-Sabotage (aka the time Costa Vida burned me)

Dear Jillian Michaels:

...we are fighting and, also, I might be in love with you.


How is it possible to love and hate someone so much?  I'm not sure, but that's how I feel about Jillian Michaels.  I love her workout because it truly gets my heart rate up and keeps things interesting, but I HATE her because when I am in the middle of one of her grueling workouts it hurts so bad that I am literally swearing at her in my head.  And yet I keep going back for more.

I'm in week 3 of the 30 Day Challenge and so far it's going great.  I've been consistent in my workouts and have been tracking my calories.


Speaking of...

HOLY CRAP.  I had myself a rage meltdown yesterday as I was logging calories.  I think I've figured out one of the reasons I've been not losing and/or gaining weight over the  One of my very favorite meals to eat is the Costa Vida Sweet Pork Salad (small).  I seriously eat it at least twice a week.  There is a Costa Vida close to my work, and it is seriously delicious.  And healthy.  Well, as healthy as a fast food option can be...

Anyway, it's my go-to meal when I don't have something prepared beforehand.  I've been using My Fitness Pal (username: sugar4becky--add me!) to track my calories on this bad boy :
I felt pretty good about the 746 calories for lunch because I typically have a small breakfast and a smaller dinner.  Anyway, yesterday I decided that I should double check that number to make sure it was accurate. Unfortunately, Costa Vida doesn't list all of the calorie contents for their menu items.  They have some, but not the meal that I eat.  However, Costa Vida has a competitor her in Utah called Cafe Rio which is pretty much identical.  Seriously.  And Cafe Rio is nice enough to have very detailed nutritional info on their website, so they get big points from me on that.  After perusing the calorie contents, I added up my salad and came up with this:

  • 6" Tortilla:  150
  • Rice:  130
  • Pinto Beans:  150
  • Sweet Pork: 120
  • Lettuce: 5
  • Tortilla Strips: 150
  • Cheese: 30
  • Pico: 20
  • Guac: 50
  • Dressing: 130 
TOTAL:  935 calories.  

Now, I realize this is only a 200 calorie difference between what I've been tracking and what I've been eating, but considering that I have been relying on that difference to add up to weight loss, I was kinda pissed!  Also, I was seriously shocked at how many calories those blasted tortilla strips they put on top have in them.  I will be ordering without in the future!

My new salad order is going to be no tortilla, no tortilla strips/cheese, and no pico and guac (simply because I don't like onions).  That will bring the new calorie content to 535 calories which I feel really good about.

Eesh.  Learn from me and double check the calorie counts on user submitted uploads!


There is lots of talk surrounding plans for Thanksgiving and how to properly prepare for it this year.  My plan is simple: one long run in the morning (hoping for 10 miles but depends on the knee) that will offset the extra calories I plan to consume.  I don't want to go overboard eating (no one likes that feeling of near-vomit), but I do want to enjoy the tasty eats that come only once a year.  So that's my battle plan.  Hubster is also going to join me for part of that run, so I'll have some great company!


Note to Michelle (from Michelle Does Germany): I already miss your blog and it's only been private one day!  If you read this and haven't limited your blog to just family, I'd love an invite: bringingbeckyback [at]  I hope everything is okay!

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm Not Dead case you were wondering.  Just horribly busy and sidetracked.  And dare I admit, unmotivated to post?  I've been kicking butt at my 30 day challenge, but just can't seem to get myself to write about it.  Perhaps it's because I'm frustrated that the scale continues to climb even though I've been more on track than ever?  Perhaps...

Anyway, just know that I'm not dead and that I am working out hard.

Also, this one time I ran a race in Vegas and had an asthma attack on my last leg and had to quit and have someone replace me.  It was awesome.  And by awesome, I mean not so awesome.  Perhaps someday soon I'll actually get down to telling you about it?  Maybe once my pride heals completely...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

30 Day Challenge--Do you want in?

Las Vegas Ragnar Relay 313
It's about to get real.
Jess and I have a wager.

A 30 day challenge, if you will.

Three hours of exercise per week (at a minimum) over the next 30 days or else.

 (We haven't determined the "or else" yet...but the threat of it is enough to keep us motivated)

Doesn't matter the type of exercise, as long as it gets done.  I'll be doing the workouts from Jillian Michael's Making the Cut book, so wish me luck on that.  This strength training has been a loooooong time coming and I'm excited to get started.

Care to join us?  

(Email me at bringingbeckyback [at] if you want some moral support!)