Race Report: Old Tucson 4-Mile Trail Run

Coffee up, buttercup. This is going to be a long post.
Coffee up, buttercup. This is going to be a long post.

So this weekend was the Old Tucson Sunrise 4-mile Trail Run.  I signed up for it as a “baby step” between a 5k (3.1 miles) and a 10k (6.2 miles).  Except I somehow managed to not pay attention to the part where this is a trail run.  No wide, smooth, paved paths here.  So I also managed to get my first trail run – ever – in the books this weekend.  Is that a thing I’m interested in continuing?  I don’t know.  I haven’t ruled it out, but it also wasn’t one of those “THIS IS AWESOME AND I HAVE TO DO IT MORE!!!!” experiences.

Anyhoo.  I got there at 7am to secure good parking and get my timing chip.  Then…. I waited.  A lot.  See, because the track is so narrow for the middle two miles, they split this into two separate races by gender.  The ladies went first at 8am, then them men at 9am.  So I tooled around Old Tucson for a while taking selfies and waiting for our turn to run.

Once race time got there, things got awkward.  See, there was also a family 1-mile fun-run at the event, which did the same loop as the first mile of the 4-mile route.  And they did that run along with the men.  So there was lots of dodging around kids, but that’s okay.  At the split-point near the end of the first mile, it was off into the desert along the tracks used by the Old Tucson horseback tours.  Much of it was only wide enough to go single-file and while none of the hills were huge (I’m looking at you, Saguaro National Park East 8-miler and A-Mountain half), there were quite a few of them.  Definitely had to walk a few of the steeper ones.  But I made it through and didn’t biff it, so I’ll call that a win.

I know, I know, get to the results, already.  I finished about where I figured I would.  My personal trackers had me finishing around 43:30, but I also didn’t get to stop them right as I crossed the finish line.  I’m usually pretty good about noticing the big clock at the end of the course, but I just…. didn’t this time.  So from the official results, I actually finished in 42:08.7 for a 10:32/mile pace.  I’m pretty thrilled with that because on most of my runs lately I’ve been just below 12:00/mile.  I finished 168th out of 196 men, and 19th out of 21 in my age group.

Sitting down with coffee and a burrito. Also, TIRED.

After the race, they provided breakfast burritos which were… nothing spectacular but definitely appreciated.  Then we were free to enjoy the park for the rest of the day so I rode the train, went through the haunted mine tour, browsed a few shops which hadn’t been open while I wandered and waited for the race to start, and went home to shower and get lunch.

A finisher is me!
A finisher is me!

Then it was off to Cy’s to have her mom work on my gig vest.  About this time last year, she made us some super fancy clothes for super fancy gigs – which was convenient since we had a super fancy gig coming up.  Unfortunately, that was also when I was at the heaviest I’ve ever been.  We’ve got that same super fancy gig coming up in a couple of weeks, so I figured I should probably try on that vest in case it needed altering since Cy’s mom is in town again.  Yeah… it was a friggin circus tent, but no longer.  She was able to take the vest in by about 12 inches.  I’m excited to have a comparison photo from that gig.

Speaking of the gig and vest, that also meant I needed a new black button-front shirt to wear with said vest to said gig.  So I stopped at the thrift shop on the way home to test my luck.  Grabbed a couple of XL shirts mostly out of habit and… too big.  Tried a couple of Large shirts and wouldn’t you know they were just right!  (Last year, I had to buy a 3XL black shirt for this gig, just for some perspective.)

So then I got home and decided I should probably go through my “too small” bin again.  I tried on item after item and nearly every single one fit.  A few things even went straight into a new “too big” bin.  And my “too small” bin now consists of exactly one tee-shirt and one pair of jeans.  So that felt pretty good.

So that was Sunday.  Saturday was pretty ordinary – gym day, then lots of errands.  Skipped the ParkRun because of Sunday’s race.  (Also, I slept late so didn’t finish at the gym in time to make it to the run.  But I would’ve skipped it anyway.)

Friday was my first meeting with the cookbook club at Bookman’s.  I was really stressing about this because I just didn’t know now to make the logistics of prepping a pot-luck dish in time for it were going to work.  Then I found granola recipe in the featured book and was able to make it a couple of days ahead so Friday I just had to get home, feed the cats, get my stuff together, and get to the book store.  (Also, that granola is good!!!)  They were a lovely group of people, and everyone’s food was delicious.  I’d pretty much talked myself into bailing after this first meeting – largely because of nerves over “new people” combined with stressing over food prep schedule logistics – but I think I’m going to stick it out at least one more month.  Though the next meeting is the same evening as my blacksmithing class, so that may be a challenging schedule.  At least I have lots of time to get to know the cookbook this time around and maybe find another good make-ahead dish.

I think that’s probably more than enough for now. As always, thanks for reading.


Busting More Cycles

So I’m still over here busting cycles.  Gym thing is still going well, which is nice.

Back in December I was lamenting to some of my r/loseit friends that I didn’t have any local running friends.  They suggested I check out parkrun – a social running thing.  I looked them up and it turns out there is a group here in Tucson which meets every Saturday to run a 5k.  So I registered…. then didn’t make it to one of their runs until this weekend.  It was the most difficult 5k I’ve run in a long time – mostly because I went to the gym first.  (Saturday is a gym day, and I’m not willing to compromise that schedule.)  But I made it, I did it, and I even talked to strangers.  I finished 14th out of 25 runners, 11th out of the men, and 2nd in my age category.  (There was only one other guy in my age group and he finished like 10 minutes before me.  So that was less exciting.  But that’s okay.)

Doing that run after putting in an hour and a half at the gym really did suck, though.  Then again, a few weeks ago I was saying that the whole gym before work thing sucked and now it’s just part of my schedule.  So I’ll definitely be giving this another try.  Not sure if that’ll be next weekend or not.  It’ll most likely depend on whether I wake up early enough to finish at the gym in time to get to the park.

Then there’s the blacksmithing.  You’re probably thinking, “wait… what?!?” and I wouldn’t blame you.  A friend posted about a local blacksmithing school having their grand opening party this weekend.  Smithing is something that I’ve been kind of curious about for a while – I fully admit I get sucked into Forged in Fire marathons on the so-called History Channel – but never had the foggiest idea of where to start.  After learning about this school I signed up for one of their beginning blacksmithing sessions happening in March figuring worst case, I’m out some cash to find out it’s not for me.  Then I went to their grand opening party where I got to forge a bottle opener.  Matt was a great instructor, telling me what to do and why I should do it.  He heated the metal and held it on the anvil for me, but every hammer blow was my own.  That was a lot of fun, and now I’m super excited for my actual class in March.


Me and my bottle opener! Sorry for the blurry photo, I thought the goggles where just smudgy when I looked at it in the forge.

Bust That Cycle

It’s been over a decade since he first posted this video, but I’m still grateful to zefrank for the concept of “bust that cycle”.  I’m going to start you with that video for reference.  He gets to cycle busting at about the 1:00 mark, but I’ll go ahead and quote the important bit for those who don’t want to watch the video.  (There is an f-bomb in there later, for those sensitive to that sort of thing.)

“Busting your cycle is where you take one aspect of your life that’s more or less constant and you purposely bust it. By temporarily breaking a routine, you can often experience the world in a very different way. If you bust the right cycle, this shift in perspective can often lead to elation and a sense of possibility.”

So I’ve been trying to bust some cycles lately.  Probably the most obvious would be the whole gym thing.  I was trying to bust my cycles of “not being a gym person” and having fallen out of the habit of doing strength training at home.  That seems to be working pretty well, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve just begun my third week working out there.  Since this was my first gym-weekend when I didn’t have to get to orchestra rehearsals or concerts pretty much right after exercising, I decided to do bust another cycle while I was there this morning.

My membership includes access to these “total body enhancement pods” which look kind of like vertical tanning beds – but I am assured they’re not tanning beds.  (Those are in the next room over.)  I look at these with incredulity every time I walk by, probably mostly because I just don’t “get it” and usually don’t have the time to care.  Today, I decided to give it a go because I had time to spare and… well… what the hell?

So I signed up for the next available time slot, bought a pair of tanning goggles (they require you to have them even though this is not a tanning apparatus), and was escorted to the room containing my weird pod thingy.  Left alone I stripped down to my shorts, put on the goggles, climbed in, shut the door, and hit the “start” button.  Bright lights surrounded me as fans in the ceiling activated.  There are also handles on the ceiling, which an electronic voice prompts you to hold to help with stability.  Then the floor starts to vibrate while generic electronic music is piped in through the speakers.  And…. you stand there.  For like 10 minutes.  Then it all stops, you get out, get dressed, and go on with your life.

red light therapy?

This is my “I just spent 10 minutes in a bright, vibratey tube with fans blowing on my head and generic electronic music playing at me because reasons” face.

I still don’t really understand what it was supposed to do for me and I certainly didn’t feel anything but a bit foolish when it was done.  Some web searching after getting home tells me that these pods use what they call “red light therapy“, which I guess is actually a thing, and there’s apparently research out there stating that it’s beneficial to skin health, weight loss and… stuff.  So maybe I’ll give it a few more tries before writing it off.  I mean, since I’m already paying for the… privilege?

Then I decided to try one of the massage chairs.  (Another benefit with my membership.) At first I really wasn’t sure what to think about being molested by what otherwise appeared to be a comfy chair.  This, on the other hand, is something I could probably get used to and can actually see myself taking advantage of on a more regular basis.

massage chair reaction

This is my “this chair is kinda handsy and I think I’m starting to like it” face.

In other cycle busting news, I’m trying to be (a little) more socially active and (slightly) less hermit-like.  I have learned that Bookman’s has a monthly cookbook club where they choose a cookbook then everyone chooses recipes from it to make and bring to the next meeting.  And I’ve just joined it.  I wasn’t able to make it to their first meeting which was last night, but I’m signed up for next month.  So that’ll be a thing to watch for here.

And once again, I’ve written way more than I originally intended.  So if you’ve made it all the way through, congratulations and thanks for reading.

Sweet 60!!!

It’s taken just over two months – which included Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, an orchestra cycle, and starting a new workout regimen – but I finally hit the 60 pounds lost mark!!!

I was just a tenth of a pound away from this mark at my last weigh-in right before leaving town for Christmas, after which I bounced right back up a few pounds as one would expect when on indulges over the holidays.  Then with my new strength training routine at the gym, I knew my body would hold onto some extra water weight – if not actually gain a bit more – as my muscles healed and acclimated to the new activity.  Which it did.

I’d been floating around the same couple of pounds in the low to mid 220s for the last week and a half.  Yesterday morning I weighed in two tenths of a pound away from the 60-lost mini-goal.  This morning I whooshed right past it by a pound and a half!  So that’s nice.

Also, I finally fit back into all my proper tux pieces for the orchestra.  They don’t fit quite like they did when I bought them – yet – but they fit without busting at the seams.  I took a photo to use as a comparison for our next concert in April.


Then the gym thing.  I’ve just completed week two of the routine that my r/loseit friends call “Push/Pull/Legs”.  I’ve been working to figure out how to make this happen before work on weekdays (without having to get up at like 3am) so it’s done and I don’t have to think about it the rest of the day.  I think I’ve found the “sweet spot” of prep that I need to do to make it happen.  Here’s what my “night before the gym” checklist looks like:

  • Kitchen
    • Assemble breakfast components
      • Could be pre-mixing cottage cheese & hot sauce in a container, pre-portioning cereal in another container to keep it crunchy, and making sure there’s a spoon with my stuff.
      • Could also be something as simple as a Lara bar.  (This is what I did the last couple of days and it made the time between gym and work much more convenient.)
    • Assemble lunch/lunch components
    • Dole out my morning pills into a spare pill bottle
  • Go Bag
    • Exercise checklists
    • Pen
    • Padlock
    • Work clothes
    • Pill bottle from kitchen
    • “Shower shoes” (cheap flip-flops)
    • Towel
    • Shower kit
      • body wash (travel size lives in kit)
      • shampoo (travel size lives in kit)
      • scrubby thingy (either in kit or hanging on bathroom door to dry)
      • q-tips (travel size lives in kit)
      • deodorant (from bathroom)
      • beard oil (from bathroom)
      • hair gel (maybe) (from bathroom)
      • hair & beard combs (from bathroom)
  • Bedroom
    • Set out workout clothes
      • T-shirt
      • Shorts or pants
      • Sweatband

With all that done, I only have to get up about 15 minutes earlier on “gym days” than on “run days”.  I’ll take that.

And speaking of the gym…. I think a girl may have been checking me out a little bit today.  Maybe.  Okay, so here’s what happened.  I get on a treadmill far away from other people (because I’m antisocial like that) and get started with my warm-up walk/jog.  A couple of minutes in, a girl gets on the treadmill next to mine despite there being about a bajillion other vacant treadmills in the room.  Then out of my peripheral vision, I thought I saw her glance over at me a few times.  I just kind of ignored that because my peripheral vision has never been that great anyway.  Or maybe she was just curious about what speed setting I was using.  I don’t know.

So I finished my warm-up, then went to do my core exercises.  Nothing strange there.  Then I go to the TRX jungle gym looking thingy to start on the Pull exercises the trainer put together for for me.  In a break between sets, I happened to look up and Treadmill Girl was using one of the machines in the next area… but one which was oriented vaguely in my direction.

Now, these are most likely just coincidences which my muzzy and uncaffeinated early-morning brain linked together for some inexplicable reason.  And I’m happy to leave it at that unless there’s a repeat occurrence.  One of my r/loseit friends, however, says romcoms have informed him that Treadmill Girl and I “are about to engage in a torrid and hilarious relationship.”  So I guess that’s a thing to watch out for.  Or something.

I dunno.  I’m just going to keep doing my thing and see what happens, I guess.

On trying new things…

In my last post I wrote about joining a gym for the first time.  Now I’m going to write about actually going for the first time.

Technically, I’d been in the building three times already.  First time to check it out and sign up, a second time for orientation and my first one-on-one consult with a trainer, then a third one-on-one to go over the routines she’d put together for me.

Saturday morning, I actually went to Do The Thing.  (That’s how the kids are saying it these days, right?)  I got all the way through the first day’s workout as outlined by the trainer, got into my car to head home, saw the time, and discovered that I’d been at the gym for almost two hours.  I knew I’d been there longer than I had anticipated but… the hell?!?  Later that day, I was chatting online with some of my r/loseit challenge friends about my experience.  I wrote out the routine for them and they weren’t surprised that it took that long.  That was nice to hear, because I was feeling rather negatively about myself.

Today was supposed to be Day 2, but I absolutely failed to get out of bed in time to compensate for another two hour workout.  (Seriously, it would mean getting to the gym around 4am, and that’s all sorts of NOPE.)  So I packed a bag of the essentials to have ready in my car so I could just stop and do it on my way home after work.

Which leads me to my next point:  Making this work.  I hadn’t anticipated adding 2-hour workouts to my schedule.  I’m going to see what it takes to make that work this week and maybe next week, then see about scheduling another consult to discuss possibly combining some of the exercises somehow to cut my time commitment down.  I do need to keep in mind that I’m trying to add these new routines while in the midst of the latest orchestra cycle.  That’s certainly complicating my available time pool right now.  The concerts are this weekend, so next week should give me a better feel for “normal life” with the new workouts.

The other thing I’m having to figure out is what do I really need to have in my “go bag” to be ready to work out then get on with my life?  It’s actually easier on the way home from work since I don’t have to be all that presentable.  As my r/loseit friends advised this morning, I could even just have a sweatshirt or something to put on after working out so I don’t even have to shower at the gym while not worrying about getting my coat all funky.  (At least, while it’s still cool enough for layering to be necessary.)  But I also like having my workouts done early in the day so I don’t have to think about it later.  I’d kind of like to go straight from the gym to work in the mornings, but that requires bringing a fair amount of clothing and toiletries.

So for today it turns out I really just needed my workout clothes.  By the time I was done with tonight’s routine, I just wanted to get home and get dinner into the oven.  And I’m now writing this still unshowered and in my pajamas because I’m getting up to run in the morning anyway, so why bother?  Who am I going to offend?  The cats?  (Yes, I’ll definitely shower after tomorrow’s run.  I’m not the guy who goes to the office stinky.)

Also, and this was something I did NOT see coming, apparently Planet Fitness brings in pizza for their members?  Yeah…. that just feels like bringing a keg to an AA meeting: a royally bad idea.  I don’t get it.  Though I suppose it gives their employees a certain level of job security.

I’ve also found a new running path.  Yesterday was my Long Run day, but it was also raining and had been since the night before.  I knew parts of my usual route would be incredibly muddy, but decided to go for it anyway.  When I got to my first “route decision point”, I decided to try a raised and paved path that I’d seen before but didn’t want to try exploring in the dark.  (I slept in yesterday, so it was light enough to see unaided.)  This path is in only marginally worse condition than my usual route and is on an elevated berm for its entire length, so puddles and muddy overflows are nonexistent.  And it’s further away from the main road, so traffic noise isn’t as loud.  Pretty sure this will become my “usual” path for a while.  I’ll try it again tomorrow when it’ll still be dark out to see how I feel about it.

So I joined a gym

That’s really not a subject line I ever seriously expected to use.  Especially this time of year, as I really don’t want to be lumped in with those “resolution people”.  But my friends on my r/loseit winter challenge team encouraged me to give it a go since I’d mentioned thinking about it.

And why was I thinking about it?  Because I just can’t seem to get my ass in gear to use my DVDs any more.  Now that running has replaced my P90 cardio workouts, I just can’t seem to bother with the P90 strength workouts even though I know that it’s important to keep up with strength training.  If I’m not going to use the tools I have, then I need to look at new tools.  So after lunch today I went over to my local Planet Fitness to check things out.  I chose them because they’re maybe a mile and a half away from my house and are not terribly out of my way home from work.

And now I have a gym membership.  I opted for the slightly more expensive “black card” because it offers some more personalized training options which I think will be helpful – at least as I get started since I’ve never used a gym before.  I’ve booked an orientation session followed by a “help me build my workout” session for tomorrow night, so this may be a thing now.  At least, I’m going to try to make it a thing for the next month for sure, since I’m already paying for that much.

In other news, I was really hoping to hit the 60lb lost mark before Christmas.  I was a tenth of a pound away on my last morning before heading out of town to visit family.  (I did re-weigh right after my run that day out of sheer curiosity and was two tenths of a pound below that mark, but I didn’t count it since that was really just sweat loss.)  Then of course my weight bounced back up a few pounds with holiday indulgences.  I’m well aware that it’s mostly water weight which will fall off as I get back into my usual dietary patterns.  It was just kind of a bummer to not quite make that mini-goal.

The holidays were lovely, even if I did close out my visit with family by coming down with a bit of a cold.  It’s back to work tomorrow, which does not excite me.  Also, rehearsals for the next orchestra cycle start up Friday night, so these next couple of weeks will be busy ones.  Though I’m kind of excited to try on my tux again.  I’m hoping I’ll fit back into my vest and not have to use that stupid cummerbund any more.  We’ll see.

On the importance of perspective

So I had an awful run this morning.  I think I was in the middle of a REM cycle when my alarm went off – which it’s not supposed to do, and which always seems to make exercising extra difficult.  Dragged my ass out of bed, had a sip of water, got into my running kit, and went out to do my thing.

My legs felt heavy.  My lungs felt tight.  I couldn’t seem to find a good rhythm or stride for the life of me.  It just felt. Like.  Shit.

When Zombies, Run! told me I’d made the first kilometer, I could tell I wasn’t going to last a full 5km.  My body just wasn’t going to have it.  So I told myself I’d go all the way to the traffic light – which would be just over 2km – then I could turn around and head home.  Meaning I’d still manage just over 4km for the morning.  By the end of km 3, I was just done.  My legs refused to run any further.  But since I was still basically half a mile away from home I walked it out, upset with myself for not being able to push through it to my usual cool-down walk point, and half-heartedly telling myself “It’s okay.  At least I went out and did something.”

Then I got to thinking about it.  Yeah, it sucked.  It felt awful and depressing and I hated every step.  But you know what?  74 days ago I could not have even entertained the notion of doing what I did this morning.  74 days ago I would have quit before I even got out of my neighborhood.  Hell, 74 days ago I probably wouldn’t have even managed to get myself out of bed until a second or third alarm.

So, yeah.  Shitty runs happen.  (hehehehe…..)  But I’ve also come a long way in two and a half months, and I need to remember that.