Naptown Smackdown recap

This weekend I competed in my first crossfit competition, Naptown Smackdown, hosted by my gym Crossfit Naptown (CFNT). I’ve been doing crossfit for over two years but have never signed up for a competition because there are still some moves I can’t Rx (perform as prescribed without scaling) that tend to show up in competition programming, like unassisted pull ups.

CFNT hosts the Naptown Smackdown each year to give all its members a chance to experience the competition environment regardless of their skill level. Athletes can scale the workouts as needed but only those who Rx can advance to the finals. This was the perfect the opportunity for me to get exposed to the competition setting and push myself to Rx as much as I could.

When they announced the workouts the night before, I was super excited because it was all moves I can Rx! They were going to be tough workouts but at least I had a chance to see what I could do.

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WOD 1
This was a burner! I watched some YouTube videos for tips on getting in and out of the clips quickly but it all went out the window during the WOD. My main strategy was just to keep moving and ignore the fact that my lungs were on fire. I would probably tackle the burpees differently if I did this one again since I got a little dizzy with my spin move action.
Score: 69 calories

WOD 2
This is one of those workouts where strategy becomes crucial. Breaking up reps early, doing push jerk even if you can press it to save energy, taking a few extra seconds to make sure you are set before you attempt to go overhead…there are so many small, quick decisions that can dramatically affect how well you do in a WOD like this.

My goal was to get through the set of 85# and have time to attempt the next weight up. Unfortunately I didn’t do a lot of the things I mentioned above. I rushed through the lighter weight. I stayed with push press at 65# even though doing push jerk would have conserved some energy. I wasted a couple attempts overhead at 85# because I didn’t take a moment to breath first. I will definitely try this one again and remind myself that 7:00 is longer than you think so chill out and be smart!
Score: 80 reps

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WOD 3
To quote my dad’s commentary in the video, I was struggling early on with the jump rope. While warming up, I did them unbroken but just got too excited or nervous at 3-2-1-go. I made up some time in the other movements luckily and was pretty happy with my pacing overall. My legs were total jello by the time I got back to the jump rope though.
Score: 260 reps

Lessons learned/takeaways
I wasn’t really sure how to mentally prep for this versus a race. Similar to picturing each mile on the course the night before, I walked myself through each WOD and tried to strategize.

I also wasn’t sure how to fuel for this versus a race. Doing three WODs in one morning is a totally different animal. A few people told me to eat right after each WOD even if I wasn’t hungry and drink lots of water of course. I followed that advice with a KIND bar after the first WOD and a Clif bar after the second. I felt like my energy held up relatively well throughout the morning.

If I do another competition, I need to do a better job of calming down between WODs. I had a lot of nervous energy before the first one and was just super excited to cheer everyone else on and be part of the whole thing. I don’t even remember sitting down much.

We don’t have mirrors in the gym so it’s interesting (and super weird) to watch these videos and see these pictures. I definitely have some room for improvement on my form. But it was kind of cool to see myself doing the same weights and moves as everyone else. I’ve been trying to push myself to Rx more in class and stop doubting myself and selling myself short. I may not be able to do an unassisted pull up, but there’s a lot I can do and this was a nice reminder of how far I’ve come in the last two years.

It was great to have my dad there cheering me on! He got to experience firsthand why I love this community so much and get a glimpse into the crossfit world and what we do during workouts. He’s a runner so we always talk about my training for races but this was a foreign world to him.

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Overall Naptown Smackdown was an awesome experience! I learned a lot, pushed myself and had a blast. I would definitely recommend all CFNT members sign up next year!

Have you done a crossfit competition before? What tips do you have for rookies? If you participated in Naptown Smackdown, what was your favorite part? What would you say to other CFNT members to get them to sign up? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

 

An unforgettable London holiday

The idea that you can summarize London in a blog post is ridiculous. The notion that you can capture a city so big and vibrant and alive in any number of words is preposterous. A city that sits on top of seemingly infinite levels of underground trains constantly whirring back and forth. A city where you can go to a different pub for lunch and dinner every day for an entire year and not even come close to eating at them all. A city with so many unique neighborhoods and districts intertwined in such a way that you can experience a completely different scene by walking 10 minutes in any direction.

Sure, I could give you a laundry list of things I did and places I went while spending a week in London. And I may still do that by the time this post is done. But it won’t do it justice. It won’t even come close.

I suppose I should back up and explain how I ended up in London. My friend Amanda had planned the trip with someone else who unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute. On December 12, I booked my flight and less than two weeks later, on Christmas Day, we were off. It might seem crazy to book an international trip on such short notice. But when you make travel a priority in your life, saying yes to an opportunity like this is a no brainer. (Practical side note: I already had the time off work.)

Since being back, I’ve had a hard time articulating my favorite part. It wasn’t one thing or place, but rather a feeling. I immediately felt super comfortable in London. Of course no language barrier helped, along with my pre-trip Google Map stalking and natural sense of direction. But it was more than that and different than my previous trips abroad.

I felt like we were there, not just visiting. Walking around, taking the tube, drinking pints at a pub (all the pubs)…it all felt so natural and like something I could do every day forever. Our Airbnb flat contributed to that a lot I’m sure – a two-bedroom flat just east of the Tower of London past St. Katharine Docks. It was so nice to be able to spread out, cook a few meals and feel like we were locals. You just can’t get that same experience in a hotel.

It ended up being sort of a weird time to visit London. We arrived on Boxing Day, an official holiday and also Amanda’s birthday. A lot of places were closed, not just that day but at odd dates and times throughout the week. That didn’t decrease the number of tourists though. The lines at all of the major sites were crazy. We walked by each attraction but skipped the long lines and high admissions prices to keep walking and take in more of the city.

And take in the city we did! We walked through almost every major area on both sides of the river. I promised not to do a laundry list but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note some of the highlights and include a gallery of pictures (below). If you want more recommendations, I’m happy to provide the full list of restaurants/attractions/etc in the comments.

  • I keep a list of states I’ve ran in and was super (nerdy) excited to add a country! The Thames Path provided a great route and I witnessed a pretty incredible sunrise over the Tower Bridge.

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  • High tea at the Tower Hotel – I was apprehensive since I don’t drink tea but I quickly learned it’s about so much more than tea. It was a fancy, fun experience with delicious food and unlimited Prosecco.

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  • Harry Potter nerd moments – I made the pilgrimage to Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. We also stumbled upon Leadenhall Market one morning before it opened. A little eerie but awesome and I later learned it’s where they filmed some of the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley scenes.

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  • British Library – this is one of my must see recommendations. They have original manuscripts from DaVinci and Shakespeare. Beethoven’s handwritten symphonies. The piece of paper the Beatles wrote “Yesterday” on. The first known use of italics in print. It was incredible and admission was free!
  • Train to Windsor – as much as we loved the city, this day trip was a nice change of pace. The castle was interesting but even better was venturing to Windsor & Eton Brewery. I loved learning about their brewing style versus the U.S. while sampling generous half pint pours. And the staff was so friendly!

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  • And of course counting down to 2015 in another country was pretty cool. We opted for an 80s theme party at The Minories and had a blast dancing in the New Year.

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The complete gallery:

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Read 26 Indy

When I was 10, my Papa Charlie and I were out shopping and came across one of the thickest books I’d seen up to that point: The Book of Virtues by William Bennett. Clocking in at 800+ pages, he joked about how no one could finish a book that long and I defiantly stated that I could. We left the store and I thought no more of it.

Read26IndyFast forward to Christmas that year when Papa Charlie hands me a heavy present: The Book of Virtues. Wide-eyed and excited, I immediately started reading and was finished within days.

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I’ve always been a voracious reader. If it’s a particularly good book, I will completely immerse myself in the story, only occasionally coming up for air. There’s just something about a good book that takes you away from this world. I love movies too but it’s different. Maybe it’s because the characters and scenes can materialize in a number of ways in your mind while reading a book, whereas you are forced into one interpretation while watching a movie.

As much as I love reading, it’s become more and more difficult to carve time out of my day for it. That’s why I was excited to learn about the #Read26Indy challenge and use it as motivation to make reading a priority again.

The goal was simple enough: Read 26 books by the end of the year. I learned a few things on my adventure through 26 (well, 27) books in 2014:

  1. I wish I would have kept a running list of books I’ve read throughout my life. I can’t even imagine how long it would be, not including the books I’ve read multiple times.
  2. I’ve also started a running list of books I want to read next and ones recommended by friends – something I also wish I would have started a long time ago.
  3. When I find an author I like, I tend to read everything by them. (ex: Kate Morton, John Green)
  4. I know there’s a lot of debate among purists about the Kindle. I have an overflowing bookcase in my bedroom and love it. But the Kindle is just too convenient, especially when traveling. For my part, I did a mix of both in 2014. Indy Reads Books is a fantastic shop on Mass Ave that supplied more than a few of my selections.
  5. For the first time that I can remember, I gave up on a book. I got about 100 pages into Anna Karenina, which is on almost every “must read classics” list, before realizing I was forcing myself to get through each page. Reading should be fun, not work. Unless it’s literally for school or work of course. Sorry, Leo.
  6. I didn’t love everything I read (see above) but the challenge reminded me how much I love and miss reading. In my limited free time, mindless Netflix marathons can take over (and are so necessary sometimes) but I need to keep reading a priority.

So, onto the list. If there’s anything you want recommendations on, drop a note in the comments and I’ll let you know my thoughts.

  1. Allegiant
  2. If I Stay
  3. The Husband’s Secret
  4. Where She Went
  5. The Distant Hours
  6. One More Thing
  7. Looking for Alaska
  8. The Corporate Creative
  9. Honey Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner
  10. The Complete Graphic Designer
  11. Graphic Design Solutions
  12. The Mill River Recluse
  13. The Secret Keeper
  14. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  15. My Sister’s Keeper
  16. Black Chalk
  17. A Life Without Limits
  18. Mrs. Dalloway’s Party
  19. The Awakening
  20. Madame Bovary
  21. This Is Where I Leave You
  22. The Forgotten Garden
  23. The Children Act
  24. Yes Please
  25. Paper Towns
  26. Rain Girl
  27. The Gradual Demise of Phillipa Finch

Did you participate in #Read26Indy? What did you take away from the experience? What was the best book you read this year? The worst? Have you ever given up on a book?

48 hours in Nashville

For the last three years, I’ve gone down to Asheville for Siblingsgiving with my brother (2011 and 2012 recaps). He moved back to Indy so we did the family thing Thursday but wanted to make the most of the weekend and go somewhere. Our criteria: Close, cheap, fun, new. We settled on Nashville, Tenn. We aren’t big into country music but we’re up for adventure and several friends have visited and loved it.

We stayed at Nashville Downtown Hostel. It was budget-friendly and perfectly located just blocks away from the main strip. The staff was very friendly and helpful and I loved hearing so many different accents in the lounge and hallways from international guests.

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Our tourist to do list wasn’t very long, partly because we didn’t have much time, partly because we wanted to save money and mainly because we had zero interest in the Country Music Hall of Fame-type stuff. We visited the Parthenon before checking in. It’s incredibly random, especially having been to the real thing in Athens, Greece. You can walk around the park for free but it’s $7 to go in and see Athena.

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As an art addict and design lover, I was really excited to visit Hatch Show Print. The tour is $15 but worth it to learn about the history of the shop and see the letterpresses up close. Their motto is “preservation through production” as they aim to keep the art of letterpress alive.

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My brother’s goal was to “get weird with some locals” and that we did Friday night. I’ve heard the city referred to as Nashvegas and I can see why. Broadway Street is lined on both sides with bars that all have live music. We hit up Rippy’s open air second floor (horrible drinks but fun band), the rooftop at Tootsie’s (awesome view of the strip), Tequila Cowboy (because I wanted tequila) and the rooftop at Acme Feed & Seed (more awesome views and a great DJ). The country bands weren’t so bad but I was definitely more in my element at the last two spots. We danced our asses off and ended the night at a hot dog stand so it was pretty perfect.

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The hot dogs were delicious as were the rest of our meals. Broadway Brewhouse offered classic pub fare with a Cajun twist and some local brews of course. Jack’s Bar-B-Que served up some savory meats. The cheesy potatoes in the brunch buffet at Puckett’s were unreal. And by far the highlight of the trip was Merchants, where we enjoyed seasoned popcorn, duck fat tater tots and mac ‘n cheese with fried chicken on top. Total food coma.

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To offset some of that, I did manage to squeeze in a three-mile runsploration Saturday morning across the Cumberland River pedestrian bridge and around LP Field where the Titans play. Tennessee is the 13th state I have ran in to date!

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All in all, Nashville definitely lived up to the hype and we barely scratched the surface during our short, budget-conscious trip. Not sure where we’ll end up for Siblingsgiving 2015 but it’s got some big boots to fill.

 

A monumental PR

I already wrote at length about where my head was at the week of my fourth half marathon. The short version: I was stressed, exhausted and convinced I would fail. Fast forward to the morning of: I woke up smiling, dancing and ready to race.

The weather conditions weren’t looking great. I prefer cold temperatures but was worried about the wind. It ended up being about 30 degrees with 15 – 20 mph winds. I planned on wearing a throwaway shirt but also bought some throwaway gloves and a head wrap for my ears at the expo Friday. At the last minute, I put on a scarf, intending to toss it at the start but ended up wearing it for the first mile. I lost the gloves in mile three and wore the throwaway shirt all the way through mile 8.

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My plan was to start out somewhat fast but not too crazy. Fellow runner Meggie and I talked about this at one point during training – negative splits are ideal but if you start out too slow, it can seem impossible to get up to where you need to be later in the race. My goal was 10:40 for the first mile and work my way down from there.

I clocked in at 10:20 as we passed Lucas Oil Stadium but decided to keep going strong. In mile three, my Garmin was acting super weird and said I ran an 11:45 mile, which I knew wasn’t right. I decided to ignore my watch at that point, listen to my body and gauge where I was at compared to the running clock at each mile marker.

With every mile, I realized I was running pretty consistently close to a 10:00 pace. Part of me was nervous I had gone out way too fast and would crash in the second half. But part of me was super excited, felt great and told myself to settle in and hold on as long as I could.

I made it to Meridian Street, which all Monumental runners love and dread as you know you’re in the homestretch but it’s a straight shot for about 2.5 miles til the final few turns. I couldn’t believe I was still maintaining my pace and realized for the first year I wouldn’t get passed by the full marathon leaders.

At 13th and Meridian, I saw my friend Julia and her band. I got super excited and shouted at her, then yelled at myself to conserve my energy for the final grind. I can’t tell you enough how much it means to see friends out on the course. If you have runner friends, I encourage you to get out and cheer them on.

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Once I turned onto New York Street, I couldn’t wait to get to the end. All the fears about failing were washing away with each step I took toward the finish line. I dug in and gave it all I had into the turn onto West Street. I heard my family screaming for me, gave them a big wave and sprinted across the finish line.

2:11:09

That’s 5:29 faster than my previous half and a 10:01 average pace. INSANE. My goal was 2:15 but I thought maybe if everything came together perfectly I could get close to 2:10. My race was about as perfect as it could have been. Sure, I maybe could have pushed it harder in the last few miles to shave off a little but I was ecstatic with that time.

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As always, I have to give a big shout out to my friends and family who supported me, listened to me obsess over each training run, talked me off the ledge that last week and braved the cold to greet me at the finish line. I may have been running alone but you were all with me every step of the way.

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What’s next?

I’ve got the Derby half in April, which will be my first out-of-town race. I’m sure there will be some smaller races between now and then. And now that I have access to treadmills at my company’s fitness center, I’m hoping this will be the first off season I actually maintain my base (like I always say I’ll do…).

People keep asking when I’m going to run a full. I’m always looking for the next challenge and that’s certainly next up when it comes to running. I’m just worried about the time and energy it takes. I was really stressed out this training season balancing a busy work schedule, travel, and more and that and was just for a half. I don’t know that there will ever be an ideal time to train for a full though so I may just have to get over it and sign up for the Monumental full in 2015… (!!!).

Did you run the Monumental? How was your race? What’s next for you in the off season?

Reset your mindset

Motivated. Self-driven. Competitive. Intense. Obsessive. Freak of nature.

These are all (accurate) words that have been used to describe me.

While these traits have contributed to many of my successes, they’ve also contributed to a stupid amount of pressure I put on myself.

Enter running.

When I first started running, I was happy just to run one minute without stopping. Then a mile. Every run was amazing because it was something I hadn’t done before. Eventually I got crazy and signed up for a half marathon. My goal was survival and there was zero pressure (Check).

But of course me being me, I didn’t stop there. I immediately signed up for the same race and set my sights on running the whole thing without walking (Check). Then I got greedy and wanted to PR for my third half (Check). Tomorrow I will run my fourth half and my goals are even loftier based on how fast some of my training runs have been. It’s going to take a lot of work and pain to get there, but if everything comes together, I have the potential to get a major PR.

But I also have the potential to fail. This training season has been one of the craziest for me. I got in all my long runs, even going up to 11 miles for the first time in training. But I missed some mid-week runs because of my busy schedule. I had an amazing 9-miler but a super shitty 10-miler. Every day I vacillate between knowing I’m going to crush it to thinking it will crush me.

This week in particular has been crazy. Super busy at work and I had a last minute trip to a conference yesterday. I was worried about flying too close to the race and knew it would be a long 24-hour trip. But I got excited mapping out my final two-miler on the Hudson RiverWalk overlooking NYC across the bay.

My flight was delayed and I had to reschedule to fly out early the next morning. I had a bit of a pity party on the drive back home. I was exhausted, worried about missing my last run and bummed about potentially not getting to see NYC for the first time.

In that moment, all I could envision was sucking during this race. But what if I did fail? What if I didn’t PR? Would anyone even care? Would they be disappointed or let down? Realistically, no. The pressure is 100% self-inflicted.

There’s a lot you can’t control in life but you can control your attitude. And as quickly as I can get negative, I can get pretty majorly positive. I woke up yesterday morning dancing to Bruno Mars in my head (yup) and decided it was going to be a good day. I’d get through this work trip, sleep in Friday and reset my mindset.

The conference was great and re-energized me with a lot of takeaways I’m excited to share with my team. At lunch I snuck out to see the most amazing view of NYC. And when I got home, I was surprised to find a package from a running friend with a Mizuno hoodie and the sweetest note. It was a long, exhausting day but it was a good day.

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I’m going into tomorrow ready to race. Ready to give it all I’ve got and leave everything on the pavement. I will repeat positive mantras for 13.1 miles: “Run smart. Run your own race. You’ve done this before so you know you can do it again. Remember how good that 9 miler felt and channel that. Get to Meridian Street and grind it out. Don’t stop running and start booty poppin when Ms. New Booty comes on.”

Will I be disappointed if I don’t PR? Of course. I’m me (see above traits). But if I give it my all and stay positive, that’s all that matters.

Barbells for Boobs 2014 campaign

Last year everyone’s generous donations combined to help me raise $2,000 for Barbells for Boobs. That paid for 25 people to get mammograms who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. I completed the crossfit workout “Grace,” lifting up all the women in my life (and theirs!) who have been affected by breast cancer. It was a day I won’t soon forget! You can read all about it here.

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My gym is participating again this year on October 18 and is part of the National Pink Bra Tour because we raised so much last year. Unfortunately I will be out of town but this cause means so much to me that I’m committed to raising funds. And one of the coaches has agreed to stand in for me and do the workout twice that day if I hit my goal. That’s how much Crossfit Naptown supports this initiative!

I know a lot of people complain about October and breast cancer awareness. They are over everything turning pink and wonder how donations to “awareness” efforts impact any real change. What I love about Barbells for Boobs is that your money goes directly toward prevention. Every $80 raised funds one mammogram and as you likely know, early detection is critical with breast cancer.

I hope you’ll consider donating and sharing with anyone else who might be interested. Any amount you can give is greatly appreciated!

Here’s the link to my fundraising page: https://fundraise.barbellsforboobs.org/fundraise?fcid=339204