Saturday, March 30, 2013

Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon

Today, Seth and I drove to West Hartford Connecticut to take part in the Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon. Seth had made a New Year's Resolution to run a 10K (6.2 miles) this year. We decided to do the 1/4 marathon for his resolution. At 6.55 miles, it was just over the 10K length.

The race was with the Hartford Track Club, which was the group I had done my Half Marathon with. I had been impressed with how organized and fun that race was and thought this would be a good first time experience for Seth. Plus, the race was only $25 each and included a tech shirt and finishers medal, a nice bonus, especially for a significant race.

I started off the day by having a pre-race breakfast of watermelon and toast with nut butter. I decided to try my toast with the Wild Squirrel almond butter I had received in my Kona Kase. The almond butter was chocolate sunflower seed flavored, and very interesting. There was a very strong sunflower seed taste and just a hint of cocoa. It was quite pleasant, although I wish that the sunflower seeds weren't so overpowering. The nut butter did do a great job filling me up for the run.

After breakfast, we headed out of the house and towards Connecticut. We arrived at the UConn Health Center around an hour before the 10:00 a.m. race start time. We had to park our car at the Health Center and were then bused over to the MDC Reservoir, where the race was to take place. Everything was very well organized, and we were able to immediately get on a bus and take the five minute drive to the reservoir.

The race volunteers had everything very well set-up. We were quickly able to check-in and get our bibs and shirts.

In addition to having a quick check-in, the race organizers very intelligently had a bag check. This was especially helpful because we had parked so far away. The day was lovely and sunny with only a mild breeze and temperatures in the upper 40s. Because of the bag check, I was able to keep on my very warm Nike Slouchy Sphere Hoodie (which I'm basically obsessed with) until the race started.

I was very excited for this race for a couple of reasons. First was that this would be the first long run in my new Altra sneakers.

More than that, I was very excited that this was going to be Seth's longest run ever. I had planned with Seth prior to the race to run the entire race with him. I was hoping to help keep him feeling motivated and upbeat during the race.

At around 9:55 a.m., we congregated at the starting line for the race. We planned to do 10:1 run to walk intervals during the race and keep a moderate pace, so we started more towards the back of the pack.

After some brief announcements, we were off! The 1/4 marathon course took us on a loop course. The course took us along a bike path that went through the forest and along the reservoirs. We ran the loop twice to complete the 6.55 miles, so we got to see the course twice. The run featured some gently rolling hills. Most of the run was paved, but there were a couple of spots where they were doing a bit of maintenance work and we had to run on a little bit of dirt. 

I have to commend the Hartford Track Club. As with the course for the Half Marathon, this course was very picturesque. We didn't really have to worry about traffic (except bikes). It was lovely to see the reservoirs and forest.

Seth and I averaged a 12:00 minute mile for the race. I had a wonderful time running the race with him. The pace was slower than my standard 10K pace, so I was really able to enjoy the race on a different level. I got to appreciate the scenery even more and have fun watching other racers and listening to my music. I had thought that I might not like doing a course where you have to run the same loop twice, but it was good to do the course once and then do it again knowing what was coming up. We continued around until at 1:18, we crossed the finish line.

Seth did a great job finishing strong. He had a great race and was very excited at the end. Running 6.55 miles for the first time was such an amazing accomplishment -- I'm so proud of him.

After the race, we met up with Dad, Lisa, and Greg and had a lovely lunch at Dad's house. We then headed back to Amherst tired from our busy day out. Lily helped us unpack. (She was very helpful.)

We continued to celebrate Seth's longest run by trying another sample from the Kona Kase, Tcho Chocolates. There were two milk chocolate ones and two dark chocolate ones. The dark chocolate ones were probably my favorites, although one of the milk chocolate ones (the blue one) tasted almost exactly like Cadbury. 

We had an entirely wonderful day. I definitely think we'll do the Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon again again in 2-14. Our next race will be a 5K held the last Sunday in April. It's the Daffodil Fun Run and is going to be in Amherst. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kona Kase

Last night, a special treat came in the mail, my first Kona Kase. Kona Kase is a subscription service where, for $15/month, you receive a box filled with nutrition samples.

My first box came filled with awesome things!

The box also included a card which detailed the eight items that I received. There is even a place on the card to rate the products so you can figure out what you want to try again.

As you can see, this month's case included lots of nut butter based products and even some candy (see Suncups and Tcho). A bunch of these products offer discounts if you purchase more of them after trying them in your Kona Kase. 

I love nut butters and eat peanut butter on toast for breakfast regularly. I can't wait to try the almond butter (with a hint of cocoa) included in the Kase. There was a good variety of food bars including a Clif Bar, Brubar, and Perfect Foods Bar. I decided to kick off my Kona Kase experience by having the Brubar for breakfast. 

I would give it a 3.5 on the 1 - 5 scale. It was pretty tasty and a good consistency comprised of rolled barley and malt. I'm not crazy about malt flavor, but this was light, so I actually found it pleasant.The bar had a good blend of carbs and protein and kept me feeling pretty full all morning, a definite plus. The Brubar is marketed as an energy bar, and I can see why; it contains more sugars than I would normally eat in the morning, but it would probably be fine for exercise. Definitely a good product. I especially likes the short ingredient list.

This afternoon, I had need of a 3:30 p.m. pre-evening workout snack. I chose to try the Perfect Foods Bar Mini as it clocked in at just 100 calories. I'd give this product a 2.5 on the 1 - 5 scale. The bar was a bit too sweet. It had the consistency of almond butter, which I found to be not firm enough in a food bar. The ingredient list was massive. It was all things I know, like fruits and veggies and the nut butter, but it seemed to me to be a lot of stuff to put in such a tiny bar. Was I really getting any fruit or vegetable benefits or were the bit so small as to not even matter?

All in all, the Kona Kase is proving total fun! I have a three month subscription. I love getting mail and trying new things, so this is a very exciting experiment. I would definitely recommend Kona Kase -- they seem to have great attention to detail with how they put together their boxes, they include fun samples and snacks, plus it's a good value. If you're into trying out new things, this is the way to go.

If you'd like to try Kona Kase at a discount, you can use this link to get 50% off your order. I totally recommend it. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Superhero Scramble

It's official: I've found a new obstacle course race (OCR) to replace the Tough Mudder -- the Superhero Scramble. The event is a four mile course which looks to feature a ton of fun obstacles such as:
- Climbing a wall with ropes
- Crawling through mud under wire
- Jumping into water from a pier
- Scaling cargo nets
- Slidding down a slime-covered slide
- Climbing a rock wall (like bouldering)
- Transversing an expanse of water on a plank
- Leaping over fire
-Navigating piles of tires
The attitude of the race seems a bit more fun and fancy free than the super tough attitude of Tough Mudder (no electric shocks included) and should be a huge blast! The website says the course should take around ninty minutes.
How did I pick this event? Easy; there was a deal for $33 for the 9:30 a.m. wave of the race on LivingSocial. For $33 (plus a $9 fee with registration) I was able to sign-up. That's super cheap, especially compared with the $140 for Tough Mudder.
Also, at four miles, it won't require the intensive training that a Tough Mudder would. I should be able to be successful with doing some running along with the strength, bootcamp, and sports style training I'll be doing when I start P90X. This will be great because I can jump into the P90X program right when I'm done with Les Mills Combat and still feel like I'll be ready for the OCR. I'll probably do P90X evening after work and do some running around 3 days a week at the gym.
The Superhero Scramble is going to take place on Saturday, June 8 and is in Amesbury, Massachusetts, about a two hour ride out East from Amherst. I got Seth a $15 event pass (all these OCRs charge to bring guests, usually between $15 and $30). There will be food and live music for him to enjoy as he watches me take part in the race (and takes lots of pictures). It should be fun all around -- I can't wait!
To celebrate finding and registering for this new event, I made yet another drink from my book Green Tea, the South-of-the-Border Watermelon Iced Green Tea. I think it's my new favorite (tied with the pear and watermelon green tea smoothie).
The South-of-the-Border tea features watermelon, cinnamon, brown sugar, and cream soda. When you first sip you taste the cream soda, then the watermelon, and finally the cinnamon. It's sweet and spicy.
I've already made it twice, once for my mother and once for Seth. This would be an extra pleasing summer beverage. I definitely plan to make it again.

Les Mills Combat: Combat 60 Live: Ultimate Warrior's Workout

Today I checked out the last program on my Les Mills Combat schedule, the Combat 60 Live workout. As the title conveys, this workout was filled while the Les Mills Combat team was doing a live workout in the UK. Similar to the other Combat 60 workout, the entire DVD clocked in at under the 60 minute mark -- this workout was closer to 50 minutes than a full hour.
Along with the Combat 45 workout, I would have to say the Combat 60 Live workout is my favorite from the set. I found it be probably the most challenging and enjoyed that they incorporated some moves I had not seen before. Like the Combat 45 workout, I felt this DVD offered more of a "true" martial arts feel and did the best job blending the most disciplines.
The fact that the workout was filmed live was kind of fun and did give the workout added energy. I found it to be rather funny that the workout was done with lights strobing, but the people at the live event seemed to enjoy it.
This workout included a lot of the punching and kicking sequences that were familiar from other workouts. There were a couple of stand-out sequences though that were different. My favorite was a very challenging Capoeira round. It was great to experiment with the very different and fluid movements of Capoeira, which I think are the most different from all the other martial arts we do in Les Mills Combat. The Capoeira sequence had us doing a lot of leg movements in a lunge and shoot lunge form. These were coupled with side kicks. All the moves were done with bent legs meaning that you kept all your weight loaded onto one legs for a very long time -- this really worked my legs.
I also really enjoyed that fact that we did a lot of Karate blocks paired with decoy switch jumps. This was a lot of fun. It was great getting to do a lot of Karate blocks in sequence (as supposed to just doing them as an isolated movement, as is the case in some of the other workouts). The decoy switch was a new move and a great addition.
There was a very excellent Muay Thai round with lots and lots of knee strikes. This definitely kept the heart rate up. Overall, this workout probably was the most challenging cardiovascular workout of the set. There were very few breaks and many of the moves were done at a fast pace. I think that the overall intensity of this workout was a little bit higher (probably because it was live) than some of the others. I definitely appreciated that it was a little more challenging.
The workout ended with a segment on the floor featuring around five minutes of push-ups and ab work, similar to what you see in the other Combat 60 workout (although this was a bit easier). We then went into a great cool down. This cool down featured a really neat Kata and some Thai Chi movements, which I found very interesting and relaxing. (It also made me slightly interested in Thai Chi.) This was a great addition to the workout and a fun change from the traditional stretches that the workouts finish with.

Monday, March 18, 2013


It's my birthday! And we've been celebrating all weekend (albeit in a relaxed way as I continue to get over my cold).
The fun started on Saturday when Seth and I traveled into Northampton so that I could pick up some green tea (Gold-Flecked Emerald Tips from Tea Trekker). I was out, and I wanted to make another smoothie from Green Tea. This time, I chose the green tea, pear, and almond horchata. This smoothie included iced green tea, pear, banana, grapes, and almonds among other things.
For once, it came out looking just like the picture in the book!
It was totally delicious -- very cool and refreshing. The almonds added an excellent grainy texture (to match a traditional horchata which is supposed to have a grainy texture from nuts or uncooked rice). The banana flavor is most prevaling when you first sip it, but you can definitely taste the pear towards the end. I was so pleased with this one, that I have another cup of green tea chilling in the fridge to make this smoothie again today. And boy do I need a healthy snack. This was the weekend of eating!
Exciting meal #1: Saturday night dinner at House of Teriyaki. I've been dying to go here again for ages. I got my favorite, a spicy Korea dish called, Spicy Kalbi Tang.
Exciting meal #2: Lunch at Johnny's Tavern with Dad and Lisa. I had a grilled cheese with avocado and tomato and truffle fries.
Exciting meal #3: Red velvet pancakes made at home by Seth! I had special requested this for my birthday from a recipe I found online (that included cream cheese butter to go with the pancakes). Red velvet cake is my favorite cake of all time and one of my favorite foods, so I was very much looking forward to this decadent dish.
Here are some pictures from the process.
Seth did an absolutely amazing job. They tasted just like red velvet cake.The pancakes and cream cheese topping were so rich that I was only able to eat three (semi-small) pancakes.
After all that indulging, it's salads and exercise for me this week. Fortunately, I've been able to get back into doing my Les Mills Combat workouts now that my cold is mostly resolved. I continue to absolutely love them -- doing the Combat workouts is a blast!
I still have not gotten to the point on the schedule when I get to do the Combat 60 Live (and I still have to check out the bonus Combat 30 Live DVD I got for being a Team Beachbody member). I'm looking forward to checking out those two new workouts. For now though, the Combat 45 is definitely my favorite. I love the variety of different martial arts disciplines included in that workout.
I was also very very lucky to get a super exciting fitness gift from Dad and Lisa for my birthday, P90X! (Lily, my coach, who sits in front of the television to supervise every exercise program I do, is also excited.)
I plan to get started with P90X when I finish up Les Mills Combat at the end of April. I did open the package though and explore the contents.
Like all of the Beachbody programs, they do a very nice job with the materials. Included with the dozen workout DVDs that make up the three month program is a nutrition guide (which, as always, I probably won't follow) and a guide to the program. I think these guides are absolutely wonderful. I loved the Les Mills Combat one which outlined all the different martials arts and also highlighed which moves you'd see in each workout.
P90X's fitness guide does the same thing. The guide includes a fit test, which you should be able to pass to start the program. (I'm good to go.) It also includes three options for the workout schedule: classic, doubles (where you do two workouts a day), and lean (a slightly easier, more cardio-focused schedule). I'm planning to do the classic schedule. My cardio is quite strong, so it's the resistance training, more heavily featured in the classic schedule, where I should really focus my attention. This guide also features write-ups about each DVD in the program and lists all the moves you'll expect to see in the workout.
The workouts are a mix of strength, cardio, and flexability, but definitely with a focus on the former. The workouts are:
1. Chest & Back
2. Plyometrics
3. Shoulders & Arms
4. Yoga X
5. Legs & Back
6. Kenpo X (which I expect to be awesome at after Les Mills Combat)
7. X Stretch
8. Core Synergistics
9. Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
10. Back & Biceps
11. Cardio X
12. Ab Ripper X
I'm looking forward to trying out this amazing program and will definitely blog my thoughts on each workout.
As part of getting this program, some equipment is required. The first set of things you need to have are weights / resistance bands, which I'm all set for. I have, however, been wanting to get a new set of 10 pound weights for use with Les Mills Combat and thought they would be helpful for P90X too. The other equipment that is recommended is a chin-up bar. While it seems you can do the workout with just the weights, a lot of the moves seem to involve a chin-up bar. I've been kind of wanting a chin-up bar since it got heavily used in the Back & 6-pack workout in Asylum 2 (and I had to do the modifications with weights). This was the excuse I needed.
Today, I made a trip over to the local Dick's Sporting Good and came back with some new stuff.
The hand-weights are obviously all set, but there was some assembly required for the bar.
The bar went together in a fairly straight-forward way and seems to be fine with our door.
My house is almost a fully servicable gym!
For now, I'm off to make smoothie #2 of the week and enjoy the rest of my twenty-eighth birthday. I'm thinking it should be a good year.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Catching Up

It's been a little bit of a while. I should add that I've had one monster of a cold. This led to about two straight days of sleeping and, obviously, no work. Moreover, I've had to take a few days off from my exercise routine. Bummer. I'm still feeling a bit under the weather but am hoping to get back on track this weekend. I want to catch up with the Les Mills Combat workouts I've missed and also get in some good runs before the race on March 30.

In additional bummer news, I'm beginning to think the Tough Mudder is out. As you may recall, after they changed the date of the Boston race I was signed up for from May to June, I had requested that they transfer me to the New England race in August. Though I made this request in early February, I was told to wait until March 1 to get my reply.

March 1 came and went, and I had still heard nothing confirming my transfer. I ended up looking up the customer service information and sending an e-mail detailing how I'd like my registration transferred. (I would have preferred to call, but they only provide an e-mail address for customer services; no phone number.) After a few days of waiting, I received an e-mail reply stating that they had issued a refund.

What!? That wasn't what I asked for at all. I considered going and just registering for the New England Mudder on my own, but the price had not increase from what I had paid back when I signed up for Boston in January. Honestly, at this point I was super annoyed and emotionally tired from all the back and forth about the event. I still definitely want to do a Tough Mudder, but I might need some time to get "un-annoyed" from the bad customer service.

For now, I'm going to focus on trying out the 5K obstacle course race that I'm signed up for this April. We'll see how it goes and take it from there. I have options out there other than Tough Mudder if I want to try a challenging OCR or, perhaps, in time I'll find that my desire to try the race will beat out my annoyance. To be determined.

On the plus side, and completely off topic, last night, Seth and I had an amazing experience at the Fine Art Center at UMass where we got to see the Joffrey Ballet! They were, in a word, amazing. I'm sorry to say that I was still pretty sick last night and was unable to stay for the entire show. I saw a good 2/3 of it though (which was more than the 0 of it was thinking I might get to see).

Because the show was pretty packed, we had crazy seats up in the top balcony, a two row stretch of chairs directly under the ceiling of the very tall concert hall. Seth, who does not like heights was really quite nervous. These pictures might give you an idea.

Regardless of the seats and being sick, I loved seeing the Joffrey. They performed four numbers: In the Middle, Somewhere Elevated; Lacrymosa; Son of Chamber Symphony; and The Rite of Spring (this last one I didn't get to see). 

I had seen a documentary on Netflix about the Joffrey, so it was very exciting to get to see them in person. I loved getting to see the blend of classical ballet with modern elements, which I feel is the trademark of the Joffrey. 

The first piece, In the Middle, Somewhere Elevated was absolutely mesmerizing. It featured heavy percussion, and the dancers moves were very much inspired by the music. I loved the very classical elements that then were quickly broken with a wild movement. This was an ensemble effort with several featured dancers.  

The second piece, Lacrymosa, was a very short solo male performance performed to Mozart. In contrast with the sharp movements of the first piece, this was much more fluid feeling. 

After a brief intermission, we got to see the final piece of the night for us, Son of Chamber Symphony. This is a completely new work, first performed by the Joffrey while they were at Jacob's Pillow this past summer. I was very excited to get to see something so recently created. The piece started out seeming like it was going to be very much classical ballet -- the curtain opened on a ballerina in a tutu. Soon new elements were thrown in, which added a modern twist. The second movement featured a classic pas de deux. The final movement was more a corps de ballet piece. Throughout, things were almost traditional but then... not. It seemed like a comment on classical ballet with allusions to classical works. 

Everything about the Joffrey was excellent, and I was very sorry to miss getting to see The Rite of Spring, especially since it's such a famous work. 

Last weekend, right before getting sick, I had some time to try another tea drink from Green Tea. This time it was Seth's pick, and he selected a strawberry green tea, which used strawberry daiquiri mix for flavor. 

The recipe called for just mixing the tea with the daiquiri mix for an iced tea, but I wanted a little more of a smoothie effect (albeit with ice, not yogurt) and decided to use the blender.

The result was very tasty and Seth's favorite of our efforts to date. I personally found that the strawberry flavor overpowered the tea a bit too much. I still think the pear, watermelon, and matcha smoothie I made earlier this month was my favorite.

Whew -- I think that catches us up on everything. I plan to relax all evening so I can be 100% recovered from this cold and enjoy my birthday celebrations this weekend. More to come on that. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Les Mills Combat: Combat 60: Extreme Cardio Fighter

Today I cheated. Instead of waiting for week three of the schedule to do the 60 minute Les Mills workout, I did it today. I'm a day ahead in the program, so I figured I could fit it in. I'm so glad I did -- the Combat 60 workout is definitely a keeper.
The workout is primarily led by Rach and Dan who alternate segments, however, two other trainers also got to do a segment each, which was a nice bit of variety. The entire workout clocked in at around 55 minutes.
We started the workout with a dynamic warm-up focusing first on our upper body with some boxing moves and then on the lower body with some TKD moves. I like the functional warm-ups that I've seen on all the Les Mills Combat workouts, as I definitely feel they prepare me for what's to come while not being too intense at the onset.
Today's workout seemed mostly inspired by boxing and TKD. There was also some Karate and Muay Thai thrown in. Most segments seemed to alternate between an upper arm heavy segment and then a lower arm heavy segment. As always, I was very impressed with how much leg work was included in the workouts.
Overall, the workout featured a lot of boxing segments as usual. These involved quick movements with the hands. We did a lot of lateral shuffling, which got the heart rate up. We also got to do some shoulder fakes, a new move.
My favorite segments were the leg segments. One section had us doing twelve side kicks and then sets of front and back kicks. This was great work for the legs. Another excellent segments was one that incorporated hand and foot work and featured a jump front kick. I absolutely love front kicks and found this to be a lot of fun.
More than most I felt that this workout had a mixed martial arts feel. Many of the segments would add in a move or two from Karate, such as a block or Karate punch. This was added to the boxing and TKD elements. We also got to see some moves I remember from The Basic DVD but hadn't done yet, such as the punches that you throw over the shoulder (I forget what they're actually called) and downward punches. I have yet to really see many of the Capoeira and Jiu Jitsu moved yet. We did one Capoeira move once and have done no Jiu Jitsu as far as I can tell. I'd really like to see these martial arts get more heavily added into the program especially since they're the ones with which I'm least familiar.
Throughout the workout we were definitely moving consistently, and I always felt engaged. I liked the inclusion of some power moved and running segments to keep the heart rate up. Again, I think that these workouts have some of the best leg work I've seen. I find that lots of kickboxing-style workouts are very upper body focused and mainly featured punches with only the occasional kick. I can say that this is definitely not the case for Les Mills Combat, and I'm super glad about that.

The workout ended with a brief five minute resistance segment before the cool down. We did push-ups followed by circle push-ups, which I assure you were quite the challenge. We then did crunches followed by circle crunches. We performed two sets of each. While these seemed easy at first, I definitely saw that they were building in difficult quickly.
The workout ended with a good stretch that focused on the lower body. I finished the workout feeling energized. I had a great time, felt like I work my body, but was not exhausted. Definitely a fun workout!