2014: The year of Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder is becoming more and more popular as the years go on, each year more people are becoming aware of it and each event has increasing numbers of participants every year.
So, ”what is Tough Mudder?” few people may ask. Well, it’s a mud filled obstacle course designed by the British special forces, typically 10-12 miles in distance which vary’s on location. It’s designed to challenge you with a lot of the obstacles involving an aspect a lot of people fear such as fire, heights, enclosed spaces and electricity. Sounds crazy right? It is! But it’s also an immense amount of fun if you’re with the right people. Tough Mudder is all about team work.

I’ve wanted to do Tough Mudder and been ready for it since 2012 but had a couple of things held me back :
1. Couldn’t find a group of people crazy enough to join me.
2. Severe Knee injury.
That was until this past December (Yay!) I was lucky enough to find an awesome group of people that welcomed me onto their team to join them at  Diablo Grande in April and although still in recovery from an injury a couple more months of taking it easy my Knee was well enough for me to take part.

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Team Skid Marx

After months of excitement the day finally came and I won’t lie, I was actually pretty nervous. Mainly by the thought of being shocked by 10,000 volts and jumping off of something 20 feet high. Nerves didn’t last long though and once we were started I was having an absolute blast.
Diablo Grande is what even Tough Mudder called ”arguably the steepest terrain of all obstacle courses.” and it didn’t disappoint. The elevation level was less than my last Half Marathon but the inclines were steeper which being slightly sadistic and loving hill Running I really enjoyed but is a real bitch for those slightly less prepared. The first 3-4 miles were nothing but hills which then gave way to obstacles spaced out over the next 8 miles. I believe there was 25 obstacles in total, I may be wrong though as I completely lost count after a while. Obstacle highlights:

- Funky Monkey.
Despite *Arctic Enema not long before having my Triceps stiff and on the verge of cramping (they did within minutes of completing this obstacle) I miraculously made it all the way across! I really wasn’t sure about how to go about completing this and had 2 options 1. Take it slow one bar at a time or 2. Go as fast as I possibly could taking 2 or 3 bars at a time.  I started of slowly until my right Tricep started twitching telling me it was about to cramp so midway ended up changing strategy and going with the latter option. It was actually pretty fun and reminded me of being a kid again.
*Arctic Enema being submerged in water averaging 32F

- Kiss of Mud.
Lot’s of Mud. Which is the whole point, right?


- Cage Crawl.
The color of the water was slightly un-nerving (yellow-ish) but it was nowhere near as scary as the pictures look. 


- Balls To the Ball.
A real test of upper body strength. Those ropes were slippery!

- Electroshock Therapy.
I said I was slightly sadistic, right? Well, I actually really enjoyed this last obstacle right before the finish line. Not so much being hit hard with 10,000 volts in my right shoulder but completing it with my team and watching other people get shocked too.

- Everest.
Ok, so I actually did not like this obstacle much at all. I completely psyched myself out on my first attempt and almost fell on my Ass but I did love the amazing team work shown by my fellow team mates (Go Skid Marx!) They really had my back and were there ready to grab me and help me up that evil wall.

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Look at that awesome teamwork!

The entire atmosphere and camaraderie at the event was great too with strangers helping strangers and cheering people on. Everybody was just so damn friendly! Something this Brit is still not quite used to.
A lot of people have since asked me ”Is it really that tough?” Some of the obstacles were but I personally didn’t find it much more intense than one of my every day workouts but I guess it just all depends on who you ask and how well you have trained for it, if at all.

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So there we go, another activity marked off my bucket list. But it’s not over yet! Skid Marx enjoyed this event so much that we’re now all preparing for Tahoe in August. I’m really excited because not only is it a different course but we have more team members too including my Husband who saw we were having so much fun decided he could do it as well. And to think I’ve been trying to get him to do it with me for 2 years now with his response being ”Hell no. I’ll die”. We’ll see…

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Determination and dedication is key: My weight loss journey.

I am writing this post as lately I have received great encouragement to do so by some newly made friends who have made me realize that I have really come a long way over the years in my quest to become fit and healthy. Apparently I have been an inspiration..?! Therefore I hope my writing this inspires others too.
Dedicated to those who have supported me through the process. I love you guys!

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Looking at the petite athletic person I am today it’s often hard to believe that I used to be incredibly overweight. Yes, this little 107lb person you see before you used to be around 190lb. I still struggle to believe it myself so hearing peoples response of ”No way!” and ”How did you do it?” have become quite a regular occurrence when told of the transformation.

Looking back, I have always struggled with my weight. Right from about 7 years old I was a ”chubby” child and was told ”It’s just puppy fat. You’ll grow out of it”. Only I didn’t. Yes, I did go through phases of slimming down slightly but I was always overweight. Diet upon diet I tried and always failed, no sooner had I lost 15-20lb would gain it all back again, plus a little bit more.
It didn’t help that family members teased me on a regular basis. I won’t lie, it hurt like hell but then nobody tried to help me or give the right advice. By the time I was in my mid twenties I had simply given up even trying. Obesity is something that a lot of family members suffer with so I just gave into the fact that it was hereditary and I will always be that way.

”So what was the turning point?” a lot of people ask.
It wasn’t some amazing story of do or die. Just a simple self realization of how bad I had let myself get. I remember the day so clearly. It was June, the weather had just started to warm up and where I had spent the entire winter hiding under loose fitting trousers and over sized sweatshirts I decided it was time to switch to shorts. I didn’t have any that fit so it meant a trip to the Mall. I wanted a pair of those 3/4 length Jean shorts and tying on the largest size the store had, a UK size 18 (US 14) I froze in shock when I couldn’t get them past mid thigh. I knew I had gained over Winter but really wasn’t aware of just how much. Needless to say I broke down crying in complete disgust with myself.

That moment of self pity didn’t last long though and looking back at the mess that was myself in the mirror I guess you could say something inside me just snapped. I came to the realization that I didn’t have to be overweight. That if I wanted to change only I could do something about it. Nobody else was to blame but myself. I left the store that day with a goal and headed straight to the nearest grocery store to stock up on lean meats, fruits and vegetables. My ”diet” started then.

I decided not to weigh myself as I think this is part of the reason I failed before, I got too hung up on numbers and got disheartened when the scales didn’t show the hard work I thought I had put in. Instead I simply decided go by how my clothes were fitting.  Also being a severe Asthmatic and hating exercise with a passion I started off by just changing my eating habits.
Those first few weeks were tough, really tough. Munching on my Salad while my (now Husband) had his favorite Pizza or Curry was torture but it paid off when after about 6 weeks my clothes had became very loose and I plucked up the courage to step on the scale for the first time in close to 2 years. 178lb! I was gobsmacked that the number was so high, especially being just 5 foot tall but I felt good as we estimated I had probably lost around 10-15lb already and instead of wanting to give up I set my first small goal of reaching 168lb followed by another of 158lb.
By the time I had reached that second goal I introduced exercise. Slowly at first as with my Asthma I struggled immensely. It started with workout DVD’s followed by purchasing a Cross Trainer (Elliptical) to use at home and before I knew it 8 months had passed and stepping on the scale I was 134lb! Things had become a lot easier and somewhere In those months my ”diet” (man, I hate that word!) transformed into my new lifestyle. It was time to join a Gym and reach my final goal of 120lb.

That final goal was a few years ago now, clearly I surpassed my own expectations  even despite recently finding out that I have an under active Thyroid where I go through periods of unexplained weight gain.
It’s also during this journey found a new passion. A passion for exercise of all things! Shortly after joining my local Gym I decide to sign up for their training program and in January of 2010 I passed my certification as what the awarding body call a ”Fitness Professional”.
Where I did get down to 101lb I have now increased slightly. Why? Muscle gain! This is a good thing, it actually makes me happy and where I do still weigh myself from time to time (2-3 times a year) I still stand by the fact that the scales are not completely accurate for measuring your progress.

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Here I am at 101lb

My life is now completely different and eating healthily while working out is my passion. 6 and sometimes 7 days a week you’ll see me sweating it out and finding new challenges to push myself to. If you have read my previous posts you will see Running is where my heart is and had someone told me 5 years ago that not only would I be able to Run but also enjoy doing it I would have said they were crazy!

Now, here I go with something I don’t let everybody see purely because of how ashamed I am. The following is a picture of me ”before”. Not at my largest as I hated having pictures taken but when I was a UK size 14-16 (US 10-12). Please excuse the dodgy fancy dress getup.

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Like a completely different person, right?

I now wear US size 0/2 (UK 4/6) and couldn’t be happier.

So what am I saying here? Never give up trying! Yes, it is hard and yes, you will question yourself but the results are totally worth it! Here’s a few tips to help you on your way:

- Set lot’s of smaller goals as opposed to one big one.
- Do not ”diet” by restricting certain foods. Make healthy changes that you can keep up long term and way past when your reach your goal.
- Take measurements. And some ”before” pictures.
- Introduce exercise.
- Do not get too hung up on the scale and definitely don’t weigh yourself every day.
- DO NOT starve yourself.
- Remember Muscle weighs more than Fat too. So if you’re working out the scales are not completely accurate but a rough guide.

Back in the game?

It’s been almost 5 months since my injury and last month I decided it was time to get back into entering Running events, no Marathon’s for a while but a couple of 5k’s just to ease me back in slowly.
December the 12th I joined some of my fellow Running Club members and did the Mountain House Jingle All The Way followed by the Polar Run (and optional Dunk) on New Years Day 2014. I am happy to say that both were a success! More than a success in fact, I actually placed 1st in my division for both events continuing my trend.

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                   Mid Race                                               Coming over the Finish Line

The Jingle All the Way Run I placed 8th overall and 2nd out of all of the Women, the Lady that came in first was just a few seconds faster. Not too shabby for my first real run in 4 months. The course was flat and for the most part along my beloved Creek Trail. It was a cold morning though (29 degrees) and my Asthma decided to really play up, I think the local Farmers may also be spraying something on their crops affecting peoples respiratory systems as other Runner’s in MH have said they are also having problems too. Nonetheless I had a great time during the event, post race was fun meeting locals and some of the members of my Running Club.

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Awards time                                                           Holla!

As for the Polar Run is was a little warmer (high 40′s) and was along the Trail around Eagle Lakes, there was a few steep inclines and declines which I was a little nervous about due to my Knee and the decline Running being the reason for my injury to be as bad as it was but I think I handled them really well, slowing down for them a lot.

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Pre race                                                                Coming over the Finish Line

I was running against a lot of younger people, many of which were in the cross country team consisting of 15-17 year old males. It’s not easy racing against people 15 years younger than you but I had to represent the oldies and the Women out there and kept up a steady stride alongside them.
I placed 1st overall Runner in the event but if you take into consideration the optional dunk (which was added to your time) I actually placed in 4th behind some of the aforementioned Cross Country male Runners. An impressive feat even if I do say so myself.

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Holla!                                                       Everyone that placed

How was my time? Well.. although I did place in each event my time has suffered during my recovery. Where I did set a PR of 20:14 just a few days before the injury back in August 2013 I have added a little to my time having not been Running for a while.

Jingle All The Way time: 22:40 (Flat course. Mainly paved, some Gravel)
Polar Run Time: 23:21 (Uneven course. Gravel, Sand and lot’s of sharp angles).

I am pleased with what I accomplished in both events but there is always room for improvement and honestly I am just so happy I am able to Run again. It’s going to be a long time before my Knee is at 100%, if it even gets to that point which means that for now I am refraining from anything more than doing 10k’s. I have a few ”fun” running events already lined up for this year which I am super excited for.. watch this space!

Happy 2014 everybody!

The perils of being a Runner

As like any Athlete, with being a Runner comes injuries. Some can be minor and pass quickly, others may linger for years and even have you give up doing what you love. One of the most common injury’s is ”Runners Knee” and something I have had the misfortune of experiencing for the last 18 months.
The technical term for Runners Knee is Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) and is an irritation where the Patella (Kneecap) rests on the Thighbone caused by the stress of Running. The pain vary’s and can be an extremely painful sharp pain or a simple dull ache and often disappears while Running only to return once rested.

I started to experience this aching pain around 18 months ago and only having been Running for a short time was not well educated in the possible injury’s and sought advice from my Doctor who ordered an X-Ray which of course resulted in being told everything was ”fine” as PFPS is not something that shows up in an X-Ray.
I took to periods of resting in between periods of Running and at the beginning of the year even took to Running official Half Marathon’s. I did pretty well too, placing first in my age group with a time of a little over 1hr 30mins in my first ever Half. It’s safe to say that event was my downfall and I got the bug. Entering into a further 2 Half Marathon’s among various 5k’s and making my injury worse until my latest on the 17th August at Castle Rock.
Castle Rock was a different kind of Half, it was described as ”very challenging” with the trail going right to the top of the peak (almost 3,000 feet) and back down the other side. Having been used to Running 10-15 miles daily I wanted a challenge and it was… the downhill at least.
The first 6 miles was pretty much all uphill and when I discovered that it’s uphill I excel at, going from the back of the pack past dozens of people and into the first 5 Runners with absolutely no Knee discomfort but then as soon as downhill hit at just past mile 6 then pain really kicked in. Runners Knee is often a lot more painful going downhill due to the extra pressure and strain on the joint and this was no exception.
Any normal person would think twice about completing the race but not stubborn me, I carried on which resulted in a very prompt trip to my new Doctor 2 days after the event which was where I learned more about my injury.  After a quick MRI scan it also turned out that as well as the PFPS I also had a partial tear in my ACL which resulted in months of frustrating rest and Therapy.

Almost 5 months on my Knee still isn’t quite right, I have 2 Physical Therapists I visit on a regular basis as well as a specialist that has mentioned the possibility of surgery on more than one occasion, this worries me. I am however Running again, certainly not the 60 miles a week I was doing earlier in the year but between 2 and 5 miles twice a week. It’s tough and often at around mile 2 I start feeling some discomfort which is when I feel I should stop but my Therapists assure me that it’s not serious and are encouraging me to go further.

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Bracing my Knee before a Run

As part of my therapy I have a lot of exercises to do which involve me strengthening my Quad Muscles. I’m embarrassed to say that since I started Running more a year ago I neglected those muscles for a while contributing to the pain, I am paying for it now though. Also this last week I started taping my Knee too which seems to help and have also invested in another Knee brace.

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Strengthening exercises with ankle weights.                            Taping the Kneecap                        

I feel positive about my recovery but am also questioning my Running future, I never did get to complete that Marathon (London) I was supposed to almost 4 years ago and again 2 months ago. I even wonder if I should enter into anything more than 10k’s from now on. I have a few events coming up – three 5k’s, one 15k and also Tough Mudder in the Spring.

Tips for dealing with Runner Knee:

- Rest! Something no Runner wants to hear but this really is the best treatment.
- Brace it! Having tried 4 or 5 different so far Cho Pat are what I consider to be the better choice.
- Ice. After a Run ice for 20-30 minutes.
- Elevated it. While seated keep in elevated in front of you on a soft surface,
- Strengthen. Should the pain continue, see a specialist who can advice the best strengthening exercises for you. 

The best pre Workout foods

Being a Fitness Professional one of the more common questions I am asked is ”What should I eat before a workout?”. Well, depending on your workout this does vary slightly but my rule of thumb is always eat light. Eating heavy foods makes you sluggish so you don’t get the most out of your workout. Also, if you are working out first thing in the morning be sure to eat first, it’s very common for food to be missed at this time of day which does you no benefits in the long run. Not having eaten for a good 10 -12 hours overnight your metabolism has slowed, eating will give it that morning kick start you need. Lastly always give at least 30 minutes for food to digest before starting exercise.

With that in mind here are some foods to nosh on pre workout:

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* Banana’s. Not only packed full of potassium but also digestible Carbohydrates and are a great source of slow release energy. They’re filling but also not too heavy and ideal for those who workout in the morning.

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*Greek Yogurt. You really can’t go wrong eating this any time of day as it’s practically pure Protein. It’s ideal before a long run as it’s easy on the stomach. Add some fresh Berries, a small amount of Oats or Granola and a tiny drizzle of Honey to give you that extra boost.

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* Oats / Oatmeal. Contains Fiber which gradually releases Carbohydrates into your bloodstream as well as Vitamin B which converts carbohydrates into energy. These combined keeps your energy levels consistent. Try hot Oatmeal with some sliced fruit to also give you a portion of your 5 a day.

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* Wholegrain Bread or Bagel. Ideally consumed before an afternoon workout. A good source of Carbohydrates, add some Protein (for example a couple of slices of Chicken or Turkey) and you have yourself a well balanced pre workout afternoon meal.

What to avoid:

* Fatty foods. Fat leaves the stomach very slowly which will leave you feeling full and contributes to cramping .

*Sugar. Grabbing a handful of Candy may seem like a good idea to give you a quick energy boost but will probably result in a crash mid workout and you don’t want that.

Happy working out!

 

Let’s get Dirty!!

Mud Run’s have become a big thing I California with numerous different company’s coming up with their own version. Dirty Girl Mud Run is just one one them and as the name would suggest is for Women only and strongly believes in the cause of finding a cure for breast cancer, donating $250,000 to Bright Pink in 2013 to further this mission. Raising money for a good cause and having fun at the same time? I’m in!

Myself and friend Tram decided to do this event almost last minute as doing it together and meeting at the event for the first time last year we had a blast. We’re both the kind of people that love to workout even if it is just a light 5k on a warm October morning.
We both arrived at around 9:30am with our plan to run the 10:30 wave and what with all of the tent hopping to pick up everything included in our registration we made it just in time. The course was fun with multiple obstacles and where I can run a 5k in under 21 minutes this actually took us 75! We Jogged, we Climbed, we Laughed, we battled our fear of heights and we got very dirty!
Comparing to last year I don’t feel this year was quite as good but given the company I was in I still had a great time. If you’re looking at getting into events such as this then Dirty Girl is a good one to start. The Pleasanton location is every year, typically on the last Saturday of October and registration opens up around April time. If you want to take part register early. The earlier you register the better as prices can go up to $100 per person!
Tips for doing such an event:

- Get a team together and come up with a fun name.
- Arrive around 90 minutes before your wave to prepare, take pictures and chill for a bit.
- Take a spare change of clothes and shoes. Also trash bags to put those dirty clothes in.
- Baby wipes, and lot’s of them! Also a towel and small cloth for use in the ”shower” area (this WILL be freezing cold!)
- Do not crawl on your knee’s through the obstacles. The mud is filled with lot’s of tiny little stones that will leave you cut and bruised.
- Don’t take the event too seriously. Who cares if you’re not the most athletic, the fact that you’re taking part is what matters.

And of curse, if you enjoy this type of event here are a few others you might want to check out:

- Mud Factor
- Kiss Me Dirty
- The Color Run
- Color in Motion
- Roc Race
- Hit and Run
- Spartan Race (also Spartan Beast)
And for those serious Athletes the Obstacle race of all races… Tough Mudder

Happy Running!

 

Welcome!!

Wow.. who would have thought picking a blog name would be so taxing? I must have spent about 20 minutes thinking about how to name by blog and just kept on coming back to the very lame ”Emmalou’s Blog” title. But isn’t Google a wonderful thing? A quick search brings to a post giving idea’s on how to name your blog and.. 42k Cookie! Why? Well 42k is the distance in a Marathon (it’s actually 42.19 but I’m rounding) and since I started Running to complete a full Marathon is my goal and ”Cookie”s for my love of Baking. Genius, right?

I built this blog for friends and family to keep up with daily goings on. For Family back in England and also new found friends here in California. It’s going to be a mash up of everything from my love of Running and Working out with health and diet tips as well as Baking recipe’s and general activities Steve and I take partake in.

Are you ready? This is going to be fun…