Make your own recipe

November 17, 2014

Using cooking as a metaphor for running, I love to embellish the recipe.  Especially the spices!  One eighth of a teaspoon of pepper?  Please…  How about EIGHT teaspoons!!!  …OK.  Maybe that IS a bit much… but I like peppers :)

So it is with running/triathlons/othercrazycrapIliketodo.

I have tried lots of different recipes.  Focus on one big “A” race for the year…  Race my way to fitness…  Mix up the race types… Challenge myself with longer/different races… and so on.

But I really think it all came together this year and, just like a good recipe, it’s all about balance.  Leaving the cooking metaphor behind, I found that most of my struggles in motivation come when I either focus everything on training for one HUGE event or when I forget that there is life AFTER such an event.  But I had to be careful in that different races require different training.  Running a 5K and then a Half Iron Tri and then a trail race on the same training plan does not work.  However, with balance and a little planning you can actually make all of them better.

It’s hard to understand at first, but cross training has been a key to keeping me healthy.  Swimming, road riding, trail riding, trail running, track running, street running, etc. all use different muscles and keep you from beating yourself up.

So I took a training “plan” for each type of event I did this year.  I ran 4 5Ks, a 10K, a duathlon, a couple of sprint triathlons, 3 half marathons, a 25K trail race, a 7K trail race, a Kayak/run, and the debacle in Chicago (3 triathlons in one weekend).  And as I looked at the schedule for the year, I tried to spread them out so that a real “plan” for each would overlap with the others.  Remarkably, save for the odd long run or a transition practice, they actually meshed well.  So even as I was training for an event coming up in a month, I was also doing an occasional workout for a different event a month or so after that.

It sounds crazy and it took more planning than I’m usually capable of, but it worked.  Except for the odd “you’re getting old” pain, I came out injury free, at least from repetitive stress injuries.  Yes, there were some days when I worked out 3 times.  But there were also WAY more break days than I usually take as well.  There were points when I was tired, but in general I felt pretty good most of the time.

So moving ahead to next year, things slow down and stretch out.  I’m trying desperately to get my 5K time under 22 before the year is out so I won’t obsess about it next year.  So I can focus on big distances again.  So far, my spring looks like a 7K trail run in January, an offroad marathon in March and then a 50K in April.  Then I change back to triathlon training but with longer distance runs so that I can do club nationals in late summer and MAYBE even Heart of America on Labor day.  And finally either another shot at a Half Ironman in the fall, another 50K (Rock Bridge?) or even a 50 miler someplace… If I haven’t destroyed myself by then.

Regardless, I think I can make it all work if I slow down, relax, and overlap the training plans so that they become cross training for each other.  This recipe worked well for me in 2014 and I’m willing to try the same thing again in 2015, just with longer mileages.  I’m also going to REALLY focus on core work.  I think it is one of my biggest weaknesses and I’m going to need it in longer distance races.  I found a workout online for ultra runners and I’m going to give that a shot.

So anyway, here is my recipe for training and racing.  I pick races so that they overlap in training.  I try to focus on the “now”.  I don’t look back at past performances unless there is something to see (i.e. a really good/bad race to learn from, etc.).  I look ahead far enough to plan out my races but I’m always looking for something different.  I don’t do mud runs, etc. but an offroad tri or duathlon, something with a kayak, a multi-day bike ride…?  Maybe.  Balance and variety seem to keep me interested more than anything else.  What kills me most is training for a big race (triathlons are the worst) for MONTHS on end gets really monotonous and I lose focus or interest.  Then I either get hurt, disheartened or both.  And that is NOT good.  Especially since I am paying for this crap… :)


OK… that just happened…

November 13, 2014

Since last I wrote just a few, short days ago about bucket lists and wants vs. needs… something stupid happened.  See, I was reading this post on a Facebook Ultra running group.  Somebody asking about where to find races or something.  I read a few of the responses and then aimlessly clicked on one of the links to see what was out there.  I landed in the root of all evil.  A very easy to navigate and well designed site.  It knew where I lived.  It just wanted to know what distance I wanted to run and when.  Like a dumbass… I typed in the following:

50K

April

There were only 4 races within 300 miles on their schedule.  One in Arkansas… meh.  One in Kansas… NOPE.  One in Iowa… NOPETY NOPE.  And one… in… St Louis.

I clicked the link.  God, that was stupid.  Why?  Why did I click the link?

I started reading, I got tunnel vision… it’s a good race… it fills up quick… there’s a lottery…

Then I blacked out…

When I woke up I had a message in my inbox thanking me for registering for the lottery draw for the Double Chubb 50K, April 18.  I would be notified in mid January if I got in and then (and only then) would my credit card be charged.

After looking first for the “unsend” button… or a panic button… or an eject button…  It settled on me what I had just done.

Crap.

Now I gotta train.  Hard.  All winter (which, by the way, has come roaring in, middle fingers flying).

Double (Chubb) Crap.

I gotta find a training plan, run an early season marathon (either Little Rock or Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky.  I’m waiting for someone to convince me which one to run).

Oh… and did I mention that the last time I ran a marathon it TORE ME UP?  I was out for a year.  And now I’m going to run a marathon as a WARM UP for a LONGER race.

Really?

…seriously?

I am a semi responsible, 48 year old (OK… if I toe the line in April I will be) father… and husband… with a full time job… and an obvious running addiction.

Maybe I won’t get a spot…?

…!?


Bucket gazing

November 11, 2014

bucket-listI know I’ve gone back and forth over the years about having goals to shoot for and maintaining a healthy bucket list.  But it seems when I am against such things (in reviewing my own blog) is usually a symptom of a larger problem with me such as an injury or a bout with frustration, depression or self doubt.  I think, realistically, I (and this is a personal belief, not a generalization that we should ALL have goals) do need goals to shoot for.  It’s easy to say “I’m in it just for the training” but I’m not really wired that way.  If I don’t have something to shoot for… I kinda just stop shooting.  And that is the worst of all results for me.

My “bucket” contains my goals for life, the universe and everything… but mostly it’s just superficial “me” oriented, fitness goals.  I’ve really been lucky and gotten to do most of the stuff I always thought would be cool.  I am actually finding it hard to put more stuff “IN” the bucket as I get older.  Stuff that used to seem grand (world travel, owning my own coffeeshop, hiking the PCT) has now fallen into the “Bat shit crazy” list.  This is due in large part to the world changing as I have gotten older and in some part to my perceptions of reality changing (for better or worse).

This year though, that superficial bucket list has gotten smaller.  I have managed to check off several items and get myself back in to shape as well.  Getting under 1:45 in the half marathon was huge for me.  Going under 1:15 in a sprint triathlon was pretty cool too.  The kayak race, trail racing, big mileage goals (I just went over 1500 miles running this year)… a lot of fun stuff. I’m also less than 2 months from not drinking alcohol for a year.  This wasn’t necessarily a bucket list item, but it sure helped me get to some of my other goals.

I really only have one thing left to accomplish on my short term list.  I want to go under 22 minutes in a 5K.  This means running 6:58 pace or better.  I’ve run a 6:10 mile this year, but I don’t know if I could do that for 2 more miles.  it’s going to be close, but I’m gonna give it a shot.  I will have 3 potential chances, with the first one being on Thanksgiving Day.  Sure would make the turkey taste better…

Now, I have a super secret bucket list too.  I think we all do.  It contains the stuff we’re just not sure we are capable of… but REALLY wanna do anyway.  Identifying these items is easy.  They usually involve a statement that starts with “If I was in really good shape…” or “I wish I had the time to…”.

I will expose a few things on my list so you understand what I mean.  My conversations about next year have gone like this:

“If I was in really good shape, I would love to run a 50K (or more) next year.”

“I wish I had time to train for a full Ironman.”

For now, my sites are set on staying healthy and continuing to lose weight.  My reward/method is to train for and complete a marathon in less than 4 hours.  Past that, I’m not saying… :)


Race Report: Cohick Bass Pro Half Marathon

November 4, 2014

logoI’ve been kind of lax on logging my mileage and sharing my race reports.  Partly because I’m lazy like that, but mostly because I’m having too much fun running to stop and talk about it :)

But I figured since this is my last big race of the year, I would share.  I plan on doing a couple of 5Ks between now and the end of the year for fun, but that’s about it.

This race was the last of 3 at half marathon distance or better in 5 weeks.  First was the Rock Bridge Revenge 25K, then the Bear Creek Half, and then Bass Pro.  In between I continued to run a long run of at least 10 miles so I felt pretty comfortable that adding a few miles wouldn’t be too difficult.  The Bear Creek half was a bit more of a sufferfest than I expected for a basically flat (except for one tough hill) race, and this got my attention.  The word for the day at Bass Pro would need to be “pace”.  I went out WAY too fast at Bear Creek (like a 6:50 first mile).

The Race:

Bass Pro is in Springfield, MO.  It is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and many others, but it starts and stops at Bass Pro and they open up their facilities for the race.  Although fairly new, it is gaining popularity due to it’s time of year, location and relatively flat course.  Many of the runners I talked to before, during and after the race were first timers at longer distances.  In the 3 races total there were 3177 runners.  About 930 in the 5K and the rest in the half and full.  The largest crowd was in the half, with just over 1700 runners. Packet pickup was well organized and there was a nice vendor expo before and after the race.  Good food and lots of goodies.

The Weather:

Cold and windy.  That is all.  Race time temps were in the high 20s to low 30s with 15-25mph winds.  Ouch.  Hardest part of whole race was trying to figure out what to wear.

The Route:

This race was about 95% on city streets and just a mile or so on an urban trail.  The course was marked fairly well with a few notable exceptions.  My GPS measured 13.18 miles.  That’s close enough for me.  There were a few long, slight grades but nothing approaching a “hill” on the course.  Traffic control was adequate.

My Race:

My PR in the half was 1:45:54.  I achieved that this spring at the Sedalia Half Marathon.  Bear Creek was a disappointing 1:47 and change so I really wasn’t sure what would happen.  I figured if everything went OK I would be at or around 1:45 again but was hopeful for faster.  I shivered my way through the opening ceremonies and decided to stalk the 1:45 pacer for a while to see what would happen.  When the gun went off, we were surprisingly far forward for that large a crowd and he only had a handful of people with him.  I had almost no traffic to deal with past the first turn out of the parking lot and was able to settle in to a good warm up pace immediately.  After a “get to know” round of intros in the 1:45 pack, we all settled down.  Checking my watch at the first mile I was at 8:21.  Probably the best thing for me, but it felt slow.  My friend Lisa was with me and she has been running well.  I felt like I would be lucky to hang with her.  We gradually pulled ahead of the 1:45 pacer and clicked off the next 5 miles at about a 7:50 pace.  These felt REALLY good, so I decided to take as many as I could get.  Lisa moved ahead of me and then dropped back.  But then pulled even with me again at about mile 6.  The course wound through the campus of Missouri State and through downtown Springfield.  We joined with a group of about 4 other runners and Lisa jumped in behind one of them and started drafting on him as we went into the wind.  They pulled ahead and I thought for sure they were gone.  My miles were clicking off at between 7:45 and 7:55 and I just focused on being consistent.  My mental math led me to believe that if I stuck with this pace, I could beat 1:45 so that became the goal.  As we went through a midtown park at about mile 8-9 I caught up with Lisa again and as I checked my watch I realized it was because I had just run a 7:40 mile!  At mile 9, this can either instill confidence or cause you to panic.  I chose to be confident and leave it all on the course.  Lisa’s drafting partner pulled ahead of us and she dropped back to run with me.  Miles 10-12 were all at 7:40.  When we passed the banner for mile 12 I decided to go for it and see what would happen.  To my surprise, my legs responded and I picked up the pace.  We wound through a neighborhood and I could hear the finish line.  I was pretty sure I was at or below 1:45 at this point and I knew I needed to make up for that first mile.  I rounded the last corner onto the finish chute and saw the clock had just rolled past 1:43.  My last mile was a 7:33 and my overall time was 1:43:17.  That’s a PR by over 2:30.

I couldn’t have asked for a better result.  The confidence this gives me going into the off season is huge.  And not because I think I’m “fast”, but because I think I’m healthy and actually on or ahead of the curve for training.  So now it’s time to relax, have fun and cross train.  I need to decide what I want to do next year and work on a plan.  For the rest of this year, I’m going to try to break 22 minutes in the 5K and I have 45 days left until I can say I have gone 1 year without an alcoholic beverage.

Not a bad year…


Double dose of Afraidium

October 14, 2014

OK… somebody slipped me a Mickey…

With all my talk about stretching out my mileages and how much I want to do an ultra next year, somebody laced my Gatorade with Afraidium and I have become decidedly chickenshit when it comes to actually SIGNING UP for one.  I’m really having a tough time pulling the trigger…

chickenrunner1I really have no excuse, either.  I am 50 pounds lighter this year.  I had a great season.  My times are coming down.  I feel great.  Even under WAY more challenging conditions I knocked 15 minutes off my time for the 25K trail race I just completed.  I may have even found my trail booze of choice in Tailwind.  I felt REALLY good on a 10 miler using it.

I even have a plan.  Do an early spring marathon (on or off road) and then a spring 50K or 50 miler depending on how much mileage I am able to get in.  So… What’s the problem?

I guess I still have really unpleasant memories of the last time I went for marathon distances.  That whole “I fell like I’ve been kicked in the jewels” feeling for A YEAR after the marathon… tends to linger and affect your decision making… just sayin’.

And, yes, I still feel it sometimes.  Especially after long runs.  I was hoping that being lighter would help.  But I’m not convinced.

The hard part is that you have to sign up so damn early, especially for road marathons.  I’m thinking about Little Rock in early March.  But by the time I’m sure I will be OK, the race is going to be $100 or more.  And Ultras are even worse because of the limited fields in most of them.  Berryman and others are already open.  But I have no idea if I have 50 miles in me.  And I won’t until I get up to marathon distance or more.

I guess I should just start stretching my mileages out and see what happens.  Then look for races later depending on how I feel…?  I know, I know… shut up and run.


Race Report: Rock Bridge Revenge 25K

October 6, 2014
Rock Bridge Revenge 25K

Rock Bridge Revenge 25K

And so it begins.  With this race I start my slow, steady run up to an ultra distance race (to be named later) sometime next spring.  More than likely it will be a 50K.  I’m open to ideas and suggestions for races… :)

I have run this race twice.  Once as a 7 miler and once as a 25K.  Neither time did I have any idea what I was doing and mostly just signed up for it because my friends organize it and I wanted to support them.  I didn’t really “train” for it then and it showed.  I had fun and really liked it, but it took me about 3 hours to finish the 25K and I turned several ankles on the run so I kind of got what I deserved for my lack of preparation.

This race always cracks me up at the start line when the race director says things like “knee high water crossings” and “lots of holes/debris on the trail”.  Not because of what he is saying, but to watch the reactions of the people running it who have no idea what they are in for.  They see “trail run” and think MKT trail, not “singletrack, hiking trail”.  So their eyes bug out and they get that “what have I signed up for?” look on their faces.  READ THE DESCRIPTION! …and, yes, you are going to get your pretty little shoes muddy…

I almost signed up for the 50K on this one.  Even though I can say I’m in much better shape this time around… that DOES NOT equate to “50K” shape.  I’m pretty sure it would have ruined me, for several reasons that I will get to in a minute.  Actually, I almost bailed out and ran the 7K when I went by the cut off.  I probably wouldn’t hurt near as much today if I had, but I’ve never been the sharpest stick on the trail anyway.

Conditions:

It seems odd to start with conditions but unlike a road race where, unless something extreme happens, it really doesn’t matter, conditions make all the difference in the world on a real trail race.  I had been watching the weather closely for about 10 days.  I was really mostly concerned with the temperature.  I melt in the heat and the trail flows through a heavily wooded area that gets pretty close, blocks the wind and holds heat and humidity.  However, I ended up being concerned the other direction.  Race day temps were in the middle 30s!!!  With about a 15mph breeze.  It was PERFECT.  I love cool/cold weather running so this was great.

However.

Everything good that happens to me seems to come with a little down side…

Three days previous to race day Columbia received RECORD rainfall.  Over 7 inches at my house in 2 days.  With only one day to dry out, I knew the trail would be highly suspect.  And, unfortunately… I was right.

Most of the trail was fine.  Of the 15+ miles I would say only about 4 miles of it were muddy.  The water crossings (4 decent sized ones) were about knee high and COLD!  It felt kinda good, actually.  What I did not expect was the swamp crossing on the back side of the Gans Creek section of the trail.  I think it was from a flooded pond off of the course someplace, but regardless, it took me by surprise and was deep and snotty.

The Course:

Besides the above mentioned juicy bits, this trail is gorgeous.  It is a state park just south of Columbia.  It winds through woods, creeks and meadows and across bluff tops with amazing views.  The weather had started to tame the plant growth a bit so we didn’t have to wade through the jungle grasses and clinging vines of summer.  The trail is a mix of dirt (Missouri clay) and rock (a few small rock gardens but nothing serious).  A few hills, but nothing more than a quarter mile and only one that is really steep.  As an added surprise, the race director took us down this hill (not the usual route) and then back up a new (to me) section.  Then back up it later.  Evil, mean nasty race director…  There is a lot of side hill, off camber stuff, some tight singletrack and the same creek to cross several times.  Overall, on the difficulty scale, I would give it a 3 when it is dry and a 4+ when it is wet or snowy.  A great first race for those new to Ultra running.

My Race:

I really feel like, especially with this race, I was pretty prepared.  I had been running 1-2 days per week off road and another 3 days a week on the usual roads and trails.  I will eventually switch this up more so I’m running on trails most of the time, but for now it’s what I’ve got.

My plan was to only carry a handheld since there were 3 aid stations on the course.  And in that I only put water.  I carried one Honey Stinger gel with Ginseng and Caffeine.  In hindsight, this was not the right setup.  I should have put EFS or Tailwind in the water bottle and the Stinger was just wrong.  Nutrition is a mystery I must solve if I ever want to go longer distances.  Clearly, I still don’t get it.

I wore shorts, compression calf sleeves, a single, long sleeved shirt, a thermal lid and wind shell gloves (I love those things).  My shoes were Asics Gel Kahanas (comfy, if heavy and NO MUD TRACTION).  I tend to get hot even in very cold conditions so even though the temps were in the 35-45 degree range I ended up taking off the skull cap and gloves about 12 miles in.  I have a feeling this will also be a challenge for me.  Finding the right combination of clothing.  I know I don’t have a good rain shell and don’t have enough of the right socks, hot weather gear, etc.  I can see this is going to be a process.

As with all trail races,  this one started out with a casual shuffle.  The RD sent us out on a half mile loop to spread us out.  The 7milers and the 25K all started at the same time.  Spreading us out a little before we all dived into the singletrack trail was a great idea.  I ignored the 7 milers (except to give a few of them crap for being sandbaggers) and really tried to focus on starting off slow.  Once we got on to the trails, I just tried to settle in and focus on the trail.  I chatted with a few people and worked on conservation on the ups and relaxing on the downs.  I wanted to push the flats but the mud would have none of that.  After several near falls, I gave up and just tried to stay upright, which I did for the entire race.

I would love to tell you how beautiful it was out there but one thing I have really tried to practice on is staying focused on the trail.  The whole “If you look up, you will go down” thing is pretty much spot on for me, so being in the moment and considering every foot placement is critical for me.  Staying that focused for that long is hard for those of us from the School for the Easily Distracted, so it takes all the brain cells I have left (both of them) to stay on task.  While this makes the miles go by faster, it also tends to run me into rocks and creek crossings with little warning so I have to take a peak up every once in a while.

Overall, I felt good for the first 11 miles and then I started to tire.  Not surprising for my first trail race in a while and also my longest run of the year.  I tiptoed across the creeks, dodged persimmons, walnuts and squirrels.  Got passed a few times and passed a few people and generally just solidified with myself how much I really love running trails.  I think I finished around 2:45:00 and finished around 9th out of about 50 or so.  If this is the case it would be about 15 minutes faster than last time.  I had some really bad cramping in my legs after the race (debilitating) so that’s a big, red nutrition flag that I need to address.  Two days later my quads really hurt, but otherwise I feel good.

Next up is 2 road half marathons in the next month!  One I HAD to do because it is only a mile from my house.  The other one is in Springfield, MO and just sounded like fun.  I almost signed up for the full marathon but chickened out at the last second so that distance will have to wait for spring.  I have 4 more races left this fall.  The two half marathons and then a turkey day 5K and the race formerly known as First Night (5K) on New Year’s Eve.


A different kind of crazy

September 29, 2014
Rhett's Run Trail Photo

Rhett’s Run, Cosmo Park, Columbia, MO

I’ve spent much of the last year trying to get back in shape and get fit again.  Overall I would call it a success.  There are always things I could have done better.  My cup is always half full like that.  I did come dangerously close to drinking the Ironman KoolAid though.  And while I’m satisfied with my decision to pass on that kind of crazy, I spent a lot of my training time alone or only doing half the workout the crowd did because they all WERE doing IM.  This still gave me a lot of time to think about my goals, what I was doing out there and why, life, the universe… everything.

Anyway, I still just don’t feel like I belong.  I know.  I know.  Forty Seven and still looking for purpose and direction.  That’s just sad.

I guess I just looked really hard at doing an IM this year and could quite possibly have pulled it off.  It wouldn’t have been pretty, but I probably could have done it.  But when have I been about pretty…

The point is, I didn’t WANT to.  And to do something as deadly serious as an IM, you have to WANT it.  More than anything else.  More than breathing.  Otherwise you will NOT succeed.  And you could potentially really get hurt.  And I did. not. want. it.  If anything, the only reason I even contemplated it was peer pressure.  I had a lot of people saying really positive things and almost got swept away in it.  For me, it finally boiled down to one thing.  And I would have never guessed this would be a deal breaker when I started triathlon.  I just don’t love road bicycling enough to put my butt in the seat for 6 hours or more.  Honestly (and I never thought I would say this), I like the swim more than the bike.  And Chicago cemented that.  Even though the swim was rough as hell and I was slow as always, I felt better in the water than I did on the bike.

Back to thinking.  So, if I’m not IM kind of crazy… then what am I?  I KNOW I have the endurance bug.  But if not IM… then what?

Two things actually…

1. Redemption-  I got handed my head in two efforts at longer distance races.  First was the marathon.  Yes, I put in the miles, ate plenty of Gu, suffered and struggled.  And that was just to get to the starting line.  But I see now that I did it all wrong.  And I was just not in good enough shape when I toed the line.  All my fault, yes.  My marathon was wonderful until mile 20.  Then my calves seized up to the point of paralysis.  I missed my goal of a 4 hour marathon by over 40 minutes.  I want another shot.

Then there was the half IM.  Same story (exactly), different chapter.  Surprised myself on the swim, felt FANTASTIC for 55 miles on the bike… unfortunately, the half IM bike distance is 56 miles.  I cramped up at mile 55 and then did a 13 mile death march and missed my goal of a 5:30 by an hour and 15 minutes.  Horrible cramping, not in good shape.  Abysmal result.  I know I can manage a race better than that.  Again… I want another shot.

2. One of the things that my mind kept going back to during those long training hours was where I was NOT.  And that was on the dirt trails and singletrack that I really love.  THAT is where my heart is.  It’s where I’m happy.  Yes, I am horribly slow.  But out there?  I don’t care.  It feels right.  I hate having to (and this is really my choice…) step away from that when I train for triathlons for fear of injury.  But usually I have skin in the game by the time I start really training for triathlons (meaning: I paid for a race) and am afraid I’ll get hurt.  Even though I get hurt as much or more in triathlon training.  But I really just wanted to be on the trails.

Now granted, I will probably never be a hundred miler.  But I could do a 50 miler.  Definitely a 50K.  And having done several off road events, I have to say I really like the atmosphere and laid back feeling that surrounds them.  Sure, everybody is concerned with nutrition, lighting, equipment, etc.  But the personalities are different.  The vibe is different.  It’s comfortable.  It feels right.

And let’s face it.  I’m not doing this for the bling.  I’m old.  There is very little danger of me ever gracing the podium.  It’s about staying healthy, having fun and personal achievement.  So as I look at next year I think my path is pretty clear.  A spring marathon, and then a 50K trail race.  Then switch training to triathlons and go after a fall half IM (maybe Border War?).  And if along the way I fall completely in love with trails then that is where I will stay.  And I kinda hope that happens.  Who knows, maybe I’ll combine the two and do that Xterra I have been dreaming about.  I’ve already got the gear for it.  I’m not saying I’m going to sell my tri bike, but I’m going to look long and hard at it next year.  We need to come to some kind of an agreement or I’m moving on.  I’m not getting any younger… :)  Just a little more crazy…


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