Friday, October 6, 2017

Zorra (and the pack grows again!)

If you follow me on Instagram you've probably noticed a new face in some pictures lately. A tiny, furry, black and white face with a wrinkly forehead, gigantic ears, and eyes so dark they look black.

If you're wondering where the name came from, it's because it looks like she's wearing a mask. Like Zorro. But girlified.

That would be Zorra, our newest addition. Taking our family from 3.5 to 4.5.

Since this move surprised pretty much everyone, let's back the bus up and explain what's gone on ;)

Unbeknownst to anyone but us, over the last month or so Anthony and I started considering adopting another dog. I fully admit that I had to be convinced...not because I didn't want another dog, but because Token is my baby. My heart and soul. I named my bike after him! Just looking at him I started to feel guilty about even thinking about getting another dog...I didn't want him to think I was betraying him or didn't love him with every bit of my heart! Or, god forbid, that I was replacing him.

But Anthony worked on me, and I agreed that the jump from one to two would be easiest to make now...before the baby comes. And I'm so glad he did, because Zorra has been the perfect addition!

Whatever you're thinking about this right now has already been said to us, I promise. So I'll address all that now before going puppy-crazy on you.

This seems to be where most people get really concerned for us. "But you're getting ready for a baby! How could you think of getting another dog!" Honestly, that's easy. Yes, we are getting ready for a baby...which means that right now, aside from my need to fall asleep super early every night and getting more uncomfortable as my belly grows, our lives are exactly the same as they were before. We have the time to devote to a puppy and training and cuddles now.

We get up. We work out. We go to work. We come home at lunch to let our dog out. We come home after work. We make dinner. We eat. We chill. We go to bed. On weekends we do whatever, including walking our dog and taking him to training.

It's been two weeks and none of this has changed...except that we're now letting out two dogs, feeding two dogs, cuddling two dogs, playing with two dogs, sharing our bed with two dogs (that's fun), and have started training a second dog. I don't see any of this changing any time soon, and over the next three months we'll go from one well-trained dog to two...and then add the baby ;)
Two pups and twice the lazy!
About Zorra
Now that that's out of the way...the fun stuff!

I won't say that Zorra is a "Harvey Dog", but she was transported out of a shelter in Tennessee to make room for rescues from Hurricane Harvey - so you could say she came to us because of Harvey. She came to us from the same shelter we got Token from - Safe Haven Dog Rescue, and we used Pet Finder (once again).

It was the ears that got me when Anthony sent me the picture. Her gorgeous giant ears and tentative looking face...she almost always looks like she's sad or did something wrong, or just wants approval from us. It's adorable and makes me want to pick her up and snuggle her face off.

When I saw that she was at Safe Haven it was a sign (not that Anthony's 15 texts in a row hadn't clued me in).

This time, the process was much smoother and quicker ;)

Turns out, the people from Safe Haven all know how lucky and spoiled Token is - that he gets to cuddle with us all night and go to baseball games and stuff:

Token didn't want to watch the game.
Karen (Token's foster mom) keeps them  up to date on our pup! So I emailed the shelter - they were thrilled to hear we were interested in another dog, and we set up an appointment to meet Zorra (who's shelter name was Tuxy) and talk to her foster dad before adopting.

We got there a little early so we could see Karen and she could see Token (we knew she'd want to!) and everyone from the shelter remembered him. Everyone kept asking "Is that Little Boy Blu???" - he was practically a celebrity, and even got more attention than some of the puppies there! One guy even came up and said, "Is that Blu?? I almost adopted him! I had to work that day and then he was gone!" and I looked at him and honestly said, "Dude, you didn't even stand a chance. There was no way we weren't going to take him home, you can ask anyone!" (Karen was standing there are concurred!)

It was funny because Token's adoption story was known by so many people from the shelter. People kept coming up and asking if we were the ones who waited all day to adopt! Yup! That was us!

Anyways...Token and 'Tuxy' met...and they were in love. We talked to her foster dad and there were a few things that were pretty apparent. The first was that she was not close to 5 months old - the Tennessee shelter had most likely over estimated her age, and she was probably closer to three months and TINY. She was also malnourished, and her foster dad said that even though she'd put on a few pounds with him she was still underweight. No big deal - we knew the scale would keep trending up!

He confirmed that she loves other dogs and playing, and loves kids - which is what we wanted to hear for sure! Apparently she was too active for his other foster dog, but he seemed relieved at how well she and Token got along. He brought his son with too, telling us that they were best buds and always together. It made me feel bad that we were taking that away from another child...but also pretty darn happy that we'd have that kind of love from two dogs for our own child.

Kisses all day!

Kisses from every angle!!
This time, we hung around less than 2 hours from start to finish, and were able to take our adorable little girl home in no time:

Two Dogs
I know you're wondering - how did Token handle all this?

Let's be honest - he had no idea what was happening at first. I don't think it was until we got home that he realized we were definitely keeping her, and he'd have to share all his stuff...including his mom, his dad, and snuggle time:

He even has to share training time and treats!

I love how he looks so annoyed at me in this picture.
But truth be told - Token is the perfect dog. I know, I'm biased. But it's true. He is amazing. He gained a shadow without consenting and he has taken it all in stride. He is the best big brother around and loves Zorra so, so much.

Only slightly staged...they were both laying by Anthony and I made room for myself by dragging them both to the other end of the couch so I could take their spot :P
Truth be's me and Anthony he didn't like for a while in there ;) He would give us extra salty looks, truly pissed off, but then turn around and lick Zorra's face and start playing with her. He loves's us he didn't like!

We have seamlessly moved from having one dog to two, and I can't believe how lucky we are that we have two dogs who are so well behaved and chill.

So there you have it!

The excitement of adding a second dog to our family...keeping us even busier and spreading more love all around. It already feels like we've had her forever, and she was meant to be ours...and you all know we'll just keep growing from here!
Already ready to welcome #5 to the pack!


Thursday, October 5, 2017

I Love My Bike

In the midst of all the draft posts I have going, I need to drop in and say this...

I love my bike.
In April, literally one week before I found out I was pregnant, I got a hold of this beauty via Craigslist. A Blue carbon aero road bike with ~50 miles to her. For the parts that are on this bike and the price I paid, she was a total steal.

And now 'Blu' is my salvation. (The nickname was coined as a tip of the hat to not only the brand, but to Token's shelter name...Little Boy Blu.)

I was starting to feel so lost with working out. Like without true workouts, dripping in sweat five times a week. Realistically I'm still not at that intensity (although I do sweat a ton), but I've made a lot of progress the last few weeks with getting something done every morning, even if it's just stretching and yoga while puppies crowd my mat.

Until recently, it felt like a lot of laziness had invaded life, partly because I was sad I couldn't run and really did not feel like myself (don't judge). All of my first trimester I struggled to get any workouts done because I was so tired, though I was finally able to force myself out for a few early morning runs. After Ragnar, running was getting harder and harder (breathing especially) and hurt more (thanks, boobs and hips). I'm useless after work because I'm tired, and the thought of the gym has been so blah.

Honestly, I have missed running so much and that contributed hugely to my mood. Almost like I lost my identity, especially with the marathon coming up and seeing all of the reminders. I've been very melancholy about it. I am so happy for the friends I have who finally get to tackle this and for my RMHC teammates...but I'm sad I'll be volunteering and not out on the course with them.

Hell, the other day Anthony went out for a run and the pups and I watched him go, squinting through the front door, sad that we weren't all going with.
Zorra moved when I got my phone, but she had her front paws perched, one on the screen and one on Token's back before she did.
I haven't run since (checks Garmin data): August 31st. I was hoping I'd be able to run so much longer than I was able, but it just didn't happen. The thing is - I have missed how running used to feel, not how I know it would feel if I went out and did it right now. If you're wondering, it would go from uncomfortable to painful quickly, and I wouldn't be able to breathe while that happened.

For almost the entire summer I avoided riding my beloved new bike because of heat, humidity, and nervousness about riding on the roads, and because I didn't want to be stuck inside on a trainer when it was bright and sunny out.

But running became less feasible, I finally traded in my running shoes for cycling shoes and a trainer tire...and I have been pedaling away in our new pain cave since.
Occasionally I lift things too ;)

Tokes likes to spectate the pain.
Being able to wake up (however godawful early) and ride my trainer (and sometimes lift a bit too), has greatly helped me feel like I'm at least doing something to stay sane. It makes me feel like I haven't lost all of myself, my workout-ethic, or my endurance. I'm loving hill intervals and spinning away between sets of lifting.

Although I can't stick to one stance for long (this baby be growin'), I like knowing I can hop on and ride for 30, 45, 60 minutes at a time and have energy for the rest of the day. I like having this athletic confidence back. I even have - dare I say it - plans for what I want to accomplish next year. *shock*awe*gasp*

I have big plans for Blu next year. They're not the biggest plans I'll ever have, but they're milestones, and I can't wait.

So there's all of that...just to say I love my bike.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ragnar Captaining: Tips and Insight (from experience)

Since I just posted about Ragnar, I wanted to follow it up (in a timely manner) with a post containing tips/information about captaining a team for anyone interested, since I got to be the captain for my team! Some of these tips might help too if you decide to do a Ragnar, even if you don't want to captain (because there are still some good ways each teammate can help out your dear captain in the process, lol).

A huge part of Ragnar comes down to planning, and that falls on the shoulders of the captain/co-captain(s). I was incredibly fortunate to have two people on my team who helped me with a lot of the planning, right down to making booklets for our team. They were a godsend, so find someone willing to help you co-captain (thank you Dana and Sonja!!).

We registered  as soon as it opened in September 2016...the actual registration was really easy (more on fees/payment next). The not-as-easy part (as captain) was adding runners to the team online, which wasn't completed until about April. Everyone had to create a profile (this takes time) and the search feature sucked, but I eventually got everyone added. The entire reason for doing this is so that in the month before the race you can get pace estimations and your start time. Slower teams start earlier and we wanted an early start time, so for us this was crucial.

As a captain, I footed the initial registration fee and relied on my teammates to pay me before whatever deadline I set. This shouldn't be taken on lightly - the entry fee for Ragnar exceeds $1200 for a team, and has to be paid all at once up front. If you do not have all of your teammates secured you will be out money until someone comes on and can pay you - we had one person drop out and another join at the very last minute, so I did not recoup the last entry fee until about a week before the race.

This is a roundup and breakdown of the fees associated with Ragnar, plus some other costs you could/will incur:

  • Registration: $125/runner with early registration
  • Van Rental: $74/person - did not include additional insurance
  • Hotel: $33/person for one night prior to race
  • Gas: $25/person
Total = $257/person
  • Other costs that may or may not apply to you:
    • Volunteer fee: $120 per volunteer (additional $10-30/person)
    • Custom shirts
    • Food before/during/after race
    • Ragnar Swag

My "co-captain" and teammate Dana took on the hotel rooms and van rental deposit (when the day came, I put down the money for Van 1, and she did Van 2). As with registration, keep in mind that you have to count on others to pay you in a timely manner, so don't do it if you can't afford to be out money for a little while.

Additional Van Rental info: I had to pay additional insurance on the rental van because I'm not the primary owner of my policy *eyeroll* but I did not pass that fee on to my teammates. Just noting in case you'll be the driver. Also - and it may depend on where you rent from, but the primary driver had to pay for the van (so even though Anthony was driving our van, I was put on as a driver), and there was a per day fee to add a second driver. We got out of this because Dana had called prior to our rental and specifically asked about additional driver fees - among other things - and they didn't tell us about this, so it was $0ed out. But FYI. Ask A LOT of questions about the additional fees before you rent so that you're not blindsided when you're standing there waiting to pay. Another fun one they tried to hit us with was $25 to remove the last row of seats in Van 2 even though we specifically asked for 12 person vans, not 15 person vans. Our place also charged a $600 deposit on the van, with the remainder refunded after I had to wait about 2 weeks after the race to get the $150 balance refunded. Van rental was definitely an annoying part of the whole experience.

In all, this race ran about $250 in fees per person, but that was with early registration. It is definitely more expensive than your normal race. And the later your team registers, the steeper the cost.

"Volunteer fees": Another note - each team was expected to provide 3 volunteers and if you did not you had to pay a $120 penalty per volunteer to cover costs. We lucked out and had three AMAZING people step up - my mom, my bestie Steffi, and someone from the Hogwarts Running Club. There must have been a ton of negative feedback about this, because this year if you register before December this requirement is waived.

Here was feedback from our volunteers - they were able to sign up for shifts starting mid-April:
  • My mom (who for reference is in her 60s) took an 11am-2pm shift at Lake Mills High School in WI (Exchange 6). She ended up spending a lot of time in the sun (no shade provided for volunteers, either) during peak heat, and it was very hot that weekend. This annoyed me and I mentioned it in my feedback to Ragnar. Note that Ragnar does not provide any sort of "incentive" for volunteering (such as a free shirt/discount on swag).
  • It's not like my mom was assigned to a task she couldn't do, but given that this is something people are probably doing because they love their runners, Ragnar could step up and treat their actual volunteers a bit better - because if people don't volunteer, that $120 goes towards paying someone to be there.
  • Both Steffi and Austin (our HRC volunteer) had overnight/early morning shifts, which they reported were pretty easy...the worst part was probably haven't to drive in the middle of night to nowhere to do nothing for a few hours before driving home in the wee hours.
Picking Legs (/Vans)
To quote Marx: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

Lol wat? >> Make sure your runners are comfortable with their own ability to complete their legs and don't stick anyone with one that will make them dread the weekend, but also don't stick someone with something they don't think is challenging enough for them.

You want your teammates to be happy/comfortable with what they've signed up for, so picking legs is important. A few weeks before picking legs I sent my team the link to Ragnar's site showing the distances and elevation for each leg of the race. I asked everyone to rank their preferences for top three, and promised everyone would get one of those legs. This said...note that legs can change at the last minute, and check Ragnar's site a couple times in the weeks before the race to make sure the distances/difficulty haven't changed. We did have two runners swap legs in the lead-up to the race because of changes.

We had two runners who were faster and willing to run whatever, so they got assigned to the long legs almost automatically. Everyone else got one of the legs they preferred, and those who wanted to be in the same van were able to be.

Note: If you have people who want to be grouped together in the same van don't ignore the request. Once the race starts, you are with the five other teammates in your van for the duration of the race, and you will barely see your other teammates. Most of us didn't know each other so it didn't matter, but we had two people who traveled long distances for the race and wanted to be grouped with their friend so they could share the experience. It's not an irrational request at all, so make it work.

Tips for a Captain
  • Book hotels and vans WAY in advance. It was actually difficult for us to secure van rentals 4 months out. Once you're registered start looking for vans! Do not rely on the Ragnar site's email list for rentals with Enterprise. I did this twice and never even got an email about it, so that was a bust.
    • It also happened that IMWI 70.3 (the inaugural Half Ironman Wisconsin) was the Sunday of Ragnar weekend - this probably contributed to hotel bookings, and next year Ragnar is three weeks earlier which should help!
  • EXTRA DRIVERS. Having Anthony was a god send - everyone in Van 1 would tell you that. We've already agreed on designated drivers for our vans for Round 2 in May!
    • Having someone driving means no one has to do so after a long or hot leg, and allows the runners to decompress and chill when in the van. Warning though - even your driver won't get much sleep!
  • EXTRA DRIVERS. It's so important I'm saying it twice!
  • The Captain's meeting isn't necessary to attend - the two options offered were terribly timed for me/too far away so I didn't go (8:30-10:30 on a weeknight, over an hour away, at 9 weeks pregnant? No thanks.)
    • You can get all the answers you need from the Race Bible, the Captain's Meeting Minutes, and from organizers when you check in.
    • People who have done/captained a Ragnar before are also helpful with this stuff (Nicole's knowledge was a huge help for us)
Tips for a Runner
  • Use the Ragnar Checklist to pack. They tick all the boxes! Baby wipes and fresh underwear saved me, lol.
    • Yes, you will probably want a sleeping bag and pillow (and a towel if you're going to shower)
  • Yes, you do need three different outfits to run in, unless you want to be in wet clothes during/after your runs. You'll get sweaty and smell and want to change.
    • I got a tip from another blog to pack each outfit in a different ziploc bag - I took it further and even had a bag for chargers and a bag for my "non running" clothes and underwear. It made it easier to find things in my dufflebag which was in the back of the van, and I'd put whatever I knew I'd need next in my backpack up front.
  • Sunblock and shade - we learned quickly that Ragnar doesn't do a great job of providing shade/tents at major exchanges. Bring your own (ie an umbrella) if you need it, and apply EXTRA sunblock for time in the sun!
  • Portable chargers, multiple charging options - I was navigating and as such my phone stayed plugged in almost all the time to use Google Maps. At the sleep exchanges there weren't many outlets, so I relied on our van's DC hookup and portable chargers to keep my phone juiced the whole time we were on the road.
  • Bring cash, should you decide to split the cost of food with teammates.
  • You'll want snacks/drinks for the van - bring what you like and can stomach during running.
  • Train for your legs.
    • If you're going to see elevation, train for it.
    • If you'll be running at night, practice running at night.
    • Run more than 1x a day at least once a week leading up to Ragnar.
    • Practice running more than once a day and/or when you don't normally run.
      • For me this meant running after work - I'm great at running at 4:30 in the morning, but my runs were at 9:30am, 9:00pm, and you're probably not going to get to run when you're most used to it.
Free Shoes program
Also worth mentioning - Reebok sponsors the race and sends a free pair of shoes to the team captains (one captain per team!). This year, they sent their brand new Reebok Floatrides, which are pretty cool shoes. I ended up trading in my pair and getting men's shoes for Anthony (because he started running and desperately needed shoes...and who's gonna snub a free pair of $150 shoes??). Anthony really likes them too, so that's good. The first pair of shoes came a few weeks before the race, so realistically there's time to test them out and the possibility that you could wear them during the race

Annnd...that's it!
That's everything I can think of for now!

While captaining wasn't the hardest or most confusing thing I've ever done, it did require organization and foresight. With Ragnar, your motto should be "the earlier, the better". Reading tips from blogs and other runners really helped make the experience easier and less stressful, as did having other people I could count on to help. If your teammates are willing, assign everyone a task to help with (this is how we're handling Ragnar 2018!).

Other than that...if you do have questions, feel free to ask - I'll answer whatever I can!