Wednesday, August 22, 2012

International Geocaching Day 2012

Saturday, 18 August 2012, was the second annual International Geocaching Day. So, a couple of friends and I got together and set out to find some caches. I had a list of 12, then we couldn't find two and it thunderstormed, then someone had to go, then we went to find four others I had been meaning to get, then we ran out of time on the last one but all told I got 13 finds--one shy of my 250th find.

These are the finds we made:
  1. TreyB's 5K cache.
  2. Climb #4 - Beware of the Apple Guards
  3. Yett Creek Four
  4. Bread, milk, eggs and a cache!
  5. Another YARN or is it?
  6. SRPS #6 Rubber
  7. SRPS #7 Power
  8. SRPS #8 Animals
  9. SRPS #9 Steel
  10. Paul's Walkabout
  11. XANN-Welcome to Pflugerville!
  12. Smooches
  13. The Old Austin Executive Airpark
I chose these mostly based on proximity to our start location and the number of favorite points. My favorite cache of the day was probably "TreyB's 5K cache" because it was just a nice hike to an ammo can and I love ammo cans.

The two we had trouble with were:
  1. Paper, Scissors, Rock
  2. Climb #14 - Bee Careful
"Paper, Scissors, Rock" is a multi-part cache and while step one almost defeated us, we eventually found the first redirector. The second redirector was easy enough but while searching for the final cache container, a thunderstorm blew in and we split before making the find. I emailed the cache owner for a hint and he said we were on the right track. We went back yesterday and found it very quickly; and I got my 250th find!

"Climb #14" is another matter. We just couldn't see it up in the tree (granted it was raining still) but the same person gave me a hint as to where it was and it happen to be MUCH higher up than we thought and in a different tree. We spotted it right away yesterday but it started to rain, again, and it was still too slippery to climb. A lot of people use tools like ladders or sticks to get these caches and to me that seems against the spirit of the cache given their high terrain ratings, but apparently I am in the minority on this one.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Physical Readiness Test

This past weekend, I travelled to Hamilton, Texas, to participate in the physical readiness test portion of the Texas Game Warden selection process. I drove up Saturday night since the test began Sunday at 08:00. It's only two hours away, but I wanted to make sure I got a good night's sleep and wasn't rushing around the morning of the test.

I got to the high school stadium where the test took place at about 07:30 and there were a lot of people already waiting around. I am definitely older than the average applicant but not by a whole lot. By my count, though, there were only 13 women out of the approximately 70 people there. I found out that there had been a test the day before as well and all told, 155 people made it to this stage from the interview stage. Then we were told there are only 14 open positions...

The first part of the test we did was the push-ups, which I was really glad about since it was the portion I was most worried about failing and if I did, at least I could just go on home. They lined us up in five rows by number. (We were known by our number all day; I was 88.) The way they measured if we completed a push-up was with this ingenious little homemade device with a piece of foam and stick that would pop up every time we went low enough for a push-up to count. When we did, the stick would hit the bottom of the hand of the warden counting for us. I wish I had been able to take a picture but since I didn't, I made this drawing to illustrate.

Illustration of a push-up measuring stick
I think my adrenaline was really pumping because I was able to knock out my push-ups pretty easily, 13 in under a minute. I'm very glad I did all that weight training and the interval push-up training; it really paid off. Next, we stayed in our lines and did the same thing for sit-ups. I'm strong in this area so with another applicant holding my feet, I busted out my 21 sit-ups with no problem.

After this, we lined up in two lines sequentially by our numbers to perform the handgun stability test. We used what looked very similar to my dad's .38 revolver that I practiced with. All we had to do was hold the gun barrel with each hand inside a 5" ring and dry fire five times, then lower ourselves to a kneeling position and dry fire five times again, but holding the gun with both hands.

At this point, we lined up in groups of eight to do the 300m sprint. But, before the first group go could, a guy across the field went into cardiac arrest and we found out later that his heart actually stopped. A few people there were trained first responders who ran over to help. He was taken away by ambulance and we were later told he had a known heart condition but his doctor had signed off on his attempting the test.

I was in the third group to sprint and as I expected, I was dead last. But I made it in 1 minute 20 seconds which was faster than my practice sprints by about 20 seconds and within the required 1 minute and 49 seconds. Running on a flat track improved my speed by more than I could have imagined. Running on a street with varied elevations proved to be great training.

people running on a track
Runners at the finish line of the track with game wardens watching
After this, they broke us up into two groups to do the 1.5 mile run. Again, I came in very near last, but I was faster than my practice runs and I was comfortably within the 21 minutes and 36 seconds time limit at just over 18 minutes. One girl and one guy almost didn't make it but we all cheered them on to the finish line. It was cool to see everyone come together like that. They let us wear headphones which was really helpful for me mentally and I was also able to use my GPS time tracking app to know how I was doing.

satellite view of a running track
Running track with six laps highlighted from MapMyFitness
At this point, it was only 10:45. I really just wanted to finish up the test but they told us we were getting a lunch break and wouldn't start the swimming test until 13:00. Ugh... I decided to try and find a geocache or two because I had already decided I wasn't eating. I had only had a granola bar right when I woke up and another granola bar during the break but a full meal seemed like a bad idea. I picked up a sandwich for after, found my geocache, then hung out in the park near the pool until 12:30 when they let us in to change.

I am so glad my last name is at the front of the alphabet because they were only able to have four people swim at a time and we had up to five minutes to complete the test—poor number 155. And if you failed, you had to wait until the end to retry. I got in the pool to warm up and see how it was to turn around the in the shallow part; not easy. I was in the fourth group to swim and did sidestroke the whole way (three laps), finishing easily.

So, I passed! That felt really good given that I trained pretty hard to make it happen. It was great to drive back to Austin with that accomplishment, no matter what happens after this. Next, we're supposed to be contacted about our background check so it's just a game of wait and see as I don't have any control over what happens from here on out.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Game Warden Ride-Along

I found out a few weeks ago through a friend of my mom's who is married to a Medina county game warden that game wardens do ride-alongs and pretty much have to accept any requests they receive. She put me in touch with her husband and I got to go along with him this weekend to get a glimpse into a day-in-the-life of a Texas Game Warden.

Game wardens have to work odd hours and weekends since those are the times many people are enjoying the outdoors. Saturday, we took a ride over to Medina Lake, which straddles both Medina and Bandera counties, to take one of their boats out and do water safety checks. I've never really been out on a boat like the one we were on, nor had I ever been out on Medina Lake. It was a very fast boat and we stopped several boats and jet skis (personal watercraft) for checks and violations. I was surprised that not a single vessel had all its ducks in a row. Basically, boats are required to have the following:
  • Current registration sticker (good for two years)
  • Registration certificate
  • Display registration numbers on the hull
  • A working fire extinguisher
  • A horn or whistle
  • A throwable life preserver
  • A life jacket for every single passenger
I stress that last one because it really is the most important and one vessel we stopped only had two life jackets for seven people. This particular lake is very low, 56 feet at the time we went out, and there are all kinds of trees and debris sticking up and the banks are solid rock. If something were to happen to the boat, you could be very far from shore or knocked unconscious. A life preserver could be your only saving grace.

trucks near a boat ramp on a very low lake
Medina Lake 56 feet low
We were out on the water about four hours in the late afternoon and it was pretty hot. The game warden let me drive the boat, which really surprised me since I have never run a powerful, motorized watercraft of any kind. He said it could get up to 73 mph but I suspect I didn't do more than maybe 40. It takes some skill to stand as you hit the wake from other boats. My first lesson was not to keep my hand on the throttle when this happened because then I jerked the speed back and forth. Later on, he had me practice docking.

small boat on a boat trailer next to a lake
The Game Warden's Majek boat
When we got back to shore, I met the two Bandera county game wardens who were checking up on things but since traffic on the lake was relatively light, they had let us do the patrolling alone. It was a pretty cool experience watching how the water safety checks go; I learned A LOT!

Sunday, I went on a ride-along the next day too, but for a shorter time. We had a lot of time to chat so I could ask any questions I had and then I wanted to see how the paper work went for the citations he had written the day before. He also showed me some photographs of violations during hunting season. I have an open invitation to go on more ride-alongs in the future, which I fully intend to do.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week Three Update

I missed posting a week two update and am a little late on week three but I have good news! I got the letter today saying I made it past the interview stage for the game warden cadet position and am moving on to the physical fitness test. I'm delighted and terrified at the same time since I still can't do 13 real push-ups, but I found a strength program that I've been doing in addition to the 100 push-ups regimen. The cool thing is, it is very similar to what I was already doing, only it alternates working the primary muscles three days a week (shoulders, triceps, chest) with the opposing muscles on the between days (biceps and back). I'm already feeling stronger.

The other good thing is that I realized I was cheating myself of 10 seconds when timing my sprint. For some reason I had converted 109 seconds to 1 minute 39 seconds instead of 49 seconds and those extra 10 seconds help a lot. I've also started doing my sprinting along the same route that I'm doing my running just to save time. Last Saturday, I performed the entire fitness test (minus the handgun piece) in just under an hour. I have two more weeks to get fitter and stronger as I have to do the real test on the 22nd in Hamilton, Texas. I've also lost six pounds during these three weeks in part to increased activity but also because I have been watching my diet and avoiding cheese, caffeine, artificial sweeteners and just counting calories in general. It's not as hard as it seems and I find I don't have many cravings.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Proper Running Shoes

Okay, so I've been running now for about two weeks and I'm starting to get some hip and foot pain. I think this is due to my current sneakers not being real running shoes. I only got them for going to the gym and doing classes like turbo kick and zumba, not for running several miles each week. Today I decided to visit a running shoe store, one where they know about proper support and cushioning and somewhere with a treadmill and video camera for checking my pronation.

I ended up going to a store called the Texas Running Company located in the Gateway shopping center off 360 and working with a nice guy named Shawn. Sure enough, he had me run on a treadmill and it was fascinating seeing my gate. I kept going back and forth thinking I was an overpronater then an underpronater and as it turns out, I overpronate on my left side only so that's why it was hard for me to tell what's going on. He had me try on several different brands to see what felt best and I decided on the Saucony Hurricane 14. They have lots of cushioning which is apparently good since I'm heavier and they are one of the shoes Runner's World suggested to me (only they suggested the 13).

white running shoes with silver trim
Hurricane 14 running shoes
I'm excited to take them out on Monday (since I already ran today and Sunday is my rest day). I'm hopeful that they will feel a lot better and improve my stride.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Game Warden Interview

Well, I had my interview today up in Temple (since I live in region 9) and I think it went okay but not great, although I'll admit it was very hard to read the three wardens on my interview panel. They did a great job of remaining stoic and keeping their poker faces. I think I answered most of the questions well but I'm pretty sure I bombed at least one of them. I've been told that it's to my advantage being a woman since they don't get a lot of female applicants; I guess we'll see!

I'm not allowed to discuss the questions or the process though it went about how I thought it would. I'm still nervous because even if I get past this stage, I still can't do 13 push-ups and I didn't want to ask the interview panel about that. I will keep working out and trying my best to get stronger; then if I make it to the physical fitness test, I'll give it all I've got and hope for the best. At least I can do the other portions of the test. (Well, I haven't tried the handgun part, but I think I can do it.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Sprint

Got up today and did my running again without stopping. It felt a bit more difficult I think because I am really sore from yesterday. I hope that means my upper body muscles are growing and repairing themselves. I only ran for distance today, not time, so stopped at about 20:52 with a distance of 1.51 miles but that's because I wanted to pace out another route to practice the sprinting portion of the test.

I walked through my apartment complex and over to the frontage road by NI because there is a nice, straight gravel path there. I wasn't sure just how far 300 meters would be but after pacing it out with my app (I was able to just switch over to km from miles), it seemed doable. But, though I got a good start running back, I quickly lost steam. My body just sort of gave up and I wasn't able to run it in 109 seconds. I think I probably can but was just tapped for today.

300 meter sprint track
I walked back to my apartment and tried to do some ab work but didn't get very far. I was able to do my 21 sit-ups and two 30 second planks then 24 crunches but that was it. This afternoon I started researching a push-up improvement plan and I think I have found a good one. It's called one hundred push ups and is a six week plan to get better at push-ups. I will be doing this along with weight training. Tomorrow, I will try the initial test to see how many push-ups I can do though I suspect it's still zero.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Week 2 of Training

Okay so I flaked out Monday and Tuesday and didn't workout. My body was tired and I ended up going to bed early both nights and sleeping a lot. I am trying not to overdo it too quickly but I also need to keep up my pace so that I keep getting stronger. Of course, I think I overdid it today.

I got up and it was raining but I still wanted to run outside; I really can't stand the treadmill. It actually didn't rain on me and I had my best time yet with 1.58 miles in the time allotted! That's an average pace of 13:58 minutes per mile, sweet. I hope that number just keeps improving.

After running, I went to the fitness center to start upper body training. I did three sets of bench presses with free weights; three sets of bicep curls; three sets of triceps curls and three sets of rows for the back. I also did three sets of dips to further build up my triceps. This evening, I went back to go to Zumba class and got there about 18:00 because sometimes our instructor is there early doing pilates but she wasn't, so I did more weight lifting.

I weighed myself after class and was down to 195. I'm sure some of that is water weight but awesome, I'm already going down. I just have to keep working at it and eating well. Wes and I went to Souper Salad for a date night and I had a pretty awesome salad with all the things I like and then treated myself to one of their gingerbread squares. Yum!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Running without Stopping

Woohoo! Today for the first time and only five days into training I ran the full time and full distance without stopping or walking at all. I feel quite proud about that. I went a total of 1.56 miles in 22:00 (that includes several seconds that it takes for me to put away my iPhone and pull it out again to stop the timer) and I had an average speed of 14:06 per mile so getting close to 14:00.

My dad was asking me if there is any bonus for finishing faster and I don't think that there is. At this point, I just want to pace myself to where I pass comfortably but don't blow it out because I will have to have energy remaining to do all the parts of the fitness test since it's all done in one day. I'm also not sure how long you get for the entire test. As I get better a running consistently the entire time and getting faster, I will also start to run for longer so that when I only have to run for 21:36, it will feel easier.

I made it around the lake once and then around to the corner where the path goes away from the river (I realize that doesn't mean much to you, the reader, but it's a good benchmark for me). I should mention too that I have been running this path clockwise and would like to be able to make two full laps at some point in the time frame. I walked back the rest of the way to the house to cool down.

I went around twice but stopped running at the red arrow on the second pass.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

First Full Run

I'm down at my parents' house this weekend and I got up early to go running with my dad (well at the same time as my dad and the dogs) around my parents' lake. I ran the entire first lap without stopping and only did so in order to pause the MapMyFitness app to see how far it is around the lake. My dad thought it was 0.75 miles but it's actually 0.94 miles. I then continued running until my timer went off again and walked the rest of the way back to the house.

Loop Around the Lake
I also did my sit-ups today but did them outside in the grass and got covered in burrs, lovely. My dad ran the opposite direction as me and wasn't totally kicking my ass so that was nice (he is a lifelong runner). Later on we talked and he looked at my shoes and suggested I try to find some better running ones if I plan to continue doing this. He also said that from what he's read about push-up training, it's best to do every other day to give your muscle a chance to rest and grow.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Running in the Morning is so Much Better

I went out about 07:30 today and it was pretty nice, though muggy since it is almost summer in Central Texas. I tried doing some push-ups and completed my sit-ups before running. I think I will start doing some sort of upper body training Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with ab work Tuesdays and Thursdays in addition to the other workout stuff I do.

I went the full 1.5 miles today in 22:17 which is an average pace of 14:51 minutes per mile. I need to get this down to 14 at least. I ran longer but still wasn't able to run for the full time. I really like using the MapMyFitness app because I can see exactly where and how far I went and in what amount of time. I am also able to re-do the same route over and over to see how I improve.

This route is good because it has some elevation changes to help challenge me. Since I know my exact halfway point of 0.75 miles, what I've been doing is setting my wristwatch timer to 10:48 (half of 21:36) and seeing if I can make it there before it goes off. Getting closer!

Elevation Change in my Training Route

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My First Run

Ugh! That was very difficult but I have mapped out a 1.5 mile training route and will attempt to do that in 21:36 and to run the entire time. I went out in the heat of the day to do this for the first time and I think that was a bad idea. I will do all my running in the morning!

According to my fitness program, it took me about 22:10 to go 1.47 miles (I actually need to make it to that cross street for 1.5 miles) and I had to walk a lot. But hey, it's a start and I got out there. Tonight I'll be going to yoga. I'm also back to watching what I eat more closely. I usually have a pretty good diet but I tend to overeat at night and to indulge in sweets. I am also going to avoid cheese since it's so bad for you (if you eat it a lot like I do) and because I have been trying to have a more vegan diet but cheese is like my Achilles's heel.

Training Route for Running
The good news is, I can do 21 sit-ups with no problem. The bad news is, I can't do a push-up to save my life. I am going to have to research how to improve my upper body strength or I'm flat out going to fail. I don't think they let the women to "girl" push-ups (from the knees) or at least I don't think they should.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Revisiting my Blog

Wow, I was in Blogger the other day for something else and looked back over some old stuff I'd done and had pretty much forgotten about this blog. But I am going to bring it back because I have something to write about and it is again fitness-related just like the last set of posts I did here almost four years ago.

Interestingly, I am at the same weight as my last post here: 198 lbs. That is after going down to about 184 two years ago and staying at that weight for over a year. But life, stress, grad school and work got the better of me and I gained again. You really can tell when your pants are too tight!

Something else of note is that I have applied to be a Texas Game Warden which is a law enforcement position with a physical fitness requirement, one I cannot yet reach. I might not even make it to that stage since I first have to pass an interview, but I need to start training now if I have any hope of completing the requirements which are as follows:
  • 21 sit-ups in one minute
  • 13 push-ups in one minute
  • 1.5 mile run in no more than 21 minutes 36 seconds
  • 300 meter run in no more than 109 seconds
  • a handgun stability test involving dry fire of a revolver; five consecutive trigger pulls with each hand from a standing position while holding the barrel inside a 5 inch ring, five consecutive pulls inside a 5 inch ring while holding the firearm in both hands from an unsupported kneeling position
  • swim test: an applicant must fall backwards in the water and remain afloat for 30 seconds, then swim 100 meters without assistance or rest in no more than 5 minutes
Some of those, like the handgun stability test I have no clue about and will need to research. Others, I need to figure out just where I stand fitness-wise. Today I started down this road to better health. On Wednesdays, I try to go to Zumba class at my apartment complex and following that, I ran for five minutes on the treadmill at about 4.5 mph which is what I need to do to meet the time requirement. It was hard! Tomorrow, I will try running (or at least going) 1.5 miles and see how long it takes me.