Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: The Year in Review

Well, I can't believe it but I started this blog over a year ago now. I have been reading through my blog posts over the last few days and it's kind of amazing how much has changed. I guess you don't really notice it when the changes are small or happen over an extended period of time, but 2012 was a very good year for me. I created my twitter account around the same time as this blog and am beyond amazed at the people I have come to know and the sense of family and community I feel.

I originally created both the twitter account and this blog to hold myself accountable for my actions and to seek out inspiration. Although I started my weight loss journey back in 2009, I initially lost a lot of weight and then maintained it for several years. This blog was my attempt to jump-start that weight loss again, to put myself in motion. If that had been my only goal for 2012 I could have already called the year a success. I lost an additional 25 pounds this year (although admittedly 5 of those pounds did creep back on in the last few months), and am wearing a smaller size than when the year began.

I also literally put myself in motion by completing my first full year as a runner. This in itself is a huge accomplishment for a non-committal, easily-bored person like myself. I began the year as a timid treadmill-user, afraid of the road and counting the painful minutes until my run was over. Then one day in March, I ventured outside and truly fell in love with running. I wrote about it in one of my favorite blog posts, here. Shortly after that magical run, I joined my local Galloway run/walk group. I forced myself to be a person who stays in and goes to bed early on Friday nights and wakes up at 5:30am to meet my running group on Saturday mornings. I met some of the most motivating people in that group and am so blessed that I can now call some of them friends outside of running.

Over the course of the year, I ran my first 5k race, my first 8k, my first mud/obstacle run, and nearly 8 months to the day after that first outdoor run, I completed my first half-marathon. I ran 9 races total between April and December. I have run over 600 miles in this, my first year. I learned how to make and keep commitments to myself and to other people. I spent a lot of money on races and gear, although my initial choice to run was because it was "free" (oh silly, naive Bang).

Most importantly I found an outlet for all of the stress and pressures put on me by my job, my family and myself. It used to be that if I had a bad day I would drive from one fast-food restaurant to another and eat until I literally felt sick. I would take whatever void there was in my heart and fill it with food. Now, I run. It is my time to be alone with myself, my thoughts. When I run, no one can touch me; I'm invincible and free. My moods and temper are more even and I'm generally a nicer, more optimistic person than before (ok, this is debatable).

In addition to running I found a love of dance through my local Zumba classes. After putting it off for months, I timidly (and most-definitely awkwardly) attended my first class. I didn't know the moves but I didn't let it bother me. I was trying and that was enough. The more I went, the less self-conscious I became. I went from one of the women hiding in the back row to what my instructor calls a "front row diva". I became more confident in my body and myself.

In August I was honored to be featured as a Friday FITspiration story on That was really the first time I opened up and was honest about my journey outside of my own blog (which I liked to pretend no one was actually reading). I met some amazing and inspiring people through that opportunity and I'm thankful to Jesica for thinking my story was one worth sharing. It still surprises me when people tell me I inspire them but it means the world to know that I do.

You have all inspired me so much throughout this year that I can't even begin to tell you. Without the amazing community of runners and fitness folks on Twitter, I don't know that I would have accomplished all that I have in 2012. You have been my support system, my cheerleaders and my friends. You guys inspire me every day and I love you for it. Thank you for being a part of my journey, I can't wait to see where 2013 takes us.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Healthy Adult Female: Who, me?!

I have a confession to make: prior to today it had been about three years since my last annual physical (so much for annual). I did have to go through a pretty extensive doctor's visit prior to being hired by my current employer but I will pretend that doesn't count. See, I have been considered either overweight or obese nearly my entire life. When you weigh 250lbs, the doctor generally does not have many favorable things to tell you. It got to the point where I had serious anxiety about going to see a doctor and so I just sort of stopped going. You can't give me bad news if I don't come in for a visit, right? Ha.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about my health lately and decided that with all of the long-distance running I intend to do next year and with the history of heart disease on both sides of my family tree, I ought to get myself checked out. I called some practices in the area who declared they were not accepting new patients. On my third call, I finally heard some good news. Not only was my doctor of choice accepting new patients but she had a cancellation for Monday morning. I like to think that these things are meant to be and so I happily accepted the appointment.

As I sat in one of the patient rooms, I could hear faint voices through the wall. I could tell that the patient had a lot of questions and the doctor was taking the time to answer each one. It made me smile. I would happily wait as long as necessary to be seen if I was going to receive the same level of attention and care. Shortly thereafter, my doctor came in an introduced herself. Her questions about my personal and family medical history were like a dialogue between friends, completely unlike the methodical checklist I'm accustomed to.

She took time to answer the questions I had and she congratulated me heartily when I told her the amount of weight I've lost in the past four years, and about running my first half-marathon. I mean if you can't brag to your doctor about something like that, then who? She asked me if my weight was still a concern of mine and I told her yes and that ideally I'd like to lose about 40 pounds more.

At the end of my visit she handed me a printed clinical summary, which impressed me so much. The best part was in the notes she typed at the bottom: "Healthy adult female. Currently, she eats a healthy diet and has an adequate exercise regimen." I don't think any doctor has said that about me, ever. As I read the words a second time, I beamed with pride. Healthy! Hopefully my lab work will yield pleasant results and then maybe for once I can say I look forward to next year's exam. Today really brought home what a tremendous difference I have made in my life and I couldn't be more proud.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A little bit of luck and a lot of hard work

Hey guys! I am so excited about this blog post. Back in September I participated in a #Runchat giveaway to win a personalized race training plan from Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running. Jason is a USATF-certified running coach and can run a full marathon faster than I ran my half!! He works with runners of all skill levels to create customized training plans and help them achieve their running goals. I was so fortunate to be the lucky winner of a personalized PR Race Plan!

Jason contacted me immediately and asked me to fill out a very thorough questionnaire about my running history, current workouts and future goals. At the time I had not yet completed my first half-marathon but had already registered for my second! I knew that I wanted my training plan to focus on that second race. After a few emails back and forth we decided to wait on creating my plan until after I completed my first half-marathon, in order to have a point of reference for my new goals. After completing my half and a couple of smaller races, I returned my updated questionnaire to Jason. Less than a week later he emailed me my personalized plan. I am so excited about it!!!

My over-zealous self managed to sign up for two spring half-marathons within six weeks of each other and Jason was able to incorporate both races in to my training plan. I had two goals in mind for my training: 1) to become a stronger, faster, more well-rounded runner; and 2) to rely less on the Galloway run/walk method, especially for shorter distances like the 5k. Again, Jason took both of these goals in to account and designed my plan with both in mind. In addition to planning my run workouts and weekly mileage Jason took great care to address things such as warmup/cool down routines, core workouts, and cross-training. He even linked me to several instructional videos! I am just so impressed by my entire experience so far.

Since my races are not until the spring, my formal training won't begin until early January but Jason suggested I work on certain things in the meantime. I have been extremely inspired lately by the goal-setting and training logs being posted by my fellow bloggers. I have decided to be equally as transparent about my own training and one of my goals is to blog here on a more regular basis. I am currently working on filling my 2013 agenda book with my training plan and I intend to pencil in scheduled blogging time as well. I can't wait to let you know about my progress as I begin to train for my second and third half-marathons. I hope you'll continue to share your experiences too. Thanks for the inspiration!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Inspiration bred from perspiration

In the days leading up to my half-marathon I realized that I was not the only one growing increasingly excited. The taper madness must have been contagious because my father wanted to know everything that was going through my head that week. I could tell that a part of him was recalling his own experience, more than thirty years ago, as he prepared for his first-ever distance race: the New York City Marathon. Two days before my race he excitedly told me how he'd gone outside for a walk and he ended up actually running for the first time in many years. He mentioned where he had run and wanted to know how far I thought he'd gone (~3.1 miles) and how long it had taken him (33 minutes). "Dad, that's faster than my 5K time. What the hell?" I joked. He smiled and replied, "Good, then we can run together."

The day after my half he asked if I felt any soreness. When I told him that I felt surprisingly good, he gave me a sheepish grin and confessed that he was still sore from his run. I scolded him for running in cross-trainers and sent him off to get proper running shoes. He returned with the shoes and an exasperated look, exclaiming "They wanted $20 for a pair of gloves! I'd rather wear socks on my hands." Seriously, the man is cracking me up. It has been so amazing to see this little spark renewed within him and to think that maybe I inspired it. I can't wait to see what else the running bug does to him. Who knows, perhaps we'll get to run a race together after all.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Race Recap: My first half-marathon!

I awoke like a child on Christmas morning. My alarm wasn’t set to go off for another 30 minutes but I was simply too excited to go back to bed. It was the day I’d been obsessing about for almost 6 months: my first half-marathon. I'd originally registered for the race due to pressure encouragement from Melanie. She was originally planning to walk the half-marathon distance and told me that if she could walk it, I could run it. I had a lot of doubts and no idea what I was getting myself into but I eventually agreed. I am SO thankful that I did. I am also so proud of Mel because over the last 6 months she has become a runner and she ran that 13.1 instead of walking it. 

Yesterday’s weather report called for a 30% chance of rain but thankfully it never showed up. It was a chilly morning and I was grateful for my nervous energy keeping me active & therefore warm(ish) near the start line. I waited near the back of the pack, where I noticed an older gentleman in front of me dressed in blue jeans. I wanted so badly to ask, “Sir? Do you know you’re about to do a half-marathon?!” For the record, he did it. I watched him cross the finish line later that morning.

The beginning of the race was a blur of excitement as I activated my trio of technology (heart rate monitor, interval timer, and RunKeeper app). Then, I was off and running. I tried to hang with the 3:00-half pace group because we were both doing intervals but we weren’t in sync, so we leap-frogged for a bit. I hadn’t run for a few days prior to the race and my legs were so ready to move! It was only a matter of time before they got the best of me and I surged ahead. I came upon a friend of mine who was running the full marathon and we chatted for a few minutes before yet again I forged on. It was about this time that I realized I was feeling too good and moving too fast. Coincidentally this was also when I faced the first of many hills; I considered it a speed bump.

The folks around me at this point in the race were in great spirits and very vocal. A man running with a stroller paused to let his toddler daughter out for a run. As I passed them he told the little girl “Don’t let her beat you!” It cracked me up. There was also a man in front of me who was keeping an amazingly steady pace. I would fall behind him during my walk intervals but pass him during my runs. I thought about trying to talk to him but wasn’t sure if that was taboo, so I made it my goal to stay near him.

The course quickly took us into the heart of downtown Raleigh, which was fun because we passed a lot of local hangouts and monuments. Somewhere between miles 3 & 4 I spotted the paparazzi and tried my best to smile and look photogenic. We shuffled past a fire station where about 12 firemen stood quietly watching our efforts. They seemed disinterested but I smiled and waved anyway, which seemed to catch their attention. 

Soon after I encountered the second water stop, which was manned by volunteers in pretty tutus. As I rounded a corner I was greeted by a family on the side of the road and three young girls with their arms extended, looking for high-fives. Three high-fives later, I continued on my journey up yet another hill. We ran toward the state capitol building, past church-goers in suits and dresses, past the cow parade and the huge globe situated outside the museum of natural sciences.

After running past one of my favorite pizza places I started to get excited because I knew that I was almost at mile 6, where Rose was stationed as a course monitor. I was beginning to realize that my pace was still too quick, that I needed to fuel more consistently and I was really looking forward to seeing a familiar face. As I approached the intersection where the course monitors were stationed, I started waving happily to those on the left side of the road but no one waved back. Then I heard someone calling my name on the right side of the road and there was Rose! It just so happened to be time for one of my walk intervals so I got to chat with her for a brief minute before continuing on. Thanks for cheering for me Rose, you made my day!

The race took us up another hill past a huge shopping center where the finish line for the 10K was located. There were more spectators in this part of the course and I heard lots of cheers, music and cowbells, which energized me. I knew my parents were expected to show up on the race course at some point and I was really hoping it would be here. I scanned the crowd for familiar faces but didn’t see any. Then I spotted my favorite sign of the whole race, it said “You look sooooo skinny!!!” Haha! Why thank you.

At the top of the hill was another water stop and a teenager with a sign that had a bull’s-eye on it and said “push here for power boost”. I high-fived his sign and sped up a little bit, pretending I was in a video game. A couple of miles later I realized that my water bottle was nearly empty. Having never run a long-distance race before, I was unsure what my water situation would be. I have trained all year with a 20oz handheld bottle and this is what I carried with me on race day. I had serious water-anxiety throughout the race and had stopped at every water stop on the way to be sure I was properly hydrated. Just after the 8-mile marker, I approached another water stop and the first volunteer I saw was a man holding a pitcher of water. I ran right up to him and he said “this is for bottle refill”. I already had my bottle open and as he filled it up I told him I loved him. He probably thought I was crazy but he was in the right place at the right time!

At the top of yet another uphill (was this whole race uphill??) was a sweet blonde woman cheering us on. We thanked her and she said she had just run the Marine Corps Marathon last weekend and wanted to cheer on some local runners before heading to church. How sweet! She wasn’t kidding either because I saw her two more times on the course; she just kept appearing out of nowhere every time I was hoping to see my parents. The last time I saw her, around mile 11, I told her she was like our little angel. Even though I didn’t know her, she too made my day.

Miles 9, 10 and 11 were a series of out & backs so we were constantly running past each other. I thought I would hate that part of the course because it was repetitive and there weren’t many spectators but I actually enjoyed seeing several of my running group friends and we all shouted encouragement to each other. The volunteers, police officers and course monitors were truly amazing and made such an impact on me too. I tried to give a thumbs-up or a thank you to all who offered kind words or a smile. One woman sat on the edge of her front lawn with her speakers blaring Rapper’s Delight, which cracked me up. She told me I had the best smile she had seen on anyone all day. I was really starting to feel tired at this point so I was proud that I was still smiling.

As I neared the 12-mile marker I saw an amazingly fast guy bolt past and heard a volunteer radio that the first marathoners were back on the shared part of the course. That was both awe-inspiring and humbling, knowing someone had just run twice the distance in the same amount of time as my 12 miles. The closer I got to the finish, the more vocal the course monitors got. “You’re only a mile away!” “Half mile to go!” Tears of pride formed at the corners of my eyes but I willed them away, telling myself I couldn’t cry until I crossed that finish line and made it official.

The last quarter-mile was tough, as my feet started to cramp on me. I kept pushing through, telling myself not to stop running until I crossed that finish line. Finally the line was in sight and full-marathoners were flying past me at lightning speed. The closer I got, the louder the cheers and shouts became and I gave everything I had left. I saw someone step out from the crowd, their arms waving, and I realized it was my dad. In front of him was my mother, furiously snapping pictures. As I drew closer my dad stuck his hand out for a high-five and the look on his face was the same as when our favorite hockey team made it to the playoffs. I think the last time my parents came out to support me like this was in high school; it meant a lot for me to finally see their faces.

My amazing acorn-shaped medal

I glanced at the clock as I crossed the finish line, bowed my head to receive the medal that I had worked so hard to earn, and posed for the photographer. When I registered for this race 6 months ago, my goal was just to finish it. Despite caution not to set a time goal for my first race, as it drew closer I resolved to finish under 3 hours. In the weeks just prior to the big day, I secretly hoped to make it in around 2:45. When the results were officially posted later that night I was overjoyed: 2:47:54.

Training for and running this race has taught me so much about me and what I am capable of. This was not just a race of 13.1 miles; it was a journey of 31 years and a transformation of my life… from obese couch potato to half-marathoner. I couldn’t be more proud.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Final training update: half-marathon eve

A lot has happened in the last month! I ran my longest distance ever of 13.5 miles during a group training run. It was cold and rained for at least an hour of our run. It was the toughest run of my life, hands down. By mile 11 my hips were really sore, I was making ugly grimace faces, and to say I was irritable is a huge understatement. But... I did it! The best part was, this training run earned me my first "unofficial" medal! The Galloway group that I run with awards you a medal for your first 13.1 or 26.2 mile training runs. I was SO excited to receive that first piece of hardware!

First medal ever!!

Two weeks after that, I ran yet another distance PR of 15.5 miles! What the what? I know, a lot of people training for a half-marathon only train up to about 10-12 miles but I needed to know I could go the distance again. This second run was far better than the first. In fact I was only supposed to run 14 miles but felt so great that I decided to add the extra 1.5. It was a huge victory, both physically and mentally. Then, the taper began.

The following Saturday my training group had a 6 mile run planned, with an optional magic mile. For those who don't know, a magic mile is run at a harder-than-normal pace and is then used to determine your race pace goals. The last time we did a magic mile was a few months ago, so I was excited to do another. My training buddy J and I took off running together but I instantly felt it was a pace way faster than was comfortable for me.

Typically when doing my magic mile, I run the first half conservatively and then finish strong. This time, we had barely reached the 1/4 mile marker when I knew I was in trouble. In between gasping for air, I muttered that the pace was too fast. J knew I was having a tough time and suggested we slow down but I was afraid if I lost my momentum I'd stop completely. I kept telling myself to just keep going, that it would be over in a mile, and so I continued to push myself past the point of comfort. I could hardly speak but J kept talking to me. 

J: "Did I mention I used to be a miler in high school?"
Me: "Asshole!"
Me: "...I meant that with love."
J: "I felt it with love."

Once we passed the 3/4 mile mark, I was over it. I begged J to tell me as soon as the 1 mile sign was in sight and I just kept moving my feet as fast as I could. Our pace had slowed down because I was gassed and when we crossed the 1-mile mark I stopped my watch and looked down... 10:44. The EXACT same time I had run 3 months ago. I burst into tears.

J watched me unravel and asked why I was upset. I explained that I had run the same time 3 months ago and that I should have improved my time by now and that I was disappointed. She told me I was being too hard on myself and that I should think about how far I have come with my running and my weight loss. I know I have come leaps and bounds and am extremely proud of my progress. I guess that's why I was so frustrated with the lack of progress I had made in regard to my speed.

The very next day, a group of us met up for a 5 mile road race. I was excited to beat my previous 5-mile time and also to run with about 6 other ladies from my training group. When we crossed the start line, the pace felt fast but I stuck with it. By mile 3, some of the girls had dropped off and I was really feeling the hills on the course. When we saw the 5-mile sign, we began sprinting to the finish... only to find that the finish line was around the corner and down the block. I gave everything I had left and we crossed the finish line just under 1:05:00... 3 minutes SLOWER than my previous time.

Again, I was heartbroken. I felt like something was wrong with me, that I had somehow after all my training ended up even less-prepared than before. I started to doubt myself and my training; the thought of my half-marathon brought me fear instead of excitement. I was not in a good place.

First "official" race medal - Ramblin' Rose 5-miler

The following weekend, a few of us skipped our training run in favor of Color Me Rad. That fun run was exactly what I needed to loosen up a bit after some stressful training runs. Color Me Rad was a big party, with runners (& walkers) asked to wear a white t-shirt. Throughout the 5K, there are color-bomb stations where volunteers spray you with liquid color or toss colorful powder all over you. We laughed and screamed and overall had a great time. I am grateful for that experience.

Since we had skipped an 8-mile training run in favor of the 5k, I decided to train the 8 miles alone on Sunday. It was a cold and very windy day thanks to Hurricane Sandy, but I went out anyway. I mapped myself an 8 mile route and ran my own speed, with no pressures to keep up with anyone else. When I got back to my house, I felt amazing.

When I looked at my stats, I was beyond thrilled. Despite the hills, despite running into the wind for 75% of my run, despite all of the negative thoughts swimming in my mind for weeks, I ran the fastest 8 miles of my life. They were also the most consistent, according to my splits. Finally, I felt confident and ready to tackle the one goal I've been looking forward to completing all year.

My race day outfit! Yes, I made them put BANG on my bib!
Now, on the eve of my very first "official" half-marathon, I am filled with excitement and nervous energy. I am determined that despite meeting up with my friends from training group before the race, I will be wearing my headphones and running MY race. I will not let competition or negativity distract me from my goal. I will do this!

We talk so often about achieving PRs or weight loss goals, but what happens when we miss the mark? How do you deal with the disappointment of an unexpected outcome?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Five years, four sizes and one pair of pants

Saturday morning I met my running group for an 11 mile training run. I was still half asleep when I rolled up at 6:45am, so when Suzy grabbed my face I was slightly startled. "Look at you!!!" she shouted, still holding my face. "You look so skinny! Something has changed!" It seemed odd to receive such a reaction from someone I see every weekend, but she was right. Something had changed seemingly overnight. After hovering awkwardly between sizes for months, suddenly my pants seemed too big and my face more defined.

I spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about my weight. So far this year I have managed to reduce my BMI from the Obese category to Overweight. I have lost more than 10% of my body weight since January. I have finally settled in at a size 12 and weigh  less now than I did when I began high school. Some days I have to pinch myself to understand that this is real.

I decided this morning to clean out my closet and get rid of some items that no longer fit. In doing so I unearthed a pair of pants that I wore to work often while at my heaviest weight. As I began shedding pounds on my weight loss journey, I forced myself to get rid of any clothes that no longer fit. I did not want to have the mindset that if I gained the weight back, I would still have something to wear. Instead I told myself to get rid of the clothes because I would never be so heavy as to fit in to them again. There was one exception though, and that was a pair of pinstripe work pants. These would serve as a reminder of where I had been and how far I had come.

I totally fit both of my legs in one pant leg!

Today I found those size 20 pants, the ones that used to be snug, and I put them on. The waistband struggled to stay up over my hips and the pant legs sagged like deflated balloons. I gathered up the material around me and stared at the fabric in my hands, remembering the person whose skin used to fill every inch of it. I have come so far from the person I was back then that sometimes I forget she existed at all. I'm glad I have those pants to remind me.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Training Update: A momentary setback

Have you ever felt like you were finally hitting your stride and then suddenly something happens to throw you completely off your game? For the past week my training has been at a complete standstill. Last weekend I embarked on a beach trip with some girl friends and it turned in to one of the biggest nightmares I've ever experienced. In the aftermath I ended up dealing with exhaustion, stress, and ultimately illness. I have not run or done any physical activity in exactly one week. I have been completely drained of energy and physically unable to do much else other than sit around.

This morning I was scheduled for a 10-mile long run with the training group. I woke up to my alarm at 5am and couldn't even get out of bed let alone get dressed and run for two hours. With a sigh, I closed my eyes and fell asleep until nearly 10am. It was obvious that my body needed the rest and I'm glad I listened, but I can't remember the last time I missed a long run. It left me feeling sad and extremely disappointed.

I have been very fortunate during my half-marathon training that I have not had to deal with many of the setbacks and injuries that I have read about from other runners. Having run only a handful of races, pretty much every organized run is a new PR for me. Training and running in general have been a very positive experience and I've enjoyed celebrating my successes - both physical and mental. Now I've hit one of those bumps in the road that we certainly never expect. My head is shouting "yes! run! do it!" but my body is physically unable to comply.

It has taken some time for me to admit to myself that I am physically unable to do this right now.  After all, running has helped me to believe that I am capable of so much more than I ever realized. What keeps me going is the knowledge that with each day that passes, I am getting stronger. Soon I will make up for the time I've lost and get right back in my training groove.

My advice to anyone experiencing a similar setback: Don't give up... adapt. When things don't go as you planned, change your plan. While time off from running has not made my runs any stronger, it has helped strengthen my mind and my resolve. Perhaps that's exactly what I needed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I'm a Dirty Girl! - Race Recap

I have been so excited to share this race recap with you all! As you may recall, back in March I participated in a twitter chat hosted by Fitfluential and the Dirty Girl Mud Run. After a fabulous (and hilarious) chat, I learned I was one of the lucky winners of a free race registration! The Dirty Girl mud run originated in Wisconsin, where one of my good friends happens to live. When she agreed to join me for a day of mud and fun, I immediately booked a flight to America's heartland.

One of the final obstacles, a wall climb!

Now let me tell you a little bit about Karen & I. We met at the party of a mutual friend back in Connecticut and as soon as I heard her open her mouth, I knew I wanted to be her friend. We hit it off right away and became fast friends before we both eventually left CT to live in different areas of the country. At the time that Karen and I met, we were both seriously overweight. Since then we have both adapted new, healthier lifestyles and collectively lost about 200 pounds. Basically, we rock. So imagine what an amazing feat this mud run was for two girls who went from throwing back chips and margaritas together to climbing walls, running through mud, and essentially kicking ass.

Let me begin by extending a heartfelt thank you to Fitfluential and the Dirty Girl mud run. I am so appreciative of this experience in its entirety; the memories of that weekend will stay with me forever! Now, for those who don't know, I can be a bit of a type A personality. It will not surprise you then that I googled pretty much everything there is to know about mud runs prior to race day. I found some great information, such as: DON'T WEAR COTTON! Seriously, it will absorb all of the mud and water and weigh you down. I chose to wear some thin spandex capris and a (cheap) fitted tech tee.

This picture seriously cracks me up. Emerging from the Utopian Tubes!

A quick note about the picture above. See that maniacal smile? It did not leave my face for the entire 3.1 miles. Please also note Karen grabbing my hand and forcibly dragging me away from my photo op. Rude! OK, #2: Don't wear anything you wouldn't mind tossing after the run. This goes for shoes, too. One of the very first obstacles at Dirty Girl had us crawling through muddy water. That meant 3 more miles of mud and water collecting in our shoes, which went from a lovely shade of off-white to straight-up brown. Dirty Girl was cool enough to have a shoe donation area after the race which, due to my overzealous googling, I already knew about. I brought a pair of flip flops to change into and sent my shoes off to someone in need. Awesome!

After hearing various opinions about duct-tape and its ability to keep my shoes on my feet, I decided against it. Ultimately I decided it was more important to have full traction than it was to risk my shoe falling off. I tied my laces a little tighter than usual and had no problems whatsoever. I know I'm getting all excited and therefore a little ahead of myself here. Let me step back a moment and mention some things about the pre-run element. We arrived at the venue slightly later than intended (about 45 minutes prior to our wave - Dirty Girl recommends 60-90 minutes). Luckily parking was a breeze. We literally pulled in, parked, and then walked about a half mile to the venue. I didn't mind the distance, I considered it my warmup. Oh, and parking was free. Yay, free!

This reminded me of the Saved By The Bell episode where they did boot camp.

We found the check-in tent, which was slightly chaotic. The process itself went quickly, as they were using a laptop, but as we were leaving I saw a volunteer putting up signs to designate which names should check in at which kiosk. This was happening at noon when the run had started several hours earlier. Just thought that was odd. Once we were "in", we were essentially in the middle of a field. There were food carts and vendor tents set up like an expo but um, where was the run?! Finally we located a vague sign pointing us to bag check, but it would have been nice to have a volunteer or two stationed by the entrance to point us in the right direction.

Bag check was awesome. It was divided by bib number and there were no lines when I arrived. Super smooth and very necessary - the nice lady kept watch over my clean clothes, which I was very happy to put on later. Oh yes, #3: Bring a change of clothes. I brought a casual jersey skirt and a t-shirt, plus my flip flops. Ladies, it was a lot easier slipping on a skirt than it would have been trying to pull on some jeans. Just sayin'. So after we dropped off our bags, we again weren't sure where to go. We found ourselves weaving through a see of muddy zombies (the finish line was right beside the start line) until we found the corral. I asked the security guy which wave was in there and it was the wave prior to ours. A couple of minutes later they were off and we shuffled into the corral to wait. Security guy gave me a great tip: write your bib number on your arms with a sharpie. This way when your bib inevitably gets covered in mud, the photographers can still identify you for your photo ops.

There's that cheesy smile again! Oh, and some mud.

There was a very energetic DJ at the start line and it really helped to get us pumped up. The music was fun and we were all dancing and jumping around with excitement. Finally it was our time to fly and boy, did we. The very first obstacle was a series of hay bales that needed to be jumped over. I swear I must have been channeling Lolo Jones because I flew over those things! And most importantly, I didn't face plant. After the hay bales we were greeted by Barn Burner 2.0. Apparently the original barn burner was a mountain of hay bales to be climbed. Dirty Girl took that idea and modernized it with the most amazing inflatable contraption ever. Yes, every single one of us shrieked just like those ladies. I landed a little too enthusiastically on one tier and almost launched myself halfway across the field. Again, awesome.

After a little bit of running we encountered our first mud-based obstacle: muddy water-filled tunnels called the Utopian Tubes (see what they did there?). That was a lot of fun but after emerging and realizing I was only dirty from the knees down, I was like WTF? Then I posed for my photo op (see above). In retrospect that was a great early obstacle because it left us yearning for more mud! After our shoes were nice and soggy, we took off running again. At this time I realized how parched I was and conveniently a few minutes later we happened upon a water stop. These were plentiful on the course and I really appreciate that! Then more running, and on to the next obstacle.

Get A Grip was a giant cargo net. I know, it looks small in this picture; it wasn't. See that really tall ladder on the left side of the picture? It was really tall. Just saying. Anyway I am not afraid of heights, in fact I love them. I'm the person who stands on the glass panel at the CN Tower in Toronto, looks down and says "This is SO COOL!" So naturally I climbed my way to the top of the net and... freaked out. What do you mean I need to swing my leg over to the other side without plummeting to my death?! Don't you know I'm clumsy? After my 30-second panic attack and some encouragement from Karen and some sweet Sconnie strangers, I managed to get over it (literally) and climb down the other side. What a rush!

More running at this point, followed by some walls that needed to be climbed. No big deal! Shortly after the walls was the main event: H2OMG - a muddy water pit. It was like swimming in a dirty puddle and I loved it. Some ladies did the back stroke, I did a weird slide/crawl with my ass in the air. Yay, mud!! We encountered the H2OMG obstacle at least 4 more times on the course. Some people complained about lack of variety but honestly I really enjoyed getting all wet and dirty. We did another tire run called The Hangover which involved running the tires while also weaving through hanging tires. Again, no face plants - win!

Maniacal smile + surprise face

Finally we encountered an actual MUD PIT. Not just muddy water but straight up try-to-run-and-you-slip-or-get-stuck mud. I really wish there had been more than one of these because it was the star of the show. Girls were running and launching themselves on their stomachs like a muddy slip & slide. It was AWESOME. At this point we were sufficiently dirty and the course took us up a hill, through another water pit and in to the woods. There were some natural obstacles in there for us like the downed tree we had to jump over, etc. Then we had to weave and climb through several tangled "webs" of rope, at the end of which I found a camera in my face again. Surprise! The photographers were all super cool. Since my idea of bringing a waterproof disposable camera failed miserably (the pics came out blurry & overexposed), I was really thankful for the multitude of photos they took throughout the run.

After emerging from the woods we ran down toward a crowd of spectators and Karen & I waved at them and thanked them for coming even though none of them actually came to see us. We ran over the Utopian Tubes and some hay bales, then climbed another wall before heading to a very gravelly mud crawl. My knees and elbows got scraped up pretty bad on this one but I didn't mind too much. Battle scars! Everyone was forced to get low and get muddy to crawl under the net. We waved to more spectators and took off for the final water pit. The finish line was in sight and I ran across as Karen slid into home. Despite not seeing any firefighters, I had the most exciting run of my life and I am already scheming about more mud runs in the future.

After the run we retrieved our bags from the bag check (again, a super easy and quick process) and found our way to the shoe donation area. After dropping off our shoes, we put our bags in the changing area and went next door to get clean. Basically there was a tent with hoses (and cold water) and this was our "shower". I was prepared for that and rinsed off as best I could, then headed back to the changing area to towel off. Bring towels! We changed clothes, packed up, redeemed our free drink tickets and explored the merch booth for a bit before heading home. Overall this was the best "race" I've experienced since I began running last year. I learned a lot about myself and what I and my body are capable of. You too can be a Dirty Girl! Are you up for the challenge?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Comparison: the thief of joy

It's been said that comparison is the thief of joy. I recently read someone's post-workout rant about how awfully slow her run had been. We have all had those days, where our head is just not in it and our feet feel like cement blocks. Further reading of this "terrible" workout recap led me to realize that this horrible, slow pace was actually run at my usual speed. It got me to thinking: one person's worst-ever run could very well be another runner's personal best.

On saying "I'm a runner" - via Runner's World, August 2012

It can be discouraging to hear someone bad-mouth their own effort when that same result would elicit a cheer from someone else. To me it was reminiscent of hearing someone thinner than me complain about how fat they are. While she may legitimately not be in her top physical shape, it made me wonder... if she believed she was so hideous at what I deemed an ideal size, what did she think of me at my larger size? Was I even more grotesque and repulsive than she seemed to think she was?

I had this conversation with a good friend of mine last week. She made a negative comment about her appearance and I asked her, "would you say the same thing about me?" She looked at me in horror and immediately blurted out "Of course not!" I will pose the same question to you that I did to her: why do we treat ourselves differently than we do our friends? If the words you just uttered are so mean that you would never even consider saying them to a close friend, why would you say such hurtful things to yourself?

My first instinct after reading that runner's recap was to feel badly for myself for not being as fast as her. It was then I realized how unhealthy it is to compare my abilities to those of another. That person could have been running since they were 15 years old, for all I know. Ultimately I had to remind myself that I have only been running for one year and in that year I have already made a world of progress. No one else has had the same life experiences, struggles, or victories that I have. We may all be runners but the paths that led us to that commonality are wildly varied, and that's a beautiful thing! As long as we are moving forward as individuals, we win. It's when we fall prey to comparison that we begin to lose ground.

I have heard so many runners say "I'm not a real runner" or "I'm too slow to be a runner". Would you tell your friend those things? Could you look your best friend in the eye and say "Those 3 miles you just did at a 15 minute pace were great and all but that's not really running"?? If so, I hope you have quick reflexes to avoid the inevitable slap in the face. Guess what? If you run, you're a runner! If you want something to fuel your competitive spirit, think about your best/fastest/longest run and race against yourself. I take pride in knowing that my current self could out-run Vintage Bang (circa 2011) in a heartbeat. But you know what? I love my former self all the same, because without her I couldn't be the runner I am today.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I run because I can

Hey guys! I hope this week has been treating everyone well. Things are great here, albeit busy as usual. Yesterday marked my 13th week of half-marathon training. I started training way in advance of my race because it is my first half and quite honestly, I've been running less than a year so I wanted to start slowly! My longest run to-date has been just over 10 miles, which is a huge accomplishment for me. 13.1 doesn't seem so far off anymore! Yesterday we ran 8 very hilly miles. I've mentioned before that a lot of people in my pace group dislike hills but personally I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are challenging, for sure, but there is a lot of satisfaction derived from conquering them too.

Yesterday's run began at the art museum and although it was humid, the air was nice and cool for once. We ran along local streets, passing horses and cows, until finally reaching a local state park. I am used to running on even, paved ground so it was a new experience running on gravel and paths but it was a fun challenge. As we entered the park we started ascending the most massive of all the hills. Myself and another girl were at the front of the group setting the pace and I could hear some grumbles from behind as we started our climb. Then all of a sudden from the back of the pack I hear a voice singing "The hills are aliiiiive with the sound of musiiiiiiic."

Uhhh what?! I burst out laughing as the voice continued to sing and some others joined in. That pretty much set the tone for the entire 8 miles and we sang ourselves silly as we traversed the hilly park. I've said it before and I will likely say it countless more times, I love running with a group. A year ago I would have laughed in your face had you told me I'd be waking up at 5:15am on Saturday mornings and running ridiculous amounts of mileage. But I actually look forward to it. Running and being a part of this community has filled a void somewhere deep within my heart that I did not know existed. For that I am grateful!

Oh, and my race calendar is filling up as I've signed up for two new races this week! A couple of months ago I was hugely disappointed when I found out that the Color Run had changed the date for their NC run and that I would be out of town for a wedding on the rescheduled date. Seriously, I was heartbroken over it. Yesterday before our long run, I was talking to one of my running buddies and she mentioned that Color Me Rad was coming to town in October. No way!!! It is essentially the same concept and is right in Raleigh and on a day I'm in town. I signed up as soon as I got home from my run! That might have been the best news I heard all week.

For those unfamiliar with these races, they're basically one big happy celebration of color. The only requirement for the race is that you wear a white t-shirt. The race is 5K in length and every kilometer you are doused with a different color of magical powder aka cornstarch. By the end of the 5K you are a giant colorful rainbow of a mess and are smiling like a crazy person. Ah, my idea of heaven.

Before our run yesterday, there were a series of announcements. One was made by a woman named Sarah Witt, who was an avid runner until one day she was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease called Primary Lateral Sclerosis. Sarah is now confined to a wheelchair and no longer able to run. Her voice waivered as she spoke about her love of running and how quickly it was taken away from her. My eyes teared up hearing the pain in her voice, saddened at the thought of loving something so much and then having it taken away.

In that moment I realized that I truly love running. It's hard to remember what life was like before I began to run and I can't imagine never being able to enjoy that feeling again. From the very beginning, when people have asked me why I run, I have said I run because I can. That's not me being a smartass, it's the most honest and instinctual answer I can give. I run because a year ago, I couldn't. I run because there will come a day in the future when I no longer can. I run for the people whose day has come too soon.

Suffice it to say, Sarah's story touched me personally and I wanted to do what I could to support her. She is affiliated with a mile run called The Magnificent Mile Race that raises money to support the research of upper motor neuron disorders. I signed up as soon as I could and look forward to lending my support next month!

Tell me, why do you run?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Victories and shopping sprees

OMG you guys... does anyone else have Olympic fever like I do?! I don't know how I am going to concentrate at work this week, all I want to do is watch these amazing athletes! I have always admired how hard these folks work and how amazing their athletic abilities are, but I appreciate their talent even more now that I understand what it takes to train for an event. Granted, my first half-marathon and someone's Olympic dreams are nowhere near on the same level but that's what makes me appreciate these elite athletes all the more.
My new Olympic-themed running shirt!
Speaking of my half, training is going well! This weekend we did 8 "easy" miles, followed by the group's annual pancake breakfast. Let me tell you, knowing there are piping hot pancakes waiting for you at the finish is an excellent motivator! Maybe I need to have someone with pancakes waiting at the end of my half. My long runs have been alternating between 8-10 miles lately and will stay like that for most of the summer until we get closer to go-time. I can't believe I am already running 10 miles and all I need to tack on to that is an extra 5K distance to reach my goal of 13.1. I am finding my biggest challenges to be hills (of which there are plenty around here) and the heat/humidity. I'm told that all of this heat training will make my November race all the better, I sure hope so!

My NSV USATF shirt!
I have been fortunate to have experienced some non-scale victories lately. One occurred just yesterday after my long run, when I was browsing around the running store that was sponsoring our run. I saw an Olympic-themed USA Track & Field tech shirt hanging on the wall and made a beeline for it. After browsing through the sizes and seeing that the largest size was a Large, my face fell. The shirt was women's cut and made by Nike, whose shirts notoriously do not fit me well. I tentatively took the Large shirt down from its perch and peered at it skeptically. I held it up in front of me while staring in to the mirror. It looked like it might fit... kinda. I wanted it bad enough that I decided to just get it and hope for the best.

Once I got home, the first thing I did was try the shirt on... and it fit! In fact, it fit perfectly! Not only was this a NSV, it was a lesson yet again that things are not always as they seem. See, in my head I sometimes still see myself as I looked 60+ pounds ago. It is always a shock and a surprise when I learn that I am physically smaller than I thought. This is a really weird feeling because it makes me wonder what else about myself (and the world) I am viewing incorrectly.

"These are more than just running shoes."
Another running-related purchase I've made recently was in the form of shoes. Granted, I did not need them as I have backups of my current running shoe. But I had seen these everywhere and I wanted to try them out, if only to get them off my mind. I found them at my local Dick's Sporting Goods store and was able to put them on my feet for the first time. I'm pretty sure my first words were "It feels like walking on marshmallows!!" I felt like a dork running around the in-store "track" and wasn't sure if the shoes were in fact "right" for my foot, and decided to check with my local running store.

Unfortunately when I walked in the door of my (usually-amazing) running store, I was paired with an older gentleman who must have been a new employee. He didn't know the answer to any of my questions and didn't go through the routine I'm accustomed to when being fitted for a shoe. I had to finally put an end to our rapport when instead of selling me what I was asking for, he started showing me shoes I was not even interested in. I walked out no more knowledgeable than when I walked in and decided to just order the shoes and form my own opinion.

I had done a lot of research online and everything I read said I would love the shoes. They had stability, which I was told would be good for me when I bought my current shoes a year ago (but prior to running with any regularity). They were a minimalist shoe... which is not something I necessarily wanted but surely I was curious. As a result, they were also significantly lighter than my current shoe and had more cushioning. The kicker for me though, was the fact that the shoes were neon-freakin-pink. I know, you shouldn't pick shoes by the color. Stop making stability shoes in boring white and I will! Plus, I get excited every time I get to wear these gorgeous shoes so it's instant running motivation! I have been breaking these bad-boys in one day a week on a short, easy run. They are comfortable as all get-out and I can definitely feel my calves and glutes working harder than they do with my other shoes. They wont be replacing my Adrenaline 11's, they are just something different to add to the mix.

Brooks PureCadence
Another NSV of late has come from my Polar FT7 heart rate monitor. I wear it every single time I workout and I have learned so much about my training by using it! It helps me to know when I am working too hard or not hard enough, and lately it has helped me to see some progress in my health that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. See, when I first started running my heart rate was in the 180 range for the majority of my runs. I was definitely over-exerting myself and sometimes my HR would go even higher when I really pushed it.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been noticing that I've been burning fewer calories doing the same activities. After more scrutiny I noticed that even when I am running at what feels like an extremely fast and difficult pace, my heart rate stays below 170. I'm not going to lie, at first I thought the battery in my HRM was dying. It's funny how doubtful I can sometimes be about my abilities. In actuality what has happened is that my conditioning has improved a great deal! My heart and body have become stronger and therefore more accustomed to my current level of activity. I continue to be amazed what the human body is capable of doing!

I've got more goodies to reveal to you guys but it will have to wait for another day. I need to give full attention to my DVR because it's time for women's gymnastics!! Have a great week everybody!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Father knows best

Over the 4th of July week, I attended a family wedding up in New York. The wedding itself is a story all its own, as the entire wedding party (bride included) got food poisoning from the rehearsal dinner and were ill throughout the wedding and reception. This isn't the intended subject of my writing tonight though. Prior to leaving for New York, my father had been seeing a doctor for some concerns surrounding his heart. He was advised to alter his diet and continue his workouts. One day dad asked me if I would be bringing my workout gear on our trip. I asked him why and he told me that he would like it if we could workout together. That was a first, and it made me smile. I told him that yes, I would bring my running shoes and yes, we could workout together.

Once in NY, it was easy to revert to "vacation mode" and sleep in, eat some delicious New York treats, etc. I came downstairs one morning to find my father sitting at the table looking perplexed. "What's wrong?" I asked, to which he replied "I was hoping to go for a walk today but it's raining." I looked at him and said the same words I would hope my very own workout buddy would say to me, "So what? Let's go." We put our sneakers on and set off on an adventure around my aunt's neighborhood.

It was humid and the sun was strong but after spending many hours in a car the previous day, I couldn't wait to shake out my legs. I broke into a slow jog as dad walked beside me. "You don't expect me to run, do you?" he asked dubiously. I giggled and told him no, I didn't expect him to run. I would jog slow enough to stay with him. He seemed OK with that and so we continued on.

Running is not something new to my dad, as his question might lead one to believe. When my mother was pregnant with me, my dad became infatuated with running and even completed the NYC Marathon mere weeks before I was born. Not only did he complete that marathon, he did it at an average pace of under 7:30/mile. That is AMAZING, you guys. I can't even run ONE mile under 7:30, let alone 26.2 of them!!

As we plodded along, I asked him to tell me about his race experience. I was surprised to learn that the NYC Marathon was his first and only marathon. He told me about his training and how he had a group of buddies that he would meet up with to do indian runs and long runs. We talked about the technology of running and how nearly 32 years ago there was no such thing as sport drinks or gels. His voice changed as he described the marathon itself. I could hear from his tone that he was re-living that day... running over the bridges and through the various boroughs, and eventually making his way to Central Park.

What he remembers most about the race was the energy of the crowd. He said that there were areas along the course that were simply devoid of spectators and that those miles were the most difficult. I could hear awe in his voice as he described arriving in Central Park to the wild screams and yells of thousands of on-lookers. "There were so many people there cheering us on during that last mile. I needed it." He paused for a moment and then said something that touched my heart.

"I was lucky. I finished in just over 3 hours and the streets were filled with people. You know... the Olympians, the fast runners, what they do is incredible. But the people who I admire the most are the ones who take 6 or 8 hours to finish. After the lights are shut off and the crowds go home, the people who run, walk or crawl across that finish line no matter what... those are the real heroes." Indeed, Dad. Indeed.

Monday, July 16, 2012


I try not to look at my feet when I run. It's bad form I know, so I constantly remind myself to look straight ahead. "Chest up, shoulders down, arms loose," I recite wordlessly, mimicking the rhythm of my feet on the pavement.

Sometimes though, I manage to sneak a peek at the ground. Mostly to be sure I'm not about to trip on uneven sidewalk or step in dog shit, and ok sometimes I just like stealing a glimpse of my neon pink running shoes. But tonight I saw something pretty cool. As I hurtled down the sidewalk I noticed what I thought was a stray leaf, listless and still.

As I was nearly upon it, suddenly up it sprang and fluttered away; a butterfly, and another one just steps beyond that. They kind of took my breath away. I'd like to think they were placed there for me; a reminder that things aren't always what they seem and change can yield beautiful things.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

One foot in front of the other...

I've been at a loss for words lately. I have loads of things I'd like to discuss here but everything on the forefront of my mind feels so serious and I find myself shutting down. I'm in a funk, y'all and it's a big bad one. The last couple of weeks have brought with them an increase in pressure at work, a barrage of doctor's visits for my dad, and the death of my dear friend's newborn infant and my great-uncle. I've kept all of these things to myself because it seems unnecessary to unload it on anyone else, as we all have our issues. I sure could use a hug, though.

Luckily none of these things have affected my training. In fact, they've probably intensified it. See, working out brings me a sense of peace and calm that I have trouble finding otherwise. As always, I am so thankful to have running as my beacon of light. It is a source of stability in my sometimes-chaotic life and it has helped me through tough times more than I can count on one hand.

As far as my half-marathon training goes, this weekend our long run was only 6 miles. That makes me laugh, to say anything was "only" six miles but that's four miles less than the week prior and therefore deserving of an "only". The reason for the shorter distance is because we calculated what is known as our "magic mile", a mile run at about 80-90% effort used as a predictor of our race pace and performance. For more on Jeff Galloway's magic mile formula, click here.

So, we ran an easy mile warm-up and then arrived at the marker to begin the magic mile. Usually we run as a group, two-wide and in formation but for the magic mile it was a free-for-all and my competitive side loved it. I started off conservatively slow and stayed that way for the first .25 miles, at which point I realized I had a lot of juice left and started passing people. My favorite part of the run was the very last stretch where I told myself to treat it as a race and I mustered everything I had and sprinted to the finish.

I stopped my watch and glanced down at the time and my eyes kind of bugged out when I realized what it said: 10:44!! My fastest mile ever... and I didn't walk any of it. Just seven months ago I had declared a goal to be able to run a mile without walk breaks... and here I had done it in record time. That was a cool feeling. Even better though, was knowing I could have run it even faster but had conserved energy for the four remaining miles we had yet to cover.

Up until this week I was running only three days a week, with Zumba two nights a week for a total of 5 days of cardio. Saturdays are my long run days and I've been using Sunday as sort of a catch-all... do yoga, or a dvd or nothing at all. This week I decided to mix things up a bit and use Sunday as a fourth running day. I felt great. I'm not sure if it's because of the shorter distance on Saturday but I think I am going to try to incorporate Sunday running in to my regular workout schedule. I will treat it as a recovery run day, keeping the mileage low and the pace easy.

That's all I've got for now. Keep training hard and hug your loved ones y'all. I'll try to focus and catch you up on the neat father-daughter workouts that happened during my trip to New York.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Half-marathon training update

I know, I know, I've been a terrible blogger lately! My sincere apologies. My schedule for the past 5 weeks or so has been alternating one week out of town, one week home, etc. In the midst of all my travel and lack of sleep, I manifested a fierce cold which eventually became a case of laryngitis and left me cranky and without a voice for several days. I am happy to report that despite the various obstacles I've encountered, I have remained consistent with my half-marathon training!

As I've mentioned before I am training with a Galloway running group. We meet at the ridiculously early hour of 7am every Saturday morning for a long run. A couple of weeks ago I completed my longest run to date - 9 miles!! We had 10 miles on the schedule for today but due to the insane temperatures happening on the east coast, they scaled it back to 8 miles. I chose to stay home and complete my miles in the comfort of my own neighborhood rather than run with the group today. This was partly due to the temperatures but also due to wanting to prove myself wrong.

See, on the last couple of long runs with my pace group I have found myself saying "I'm so glad we run together, I don't think I could do X miles on my own." That was not a line of thought that I wanted to get stuck in because I won't necessarily have my pace group at my side during the half. So I decided to show myself that yes, I can run X miles all by myself. I slept in this morning, if you can call waking up at 6:30am "sleeping in" and set off on a journey around my neighborhood. I've never run more than about 5 miles at a time around here so I had no idea where to go to fulfill my distance but the route I took ended up being pretty perfect.

During my first mile, my legs hated me. I feel that often the first mile of a long run is more difficult to get through than any "wall" I've encountered to date! After that I was cruising and I felt great. I had put on my "loudest" outfit this morning - a neon green tech shirt, black shorts and my hot pink Zensah leg sleeves. I knew it was colorful and obnoxious but I was shocked my how much attention I received. Maybe my fellow runners and walkers were delirious due to the heat but everyone had enormous smiles on their faces as they wished me a good morning and a great weekend. I have said it 5,000 times before but runners are just the nicest, most amazing group of like-minded people I've ever encountered. It was excellent motivation to keep going!

I kept an extremely (surprisingly?) steady pace for the first 7 miles of my run. By the time I began mile 8, the shade had escaped me and I was running in mostly direct sunlight. My water supply was also dangerously low and I was thirsty! I knew there was a water cooler on the golf course about a mile away from home and I am so thankful for that knowledge and for that delicious, cold water. I ended up walking the rest of the way home, trying to cool down and collect myself. Even with the water stop and the mile walk, it was my fastest long run to date! I ended up doing about 8.22 miles in 1:48:45. Awesome. It is so reassuring to know that it is barely July and I am already running 8-9 miles! By the time November rolls around, I should be able to go the distance of 13.1 without a problem.

Which leads me to an exciting announcement... I signed up for my second half-marathon! I know, I haven't even completed the first one yet. But I am confident that I will complete it successfully. Did I mention my second half has the name diva in the title, is run at the beach, provides runners with a tiara and a boa, AND champagne and a rose delivered by a firefighter at the finish line? I can't make this stuff up people. It very well may be the run of my dreams lol. It's the Divas Half-Marathon in Myrtle Beach and takes place on April 28, 2013. I can't wait!!!

I've got a lot more to share with you guys but it's a little more personal and I want to collect my thoughts before spilling my guts out. In the meantime, I have been nominated for blog awards by two fabulous ladies and because I'm a big party pooper I chose not to play along. However, I'm extremely grateful for the kind words and would appreciate if you would please pay a visit to Michelle and Melissa!! Thank you!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Racing for a cure and hiking for my health - Part 2

My apologies if I left some of you in suspense with my last post! I felt it was too long already and that I should split it in half. I was also exhausted and needed to get to bed!

So where were we? Oh yes, the Wobble. If you were expecting to actually see the video of me dancing, I'm sorry to disappoint you! I've only seen it once myself and it's not in my possession. But that experience was oddly liberating for me. You see, up until a few years ago I had always been the wallflower. I hated attention and would do everything in my power to NOT stand out. I would sit on the sidelines at school dances or weddings because I was too self-conscious to put myself in a position where people might actually see me and pass judgement on me & my weight.

The older I get and the more weight I lose, the more I notice a change in my confidence (or my don't-give-a-fuck-ness). I surprise and impress myself every time I run a distance farther than the last and realize... hey, that wasn't so bad. I surprise myself in the middle of Zumba class when I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window and think "wow... you're dancing and it actually looks good!" I used to be so overweight and clumsy and ashamed of how I looked that I wouldn't try new things or push my comfort limits. So for me to jump in front of a crowd of people and start dancing without even a thought as to what people would think or how I would look, that was a huge victory for me.

I've adopted a theme for my life in recent years and that is essentially to do the stuff I was too afraid to do, or didn't think I could do, back when I was at my heaviest. Achieving these small victories reminds me (better than any number on the scale ever could) exactly how far I have come, and for that I am grateful. In keeping with that theme, not only did I run a 5K on June 9th... I decided to go for a hike that same afternoon. I like to refer to this adventure as Bang & Alan vs. Nature. My friend Alan (from Sweating Until Happy) and I had been talking about trying a hike at one of the local parks and we finally made plans to do it. It was his first hike ever and I guess it was my first "real" hike since the only other trail I've been on is short and relatively flat.

I wore my ass-kicking shirt for our hike.
It held true: my feet did hurt & we DID kick major ass!
We set off that afternoon on an ambitious 7.6 mile hike in the woods, not quite sure what to expect. Let me remind you I had just run 3.1 miles earlier that morning!! I was nervous about the distance, even suggesting we could turn around if it got too difficult, but Alan shut that down right away. I appreciated his confidence and commitment to the challenge ahead, and I must say I couldn't have asked for a better hiking companion! The trail was considered "moderate" by the trusty map I'd snagged pre-hike and it definitely was not easy. Neither of us had hiking boots/shoes and that ended up being our biggest obstacle, as the ground was pretty uneven. I was hugely impressed by the handful of trail runners who passed us over the course of nearly 4 hours in the woods. It was difficult enough walking those 7.6 miles, I can't imagine running them!

We stopped here for a re-fuel and hydration break!
During our hike we saw frogs, lizards, snakes, hungry bees and fish! One of my favorite things was how quiet and peaceful it was out there. At times it felt like we should just be quiet and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The last two miles of our hike were the most difficult. We were both pretty tired by that point and were unsure of how much further we needed to go. Exhaustion started to set in and I swear it seemed every 100 feet one of us (mostly me) would exclaim "I think we're almost there!" only to be proven wrong shortly thereafter. I chose this time to remind Alan (as he had asked me to) how excited he had been prior to the hike. We channeled every ounce of energy we had left and eventually found our way out of the trees and in to the parking lot, where we celebrated our victory with a high-five.

It was a difficult workout but one I would definitely do again... just with better shoes next time! Alan's account of our adventure differs (wildly) from my recollection but it was so entertaining I thought I'd share:

The End