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Don’t tri, just do it!

31 Jul

Were you starting to get worried? No, I didn’t drown in Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg on tri day (if you’re not up to date, yes, that really is the name of the lake). In fact, I dare say I showed that lake who’s boss! I stuck to my plan of starting in the back, so as not to encounter the same terrifying situation as last year. If I had to do it again, I’d start more in the middle (I got stuck behind some slower people who I just couldn’t get past, which slowed me down) but overall—success! I didn’t have any scary moments, I felt good during the entire swim and I even remembered to use some of the great swim strategies Audrey showed me. Hooray!

I'm out there somewhere!

The bike…..well, the bike kicked my ass. I don’t know what happened, but from the moment I got on the bike my legs felt like lead. I don’t know if I didn’t train enough (I definitely could have trained more, I’m not just being hard on myself there), or if it was just one of those days but the whole biking leg of the tri felt like a battle. There is also a KILLER hill (one mile up) about 4 miles in, which at least 75% of the people get off their bikes for. I’m not ashamed to say I was one of those people, but I’m determined to beat that hill next year. It’s good to have a goal 🙂

The run was good— it’s my comfort zone. I may not be the fastest runner, I may not have the best form, I may not set records, but I’m so familiar with it, it’s like seeing a good friend at the end of a long journey. My knee held out— no pain until mile 3, which is what’s normal for me now, so I was happy. I felt good, but I was really cautious not to overdo it— I didn’t want to cause any further injury to my knee since I need to be focused on getting back to normal!

And then my favorite part…crossing the finish line! Yeah, it’s about the journey, not the destination, but the finish line is always a great feeling. I’ve never doubted my ability to make it there, but crossing the line is still a validation of my effort, determination, struggle and yes, I still feel in that moment a victory and affirmation of the changes I’ve made in my life.

But I can’t lie, there was a solid 24 hours after the race when what was at the top of my mind was the fact that my time for this years tri was seven minutes longer than my time from last year. I was disappointed. Sure, my knee slowed down and shortened the time I had to train. But I didn’t want to make excuses, I didn’t want that to be a barrier to being better. Because if there’s one thing I always want to be, it’s better than myself.

I couldn’t seem to shake my disappointment. Until Monday afternoon, when James and I sat down to watch the video he had taped of the triathlon. On the tape, shortly after I started swimming, you can hear my mom say “…two years ago, she never would have done this…”

And it was precisely the jolt I needed to hear, as I watched myself start to swim. Because she’s right. Two years ago I would have NEVER EVER EVER imagined myself completing a triathlon (let alone two!). If you had suggested such a thing, I probably would have laughed, told you at least 5 reasons why it was a ridiculous idea, and laughed some more. Why had I allowed myself to lose sight of that in the face of seven extra minutes? And as I continued to watch the video, I found the feeling my disappointment hadn’t let me feel. I felt really proud of me. And that’s how I should have felt all along.

Last Sunday, I was once again surrounded by more than 2,000 women of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes. And I have to tell you that in looking back on those moments I realize I think we all too often sell ourselves short. We don’t believe in ourselves enough. We think we can’t or shouldn’t do something because we aren’t the smartest, best, fastest, prettiest, thinnest. Because we don’t have enough time, energy, resources. Because it won’t be easy. Whatever the excuse may be. We don’t even let ourselves start.

But once we do, we’re amazed by what we can accomplish. If you looked around on Sunday, you would have seen a vastly different group of women. But looking closer, I think you see a group of women who are remarkably the same. A beautiful group of women who had surely been toiling over the same goal for weeks, months, maybe all year. Maybe years. A group of women who had the strength to start, and to keep on going.

If all those women listened to the voices of doubt in their heads, I’d have been standing on an empty beach on Sunday. If I listened to mine, I wouldn’t have been there to see it. But I was there, and so were they— a beach of 2,000 amazing, beautiful, fabulous women who will all tell you: If I can do it, so can you.

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Bumblee Bee…Sidelined.

17 Mar

“The worst that could happen will almost certainly not happen. And even if it does, you’ll find a way to handle it.”

This is part of my mantra, the Ralph Marston quote that has propelled me through so many days. I’m holding strong to these two sentences in particular, now more than ever.

The words popped in my head after I got a text from James on Monday morning that said “Promise me that no matter what the doctor says, you’ll stay calm–we’ll get through whatever it is.” I haven’t let any of these words leave my mind since.

As I mentioned last week, Sunday was my first 5K of the season. Yay! I was excited to get back into running. I was excited to celebrate the one-year anniversary of our first 5K. Lola, James, and James’ brother and girlfriend were all running. It was a St. Patrick’s Day race, and we were all in the spirit with green shirts, green hair, green socks. The day was fighting against our positive attitudes with its gray skies, windy gusts and drizzly rain, a stark contrast to last year’s race, when it was warm, sunny and bright. As we were lined up, waiting for the race to start, the wind started blowing even harder. Lola turned to me and said, “I guess this might be a warning, that everything is going to be harder this year.” Her prediction turned out to be right; it foreshadowed what would come next.

I was maybe a 1/4 mile into the race when my knee started to hurt. I had experienced some knee pain in the last race I ran, back in November. But that was a longer race, I thought that the extra miles were what strained my knee, and I’ve been taking it easy since then. I was concerned about longer distances, but it never crossed my mind to be concerned about a 5K. I may not be fast, and I’ll probably never think they’re exactly “easy”, but I’ve run enough now to be comfortable with a 5K. I still get a little amped up before a race, but I’m no longer nervous because I know what I’m in for. There’s comfort in the familiar— knowing how my body will feel, knowing how to regulate my breathing, running to the beat of the music that has propelled me along so many miles.

This knee pain was familiar too. It was the same pain I felt at the end of the last race I’d run. Except I was at the beginning of this one. I had miles to go.

I slowed down considerably. James had passed me within the first few steps of the race, and now I watched Lola fade into the distance, too. I was stunned that this had happened. Still, I thought it could be simple– mind over matter. But by the time I turned the second corner of the race, I was barely running. And now, compensating for my injured knee was causing the pain to shoot down to my ankle and up to my butt. Even so, I was determined to keep running. I thought if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to start again. I passed the first mile mark, still running. It was getting increasingly painful, and eventually I had to stop, walking when the pain got to be too much, running when the pain had eased enough.

I always feel like a race is a competition against myself, not anyone else. For me, it’s always mind versus body. When I’m running, I have to ignore my mind when it says “I’m tired. Why are you doing this to me? I want to rest.” I need to ask my body if it’s tired, if it needs to rest. Most of the time, the answer is no. This time there was a different battle raging in my head. My body was saying “Stop”. My mind was saying “Keep going”. Every time negative thoughts started to overwhelm me, I would think to myself: “If it doesn’t hurt enough to cry then you can keep on going. And you aren’t going to cry because you are not a baby.” Repeating this to myself kept me putting one foot in front of the other, even as the distance I could run without stopping became shorter and shorter. I repeated it as the firefighters on the rescue cart passed me by. Twice. In my mind, getting on that cart was never an option, neither was not finishing the race. I would have kept on going if I was the last person, if I had to walk across the finish line dragging my bum leg behind me. I wasn’t giving myself an out. I didn’t want an out. I just wanted to finish the race.

And I did. It took nearly 42 minutes. So much for beating last year’s time (although last year’s time was 39 minutes, so apparently an injury doesn’t make me that much slower than I was last year!). Once I crossed the finish line I was struggling to keep the tears from flowing. I spotted James and Lola and I’m pretty sure some tears escaped at that point. Not from pain, but because I was so disappointed and frustrated. And now that the race was finally over, for just a few minutes I allowed myself to be worried.

I saw my regular doctor on Monday and he’s sending me to an orthopedic doctor. I couldn’t get an appointment for two weeks, so for now I’m armed with a bottle of anti-inflammatory pills, a knee brace and a positive attitude. While I won’t know for sure until I see the orthopedic doctor, my regular doctor said I would be lucky if in 4-6 weeks I could run again (I’m determined to be lucky). He thinks I’ll probably need a little bit of physical therapy. Then, if that doesn’t work, he said it would probably mean an MRI and possibly surgery. But that’s worst case scenario, one that I’m not even thinking about at this point— this is where the Ralph Marston quote comes in. The worst that could happen will almost certainly not happen. And even if it does, I’ll find a way to handle it.

I can’t lie, there are moments when the disappointment rises up in me like a wave—sudden, strong, knocking my positivity off balance. It’s not fading as the days go by. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about standing on the sidelines at this weekend’s race, but I know I won’t like it. I already know that the thought of not being able to run for weeks– just as the weather is getting nicer, the sun is shining more and the days are getting longer– feels like a cruel punishment. Which is funny, because with my love/hate relationship with running, sometimes running itself feels like punishment, and yet not being able to run feels so much worse.

Still, I consider myself resilient. If I can’t be unstoppable in body, I can be unstoppable in mind. I’ll keep my knee brace on all day. I’ll take glucosamine & chondroitin in the hopes that it will help my healing. I’ll follow the acronym so many runners already know: RICE (rest, ice, compression & elevation). I’ll take my anti-inflammatories twice a day, as directed. I’ll flavor my dinners with garlic, ginger and red pepper, all thought to decrease inflammation. I’ll take my place on the sidelines instead of in the crowd of runners ready to race (for now). And I’ll cross my fingers, keep a positive attitude, and hope that this is just a minor bump in the road, as overcomeable as any challenge I’ve faced before.

‘Tis the season

8 Mar

This Sunday marks the first 5K of the “season”. I’m sure many runners would say there’s not really a running season, but as far was winter running goes, personally I’m far too clumsy to run in the snow. Also its freaking cold out and I really hate the cold. And I go into semi-hibernation in the winter. But now, as the temperature rises, so do my hopes that spring is finally here. The sun was peeking through the blinds this Saturday morning when I woke up, and in between the slats I could also see slices of blue sky and clouds— the good kind of clouds, puffy white ones, the kind that always look like something else, that mesmerize you with their infinite possibilities.

Not only is this Sunday’s 5K the first of the year, it’s also a special one in my mind because it is the first race Lola and I ran a year ago. It is our 5K anniversary, if you will. Tradition says the gift for a one-year anniversary is paper so it’s appropriate that on Sunday we’ll be pinning on our paper race numbers, an anniversary gift to ourselves as we celebrate not only a year of struggle, success, achievement, perseverance and the happiness that has come with it, but also another wonderful running season ahead.

Those race numbers might be just paper, but they represent so much more. I have them framed in my bedroom. Seeing them hanging on the wall is a demonstration of my determination, a reminder to myself of what I can achieve, and how far I’ve come. My eye always goes to the green and orange race bib, the first one I ever pinned on.

It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by. A year ago, I was running this 5K based on Audrey’s suggestion, as a “practice” race in preparation for the triathlon. I was about halfway to my weight goal. Lola and I had recently started going to the gym together and somehow she agreed to do the 5K with me. I remember our pre-race dinner the night before, watching Run Fatboy Run and praying that neither of us would take a face plant like that poor guy did. I remember my concern over my finish line photo— that was totally warranted, as it turns out, since the tank top I wore that day turned out to be way too low cut to run in (in my official finish line photos I looked like I belonged in a Girls Gone Wild 5K). I remember my late-night safety pin run, I remember being so so SO nervous the morning of the race. I remember sitting on my parents kitchen floor later that day, after the race, in a semi-daze over the accomplishment.

I don’t think either Lola or I would have dreamed that we’d become almost addicted, running a race every chance we could, leaving us with more free race t-shirts than we can fit in our drawers. I don’t think we would have guessed that through the following months we’d recruit her husband, my boyfriend, friends and family to run with us— heck, I bet we even convinced total strangers to run a race or two. I don’t think we could have guessed that, by the end of 2009, we’d have run in ten races and be planning a similar schedule for 2010.

It’s amazing what happens in a year. Shifting slowly over time like those puffy white clouds, life changes until suddenly you see something completely different. The constant evolution can be scary, but look again, and let it look like something else— like fun, like opportunity, like another great journey ahead. Let yourself be mesmerized by the infinite possibilities.

Seven

20 Nov

It’s probably fitting that my first 5k since the triathlon was on a cold, windy, rainy Sunday morning in October, the kind where, if it was possible, you’d wake up, look outside, and go back to bed. I think it’s fitting because it really takes determination and commitment to want to run in such weather (and to watch others run in that weather- thanks Mom, Dad & James!). And determination and commitment to running is something that’s fallen a little by the wayside for me in the past few months.

I’ll level with you. I’ve gained 7 pounds since the triathlon. Seven. Two or three I would be ok with. Seven I’m not. But guess what? I totally deserve the seven pounds. My gym visits have been sporadic, my eating habits have gotten worse. If I gain any more weight I’ll be disappointing myself. The great thing is, I feel like I learned enough in the past ten months or so to know exactly how to get back on track. And getting back on track means, in part, running a 5k.

Besides that, this 5k was a significant one because it was the first one my brother and I were running together. I talked a LOT of smack all summer long about how I would leave him in the dust come race day. Even as I was saying it, I kinda knew it was baloney- my brother being a natural athlete, he has things going for him that I never will. But the smack-talking continued nonetheless. And then it dropped off somewhere around September. I’m not normally one to run my mouth, and I think I just ran out of steam. That, and I realized it was all fluff anyway. My brother said that I would probably beat him, or we could at least run together during the 5k, which was also baloney, whether he knew it or not.

‘Cause let me tell you, once the horn blew and the race started, I saw my brother for about 45 seconds before he disappeared into the crowd of runners ahead. Way ahead. Waaaaaaaaay ahead. I didn’t see him again til the finish line. Not only that, but I was in this weird place within the pack where there weren’t many people I could see right ahead of me, and I could see no one behind me. Nervousness started weighing me down more than my rain-soaked clothing was. Was I last? This has always been my fear, and in this race, it was more possible than ever— the horrible weather weeded out the novice and spur-of-the-moment runners (and probably the sane ones, too) so the number of people in the race was small. And, I figured these were dedicated, good, solid runners who were RUNNERS. I still have moments where I feel like I pretend to be a runner by running, and that’s what fools people. But an ACTUAL runner? Still go back and forth on that one.

Thankfully, I was not last. By the time I got to the finish line (at 37:30, a time that’s painful for me to admit. But on the bright side, I ran the whole thing besides a quick walk at the water station, so yay for me!) my brother had already been there for seven whole minutes. He could have been in his car, headed home to take a shower, put on dry clothes, and try to forgive me for what I had just put him through. But, of course, he joined the cheering squad at the finish line that was quite enthusiastically (given the cold, rainy conditions they had just spent 37 and a half minutes standing in) waiting for me to cross the finish line.

The next day, I felt like it did after my first 5K- meaning every movement I made caused my body to ache. That’s what I get for taking so much time off. And I’m sure I’m going to be feeling it again a week from today. I’ll be running a 4.748 mile race on Thanksgiving morning with my mom, brother, Lola, James and some friends. Oh, and about 10,000 other people. It’s going to be the longest, biggest race I’ve ever done. Despite my seven pounds, you better believe I will not feel bad later that afternoon when I have an extra helping of stuffing and a super long nap on the couch.

Countdown Breakdown

12 Jun

Saturday might possibly be my last 5K before the tri. Although I knew that, it suddenly occurred to me that that means I want it to go really, really well so that I’m as confident as possible about my progress and my potential. Although this means a slightly unnecessary increase in the pressure I feel to do well on Saturday, I am the queen of self-induced pressure. So that works out alright.

And even though every time I run in a race I want to do better than the time before, this time I feel like there’s a little more at stake. With only 44 days until the tri, I fluctuate daily, sometimes hourly, between feeling confident and excited (like when I realize I’ve biked 30 miles and finish feeling like a freakin’ rock star) to feeling overwhelmed and underprepared (like when I am lifting weights at the gym and need to reduce the weight to the lightest possible…eek, I’m such a girl).

To compound this, I will be in Mexico in the beginning of July- I get back and there’s a week and a half until the triathlon. While I fully plan on training while I’m in Mexico, I know that margaritas and lying on the beach will be a bigger draw, and those few days in Mexico will be a test of my willpower and determination. Not to mention that I want to be at my goal weight on triathlon day, which is currently 7.6 pounds away. With the tri being about 6 weeks away, I’ll have to lose about 1.3 pounds per week in order to make it. Did I mention how much I love Mexican food and margaritas? I usually like to live by the rule that there are no such thing as calories when you’re on vacation, but I don’t think I can afford that kind of logic this time. Again: unnecessary pressure, but pressure I will put on myself regardless.

Ok, so it’s obvious that what’s happening here is that I’m allowing myself to stop and think too much, something I haven’t allowed myself to do lately because of its disastrous side effects. Believe me, not thinking much (for me) is much better than thinking like I normally do because a normal amount of thinking is an insane amount of thinking, to be honest. See how it started with thinking about the simple fact that this could be my last 5K before the tri and snowballed from there? Yeah. That’s nothing compared to what my thought process can be. Sometimes I exhaust myself. And what I’ve learned lately is that I really don’t know as much as I think I do. I always think I have it all figured out, or that I could figure it out, if I think about it enough. This long-held belief of mine, however, is bullshit. It’s funny to realize that you don’t have things as figured out as you thought you did, and to be okay with that.

So I just headed to the gym right after work, where I hopped on the treadmill and don’t remember a single thing I thought about the whole time. Besides “How many minutes do I have left on this thing?!?”, of course.

Seven down!

8 Jun

I finished my seventh 5K on Saturday. I can’t believe I’ve done seven since March. Seven! I remember when Audrey first suggested we run a 5K to prepare for the tri; I think I simultaneously wanted to laugh, throw up and cry. To be honest, there’s still a point during almost every race where I want to throw up and cry. But since the first one I’ve been doing them of my own free will. And liking it! Who would have thought?

And I’m glad I like it, because I know it’s really helped me lose weight and prepare for the triathlon. And those are two things that have really shaped nearly everything I’ve done and every decision I’ve made since January. My focus is so much on the end goal that I don’t really take the time to stop and look around to really see where I am, which is 25 pounds lighter and maybe a little bit of an athlete. Actually, scratch that, maybe I’m just a little bit of a runner, not an athlete. As my brother was quick to point out this weekend, I still cannot throw a baseball worth a damn (once, about 5 feet to the right of my dad and the next time, almost directly down to the ground. I do not know what is wrong with me). I cannot wait to celebrate everything I’ve achieved, but aside from a mini-shopping spree with my mom once my clothes became too big to to wear, I’m not willing to celebrate yet. As I’ve mentioned, I’m afraid of losing my focus or getting too proud of what I’ve accomplished and having that turn into a little bit of laziness. I have, as of this moment, 47 days, 18 hours, 2 minutes and 51 seconds of hard work ahead of me, and I’m not going to truly relax until the triathlon is over.

But you better believe there will be a killer celebration once it is.

Woohoo!

21 May

These past two weeks have been filled with quite a few meaningful accomplishments, which has been just the boost I need. Sometimes over the past few weeks I’ve felt my headstrong, unwavering, go-hard-or-go-home attitude begin to waver slightly and it freaks me out. I don’t want to lose that drive. Then I think about what I’ve accomplished, and I realize that I’m crazy- I’m not losing my drive at all; maybe I’m just relaxing it’s grip on me a little bit.

Way back in December, when I first started Weight Watchers, I set my first weight-loss goal. I wanted to be a certain weight by May 1st. To be honest it was an arbitrary date and an arbitrary weight, except for that back then I thought it sounded like the beginning of summer and summer is a good time to be feeling thinner, and it was about a pound a week, which was realistic. Now, me being me, I don’t just set a goal and forget it. This goal was on my mind every day. Even if I wasn’t thinking “May 1st” I was thinking of what weight I needed to be at the next week in order to be on track for May 1st. My rollercoaster-like weight loss patterns sometimes made me think I’d be derailed somewhere along the way. But, gosh darn it, if I didn’t make it then I was going to be as close as humanly possible, and I wasn’t going to allow myself to be standing on the scale on May 1st thinking “Well if I hadn’t had that cake/pizza/ice cream/Coca-Cola/french fries, I would have made it. If I hadn’t skipped the gym/layed on the couch all day/slept in/been so lazy, I would have made it.” Helllllllz no. I was beyond determined to prove to myself that I could do this; that willpower and persistence would be my keys to success. The struggle of weight loss (and no matter how much willpower and persistence you have, it is definitely a struggle) you play a constant numbers game: I ate 7 points at lunch. I ran 2 miles. I was at the gym for 60 minutes. I worked out 5 days this week. Count your points, measure your portions, time your pace. All those numbers were worth it when, on May 1st, I got on the scale and saw the exact number I wanted to see. I met my May 1st goal!

The following week was my next 5k. It was by far the largest race Lola and I have run in so far (more than 5,000 people total) which was very cool. For some reason, this was also the first race where I wasn’t very nervous at the starting line. The course was great- not too hilly, yet not too flat and boring. It was through neighborhoods and the people were very excited to see the runners come through, lots of them were out on their porches cheering or blasting music. I finished mile 1 in 9:53. That was the fastest I have ever run a mile. It was also the first time during a race that I ran the entire mile without stopping. And I knew I could keep going. I ran straight through mile 2 and into 3. Shortly into 3 I had to stop, but I was okay with that. It was still the best I have ever run- race or not. And, adding to the triumph of the day, I crossed the finish line at 33:43– my best time yet by more than 30 seconds. It was a great, great feeling.

Tonight’s accomplishment was smaller but still significant. I went swimming! Phew! I’ve been so nervous about the fact that I haven’t started training for the swim, so it felt great to finally get in the water. And I was lucky enough to have Audrey as my swim coach. She went to a swim clinic a few weekends ago, and learned lots of helpful hints that she passed along to me after analyzing my technique (or lack thereof). I am hugely thankful for that, because when I first got in the water and realized the things I was doing wrong, I was slightly freaked out that the triathlon swim might mean my demise. As with running, it’s the breathing I have a problem with– but it’s even harder to think about breathing while you’re swimming because there truly are some less-opportune times to take a breath (i.e., when your face is in the water). But by the time I got out of that pool I had improved quite a bit (again, thanks to Audrey!) and felt much better about swimming. I probably would have felt even better if I hadn’t forgotten to bring a towel with me and didn’t have to dry off with Audrey’s extra sweatshirt and some paper towels. I am not joking; I was in a situation where drying my body with a sweatshirt was the best option available. And Audrey is teeny, so her sweatshirt was not very big and I didn’t have very much material to work with. Although it was surprisngly absorbent. Still, forgetting a towel when you’re going swimming is like forgetting socks when you’re going running (meaning it’s a completely doofus move). Even though drying off with a sweatshirt is not the greatest, thank goodness for Audrey and her sweatshirt. I absolutely HATE getting dressed if my body has even a drop of water still on it, so this was quite particularly torturous for me, but what would I have done if she wasn’t there? Answer: I would still be there, trying to get dry so I could put my clothes on and go home.