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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.

Be here now.

14 Jul

Somehow, the triathlon has crept up on me. Last year it was looming large, shadowing everything I did. This year, it’s quieter, a pinpoint on the map of a jam-packed summer.

I’ve felt bad about my lower level of intensity, constantly telling myself I need to pick it up, work harder, do more, be better. Get back to where I was. Lose 5 pounds. No, 10 pounds.

But something in my mindset has shifted yet again.

Yeah, you know what, I’d like to weigh a little less. But right now, it’s ok. I honestly do feel like I could stand to lose a few pounds. But overall, I FEEL good. Being active, eating right, it’s an ongoing effort that I’ve made a part of my life. And that’s better than working to achieve a short-term goal. The transformation I went through last year, it’s complete, and yet it’s not complete. It’s every day. And that’s what I wanted, that’s what I set out to achieve for myself.

And in this ongoing effort, yes, I’m going to skip the gym sometimes. And it’s ok! I’m going to struggle a bit with my knee, but you know what? My 5K time actually isn’t that much worse with an injury than without it. And that’s ok, too! Because overall, I’ve made exercise a can’t-live-without-it part of my life.

And food….ah, yes, food. I’m going to eat too much sometimes, or eat the wrong things. I’m ok with that. Mostly, I want eating to be about health, about energy, about properly fueling my body. But sometimes, I want it to be about enjoyment, about friendship and family and love, when sitting around a table with great people or seeking out an ice cream cone on a hot summer day is about adding to the great moments in my life, not counting the points in my meal.

Otherwise, will it ever end? At my thinnest, I still wanted to lose 5 more pounds, when everyone else was telling me to stop. I think, if I choose to focus on weight, I’ll always want to lose 5 more pounds.

I want to be here now. Be. Here. Now.

I could focus on a year ago, when I was 10 pounds thinner. I could focus on last month, when I should have done more. I could focus on next month, when I’d like to weigh 5 pounds less than I do now.

Instead, I want to be here. I want to be in the right now and make good choices, but not beat myself up for the slip-ups or the lazy days. I want to love myself for who I am today. Because I love who I’ve become, a healthy person who is more likely to be running a 5K or climbing a mountain on a Saturday morning than sleeping in; someone who tries her best to eat naturally and organically but still can’t seem to resist the occassional french fry.

News flash

6 May

News flash: this year is not going as planned.

Duh.

Honestly, most of the greatest things in my life have been unexpected and outside of my envisioned “plan” for myself. I have actually been MORE successful when I set goals but don’t painstakingly plot out, point-by-point, the path I’ll take to get there.

So, when Lola and I made a 2010, prep-for-the-triathlon-5K-super-schedule, I should have known that life sometimes invades the most well-intentioned plans. And that the happiest, most successful people learn how to suck it up and move forward in whatever capacity they can. I’d like to always be one of those people, but I can’t deny that I’ve faltered a bit here.

Even so, I’ve never questioned that I will still be standing on the shores of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg early the morning of July 25th (yes, that really is the name of the lake, and isn’t it just fitting that its name isn’t simple, either). If it means that I run in pain, then I’ll be running in pain. I hope not to be, but if so, oh well. I’ll deal with it. I still have 79 days from today to strengthen my knee and get better. I’m confident that I’ll be standing strong that morning.

A positive outlook, one in which I thought only about today and didn’t worry needlessly about tomorrow, is what got me so far last year. Very few things worth achieving are achieved without a struggle, and I don’t want to be the kind of person who wilts at the idea of something that won’t come easy.

I can’t leave behind the lessons I’ve learned– that what I want, simply and honestly, is to be happy. That I’ve found pursuing happiness rarely leads to happiness; pursue other things, and you find happiness.

And I find true happiness in running and writing….they keep me invigorated, give me energy and make me feel vibrantly alive. I need to pursue them without focusing on the obstacles that might stand in my way, because whatever personal successes come from the pursuit of those things are all that I need- no more, no less.

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.

Two Simple Words

2 Mar

When I was in the midst of all my training, when all I did was eat, sleep and breathe running, when my goal still lay out ahead of me and I was still reaching for it, I had a secret fear. And this fear was in my mind in the form of a question, two simple words:

What’s next?

This fear went against everything I was trying to teach myself- don’t worry too much, don’t think so much about the future, and certainly don’t worry and think too much at once. But still, I couldn’t help it. This fear was real. I brushed it aside, I didn’t dwell on it, but it rose to the top of my mind every now and again. I couldn’t help it. What WAS next? My triathlon goal had a very concrete date- on July 26th I was going to be a triathlete (I didn’t allow myself to question this. It was not a question. I was going to do it). But what would July 27th be like?

I’m sure this fear is understandable. When you focus your life around one thing, and that thing is suddenly, seemingly over….what do you do? I didn’t know the answer. I didn’t think the triathlon defined me, but for the moment, I was defining myself by that goal. It was what I talked about when I saw people who I hadn’t seen in a while. It was what I talked about with the people I saw all the time. It was the biggest thing in my life. It almost WAS me. What would I do without it?

What’s funny is, while I usually tell everyone in my life everything, I never admitted this fear out loud. I don’t think I wanted to let it out in the world; if it was only in my head it wasn’t as real. If it was only in my head I didn’t have to answer the question.

What’s funny is, one day someone gently asked me this very question: “What’s next?”, two words that exposed all of my hidden fears and my answer: “I don’t know”, wasn’t as scary as I’d thought.

What’s funny is, as we continued on in this conversation he asked me what my biggest hope would be. And I said, I couldn’t help it but even after everything my secret daydream was that my Prince Charming would be waiting for me at the finish line.

What’s funny is, the person I was having this conversation with was James. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was my prince. And he was indeed waiting for me at the finish line.

What’s funny is, this whole experience has made me realize that the question “What’s next?” is nothing to be afraid of. It works out in ways you cannot imagine. But it works out.

Something I’ve understood from the start was that nothing in life is predictable. You never know what’s next. But what I’ve learned is, you’ve got to have faith, you’ve got to believe in better days ahead, in the life you can create and the life you can’t, in the possibilities of the future.

I am not naive enough to think this means nothing will ever go wrong, that everything will always be perfect. No. But I believe in the magic of the every day and I can find the beauty in the life around me.

Even though there is too much stress lately and not enough hours in the day, even though there are angry clients and cranberry juice spills on beige carpet and a pile of laundry that threatens to overtake the bedroom that’s only slightly larger than the pile of bills, I still look around and see so many great things happening.

Babies are growing in the bellies of three of my girlfriends– women who are fabulous, women who will make great mothers, who will make the world a better place by raising children who will be beautiful people in every sense of the word. There are smiles on the faces of people whose smiles had been gone for far too long. There’s friends, and family, there are birthday parties and engagements. Love seems to be everywhere. There is music, and dancing. There are so many great moments that none of us could ever have known were next.

And yes, throughout it all, there is running.

Welcome to my life, 2010

31 Dec

Today we all stand at one of those interesting places in life, somewhere that is at once both the end and the beginning. While you might be able to mark a few events in the course of your life as simultaneously an ending and a beginning, it’s usually only in retrospect that you recognize it. Today is rare because we all know it as it’s happening.

While not one who usually believes in looking backward, only forward, the thought that came into my head early this morning was that I wasn’t sure if I was ready for 2009 to end. This has been a great year. If you’ll excuse me for saying so, it has been MY year. No matter what happens in the future, I know I’ll always look at 2009 as an amazing 365 days. It has been a year filled with more emotion, more smiles, more laughter, struggle, triumph, determination, support, appreciation, sweat, accomplishment and love than any of the 25 years I’ve lived before it. Whether it was hard or easy, I’ve enjoyed every single day of this year (which would be more accurately defined as a journey), and even more so from this vantage point, looking back at it all. I started somewhere so much different than where I ended up. This year has given me so much. I’m not sure I really want to leave the year of Me behind.

Yet what I realized after thinking about this for a few minutes took my worries away. 2009 didn’t give me anything. I took from 2009. Everything will come with me into 2010. And, like 2009, 2010 has no innate gifts to offer. It will have good moments and bad moments, too. It’s up to me to take from the next 365 days everything that I want; to achieve goals, to laugh harder, smile easier, worry less, love more, run faster, be stronger. Standing at the end of a year in which I reached out and grabbed every fabulous moment I could….well, that’s actually a great feeling. Will 2010 be better? I don’t know, but I know that it could be, and I know that how wonderful it will be rests largely on my shoulders. And if it’s up to me, then it’s going to be. Plus I’ll be ringing in the new year in a pair of insanely fabulous silver sequined heels, hand in hand with a guy that outshines the sparkliest of shoes, so I know I’ll be off to a good start.

As ‘09 draws to a close, I’m reminded of the wise words of my dad when I told him about my blog & the tri nearly a year ago: “You can do it if you put your mind and body to it, which you are and will. It won’t be easy, but what things are in life that test a person?” I know that I am capable of anything and ready to welcome what the next year has to offer.

I’m reminded of the infinite wisdom of Miley Cyrus, whose words always ring true:
“There’s always gonna be another mountain/I’m always gonna wanna make it move/Always gonna be an uphill battle/Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose/Ain’t about how fast I get there/Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side/ It’s the climb.” I know that I am ready to enjoy every great moment that will come to be in the year ahead.

I’m reminded of a Hallmark card that I love– I don’t think I could say it any better or simpler than this, or I would try: “This is the beginning of another 365 day journey around the sun. Enjoy the ride.” I know that I am looking forward to the adventure.

So goodbye, 2009. I’ll never forget you.
Bring it on, 2010. I am so, so, so ready for you.