Thursday, April 14, 2016

What goes through my head before a big race

I'm working from home today, and in between throwing last-minute items in my suitcase and cranking out a few projects, I'm thinking.

Yeah, this could get dangerous.

My bestie and I leave this afternoon to head to Florida for the Dark Side Challenge - two races, one weekend, totally 19.3 miles when all is said and done. We're tapping in to our inner geeks and getting ready to use the Force. But before we do that, we had to grind through about three and a half months of training.

Good days. Bad days. Scheduled runs that didn't happen, weeks when there was just too much going on. We did our best, and that's what we'll do on Saturday and Sunday: our best, whatever that looks like. Truly, I'm grateful to be able to run, and my race goal is to live in the moment every step of the way. I've packed my sense of wonderment in my carry-on.

Over the last few days, a lot of people have said, "I don't know how you do it," or "I could never do that," or "you have to be crazy!" (That last one might be true.) Here's what I want you to know: how I do it is by deciding I will and then following a plan, and you can do it if you want to.

I'm a proud slow runner. I've never even cracked the top 2/3 of my age group, and it's possible I never will. It doesn't matter. What matters is that I am out there, challenging myself, stepping up to the start line with full faith that I will cross the finish line. It's one thing to not want to do it. It's quite another to think you can't.

It's just mileage. All you have to do is be willing to keep moving forward.

Monday, February 29, 2016

This feels different

My big D.Tox experiment started six weeks ago. I was two weeks full-on damn near perfect on the program, and after that I was able to add back in to my eating the things I really missed.

The thing is, I didn't miss much.

I had zero physical issues coming off of coffee, so even though I still love it, I'm down to one or two cups a week (contrasted with two or three cups a day.) I'm a tea devotee now, and happy with that.

Gluten, which I thought would be the hardest to give up, has proven not to be hard at all. Yes, I've had Lou's pizza, but for the most part, I've let go of wheat. There are too many other options out there. Peanuts? Gone. Turns out I really like almond butter. Dairy, you fickle minx, you've been the hardest to avoid, but even still, it isn't bad. All that crap they tell you about cravings subsiding when you start to eat better ... turns out, it's not crap.

Now, I have found ways to treat myself. I have indulged in chocolate chia pudding. It's basically almond or coconut milk, chia seeds, cocoa powder, and a bit of blackstrap molasses - one of the few "sanctioned" sweeteners - to take the edge off. I'm not gonna lie to you; this is not the chocolate mousse you're looking for, but it certainly satisfies that part of my brain that wants something chocolatey.

And yes, one night I ate a (couple of) handfuls of sugared pecans. And a slice of fruit pizza. But other than that, there have been zero sweets. I'm like a recovering alcoholic, because I want everyone to experience how good it feels to not have crap in my system.

I just feel different. I am not out of the woods yet, but really - are we ever? There's always temptation or laziness out there, threatening our success. It's a matter of telling it, "Nope; not today."

In the next six weeks, I have a lot of work to do. I'll be heading off to my first half marathon in a year, and I want to feel good when I finish. (Also, I want to look cute in pictures.) So I'm sticking to the plan; I'm (literally) working my ass off. Let's see where we go! But one thing's for sure; this feels different.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Well, that was unexpected.

So here we are at Day 12 of D.Tox, and I'm still standing. Have I been perfect? Nope, not by any means. But not because I've indulged in something I shouldn't. More in that I haven't been able to have protein with every meal or snack, and some days I haven't gotten as many servings of fruits/veg that they want me to. But for me, sticking to plan is more about not eating Ben & Jerry's than it is about being perfect.

It would have been easier to play Cloistered Nun and shut myself off from the world for two weeks, but that's not reality. Reality is being around people, celebrating life's ups and downs. But man, I was scared when those opportunities arose. A restaurant with a great menu. A comfortable kitchen with great pizza. And cake. A work meeting with artisinal cheeses.

And yet, every time, I stayed the course.

This all may sound like a load of hooey to you. It did to me up until about a month ago. Sometimes, you have to try things even though they sound like a load of hooey.

When Alisa recommended the D.Tox to me, I rejected it immediately. But in the back of my mind, something was brewing. I was considering it, trying to figure out how I could make it work, financially and lifestyle-wise.

I've made it work. As of today, I cannot begin to tell you how good I feel. My skin is clear. My body feels good. My clothes fit better. I feel just plain good. It's hard to explain, but really incredible to be inside of.

It's scary, too, because come Monday, the detox part of D.Tox is over, and the rules can be broken ... but I think I'm gonna hold steady. I will probably re-introduce gluten or dairy into the diet to see how I react, but if I'm honest, I don't much miss it, so maybe I just won't. I'm already looking forward to coffee, but I'll probably limit it to the weekends. And as for sugar ... well ... now that I've gone almost two weeks without sweets, I really don't think it would be smart to climb back on that bandwagon.

I am convinced that the body doesn't always know what's good for it. I want a donut, pretty much 24/7, but by telling myself for the last two weeks that donuts were out of the question, I've quieted the cravings down to a low whimper.

Truth is, I expected to feel hungry and crabby. I did not expect to feel peaceful and enlightened.

One of the biggest discoveries through D.Tox has been in the learning about myself. Now, I realize I'm a grown-ass woman, and I should have a modicum of self-awareness by now, but sometimes we lose track of ourselves. We change slowly over time without even realizing it, and if we're lucky, we have the opportunity to realize where we've gone off the rails.

My lightbulb moment came when, for reasons passing understanding, I became very emotional. I've always been a sensitive person, but I can generally pinpoint where it comes from, and understand where to go from there. Alas, apparently I am also very good at bottling things up and burying what I'm feeling under a gin martini (extra brine, kkthxbai) or a slab of cheesecake, because when those things aren't an option, the feelz ... oh the feelz.

Having to stand and deal ... or rather, melting down, fleeing the scene and then having to deal ... is a learning experience. Hi, my name is Maggie, and I used to eat my feelings.

For the last few weeks, I've had to use actual coping skills. I couldn't stress-eat raw almonds, because lame. So, feel the stress, and find a way out. I couldn't dull hurt with a cocktail or dessert or bacon or the bread basket. I just had to feel it.

In truth, it wasn't bad. It was kinda mind-blowing, looking back. And I think that's one of the most important ways I hope this experiment makes a lasting change. Now that I'm aware that it's my habit to quiet my soul with consumption, I'll be doing my level best not to do that anymore. It's inauthentic, and that's not me.

Including today, there are three days left in my D.Tox. I would recommend it to anyone. And it is my intention to continue to be this mindful person, understanding what I'm eating and taking care with it, rather than just eating to eat, or worse ... eating to insulate myself from feeling.

Where will we go from here? Honestly, I have no idea. But I like who I am right now, and I love how I feel. There is no reason to go back.

Ever forward, my friends.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Long time, no write

The fact that I have written exactly nothing here since October of last year should tell you that I have not been particularly on point with my quest for health. That being said, I had a great year. I had a lot of fun. And I maintained most of my good health.

All that being said, I put on a metric shit-ton of weight over the holidays in 2014, and it all stuck around (with a few of its friends) for another holiday season, and ushered in 2016 with a middle-finger salute.

I've had my meltdown. I've felt sorry for myself and I've cried in the locker room. It boils down to this: what my mom told me was right. It is a lot harder to lose as you age. Hormones are sneaky bastards, and they aren't going to just let you off the hook. So while I was being mostly good, I was also being slightly not-so, and the not-so part has caught up with me. And latched on to my extra chins.

This scares the crap out of me, because I know what three bills looks like on my frame. I don't want to go back there, but I'm currently trending in the wrong direction.

That's where my friend Alisa comes in. She also happens to be a nutrition guru and personal trainer at my gym, and she talked me off the ledge and made a suggestion.

For some people, she said, it takes some time being perfect when you hit a plateau (or worse) to shake up the metabolism. So I am dedicated to two perfect weeks on the Life Time Fitness D.Tox program.

I'm on Day 2, and I almost caved and had a gyro today. (No one said it would be easy.)

D.Tox basically takes out any foods that are known to cause inflammation in the body. (Most notably dairy, gluten, soy, eggs and some other stuff I can't remember.) So we take those out, fuel the body with high-quality protein (cage-free chicken, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish) and really good produce (and not all of it needs to be organic, either). There's  no starch, but there is plenty of food. Plus, there's a shake or two a day to provide essential nutrients and work on removing gunk from my liver.

The idea is to remove known irritants from your system, things that cause inflammation in the body and make you feel generally un-good. It's just day two, and I already have less joint pain. (Is that even possible?) But I'll just say this: it isn't easy. And I'm glad it's just for two weeks.

To keep me honest, I thought I'd share pictures of what I'm eating, and you, gentle reader, could share in my trials and tribulations. Here's the scoop so far:

Breakfast, every day. Green tea, plus a smoothie with kale and berries.

Yesterday's lunch; cage-free chicken, with cauliflower and broccoli and roasted garlic. (Yum!)

D.Tox Chili with avocado. (This is actually very good.)

Chicken, greens, broccoli and cauliflower, with dressing made from apple cider vinegar and stone-ground mustard. Not bad, but I wouldn't want it every day.
It's pretty simple, but I still need some tweaks. I need to bring in some snack-worthy food (almonds and walnuts are allowed, as are nut butters that aren't peanuts.) And I need to stop walking through places that are serving gyros. Because that's just mean.

There's 12 more days; I can do this. More later.

Friday, October 16, 2015

First of all, holy shit!

Secondly ... I had that night in yoga.

Oh, man, it's been a long time. Epic Summer sorta took over my life, and I'll make exactly zero apologies for it. There were races (four triathlons!) that didn't pan out the way I'd hoped, and despite my near-best efforts, I have been unable to lose last year's holiday weight gain. #FirstWorldProblems

Yep, it's October, and I'm still holding on to 2014's Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. They're waving to you as I wright this, from their spot on my left asscheek.

Anyway, here we are smack dab in mid-October, and the struggle remains. I have recently taken some rather interesting steps forward, having some metabolic testing done and sitting with fitness pros to get their advice. I have a plan; it's time to stick with it.

The plan doesn't necessarily include yoga. Most of the time when we get "back on track," it's cardio first (burn, fat, burn!), weights second, and yoga when and if we get around to it. That's not the way it will be for me. Yoga is a top-tier requirement for my physical and emotional health, so I need to fit it into the overall plan. That means there will probably be days when I go to yoga and then I run afterward. There will be more weight-bearing work.

There will be more work, period.

All that being written and acknowledged, let me take you back to last night. See, as I said, it was an epic summer. Not a lot of time to stick with a program, but plenty of food and beverage to skew my fitness world more than slightly awry. As I stood in Studio 2, in the middle of a hot vinyasa class, I felt my capris roll down, as if trying to get away from my middle.

Traitorous lycra bastards.

As I moved through Sun C, I felt like a big girl looking foolish. I felt my entire middle betraying every meal at which I've overindulged for the last year. I felt like I didn't belong. Tears threatened to fall, but I bit them back and went on with my practice.

The cruel voice kept demanding to be heard. I won't share the words; we all have that voice. I'm sure you've heard it, too. But last night, peace and calm won over cruel. Every time I heard something negative, I pushed it away with thoughts and ideas my fellow yogis have given me.
  • It doesn't matter if you can do a pose perfectly.
  • It doesn't matter how you look - it only matters how you feel.
  • This is not a contest; there are no medals in yoga.
  • Go where the pose leads you.
And once again, the tears threatened to fall, but this time not because I went dark inside. This time it was because I went light. I found my way past the mean girl inside, and she gave way to the wild and wonderful encouragement of loved ones.

So as I sit here on my lunch break, enjoying a plate of chicken breast with broccoli and cauliflower, I'm thinking about last night and I'm grateful. Not for the cruel voices, but for the louder ones. The ones from my friends and mentors, who look me in the eye and say "you can do this, and I will help you." My heart is full.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Who you callin' rational?

No rational person would stand in the rain (and not some namby-pamby sweet little trickle of rain either, mind you, this was more along the lines of a gentle monsoon) for more than 90 minutes waiting for a race of any kind.

In related news, I spent my morning in the company of completely irrational women.

Today was the Esprit de She women's sprint triathlon. It was a little bittersweet for our tribe, because team-mate Linda is out for the season with an injury. After training together in one capacity or other over the years, having one of our number on the sidelines just makes everything feel a bit off. But it also motivates us forward, to do our best for those who - for the moment - cannot.

Before we even got our transition areas set up, the skies opened. We shed our outer layers and just wandered around in our tri suits ... which would end up wet, anyway, but we got soaked far earlier than we wanted to.

We were pruney before we even approached the start line.

As we stood, huddling under an umbrella, we remarked to one another how days like this is when the cream rises to the top.
Pam, Di and I, crammed under my little green umbrella.

Most people, faced with the challenges of this morning, would roll over and go back to bed. Not us; no, we headed out, ever mindful of the forecast, and approached the start line.

On days like this, only the strong even bother to start. You have to be some sort of crazy, tenacious lunatic with a heart full of hope to stand, rain-soaked, waiting for anything ... but especially to waiting for somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours of sweat-swear-word-producing activity. And yet, here we were. 

Race time rolled around, and we divided into our respective waves. Our tribe has a sort of unwritten rule; even if you start together, generally speaking, your race is your race. So we were all off on our own journeys, starting with a half mile in the water. 

While the rain continued to fall, in case you'd forgotten

After the swim (which was pretty awesome; I was faster this year than ever before), it was time to hop on the bike. Somewhere in about the last quarter of my 13-mile bike ride, I thought to myself, "experiences like this are where goals are reached or abandoned." And I think I was right about that. I was a little pokey here, but on the wet pavement and with a front brake that wasn't quite functioning optimally, I was happy to finish only a few minutes behind last year's time.

Finally, it was time for the run. Finally. By now, it was good and steamy outside, and the rain was done. My legs had just about nothing left in them, but ever forward I pressed on. So. Tired. I had to walk more than I would've liked, but in truth, today was all about conquering the elements. Everything else? That's gravy. 

Mmmm ... gravy ...

Eventually, we all made it to the finish line. Pam earned herself a new PR. Diane finished her very first triathlon. Megan crushed her PR by 23 minutes. And me? Well, I shaved time off my swim and took a little more time with everything else. But I sure do look cute.

Four ridiculous, irrational women, whom I love beyond measure.
Pam, me, Diane and Megan ... my gorgeous triathlete tribe.

Friday, June 12, 2015

I'm an athlete

For years now, I've split us up into two groups. Real runners, then people like me. Real cyclists, then people like me. Real swimmers, then people like me. Real triathletes, then people like me.

This, I've learned, is a massive load of crap.

It may take me more time to complete athletic endeavors, but right now, in this moment, I am an athlete. I step up to the start line. I cross it. And the finish line? Yeah, I cross that sucker, too. Time and time again. Because I'm an athlete.

Last Saturday, I was down in Hudson, IL to participate in the Tri-Shark Classic sprint tri. One of my great, athletic friends (I'll call him Biff, because I do) was the co-race director, and that was reason enough for me to show up. (Reason No. 2? He wears a kilt.) Anyhoo, it was me, and about 599 "real" athletes.

Any rational person would be intimidated, but I'm not all that rational.

Just before getting into the water, Biff came up to me and said, "I see you got her game face on." And yeah, I suppose I have one of those; I get really serious before a race starts. There are a few vital things going through my mind.

At the starting line, I become a little overwhelmed by what we have in common - we, the athletes. We stand there together with identical potential. We've not yet begun to race, and we all know that in truth, we are only racing against ourselves. Our beautiful sameness in those pre-race moments can be pretty overwhelming for me emotionally, but that's mostly because most athletes treat others like ... well ... athletes. They don't know that I'm gonna fight for my near-last-place finish, and if they did know, they wouldn't care. Because athletes - true athletes - celebrate achievement, no matter what it looks like.

Saturday's race was so good for my soul. It was the first time I've ever done a tri without a member of my tribe out on the course with me, but Biff and Amanda just filled my soul with love and encouragement. Biff was waiting on the dock as I came out of the water, and I cannot find the words to say how incredibly cool it was to have someone supporting me like that. Through the bike and the run, I knew I had support, and it inspired me to move forward.

Was I as fast as I wanted to be? Nah. But I made my way to the start line, I got my body through each of the disciplines, and I crossed the finish line.

I trained for it. I worked hard for it.

I am an athlete.