Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Update-a-palooza

So it's been awhile. I have completed two additional races - my final two for 2011 - and haven't even blogged about them yet! Let's make up for that, shall we?

First, there was the 3.14 Run for Pie, which Linda and I did with Di and Justin (and their friends Stacy and Steve) on Thanksgiving. Cross the finish line, get a pie. Sounds good to me! There was even an honored guest at the starting line:

A real, live turkey!



















We had a great race, all things considered. Here's me and Linda, before the start.


The weather was perfect (chilly but pleasant) and the town of LaGrange is lovely; lots of pretty homes to look at as I ran. The part that sucked was not achieving my goal. Well, my secondary goal. I wanted to PR at this race - which I did - but I wanted it to be my first sub-40 5K ... my first 3.1 miles with an official time under 40 minutes.


There were issues at the finish line that prevented that, though. Although the clock said 39:50 as I approached the finish, I hit an intense bottleneck and couldn't cross in time to beat 40. It was still a personal record, but not by the margin I had hoped. Boo hoo. But I still got a pie, I still had a blast, and I'll do it again next year.

My stats: 779 of 965 runners overall. 64 of 82 in my age group. Finish time of 41:04.5, with an average pace of 13:05 per mile. For those of you doing the math, this is a huge improvement over my early run results.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving (December 3) was the Arlington Heights Santa Run. Thousands of runners "suit up" as Claus an run a 5K through my town. It was awesome!

The Schaumburg LTF Girls, all suited up and ready to run. I'm on the left, followed clockwise by Lorna, Meg, Dee, Linda and Shelly.


This was a great race, as it was also last year. Linda and I approached this year's event with a different mindset. We ran this one just for the joy of running; no pushing, no working toward a PR, just being happy we could do it. It was an important reminder of what's important and why we got into this whole thing to begin with; we're never going to cross the finish line first, but we will do our best to finish, upright, uninjured. It matters.

With that mindset, we still ran a great race. Linda is a great running partner, and kept me motivated forward through the 3.1 mile course through my neighborhood. (The start and finish happens across the street from my house.) My results?

998 out of 1083 overall. Finished in 43:33.8, for a pace of 14:01.3 per mile.

After we all finished, everyone piled back into my apartment (and by everyone, I'm including not just my LTF run buds, but my old friend Amy and her sister, Susan. She joined us for our first run together!) for the main event: breakfast. I love my friends because they cook. We had asparagus quiche and raspberry French toast, scones and fruit, mimosas and danish and bagels and ... dear GOD, I'm not sure how I moved that afternoon. It was delicious and amazing.

So that's where we're at, folks. The races for 2011 are complete, and I feel damn good about that. I've already begun to register for 2012, and while I'm nervous (half marathon, here I come!) I'm also excited. I can do this. The only goal is to finish, injury free and verticle, with a smile on my face.

You in?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gratitude

I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday. So many memories!

Each week on Facebook, I write a note entitled "Things I Love Thursday". It's a weekly reflection on what I'm feeling particularly grateful for. But here, I thought I'd take just pause for a moment and spew gratitude for all the things that have helped me so far along the journey toward health. Here goes:


  • Healing. This year brought me my first-ever athletic-related injury. It also brought me through the healing process. I can't begin to explain how it feels now to run, knowing that I wasn't sure I would again. It makes me appreciate being able to do it so very much. I take no run for granted, and it fills me with joy.

  • Technology. I have this app on my phone, Nike + GPS, that posts to Facebook when I'm running. When people "like" the post, or comment on it, the app cheers in my ear. I also have apps that track my activity, show me a good running route, and help me monitor my food. It does help! Although perhaps just because it keeps it fun. However, technology will never take the place of ...

  • People. Holy crap, I have incredible people. If you have to get healthy on your own, you should still do it - it's worth the work - but the work is so much more fun when you have support. I didn't go into this with a network. I actually joined a gym intending to let this be a solo process. But that's not how things ended up. Instead, I now find myself fortunate enough to be surrounded by active, generous people who bolster me along the way. Whether you've run with me once or countless times, helped me make a wise choice on a menu, waited for me at the finish line, reminded me that I can do anything for 30 seconds (even if it's more push-ups), told me I'm looking good, believed in me (and helped me do the same), woke up at the ass-crack of dawn to get to a race, told me I don't look ridiculous in those skin-tight running pants ... or other countless acts of kindness I have experienced, I am unspeakably grateful.

  • Epsom salts, foam rollers, tennis balls and this thing. Thanks to these tools, I am able to walk after a long run.

  • Red Mango. When I need, want or feel like I deserve a post-workout treat, this is it.

  • Having enough money. This has been an expensive year. I have registered for 15 races (one of which I could not complete, one that happens tomorrow and one that will happen on December 3) this year, plus planned ahead and registered for two in early 2012. This isn't free. (Especially considering that one of them in 2012 is the Disney Princess Half Marathon, for which I also had to pay for airfare. And a commemorative necklace.) So the fact that I've managed my money reasonably well and am not weeping in the corner at the sad state of my finances is a Very Good Thing.

  • Uggs. There is very little in the world that feels better than putting on a pair of warm shearling boots after a hard run. Or an easy run. Or a trip to the grocery store.
Yeah. Lots to be grateful for. And now, on to the pie ...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Running gets real

Runner friend Linda and I drove to La Grange on Saturday (after a six-mile run and an hour of lifting weights) to pick up race packets for the Pie Run on Thursday. Yes, we are running 3.14 miles ... and getting a pie at the finish line.

Anyway, pickup was at this great running store in downtown La Grange, and while we were there we browsed a bit and talked to their buyer. I ended up buying a pair of awesome running tights. (And are they every tight!) They are stitched together from two different fabrics to support muscles the way kinesio tape works. I also picked up a super-cute wicking shirt with thumb holes (I wish every long-sleeve top I have had thumb holes) and some other running essentials (Body Glide, gloves and The Stick.)

And this morning, I got to thinking: When you reach the point that you purchase scientific pants and Body Glide, you are a real runner.

My 13-and-a-half minute mile is the same mile as those who run it in half the time. I am a runner. I run.

I also squeeze into scientific pants.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nut Run

I have become that girl.

I've become a person who goes away for the weekend and packs athletic gear.

I've become a person who takes a few days away, and registers for a race in her destination city.

This person is pretty much unrecognizable to me sometimes. I still giggle - yes, giggle - when I open up my suitcase and find running shoes. It's a little crazy, but it's all me.

So, on November 11, I flew to Tucson to visit my dear friends Mike and Racheal, and their daughter, Kaylee. (Curious about the trip? Read about it here.) Calling them friends is like calling chocolate merely good. These people go so far beyond friends, it defies description. They are family. So it should have come as no surprise that they were willing - or, at least Racheal was - to get up at the ass-crack of dawn to drive me to Sahuarita for the Pecan Festival ... and the 3.7 mile Nut Run that was part of it.

It was one of the most beautiful runs I've ever experienced. The run was through the Green Valley Pecan Orchard. I don't ordinarily refer to the desert as green and lush, but this place? Yeah; all that and more.

The aroma of pecans hit us almost as soon as we got out of the car; the parking lot was covered with pecan shells, and they gave a satisfying crunch/crunch under our feet. Soon, it was time to head off to run 3.7 miles. This is what it looked like:
Trees, soft dirt path and mountains in the distance. I've been on lots of runs, but there has never been anything quite like this.

At the end of the run, my time for 3.7 miles was 51 minutes, 34 seconds, at a pace of 13:56 per mile. That's slower than it felt, but those are the official results.

And now, we're nearing the end of November. Between now and the end of the year, there are two more races scheduled. It's been a helluva year, and 2012 is showing a lot of promise, too.

Yeah, I've become that girl.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hot Chocolate 2012

This day was a complete success. From the easy wakeup (5:00 is not so bad, after all) to the omelet, to the fact that I get to set the clocks before bed tonight, I don't think there has ever been a perfecter day.

Yes. Perfecter.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Well, if we are to go back to the very beginning, we have to re-cap this race last year. It was my first actual race - the Hot Chocolate 5K. I didn't sleep the night before; nerves about destroyed me! I remember wondering if I could do it, and then finally finishing, and being just absolutely wiped out. In the end, I finished the race in 2010 at 49 minutes and 56 seconds - or 50 minutes in actual time. My average pace was 16 minutes and five seconds per mile. I ran what I could, walked most of it, and did my best. The only thing that was important was that I finished, and that felt really good.

Fast forward to this year. After a full year of training, racing (racing? Is it racing when you run this slow?), injury and recovery, I decided to venture into uncharted territory. I was running a 15K.

Am I completely nuts? That's three times as far as I ran last year. That's further than I have ever run before. But, seeing as I'm training for a half marathon, it seemed logical. When I registered, back in February, I figured it would be good to have one long race under my belt before the half in February of 2012. So I decided to do it.

I met up with my running pals from Schaumburg Life Time Fitness and we carpooled in. Linda, Pam, Dee, Megan and Shelly were the perfect accompaniment for a day of merriment. As Linda and I were the only ones going for 15, the others hurried to the starting line for the 5K. Linda and I, naturally, stopped to take photos in the parking garage.
Please note that the woman in this photograph looks happy, and not completely crazy.

Soon, we found ourselves in beautiful Grant Park in Chicago. It was a clear, sunny day. A little chill in the air, but that's perfect running weather! After waiting for about three years to get into a bathroom (this seems to be a trend in Chicago race porta-potties) we made our way toward the starting line.
But not before we took the traditional long-arm photo.

The run itself was incredible. I started off feeling incredibly strong. I knew in my heart, my soul and my gut that I had done everything I could to prepare for this race. The rest was just in the doing. So off I went.

The first mile passed before I even realized it. That's the beauty of running through Chicago; this city is so incredible, it's easy to get caught up in the surroundings. The first half of the race, really, seemed effortless. (This, I remember thinking, is a new sensation. Effortless? For serious?)

When we ran around United Center, I knew we were about halfway done with the race. I was starting to feel a little fatigue in my legs and discomfort in my knees, but other than that, I was totally happy in the moment. Joyful, even, with the way I was actually able to continue moving forward.

My RunKeeper crapped out on me, so I had no idea how I was really doing. Mile split timers showed my difference between each marker, but I would have to do math to actually figure it out. I felt like I was within reach of meeting my threefold goal: Finish, smiling, before the sweepers picked my ass up. I figured I had two and a half hours, start to finish. I was hopeful.

I ran the full course, with the exception of walking up to and away from water/Gatorade stations. I tried to take a wee walk break around mile seven, but my calf felt a little wonky walking, so I just continued to run.

Time passed. I smiled. I felt strong, powerful, capable. I thought back to last year, and how hard it was to mostly walk a 5K. I marveled at how much difference a person can make in just one year.

And then, blissfully, the course turned back on to Columbus Drive; the finish line was within sight. In mere moments, I heard my friends. Linda jumped off the curb to run me in toward the finish, and Pam, Dee, Meg and Shelly were hollering in support. I started to tear up. That made it really hard to breathe! So I promised myself I would keep it together until I crossed the finish line, and I propelled myself forward.

To say I was emotional would be something of an understatement, to say the least. After a year of hard work, of injury, of physical therapy, of giving it my all, I was crossing the finish line in what I knew would be something to remember. With one last push, it was over. Nothing left except more Gatorade, a bottle of water and ... chocolate.
Ran into Diane (and her husband Justin) just past the finish line. They already had their chocolate. They have been incredibly supportive over the past year; I love them.

What would a race called Hot Chocolate be without delicious chocolate? Sponsored by Ghirardelli, this is one race you don't want to miss out on if you have any interest in the ooey gooey addiction I like to call melted chocolate. Seriously. Fondue is served with a pretzel rod, Rice Krispy treat, marshmallow, apple slices, a banana and ... your finger. Nope, I wasn't going to waste a single bit. (Note the glob on my lower lip; I ate that, too.) (The blob, not my lip.)
One satisfied, happy runner.And here's the full posse, full of chocolate and joy. Back row: Linda, Me, Kristen's Friend and Kristen. Front row: Pam, Shelly, Dee and Megan.

I can't stop smiling. This race just felt incredible. And with good reason, as fate would have it. The unofficial times have been posted, and it would appear that I absolutely shattered my performance a year ago. Now, let's be honest - shaving two minutes per mile still means I'm a slow runner. But this is progress, and that's what it's all about. When all is said and done, here's how my race shaped up:

I came in 631 out of 644 in my age group. Nope, not last, although that would have been okay!

8841 out of 9061 overall. Yep; 220 people were actually slower than I was. I didn't know that was possible.

But here's where it gets really interesting:

My overall time was 2:09:33, with a per-mile average pace of 13:54. Scroll back up and check last year's pace, okay? I'll wait.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I took a little more than two minutes per mile off my average pace, while tripling the length of my race. That felt good. A year's worth of hard work paid off.

But it's not just me. My ability to run this race today has been a collective effort. Everyone who has run with me, everyone who has encouraged me, everyone who believed in me or told me I could do it, everyone who told me I could heal from injury and be stronger than ever ... today was a culmination of all of that. I am proud, yes, but what I am mostly proud of is being worthy of the faith others have put in me. I don't have words to express what it's meant to me to have this incredible support network at my side, but I can say one thing for sure:

I could not have done it without you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Of scales, beating hearts and wanderlust

Did you notice that I didn't weigh in this week?

Well, I did. Sort of. Three times. I just didn't report it ... until now. Remember back in the spring when I though my at-home scale was broken, because it kept weighing me at 207.4 for weeks on end? Turns out the scale wasn't stuck; I was.

I've been feelin' pretty stellar over the last couple of weeks. After taking a road trip a few weeks back, I've broken out of my routine a bit, and started eating when I was hungry instead of according the the clock. It's kinda cool. And, apparently, it worked - I could totall feel a change in my body this week. So when Monday passed and I wasn't at the gym, I was disappointed that I couldn't weigh. Tuesday came and went, I was at the gym but totally forgot to put my ass on the scale. So when I got home, I got out the scale, got nekkid, and got on. Twice. It said 204; I am not going to own that. But it sure did give me the motivation to hop on when I got to the gym on Thursday.

205.6. That's down about three from the last time I officially weighed, which I think was two weeks ago. I'll take it. I'm actually thrilled with it, considering that I was up at about 213 a month ago. Lots going on with the body, honestly - hormones, aging and stuff - but man does it feel good to take a little off the top.

I'm not going to pretend that I know everything that went into making this happen. I would love to say, "Well, when you stick perfectly to your eating and workout plan, of course you'll take of the weight," blah blah blah. Whatever. What actually happened was, I totally switched up my life. I've run outdoors, I've run hills, I've run alone on a treadmill, I've run with some amazing friends who coached and encouraged along the way. I've connected with people over things that aren't food and I've gotten a little extra sleep. I've felt a lot of love and I've gone with the flow and BAM ... my ass shrinks. It's not a coincidence, but it isn't really by design, either. It's my life aligning a little bit more with my values - health, activity and human connectedness.

So last night as I ran my final two-mile training run before the 15K this weekend (holy crap, I'm going to run 9.3 miles!), I was mindful of the change. I propelled myself forward, thinking about the people in my life who love me, about having a little less weight impact on my poor old knees, and how my heart is healthier now than ever in my adult life. It's not just more full of love and stuff; it's doing it's job more effectively, too. I can feel the difference. Oh, don't get me wrong - I still gasp for air and my lungs still burn, even at the mad pace of 4.2 miles per hour. But feeling any improvement is incredible. The human body's ability to change just fascinates me.

Once the Hot Chocolate 15K is over, I officially begin the Season of Travel. Over the next couple of months, I will be training for the Disney Princess Half Marathon, and running in Tucson, Orlando and San Antonio, and I'm really excited about that! I haven't travelled a whole lot over the past few years, in part because my finances suck, but in part also because fitting my ass into an airplane seat has been a challenge. I am so ready to head out of town and experience travel as someone a little more normal-sized.

It's difficult not to be a little emotional about that. There is so much that will occur between now and the end of the year - to say nothing of my first half marathon in February - that was simply foreign to me even just a year ago. Although I've said it before, I think it bears repeating: If you want something different, change one thing. The difference between Life Then and Life Now is nothing more than a series of small changes, built upon each other over time.

And I'm not done yet.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nerves, excitement and 15K

I'm a control freak. I'm sure this finds you completely shocked. Life, however, has a way of gently nudging me in the direction of growth, when I'm ready for it.

Can't help but be reminded of my toughest bout with control, back in the late 80's/early 90's, when my desperate attempt to control something in my life lead to bulimia. Yes, it happened. It also provided a very clear picture of just how destructive control can be. It's a lesson I regret having to learn, but a valuable one nonetheless. Now, when life spins out of control, it's good to have this memory to rely on, and hopefully (in time, maybe after learning how futile it is to try and control the situation) loosen my grip a bit.

Which brings me to now. I've had episodes of car trouble, family health issues and workplace drama lately, all of which has presented a distinct lack of control. It is not without effort, but I am trying to go with the flow. Aging divorcee learns new skills.

So I logically, intellectually accept that there is very little these days that I truly can control. Perhaps it's time to just enjoy the process? A valuable tactic going into this coming weekend, during which I will attempt to do something I have never done before: I will run a 15K.

That's nine-point-three miles, for those of you who care nothing for the metric system.

What can I control about this run? Well, I have thus far controlled my training. I have completed every run along the way. (Except for tonight's; I'll log a wee two-miler after work.) I have gone through extensive physical therapy to heal from a tear in my Achilles. I have taken off some weight, and I have allowed myself to let go of expectations and just run for the sheer joy of running. The rest, really, is just a matter of trying it, getting out there, completing 9.3 and seeing what it brings.

I'm a bundle of nerves and butterflies, so excited to try something new while at the same time nervous about potential injury. I've done everything I can to prepare, but some things ... well, some things you just cannot control.

So here's the deal: You send good thoughts my way on Saturday morning while I'm running the Hot Chocolate 15K, and when all is said and done, I'll eat some chocolate on your behalf. Expect a follow-up post with results and photos!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monster Dash

Saturday morning found me clad in a penguin hat and participating in a most enjoyable run - the Monster Dash 5K Fun Run. Strangely (or maybe not) this was the first non-timed run I've participated in, and that absolutely enhanced my enjoyment.

It didn't hurt, either, that Amanda, wife of Biff, accompanied me throughout the entire run. It was the first time I had someone run with me throughout an event, and that was a lovely change. I felt happy and fortunate to be out on the lakefront on such a perfect day with my friend.

At the end of our race, it was time to head back toward the finish to watch Biff and my friend Annie finish the Monster Dash Half Marathon. What a treat! So many fantastic runners; it was inspiring, to say the least. Biff did great, and Annie - in her first race ever - finished smiling, even though her poor feeties were fairly covered in blisters.

All in all, it was a near-perfect morning for a run. Sunny, chilly air, and good friends ... what more could a girl want? I missed my usual running posse, but it was really nice to truly try something different.

So now, I'm pretty much staring down the barrel of the Main Event - getting ready for the Hot Chocolate 15K this Saturday. Nervous and excited, but I feel like I'm ready. 9.3 miles, here I come!

Several runners dressed to the nines, including Rufio and Dee Snider. So cool.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baby steps up Everest

I am not a fitness professional, although I was, once, sorta.

I am not a doctor, but I've been to many.

I am not a nutritionist, but I watch a lot of Food Network.

That being said, because I've had some success taking off a few layers of my former self, folks ask me with some regularity for my "secret". There's no secret, friends, at least not for me. It's as simple as this:

Eat less. Move more.

For years, I self-medicated with food. Regardless of my knowledge and study, I did not know how to properly care for myself and my body. The lethal combination of suicide by cheeseburger and a butt that seemed fused to the sofa found me tipping the scales at the 300-pound mark. So when it came to "go time" - that moment when I knew I had to choose my path on the fork in the road - I knew it would be hard, but I decided to take it off the same way I put it on.

One fraction of a pound at a time.

They aren't kidding when they say it gets harder as you age. It does. But that's okay, because you get tougher as you age, too. Things are easier when you're younger because that's what you can handle. So if you're staring down the barrel of 40 and wondering if it's possible, it is. But it's gonna take work.

And that's what scares people. No matter your age, it's hard work, and there will be weeks when you see little progress. There may be months when progress is slow in coming. Stick with it. When you treat your body with love and grace, it will give the same back to you.

For me, it came down to the realization that instead of treating my body like a temple, I was treating it like Woodstock. Did I really expect it to remain resilient, flexible and strong? And yet was I surprised when it rebelled against movement and life. But over time, I've made incredible progress. I still have work to do, and goals to accomplish, but I won't fail. As long as I'm still doing the work, there is no failure.

So now I'll let you in on my secret: my motivation lies within my completely screwed-up self image. See, when I was at my heaviest, I didn't see myself that way. It was only when a series of photographs presented themselves to me that I realized I was, in fact, the fat girl. (Really, holding up my own jeans did nothing to show me how big those size 24 jeans actually were. Duh.) It was shocking to realize how truly unhealthy I had become. But now, I find myself shocked when I see photos of me in my current state. I don't recognize the healthy girl yet. So the work has become less about what I look like and more how I feel, as I wait for the picture of me in my head to sync up with the girl in the photo.

In the meantime, I am intensely fortunate to have people in my life who admire my triceps (seriously, that happened!) and who remind me that my limitations exist only in my imagination. No matter how small your steps, as long as you keep moving forward, you can reach any destination you choose.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

To dance

If you know me at all, you know that music is where my soul gets its groove on. Ask me about pretty much any major (and oftentimes minor) event in my life, and I can likely tell you two things: what I was wearing, and what song I was listening to. (Example: When I discovered the vast cache of messages between my ex and Judi the ho, I was wearing plaid flannel pants and an EIU sweatshirt, while "Nada" by The Refreshments played in the background.)

Yes. I can remember that level of detailed minutia, and I could never remember my mother's birthday. Sue me.

Anyway ... music. In the mayhem that is my life these days, music is my refuge. Between workplace stress, family emotion, car trouble and a tendency toward perfection, life has been kicking me a bit moreso than usual lately. So, I retreat into music.

And, on the best of days ... I dance to it.

Last night, a great dance instructor and an even better friend, Donna Thomas, returned to LTF Schaumburg to teach Salsa/Funk. From the opening beat of our warm up straight through the booming rhythms of intense cardio, until we wiped the last bit of sweat from our brow at the end, we shared pure joy. There is something about being part of this community of dancers that raises the bar for all of us. We work hard because everyone else works hard. We leap higher because the person next to us proves it can be done. We sink into the rhythms in our own unique ways, and we become dancers, for that one incredible hour.

And when it's over, when we've given every ounce of energy we can muster and burned 700 calories or so, we emerge new. The stress of the day is gone, and there is nothing left but joy.

Sooner or later, the real world finds us again and the troubles re-introduce themselves. But for that one hour, there is nothing except gratitude for the ways our bodies allow us to move, and the elation that comes from joining music with movement.

To dance. To live.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weigh in, and other stuff

Life has been super hectic. I weighed in on Monday, and I'm finally taking a moment to own it.

208.6

Yeah, that's like four pounds less than last week's weigh in. No, I don't think it's real. I think last week's was an anomaly. No big deal, just a sign from the universe that I really do need to stick with it.

That won't be so easy this weekend, as I'm road trippin'. I'm heading to Charleston, IL for homecoming at Eastern Illinois University. As I hoisted my weekend bag into the car this morning, I was a little taken aback by what I saw: running shoes, peeking out of the outer pocket of the bag.

I have become that girl who packs running gear when she travels.

So the weekend will consist of food (including spinach feta bread I picked up as a thank-you gift for my hosts), beer (just one; I have reserved alcohol for special occasions only while training for the 15K), coffee ... and a run. Not sure if I will lose any weight this week (Monday will tell the tale) but I have kept up with my training plan, so the rest is really just watching intake. I can do that.

I think.

Wishing you an awesome, active weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life lessons from the long run

Last night I ran my longest run yet. Seven miles. This morning, I'm feeling every step of them.

Allow me to acknowledge, once again, that I run really slowly. Like really slowly. As in, if I had any sense, I'd be embarrassed by how slowly I run. As in, it took me about an hour and 50 minutes to run seven miles. As in, yes, it probably will take me well over two hours to complete the 15K I have coming up in November ... and yes, this terrifies me. You are required to hold a 15-minute-mile pace in the Hot Chocolate, and if I can't, I might not be allowed to finish. They won't withhold the chocolate, but I won't get the glory, either. Bummer.

So I'm working on that, trying to bolster my training with a little speed work on my shorter runs. As of today, I'm just going to be happy that I finished a seven-mile run. And while I was out there, I learned a few things.


  • It is so much more fun to run with a friend. I ran six with Diane over the weekend. I've run five with Linda, and another five with Jenn and Alex. And each of those runs were enjoyable. This one, on the other hand, was a chore. Few distractions make for a cranky runner.

  • Running at night means poop. Seriously. I can get up in the morning and crank out a training run with no issues, but when I run after work, generally about halfway through - regardless of my planned distance - I have to take a crap. Which is problematic when the sun is beginning to set and you have to be done before it gets dark or it's not safe. So last night I just kept going ... hoping for the best. It worked out okay - no code brown - but damn, I spent about two miles paranoid.

  • I like my water belt. I don't like that I have to wear it pretty tight up around my waist, though. I think it makes me look like the Michelin Man, but it doesn't chafe or bounce much when I wear it properly. So it allowed for seven hands-free, hydrated miles. Which is cool.

  • How I feel changes a lot on the run. I had good points of the run. I also had bad points. I had several - I think four - walk breaks. Let me describe the run, if you don't mind: We're losing daylight early these days, so in order to get the run in before dark, I had to head out immediately after work, if I wanted to do it outdoors. (And I did. Seven miles alone on a treadmill might kill me.) So I elected to run on the trail loop that goes around the hotel across the street from my office. It's about 1.62 miles around, so I did four laps, and then ran an additional quarter mile out and back; seven. The first lap was pretty okay, but by the time I finished it, I was sure there was no way I was going to complete it four times. Lap two felt good, although I was creeped out by the guys fishing who seemed to notice me every time I ran past. Maybe they were just pissy that I was rustling leaves and disturbing the fish; hell, I dunno. Starting out lap three, I took a walk break and noticed that I needed the bathroom. Hey, great! I also realized that my RunKeeper had stalled, so it was a really good thing that I knew how far I needed to go. Finishing lap three was challenging; I think that lap included two walk breaks. (And they were actually breaks; I think I almost stopped.) It was difficult, but by the time I got near the end of the third lap, I started to feel confident about finishing the run. Yes, it took that long to realize I could do it. Then, on lap four, that feeling completely disappeared. I started bargaining with myself - you can do the six and a half and just go to the car; you don't need to do the extension to get to seven. Come on; it's getting dark. You have to poop. Just go home. It was like an actual conversation in my head. "Yes you can!" "No you can't". "I can't pay the rent!" "You must pay the rent." Yeah ... angel v. devil. Angel won; I did it.

  • Fatigue is real. My legs really started hurting on the last mile or so. No surprise - I don't have very strong legs. So, mental note to self: work on that. Because fatigue sucks.

  • I can do it. Perhaps the most important less from the run is that, even though it takes me forever, even though I doubt myself the whole way ... I can do it. It might not be pretty, or easy, but I can totally do it.

So there ya go, the stuff I learned along the way to seven miles. And now I've reached a "step-back" period in the training plan. Blissfully, I don't have another long run until October 24, when I'll run eight miles. Then after that, the next long run is 9.3 miles on race day, November 5. I can do this.


Can't I?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Seriously. Seriously?

Well, fuckity fuck. Got on the scale last night, and you know what that bitch said to me?

213.6.

Seriously. SERIOUSLY!

That means I've put on about four pounds in two weeks. Which explains why I'm currently going through the 22 stages of grief. What, there aren't 22 stages? I thought there were. I thought the first one was Burritos. Fuck.

Okay, I'm done with the eff word. For now. My apologies if I've offended your near-British sensitivities.

Seriously.

I was so pissed. Still am, honestly. I am running like a fool. I am not, admittedly, tracking every calorie. But damn, this year has sucked. I am working out a lot, putting in my time, and watching what I eat. Evidently this is not enough. Getting older sucks, folks. Get this shit under control before you turn 40, because after that there's just menopause and fat.

Which I think might be the title of my autobiography.

It's not just the number on the scale, mind you. It's a general feeling of moo moo. And the moo moo makes me feel gross and fat and ugly and all the negative crap. Dangerous spiral behind door #1; don't go there.

So now you're probably wondering ... what are you gonna do about it, Margaret? Well, to answer, here we go:


  • I am going to weigh in again tonight. The theory being that I usually weigh on Tuesdays, so the number might be skewed. Not sure I buy in, but that's what my fitness friends say. (My reason, incidentally, for hopping on the scale last night was because my Salsa/Funk class was moved to Monday, and I usually weigh on Salsa/Funk night; oh, well, I guess we'll stick with Tuesday.)

  • I am logging calories on My Fitness Pal (myfitnesspal.com). Are you on there? I'm schmaggie; friend me.

  • I am also logging workouts. Like yesterday, when I walked for half an hour, ran five miles and did an hour of dance class. (No, this is not a normal day; it was an exception. I don't usually run on Mondays.)

  • I will remembering that my body is a temple, and I should not poison it. Harder than it sounds.

  • I will performing my phys therapy exercises three to four days a week.

  • Finally, I will be gracious with myself. This is the toughest part; I'm angry with myself and with the scale, so I have had a hard time looking at myself today. I need to accept that this is where I am, and then love myself anyway. I'll let you know how that goes.

So that's where I'm at. Incidentally, today I have logged all my food, walked for half an hour, and I'm feeling pretty good. Tonight I have strength training class and a little cardio planned, probably time to get on the bike. It would be so much easier to throw my hands up and quit. I don't think I'm wired that way.


At least not any more.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My eye, my butt, and the Fall Color Run

Okay, first things first: I weighed in last night. And the scale politely asked me to step off. I've put on four pounds in the last month or so! 211.8; le sigh. But on the positive side, I got back on My Fitness Pal, logged my weight, tracked my food and exercise for yesterday and I'm as back on track as a girl can claim to be after one day.

I've also made a commitment. I've been listening to a fantastic podcast series by Two Gomers. I found them when I was searching for half marathon support, and I listened to the full series "Two Gomers Run a Half Marathon". It's awesome. Anyway, you can learn more about the Gomers on their blog; it's awesome. They have issued a two-part challenge, and I am IN for both!

First, it's the 10 by '12 challenge - lose 10 pounds before 2012. I need to do this! The second part is achieving a new 5K personal record (PR) in a Thanksgiving race. I'm already registered for a race, so now I'm commited to picking up a little speed and hitting a new PR! Wanna join me? Become part of GomerNation, and sign up for the challenge!

So I've commited to making progress. Awesome. And nothing says progress like a black eye.



Extreme Yoga.
See that bad boy? Yoga. Yep; YOGA. I was attempting my first arm balance in LifePower Vinyasa class, and I face planted. Loudly. But I finished class ... and in the middle of my frozen yogurt treat afterward, the bruise started to appear. Not my finest moment, but I think it's a testament to my quest for fitness that I did it.

That was Friday night, September 30. The following morning I was back at the gym for strength training. Getting up sucked; getting up and seeing the progress of the bruise made it worse. But I kept going! I was a little worried that Sunday's run would be rough - gravity and bouncing might hurt - but I needn't be worried.

Sunday morning came early, but it was the perfect morning for a run. Isabel, Linda and I went to Morton Arboretum for their Fall Color Run. Beautiful. Hilly. I ran it slowly - hills can be bad on the my calf and Achilles - so it took me a full 45 minutes to complete it. But it was really pretty, and totally worth it.



The starting line! Even that was pretty.
Isabel, Me and Linda - little runner girls!


Along the route; so pretty!

Me, post-run ... as a flamingo, apparently.

So, long story short: Three things are happening these days. 1) I've been consistent with my training, and trying to pick up speed, as I work toward the Hot Chocolate 5K ... even with a head injury. 2) I've ramped up my running and still managed to gain weight. Jesus, I am such an overachiever. 3) I've (once again) renewed my commitment to the reasons this blog started in the first place: Progress and accountability. Boom.


Let's move on, ever forward, from here. And seriously, scroll back up and join me on the Gomer challenges!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Progress

I am still a very slow runner.

That being said, I love making progress. Yesterday, I went on a five-mile run with my sister Jenn and our nephew Alex. My run pace is about Jenn's walk pace. That's not embarassing. But whatever; I'm still moving.

And that's the thing; I've gotten so much better. In the beginning, I couldn't run for even a minute without feeling exhausted. We were out for well over an hour, and I only took three walk breaks. Bam; five miles.

What's more, I did that the day after running a 5K. That's eight miles in one weekend, and today? Yeah. Not sore. Can't hardly believe that. So here's to progress. Here's to improvement. Here's to positive change.

And none too soon; I'm feeling under the weather, so it's a good thing I got my long run in before the nastyass snuck in. Send good thoughts of healing my way; I don't want the death plague to interrupt my training.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Midtown 5K

This morning, September 24, I ran another 5K. And had an amazing time.

I like this run length. Having consistently run or walked or run/walked several 5Ks over the course of the past year, I've learned a lot. I've also seen a lot of progress. Like back in the beginning, the first one I ever did. That was the Mad Dash to Madison, the race associated with Blackhawks Training Camp. It was great fun ... but it was also the longest three miles of my life. I had no idea what I was getting into, apparently. I could hardly run any of it. I was in pain the next night. I was, quite simply, not in good enough shape to take on a race like that.

But I kept going ... I kept trying. I started this endeavor pulling in a 16 minute mile, wondering if I would ever consistently do better than that. My eye was on a 15-minute mile; if I could just do that, I'd be happy.

Back in March, I started to do that. Then I got injured, and I started the long crawl back to wellness.

I will never take the ability to run, walk or otherwise move my body for granted.

Anyway, today I ran a 5K. I got lost on it, so I don't consider my official time a true official time. I do, however, consider it an accomplishment, because I actually ran the full race for the second time ever. It felt amazing. I had great music on my iPod, including "This is Your Life" by Switchfoot; "Born to Run" by The Boss; "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2; and "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield, which oddly enough was playing as I crossed the finish line. Amazing.

Anyway, I finished with a time of 43:43, and a pace of 14 minutes and five seconds per mile. That's a little slower than the 5K I did on September 5, but no matter. I ran; I finished. That's the only goal.

Oh, and to have fun with these amazing, crazy women. Here's to a great, productive and active day!
A gathering of running buddies: Pam, Shelly, Dee, Meg and me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weighing in and other tales

Lately, it seems like life is just whooshing past me. Work is amping up in crazy fashion. I've been having a "stop the world I wanna get off" couple of weeks. Blargh.

Controlling my food intake has been difficult, too. I take comfort in food, and I've needed comfort lately. Plus, there have been a lot of birthday-related celebrations and the like, so it's been cake and fried deliciousness and I think people might be trying to kill me.

My last weigh-in? No surprise, it's not stellar: 208.8. That was Tuesday night. As if my slow-down weren't already bad enough, it seems I've come to a screeching halt. Which sucks all the more because my running has amped up!

Not sure how I feel about that, but here's where I think I'm at: Poop but fine. I want to take off the weight, but oddly enough, I'm feeling pretty awesome. I have consistently stuck with my running program for the 15K in November for three weeks. Doesn't sound like much, but my run length has increased a lot, in my opinion. Instead of three half-hour or two-mile runs each week, I have one two-mile run, one three-mile run, and one five-mile run. And they will continue to get longer as I get closer to the race. My appetite rages, but the weight seems content to stick. Okay. Be that way; I'm just gonna keep running.

Which I can do, because as of this moment, I am finished with physical therapy. I graduated last night. I'm still nervous, and I need to be very mindful of the Achilles, but for now, all systems are "go".

The really cool thing last night was that after that final therapy appointment, I went to my car to head home and just as the engine roared up, the radio started playing the intro to "Born to Run". I sat in the parking lot and cried a little; thanks, Bruce, I think perhaps I was. It was meaningful, like a message from the universe that I am supposed to follow this path, wherever it leads.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lost in the Woods: The accidental long run

So this week the training starts to amp up mileage. A three-mile run was scheduled yesterday (Monday) with a two-miler midweek and a long run (four miles, but that's long when you've never done it) on Saturday. Last night, Linda and I met at the forest preserve to do our three miles.

And we got lost.

We were running and talking and enjoying the scenery, and it didn't even occur to us until we were pretty far off course that we were ... well, off course. By about a half mile. When the Forest Preserve Police showed up to close the joint down, we still had a mile or so to go before we got to our cars.

IT FELT AWESOME!

Yes, I was sore and out of energy. (Thankfully, we had brought sufficient water along.) If I'd known, I would have packed some Sport Beans. But we did it! We got our long run out of the way early! So now, we don't have to do a four-mile run on Saturday ... although I might go for it, anyway.

After our run, we went here for sustenance. ZOMG, that much delicious can't be good for you ... but it is. Dark chocolate with white chocolate chips and mango on top ... seriously. Want more now, please.

Anyhoo, I'm sore today. Woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a truck, but I'm chalking some of that up to not rolling out quite enough yesterday, and not getting enough sleep. Yep; that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

OH! Before I forget, last night at the gym I had my Video Gait Analysis. In about a week, I should have information about the way I run and how I can improve it to stave off injury. I would love some guarantees, but barring that, I'm just gonna keep runnin'! Will share the results when I know more.

So what I've learned is this: 1) the body is capable of more than it thinks it is, but sometimes you on

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Consistency

Well, kids, we've completed Week Two of the for-real training for the Hot Chocolate 15K. It's still doable; after all, Week One was pretty much what I've been doing all along - three runs of two miles in one week. This week, we kicked it up a little bit. Monday was a three-miler (the Birthday 5K), Wednesday two miles and today, three again. I was a little worried this morning, because running three miles means I'm up kinda early. Really early, for a Saturday. But I did it! Feeling pretty good about that.

In fact, last week I did not miss any of my training or exercise. Two yoga classes, two strength training classes, three runs and one blissful hour of cardio dance. Yep; done.

Next week is much of the same, but we're ramping up pretty steadily from here on out. Monday morning is going to dawn pretty early, because I have three miles to get in before I head to work. Wednesday is two miles again, while a week from today brings me a four-miler. Can I do this? Am I nuts? Yeah, probably. But I gotta try.

My legs are sore. My head is tired. And yet, I feel sorta ready. (Sorta.) We're heading into this territory of beyond. Beyond anything I've done before. Beyond anything I thought I could do. I worry before and during every run about injury. But for the first time in pretty much ever, I'm pressing forward, choosing to take a chance rather than play it safe. It would be easier to stay home, curl up on the couch and remain un-injured.

That's just not me. Somehow, over the course of the past year, I've become this person who can't choose to be sedentary.

Nope. Gotta run.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Schaumburg Shuffle Birthday 5K

On one hand, I really wanted to snuggle in bed this morning. All morning. Who wouldn't? The air was crisp and cool, and breakfast in bed would ordinarily have been the order of the day. After all, it's my birthday!

But not this year. No, today I was registered to run a 5K. And run I did.

I don't know quite how it happened. Maybe it was the chilly weather, as opposed to the heat I've been "enjoying" all summer. Maybe it was realizing that it's my birthday and I may as well see what I'm capable. Maybe I was finally able to get out of my head. But the end result was me, running the entire 3.1 miles, for the first time since the run bug caught me.

I'm still in shock. Seriously. I can't believe I did that! I'm still among the slower runners - 42:41 for the race - but that is actually almost two minutes faster than the 5K I ran last weekend. Slow by most people's standards, it was a ground-breaking day for me.

Not gonna lie to ya ... I think part of it was that it happened today. This would have been my 10th wedding anniversary. I started today very mindfully deciding to do something I never would have tried 10 years ago, and I did the best I've ever done. I took on a challenge and pressed on to the end, still feeling strong when I crossed the finish line. It feels good. Hell, it feels amazing.

Yeah, sometimes I'm still bitter over being left. But it's never for long, because eventually, I always find myself back out there, trying something new, becoming Maggie. Life (and my ex) handed me a lot of stuff I wasn't sure I could handle. And I ran right past it all, on my way to today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Weigh in, laughter, and could you please pass the tomatoes?

I weighed in on Tuesday. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Of course, I never am. Anyhoo, down almost a pound and a half - 207.2. That's .2 less than the broken scale said I was, so definitely good news!

Last night, I saw the ortho doc. Things are looking good; he doesn't want to see me again for a long time. The first question he asked was, "Are you still running?" And little did I know, he already knew the answer. He is Facebook friends with one of my running buddies, and saw the pictures of our weekend race! Dirty booger. So it's a good thing I said yes, right? Anyway, he's advised me not to push too hard, and told me to keep up the hip and leg exercises, to avoid a setback. Am I nervous? Yes. But I'm also pseudo-confident. Training begins in earnest now for the half, and I am excited!

And in dietary news, the tomatoes from my sister's garden are just divine. Little yellow suckers, bursting with flavor. I am addicted. Last night after the doc, I stopped by Dad's and traipsed through the woods to pick some 'maters. I think they might be nature's perfect food. (And as an aside, I'm really quite regular.)

That's all for now, folks. Hoping to make it through the weekend without gaining 10 pounds!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Run strong

That's the point of every race, really: to finish strong. Today's was truly a testament to that, because who wouldn't run strong with this incredible group of women (and a few good men) out there running with them?

Today, the Salsalicious Racers, a group of us from Salsa/Funk class at the gym, participated in the Root Awakening 5K in Hoffman Estates. Root Awakening is an organization dedicated to ending famine in Somalia. As if that weren't reason enough to run, we agreed to have breakfast afterward. Does it get any better than that?

I had a great run. Slow, yes, but my best race yet. 5K in 44:28.0. Yes, this is the first time I've completed a 5K in less than 45 minutes. It's also 55 seconds faster than my last personal record (the Long Grove St. Paddy's Day run, where I did 45:23.1.)

So yeah, I'm feeling pretty good about that. But not as good as I feel about the amazing friends who joined me in this race. There were marathoners and first-timers, and everything in between. There was even an official photographer (thanks, Roger!) and a cowbell ringing when I crossed the finish line! (Thanks, Sven!)

I felt good right from the start. Twice during the race, my Achilles reminded me of its presence, gently but firmly. "Hey," it seemed to say, "don't forget about me. I'm not perfect, but if you treat me right, I'll treat you right." So I did, and it did.

This was the first race I've done where I ended feeling like I could continue. I didn't want to, mind you, but I felt like I could. Going into the for-real training for the 15K and half-marathon, that's important. And if today taught me one thing, it's to believe in the plan and stick with it. Running eight minutes and walking two gave me the breaks I needed to get to the finish line with a smile on my face. (And apparently a hunger that could only be satisfied by a corned beef hash omelette.)

Esther, Jamie, Linda, Isabel, Kathy, Elizabeth, Eileen and me, plus the menfolk
and Eileen's daughter Emily in the front row.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Slip-ups and scales and puppy dog tails

Okay, mostly slip-ups and scales, although I do think if I had a dog, I'd enjoy running a bit more.

Rough week, even if I do admit to having yet another wild cherry brain freeze float at the water park. It is ice cold deliciousness. I cannot seem to enjoy my lounge chair without it!

While at Raging Waves, I wore my "backup" swimsuit; the one that is a little too small but I keep it in my gym bag for emergencies, like when I forget to bring a suit and want to get in the water. Well, I had my suit from last year, and I wanted to wear it just one more time, but the suit had other ideas. The elastic had lost its boing and I had to wear the small one. It fit almost perfectly; who knew? That was a grand feeling.

Since I last posted, I feel like I've turned a page, in a way. I've stepped up my consistency in running, getting all three training runs in last week and increasing my run interval to eight minutes. This is a big deal to me, because that means in a 30-minute run, I'm actually running 24 minutes. Holler.

This Saturday I'll be running a 5K, and I have another scheduled on my birthday. I can't believe this is me ... when did I become the girl who chooses to RUN on her birthday? Seriously. It's a little crazy. But I like it.

Oh, scales ... that's right, I weighed in last night. 208.4, which is down almost three pounds from my last weigh-in but not sure that counts because that was fully clothed and covered in sweat. My plan now is weighing every Tuesday after my classes, because I rarely miss a Tuesday, so I'll always have scale access. The good news is, this weight is just one pound above what my scale weighed me before it gave up the ghost. So, I'm almost at the weight I thought I was all along. At least on this scale.

I'm pleased, and feeling pretty good about that. Not sure I'll get under 200 by the end of summer, but that's okay. All progress counts, right?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weighing, running and working out the kinks

Ya know what? I'm tan. I'm a bronze chicky for the first time in a long time, because I have not missed an opportunity to get out in the sunshine. I haven't been stupid about it, like back in the day when baby oil and iodine were the suntan oil of choice. No, I'm dousing myself with SPF 30, and getting outside! It feels good. It's another way that I am physically different.

Other changes come a bit more slowly. I weighed in on Friday of last week and it said 210.6. That's down .8 from the previous week, but then again, my weigh-in the previus week was on Wednesday. So that's less than a pound in more than a week. Not the preferred result, but I'll take it.

I have to admit, it's a struggle lately. I feel hungry pretty much all the time. So I try to squeeze in as many workouts as I can - walking at lunch, and being active most nights - in an attempt to compensate for the food. Still, most days, I am over my calorie allotment. My goal, lately, is just to not go over by too much. That seems doable.

Running, too, has been a challenge. With the Muddy Buddy (and subsequent recovery) followed by Showcase weekend and the rehearsals leading up to that, it was hard to find the time to stick with the program. But there is good news; I have definitely improved where endurance is concerned. I am now running seven-minute intervals (last week it was six) with two-minute walk intervals in between. I head out in my neighborhood, and basically turn around when I'm about 16 minutes into the workout. Walk two, run seven, repeat. Last night I did a little under two and a half miles in roughly 37 minutes; this is progress. As I like to say, I will always be among the slowest of runners, but I will also always be faster than everyone still on the couch. And when you factor in the run intervals, that means that in 37 minutes, and a little more than three full run intervals, I ran 25 minutes. Yeah; that's huge. (I have to admit, though, the last five were tough!)

I'm having some hip pain, and I think it's my IT band pulling on the hip itself. So there's more foam rolling involved, in addition to my calves. Sometimes I swear I spend more time warming up, stretching and cooling down than I do actually running. (This is not necessarily a bad thing.)

Physical therapy continues to go well, but I hate that I can't run the way I'd like to. My Achilles causes me to alter my gait, and this is likely taking a toll on the rest of my body. Next week at physical therapy, we're going to do a video gait analysis, and see where we stand. Or rather, run.

Goals as we continue this week:


  • Get in two additional runs at the 2:7 interval, and see if I can progress to 2:8 next week.

  • Two strength training classes.

  • Two yoga classes.

  • Stretch twice a day.

  • Foam roll once a day, twice for the IT bands.

  • Planks - one minute a day.

  • Return to daily push-ups, as many as I can do.
That's a lot. It's also doable. HIT IT!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Weigh-in Woes

My scale went belly-up.

The worst part is, I didn't realize it! Remember all that time I spent holding firm at 207.4? Yeah. Maybe not so much. I would "trick" it by getting on with my gym bag, and then get back on and it would weigh my wildly differently. Okay, I've accepted that.

And I've thrown out my scale.

So now what?

We weigh at the gym. Either on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, when I'm there for class, I will get on the scale there. Which I did last night. The verdict.

211.4.

What? I'm over 210, again? Fuck.

Okay. It's just knowledge, and every scale weighs differently. This is just a measurement, and it's a way to establish where I am right now; a place to jump from. And I've jumped back into logging the calories, too; feels good. It's important! It doesn't help that I'm constantly hungry. But I'm pounding water and planning meals ... should make it a little easier.

When Mom said it was tough to lose the older you got, she wasn't kidding!

The thing I need to remember is, I've already done something remarkable. How many people set off to lose weight and get healthy, and the hit this place - this spot where nothing seems to move - before they've made any progress at all? I've made incredible progress. I've re-established what my body is, and what it's capable of. I am (mostly) happy in my body right now, just as it is. From here, there's only greater joy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Apples-to-Apples Comparison

This was me, with my friend Mike, finishing Muddy Buddy on August 1, 2010.This is me, with the same friend, finishing Muddy Buddy in 2011.
Yeah. I'm a little proud of that.

The Muddy Experience - more race information

My last post was chock-full of information on the Muddy Buddy experience, but didn't get into a lot of race-specific information. While this may bore the living crap out of you, it's important for me to get this all down in writing, so that next year, I have something to compare it to. We'll go over the 5.7 mile course, leg by leg. Sound boring? Stop reading. Here goes.

Sunday morning came early - 4 a.m., to be exact. I crawled out of bed and into my gear - capri workout pants, good sports bra and a hot pink tech tee. (I always wear pink for races; makes it easy for others to find me, post-race.) Put on my crummy shoes, after inserting my heel lifts, and I was almost ready to go. Just had to stop in the kitchen to feed the cat, take my morning supplements and drink a glass of water. Christ, did I want coffee, but I didn't want to have to stop to poop half way to Gilberts, so I headed out the door.

First stop: the bank. Needed a little money in case we went out for breakfast afterward.

Second stop: Dunkin Donuts. Needed a little sustenenance for the race, and I'd totally forgotten to grab a Luna bar.

And off I went. Funny how little traffic there is at 4:45 a.m. I arrived at Indian Hills Farm in Gilberts, IL when the sun was not quite all the way up yet. Time to put the front wheel on the bike and meet up with Mike. He got there a little before I did, and met me at my car. Soon, we were on our way to the official race grounds.

We registered, picked up our t-shirts, met up with John and Linda and I had my pre-race meltdown. Soon, it was time to line up! I was taking the first running leg, and Mike was biking (the opposite of how we did it last year). The bikes took off first, and then the airhorn sounded for the runners ... and off we went.

Right away, I took my spot in the back of the pack. Soon, everyone was pulling away and I was on my own. But that's okay; not in it to win it, folks, just trying to finish. I was feeling great for about the first half mile, running (slowly) consistently, and then my calf told me to stop. The knots tightened up and just would not (knot?) let go, so I took it at a walk. I limped for awhile, and at that point I knew it was early enough in the race that I had to make a decision: finish, or quit. Easy choice; I pressed onward, being careful of my form so I didn't get injured.

I arrived at the first obstacle, the low wall climb. I knew this one from last year, so up I went, no issues whatsoever. Up, up, and over. Then it was time to find my bike, drink some water and head down the path. WATER! God, did it ever taste good! It was about 85 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, so it was damn hot. Splashed a little water on my head, downed a couple glasses, and got on the bike. (Mile marker 1.1).

And got OFF the bike. SHIT! Off-road biking is fucking hard, pardon my French. Hilly, muddy, bumpy, difficult. Walking the bike was really my only sane option. At one point, John RAN past me. He started 12 minutes after me, and passed me on my biking leg! How is that fair? Shortly, Linda caught up to me, too, on the bike. She dismounted and decided to walk it, too. (Mental note to self: you have to train for off-road riding, or you might as well accept the fact that you'll be walking the bike.) Together, we approached the second obstacle, with our partners waiting to cheer us ever forward! What great guys! This obstacle was a maze you had to crouch down to enter; not a big deal. The fog machine at the end was pretty gross, though. We came through the other side, stopped for more water, and headed off on our second running leg. (Mile marker 2.1).

Run? Screw you. We'll walk this leg, thanks. My calf was screaming at me, and Linda was tuckered out from the cycling, so we did our best speed-walk together. It was nice to have someone to chat with and compare notes. We came across our first "hurdle", which technically we were meant to jump over. I took a moment, acknowledged the hurdle, thanked it for being there ... and walked around it. (Blissfully, however, the hurdled was in the shade. Time to catch our breath.)

We made it to Obstacle 3 - the Military Assault Course. Stupid inflatable piece of SHIT! Couldn't get my footing, so there was no way I was getting into this glorified bouncy house. I walked around, and it's a good thing, because Linda made it through only to discover that someone had bled all over the inside! Hello, blood-born pathogens? Glad I bypassed that bad boy. More water, then time to get back on the bike. (Mile marker 3.1).

Hills! The hills are alive with the sound of me panting and crying! I did as well as I could, but ultimately got back off the bike. Smart thing, really, because this leg of the journey included a hill like none other. Swear to sweet Jesus, just walking up it - and knowing I'd eventually have to go down the other side - scared the crap out of me. At this point, I met up with a woman who told me she was Buddied up with her sister, whose partner backed out at the last minute; that's how she ended up here! So with no training, she was doing her best. She asked if this was my first time, probably because I looked like a total novice dragging the bike up the hill, and I said no, I had done the race last year, too. "Is it always this hard?" she wanted to know. Um, yeah; if it were easy, they'd call it "Shopping."

When I reached the top of Killer Mountain, I looked down, and there were John, Linda and Mike, cheering me on! John and Linda waited for me, when they could have pressed on and gotten ahead in the race. Seriously, I have incredible friends. Mike had a glass of water for me, and I drank it down while he got on the bike and took off. Then it was time to tackle Slide for your Life. It's a 20-foot inflatable slide you have to climb to get to. Climb 20 feet of cargo net? Sure; I got that. Up ... up ... up I went. Linda, not being a fan of heights, was not happy with this obstacle. I waited for her at the top, and we slid down together ... WHEE! We were on the last leg of the race, running. (Mile marker 4.3.)

Time to do our best walk/run combo. We stepped up our walk to really push forward and make up for lost time, knowing the guys would be waiting for us at the end. Not much talking now, just trying to finish strong! Trudge ... breathe ... and there it was, the bike drop off. Only one more obstacle before the Mud Pit!

I met up with Michael, and we ran for the Buddy Blockade, a high wallk you had to climb over using ropes. I got halfway up and banged my elbow pretty badly. I know when to say when, and it was time. I circumvented the wall, ran through tires, and it was time to approach the mud.

Mike reminded me to loosen my wedding ring, so I was SURE to lose it, and sploosh - in we went! I must admit, it felt GOOD to get in there after the hot sun! We laughed and sputtered the whole way, until we crawled out and ran for the finish line. (Mile marker 5.7.)

We got our medals, and wandered over to see Stephen, Lorna, Adam and Robyn, who had come to cheer John and Linda on. What a rush to have finished! What a mess we were! Not for long, though; it only took us a few minutes to make our way to the pond, and jump right in. No better way to rinse off the mud!

It was a tiring morning. It quite literally wiped me out. (Seriously, I was in bed by 8 p.m. that night!) But what an experience. What a series of intense moments. I did it!

Time: 1:34:54, about 11 and a half minutes faster than 2010. YAY!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Race Report - Muddy Buddy 2011

It's a weird and wonderful feeling to go back to the beginning. And yet, that's very much how it felt to return to Muddy Buddy for the 2011 race.

The first race I ever did was Muddy Buddy 2010; it has officially been one year since I caught the race bug. Curious how that went? Read about it here.

I've been at it a year, folks - this quest for fitness that manifests itself in activities I never thought I'd try. It was a year ago that I, for the first time, decided to try something I'd previously left to the crazies. A year ago, I began to ask more of myself. Over the course of that year, a lot has changed. A lot of healing has taken place. It's been incredible.

This year, my partner and co-work, Mike, and I were joined by another team - gym friends Linda and John. Here are the four of us, pre-race. So clean and happy ... that wouldn't last for long!
Last year, I remember the announcements on the loudspeaker reminding us to take off any jewelry we didn't want to lose in the mud pit. So, naturally, I wore my wedding ring on race day. It seems fitting to me that I should let go of this particular bit of silver at the event that left me with more faith in myself than anything else I've done in my entire life.

And whaddya know ... I lost it in the mud pit. (You'll pardon the dregs of my post-race breakfast in the background!)

All in all, it was a tough, awesome race. Mike and I shaved over 11 minutes off of our time from 2010 (coming in at 1:34:54 in 2011, over our time of 1:46:28 in 2010). We're still among the slowest teams (which is not unexpected, because I am old) but we have a ton of fun out there. Sure, the average team finishes in under an hour, but we are SO NOT AVERAGE! No matter what, we finished, upright ... and we got our medals.Yes, ladies and gents, this is the face of unbridaled joy, brought on by race-related bling.


To my partners in grime, Mike, Linda and John, I say an intense "Thank you"! Your encouragement and generosity makes every sore muscle, every bit of mud (I found dirt behind my ear today after taking a shower and two baths yesterday!) and every scrape (I beat my calves to hell running into the bike pedals when I walked the bike) worth it. So ... how's 'bout we hit it again in 2012?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

FINALLY!

The scale budged. Only a little, but it budged.

206.8.

I've been challenged lately, because we've had quite the heatwave here in Chicagoland. Even if I get up early in the morning (which I did on Monday) ... it's too hot to run. This morning when I walked out the door, it was already 86 degrees. So, my running has been sporadic at best. Walking at lunch has been difficult at best; my threshold is about 90 degrees; hotter than that, and I'm just too miserable to even think about it.

All that is simply to say, hallelujah, I lost half a pound. And seeing a different (and smaller) number on the scale makes me feel like I can do that again.

What will next week bring? Hopefully a smaller butt.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Still stuck

It's been a bit since I've posted ... mostly because I am still weighing in at 207.4.

Maybe it's the menopause, but DAMN am I hungry. I could eat pretty consistently all day long. So it's no wonder the weight isn't budging! This is going to be a pretty busy/crazy weekend, to I'm going to be logging the food but not obsessing. Next week, I'll be talking to Donna, a personal trainer and nutrition guru at the gym, and see what she thinks I can do to try and ease a pound or two off. I'm so ready to be under 200!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Meanwhile, back in Stressville ...

I've been feeling a little off lately. Turns out, there's a reason.

September 5 will be my 45th birthday. And now - right now, as you sit there reading this, while I'm hanging out with my still-44-year-old self, I'm having a hot flash. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it would appear that yours truly is once again an overachiever. I've reached perimenopause early. (Kinda like the way it took my husband only five years to get to his seven-year itch, but different.)

Anyway, we seem to have begun the trip to Old Lady Land. At FOURTY-FREAKIN-FOUR! Are you shitting me, body? Really? WTF, mate?

So that explains why I can't remember the last time I was visited by Nature's Special Time. And the night sweats. And the emotions that are running even weirder than usual. While it's nice to have a reason, it sure as hell sucks to be doing this about 10 years earlier than I'd planned. Fuck you, hormones.

Honestly, I feel like my body is betraying me at every turn. Early menopause? Check. Fucked-up Achilles? Check. Bad attitude brought on by the other two? Check and mate. So I saw the orthopedic doc yesterday, and he agreed that my Achilles isn't healing as we'd like it to. It's very big and swollen and gross and still pretty painful lots of the time. GAH. Can't it just get better now?

Okay, how 'bout now?

Fuck.

Anyway, I'm trying to power through. Trying to understand that some of the ravenous hunger is likely due to my prematurely aging body, and maybe not a true need for actual mass quantities of real food. Trying to realize that athletes sometimes get injured and the damn Achilles maybe isn't a sign from the universe that I'm not supposed to work on this athletic thing.

So here's the skinny: Dr. P says there might be little tears in the tendon. That's what we're looking for in the MRI. If that's the case, we'll need to do some therapy and see how we heal. Then we'll do some gait analysis and measurement so we can figure out why mechanically my legs cause me trouble, and how we can avoid it as much as possible in the future.

Meanwhile, my weight has stayed the same. I'm hopeful that this weekend we won't put on a whole lot of weight ... then after I get back, and my MRI results are in, we'll batten down the hatches.

Again.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stuck?

I am actually eating a donut hole while writing this. How sick is that?

These days, my body (and my appetite) seem to be betraying me. I am constantly hungry. I swear, I can feel food being metabolized. As soon as I eat it, I feel like I want more. So I rationed out four donut holes and walked away. I could go back and eat the rest of the box. I don't think I'm exaggerating.

Is this what plateau feels like? Or am I just crazy?

I'm grateful, though, because my weight is holding. Sure, it's holding at 207.4 enormous pounds, but it's holding. I swear to sweet Jesus, if I can just get down under 200 ... hell, I don't know how I'll celebrate. But I'll celebrate! (Not with cupcakes; seriously. I was thinkin' maybe a new bathing suit.)

So anyway, it's been really rough lately! I feel stuck. And hungry. I'm sure part of it is because I hurt all the frickin' time. Between the cramp in my calf (we're almost at the two-week mark with that little bastard) and the Achilles (which is still very painful, sometimes) I just don't know what to do. I take on what I can, but I hold back when I think I need to. Maybe I don't need to, but when you're as injury-prone as I am, ya get a little gunshy.

I'm seeing the orthopedic doc next week, and we're gonna ask some important questions. Like, "What the hell is (physically) wrong with me?" and "How can I stop getting hurt?" and my personal favorite, "Why the hell is my Achilles still a pain?" So we'll see where this goes.

In the meantime ... please keep your Maggie and your donuts separate.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I didn't know I could do that

Okay, first things first: I weighed in last week, and stayed the same - 207.4. Not thrilled, but much happier than I would be if we'd gone up, so I'll take it.

No, on to today's post.

Ouch.

Saturday was the Warrior Dash. I did not die.

Warrior Dash is a 3.28 mile run/hike/stumble with 10 obstacles. Except this one had 12, plus two very steep, muddy hills and a creek that didn't count as obstacles but ... were. No, the obstacles were walls to climb over, fire to jump over, and a big mud pit, among other things. There were a few I was sure I couldn't traverse, but did, in spite of myself. There were a few I didn't trust myself on, so I didn't complete. (If I'm shaking on my first step, that's probably not a good sign!) All told, I completed nine of the 12. And I have the bruises and aching muscles to show for it!

If you want to know the whole story, you can find it here. Suffice it to say I can't wait to do it again, which sort of surprises me. This wasn't easy. It was by far the toughest thing I've ever done so far. Lots of climbing. Lots of upper-body strength. Lots of balance. Lots of trusting myself. And I did it!

I didn't know I could scale a wall. I didn't know I could climb cargo nets. I didn't know I could leap over fire.

I can. And I will again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Obsession v. Habit

When I re-ignited this quest for physical health, I'll admit, I was obsessed. Tracking every calorie, watching every moment of cardio, and monitoring my progress toward the appropriate differential. Yes, I elected to do math, trying to ensure I had taken in 3,500 fewer calories each week than I'd worked off, and therefore ensuring myself of a one-pound weight loss.

Crazy. But it worked.

See, obsession - when you acknowledge it - leads to education. All this attention eventually became a habit.

My obsession with running is now just a fact. I'm the girl who wakes up at 5 a few days a week to get the run in. I'm the girl who simply will not miss a weight-training session, because I've seen results. I don't have to obsess about these things any more, because they've become part of my life.

The food thing is harder, perhaps because my appetite is off the charts! But even still, when I look back at my old eating habits, the way I naturally eat now is so much better. When I pig out, it's on organic gelato or hummus, instead of a half-gallon of Edy's ice cream or onion dip. (Not together. Ew!)

Little changes over time get you where you want to go. Tracking intake and progress builds good habits. And from here, I don't know who that girl was who preferred the sofa and slippers to the gym and running shoes.

Maggie 2.0 is so much more in line with who I want to be!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Running with the marathon woman. And a deer.

Yesterday, June 7, was hot in Chicagoland. A balmy 93 degrees when I left the office at 6 p.m., but that didn't stop me from meeting up with my girlfriends at Busse Woods for a little run.

My friend Linda and I have been training together since November. We've had to take time off for injuries and work schedules, but we always come back to running. This run was different, however, because our tour guide was our friend Eileen, an accomplished marathoner. She describes herself as a new runner, having only been at it for six years. Really? I guess I'm really new, then! Anyhoo, we met up with Eileen at the forest preserve, where we were joined by Esther, the mobile water unit. She rode her bike alongside us, with a cooler full of water. How cool is that?

Running through Busse was gorgeous. There was a breeze to distract us from the difficulty of the run, and the true beauty of being in nature didn't hurt, either. Eileen powered on ahead (she has a much faster pace than we) and Linda and I began to enjoy the journey.

After about two miles, Eileen turned around and caught up with us, so we headed back toward the cars after a wee water break. Linda and I were on a walk interval when we came upon the sweetest little fawn, munching on a dinner of prairie grass. We stopped and said hi, and she flipped her little fawn tail at us ... then went right back to her meal. Sweet! I will definitely come back here for more runs; it was too beautiful not to. (It should be noted that this was my first time back to Busse since the fateful day of March 21, when the Achilles told me to fuck off. It was nice to be back and not in pain!)

Back at the car, we took a Gatorade break and a photograph. No way we could let this sort of activity go by without a record of the event! So here we are, four sweaty girls, on a 90+ degree day in Chicago. We wouldn't have it any other way.


Left to right: Linda, me, Eileen and Esther - the Salsalicious Racers!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Progress

So last Saturday I participated in a 5K (see post directly below for all the deets). It was my fourth race this year, and I was a little nervous.

See, I want to progress as a runner. Heck, I want to actually be a runner. And it’s taking a long time. Achilles tendonitis isn’t helping things, either, but I’m trying to just go with it and accept the fact that I am slow.

I didn’t get into this thinking I would ever win; I just want to be consistent, and run a solid 15-minute mile. (After I master that, we’ll up the ante.)

I’m reminded that it isn’t about speed, but about enjoying the journey, sharing in something with other like-minded people, and trying my best (which also means being willing to fail.)

But anyway, last Saturday, I did not fail. I did not set a new PR or anything, but I did my best (even with the sweltering heat) and improved upon my pace in a few past races.

Here’s where we’re at so far:

Sweetness 5K – June 4, 2011
49:56 – exactly the same time as I had in the Hot Chocolate race on November 6. I finished 26 out of 36 in my division, and 328 of 424 overall, with an average pace of 16:05/mile. Managed to shave 39 seconds off my time from Run Wild last month.

Run Wild – May 14, 2011
50:35, average 16:17 mile.

Long Grove St. Paddy's Day 5K – March 13, 2011
45:23, average 14:38 mile

Super Bowl Shuffle 5K – February 6, 2011
47:37, average 15:21 mile

Arlington Heights Santa 5K – December 4, 2010
51:41, average 16:40 mile

So, all told, out of all the 5Ks I’ve run thus far, my most recent one placed me right in the middle. Not my worst, not my best, but still completely acceptable. And it gives me something to shoot for … not a bad deal, at that.

Another weekend, another race


I remind you, gentle reader, that the term "race" here merely means that a group of people are running against the clock. I, on the other hand, am merely running at the same place, with these people, hoping to finish. Although I do enjoy an official time, mine is usually long after my friends have crossed the finish line and cracked open a cold beverage.

At any rate, this weekend the Schaumburg Six (plus one, my sister Kathie) headed to Yorkville, IL (to get there, drive toward the corn, turn left at the cow) for the Sweetness 5K, to benefit the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation. It was hot. For serious. But I was wise. In the cooler, I had packed water, Gatorade ... and water-soaked hand towels that had spent the night in the freezer. So I had that to look forward to.

The race kicked off at 8:15 a.m. at a balmy 80 degrees. We might have been out in the country, but the humidity felt like a good old-fashioned Chicago summer day. I was sweating while I stretched out.

This, ladies and gentlemen was going to be a tough one.

We met up, did our dynamic stretches, and chatted a bit. We introduced ourselves to Jarrett Payton, son of Walter, and got ready to run.















Us, minus Simone, and Jarrett Payton

Did I mention it was hot?

Soon enough, Connie Payton told us it was RACE TIME! Off we went, through the scenic rolling hills of a quaint neighbor hood. Yeah, those hills felt scenic and rolling on the way out, but on the way back? The sun was in our faces and it was uphill all the way, swear to sweet little baby Jesus. But we did it; finished the race with smiles on our faces. Not gonna lie to ya; it felt like an accomplishment.

I've been struggling lately to get back into "athlete" mode. I mean, when do I just let myself accept the title? Do I allow my slow pace to hold me back from feeling like I belong among the athletes? Do I let that shit go, and just run my own race?

My sister Kathie, who also ran this race (and beat Jarret across the finish line), asked me to consider where I've been. "This time last year," she said, "would you even have thought you'd be trying, much less finishing?" No. I wouldn't have. I didn't understand this thing you call running. I didn't see myself with a number on my torso and a smile on my face. I wasn't ... oh, hell ... I wasn't a runner.

Now, I am.

And it has made a huge difference in my life, my self-esteem, the way I feel about myself and my world. It has healed my relationship with myself, allowed me to let go of a lot of baggage, and left me a better person. So when there are moments when I doubt my progress, I'm going to do a little comparison. For example, the following:






This is me on July 30, 2010, completing the Muddy Buddy. (Yes, I realize it looks like someone tried to drown the Michelin Man in the mud. Shut up.) I'm not gonna deny that my face here is one of great joy. That's what it felt like to accomplish the impossible, and my lack of physical health should not diminish the accomplishment. But me, today? So much healthier, in so many ways.














This is me, left, with my sister Kathie, at the Sweetness 5K on June 4, 2011.


In closing, let this serve as a lesson: never doubt the human body's willingness to forgive you for past treatment. Never let anyone tell you, you can't do something. Never stop believing in yourself. Always know that you are so much more than your work, your relationships, and your bank account. Good health is your birthright … but you do have to work for it.