Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Me, and Sally Field

Remember that Oscar speech? The one where Sally Field waxed philosophical about how the Academy felt about her? It was 1985, and she won Best Actress for "Places in the Heart".
"I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"
I sorta feel like that, right now. See, a month or so ago, I issued a challenge - to myself and to my friends. If they - you - would help me raise $500 for the MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Society, I would run a half marathon.

For the past few years, I've participated in Walk MS, a walk-a-thon that benefits the MS Society. My team is the Myelin Milers, and at its helm is my friend G. She was diagnosed with MS in 2009, and is committed to showing this disease who's boss. As my personal awareness of MS increased, I began to realize that I know many people affected by it ... and it became even more important to me to support the cause.

So I set the goal for $500, and the next thing I knew, I'd reached it. Right away, my friend Rich came up with an idea to help me get even more donations: Bagpipes.

See, I'm running in a kilt. So for $500, I run a half marathon in a kilt.

When I reached $600, I agreed to accessorize with argyle socks.

At $700, I allow my donors to choose my playlist for the run.

And at $800, when I reach the finish line, Rich will meet me. With bagpipes. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of support my friends offer me.

That was yesterday. In the hours since then, my friends and family have continued to donate. At the time of this writing, I am at $945. With $55 more in donations, I will reach $1,000 - double my original goal. Ergo, my Sally Field moment. The people who have my back - you amazing and wonderful people who have selflessly donated to the cause - you believe in me. You believe that on Sunday morning, I will cross the start line, and I will continue running for about three hours ... the time it will take me to run 13.1 miles.

I can't deny the fact that you believe in me, right now, you believe in me! Knowing that, I have the confidence get it done.

So here's to you, with all my gratitude. I run for you:

  • Diane, Justin, Aidan, Eva and Koen Rand
  • Emily Schneider
  • Angelicque Cate
  • Kathy Mickelson
  • The Ludena Family - Polly, Marc, Ross, Jack and Ro
  • Linda Clegg
  • Kimberly Thuente
  • Susan Carolina
  • Trish Koran
  • Amy Turk
  • My sister Pat
  • mEllen Bruce
  • Mary Jo Hann
  • Kristine Keef
  • Lorna Clegg
  • Monica McIltrot
  • Gretchen Taylor
  • Mike, Rae & Kaylee Rice
  • Eric, Milly & Danny Schwartz
  • Mammy
  • Cinthya Mix
  • Michael Bushman
  • Brian Powles (my eighth grade English teacher)
And, for the record, if you'd still like to donate, the MS Society will gladly accept your gift. My page can be found here. 

The other worst 5K ever

There's this thing called the Rave Run. It's a night-time run with music and lights, and it looked cool. Plus, we got a Groupon for it, so it was only $25.

We arrived downtown only to discover that the race wasn't where we thought it was. Great, we'll walk! At least we got good scenery.

Buckingham Fountain in the pre-season.
Once we arrived on the grounds, it became painfully obvious that we were lucky to have paid half price. Honestly, they should have had to pay me to participate. It was horrible. Not well organized at all and just an absolute mess. We did, however, get cool glowing stuff to wear.

Meat Rand, me and Diane Rand
The only way a poorly run race is worth the time and effort is through friends who are in it with you. My friends almost made this horrific night worthwhile. But only almost.
Me and Pam
As we stood around in the late-spring chill, getting colder by the moment, a DJ played. It was pretty much all bass, so I couldn't tell you if the music was any good or not. We desperately wanted to have a good time, but we were having to work way to hard to get that.
Diane, Pam and Linda, suited up for a glowing good time.
The venue was pretty enough - Chicago's lakefront - but the original location at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum was a unique choice, and an area I haven't run in before. That would have been nice, but they changed to a location to accommodate the large number of registrants. Had it been my call, I would have kept it small. They didn't ask me.
Miss Emily, my former roommate and newest run bud. This was our first run together!
All told, we had a nice enough time, but it wasn't worth the hassle. And after all that, I have no time to report, because it wasn't a timed race. Ergo, I highly recommend not doing a Rave Run if they come to your area. They billed it as "3.1 miles of lights and music" and they sure didn't make good on the promise. There were hardly any lights at all, and very little music. The highlight of the evening was making it back to Schaumburg for food. 

Which is to be expected.

I am aware that this entire post sounds like I'm bitching, and I apologize for that. But at least we have some cute photos to make up for it!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It's never "just" a half

One week from Sunday, I'll kick off my second half marathon of 2013. On a whim sometime long about January, I mentioned that I'd like to do four half marathons this year. As of some time around noon on May 5, I will be half way to my goal.

Four half marathons. The equivalent - mileage-wise - of two full marathons. 52.4 miles total. Some day, I will run a marathon. When I have the time to devote to that kind of training, and when I'm not carrying around quite this much excess weight, I will run 26.2. But the thing is, a half marathon - 13.1 miles - is nothing to sneeze at. Mathematically, it's half of a marathon ... but it's not half of anything, really.

It's a full-blown, kick-your-own-ass experience. It's a risk and an adventure. It's a challenge and a joy. It's a reason to eat a great breakfast.

And for me, it's a reason to celebrate.

There are people who tell me they fear I've become "obsessed" with running (which just cracks me up because I think they're probably obsessed with avoiding running, but that's another blog). There are those who say I give too much of myself to the practice. I assure you, there's a reason behind all of it ... and the reason is simple. It's important to me.

Running is a hobby that gives so much back to me. (Yes, even the bad runs.) Anyone who says there's no such thing as runner's high has never hung out with me after a particularly fulfilling run. Like last Wednesday, when I went out for a six mile run and it was windy and full of hills. I ran at an average pace of a 14-minute mile, which is pretty slow. (Most run trackers only allow you to track runs at a 12-mm or faster pace.) But for me, it was awesome. I felt amazing afterward, because I had pushed, but not too hard; I listened to my body and got the training done.

Running gives me confidence. When I think I can't do it, I can. It makes me feel strong and capable; no, scratch that. It proves to me that I am strong and capable. I'll be honest: I don't always enjoy the process, but I have never once regretted going for a run. I always feel great for having finished.

If this is an obsession, I'll gladly be obsessed.

I don't have a flexible schedule most of the time, because I spend a lot of time working out. Most days after work, you'll find me in the gym or on the trail. Doesn't mean I'm a bad friend; it means I've gotten really good at prioritizing. I can't miss a workout for a decadent dinner. (Those times often find me squeezing the workout in at a different time.) I can miss a workout if I feel like I need rest, or if I have something fabulous on the schedule, or if it's a loved one's birthday. But I do need to plan for those things. It doesn't mean I spend too much time workout out; it means I am spending my time in accordance with what I value.

It's not for everyone. But for me, it's just ... right.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Run for Boston (or, how to fail while not really failing)

Monday night, April 22, running stores all over the country organized runs for Boston. It was a way for runners to come together for those whose lives were lost, who were wounded in the bombing, who were denied the finish line and whose city was defiled the previous week. I headed to my favorite running store to be part of it.

They were running a 5K - 3.1 miles - for Boston, and virtually every running store I know of was doing the same or similar. The run was supposed to start at 6:30, and I got to the store around 10 after. I walked in the door and felt like the walls were closing in. I am not prone to panic or anxiety attacks, and it wasn't anything quite that dramatic. I describe it this way:

I got stuck in my head.

It happens sometimes. Usually, I'm with friends and they are able to squeeze me out of it. But last night, I was going solo, and it was more than I could handle. I walked around the store and found myself surrounded by real runners. Muscular legs without any discernible jiggle. Marathon t-shirts. Faces that seemed to say "Three miles is nothing". It tore me up inside. I did not belong here. The horrible feeling - no, knowledge; it felt like knowledge - that if I stayed, all these people would discover that I am a fraud just washed over me. I could not overcome it.

As quickly as I walked in, I walked out.

I know that I'm a runner. As sure as I breathe, I am a runner. I'm just so much slower than everyone else that it plagues on my every insecurity. In tears, I drove toward home. I had pep-talked my way into going to the run, but I could not pep-talk my way into staying. I could not handle the public humiliation that was sure to come.

Runners are a special group of people. The support and encouragement you get from a running group is  beyond anything I've experienced before. But when you're the one who is different - when they are all head and shoulders beyond your ability - it can feel isolating and shameful. No one I know can understand what this is like, because none of them fight for a 13-minute mile. No one I know fears the finish line quite the way I do, knowing the number isn't going to show you what you really want to see. They think they do, but they don't; it isn't the same.

I've been told over and over that it isn't about the time. And I know that it really isn't. But when you're with a big group of people, and you are a good three minutes per mile slower than most of them, it becomes about the time. I've said it before: I honestly don't know of a single other person in the world who is willing to work this hard at something and still suck at it. Most of the time, I don't care. I'm secure enough in my quirkiness that I consider my running suckitude to just be another facet to the awesomeness that is Maggie. But last night was not one of those times.

So back to last night. I cried on the drive home, and then ... I didn't drive home. Instead, I drove to the trail, laced up my shoes, and ran 3.1 miles. It wasn't what I set out to do, but it was what I needed to do.   (And, for the record, my first mile took "only" 12:15.) It felt good to realize that as stuck-in-my-head as I was, I didn't need to stay there. I could acknowledge it, and then run right past it.


Monday, April 22, 2013

The worst 5K ever

For the second year, the gang decided to do the Healthy Parks, Healthy Patients 5k in Hinsdale. Which would've been a great idea if we hadn't had so much rain in the weeks leading up to the race that the trail it was to be held on was under water. So they went ahead with the race.

And they held it on a high school track.

Seriously. I don't think I've ever run so miserably in my life.

The kept the track open for 45 minutes and allowed you to run as many laps as you could in the allotted time. I got to a whopping 12 so I could (roughly) claim 5k status. Yippee; three miles in 45 minutes and three seconds.

It was only fun because Kristen, Shelly, Linda and Pam also did the run. Breakfast afterward, and their company, barely made it survivable. But on the upside, I can say I did it, and now I don't ever have to do it again.


Worries, weigh-in and a smidge of inspiration

The worries
Surprise, surprise. Here I am, poised for my second half marathon this year, and I'm counting on luck as much (or more) than the training to pull me through. It's not that I haven't trained, and it's not that I feel unprepared or under-prepared to run 13.1 miles. It's that I have to run it in under three hours, and I am just not sure I can do it.

I have run two half marathons before. Both times, it took me almost three and a half hours to finish. Granted, they were very different experiences - in Disney World, warm weather, huge crowds - but even on my own while running, I struggle to run a 13-minute mile. But sometimes you just have to challenge yourself and be willing to fail in order to succeed. (Eventually, anyway.)

The weigh-in
The scale said 210.4; it also politely asked if I would step off. Am I proud of the uptick in the number (yet again)? No. Does it give me the resolve to do better? Yes. In fact, yesterday I went to bed with a 200-calorie cushion.

The inspiration
For me, inspiration is not about competition, or looking good in a swimsuit, or even (gasp) finisher medals. My inspiration comes from feeling better while doing things. I am struggling with every activity, but not as much as I used to. So, if I keep up the training, I should continue to improve. The first time I ran, I wanted to run a mile. I laced up my shoes, left my apartment, and got about a block away before my heartrate monitor just about slapped me. Now, I can run (very slowly) consistently for miles (with intermittent walk breaks) and stay in a fat-burning heartrate zone. I can "sprint" (which for me means I approach a 12-minute mile) for a half mile without my lungs burning. (After that, all bets are off.) The first time I ran 3.1 miles (the equivalent of a 5K, but it was on a dreadmill) it took me 55 minutes.

I will take the inspiration where I can get it, and the best place I can think of is within myself.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Not the usual post

Usually at the beginning of each week, I post a weigh-in and my plans for the week. Not doing that this week, and only in part because my weigh-in did not go as planned.

No, today just isn't a day for the usual. Today, I feel compelled to do something different. Today, my heart is with the city of Boston, and with runners around the globe who are reeling in the aftermath of the bombings at yesterday's marathon.

In my life, I have never done anything that compares to running. I have often described it as the one thing I work the hardest at, even though I continue to suck. It's true; I am not a good runner. I am horrible. But I am a runner, and in Boston on April 15, 2013, my people were attacked.

Those were my brothers and sisters who were wounded and killed at the finish line. Not my blood kin, but they were mine just the same. Every runner I have talked to feels the same way. I find it interesting that as the news started pouring in, my running friends and family began to check in on one another. Not because any of us knew anyone who was running Boston, but because we knew we were all heartsick over what had happened there.

Today, we wear our race t-shirts (without regard for how silly they might look with our work attire) to show our support for Boston. We feel like we have to do something, and it's hard to imagine what we can do, so we pray ... we wear a race shirt ... and we run.

I'll be doing all three tonight. My run tonight will be seven miles of prayer for Boston, the people wounded, and the souls gone home. Beyond that, I'd like to suggest that we all shine a light on our world. In running, I have discovered the best parts of myself, so let's try and do that for others; not necessarily by forcing them to run (although I'd like to!) but more by loving them right where they are.

Love. Acceptance. Joy. I get all of that from the act of running, and the people who run alongside me. The least we can do is offer the same up to all our fellow men.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Epic failure, amazing accomplishment. Also, moo.

The Failure
So last week I went public with my training goals, and almost immediately failed to meet them. Awesome, huh?

In my defense, I was feeling sick. Run down, congested and just plain crappy. I ended up taking last week off, more or less. Here's what I had planned:

  • Monday: Run 5 miles, swim 500 meters
  • Tuesday: Spin class, weights
  • Wednesday: Run 5 miles, swim 600 meters
  • Thursday: Bike, swim 500 meters
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Swim 800 meters, lift weights, run, bike
  • Sunday: Run 8K in Shamrock Shuffle

And here's how it actually shaped up:

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run 2 miles, swim 500 meters
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Swim 850 meters, lift weights
  • Sunday: Run 8K in Shamrock Shuffle

Not an abysmal showing, but still not what I'd had in mind. But that's okay, because every day is a new opportunity! I honestly think the above schedule is just asking way too much of myself, so I'm going to scale back on the swimming and biking to concentrate on the run for the next four weeks (working toward the Great Western Half Marathon on May 5). After that, we'll shift focus to the trifecta of swim/bike/run.

The Accomplishment
My illness and leg fatigue from last week has been well documented. So when it came time to prepare for the Shamrock Shuffle 8K on Sunday, I pretty much didn't. I ate nachos and drank a margarita the night before, thinking there was a pretty solid chance I wasn't going to do the race, anyway, and if I did, I'd be walking most of it. Gone was my wish of a new PR, and my desire to enjoy this great race, which unofficially opens the Chicago racing season.

Sunday morning dawned gray and chilly, and Linda, Shelly, Meg and I made our way to the lakefront. I woke up feeling pretty crappy - sore and sick - but I thought I'd at least start the race and just walk most of it. We went to our start corrals and waited for the race to begin, and the sun came out. It was going to be a glorious day in the city! Soon, Corral G got the go-ahead to start running, and we were off.

And I felt great!

I'm not sure how it happened, but I ended up having a great run. I didn't get my PR, but I thought I might; that's how great I felt! I did my run 4 walk 1 intervals, and I finished less than one minute longer than it took me last year at 1:07:17. (By way of comparison, last year I came in at 1:06:21.)

I still have a long way to go, training-wise, and I'm hoping to keep up this same pace for the Great Western Half Marathon. I know it's a lot to ask of my body to run 13.1 miles as fast as I run 4.97; I get it. So I will put in the time and hope for the best. The worst thing that will happen is public humiliation.

It won't be the first time.

The Moo
So I got on the scale yesterday morning.

Four times.

The rankings, as I like to call them, came in at 210.2, 211, 209.4 and 208.6. I am accepting an average of all four numbers as my weight: 209.8. Or, we can just suck it up and call it what it is: 210.

Oh, hell.

So that's basically a giant volcano of nachos, a margarita and a massive post-race breakfast, all taking up residence in my ass.

I get it, scale. It's time to get serious. Time to hit the training like a real athlete and cut the crap.

Stay tuned to see how that goes.

Friday, April 5, 2013

So it's entirely possible my leg has died

No, I'm not serious.

At least I don't think I'm serious.

But last night, I had an absolutely, no-holds-barred, grade-A-for-AWFUL run.

My left leg, the knee of which has been talking to me for about a week, felt completely horrible from my first step. It was as if that one leg carried the weight of both. (And with my ample thighs, that's heavy stuff.) I hadn't run in almost a week (last Saturday's run/walk 5K) and I was desperate to get back into the routine. I also wanted to get in a wee swim, so although it was a lovely day outside, I did my run on the indoor track at the Vaughan Center. One mile = six laps. After the first four, my leg was kicking my ass.

I walked a lap. Ran three more. Walked half a lap. Waited for sweet sweet death. Ran a bit more and gave up at 12, for two miles.

I can't remember the last time I gave up at two measly miles!

So now I'm a little paranoid, because Sunday is one of my favorite races - the Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago. It's an 8K, so not an easy-peasy three-miler like last week. No, this one takes me almost five miles through the city, and it's my redemption run. In 2011, I was injured and couldn't run it. Last year, I did it and it felt amazeballs. This year, I just really want to do it again! So hopefully there's nothing really wrong with my leg (it doesn't really hurt to walk, per se, though the knee is still tweaky and the plantar fascia still hurts in the morning) and I'll be able to make it all five miles. (Secretly, I'd like to beat last year's time of 1:06:21, which is about a 13-minute mile.) But just finishing is enough for me right now!

To be fair, I didn't really let the bad run get me down. I finished my two, then put on my swim suit and swam 500 meters. (Not far, to be honest; just ten lousy laps.) So at least I didn't throw in the towel entirely, right?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Well, well, well ... part II

No sooner did I make the big pronouncement that I was getting back on the wagon, than I got hit with the schpilkus.

It wasn't bad. Really, it wasn't much at all. (Sometimes I think if we really just go to bed, we can stave off the worst of it. That's what I did, and it appears to have worked.) All that being said, I have not worked out since last Saturday.

I KNOW! That's a long time! But tonight I'm headed to the gym for a run, and maybe a few laps. It's okay.

I'm trying not to let myself get down, because lately I've been feeling betrayed by my body. It's as if I need to work out like a crazy person, and eat next to nothing, in order for the scale to budge. Now here I am, at 210 pounds again, struggling to get it to move. It's my third Shamrock Shuffle at basically the same weight. This race, every year, is the one I'm determined to run at under 200.

Once again, I've failed.

On top of that, I went to the dentist today. I need some pretty significant work there, too, and it's not going to be cheap. So it's as if my whole damn self is just giving up.

I recognize, in times like this, that I have two choices: I can get on my pity pot and stay there. Or I can let it fuel me forward.

As I drove to the office post-dentist, I felt a renewed resolve creep in. Almost as if I had taken enough crap since (and including) the half marathon, and it's time to start kicking back. It's all about balance, and I crave that; but I have got to truly dedicate myself to reaching my goals. So, here they are, including some newbies:

  • Weigh in at something under 200 pounds.
    • And, eventually, 180. After that, we'll see.
  • Run a half marathon in less than three hours.
  • Run a 5K in less than 40 minutes.
  • Laugh.
  • Get my dental nightmare taken care of.
  • Take back my name (by getting rid of my married surname).
Some of these are going to take some time. The dental work may take until sometime next year, pending availability of funds. So we'll see. The physical stuff, though? Yeah. I just gotta get that shit done. I have to get out of my head and just start behaving like my inner me knows I should! 

Let's go ...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Well, well, well ...

This weekend was filled with delicious food. An overload of delicious food. So that explains how I managed to gain 2.8 pounds. I have no reason to be angry; I ate that! So today, we're back to counting the calories.


My time is at a premium these days, but I have to put in the effort. I started seeing the chiropractor three times a week to try and work out some weird stuff in my spine/neck/shoulders. One of those appointments includes a half-hour massage. You would think this would be a Godsend, but instead, I'm all like, "how am I gonna fit that into my schedule?" Yeah; gift horse/mouth, right?

Anyway, time. I don't have a lot of it. So when I consider the week and month ahead, I'm a little nervous about fitting everything in. I'm training for a half marathon on May 5, and a sprint triathlon on June 9. Here's what's on tap this week:

  • Monday: Chiropractor, massage, run five miles, swim 500 meters.
  • Tuesday: One hour spin class, lift weights.
  • Wednesday: Chiropractor, run five miles, swim 600 meters.
  • Thursday: Chiropractor, bike ride (outdoors, if possible), swim 500 meters (this would be so much easier if a. I lived in Florida and b. I had a pool.)
  • Friday: Blissful rest day.
  • Saturday: Swim 800 meters, lift weights, run four miles, bike ride.
  • Sunday: Run the Shamrock Shuffle 8K in Chicago.

See? So much activity. Stay tuned; I'll let ya know on Monday how it went. Each week gets progressively worse (or better, depending on your outlook) so ... here goes!