Sunday, November 9, 2014

The starting line

It all started with a text message to my friend Diane.

"Do you think," I asked, "that I could do that Hot Chocolate 5K thing in November?" It was late summer 2010, and I had an inexplicable wild hair. 

"Yes," my friend said, "you can absolutely do this, and I will help you." The next weekend found me out on my first-ever training run, panting, praying for sweet death, with Di running up ahead of me, talking the whole time in a manner that made me envious and hopeful. I registered for the race, not knowing what was about to happen.

I was inspired to try running by my sister Kathie. My sisters and I, we've never been particularly athletic, but I admired Kathie's gumption, and truth be told, I wanted some of my own. But I wanted something else, too. For years, I'd seen runners around town, doin' their thing. Solo, in groups, in the morning, at night ... I wanted what they had. I wanted that wind-in-your-hair freedom. I wanted to see if there was an athlete anywhere inside me. 

That first race took place on Kathie's birthday, and I will never forget watching her finish the race. While I ran the 5K, she ran the 15K, and I thought what she was doing was absolutely otherworldly. Hollering to her as she approached the finish line, I couldn't hold back the tears. 

I have never seen her look so strong. 

Today, I ran my fifth Hot Chocolate race. To date, I've run the 5K twice, and the 15K three times. Today's race wasn't my best time, but it wasn't my worst. I covered 9.3 miles at a pokey pace, and I finished in a little more than two hours and 15 minutes at a pace of 14:31 per mile. But contrast that with four years ago, when I ran 3.1 miles in 49:56, at a 16:05 minute mile. This is what progress looks like. 

But it's so much more than that. It's friendships forged, goals set (and occasionally crushed but often missed, yet celebrated anyway), breakfasts eaten, photos taken, challenges offered and confidence built.  It's the blisters and the black toenails, the smelly sports bras and the unmentionable chafing, and it's chasing something bigger than you are.

For a long time, I was chasing a sub-40 5K. For a lot of runners, that's incredibly slow, but for me, it's a huge accomplishment. And I've done it. Twice. Now I'm chasing a sub-35 5K, and a sub-3-hour half marathon and yeah, a sub-2 15K. And I'll get there, eventually.

But for tonight, I'm achey and accomplished. My feet are really pissed at me, and there is this raw spot where my trusty sports bra and I clearly did not see eye-to-eye. I'm ravenous and euphoric, not because I made it to the finish line.

No, this incredible feeling comes from believing in myself enough to make my way to the starting line, time and again, with the absolute knowledge that, one way or another, I will finish.

I am so grateful for the love and support of everyone in our tribe. May we only cease to run when our bones are too brittle to risk the impact. I love you with everything I am.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ten kilometers

You learn a lot about yourself when you're running. If you let your mind move away from the pain in your hip flexors or the sound of your feet hitting the ground, you might discover some interesting things about yourself.

For instance, yesterday I learned that at about five miles, I get really really bored. Which was kinda not bad because yesterday I only had a total of 6.2 to run ... but it makes me a little scared for this weekend, when I have 9.3 to run and the last half is rather boring by design. (Because the lakefront path just doesn't do it for me anymore. Snob.)

Anyway, out there, feet propelling you forward ... if you're willing to go there, you can find out a lot about you. I got bored, yes. But out there, on the path to whatever, I've gone through all the emotions at one time or another. (PS, it's really hard to run when I get all seething angry, because I cry then, and running is not much possible when I'm also sobbing.) (PPS, not pretty; this is why I don't wear makeup when I work out.) I've been through all the feels while running. From blissful to hungry (rungry?) and everything in between, six miles is enough ground to work through it.

Feel it. Heal it. That's kinda where I'm at here. And a 10K is enough time to make some very real headway.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The tri that almost wasn't

Sunday morning, August 24, started way too early for me. The night was a series of tossing and turning, and not much in the way of sleeping. I don't get much in the way of pre-race anxiety anymore, but I think it plagued me on Saturday night. At 3:15 a.m., my alarm went off. It was time to start my day.

I jumped into my tri clothes, acknowledged my screaming headache, swallowed some toast (thank you, Linda) and headed out the door with my backpack (packed with a wetsuit, goggles, timing chip, swim cap, running shoes, racecourse nutrition, socks, headband and sunglasses) and we were ready to go. (Our bikes were already on the car.) Off we headed, into the city.

We parked below Millennium Park and walked our bikes toward the lake. The world was dark and quiet; every awake human was also toting a bike. Triathletes are a different breed.

When we arrived at the transition area, one thing was clear: the rain had taken its toll. MUD. Everywhere. This wasn't going to be neat. Linda and I checked into transition (hers for the Olympic distance, mine for the sprint), got our stuff set up, and met back by the portalets. Because you always have to know where the bathroom is.

And before you really had a chance to think about it, it was time for Linda to grab all her stuff and head to the start line. It was 5:45 a.m., and race day waits for no one.

As we walked along the lake shore, one thing became obvious: the water was not calm.
Lake Michigan is not your friend.
Now, I'll be honest here. I wasn't entirely convinced I needed to do a tri today. My head was still pounding, and clearly the swim was not going to be easy. I walked to St. Arbucks to see if a little caffeine might help.

As I made my way back to the lake, the thought that occurred to me was, "Doing the tri probably isn't going to make you feel worse. But not trying will definitely make you feel worse." So I headed to transition, grabbed my wetsuit and other swim stuff (with only a few minutes left to spare) and made my way toward the start line.

Soon, it was my turn to jump in. When it was my wave's turn, the water felt great. I made the right decision to do the race. And then ... we started swimming.

SWEET JESUS, the water was awful. Choppy, wavy and full of seaweed. I'd get a face (literally) full of it, over and over. It clung to my arms and my feet and my everything. It was awful. I kept moving, hoping it would stop, and eventually - about a half mile later, when I got out of the water - I was free of it. 

That sucked. It took me 28:25 to finish. It shouldn't take me more than 20 minutes; certainly not more than 24. But there you have it; almost a damn half hour! Yikes.

In racing, there are four different levels to the Emergency Alert System - Green (good conditions), Yellow (conditions could take a turn), Red (it's looking like not a good day to race) and Black (we're shutting this sucker down). When I got into the water, it was green. As I got on the bike, I was told they had moved it to red; I was to proceed with caution. I briefly contemplated ending my race there.

And then I got on the bike. 

May I say, holy shit Lake Shore Drive is hilly! I had no idea there was that much elevation on LSD, but my legs sure felt it. The wind didn't help. It was a shitty, shitty 15 miles. I finished at a speed of 12.7 mph, contrasted with a usual 13.5 to 14.3 mph on other sprint courses. It took me over an hour and 10 minutes. And I still had to run.

Usually, by the time I get off the bike, my clothes have started to dry. Not on Sunday; nope, it was so humid, there was zero chance of anything being dry and comfortable. We were at 90-something-percent humidity, and it was time to begin running through a cloud. Supremely gross, and about to get grosser.

A 5K on the lakefront should be a glorious thing. Instead, it reduced me to a soggy bucket of flopsweat and lake water. But the only thing standing between me and a medal was 3.1 miles, so off I ran. It seemed to take forever.

It kinda did take forever. I would not be deterred. And finally, I crossed the finish line and got to put this beauty around my neck.
This was one of those races. Since the moment I crossed the finish line, I've had mixed feelings. I'm proud that I finished. I'm even more proud that I started. And honestly, I wanted to quit about a dozen times during the race. I almost turned around early on the run, cheating and cutting my 5K short. No one would've know. Except me.

And I'm the only person I'm competing against, anyway. It's me against me out there. And while I'm not happy with my results, I'm happy with my refusal to give up.

There will come a day when I'm unable to do these things.

Today is not that day.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My inner badass

I started this year saying I wanted to complete three triathlons this summer.

On Sunday, I will complete my third official sprint tri, although it will actually be the fourth time I've participated in an organized sprint swim-bike-run event. (One was a training event and not timed, but we had numbers and a transition area and everything!)

In 2012, when I did my first tri, I just wanted to finish and not die. I remember being scared to death, and I remember it taking for-freaking-ever to finish. I had a hand-me-down bike and I'd just learned to swim and hell ... I didn't even know how to be smart in transition.

That first year, I took two hours and 38 minutes to finish the "race." Last year, I shaved almost 20  minutes off my time, bringing it down to 2:18:27. This year, I accomplished the impossible by taking another 10 minutes off, coming in at 2:07:17.

A few weeks ago, I did another sprint. This one had a little bit shorter bike portion, so my time of 2:01:12 is as much an indication of a shorter course as it is a better time, but it's still a sprint, and it's still less time, so I'll take it.

And what all that means is, I'm chasing the two-hour mark. It's gonna be tough-to-impossible, though, because we're lookin' at a 15.25 mile bike, as opposed to 13.3 for the Esprit de She (June), and 12 for the Iron Girl (July). However, I wouldn't bet against me.

So that's the big goal: finish under two hours. It's a stretch, I know, and honestly ... this is my first time doing the Chicago tri. It's a lofty goal for something unknown. But I have another, more important goal in mind.

The truth is, I want to get out there and enjoy the process. I want to spend 20-something minutes swimming in Lake Michigan, in water that's a good three to 12 feet over my head. I want to peel off my wetsuit and climb on my bike, taking myself along the lakefront and allowing myself to be awestruck by my city. And yeah ... I want to go for a three-mile run in the hot, sticky sun at 11 a.m.

I want to tap into my inner badass and let her out to play.

Monday, July 28, 2014

You can do hard things!

Summer is an incredible time to be an athlete. You get to do things just for fun, even while trying to fit in the stuff that must be done. If you're lucky, those two things intersect. For me, tri training means I get to swim, bike and run ... and call it a workout. We swim all year long, but in the summer, we get to find a lap lane outside. We abandon the spin bike for the bike trail, and the treadmill for the great outdoors. It's delicious and perfect and quite wonderful.

But sometimes, it's just seriously hard. So hard you want to give up. Sometimes it's ridiculous. So ridiculous, you have no idea why you started in the first place, and the only thing that makes sense is packing up your shit and going home.

63rd Street Beach, as the sun rises. It looked so innocent.
That pretty much describes the events of last Saturday, when Linda and I headed into the city - to 63rd Street Beach, to be exact - for a tri training event. Several hundred triathletes would do a practice tri, swimming in Lake Michigan, biking along the lakefront path, and running through the nearby park.

As soon as we racked our bikes, it started to rain. I practically begged Linda to call it quits and go home. She would not relent, and our friends Vidya, Gina and Betsy were pushing through, too. There was no turning back; it was go time.
Me, half-in my wetsuit.
 We got into our wetsuits and headed to the water. I have never felt more like a whale than I do when I'm in a wetsuit. I seriously look ridiculous. Every lump - and I have many - is enhanced by neoprene. But it might just save me in the open water, so I was happy to have it. In addition to keeping you a little warm in the water, a wetsuit allows you to stay afloat, lending a little buoyancy (a real plus when you're talking about a big, unpredictable body of water). We stepped into the water to see what it was like.

And instantly questioned our sanity.

Sixty-four degrees. That's it. That's what we got.

The water was 68 degrees for the Esprit de She back in early June, and it was fine; those four degrees make a huge difference. It was awful, and we hadn't even really begun.

We lined up, and it was time to go. As I approached the water line, I hated myself and everything I stand for. I hated you, I hated puppies, I hated that guy with the biceps. Seriously, I hated pretty much all the things. But still, Linda and I entered the water together and started to run into the deep. Our feet were numb. Once submerged - once my face was in the water and I started "swimming" - I immediately lost my breath. It was so cold it actually took my breath away.

It wasn't so deep that I couldn't touch the bottom, so I stopped to catch my breath. I stopped to walk/run/gasp for air. I did what I could and I kept moving. It was a triangular course, and to get to a half mile, you had to loop it twice. By the time I was half done with my first loop, I'd decided I was only doing one. I mean, it was awful. As I approached the beach again, a woman named Dominique challenged me to finish both loops.

I never say no to a challenge.

Out I went again, this time swimming more than running through the ice-cold frigidity. Count your strokes. Get to 30. Determine whether or not you can feel your extremities. Keep going.

As I approached finishing that second loop, I kept repeating the same mantra to myself. With every stroke, it went like this:


And I made it. Turns out, that last loop wasn't awful. (To be truthful, though, it remains one of the toughest challenges I've faced.)

Out of the water, thank GOD, I ran/stumbled toward the bike, stripped off my wetsuit (which I'm pretty sure would be hysterical on video) and dripped all over hell, trying to dry off and put on socks and shoes and glasses and a helmet. Shit. Transition is not my forte. Finally, grabbed the bike and headed for the trail.

Here, I found heaven.

It was a gorgeous day, and I was that girl. I was that girl who rides her bike in Chicago around the lake! I was that girl who wished people "good morning" as she passed. (I was also that girl who passed other cyclists, because her legs are friggin' strong, but that's another story for another time.) I felt like I was receiving a gift; being able to be out there, biking (hell, after the swim, being able to feel my feet was like a gift) on a day like this was just incredible.

The bike course was two loops. Again, I could've stopped after one; we weren't being timed, this was just for practice, but I wanted the full experience. I pressed on.

Eventually, I finished the bike and racked it back in transition; time to run. By now, it was hot. I was well in the back of the pack at this point, because let's face it - I'm not what you would consider fast or even not very slow in any of the triathlon disciplines. I am, however, determined, so I pressed on. Past the one mile mark. Nearing the two-mile mark. I was almost home, as the course was 2.5 miles.

Finally I saw my friend Betsy up ahead, cheering me on. Because she is out of her mind, she ran back to get me, because no one finishes alone. (At least, not on her watch.) A true superstar, Betsy ran at my snail's pace the entire time, reminding me to breathe, encouraging me. She was amazing. My heart kept beating, and I kept running. I had to stop momentarily to get my feet back under me and reassure myself that my lungs still functioned, and then I was off again, Betsy by my side. Soon, Linda and Vidya appeared in the distance, waiting to cheer me on.

As we neared the finish line, Betsy encouraged me to find what power I had left and use it up. I dug as deep as I could, and shaved maybe a few seconds off my run to the finish line. It was hard. It was hot. But I was done.

I did what I came to do, but I received so much more. The notion that the fastest among us allows no one else to finish alone is really incredible. Having someone come back for me, and people waiting for me at the end, is one of the greatest joys of racing. It means the world to know that someone cares enough to be there. To show up, to wait, and to tell you "good job."

We can do hard things.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

She's got legs

For the past few years, I've worn the hell out of this one pair of shorts. They fall to the knee, and they're green. Almost threadbare, they were hand-me-downs from an awesome friend. I love those shorts.

They're on their way out, because they're old and will probably bust through the butt the next time I wash them. Which put me in a bit of a predicament, because it's summer and up until a month ago, they were the only shorts I owned.
Me and my sister Kath, at The Bean in Chicago, last summer.
On a hot weekend in June, I found myself in Wisconsin. I had not packed the shorts. Because I was visiting friends and I always know the proximity of the nearest Target, we went off to see what they might have to remedy my fashion emergency. I found a brown pair of Bermudas in my size, and a pair of similar style in orange - a color I'm having a bit of a fling with these days. But these were shorts. Not to-the-knee jobbers, but actual shorts.

I tried them on.

They fit.

And I liked them. Also, they were half price. For $8, yeah, I brought them home. Nervously, I got dressed; I wasn't sure I had the chutzpah to wear them. But then it got me thinking: what the hell is wrong with me?

The shorts looked cute. They made my legs look long. (Spoiler alert: my legs are long.) Sure, these are the shortest shorts I've owned since before college,but I love them. I do not think they look bad. In fact, if I'm honest, I like the way they look.

My legs are not perfect. They are not toned or muscular, at least not to the naked eye. The jiggle when I walk. They are dimply. But they are strong, tan and most importantly, they are mine.

The world doesn't expect us to be perfect. At least, I don't think it does. (And if it does, yipes, it's in for a rude awakening!) But while we admit our flaws, why can't we also accept the good stuff? For instance, I acknowledge that my legs are dimply. But my legs are also strong. Really, really strong. So why not both? Why not long and jiggly? Muscular and cellulitey? Why not one from column A, and one from column B, for a result that's simply awesome?

Since the weekend of the Orange Shorts, I've bought another pair. Beat-up denim boyfriend shorts; they're adorable. I wear 'em all the time, because I'm on a one-woman crusade to remind women that it isn't about perfection. It's about being comfortable in your own skin.

And if I have to rock a pair of shorts to make my point, so be it.
Me, in the orange shorts.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


It's been a week since I started flying several feet off the ground over my Esprit de She triathlon results. I am showing no signs of returning to earth. It was, to put it simply, an enriching, rewarding and damn right awesome experience.

I trained hard. Honestly, I worked my tail off to prove myself. I have high expectations, and even higher goals. Most of the time, I have no intention of actually reaching them, which made it even more special when I did it.

I make it a point to set goals that stretch me. Most of the time, a little too far, but that's the point, isn't it? So this year, I talked to a few of my friends about my training and what I hoped for at the finish line, and when I took everything into account, I mentioned that I thought I could possibly take 10 minutes off my time from the previous year.

Now, let's be clear here: that was a realistic goal only if all the stars aligned and everything went my way. The chances of that happening were somewhere between slim and non-existent. And yet, somehow ... well, I'll just let the statistics tell the story.

Here is how things have stacked up over my three years participating in this event:

We're timed on five things: how long it takes us to complete the swim, transition from the water to the bike course, complete the bike portion, transition from the bike course to the run course, and then, finally, finish the run. All of that added together gives you the total.

So, between 2012 and 2013 I took almost 20 minutes (19:30, to be exact) off my time. A lot of that work was done in transitions, but I did better in literally every discipline. Fast forward to 2014, and you see some realy work happening. More than four minutes faster in the water, more than three minutes total faster in transition, and real gains on the bike and run, too. (Plus, take note: there was a headwind in both directions on the bike!) I finished 11:10 faster this year than last, and a full half hour and change faster this year than two years ago. That's a lot of improvement in two year's time.
The moral of the story, if there is one, is that sometimes you can stretch far enough to reach a goal that seems impossible. Sometimes you can give yourself things that seem ludicrous but turn out to be so very worth it. Sometimes you owe it to yourself to believe you can.

And then, sometimes, you just do it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

It's so totally not linear

Last week, I didn't weigh in. I usually weigh in on Saturday mornings, and I was in Champaign on April 26, so it just didn't happen. Which meant last Saturday, May 3, was the first time I'd gotten on the "scale of record" in two weeks.

And I gained almost two pounds. Eight sticks of butter. And it bothered only the tiniest bit.

Over the two weeks between weigh-ins, I've been through a lot. Most notably, putting my cat (oh how I miss you, Benld) to sleep and interviewing for (and subsequently getting) a new job. That's a lot of emotional upheaval and expended energy. It took lattes and cheese, rest and yoga, to work through it. And I am feeling pretty good despite all the crazy, so I will take a one-point-eight-pound weight gain, thankyouverymuch, because how I feel is way more important than the scale.

Here's what I know for sure: Fitness, health, weight, the whole nine? It isn't linear. There are times when you're on the perfect path and things fall into place. Training is on target, nutrition is in your wheelhouse, and the number on the scale trends in the proper direction. But sometimes, you need to celebrate. Sometimes, this requires macaroni and cheese. Sometimes, you need to grieve. This almost always calls for a venti mocha, with whip. Sometimes you just need to suspend the rules, just for a little while.

Sometimes you fall off the wagon, just a little bit. And all the time, that's okay. Because the path to discovering your best self isn't a straight line. There are peaks and valleys; there are times when it is so damn hard it hurts. There are times when it falls into place effortlessly. There are times when you veer off the path entirely (hello, gelato) and times when you almost right yourself, only to discover a pint of Guinness where your resolve used to be.

And it's all okay. I could not be more serious here; it is okay. This is real life. Real life is full of screw-ups, but it's also full of opportunities to right the ship once again. You don't have to wait for Monday; 2:37 p.m. on a Thursday works just as well. The truth is, I'm not militant about it. I just do the best I can, each day. Sometimes my best is better than others. It's taken me a long time to get to this place - a place where a small uptick in weight isn't met with the sort of self-loathing that drives me straight to my two favorite fellas, Ben and Jerry. In the past, a downward spiral that would rival any and all cautionary tales would commence. But I'm in this for the long haul, so I work hard not to let that kinda stuff happen anymore.

It's important to remember, too, that the number on my scale is nothing more than the measurement of my body's relationship to gravity. It does not define me or determine my worth. It's a good touchstone, but really no better than how my skinny jeans fit (really well, thanks; in fact, I'm not far from needing to trade for a smaller size) or how good my skin looks (glowing; hydration is so good for my skin!) or how much energy I have (I can jump! I can run! I kick ass!). Weight isn't really the endgame, folks. If I put on a little bit, it's not the end of the world. It's not even in my top 10 worst things that happened last week.

So this week, I have a road map for where I want to go. It includes some solid training, wise nutrition, and good rest. Balance, my friends. Acceptance of where we are, and acknowledgement of where we're going ... with a side dish of knowing that imperfection is pretty much perfect.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The mirror lies

So I'm at the gym the other night, doing a little run on the treadmill before weight training. A woman got on the treadmill directly in front of me, and I instantly felt inferior. As I ran, I couldn't stop the thoughts from tumbling through my head.

She was, as luck would have it, put together from the best parts possible. Long, lean legs. Taut torso. Arms that defied the jiggle in the tricep that most women I know are prone to. She was beautiful and athletic, and man was it hard not to compare myself to her.

I found myself wondering ... What is it like to be her? How must it feel to wear those shorts and know you're not jiggling? 

It wasn't in that beating-myself-up way that I usually approach this particular inferiority complex; it was more just honest awe that there are bodies that look like that, behave like that, run like that. Envy, thy name is Maggie.

On I ran, because I can, and I did feel grateful that in my state of something less than perfect, I am perfectly capable of working out hard. By the end of the night - after pounding out two miles and then lifting some seriously heavy barbells - I was a gloriously sweaty mess. Time to hit the locker room for a hot shower and maybe a foot scrub.

I was sharing locker room space with a several other women. Three of them had obviously worked out together. They were chattering away about their love of a particular class. One lone woman seemed uncomfortable with the whole thing, so I struck up a conversation with her. "Glad the tough part's over," I said. "Now we just get to clean up and eat dinner!" And that's when she kinda made my heart stop "How would you know the tough part?" she said. "People like you have no idea how hard it is for people like me."

If she only knew. If she only knew how I sat in the car and wept on my first day at the gym. If she only knew how hard I am still fighting to gain the healthy life I deserve. If she only knew how much I wish I had the body or the confidence to rock a pair of running shorts.

If she only knew.

Everyone, no matter how fit they appear, goes through this stuff. I believe that. I know this because when I look back at photographs of the times when I was at my physical best, I had no idea. I still craved less jiggle, more strength. So I can only conclude that the struggle is universal, and that we are all truly beautiful. We just lack the insight to see it ourselves.

So to you, dear reader, I have to tell you ... you're gorgeous. What you see in the mirror is only a fraction of a fraction of the story. You are gorgeous and lovely and strong. Your muscle may hide, but it's there, waiting for you to notice. It may be there for the world to see, pulling you through your day in a way that inspires the rest of us to do the same. Your heart, the beating soul of your body, begs to quicken its beat. Begs you to dance, to climb, to become. Man or woman, you are beautifully made, created to understand the wonder within you. You are amazing.

The mirror doesn't tell the whole truth, love. You in motion are a site to behold.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

But, weight

The scale says I am down three pounds this week. I am not sure I believe it. The scale can be a cruel lady.

That being said, my official weight since I started the new eating plan is down seven pounds. This is significant. However, last week was sort of an anomaly. I had to put my beloved pet, my best friend Benld The Cat, to sleep. Not a lot of appetite with all that happening, so it was definitely not a "normal" week. Couple that with a little bit of overdoing things on Saturday (cheat day) and Sunday (Easter), I'm not certain the loss will hold.

I have dinner plans tomorrow, then travel plans over the weekend, and lots of opportunities for eating. I will need to be mindful, but I also know I have to live my life. On May 1, I'm having dinner with my Patrick at Lou Malnati's, and I will have a slice of deep dish. I can't live my life thinking that the only time I can have pizza is on Saturday ... so it's a matter of being smart, and trying to eat within the guidelines. Even when it comes to pizza. (And a large salad on the side.)

The whole point of the eating plan is to fuel the workouts, and so far that's going pretty darned well. I'm not perfect, but there's enough available for me to do that I don't necessarily worry about missing a day. Here's what's been going on, physically, over the last week and a half:

Monday 4/14: Ran two miles, lifted weights
Tuesday 4/15: Did Rock the Funk and core class
Wednesday 4/16: Ran two miles, lifted weights
Thursday 4/17: Rest day
Friday 4/18: Rest day (oops)
Saturday 4/19: Ran five miles, lifted weights
Sunday 4/20: Rest day
Monday 4/21: Rest day (I honestly felt like I needed this; it served me well)
Tuesday 4/22: Ran five miles

For the most part, the workouts have felt good and doable. The unplanned rest days in there were in part due to being really busy, and in part because I really didn't have it in me. However, if I'm going to do my best this race season - which includes to triathlons, a 10-miler and maybe a half marathon - I need to be more dedicated. I will only get one weight training session in this week, because I missed Monday, and that can't be the norm. (NORM!)

I will say this: I am feeling good. I am probably 10 pounds away from the skirt I'm wearing right now actually fitting. It's good. I'm capable. I'm changing. I'm awesome.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Progress Report

I have lost four pounds in a month.

When you have significant weight to lose and it comes off slowly, it can be easy to get discouraged. Diets promise quick losses. Hell, the cover of Women's Health this month promised to get me "bikini ready in 10 days." (Side note: it's a distinct possibility that particular headline thinks I'm far closer to swimsuit comfort than I actually am. Also, the editor must be an asshole.)

Quick losses aren't inherently bad. They can give you the motivation you need to keep going. Losing six pounds in the first week - mostly water - can make you feel successful because of the number on the scale. But that's all it is; a number on the scale. Do I want bigger numbers? I'd be lying if I said I didn't. But the truth is, looking back over the past month, I see greater success than one can measure on a scale; far greater, for sure, than the measurement of my body's relationship to gravity.

I'm eating better; consuming whole, real foods and fueling the athletic events life puts in my path. Over last weekend, I completed a 5K and a two-hour indoor cycle event, and this week tri training begins in earnest. There's good stuff happening. But probably the goodest (oh, shut it; sometimes I talk bad) is that I'm learning not to obsess about the number.

It's only four pounds. But the difference it's made in me is so much bigger than that. I can see it in my cheekbones. My belly fits better in my bikini underwear. (I am not, however, "bikini ready," regardless of what the magazine says.) I honestly have more energy. This is not about weightloss anymore; it really has become about me, who I am, what I need, and how I can be a better athlete.

So yeah, I'm down four. I'd like to lose another 20 to 30. But the real goals are to be able to crank out 30 push-ups from my toes. Do a decent pull-up ... and then another. Those sorts of things. The rest? That's just gravy.

But since we're here, let's look at last week.

  • Monday: Did not work out; still sick. Ate within guidelines.
  • Tuesday: Took spin class. Ate within guidelines.
  • Wednesday: Took barbell class and ran two miles. Ate within guidelines.
  • Thursday: Did not work out; felt like I needed rest. Ate a few calories over.
  • Friday: Did not work out; had an event with my sister. Did not log calories. Tried to stick within program, but ate some sweets.
  • Saturday: Did a 5K, ate within guidelines (which was easy because it was "cheat day.")
  • Sunday: Did a two-hour spin class.

Honestly, this is a pretty good week for anyone, and in my case - recovering from strep and an awful cold - I think getting anything accomplished is a solid win.

So far this week, I have a solid training plan. Three weight training sessions, three runs, some yoga, some swimming, and maybe - just maybe - I'll get the bike out of storage. It's time. Outdoor workouts, here I come! (Also, when I finally weigh less than 200 pounds, prepare to cover your ears; you're gonna hear me hollering!)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

But you can just call me Maggie.

You guys, guess what? I just heard from the manager of PR at Lifetime Fitness corporate, and I've been chosen as an Esprit de She Brand Ambassador!

Esprit de She is a women's race series, and they do two in Chicago each year - a sprint triathlon and a 5K. Dedicated to "the spirit of her," Esprit de She is a great opportunity for women to come together and participate in the athletic endeavors that keep our hearts and minds healthy. I'm proud to be associated with them.

As an ambassador, I'll be sharing information about the events I'm participating in, and encouraging all my friends (well, the women, anyway!) to join me. I am already registered for the triathlon - it takes place in June - and I haven't made up my mind yet about the 5K. Unless something comes up on that date (it's July 24, a Thursday night, in the city) I think I'll do it. Care to join me?

And that's it; that's the Big News. I'm thrilled to play a small part in the great work Esprit de She does to promote fitness among women. It's a great organization, and I'm ready to go!

Ambassador Bieritz, out!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Of weddings and weigh-ins

I was out of town last weekend, so I didn't get an "official" weigh-in done. I did, however, make a fair estimate that I am down another pound. Let's hope that come Saturday morning, this holds true.

Turns out it's either not hard at all or insurmountably difficult to stay on an eating plan while traveling. Stick with me here; I promise it makes sense. I would wake up in the morning and have a cold chocolate fudge pre-made shake; I brought them with me. Perfect breakfast; set me out the door to my morning run ready to go.

On the way back up, I would stop at the St. Arbucks in the lobby of the hotel for a tall nonfat latte, no sugar. I'm getting used to these, I tell ya! Once back up in the room, I showered and changed and went about the business of doing whatever needed to be done; hair and makeup for myself for the wedding, or helping others get ready, whatever. It was nice to have "approved" snacks with me - 100-calorie packs of almonds, and protein bars that work as a meal - so I didn't feel hungry and then make bad choices.

And then, it would be dinner time. Both Friday and Saturday presented me with options any sane person would struggle with. On Friday I opted for one slice of Lou's, a small salad, a beer (oh, how I love pizza and beer) and half a slice of cheesecake. Not great by any means, but not awful.

Saturday night, however, our food choices included a mashed potato bar, a macaroni and cheese bar, and a slider bar. I was in trouble.

I ate it all. Plus a piece of cake, because it was actually good.

So I wasn't perfect ... but I didn't go off the chain, either. I think it's possible to do okay and not completely lose your shit when it comes to eating. I had fun, I ran each morning, and I was mindful of what I was eating. I didn't put butter on my potatoes (although I did go for a little cheese. And bacon.) and I didn't feel full afterward. I call that a win.

And, now that I'm home, I feel like I'm coming down with a cold. It's always somethin', isn't it?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday (or, here's what's weighing on me)

So Saturday is the official weigh-in day. I am working hard at this. I want to lose the last 20 (or 40, or 50) pounds and just see what that's like. I am committed.

I worked hard last week. Monday was a rest day (not because it was scheduled, but because I left my sports bra at home.) Tuesday I did cardio dance (awesome!) Wednesday, I ran and took barbell class. Thursday, spin. Friday, swim and hot yoga. Saturday morning, I weighed 213.4 - only 1.2 down from the previous week.

I was so disappointed, because the night before when I weighed (which I shouldn't have but whatever) I was 210.6. That would've represented a four pound loss. Instead, I have to be content with 1.2.

And I am oka with it, honestly. A pound a week, over time, adds up. But I want that week that's a huge success. I want that four-pound loss. But is that sustainable? No. Not sensible either, and certainly not what I should expect. But man, for that one moment when that's what the scale said, I was so happy.

Soon, however, I will once again weigh what my drivers license says I weigh. And shortly after that, I'll stop obsessing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Open to change

So the nutrition plan started last week. Weigh-in happened on Saturday morning.


This is not a proud number. It is hard to own it, but it's not like I can hide it, so there you are. The good news is, this number represents a two-pound loss from the previous week. Two pounds is pretty significant, if you ask me!

So even though we're already mid-week, let's take a look at how last week went.

Nutritionally, I stuck to the plan. There were a few meals that I actually missed because I haven't been feeling well. Having no appetite meant I just napped through meals. This is not a lifestyle choice. I think it's important to say that missing meals is not a sign of disordered eating. I just really wasn't hungry, because I was (and I think I still am) fighting something. So Sunday through Friday, I eat six small meals a day, each three hours apart. Each must consist of a serving of protein and a serving of complex carbs. Sugar is cut considerably (trying for no food with more than two grams of sugar) and good fat (olive oil, nuts, avocado) are consumed in moderation.

I am not hungry following this plan, but I will admit that sometimes it's hard to get the food in every three hours. Right now, for example, I realized I'm 30 minutes late for second breakfast. But changing the way you eat, just like anything new, takes practice. I'll get there.

Workouts last week were outstanding. Here's how everything came together:

  • Monday: Two-mile run and barbell class. (This class kicks my ass.)
  • Tuesday: Rock the Funk class, an absolutely awesome high intensity cardio dance class. In 45 minutes, I burned 567 calories.
  • Wednesday: Three-mile run and barbell class. Between these two activities, I burned over 1,000 calories.
  • Thursday: I can't remember, so I must have taken a rest day. (Seriously, who forgets one week to the next?)
  • Friday: Easy swim, followed by a yoga clinic.
  • Saturday: One hour spin class, followed by weight training class (free weights this time).
  • Sunday: Rest day

Very pleased that I've added more strength training to the regimen. It is HARD. My barbell instructor is tough; she requires 15 pushups from each student before class begins. She suggests you lift as much as you can with good form. She is relentless, and this is exactly what I need. It's what I've gotten from Pam in Schaumburg over the years, and having that same attitude at the location closer to home means I get to give my body what it really needs.

I can feel myself getting stronger, and I am seeing changes in my face already. I'm much prettier when I get under 210; I might be close to that this week.

And that's where we stand. Saturday is weigh-in day once again. Fingers crossed; I believe I'm at the turning point. Swimsuit season is going to be awesome this year.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Turning the page

To say that my last post resonated with a lot of people is an understatement. Your messages and support have meant a helluva lot to me, and I can honestly tell you it makes me feel more capable to know you think I am. That's awesome. That's what friends do for me, and it matters.

Since that post, I've taken some important steps, and you'll begin to see the results right here. First, a friend of mine kindly offered to help me get my nutrition in line. Because I am not stupid, and because this person is a medical expert and (in my opinion, anyway) an elite athlete, I took her up on the offer. The way I eat is changing drastically.

The short of it is, I'm eating six small meals every day, with protein and complex carbs at every meal and veggies at at least two of 'em. Every three hours, food goes in my mouth hole. One day a week, I get to cheat. I feel consistently satisfied (but I'm not gonna lie; I am really looking forward to my cheat day!)

But here's the thing: the whole point is to fuel the inner athlete. When I began to consider this concept, everything changed.

I know that sounds crazy. The conversation happened on Saturday, and since then everything changed? Well, yeah. Because the way I think changed, everything changed. It's possible, friends.

When I started looking at food as fuel, I started thinking of myself as a being to be fueled. And I started working harder. Pushing my run pace from slow to less slow. Venturing into higher cardio zones. Lifting heavier weight (while keeping perfect form, natch). Finding the edges. Not taking no for an answer. Trying harder. Taking a ridiculously fun, awesome, exhausting and fabulous class (thanks, DT!)

In short, I've turned a page. I've always been relentless. Now, I'm sorta ... relentlesser. I gave up excuses for Lent, and now there's no turning back.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The whole point

So my last post seems to have resonated with more emotion and with more people than anything I've shared publicly before. I've spent a week trying to figure out why, and I'm finally content to just acknowledge that I touched a nerve with a lot of people. Because in some way, we're all on a quest to be a better version of ourselves.

And we all struggle, at some point along the way.

I think it's important to note that my post, in all its honesty, was not me being in a dark place, or feeling low at all. It was simply me, owning my baggage, letting it be real, and tearing it away to move on to what's next.

There is always something next.

Next, for me, is a process I'm figuring out. Two weeks ago, I was sound asleep, awaiting my fifth half marathon in a year's time. Now, I don't have a race of that distance coming up until October at the earliest. From here, anything is possible, and everything is a little daunting. For three years, I have had a Big Race to prep for. Now, it's just life. How does one go about prepping for just plain life after that?

I've determined one does that by first acknowledging that life is never "just plain." And second, by kicking ass.

I'll be kicking ass by adding more weight training, cycling and swimming to the regimen. I'll be spending the summer focusing on tri training, because the built-in cross-training is awesome. And finally, with the help of an amazing friend, I'm getting my nutrition in check. Her advice, in a nutshell, is to fuel the athlete that I am.

Instinctively, I wanted to laugh. And then I realized ... she's right. I am. I'm an athlete with big goals.  A bucket list I really can't afford but intend to complete anyway. And a deep desire to be that version of me I see beneath all the bullshit.

There is prevailing wisdom and some proof that when I get close to something I really want, I sabotage myself. I do it with weightloss, I've done it in my career, and some might say I did it in my marriage, too. But the truth is, that's not me. I've come too far, accomplished too much, to let myself down.

You're invited, as always, to come along for the ride as I figure all this out. But what I believe more strongly than anything else is this: the whole point is to be challenged by yourself. To face challenges head on. To wonder if its possible and then prove that it is. To acknowledge your age, your skill level (or lack thereof), your particular obstacles ... and then just crush 'em. To let nothing stand in your way.

Obstacles are there to be surpassed or destroyed. My inner saboteur is goin' down.

Friday, February 28, 2014

My own worst enemy

I think I should say at the very beginning, if you're not up for some brutal honesty, this is not the post for you. Shit's about to get real up in here, and mama's gonna bare her soul. If you can't handle the truth (with apologies to Jack), please click back. I won't be offended.

Okay, so everyone left reading (all two of you) is okay with harsh reality? Good. Here goes.

Since the holiday season, I have been at war with myself. Hating my body. Hating it. Upset that I let go of my fitness goals and, instead, ate Christmas. All of Christmas. Carrying 10 or so extra pounds that I can see in my face, my muffin top (which is more like a coffee cake these days), my chins, my hips, my feet. Oh, how I wish I were kidding.

Hate is a powerful thing. A destructive thing. So the more I have railed against myself, the worse I have felt. This, it seems, is a struggle I am not going to win this way. I have got to knock it off.

By way of illustration, here's a bit of what I mean. The girl is the same; hell, the outfit is virtually the same. I see huge differences, though.
Di, me, Linda and Shelly last November at the Wine & Dine Half 
At the Wine & Dine, I was at my pre-holiday weight. I felt capable, strong and (GASP!) pretty. It shows, in every possible way.
Me, after I finished the Wine & Dine
My finisher photo shows Proud Maggie! My smile is genuine. My chin is singular. I look happy. I had also run well, for a pokey gal like me. All in all, this was a great night and a great race.

Contrast that with Princess Half Marathon Weekend. I'm heavy. I'm unhappy with myself. And it shows. Well, maybe not in the first pic.

Kath, Carrie, Linda, the Mad Hatter, Raquel, me, Jenn and the Queen of Hearts at the Enchanted 10K
I actually like the above photo. I think it's funny that I look like I have only one leg, and I like the way I am wearing a fitted tank and a tutu, in bright colors, and yet I look better than I did the following day, while wearing black in a style that didn't fit quite so closely ... as evidenced below. Anyway, the one leg that shows looks strong!
Me, after I finished the Glass Slipper Challenge
Again, the girl is the same. Everything but the skirt is identical to what I wore in the Wine & Dine ... but those 10 (or is it 15?) pounds really show. To me, anyway. In the cheekbones, and the hips. 

Other than the photo with the Queen, above, I hate hate hate every photo from last weekend. Every. Single. One. The monologue in my head has gone something like this:

"Cow. Fat. Ugly. SHIT homely. It's a good thing you already have friends, because no one would talk to you if they just met you today. You are gross, unloveable, and really ugly. See? We have proof. Just look at the pictures, ugly girl."

My inner voices are cruel. 

Sometimes they are echoes of things that have been said to me in the past. The old saying about sticks and stones? Yeah, that's bullshit. Names hurt longer, folks, and they leave scars that no one sees.

But back to me in the here and now: this is not a war. You cannot win if you war against your body. And the thing is, so much of photographs is angles, lighting and under-eye concealer. It really isn't reality. It's just a moment in time, captured in a still image.

So do I have some work to do? Yeah. I have 10 pounds of holiday weight to relinquish, plus 20 or 30 more, before I can say that I've reached my goal. Progress is slow. It's hard. But if it were easy, everyone would be fit.

The thing is, I have to work on how I feel about myself in concert with the physical changes I need to make. I would NEVER talk to a friend the way I allow myself to talk to me! What's that about, anyway? It's time to let it go. It's time to stop being my own worst enemy and learn to be good to myself. 

I believe we are all beautiful, but it's easier to see in others. I think we should all try to see in ourselves what the people who love us see. It's worth a shot, don't you think?

Monday, January 13, 2014


Just a quick check-in to report my progress on adding more vegetables to the daily food.

For me, "veggies" mostly means "eat a salad." A big salad. So it's no surprise that I got most of my additional servings of vegetables that way. And no ... I don't hit it perfectly every time.

1/8: Had a large salad at the gym. I consider that thing three servings of vegetables; rough estimate, it's at least three cups of greens.

1/9: Had a big bowl of arugula with goat cheese with lunch. And that was it for the day, veg-wise. #fail

1/10: Had a MASSIVE salad, mostly vegetables, at our school salad bar.

1/11: Lunch with a friend was pizza ... topped with a mountain of mesclun. Honestly, it was really good.

1/12: Lots of carrots and onions with dinner, but not enough. #fail

1/13: So far today, I have had arugula with lunch, plus onion and artichoke hearts and beans - do beans count? Hell. I guess I don't even know how I'm doing today!

1/14: Not the best effort, but I did have a big helping of arugula with my lunch.

1/15: A true success! Had my greens at lunch, and then a big helping of broccoli with dinner. Each was about 1.5 servings, so I did it!

Ever forward. I will update this post as time goes on.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Wagon

This. But not.
It's a new year, and I have an old problem. It's a problem that's looks like my ass, sounds like heavy breathing, and smells like bacon. Yep - another January and I'm still carrying excess baggage.

I'm not going to make a resolution or an excuse. I'm just going to acknowledge it, and move on. Because only by moving on can I even begin to move beyond, and beyond is where I'm headed, my friend.

The road to health is not a simple, straight line. In fact, there is nothing simple about it at all. It's all peaks and valleys and fried dough, and I'm in it for the long haul. I'm here to remember where I came from, and to forge ahead with wild abandon. This year, like every year past, is mine.

Over the last week or so, a few friends have reached out to ask for my support. Can it be that my progress looks like success to others? Can it be that my progress actually is success? It's strange to think of myself in that way - successful. And I think it actually freaks me out. That's why, every time I get close to my goal, I cheeseburger myself right back into my fat genes.

Not this year. Not this ass. Not in 2014. Thank you, but no. This year, I'm going to give myself a new challenge each month, and I'm going to do my damnedest to reach every one of them. My plan is to follow Cooking Light magazines 12 Healthy Habits program. Hopefully, by the time I turn the calendar to 2015, I will have kicked my fear in the teeth and reached at least an intermittent weight loss goal.

So, for the remainder of January, I'm going to focus on vegetables; specifically, getting three servings a day. Fruit is easy, but veggies? That's a challenge. So let's see how this goes. (I predict there will be a lot of salad in my January.)

It isn't easy. If it were, everyone would be fit. But the truth is, even after an indulgent December, I haven't fallen so far off the wagon that I've lost the wagon entirely. I can hoist my ample thigh right back up onto that sucker, and ride off into the sunset.

Hopefully, in a smaller size.