M is for Monday, Mean Ladies, and Mindfulness

No Mud, No Lotus. —Thich Nhat Hanh I hadn’t gone running in a few days, so the fact that it was Monday today had slipped my mind this morning when I headed out to my favorite trail. I was more … Continue reading

Post-Race Update

I finished my first ever half marathon on Saturday at approximately 10:40 a.m., in about two hours and ten minutes (give or take a couple of minutes—my Nike app and the race clock had a minor disagreement). I ran well—much better than I anticipated—and was astonished by my times. I exceeded my expectations by at least a minute a mile and so finished the race at least 13 minutes faster than I expected to. And I ran happy! There are pictures to prove it, thanks to The Little Woman and my pal April who were strategically placed along the course (i.e. volunteering) and could take my picture as I passed their stations.

Mile 2.5

Mile 2.5–looking happy!

But what has amazed me even more than my time and finishing the race is the sheer outpouring of support from my family and friends, both in real life and on Facebook. I realize that I’ve been engaging in some serious shameless self-promotion and have felt slightly bad about it. I go back and forth in my thinking about why I feel bad—I think part of it is how I was raised (sorry mom and dad—you’re always on the hook):  to not be prideful, to not draw attention to ourselves, to not brag. And then there’s the me of now, the me that has learned to ask for support, to reach out and make connections with community.

Four years ago I couldn’t have imagined ever, ever, ever running. I mean, I ran when I was in high school and into my early twenties, but once I had kids and then a job, exercise took a back seat to just getting by. The Little Woman and I used to laugh at the runners we saw on the side of the road as we sped by in our car on our way to Saturday morning breakfast. Then middle age set in, and we realized something had to shift if we were going to move into old age with any sort of grace (and longevity).

Mile 6.5. Still happy!

Mile 6.5. Still happy!

Long story short, here we are, entering footraces on our weekends, becoming those runners at whom we used to laugh. But even at that, running a 5K seemed doable while running 13.1 miles, well that just seemed crazy. Who would want to run 13.1 miles for fun? And then I had this amazing six months in which I was able to focus on going to school and running. Throw in a little anxiety and I found myself in the perfect position to perfect my running. Without really even trying, I ran 90 miles in January, then 80 in February, and once I realized what I was capable of, my competitive juices started flowing and the race (so to speak) was on. Each month I ran more miles. I became hooked on my stats—miles run, times, splits, averages. I’ve racked up close to 800 miles so far this year.

I started losing weight and getting faster. I made friends with other runners. We started running together on the weekends and then on weekday mornings. When I didn’t feel like crawling out of bed, I knew I had someone waiting for me. This support thing really works. The turning point for me came in April, at the run to raise money for the victims of the Oso mudslide. I went out with the goal of running those six miles in an hour. I finished with a personal record of 56 minutes and came in third in my age group. Things got completely out of hand from there.

Last month when I registered for the Chuckanut Footrace and the Windhorse Half Marathon on back-to-back weekends, I wondered if I’d lost my mind, but I just kept going out each morning and putting in the miles. I listened (sort of) to my friends about what I should do the week before the half, and I did my best to taper. I struggled to back off the week before the race, because as I’ve written previously, running makes me happy. It’s how I deal with my anxiety (returning to school at 51, not working, changing careers, being an erstwhile writer/poet). I live for mile three when the endorphins kick in. I am endorphin dependent, I’ll admit it.

Almost finished--happy, but determined.

Almost finished–happy, but determined.

I needn’t have worried. I had great support, great training, great advice beforehand. The Little Woman was at the halfway point handing out water and cheering me on. And she was at the finish line to hang the medal around my neck. My buddy April was at mile 2.5 and 10.5 (on the way back) pointing me in the right direction. My friend Cami was at the start and finish line organizing the race and providing inspiration. And all of you, Dear Readers, were out here in cyberspace rooting for me as well. Thank you all. It takes a village.

I’m ready for the next challenge. Bring it on and run happy!

All done. Really, seriously happy.

All done. Really, seriously happy (and sweatier than I have ever been in my life).

Running Happy

Happy Before Pic

Happy Before Pic

Tomorrow morning at 8:30, I am running my first ever half marathon (my friend Cami puts on The Windhorse Half Marathon each year–read about it here). I’ve never run more than 11 miles, so this is a new adventure, one that I’ve been working up to for the past few months (though not really on purpose). Since January, I’ve logged nearly 700 running miles, and last Saturday I completed the Chuckanut Foot Race which is a little more than half of the run I’ll be doing tomorrow—the same basic route, only tomorrow I’ll have to run back.

chuckanutfootrace pic face

Really, I’m happy!

My running buddy and friend April has a sticker on the back of her car that says Run Happy. I love this sticker because running makes me happy. Not that anyone who sees my Chuckanut Footrace race photo would know this fact. In fact, if I do a quick review of recent race photos, I don’t look happy at all. Not while I’m running. I look happy before and after, but the pictures of me actually running definitely paint a more dire picture. I look like I’m expecting the world to end. No one would have any idea that my mind has been occupying a very happy place as the miles unfurl beneath my winged feet.

A few months ago, an acquaintance saw me running at my usual morning running spot. I grunted in her general direction as I ran past, maybe managed to give her a little wave, and continued on my way, focused on the task at hand, i.e. running. When I saw her later in the week, she asked me if I’d been running under a little black cloud that morning because I seemed “dark” when she saw me. I thought about that comment for a moment. “Yeah, I guess,” I said, “some days I feel like the windshield, some days like the bug. Today, I was the bug.” I shrugged and forgot about our conversation. Until I saw her on the trail again a couple of weeks later—then I made a concerted effort to smile. I didn’t want her to think I ran under a dark cloud. I love running—it makes me happy even though it sometimes hurts.

Happy?

Happy?

One of the things I love about my favorite running trail is that for the most part, the regulars are a friendly bunch. Most of the folks I see regularly smile and wave. Some say good morning. I smile and wave back. I try to remember to smile and make eye contact when someone comes my way. One of the reasons I run the trail clockwise is because most people run counter clockwise—I can see more people this way, and fewer people run past me. I startle easily when other, faster, runners pass me from behind. I’ve run other trails, but have yet to encounter such a consistently cheerful bunch of morning exercisers.

Just this morning as I was walking around the lake (I couldn’t stay away—my morning routine has become, well, my morning routine. I didn’t run though—being in taper mode—I just walked one time around), one of the regulars stopped me to tell me how she had noticed how much weight I’d lost in the past few months. Wow. I was touched, amazed actually, that she would reach out like that, but that’s what running has become for me—connection: with strangers, with friendly faces, with a community.

Running makes me happy—happy enough that I’m going to lace up my shoes and run 13.1 miles tomorrow.

Happy!

Happy!

 

 

 

 

G is for Gym (will make more sense if you read E and F first)

About four years ago, I joined some work colleagues and started hitting the gym three to four mornings a week. I didn’t change my eating habits right away, and in fact, one of my mantras about working out was that I was working out so I could eat and drink beer, so that I wouldn’t have to change much.

I did not ever think I would be one to get up at 4:30 in the morning in order to be at the gym by 5:30 so I could be to work by 7:30, but there I was, generally, Tuesday through Friday, in my shorts, sweating before the sun came up. I loved that each morning was a different workout—Fridays we did yoga, Thursdays was spin class, Wednesdays power (weights), and Tuesdays cardio—lots of stepping and moving.

The changes were not dramatic—I didn’t lose a lot of weight, but the small shifts motivated me to continue, and, ironically, I began to want to eat differently. When I went out with friends after work—and I went out often—I became more conscious about my choices, drank fewer beers, ate less fried food, more salads. I started eating breakfast.

My clothes fit better, and for me, there’s nothing more reinforcing than clothes that fit. I dropped a pants size.

And then I moved back home—I changed jobs and took one closer to home, one that wouldn’t require me to live in another city during the week. I stopped going to the gym because I was now leaving for work at 5:30 a.m. and not getting home until after 5:30 p.m. For six months I just went to work and came home. And the pounds started piling back on.

I was miserable, and when a friend on Facebook offered to pay half of a membership to anyone who wanted to join her gym, I jumped at the chance. I didn’t care if I had to go straight from work to working out—something had to change. Again. My friend’s gym turned out to be a sort of cross-fit, extreme fitness kind of place, a far cry from the kinder, gentler yoga/spin/cardio gym I’d left behind. But I was desperate, and I gave it all I had.

I crawled across the floor using only my arms, dragging a weight with my feet. I perfected my 24” vertical jump. I tried and tried to do a pull up. I even tried to climb a rope. I ran and did burpees, lifted weights, threw tires, swung kettlebells, played tug of war, lunged, squatted, pushed up, crunched, kicked, ran hills, did stairs. And again, the pounds came off.

While I was at the gym, The Little Woman started running class, and pretty soon, I—who had sworn off running—started running with her. Eventually, we were running 5 Ks together. We went from being the people who laughed at the runners at running events on Saturday mornings, to being the runners at running events on Saturday mornings. I dropped the gym membership.

In the past two years, I seem to have reached an equilibrium between exercise and eating. And while many friends have opted for diets (paleo, skinny bitch, cabbage soup, grapefruit, blood type, hormone, Weight Watchers), I’ve just kept running. Running works for me—the more I run, the better I want to eat. I’m still not pulling up to a plate of vegetables at dinnertime, but neither am I eating unconsciously anymore.

I wouldn’t say I’m exactly ambivalent about food, and I certainly do enjoy eating whatever TLW whips up when she’s home to cook (she’s now working away from home during the week). The trick seems to be in Gaining awareness, Getting perspective, and Going the distance. G is not so much for Gym anymore for me, at least, as it is for Go. As in Ready. Set.