Monday, February 13, 2012

13.16 in 3:16

Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. John 13:16

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Proverbs 3:16

I’ve never been a numbers person (which seems kind of silly since my job requires me to deal with numbers on a daily basis) until yesterday. Yesterday was amazing. Life-changing. Remarkable. Simply the best day I’ve had in a really really long time. For the first time in my life, I reached a HUGE goal that I set for myself and worked really hard to attain. I owe it to my hard work, dedication, support from family & friends, love, and most importantly, a lot of conversations with God. God showed up in big ways yesterday. Everyone knows that I ran the Mercedes Half Marathon yesterday. It’s been a goal of mine that has spent 10 years in the making and I am so proud to say that I’ve finally accomplished. I hate to compare my stats to that of the great Tim Tebow, but it’s completely ironic how numbers and God can present themselves in a way that cannot go unacknowledged.

I battled with shin splints in my last week of training. Luckily I’ve been surrounded by an amazing support system with some true professionals among the mix. Tape, ice and rest were my friends during the last week. Holly assured me that no training the week before was not going to affect my ability or fitness level. And I trusted her. I’ve never thought shin splints were anything to get to worked up over, but apparently I was wrong. To run with severe shin splints, you risk getting stress fractures in your tibia. Honestly though, even with that risk, as long as I crossed the finish line on Sunday, it was a risk I was willing to take. Stupid. Fortunately though, I can report that I felt strong for the entire race and other than some normal achilles tendon pain and arch pain for not wearing my orthotics, I felt great!! Even with some fatigue near the end, there wasn’t a moment that I felt like I couldn’t finish.

Let me first say that the Mercedes Marathon is a well thought out course that is extremely well organized. This year was completely sold out and in the Half Marathon alone, there were 4000 runners. Amazing. It was FREEZING COLD (literally), but there was no lack of volunteers. Every one of the 11 water stations and 3 or 4 GU stations along the way were full of people passing out water, Powerade, GU, bananas, oranges, and even at the end there was pickle juice and gummy bears. Those people were amazing. So here’s a breakdown of my miles as I remember them.

Mile 1, 2, & 3: Yes, I’m grouping these babies together because these 3 miles are the most difficult for me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am never more pressured to run fast than I am when I run with a large group of people. Holly had already prepped me prior to the race that we were running our pace. No one else’s. And we did great. Even though I HATE the first 3 miles, I felt good. Never once did I question why I was doing it, which is a huge feat. The infamous balloon lady hugged and kissed me as I wrapped up mile 3 and congratulated me on my first half. It was so encouraging. We also met our friend we dubbed, GU-and-Go Guy, who kept me entertained the entire way with his quick wit and super speedy walk. He educated me about the taste of “papercup water” and how yellow powerade was a once a year kind of drink for him. At mile 3 he was ready for GU and once he got it, he was gone.  We also came a long the “Soul Sisters” who later dubbed Holly and I as their “benchmark” for the race which meant that as long as they were within eyesight of us, they knew they were keeping their pace.

Mile 4, 5, & 6: I. FELT. FANTASTIC!! I was super chatty, which I’m sure Holly was not used to. I was warmed up and ready to run! We cut through my old stomping grounds at UAB and I was able to talk about a few of the buildings that were part of my every day 7 years ago: Campbell Hall, The Education Building, The Allys Robinson Stephens Center, my old dorm room at Rast Hall. It was so good to reminisce and share. Another great feature of the Mercedes this year was the “track your runner” via text. they had 3 different chip readers a long the way that would send texts to your family so they would know where you were and how your pace was. At mile 5 my mom got the text that I was on target to finish up in a 3:09 time frame. Way fast for me! But proof that I was feeling good!

Mile 7, 8, & 9: Oh the Hills! Not quite as diabolical as they were once described to me and Holly, but this is where our climb began. I still felt great, but there were moments when I questioned why it was so difficult and it wasn’t until we got a major downhill that I realized that I had been climbing the entire time. Those hills were tricky and played a lot on my psychological health at this point in the race. Another amazing thing happened at about mile 8. We were lapped by the first place runner in the Marathon. Can we say FAST? The guy had his own entourage. A police SUV in the front and a police SUV in the rear and his own personal cyclist to accompany him. 5 minute miles. He was running so fast that I couldn’t even cheer him on before he was gone. I was enthralled. That was the moment the marathoners stole me heart. They were incredibly inspiring. Until you witness it for yourself, you can’t even imagine. I made sure that I cheered on every marathoner that passed me until I crossed the finish line myself.

Mile 10, 11, 12 & 13: Fatigue. Mile 10 was the last of our downhills, and uphills for that matter. I remember it being a beautiful mile. All of the history in the homes and parks of this mile were very prominent. Mile 11, 12, and 13 were flat and I learned that I’m pretty slow on a flat surface. No uphill to make me work, and no downhill to give me ease. Flat surface is all you. I was tired. Parts of my body were wearing down and I could feel it, but I still felt strong enough. I just kept pushing. Every step was a step closer. The marathoners that were passing me by and the volunteers holding motivational signs gave me the fuel I needed. One sign I remember most distinctly was a huge “Hello, my name is:” sticker/poster. It read: “Hello, my name is: Perfect Stranger. I’m proud of YOU!” God, it was good and needed.

Mile 13.1: The easiest part. Adrenaline made me run it through. I saw my husband at my first turn into the chute. I blew him a kiss. He gave me that extra push. And just as I neared the finish line, I saw my family. My girls. My mom. My step dad. My mother-in-law. They mean the world for being there with me at such a pivotal moment in my life. I am forever grateful for their love and support.

Holly and I spent the weekend in Birmingham making the most out of my first Half Marathon. We talked a lot about our struggles, our triumphs, learning from others’ mistakes and learning from our own. I feel like in a lot of ways this weekend was somewhat of a graduation for me. We have literally spent every week for the past 7 months preparing for my achievement yesterday. I have made some amazing friends along the way and inspired a few of my own. I will NEVER forget my journey with Holly. And even though she’s setting me free to conquer new goals on my own and given me the tools and knowledge to be a success, I know she’ll always be there if and when I need her. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m not giving up.

So, this is my Thanksgiving. God chose to give me life and I’m here to live it. Not only live it, but make the most of it, respect it, and take care of it. I am no greater than my creator, but I am forever grateful for the life I’ve been given by Him. For the love. For the support. For the chances. For the opportunity. This is the Legacy I will leave behind.

Me and Holly Post Race.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Great Weight

You win (gain) some, you lose some. We all know how this story goes. If you have 20 lbs. to lose or 120 lbs. to lose, you been here. No matter how hard you try, you can never quite get it all off and be “perfect.” How can 3 numbers drive us so crazy? Why do they control us so much? Every morning I step on the scale, I step off the scale, I step on the scale again, I step off again, I step on again, I step off again. And I pick my favorite out of the 3 (Yes, I know I need a new scale). And let’s not forget that your bladder must be empty and all clothes must be removed. Don’t lie, you’ve done it before too. ;) It’s an obsession and it’s almost as unhealthy as the weight itself.  What we have to sit back and realize is that the number on the scale does not define who we are. It should never restrict you from the things that you want to do. It is not always an indicator of bad OR good health!

Let me just put it out there. I need to lose about 100 pounds to reach my “medically recommended” weight. However, I don’t have diabetes, I don’t have high blood pressure, the doctor says my cholesterol is “excellent”, no signs of arthritis, and the number of times I went to the doctor in the past 3 years for any sort of cold/cough/infection: 1 time. The only number that I have that is significantly raised is my weight. I’m the healthiest fat person I know! No, I’m not content with my weight. I obsess! I am fully aware that I’m not guaranteed that it will be this way forever. Other than my weight, yes I’m healthy. As I’ve started running, I’ve realized that in order to continue and pick up my pace and endurance, the weight has to come off.  Diets never work for me, so when I started running, I told myself that weight loss was not the main product, it’s just a feature. Instead of weight loss goals, I’ve set race goals. And it’s working. Setting these types of goals makes me accountable. Of course I’ve learned along the way that even if you’re running, the weight will not fall off unless you are also maintaining a pretty healthy diet. By shifting my focus on running and everything about running, I am slowly weening myself off of my drug of choice: food. Running has saved my life in so many ways. It’s given me my sanity back, allowed me to be exposed to a whole new realm of opportunities and ideas, taught me how to focus, taught me a little more about patience, introduced me to some very amazing people, and yes, even put me on a better road to life-long health. Losing weight takes time. Running keeps me busy while I’m waiting for the weight to come off, and if I keep running it might not seem like the wait is that long or the weight is that much. ;) And one day I’m sure I’ll be able to step on the scale and be in awe instead of obsession.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Resolutionary War

I did my typical Tuesday routine today- went straight to the YMCA after work to get some time in on the treadmill and focus some time on my new venture of conquering the evil “Summit Climber” machine. Even though I spend most of my Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Cardio Room all by my lonesome, I knew today was going to be different. So I came prepared. Imagine me. Walking into this crowded workout room. The treadmills are roaring, the ellipticals are moving elliptically, and the stationary bikes are stationarily moving. And I’m decked out in every piece of running paraphernalia I could get my hands on. No mam. No sir. I was not going to be confused with the resolutioners in that room. I might not be a professional, but it was definitely not my first day at the rodeo. So me and my Turkey Burner 5K tech shirt, Garmin watch, Road ID, BIC Band in my hair, water bottle in my hand, and earphones in my ears, made our way to the only available treadmill, nestled in and started our workout. And then I tried Zumba for the first time ever and completely blew my cover. No matter how much stuff you have strapped to you to make yourself look like a seasoned pro, the magic is in your motion. Zumba moves cannot be imitated or replicated if you have 2 left feet and the inability to count to 8. These 2 things alone will scream amateur every time.

My husband called me a “New Year’s Scrooge” today, and there’s some truth to that. A lot of truth. Sure, I love midnight on December 31st when I get to kiss my husband and thank God for all the blessing I had over the past year, but I cringe when someone says “Happy New Year!” or “Have a happy New Year!” or the even more awful “See you next year” on December 31st. When is the year no longer new? Last year people were still telling me “Happy New Year” in February. Maybe they knew it rubbed me the wrong way or maybe they just didn’t realize the year is no longer new after about the 2nd week in January in my opinion. New Year’s resolutions have never really been my style. I’m the queen of procrastination, but I’ve never had the patience to put something off until the first of the following year. If I think I want to change something about myself and it strikes my fancy in the middle of, let’s say, June, I’ll start my change then. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I get the whole New Year’s resolution gig. New Year. Clean slate. Fresh start. Any day you decide to make a change about yourself for the better is a good day in my books, but if you can’t do it now, don't feel bad and certainly don’t think you have to wait until next year just because you missed the Weight Watcher’s sale or the discounted membership fee at your local gym. Changes don’t always have to occur on January 1st. You can make a change at any time in your life. And that’s the beauty of it.

So, as much as it pains me to say it, Happy New Year y’all! (Bah Humbug!)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mission: Mercedes

Did I ever tell you that I run a mean 15 minute mile?

That’s right. You’re impressed, aren’t you? Well, let me go ahead and say I AM! I started this running journey 5 months ago and when I took my first jog, I could only jog for 30 seconds at a time. That’s right. I couldn’t even keep up with the first week of the Couch to 5K program. But you know what? Today, almost exactly 5 months later to the day, I can run for 30 minutes straight (maybe even longer, but the treadmill and it’s 30 minute time limit cut me off before I could figure that out for you). And let me just say that I’m proud of that 30 minutes. It shows progression, determination, and most importantly it shows integrity. I’m on a mission. Any day I don’t step on the treadmill or park trail when I’m scheduled to, is a day I keep myself from reaching my goal.

My goal?
Mercedes Half Marathon 2012. 

Why the Mercedes Half?
Because 10 years ago, I had the privilege of taking care of a set of triplets who benefited from the Bell Center in Homewood, AL. And I watched their mother push them across the finish line after completing the 2003 Mercedes Half Marathon. And it was inspiring. Not because she just ran 13.1 miles, but because of what she endured to get to the start line. Without going into great detail about these precious babies, this mother had been through a lot. With everything she had been through in the 2 years prior to running this half, she still managed to find a way to pay it forward, to do it for her children, and to do it for herself. This race is very near and dear to my heart, and making it my inaugural half marathon is icing on the cake. It gives me the same opportunity to do what this mother did: pay it forward, do it for children, and do it for myself.

Holly gave me an assignment earlier this month to figure out why I wanted to run this Half. So here it is Holly. :) In everything that you do, do it with purpose, believe in the mission, and believe in yourself. Even if you’re not the best at what you do, you can still have a major impact on the end result. And if you have the integrity it takes to get the job done, you will always come out on top.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Race Report: The 12Ks of Christmas (and 5K too!)

Nice to be running the longer of the 2 runs offered today and it was definitely the most ideal weather to run in. Wetumpka had a few community events going on and the energy was great! Holly and I met up at a little after 8 and went through packet pickup, pinned our numbers, took a few pre race pictures and we were ready to run at 9! The horn blew and we were off! I am never as pressured to run fast as I am when I’m with so many other runners. It’s unreal. And I’ve accepted the fact that I’m slow, but I just can’t conquer the urge to push my pace. With this being my longest run to date (yes, Holly, longest run to date), I knew I needed to save it. While I wish I could break this down in to a mile by mile blog, I can’t. I was in charge of intervals, Holly was in charge of distance. And even though she says she told me when we were at mile 3, 4, and 5, I only remember her telling me about mile 5 and even then it made me wish I hadn’t wished to hear it. We treated this run as a normal training day, so we ran/walked 2/1 intervals. I’m going to break this down into beginning, middle, and ending.

The Beginning: It was pretty uneventful. There was a hill or two, but only 1 really made me work harder than I’m accustomed to. We had other runners around us pretty much the entire time because the 12K and the 5K runners didn’t break apart until about mile 2ish. When we were at the point where 12s turned right and 5s went straight, the friendly volunteer directed us in the 5K direction, which, I’m not going to lie, kind of stings. I guess most women my size normally take the shorter distance. But you know, I turned right and kept running. I’m not normal. ;)

The Middle: The middle is kind of fuzzy. I drank A LOT during the first 3 miles. Running felt good, but walking felt tingly. We took our nutrition break at about mile 3.5 on the fly which took me a minute longer than it should have. I learned today that GU Chomps are probably going to be my fuel of choice from this point on because Holly says that I treated the regular GU like it was a leisurely snack. I’m not going to say it exactly like she did, because it might hurt your feelings too. ;) We laughed about this after the race. Anyhow....Holly sang me songs....Quad City DJ’s “The Train” was my personal favorite, but I really did miss the Luverne and Shirley Theme Song. It’s so perfect for these occasions....I kid you not!

The End: I got a little overheated and started to feel a little squishy. Yes, squishy. Holly says I turned yellow? So she made me eat 4 chomps even though I really only wanted to eat 2. And you better believe I gobbled those babies down in record timing. I remember asking her if we were getting in the way of the Wetumpka Christmas Parade (the race started at 9 and the parade didn’t start until 3). I was obviously delusional and feeling internal pressure to get my tail moving towards that finish line. I remember turning the corner and seeing the infamous Wetumpka bridge and I was happy because that meant the end was near. We ran to the top, took advantage of the photo opp, and ran the rest of the way down. We came to the end of the bridge and I knew we were close because City Hall was just a few blocks away. I was pumped! And then we hung a the trail the runs along the Coosa. It was pretty, but I was done with pretty. Holly says I yelled out loud, “WHAAAT?!?!” and proclaims this as her favorite part. So I just go with it....kicking and screaming. I said “I can’t” a few times in this stretch and learned that it is a trigger phrase for Evil Holly. She literally grabbed my hand and dragged me the rest of the way through the park. I told her I was going to throw up, but she didn’t care. So here’s a tip: when you say you can’t finish when your a stone’s throw away from the finish line, it’s too late. As we crested the hill towards the finish line, I wanted to walk so bad, but there were so many people still there cheering for us! Pulling us in. Reminding us that this is the best part of the entire race! So we ran our way in, and I felt every step like I was going in slow motion. And when I crossed that finish line....
Disclaimer: What you are about to read might not be for people with weak stomachs, but if you are interested in things people don’t always tell you about running, the ugly on.....

I covered my mouth, made a bee line for the trash can and I puked my brains out. Yep. They say this happens and it’s normal. Most runners do this at some point. Everyone coaxed me through it and won my heart at that moment. Runners are great people. I hugged all the great people volunteering at that race that cheered us in until the minute we crossed the finish line. Props to About-Time-Events for putting on a great run and not giving up on me. Props to Evil Holly, because if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t have finished. 

So, my results?
I finished.
Yes, I was last.
Yes, I puked.
Yes, it sucked.
Yes, I’d do it again.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Running is for Cavemen!

Yes, those were my exact words back in July of this year. Running has never been something I aspired to do or felt that I needed to do....or at least that’s what I thought, until I met Holly.

Holly stepped into my office in April or May 2011. She had just moved to the Montgomery area from the DC area. I was telling her about all the different things to do in the area. And at this time, I was reaaaalllllyyyy into biking. Okay, not THAT into it.....let me be honest. Biking was new to me, so I wasn’t as into it as I was excited about it. It was a new hobby of mine....seriously. My longest ride to this date is still only 23 miles. I was proud of it then and still am to some extent. But hearing about people riding centuries and 300Ks and riding across country make my 23 miles seem like a leisurely ride around the neighborhood. Back to the story: I offered up the usual suggestions to Holly: go to a Biscuits game, kayaking, Shakespeare....and then I did something I’ve never done before. I shared a part of my life with a stranger! I said (and I quote!), “And if you’re into biking, you should join the Montgomery Bicycle Club!” How odd is that? Not everyone’s into biking and even if they are, they might not be THAT into it....or as excited about it as I was at the time! But without a pause, Holly whips out an envelope addressed to the Montgomery Bicycle Club and proclaims that her next stop was the post office to drop off her membership application and club dues! We did as everyone does these days and friended each other on Facebook. And the rest is history. :) Well, not really....

Fast forward to July: Holly suggested that we go for a bike ride sometime and of course I said yes and also jokingly countered her to teach me how to run. And she agreed. And I really had no idea what I was asking for. Once I settled into the idea of starting a running regimen, I thought about how running would be a great way to kick off losing the extra 100 pounds I’ve been carrying around for the past 5 years. (And let me tell you now, Rome was definitely not built in a day because I’m still sitting here 5 months later with more of me than I thought would still be here at this point in the game. But it hasn’t discouraged me. My goals aren’t only to lose weight here. But it sure would make running a lot easier)
:) And you don’t know this yet, but I’m going to go ahead and say it out loud so I don’t have to hide it anymore: I am a chicken and new things make me a little nervous, I had to express my concerns to Holly before we started: shin splints, losing toe nails, what to wear and where to get it, long runs and getting lost, etc. You know....the usual things that worry you when you embark on something new and foreign. And of course all these things were foreign....they were things I had only read about....not anything I had actually experienced and quite frankly, they were somewhat mythical. So, we met at Starbucks early one Sunday morning and went over these things in great detail. Next on the agenda was to get me fitted for running shoes, because according to Holly, my 4 year old New Balances just weren’t going to cut it and with the thought of losing a toe nail still fresh on my mind, I quickly agreed. So I bought a nice pair of Asics. A pair of shoes I feel like I can do anything in, might I add. And I started my journey on July 31.

I’m not going to go in great detail about each and every workout we had. But we worked hard and when it got easier, we made it harder. And when it got too hard, we took a step back and reevaluated. We set the date for my first 5K on October 1st. And that’s when my perception about running changed. I’m not going to lie and say that running comes easy....or fun....or quick. For me anyways. But I will tell you that there is no greater feeling than the feeling of accomplishment. It’s pride. It’s encouragement. It’s dedication. Knowing that I put in the time. Knowing that I didn’t give up because it was hard or because it wasn’t always fun. Knowing that a race for me is not a race against anyone other than myself. Realizing that the hardest part of this journey is not getting to the finish line because the finish line is fun and full of relief. The hardest part of my journey is stepping up to the start line.

I don’t need a dinosaur chasing me to get me running anymore. I just need to find the start line.

So welcome to my world. This is only the beginning. :)