Thursday, December 31, 2009

Welcome to my life, 2010

Today we all stand at one of those interesting places in life, somewhere that is at once both the end and the beginning. While you might be able to mark a few events in the course of your life as simultaneously an ending and a beginning, it's usually only in retrospect that you recognize it. Today is rare because we all know it as it's happening.

While not one who usually believes in looking backward, only forward, the thought that came into my head early this morning was that I wasn't sure if I was ready for 2009 to end. This has been a great year. If you'll excuse me for saying so, it has been MY year. No matter what happens in the future, I know I'll always look at 2009 as an amazing 365 days. It has been a year filled with more emotion, more smiles, more laughter, struggle, triumph, determination, support, appreciation, sweat, accomplishment and love than any of the 25 years I've lived before it. Whether it was hard or easy, I've enjoyed every single day of this year (which would be more accurately defined as a journey), and even more so from this vantage point, looking back at it all. I started somewhere so much different than where I ended up. This year has given me so much. I’m not sure I really want to leave the year of Me behind.

Yet what I realized after thinking about this for a few minutes took my worries away. 2009 didn't give me anything. I took from 2009. Everything will come with me into 2010. And, like 2009, 2010 has no innate gifts to offer. It will have good moments and bad moments, too. It's up to me to take from the next 365 days everything that I want; to achieve goals, to laugh harder, smile easier, worry less, love more, run faster, be stronger. Standing at the end of a year in which I reached out and grabbed every fabulous moment I could....well, that's actually a great feeling. Will 2010 be better? I don't know, but I know that it could be, and I know that how wonderful it will be rests largely on my shoulders. And if it's up to me, then it's going to be. Plus I'll be ringing in the new year in a pair of insanely fabulous silver sequined heels, hand in hand with a guy that outshines the sparkliest of shoes, so I know I'll be off to a good start.

As ‘09 draws to a close, I’m reminded of the wise words of my dad when I told him about my blog & the tri nearly a year ago: “You can do it if you put your mind and body to it, which you are and will. It won't be easy, but what things are in life that test a person?” I know that I am capable of anything and ready to welcome what the next year has to offer.

I’m reminded of the infinite wisdom of Miley Cyrus, whose words always ring true:
“There’s always gonna be another mountain/I’m always gonna wanna make it move/Always gonna be an uphill battle/Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose/Ain’t about how fast I get there/Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side/ It’s the climb.” I know that I am ready to enjoy every great moment that will come to be in the year ahead.

I’m reminded of a Hallmark card that I love-- I don't think I could say it any better or simpler than this, or I would try: "This is the beginning of another 365 day journey around the sun. Enjoy the ride." I know that I am looking forward to the adventure.

So goodbye, 2009. I'll never forget you.
Bring it on, 2010. I am so, so, so ready for you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Seven

It's probably fitting that my first 5k since the triathlon was on a cold, windy, rainy Sunday morning in October, the kind where, if it was possible, you'd wake up, look outside, and go back to bed. I think it's fitting because it really takes determination and commitment to want to run in such weather (and to watch others run in that weather- thanks Mom, Dad & James!). And determination and commitment to running is something that's fallen a little by the wayside for me in the past few months.

I'll level with you. I've gained 7 pounds since the triathlon. Seven. Two or three I would be ok with. Seven I'm not. But guess what? I totally deserve the seven pounds. My gym visits have been sporadic, my eating habits have gotten worse. If I gain any more weight I'll be disappointing myself. The great thing is, I feel like I learned enough in the past ten months or so to know exactly how to get back on track. And getting back on track means, in part, running a 5k.

Besides that, this 5k was a significant one because it was the first one my brother and I were running together. I talked a LOT of smack all summer long about how I would leave him in the dust come race day. Even as I was saying it, I kinda knew it was baloney- my brother being a natural athlete, he has things going for him that I never will. But the smack-talking continued nonetheless. And then it dropped off somewhere around September. I'm not normally one to run my mouth, and I think I just ran out of steam. That, and I realized it was all fluff anyway. My brother said that I would probably beat him, or we could at least run together during the 5k, which was also baloney, whether he knew it or not.

'Cause let me tell you, once the horn blew and the race started, I saw my brother for about 45 seconds before he disappeared into the crowd of runners ahead. Way ahead. Waaaaaaaaay ahead. I didn’t see him again til the finish line. Not only that, but I was in this weird place within the pack where there weren’t many people I could see right ahead of me, and I could see no one behind me. Nervousness started weighing me down more than my rain-soaked clothing was. Was I last? This has always been my fear, and in this race, it was more possible than ever— the horrible weather weeded out the novice and spur-of-the-moment runners (and probably the sane ones, too) so the number of people in the race was small. And, I figured these were dedicated, good, solid runners who were RUNNERS. I still have moments where I feel like I pretend to be a runner by running, and that’s what fools people. But an ACTUAL runner? Still go back and forth on that one.

Thankfully, I was not last. By the time I got to the finish line (at 37:30, a time that’s painful for me to admit. But on the bright side, I ran the whole thing besides a quick walk at the water station, so yay for me!) my brother had already been there for seven whole minutes. He could have been in his car, headed home to take a shower, put on dry clothes, and try to forgive me for what I had just put him through. But, of course, he joined the cheering squad at the finish line that was quite enthusiastically (given the cold, rainy conditions they had just spent 37 and a half minutes standing in) waiting for me to cross the finish line.

The next day, I felt like it did after my first 5K- meaning every movement I made caused my body to ache. That’s what I get for taking so much time off. And I’m sure I’m going to be feeling it again a week from today. I’ll be running a 4.748 mile race on Thanksgiving morning with my mom, brother, Lola, James and some friends. Oh, and about 10,000 other people. It’s going to be the longest, biggest race I’ve ever done. Despite my seven pounds, you better believe I will not feel bad later that afternoon when I have an extra helping of stuffing and a super long nap on the couch.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The bee is back!

I guess I couldn't stay away for too long. Writing, like running, is a cleansing thing for me. And maybe you're wondering....what happened next? And I hope I don't disappoint.

But truth is, what happened next is an unwinding. Relaxation. Rest. Recovery. I needed it. To focus so intently on a goal for so long, to be physically and mentally moving so constantly, to remove all distractions and never waver...it's exhausting. It was a phenomenal feeling of accomplishment to cross the finish line. And then I needed to not be doing it anymore. Just for a little while.

When I crossed that finish line I was a different person than the day I signed up for the race. Achieving everything you've set out to achieve is as awe-inspiring as it is humbling. Somehow, by the time I crossed that line, everything else in my life had fallen into place. Some things had changed drastically, others hadn't changed at all. But my outlook on everything had changed- so therefore, everything was different. Everything was better.

And, perhaps one of the most mystifying things of all- in the midst of all of this, in the midst of not trying, of not thinking about dating, of not wanting to date, of being happy being just me- I met the greatest guy. By the time I crossed that finish line I was falling in love. And that was the one thing I didn't really dream would actually happen. But somehow, by making other things happen- things for me happen- that happened, too.

I know that it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gotten myself to a good place. My mom once told me that I had to focus on myself, on what I wanted, what made me happy, before I could ever hope to find a good relationship. Honestly, at the time, I thought she was missing the point- she had no idea what it felt like to be me, 26 and single for years, when she, at 26, was married and pregnant with me. Oh boy, I should have known better. As I think I've said before, my mom is smart and pretty much always right. Despite knowing that, I brushed off her comments at the time. But I never forgot the conversation we had, and I've since realized that she was right.

There are some things in life, like completing a triathlon, that you can work towards, and, through lots of hard work and effort, achieve. There are other things, like love, that you just can’t. You just have to get yourself to a place where you’ll be ready for it, should it come into your life. Without knowing it, I wasn’t ready before. And then, also without knowing it, I was. And love walked in.

Believe me, I’m well aware of how cliched and storybook-ending that sounds. And I don't care, because it's what happened. Cliches are cliches for a reason- because they're true more often than not, and there is no such thing as a storybook-ending and I'm well aware of that. (
Ok, that's not quite true- I'll always hold out for the storybook ending. My version of the storybook, that is). The point is...well, there’s lots of points, aren’t there? But ultimately, it's just like I said in the beginning- it's all in how you look at things. It's that complicated, and it's that simple. It's still pretty emotional for me when I think about the past nine or so months- how far I've come, how hard I've worked, how happiness came once I stopped trying so hard to have it.

Somewhere in this period of recovery came another realization. While I needed to slow down, I really don't want to lose my momentum, I don't want to stop here. I decided I want to do the triathlon again next year- and I still don't really know if I can pinpoint why. I just do. And so I will. Isn't that how it's always worked? I know that, moving forward, I want and need more of a balance between this and everything else. Before, it consumed me, and that was a good thing.
Now, making sure it doesn't consume me will also be a good thing. By focusing on that one thing for a while, I emerged with a well-rounded life, a new appreciation for every piece of it, and a fresh outlook on what's to come. And I'm going to run with that.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Part 4: The finish line

And you know, that really is what I like the best about running. There's nothing else involved. You can just run. I still have a love/hate relationship with it, but how does the saying go? Better the devil you know than the one you don't? I'm most comfortable with running so it was a huge relief to reach that leg of the tri.

Even more encouraging was the fact that the run was 2.9 miles, not 3.1. That's a small difference that makes a big difference, at least in my mind. Usually at some point during a 5K my mind is fixated on the deep desire to not be running anymore. But that never happened the day of the triathlon. I honestly think I was so happy to be in the moment I was in, that I didn't want to rush it. Don't get me wrong, I didn't want it to last forever or anything. But I wanted to appreciate every step for what it was.

As I rounded the second-to-last corner, I started to get a little teary-eyed. It was the first moment I allowed myself to get overwhelmed, and I quickly stopped. I knew I couldn't get emotional yet, I wasn't done, and until I crossed the finish line I wouldn't allow myself to get distracted.

It was only a minute or so later until I was crossing the finish line but the tears that had started to well up in my eyes were long gone. Crossing the finish line. I don't know how to describe that feeling. Relief that it was over, that I did it. Pride in the fact that I was able to accomplish something that was so outside of my normal self. Happiness as I met up with the family and friends who had come to cheer me along, waving bumblebees and signs and cheering for me the whole way.

And I was also very humbled...to be surrounded by so many women whose goals were probably quite similar to mine, and to be surrounded by the people who have been so supportive and encouraging of me these past few months, who would get up early and stand around all morning just to see me for a few seconds here and there in order to see me cross the finish line.

It was also somehow humbling to realize I had done exactly what I set out to do. In the beginning I said: "For whatever reason and accumulation of circumstances, I want to complete a triathlon. So I will. I will use my energy to focus, concentrate, work hard, step outside the box. Actually, I will swim, bike and run outside the box. Why not?" And I did. And standing on the other side of that finish line, I knew there really isn't anything I can't do.

Now here's the other thing I've truly learned that I hope I never forget. Life is crazy. It doesn't happen how you expect it to. It doesn't happen when you expect it to. But if you hang on for the ride, follow your heart and keep your head up no matter how rocky your path gets, the good things in life will prevail. There will be something to catch you before you fall. When you least expect it, something so good can happen.

When I set this goal for myself, it was a big deal to me. I said "I decided to change everything", and I completely meant that. But never did I imagine how big it would get. Never did I imagine that when the goal was achieved, I would be so at peace with myself, with my life. That I would have everything, and want nothing. That I would be so entirely transformed, mentally and physically.

I never imagined that I could ask myself "What's next?" and realize that I'm okay with the fact that I don't really know for sure. But I'm incredibly excited to find out.

Part 3: Liking Biking

So, I was still pretty psyched by the time I reached my bike (which I was able to find thanks to the giant bumble bee balloon tied to my place on the bike rack, that my mom bought for the occasion). I mean, at least with the bike if something goes wrong you can stop and figure it out. Swimming doesn't quite allow you that advantage. But to be honest, even before I reached my bike any negative feelings about the swim were gone. I had already mentally moved on to the next thing, which was getting to the transition area. Drying my feet, putting my socks on, putting my shoes on, putting my helmet on, grabbing my bike, and going. But I was calm. I took my time. I can't quite explain the cool, composed focus I had going on. I wasn't worried about time, I wasn't concerned with anything other than doing the next thing I needed to do. My mind was completely clear of anything extraneous, I was completely in the moment.

So many people had told me, don't forget to acknowledge the moment when you're in it. Don't forget to look around, take it in, really feel it as it's happening. And I am so thankful I was able to do that. I enjoyed the scenery during the bike ride, the people on their front lawns cheering everyone on, the homemade signs dotting the race course. I got off my bike and walked up most of the two painfully steep hills when I found I couldn't quite make it up. Ordinarily I would scold myself for doing such a thing. But this time I didn't care. I was just in a zone....happy for the women who were speeding by me and glad to see there were women like me, huffing and puffing and barely moving up the hill until they got off and walked the rest of the way. I put zero pressure on myself. It was fine either way. That's not to say I wasn't trying or putting in an effort. Of course I was. But it was a relaxed, sane, happy effort.

Before long, I rounded a corner and a volunteer called out that we had 5 miles left. Ok, I thought to myself, that means I've done 7 miles already. So I'm more than halfway through. And I feel great. So this will be a breeze....And I just continued to enjoy it.

And then it was over. Before I knew it, I was hopping off my bike and heading back into the transition area to drop my bike, grab an energy gel and pick up my race belt, thinking: This is the part I know. This is the part I have already overcome. This is the best part- just me, running.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Part 2: Swim Lessons

And then suddenly I wasn't standing on the edge anymore. I was swimming.

And just as suddenly, I inhaled a huge mouthful of lake water and any ease I felt about my strength as a swimmer disappeared. I was choking. And trying to swim. With 30 other people. And they were all around me. And I was still choking. And I was tired. More than a little freaked out. And only 15 seconds into the 1/2 mile swim. Oh God.

I flipped over onto my back to get my face out of the water. I couldn't stop coughing on the water I had swallowed. Why hadn't I practiced swimming more? Twice?! In a calm, clear, seaweed-free pool?! Was I kidding myself thinking that was enough? I was suddenly so shaken and could feel exhaustion creep into my body. I looked up, saw that the first buoy I had to swim to was still incredibly far away, and realized that I needed to get. it. together. Or I would never make it. So I calmed myself down and just focused on doing what needed to be done. Which was mainly: a) staying afloat and b) moving closer to the finish.

It was ridiculously tiring. I felt like part of the time I was swimming, but mostly I was surviving. I think I invented some pretty nifty swim strokes in my effort to simply make it through. That was the longest half mile of my life. When I was finally done, I was so happy to be out of the water that despite how tired I was, I ripped off my swim cap and goggles and ran up the beach with renewed energy, waving enthusiastically to my mom when I spotted her on the sidelines. I was just so happy to be alive and on dry land, and to have the hardest part of the tri behind me that I felt like doing cartwheels. After the swim, the bike seemed like it would be an absolute breeze.

Part 1: I did it!

I did it! The triathlon is over. I kicked its ass.

Friday and Saturday I was buzzing with nervous energy. I was so anxious, not nervous, but anxious, that I couldn't figure out what to do with myself. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that the tri was Sunday....it seemed so surreal. I had been preparing for so long for that day that I almost forgot the day would actually come. But suddenly, there it was. And I could barely breathe.

But once Audrey picked me up on Saturday to head to orientation and registration, the calm that I had been hoping for started to settle over me. I knew I had prepared for this, mentally and physically, every day since I made the decision to do it. I knew I was ready, not just by the fact that I now owned a triathlon suit, bike helmet and race number belt, but by the fact that I had not a shadow of a doubt that I would accomplish exactly what I set out to do.

This calmness carried throughout Saturday into Sunday. It was exactly what I was hoping I would feel. I slept well the night before, I woke up without butterflies in my stomach. I was amped up, thats for sure, but in a very determined, even-keeled way. I wasn't nervous at all. I was just ready to go. Bring it on, triathlon!

We left the hotel and headed to the race site to set up our transition areas. The number of bikes lining the rows was pretty incredible. There were so many people, and we had so much time to kill before our swim waves started. Normally these would be anxiety-inducing factors. Yet somehow I still wasn't nervous. Just ready.

At 8:15, I entered the (freezing cold!) water with my swim wave. 30 or so girls in yellow swim caps, all about my age, all about to do what I was about to do. I can't tell you what their journeys were to get to that moment. I only know mine. And I made myself think of it as I stood there waiting for the horn to blow. This is it, I thought. Here it is. You are standing on the edge of your moment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

2 Days

I've been trying to write a post. I really have. And I really want to. I just don't know what to say.

This has been such a long journey with so many great moments, so many accomplishments and so much change. So much of it unexpected. So much of it beyond what I imagined. And the goal, the culmination of all my hard work, dedication and unwavering focus, is two days away. It's an overwhelming feeling. It's exciting. And I'm a big ball of nervous energy right now.

I know two things in this moment.

One. I did everything I set out to do and so, so much more. I couldn't be more amazed at how different every single thing in my life is.

And two. On Sunday I will become a triathlete.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thank you.

It's impossible to get through life without the help of those around you. Not necessarily because you couldn't, but because you just don't. Help comes, sometimes unspoken, in hundreds of large and small ways, all the time.

Maybe it's only me that takes each step when I go for a run- no one is physically helping me move my legs. Maybe my motivation comes from something inside me- no one tells me what to do. Maybe this whole thing is about me- my idea, my plan, my goal. After all, didn’t I say that the whole reason I chose this goal was that it had nothing to do with anyone else, only me?

But that does not mean that no one is helping me. Each and every step I've taken-- both literally and figuratively-- has been backed by the support of so many wonderful people. Could I have done it without them? Yes. But did they help me do it? Absolutely. I could have done it without them, but it wouldn’t have been the same. Sometimes getting help seems like a bad thing- like you can’t do something on your own. But that’s not true. When people want to help you and support you not because you asked for it, or even because you need it...it’s a wonderful thing.

So. I moved my own feet. And here’s to some of the people who made that possible.

Amelia. I have no idea how I have not mentioned you here before, because without you no one would not be reading these words. You're the one who put the blog bug in my head, and I am so thankful. Besides that, you've been one of my most positive supporters, and have listened to my crazy thoughts more times than I can count. Thank you so, so much.

Audrey, your seemingly crazy idea to do a 5K before the tri has changed my life tremendously. Thanks for patiently re-teaching me how to swim and for always having the sweetest most encouraging things to say. Thank you. Because of you, I will not drown.

Callie and Wayne, I don’t care if you hate your blog names. I love you. Thank you for running with me. And thank you for always being truly happy for me, and for believing in me and in every aspect of my future.

Lola. I cannot imagine what the past few months would have been like without you. I would have definitely puked before the first 5K (and it might have been my last), maybe even cut out of the gym early some days and would not have given myself over to the idea of dating as easily. And I would have had a lot less fun. I don't know how else to say how happy I am that you came on this journey with me....thanks for being the yin to my yang.

James....it's still beyond words. Thanks for reading this, understanding me, and then doing something amazing. You made me realize that it is possible to do something for yourself that can truly reach other people. And speaking of beyond words-- thank you for the bubble.

Piz, you believe in my words with such a conviction that I can really see myself on Oprah someday. I promise I'll figure out a way to get you on camera too :) Thanks for training with me, for coming to see me run, and oh yeah, for being the best brother in the whole wide world.

Mom & Dad, thank you for... everything. For being there. For believing in me. For laughing when I told you I was going to do a triathlon, because it reminds me how far I’ve come.

I just had to say all these thank you's now, because I'm hopping on a plane to Mexico in the morning and I know that once I get back they days will fly by and it will suddenly be the day of the triathlon. I wanted to say these thank you's before then so that when I cross the finish line each of you will know the role you played in getting me there and the gratitude I have for it. Because let's face it, I'll probably be so exhausted I won't be able to breathe or form a coherent thought to thank you then.

I can't wait! 16 days!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yesterday was a really hot day and the sun was blazing, so naturally that was the day I had to leave work to take a trip to a local historical society to get some images for a project we're working on. Whatever idea you have in your head of a historical society, I bet you're right. It was just like that. Hot, lots of stuff, old smells, and no fresh air to breathe. I didn't even have a chance to recover because when I got back to work I found out this was also the day that the air conditioner decided to break. I spent the last two hours of work trying to cool myself down. It was not just that it was hot. It was that it was stuffy. It was stifling. By the time I walked out at 5pm, I felt like I could barely breathe.

I got into my car (which was even hotter and more suffocating) and the feeling didn't go away. Even after the air conditioning kicked in. Even after I drank a bunch of water. Even once I was halfway home. The feeling seemed disproportionate to the actual temperature displayed on my dashboard. It was making me nervous. Panicky. And then I realized-- this is what I used to feel like every day.

I had to give that thought a moment. Wow. I used to feel this way all the time. In the winter, having nothing to do with the heat. On a normal day, when nothing in particular was wrong. My mind's own constant revolution would cause the elephant to creep up and sit on my chest. Or it just never left. I could never breathe.

I don't know how I got that way.

I don't know how I got this way.

But thank God.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lucky Charms & Mr. Miyagi

Since I started off this week feeling like the energy had been completely drained from my body, I figured it might be a good thing to give myself a week to take it easy with the exercising and counting points, and have some relaxed, no worries kind of fun.

I am proud to say I was tremendously successful in this endeavor. While I still worked out 4 days this week, it was also a week full of Lucky Charms, an ice cream cone, Coronas and late-night karaoke. So, it's true that I may not have figured out the balance thing by tipping the scales too far the other way (no pun intended by the way, but that's obviously a subconscious confession to the fact that I am not looking forward to stepping on the scale on Tuesday). But that's okay with me because I had a blast while I was doing it. Might as well get a little break in now, because the next month (28 days to be precise) is surely to be one in which I push myself the hardest. Might as well go into it with a re-energized state of mind.

Given that we were both not up for another killer bike ride like the one we took last week (which honestly left me exhausted for 3 days), my brother and I decided to take a quick bike ride and run. I already knew that my energy level was low so there was no real goals for this time, just to ride. Except, my brother did remind me again that I need to stop braking down hills, because I need to take advantage of the speed. Yes, I brake when I go down hills. I get scared! I don't really know why I'm such a wimp. But yesterday I did manage to not break down one big hill, so despite having low energy levels we did manage to accomplish something!

In a moment that will remind us all of how clutzy and athletically-impaired I can be, when biking up a hill earlier, the capri pants I was wearing got caught in my bike and ripped.

Thank goodness that I managed to get out of my toe cages and off my bike, because I could have just as easily tipped right over. That would not have been any fun at all. I tore off the piece of my pants that was hanging in shreds so it wouldn't get caught again, and being the resourceful guy he is, my brother fashioned it into a totally awesome sweatband a la the Karate Kid.















You see the resemblance, right?

Except he's more like Mr. Miyagi, because he's my teacher, reminding me what I need to learn, teaching me how and challenging me even without meaning to, in my effort to keep up with him. And as it turns out, the real Mr. Miyagi also has some lessons I could use:

Miyagi: What matter?
Daniel: I'm just scared. The tournament and everything.
Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Daniel: Yeah.
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Testing the waters

I don't know what is wrong with me, but for the past week or so I've lacked the energy and motivation that has been pretty much consistent over the past few months. Don't get me wrong-- despite this, I've still been going to the gym, running, biking, doing everything I usually do (and putting in a solid effort), it's just that at some point while I'm doing it, I feel like I'm submitting myself to some kind of torture, and after I'm done I feel completely exhausted.

I'd like to think that this is partially the weather's fault, because it's been super gloomy and rainy for what feels like 2 months but is probably more like 2 weeks— and I don’t do well without sunshine. What I don’t want to think is that I’m just tired. While in general I believe you should listen to your body when you feel like you need a rest, I find that I never practice this belief in my own life. The stubborn side of me comes out and I just tell myself to stop being such a baby, have a protein shake and deal with it. Don't I need to push myself to the point of exhaustion? Doesn't my body need to know what that feels like? Doesn't exhaustion just mean that I'm working really hard, and isn't that a good thing?

I know (because I’ve been told by Lola and Callie, who are often smarter about me than I am) that now that I’ve come this far, I need to concentrate more on finding balance and learning to allow myself to rest when I find that I haven’t allowed myself to do something fun/relaxing in a while and I need an extra coffee--with a shot of espresso-- to feel like a functional human being.

I think by “balance”, Lola means that she wants me to retract my no-dating policy, which, at her insistence, I kind of did a couple of weeks ago (I refused to call it a date, and it was quickly dubbed a “friend outing”). While it didn’t exactly work out smashingly in the end, I learned a lot of important lessons that really surprised me.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for Lola’s convincing, I wouldn’t have gone out with him. Besides the fact that I didn’t think he was my type (whatever my “type” is), I wasn’t sure I wanted to be dating again- even just one measly date. And I would have been passing up a really great date with a super nice guy without even realizing it. That’s lesson 1. Lesson 2: it’s not all or nothing. You can test the waters, dip your toes in rather than diving in headfirst. This might sound obvious, but I guess I felt like coming out of my dating coma meant that I was going to be totally thrown wide awake into the dating stratosphere. But that’s simply not true. A date can just be a date, if you let it be (or in this case, a friend outing). Lesson 3 is one I already knew but hadn’t been given in return for quite some time: honesty is key. I was really honest with him upfront about my hesitance towards dating due to my laser-like focus on myself. Not only was he okay with that, but he respected it and still wanted to go out with me. And I totally commend him for this because I think my situation is hard to explain to someone, at least without them thinking I was two steps away from crazy and might be walking a fine line now. And he was quite honest with me upfront about where he was in his life. It was so refreshing. Complete honesty right from the get go is rare in the dating realm, at least in my experience (and I do happen to have some of the most bizarre dating stories out there, so maybe my personal experience is just unlucky). But the transparency in this situation-- before we even went out-- made for a totally relaxed, completely enjoyable evening that overall started to renew my faith in the entire concept of dating.

Overall, I realized I am much more optimistic about dating in general, and—here’s the key— a hundred times more okay with the fact that I'm single than I was six months ago. And--how bizarre is this?-- I have found myself suddenly thankful that I didn't get into a relationship back then. I needed to figure myself out first, not find someone to save me.

And I realized that I don’t always have all the answers- even when it comes to myself. Sometimes I need to listen to the people around me. Sometimes I need to be more open. And sometimes I just need to take a chance.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Today's bike ride kicked. my. ass. I probably wouldn't even be typing right now, except I have a laptop and can therefore stretch out on my couch while writing--that's about all the physical exertion I can handle right about now.

Let me rewind to yesterday. My brother and I went biking and I felt like I accomplished a lot.
With his help, I tackled some hills and learned how to switch gears appropriately. Might not sound like a big deal, but I'm really happy that we focused on this and that he was there to help me because I feel much more prepared. The bike ride I take in my town is great, but there are no hills, so it's a little wimpy as far as training goes.

At my brother's insistence (and also because we couldn't find a wrench in the right size), I didn't take the toe cages off my bike and instead learned how to use them. I was a little scared of them and had never managed to get both my feet in at once; I was afraid I would tip over, which when you think about it is absolutely something that would happen to me. But I learned to use them! And I didn't tip over! Not only that, but by the end of today I was getting them both in on the first try. This made me really happy. It's the small things in life sometimes. Kind of like this next accomplishment....

I managed to grab my water bottle and take a drink while riding! AND I put it back while riding. What now, biotch?! Yeah, I know. You're intimidated by my skillz. Don't worry. Today I managed to grab the water bottle but nearly dropped it, caught it by the lid, nearly lost control of the bike and rode off the path into the grass, forgot my feet were in the toe cages and almost fell off my bike. So this still needs some work.

Immediately after the ride, we ditched our bikes, tossed our helmets, and went for a run around the block. We had been warned that your legs will feel incredibly weird when you make the transition from biking to running, and those warnings were definitely justified. I felt like someone was pulling down on the front of my legs while meanwhile, I was trying to remain upright and move in a forward motion. Not to mention that we had spent the last stretch of the bike ride going all out, so I was exhausted before my feet even hit the ground. But running after the bike ride was exactly what I needed to do...since it'll be exactly what I'll need to do 35 days from now...

Today, we went for another ride. This time we went farther and were riding for about 2 hours. I am not even sure exactly where we were the entire time, but there were a lot of hills. A lot of BIG hills. As my brother was quick to remind me, it was perfect for training- exactly what I wanted. And he was right. But holy cow, I am the most exhausted girl on the planet right now. I think if, towards the end of the ride, a crazed madman had jumped out of the woods wielding a knife, I wouldn't have been able to move fast enough to get away from him. By the time we got back to the house, I had used nearly every bit of energy that I had. Which is, as odd as it sounds, a great feeling. And now, I can lie here and feel okay about being lazy and consuming a few extra calories. Because I totally earned it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Beyond words

Let me start by saying that there are few times in my life where I really feel like I don't know the words to use to describe something. At worst, I can usually string together a passable description of what I think or feel, or what I've seen or done. At best, I can write something that feels perfect even to me, my own harshest critic. At this moment I'd love to do nothing more than find the most flawless and exact words. And although I already know I'm going to fall short, it won't stop my attempt.

I write because there are always words in my head. And I decided to write here, in particular, not only because I needed an outlet, but because I needed a record. I knew that I was at the start of quite a transformation in my life, and I needed to not just live it but write it, too. Every single word I write and letter I type is straight from my heart. I hide nothing, I share everything; it's just how I am.

Along the way I have been blessed to find that my closest friends, my family and even strangers love to read what I write. Nearly 600 people from 25 countries have read my words. I've received so many kind comments on my posts, so many words of encouragement, of understanding, of support. It's been incredible.

But nothing has even come close to being as incredible as Saturday night, when I learned that the things I've gone through, the path I'm taking, the words I've written have truly been an inspiration for someone else. And I learned this in possibly the most perfect way imaginable. Actually, I take that back. It was unimaginable, even for me, who imagines everything. Every detail of what happened was extremely touching. The gesture in and of itself made me realize how much I was understood, and how much my words and outlook had made an impact. I could never have imagined a moment like that. It was one of the most sincere and beautiful things anyone has ever done for me. Ever.

Although it was a public gesture, it was also a private gesture, and in a room full of people only a handful really knew what happened and how much it meant, which made it even more wonderful. And that's why, in contrast to my usual style, I don't want to go into detail here. Maybe some moments can't be described, some things can't be explained. And maybe, sometimes, even for me... they don't need to be.

It's beyond words. Thank you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Countdown Breakdown

Saturday might possibly be my last 5K before the tri. Although I knew that, it suddenly occurred to me that that means I want it to go really, really well so that I'm as confident as possible about my progress and my potential. Although this means a slightly unnecessary increase in the pressure I feel to do well on Saturday, I am the queen of self-induced pressure. So that works out alright.

And even though every time I run in a race I want to do better than the time before, this time I feel like there's a little more at stake. With only 44 days until the tri, I fluctuate daily, sometimes hourly, between feeling confident and excited (like when I realize I’ve biked 30 miles and finish feeling like a freakin’ rock star) to feeling overwhelmed and underprepared (like when I am lifting weights at the gym and need to reduce the weight to the lightest possible...eek, I’m such a girl).

To compound this, I will be in Mexico in the beginning of July- I get back and there's a week and a half until the triathlon. While I fully plan on training while I'm in Mexico, I know that margaritas and lying on the beach will be a bigger draw, and those few days in Mexico will be a test of my willpower and determination. Not to mention that I want to be at my goal weight on triathlon day, which is currently 7.6 pounds away. With the tri being about 6 weeks away, I’ll have to lose about 1.3 pounds per week in order to make it. Did I mention how much I love Mexican food and margaritas? I usually like to live by the rule that there are no such thing as calories when you’re on vacation, but I don’t think I can afford that kind of logic this time. Again: unnecessary pressure, but pressure I will put on myself regardless.

Ok, so it's obvious that what’s happening here is that I’m allowing myself to stop and think too much, something I haven’t allowed myself to do lately because of its disastrous side effects. Believe me, not thinking much (for me) is much better than thinking like I normally do because a normal amount of thinking is an insane amount of thinking, to be honest. See how it started with thinking about the simple fact that this could be my last 5K before the tri and snowballed from there? Yeah. That’s nothing compared to what my thought process can be. Sometimes I exhaust myself. And what I've learned lately is that I really don't know as much as I think I do. I always think I have it all figured out, or that I could figure it out, if I think about it enough. This long-held belief of mine, however, is bullshit. It's funny to realize that you don't have things as figured out as you thought you did, and to be okay with that.

So I just headed to the gym right after work, where I hopped on the treadmill and don't remember a single thing I thought about the whole time. Besides "How many minutes do I have left on this thing?!?", of course.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Seven down!

I finished my seventh 5K on Saturday. I can't believe I've done seven since March. Seven! I remember when Audrey first suggested we run a 5K to prepare for the tri; I think I simultaneously wanted to laugh, throw up and cry. To be honest, there's still a point during almost every race where I want to throw up and cry. But since the first one I've been doing them of my own free will. And liking it! Who would have thought?

And I'm glad I like it, because I know it's really helped me lose weight and prepare for the triathlon. And those are two things that have really shaped nearly everything I've done and every decision I've made since January. My focus is so much on the end goal that I don't really take the time to stop and look around to really see where I am, which is 25 pounds lighter and maybe a little bit of an athlete. Actually, scratch that, maybe I'm just a little bit of a runner, not an athlete. As my brother was quick to point out this weekend, I still cannot throw a baseball worth a damn (once, about 5 feet to the right of my dad and the next time, almost directly down to the
ground. I do not know what is wrong with me). I cannot wait to celebrate everything I've achieved, but aside from a mini-shopping spree with my mom once my clothes became too big to to wear, I'm not willing to celebrate yet. As I've mentioned, I'm afraid of losing my focus or getting too proud of what I've accomplished and having that turn into a little bit of laziness. I have, as of this moment, 47 days, 18 hours, 2 minutes and 51 seconds of hard work ahead of me, and I'm not going to truly relax until the triathlon is over.

But you better believe there will be a killer celebration once it is.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Piece of cake

Here's one thing I've realized about weight loss: It's simple. Now, before an angry ban of women bearing food scales and dumbbells as weapons shows up at my door ready for a brawl, let me explain myself.

For starters please note that I didn't say it was easy. I said it was simple. People try to complicate it all the time, and they do that quite well. They subscribe to the mentality that you’ve gotta eat low carb/high protein, or that you should replace a meal with a shake, or that you have to eat only tofu and bean sprouts when you hate tofu and bean sprouts, or that you need to order the food that some plan tells you you need to eat. And maybe sometimes those things do work, but it’s complicated and leaves little room for anyone to keep it up. Once you’ve lost the weight, what do you do? Avoid carbs for life? Continue buying their food? And what have you learned?

That’s the complicated part that makes people think that they can’t do it. But that’s just noise. Here’s the simple part: Eat less. Think more. Move more. Lose weight.

I know half the people who just read that are thinking it’s oversimplified bullshit. I’d encourage you to give it a second thought, though. It really is that simple.

Eat less— you probably don’t realize what a serving size is, or how much you are truly consuming in the course of the day. You need to burn more calories than you eat in order to lose weight. Are you making that possible for yourself?

Think more about the choices you make— food is fuel for your body. What is your body running on?

Move more— getting in shape is not going to happen overnight, so just get going. It’s not an all or nothing deal— you don’t have to run a marathon tomorrow. Start small if that’s what you’re comfortable with. Nike has had it right all along. Just do it. Whatever it is.

And then, lose weight.

And this is why it’s simple but not easy. If it was easy to do all this, and to lose weight as a result, then we’d all be wearing a size 2 and one-piece bathing suits wouldn’t exist. Over the past few months I’ve lost weight some weeks only to gain part of it back the next- with no discernable difference in what I’m eating or how much I’m exercising. It’s frustrating, and some days I’ve wanted to tear my hair out. So I’m not gonna say that it will always work out exactly the way you want it too. But guess what? Keep it up, and over time your body cannot deny you the weight loss.

Don’t expect yourself to be perfect, because you won’t be, and that’s just setting yourself up for failure in your own eyes. Don’t expect it to happen overnight, because it won’t; it took you a while to gain weight, so it’s going to take you a while to lose it. Don’t make excuses for yourself— you’ll always be busy and you’ll always have obstacles— but you can always make time for something you consider a priority... aren’t you a priority to you? And don’t expect it to be easy, because it will always be a struggle, although the struggle will diminish over time. If it still feels complicated, then make it feel uncomplicated. Focus on what it really boils down too, and I think you’ll find that all that’s left is truly quite simple.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Biker chick

I woke up yesterday with a massive headache, having also gone to sleep with that same headache the night before. For starters, this is totally unfair; I think 8 hours of sleep should be enough to kiss any headache goodbye. But that was unfortunately not so for me yesterday. My original plan was to get up and get out on my bike yesterday morning. But waking up feeling crummy left me feeling blah overall, which was the perfect excuse for a little Memorial Day-laziness. I could not find my motivation to get out of bed, let alone to get onto a bike. I procrastinated by letting myself stay in bed until 10-- I have not done this in FOREVER! And that made it all the more wonderful- hooray for lazy mornings! Then I got up, showered, did some grocery shopping and had lunch. At this point I had spent too much time trying to find an excuse that I could fool myself with that would get me out of getting on the bike.

I don't know why I didn't want to do it, I just didn't. But I couldn't, and wouldn't, fool myself. There was no denying it. I was going out on that bike. I had planned to do it, so therefore I had nothing else to do- no excuse there. By this point I felt fine- again, no excuse. I had a helmet and I had a bike. There were no excuses.

And I am certainly glad that I found my motivation, because it was a wonderful ride. I was glad to find that riding a bike was like, well, riding a bike. There's a great trail that runs through my town that's perfect for running and biking (no hills!). It runs through the woods, so besides being really pretty it's also shaded by all the trees, making yesterday's bright sun less of a concern for someone like me, who forgot that sunscreen is generally a good idea when you're going to be outside. It was a gorgeous day and I felt dorkily happy to be a part of it.

I looked at the trail map when I got back home, and I figured out that I probably rode around 30 miles. I was pretty happy with that, and feeling pretty kick-ass since the triathlon is 12 miles of biking, and I did the 30 with no problem. Which just goes to show you how different biking and running are, because if I had tried to run 30 miles, I would still be out there trying to finish. Scratch that, I'd be out there on the path in a ball, rocking back and forth, sucking my thumb and trying to remember my own name. The other great thing about biking is that you automatically generate a pretty nice breeze for yourself, which is quite handy on hot days. In running, forget it. If it's hot you are going to feel like you swallowed molten lava and you might as well get used to it. The thing biking really doesn't have going for it is the bug situation. I must have been in a hit-and-run with dozens of bugs that just did not know to stay out of my way. A few unsuspecting ones went in my mouth (gross) and one poor thing even found its way up my nose for a second (double gross).

Bugs aside, I am really glad I have my first bike ride (meaning, my first tri-training bike ride--my first bike ride in at least a decade) under my belt. As May draws to a close and June appears, I'm hit with the realization that July is not that far away. The triathlon, once a distant event, is now starting to appear on the horizon. The good news is that I feel more ready for it than ever.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Woohoo!

These past two weeks have been filled with quite a few meaningful accomplishments, which has been just the boost I need. Sometimes over the past few weeks I've felt my headstrong, unwavering, go-hard-or-go-home attitude begin to waver slightly and it freaks me out. I don't want to lose that drive. Then I think about what I've accomplished, and I realize that I'm crazy- I'm not losing my drive at all; maybe I'm just relaxing it's grip on me a little bit.

Way back in December, when I first started Weight Watchers, I set my first weight-loss goal. I wanted to be a certain weight by May 1st. To be honest it was an arbitrary date and an arbitrary weight, except for that back then I thought it sounded like the beginning of summer and summer is a good time to be feeling thinner, and it was about a pound a week, which was realistic. Now, me being me, I don't just set a goal and forget it. This goal was on my mind every day. Even if I wasn't thinking "May 1st" I was thinking of what weight I needed to be at the next week in order to be on track for May 1st. My rollercoaster-like weight loss patterns sometimes made me think I'd be derailed somewhere along the way. But, gosh darn it, if I didn't make it then I was going to be as close as humanly possible, and I wasn't going to allow myself to be standing on the scale on May 1st thinking "Well if I hadn't had that cake/pizza/ice cream/Coca-Cola/french fries, I would have made it. If I hadn't skipped the gym/layed on the couch all day/slept in/been so lazy, I would have made it." Helllllllz no. I was beyond determined to prove to myself that I could do this; that willpower and persistence would be my keys to success. The struggle of weight loss (and no matter how much willpower and persistence you have, it is definitely a struggle) you play a constant numbers game: I ate 7 points at lunch. I ran 2 miles. I was at the gym for 60 minutes. I worked out 5 days this week. Count your points, measure your portions, time your pace. All those numbers were worth it when, on May 1st, I got on the scale and saw the exact number I wanted to see. I met my May 1st goal!

The following week was my next 5k. It was by far the largest race Lola and I have run in so far (more than 5,000 people total) which was very cool. For some reason, this was also the first race where I wasn't very nervous at the starting line. The course was great- not too hilly, yet not too flat and boring. It was through neighborhoods and the people were very excited to see the runners come through, lots of them were out on their porches cheering or blasting music. I finished mile 1 in 9:53. That was the fastest I have ever run a mile. It was also the first time during a race that I ran the entire mile without stopping. And I knew I could keep going. I ran straight through mile 2 and into 3. Shortly into 3 I had to stop, but I was okay with that. It was still the best I have ever run- race or not. And, adding to the triumph of the day, I crossed the finish line at 33:43-- my best time yet by more than 30 seconds. It was a great, great feeling.

Tonight's accomplishment was smaller but still significant. I went swimming! Phew! I've been so nervous about the fact that I haven't started training for the swim, so it felt great to finally get in the water. And I was lucky enough to have Audrey as my swim coach. She went to a swim clinic a few weekends ago, and learned lots of helpful hints that she passed along to me after analyzing my technique (or lack thereof). I am hugely thankful for that, because when I first got in the water and realized the things I was doing wrong, I was slightly freaked out that the triathlon swim might mean my demise. As with running, it's the breathing I have a problem with-- but it's even harder to think about breathing while you're swimming because there truly are some less-opportune times to take a breath (i.e., when your face is in the water). But by the time I got out of that pool I had improved quite a bit (again, thanks to Audrey!) and felt much better about swimming. I probably would have felt even better if I hadn't forgotten to bring a towel with me and didn't have to dry off with Audrey's extra sweatshirt and some paper towels. I am not joking; I was in a situation where drying my body with a sweatshirt was the best option available. And Audrey is teeny, so her sweatshirt was not very big and I didn't have very much material to work with. Although it was surprisngly absorbent. Still, forgetting a towel when you're going swimming is like forgetting socks when you're going running (meaning it's a completely doofus move). Even though drying off with a sweatshirt is not the greatest, thank goodness for Audrey and her sweatshirt. I absolutely HATE getting dressed if my body has even a drop of water still on it, so this was quite particularly torturous for me, but what would I have done if she wasn't there? Answer: I would still be there, trying to get dry so I could put my clothes on and go home.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ain't no mountain high enough

It’s funny when I think of how my idea of a great weekend has changed over the last few months. Forget bars, forget late nights, forget sleeping in. Cue early morning runs, hours at the gym and 5Ks. This past weekend was a weekend without a race. So instead of running, I climbed a mountain.

Now, when my friend P told me about this mountain he was very clear that it was a big, big mountain. I was excited. When we turned the corner and he pointed in the distance to the mountain it still seemed HUGE to me, even though I had been prepared for how huge it was, and I laughed. It just struck me as amusing that this was a really big mountain and we were about to climb it.
But still, even after realizing that this mountain was a beast, I was picturing a hike on a quiet dirt trail created for people like us who think nice hikes are a perfect way to spend a Saturday. Maybe a babbling brook or two, even. A scenic little path in the woods. I didn't even realize that I had this vision in my head until I saw the actual "path" and it looked like this:

Yes, that is a picture of the trail we were following. Can't see the trail, you say? Why that is because no element of nature was disturbed in the creation of this trail. Someone just went around with some white spray paint and randomly decided the least-lethal way for people like us to get up the mountain and back down again.

But, honestly, this didn't scare me. Bring it, Mt. Monadnock. I was totally up for it, and this ass whooping in the making was looking like a gorgeous little Saturday. While I've given myself over to the fact that I like running and like going to the gym, I have to say that there's something much more wonderful about exercising with nature as your backdrop and friends by your side. It feels less like exercise, and more like fun. And while I get pretty pumped when I run, the feeling of reaching the top of a mountain definitely wins, hands down. The sight of the finish line sometimes makes me want to cry, but the sight from the top of the mountain took my breath away...or maybe it was just the hike to get there that took my breath away...In any case, it was spectacular.

What occurred to me was that six months ago, while I would have been able to do this, I wouldn't have been able to do this well. I was beating P's ass up that mountain, something he had predicted but I wasn't so sure of. Realizing how capable I was of climbing that mountain was a great feeling. At one point during the hike up, P said "You seem like an athlete right now. You were definitely never an athlete in high school, but you're one right now." That made me smile. Having known me since we were 12, he knows as well as I do that "athlete" is for sure a word that has never, ever, ever been used to describe me during the first 26 years of my life. Neither was "thin", another adjective he used to describe me that morning. Both these things are just nice to hear. I know I'm at a point right now where my vision of myself hasn't quite caught up to the present. While I'm learning to graciously accept a compliment, my first reaction is to think that people are just being nice- I'm not actually athletic; I'm not actually thin. I don't know why this is my reaction, it just is. Except that P, probably more than most people I know, is not the type to say something he doesn't mean just to be nice. He's also well-qualified to know when I look good, having seen me at my best (all dolled up for prom, graduation, weddings and such) and at my worst (pjs, ponytail, glasses, no makeup and a tear-streaked face, drinking too much wine and crying over some stupid boy). I gave him honorary Bumble Bee status for the day--no, not just because he called me thin-- but because we had fun while totally kicking some butt and flying up and down that mountain like rock stars. Or, like bumble bees.

I'll admit that going down wasn't as smooth as going up. Actually it was a little nerve-wracking at some points. I think I said "Omigosh I almost just died" approximately 15 times after tripping/slipping/sliding on the rocks. We did get slightly off track for about a minute and would still be lost on that mountain and resorting to smoke signals to ensure our rescue if we followed my sense of direction and not his. Oh, and my nose was running like crazy and I had to give in and "borrow" his handkerchief after staunchly refusing to blow a snot rocket (I might be climbing a mountain but I'm still a girl). But it was a fabulous kind of nerve-wracking, off-track, nose-blowing experience. We weren't even back to the car before we were planning the route we would take next time, on another, new-kind-of-perfect Saturday.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Scorching sun, a phantom river and an old guy

Yesterday's 5K was not as much fun as I'd hoped.

Let me explain why. First, I had to learn the hard way that running in 90-degree weather is not fun. In fact, I have to say that it would accurately be described as horrible. Yes, I know that the triathlon is in July and therefore I need to get used to the heat, but this was my first experience running in a temperature above 60 degrees and it was not pretty. There was no shade on this course at all and the race started at 1pm, so the full force of the sun was beating down on us. I spent a minute or two pondering the possibilities of spontaneous combustion, which oddly enough was a nice distraction. Thank goodness that nearly a dozen kind souls had set up sprinklers at the edge of their lawns for us runners to run through. One woman was even standing outside with a hose, and it felt like heaven. I said thank you to every single one of those people and might have even professed my undying love to a few of them.

Second, this is a run with the word "River" in its name, and a course description that says it is "run completely along the Connecticut River". So I don't think I was insane to have been envisioning myself sprinting along a path right next to the river. Right next to the river meaning a few yards away, where the view would be oh-so-pretty and perhaps a cool breeze might even lighten the burden of the race. But I just have a good imagination. This course could be considered "along" the river only if you were drunk, had no concept of distance, and are the type of person who constantly says "the other day" when you are referring to something that happened 20 years ago. For most of this course you cannot even see the river, and when you do it is easily seven football fields away and seems more like the mirage of a desperate crazy person than it does an actual body of water.

Third, besides finishing with a totally not impressive time of 37:48, I got my ass whooped by a 95-year-old man. I'd seen him before the race started and he was somewhere behind me the entire way, until the end. You see, this wonderful course ended in a steep hill, and this hill totally chewed me up and spit me out. Meanwhile, my elderly friend was gaining on me, and passed me towards the top. At this point I could barely breathe and felt like I was running sideways through quicksand while wearing footwear made of concrete, but still the thought in my head changed from "Just finish the race" to "You cannot let this old man beat you." I tried to light a fire under my own ass but all I had left in me was a small flame, and he crossed the finish line an entire 9 seconds before me. I'm awed and super impressed by this guy, but....I ran a time a solid three minutes above what I was shooting for and got beat by a man nearly four times my age, so I have to say I spent the first few seconds after the race feeling a little lame. Then I realized the torture was over and finishing is always something to celebrate. My fourth 5k. Not too shabby. I don't like to compare myself to anyone anyway!

But, as always happens post-race, the high wears off by the time I get home and I inevitably end up crashing like a limp ragdoll onto the couch/floor/bed. See, I'm always really good about making sure that I have some good pre-race food around to fuel me. Somehow, though, I always seem to forget about after the race, and end up lying around going, "Ehhhhhhh......I'm hungryyyyy.....and thirrrrrrrrsty......why don't I have any fooooooodddd.... why doesn't somebody bring me somethinggggg?!?!" until I realize that I live alone and no one is around to hear my calls of despair.

So on Sunday, after dragging myself off the couch and making myself a functional and productive human being again, I allowed myself back on the couch to relax later in the evening. After lying still for way too long, I turned onto my back and stretched out my cramped legs, only to hear a gross cracking noise in my left knee. Unfortunately this noise was accompanied by a minor but annoying amount of pain. My knee is still sore today, and if it's not better by Wednesday I might be forced to head to the doctor for peace of mind. For now, besides the practical remedies of a little bit of rest, ice and Advil, I'm doing my best to will the pain away. Mind over matter. Because, seriously, how is it that I can run four 5Ks in a month and a half, be at the gym nearly every day, and then get injured lying on the couch?!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Rolling hills" actually means "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

I finished another 5k on Saturday! Audrey, Lola and I ran this one--it was a gorgeous day: blue sky, sunny, warm.

The course, however, was not so fabulous. There were at least 3 HUGE hills (described as "rolling hills" in the course description, which was a big, fat, evil lie)- every time we turned a corner there was another one looming ahead. The second time we came to one I said "You've got to be kidding me." out loud. The third time I just laughed. They weren't just hills, they were small mountains, and they just kept on coming. Besides the fact that we had to deal with the mountainous hills, this was an open course. Completely open course. Meaning, as concerned as I was about making it up the hill, I was more concerned about not getting hit by one of the many cars driving towards me. At one point we were on a main route of the town, and my poor running skills were causing some poor soul in a Prius a delay in getting into the Dunkin Donuts parking lot. I felt very badly that my slow pace as I trudged across the DD driveway was keeping someone from their coffee a few seconds longer. You never know what might happen when you come between a coffee freak and their morning cup; I know I might be tempted to hit a runner if one was keeping me from my coffee on a Saturday morning.

But at the same time as I felt bad for the residents of this poor town, I also thought it was totally crummy that I had to come between a stranger and their coffee in the first place. As far as I'm concerned, races should be run on a closed or at least partially-closed course. There's enough to think about when running a race, I really don't appreciate having to add "being struck by an automobile" to the list. Also as far as I'm concerned, races should not involve significant hills; even running downhill isn't as easy as it seems, so let's just keep them out of races altogether, shall we?

I blame the hills for my 34:38 time, but I know that without them I would have done even better, which is encouraging. Audrey came in right ahead of me and Lola right behind me. We totally kicked those hills' asses while dodging traffic and keeping a good pace, but none of us will ever run this particular race again!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Climb

My second 5K was on Saturday-- I finished in 34:37, beating my first 5K time by 4.5 minutes. No wardrobe malfunctions, I wasn't last, and despite being overcast, windy and cold, the rain held off until the afternoon. All in all, it was a good day.

In fact, it was a really good day. I know it's a little cheesy, but since I don't have an amusing tale of my athletic dysfunction to tell and I don't mind being cheesy, I have to say that when I neared the end of the race and realized that I was going to finish somewhere around 34 minutes, I almost started to cry. This is mostly Miley Cyrus' fault.

Before I explain about Miley, I have to explain that running is an emotional thing for me in general, for many reasons. It's an amazing feeling to realize what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. Never has the expression "mind over matter" seemed more real to me. If you count yourself out, then guess what? You don't stand much of a chance. But if you count yourself in, each and every day and no matter what, then you have a damn good shot at anything. I considered myself one of the most improbable runners imaginable- and to be honest I still do to some extent. But at the same time, I haven't let the fact that I don’t feel like a runner get in the way of trying to become one. Every single finish line I cross is a huge victory, regardless of what my time is. Of course, I can't lie-- the faster the better. Running makes me emotional because for me running isn't just running (although, I wonder if running is just running for anyone). It's a transformation of myself into the me I want to be. Ok, that takes the "cheesiest statement ever" award, I know, but it's true. Six months ago I was quite unhappy, lonely, bored, restless and oh yeah, 20 pounds heavier. Things weren't exactly going my way, and I was focusing all my energy on that negativity without even entirely realizing it. Now I've taken that same energy and channeled it into something that makes me feel happy, excited and strong. Nothing around me changed-- I changed. And that brings me to Miley.

When I first heard the song "The Climb", I did not know who sang it, and to be honest was a little disappointed when I found out it was Miley Cyrus, cause I liked the song a lot- but Miley, not so much (it took lots of explanation for me to understand the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus thing and I haven't gotten over it. Also, I still don't get it). And here’s another instance where I’ve gravitated towards something meant for girls under the age of 16- what is wrong with me?! But ultimately I don’t care, because Miley’s song inspires me like none other. I think homegirl tapped into my brain to write these lyrics.

When she starts out singing “I can almost see it/That dream I am dreaming/But there's a voice inside my head saying/ ‘You'll never reach it’/Every step I'm taking/Every move I make feels/Lost with no direction/ My faith is shaking”, well, that was me a few months ago.

So imagine how emotional I get when, as I’m coming up to the finish line of Saturday’s race this very song starts playing on my iPod and my girl Miley is belting out “But I gotta keep trying/Gotta keep my head held high/ There's always gonna be another mountain/ I'm always gonna wanna make it move/ Always gonna be a uphill battle/ Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose/ Ain't about how fast I get there/ Ain't about what's waiting on the other side/ It's the climb /The struggles I'm facing/ The chances I'm taking/Sometimes might knock me down/But no, I'm not breaking/I may not know it/But these are the moments that/I'm gonna remember most, yeah/Just gotta keep going/And I, I got to be strong/Just keep pushing on." I'm sure that my near tears status is easy to understand, no? Because, as much as I hate to admit that a Disney star has written a song that touches my soul, uh, well....she has. Listen to it. Miley is right. It's what I've been saying all along, but in a top 40 hit kind of way. It's not always going to be easy, I'm not always going to get what I want, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to try my hardest and be strong every step of the way. Who knows what's waiting for me once the triathlon is done- it doesn't matter. What matters is the journey to get there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Helmets. Ick.

I am getting ever so slightly concerned about the fact that I haven't started biking or swimming yet. Bike's still leaning against the kitchen table, swimsuit's still sitting on top of my dresser. But in my own defense, I did attempt to look for a bike helmet on Friday. I wanted something plain, maybe black or silver- nothing crazy or fancy, nothing that made me look like Sonic the Hedgehog. I brought along my friends Callie and Wayne, because I knew I could not be left to my own devices when shopping for a helmet.

For starters, and this is something I'm quite honest about, I'm a huge goober. Serious dork. I knew helmet shopping would be funny, and if I was by myself I would be laughing at myself A LOT. Even if I was alone. So I'd rather have my friends laughing at me, too. Also, I needed someone there to remind me that a helmet wasn't going to make me look beautiful or win me first place in a fashion show, that the helmet is solely for protection of the head- period, end of story.

So, with their help, I tried on every. single. helmet. In the whole entire store. And I swear to you, none of them fit right. Most of them sat on top of my head leaving so much of my skull exposed that it didn't seem it could possibly be helpful should I take a tumble. Now, granted, none of us knew what we were looking for really, or how it was supposed to fit. But it just didn't seem right. I was even starting to become open to the idea of a helmet that wasn't plain and didn't match my bike or my tri outfit. Anything to get the process over with. I was laughing so much that I was getting extraordinarily hot. Callie was plunking the helmets on my head and I was standing there like a child while she adjusted the straps to fit me. Wayne seized the moment to hit me upside the head- just to be sure the helmet was sufficiently sturdy, I'm sure.

Then, just as we were about to give up, I tried one on that seemed to fit. The best part was that the helmet was white with pink and purple butterflies in a kind of abstract way. Pretty but subtle enough. And it fit. Score! Despite the fact that I had no intentions of getting a girly helmet, the helmet had found me, and I couldn't deny that we seemed meant to be.

So, helmet shopping complete, we continued to browse the store for workout gear and sports bras (yeah, Wayne must have been totally stoked about this shopping trip). Suddenly I looked down at the helmet box I was carrying, and one word stuck out at me. And that word was "Youth". It was a youth helmet. As in, for youths. As in, a 26-year-old triathlete-in-training has no business wearing this kind of helmet. Shit. Now I feel stupid because a) it's a freaking youth helmet with pink and purple butterflies and I'm kinda lame for liking it. Why don't I just get a Hannah Montana helmet and call it a day? and b) I know now that there is no way this helmet fits me properly because I know I have a big head, and certainly not a youth helmet sized head by any means.

Knowing that there is no way on earth I can purchase this helmet (both for safety and ego reasons), we decided I should definitely go to a bike store and get someone to help me- someone who knows what they're doing. I'll still need the moral support, but at least there will be a qualified professional there to help me find the right helmet, and probably stare at me oddly while I laugh at myself. So I put the helmet back on the shelf and left without it, imagining the 9-year-old girl who will be wearing it someday as she pedals to her friend's house to read Teen Beat magazine and gossip about boys.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bye-bye Bubblemint

I have a race on Saturday, and it's supposed to rain. While I don't mind rain in general, and I know that April showers bring May flowers, I'm not too excited about the fact that April showers might also bring me a slower race time and maybe even a slippery surface-induced face plant. While (knock on wood) I have avoided athletic-related injuries thus far, it seems that I have incurred my first diet-related injury. Yeah, bet you didn't even know that was possible.

Monday morning I woke up with what I thought was an earache. It hurt by my ear but also down into my jaw. It hurt to chew and was making me a little miserable. So, when I got to work yesterday morning with the "earache" still there, I called the doctor and made an appointment for late in the afternoon. In the meantime, I avoided chewing as much as possible (although
a girl still has to eat lunch!) and contemplated the possible reasons for my pain. Ear infection? Maybe, I'm really prone to them, but this didn't feel like any ear infection I've ever had. iPod ear bud-related injury? I don't really listen to my music that loud when I'm running, but you never know. Sinus problems? Dental problems? I wasn't sure, I just knew it was driving me crazy and I wanted it to go away.

And as it turns out, it was none of that. It's an issue with my temporomandibular joint. I'm saying that first so it sounds fancy and I feel less like a goober. Because essentially what it translates to is pain in my jaw. And this pain in my jaw is due to chewing too much gum.

I'm not joking. And I have to be honest, I didn't really know this was possible. I have been chewing A LOT of gum lately; it's my #1 defense against snack attacks. I never imagined that I was doing myself harm and inducing an injury. Now that I know this, I'm pretty sure gum should come with a warning label: "Dieters beware! Chewing in excess may cause temporary temporomandibular joint pain and unnecessary doctors visits."

To top it off, gum is now haunting me. Right after the doctor I went to the drugstore to get Aleve. While ringing up my items (I swear, I couldn't even make this up) the woman looked at me and said "Can I interest you in some new flavors of gum?". Since when did the people at Walgreens recommend you anything?! I think this was some kind of cosmic joke, which continued at
WW when the girl next to me turned to me and said "Want a piece of gum?" and when I got home and a friend texted me and said "I'm watching The Biggest Loser and it's making crave Extra gum and Cheerios." I had to laugh every time.

Then of course, since I had to leave work early yesterday and many of my co-workers knew about my "ear" pain, I had to explain a few times today that it was not my ear, and that I am indeed the biggest weirdo on the planet because I incurred my injury from a piece of Orbit Bubblemint. Or actually, a few too many pieces of Orbit Bubblemint.

And now, I have to be gum-free for the next 7-10 days and chew sparingly in the future. I am sad about the temporary loss of my boredom-busting, snack-stopping, perfectly-flavored friend. Bubblemint, the pain was worth it. And I will miss you dearly.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Running Away

It's Sunday night around 8pm, and that means my last weekend to relax during the month of April is drawing to a close. I have a 5k each of the next 3 weekends. I do not know for sure what I was thinking, but I'll tell you that these things always seem like much better ideas the farther away they are, and therefore seem like the worst idea anyone's ever had, ever, once I'm 5 minutes into a race.

I think, to be honest, the busier I am with this training stuff, the more I forget about, well, everything else. And that is exactly how I like it. While my motivation hasn't slowed a single bit, I've kind of been feeling like I lost that intense drive and focus I had for weeks. While that might be kind of a good thing (that level of intensity was leaving me bone tired, sleep deprived and unable to lose a single ounce), I'd like to get some of it back. I found myself headed to the gym on Wednesday night at 9:00, not because I physically felt like I needed to go, but because mentally I felt like I needed to go. I made a joke this week to one of my friends about running from my problems (haha, get it?), but sometimes I think it's more true than I'd like to admit- I need to be moving, just so there's no time to stop and think.

But to be honest, I think it's a sensational solution to escape what's bugging me. These first 4 months of 2009 have been leaps and bounds better than the last 4 months of 2008, so I'd like to think I'm on the right track (get it, track? leaps and bounds? gee, I'm so witty today, and I swear I didn't do it on purpose). And I know that I have lots of other things to focus on- hello, bicycle that's still leaning against my kitchen table and new training bathing suit with the tags still on- and that should be sufficient enough to get me going in high gear again. Sometimes I know I'm too hard on myself. Sometimes I wish I wasn't. But there is no time when I have been able to figure out how not to be.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I'd like to thank the Academy!

I'm taking a little time out from your regularly scheduled programming to let you know that Dani from "A Daily Dose of Dani" has given me the Kreativ Blogger Award. How awesome! :) Thanks, Dani!

The rules of the Kreativ Blogger Award are as follows:
1. Post the award on your blog, and link to the person who gave you the award.
2. List seven things you love.
3. List seven blogs you love.
4. E-mail or comment on those blogs to let the people know you've given them the award.

So, here goes!
Seven things I love (in no particular order):
1. Love. Yes, I love love. It's the best stuff on earth.
2. A good book- usually nothing can make me as content as curling up with a book and reading for hours.
3. Training for this triathlon. It's tiring, at times painful, and is consuming my life, but it makes me happy.
4. Coffee. Nothing starts my morning as beautifully as a quick stop at DunkinDonuts for a large Toasted Almond, skim milk 1 Splenda :)
5. Sunshine. I miss the feeling of the warm sun on my face. Come on, spring, let's kick it up a notch!
6. My family and friends, for loving me, believing in me, and being infinitely supportive of me--in all aspects of my life. And for being absolutely fabulous.
7. Road trips. Even just taking the long way home makes me happy.

Seven blogs I love:
1. SPITSisters For those of you who haven't been keeping up with this wonderfully written young adult novel in blog form, you've been missing out. While it might be geared towards younger audiences, believe me you will find so much that you identify with, you'll be eagerly awaiting each new update!
2. Super Fat Super Chick Aimee's weight loss journey is so honest and real that you can identify no matter how much weight you want to lose.
3. A Shirt That Races Such a fun, awesome idea.
4. Operation Skinny Bitch Because losing weight isn't easy- and everyone could use a little extra support!
5. Your Ill-Fitting Overcoat Beautifully written and beautifully honest
6. Two Birds One Blog Always witty, always funny, I love love love this blog
7. Surviving Myself Again, another one that makes me laugh out loud. I love it even though he dislikes those who walk on treadmills, and, alas, I am one of those people. But I don't care- I love it anyway.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not waving but drowning

I got the bike from Audrey today. For now, it is in my kitchen resting against my kitchen table (which I never use anyway), but I can't wait to ride it. April is almost here and I definitely need to broaden my focus, which up until now has mostly been on running. Biking, I figured, would be next. I was all settled with this idea of expanding my focus one thing at a time until a conversation with my mother on Saturday.

"Have you figured out where you're going to practice swimming yet?" my mom asked. "Uhhhh...no" I replied. I hate remembering that I haven't figured this out yet, because I know that I need to. It's just never made it's way up to the top of my radar screen for long enough to actually work out a solution. "Well, you should figure out what you're going to do. I'm most nervous about the swim part of this" she says. This is news to me. My mom is not the type to be unnecessarily nervous, and I have been feeling most comfortable with the swim part. Correction: I had been feeling most comfortable with the swim, until this very moment. Something you need to know about my mom is that she is never wrong. Ever. If she is worried, then she has a reason. And if she has a reason, well then that reason is right, whether you want it to be or not. "But swim is first..." is the only argument I can come back with. Weak response, I admit--the fact that swimming will be the first leg of the race does not speak to my ability to make it through. "I know, but with everything else you're on land. If you get tired or hurt you can rest. But when you're swimming you're in the water, it's not the same. You've always been a strong swimmer, but I don't think you've ever done any type of distance swimming in your life. It's different. I'm your mom. I can't help it if I'm worried."

Oh, no. She's right (of course). I tell her that there's "swim angels" in the water during the race, to pull you out should you start to flail about, or to talk to you if you just get a little freaked out. I can tell this makes her feel a little better, but not much. And it doesn't make me feel better at all to use this as my reason why I'll be ok-- I want to be able to happily ignore these swim angel people. I kind of liked the idea of having one aspect of the triathlon that I didn't have to worry as much about, but I realize now that I was fooling myself.

And I think the universe is trying to reinforce this realization, because a friend of mine, without knowing anything about the conversation I had with my mom, sent me a message on Facebook that says "be careful :(" and is followed by a link to an article about how triathlons pose deadly heart risks- particularly due to the swimming portion. The article goes on to describe the stress swimming can put on your heart and how scary it can be to swim with all those people around you. That training by swimming in a pool is not equivalent to training in a lake or river. And how, exactly as my mom said (see, told you she's always right) it's not easy for swimmers to slow down or signal for help and even those posted to watch them might not notice when they're in trouble. I'm reminded of the title of my favorite poem, Stevie Smith's "Not Waving But Drowning". I'm not one to overreact but we all know I'm a compulsive overthinker (and I can't imagine why my friend thought it was good idea to send me this article). This is putting a lump in my throat and I haven't even showered yet- not a good way to start the day.

So. I will try not to obsess about this swimming thing. What I will do is just take from this the understanding that I need to focus on it all equally- run, bike, swim. Just as I didn't want to be the one barely able to put one foot in front of the other during the run, I don't want to be the girl with training wheels and swimmies either. Or the one not waving but drowning.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's like riding a bike...or is it?

Something that I've noticed is that I have spent a lot of time thinking, writing and talking about running. And actually running. Yet I am running because of the triathlon. And we all know that "tri" means three, and "athlon", well, I don't know what that means but probably something to do with sports or events or something. How would I know, I'm not Greek, or Roman, or whoever invented the word triathlon (sidenote: I just looked it up and it’s actually French. Guess I’m no historian. But this might come in handy should you ever find yourself on Jeapordy). Anyway, the point is that there are 2 other events that I have yet to put any real focus on. I've been biking at the gym but I'm sure that's not the same, just how running on the treadmill is not the same as actually running outside. And swimming...to date I've been doing exactly no swimming. In fact, I have yet to determine a sufficient solution to the problem that I don't even have a place to swim. I have been joking with my pal Callie that I will be swimming in circles in her above-ground pool all summer long, but it is starting to look like that is not so much of a joke. Since they just moved in last weekend and the pool has not used for quite some time, there are currently polywogs swimming around in it. If they don’t get cleared out in time, maybe I’ll just have to plan on some polywog races this summer.

I’ve been so focused on what I considered my biggest obstacle (running) that I haven’t focused as much on biking and swimming, and therefore don’t really have a clue as to how much of an obstacle these two things will be. Knowing me, there will be some minor technical difficulties to overcome (we all know I seem to have wardrobe issues when it comes to athletics) but besides that, who knows what I’ll be facing. And I guess now that I’ve semi-overcome the terror that running used to inspire in me, it might be a good time to hop onto a bike and see what it has in store for me. I wouldn’t want to get too over confident in my athletic abilities-- adding wheels, chains and handlebars to the mix should be interesting. I’m borrowing my friend Audrey’s bike for the triathlon and training (super big thank you to Audrey!) and I’m just hoping to return it in one piece- meaning I hope that I am in one piece when I return the bike, and hopefully the bike is in one piece, too.

The well-worn phrase “It’s like riding a bike” always pops into my head-- how hard can it be to ride a bike, if everyone refers to something that’s easy to pick up again by using this phrase? But I have a feeling that this saying vastly underestimates my personal hesitation towards a sport that involves a piece of equipment that needs steering and requires me to wear a helmet. This last concern is not solely due to the fact that I’m pretty sure no one looks cute in a helmet. It’s also because any time you have to wear protective gear to avoid brain injury, you should think twice about what you’re doing. But since thinking twice about anything isn't really my style lately, I'm just planning to put on that helmet and start pedaling.