Monday, September 17, 2007

21 Miles: Check!

I did it! I got through my 21 miler. It was the most wonderful run I've had since I started training for Twin Cities back in July. I so needed to have an awesome run, both to convince myself that I could do another marathon physically speaking and mentally. I overslept, so I woke up rushed, at 6:11 to be exact. My run started at 6:30 and was 20 minutes away if I knew exactly where I was going and I didn't. I flung myself out of bed exclaiming not so nice words and tore around the bedroom and the house finding my clothes, various watches, Gu, socks, water, etc. I finally left the house, only to get lost thinking I knew more then mapqwest, and then finally arrived and Hidden Falls, amazingly only 15 minutes late and my group was just leaving. I wove through them as I drove in and smiled sheepishly.

I was actually sort of glad I was behind the big group. My plan was to do my own thing, run much slowe then I had been, to see if my knee and foot pain would subside. My long slow runs and lately become just long runs, not long SLOW runs. I was basically running race pace, and I knew I needed to go MUCH slower. The group of women I have been running with, most of them were new to marathons, and the veterans were a bit faster then me, so the pace was off for me I finally realized, after week upon week of crappy long runs with a wierd knew knee pain and bizarre foot twinges.

I started running and tried to avoid the bizarre feeling of my pants. They felt so strange. What was going on? I was wearing my favorite navy capris I bought at Walmart of all places when I was looking for last minute painting clothes when my husband inadvertantly brought home my painting clothes as we painted our new house before moving in. I love these pants. They are lose, not tight, nothing bulges unsightly, they have zippers on the bottoms so you can let your calves free, and they have awesome pockets. So, I was a bit unnerved that my favorite pants were failing me now, not even 1/84th of a mile into my run. I looked down at to my dismay saw that I had put my capri tights on backwards as I dressed frantically in the dark before bolting from my house. I looked right, noone but path, I looked left, and saw two other runners from my group. Behind me was a very thin patch of brush. I was wearing bright pink underwear. But, not wanting to delay my run anymore I took a deep breath and stripped of my pants, forgetting however that tights do not slip easily over running shoes and nearly cast myself down onto the moist ground with my pants down around my feet! I finally managed to get my pants off and then on again without flashing too many people. I suppose enough ski races in sub zero temperatures where you will do ANYTHING to get off your wet sports bra and underwear took away most of my natural modesty. However, each year when I do the Lake Loppet race in Minneapolis I am still startled when there are naked, tired skiers changing nonchalantly in the middle of Calhoun Square. Spandex doesn't hide much, so skiers in general are hardly shy about their bodies.

So, I finally start running and it doesn't feel great, but I'm running, nothing hurts. Hooray! The first 2.2 miles felt like the longest ever. I thought it was because I didn't have my Garmin (I'd forgotten it), but I've realized it just takes be a good 30-60 minutes to warm up. The first 4-5 miles always suck. I'd run and cross train more this past week though and I think that helped. I kept running and caught up to the group I typically run with. I run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute. The group does 5:1. For whatever reason I've discovered that 4:1 is the perfect combo for me. So I'm always a bit off the group if they're not following my lead. I kept moving ahead and behind the group which was a bit obnoxious. They kept asking me to join in and so finally I did and switched over to 5:1. Within two reps everything hurt. I realized that I had to do the combo that worked for me. I kept running and before I knew it I was 14 miled down. I still felt great. I ran with another woman in my runnin club for a bit at a faster clip and then slowed down again. I was starting to feel like this marathon could really happen! I got ahead of the group at one of the water stops. I have discovered I'm an in and out kind of person at the water stops, rather then a leisurely break person, particularly when I'm having a good run, and I was. I wanted to keep going and see what kind of time frame I could finish in. I kept running and felt strong. I passed a few other people from my club who did not look happy. I wondered if they'd ever tried walking a bit? It is amazing to me the resistance to running and walking. These people had years of experience on me but they looked pretty miserable. I felt lucky to know my body and to have figured out what worked well for me. When I got to the last turn around I was tired. My knee had flared up a mile back and I had walked it out, hoping I could finish. I picked up the pace the last mile as I imagined doing in this marathon, like I did in Grandmas and all of a sudden I could see myself at the finish line. The emotions, the adrenaline, it was all the same. I pushed myself, mentally affirming my goals and my body. I was strong, fit, I could do it. I finished in 3 hours 54 minutes. I was psyched. I was ready. Bring on the marathon. I was ready for taper. My knee was hella sore, I wondered how I'd feel tomorrow. I enjoyed a bagel and cream cheese, a rare treat for me and a banana and headed out. I felt overjoyed and so proud of myself. I can't wait for October 7th. I might actually be able to PR...I'd love to break 5 hours again, and to PR would be the icing on the cake. I really might be addicted to this marathon thing!!

I didn't sleep well that night, I was visiting my sister and never sleep well on new beds. I woke up and didnt' feel to bad. My knee was a little tender, but I took some advil and went on my day and eventually almost forgot I had run 21 miles! Now, 2 days later I feel great. I am so excited to run in this race. To top it all off I was down 1.6 lbs this week. Only 6.4 to go until I'm back to lifetime and 11.4 to go for my perosnal goal. I'd love to make that my new years so I feel good in my spandex ski suit, becaues like I said, it hides NOTHING. I've formed a team with some other skiing buddies to ski in a series of ski races this winter, and I don't want to let them down. So here's to a great fall of training! I definately found my inspiration and that amazing stubborness and drive that surfaced last June has bubbled to the surface again. I'm glad it's still in there. It's sort of neat to feel fierce once in a while.

Today I taught swim lesson and then swam for an hour afterwards for cross training. It felt great. I finally am feeling a bit more like myself. It's so nice.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Best day ever

This has been the best day ever. Nothing really spectacular has happened. I didn't wake up feeling refreshed or well rested, in fact I woke up late, feeling crabby and annoyed. I didn't have anything super yummy for lunch or any exciting event planned after work Yet, somehow the day just has been one of the best I've had in a long time. The work day didn't drag on, I had an impromptu lunch with my amazing friend Kim at one of our favorite law school haunts, The Black Sea, ( I love the Meze Platter) a fabulous Turkish restaurant in Saint Paul near Hamline University. I teach swimming lessons at a local YMCA and I was dreading a bit the loss of my free time as I will be at the Y two evenings a week. But the kids were ok, and still basically remembered how to swim. I then stuck around the Y, after blowing my workout off on Sunday, and at lunch today to have lunch with Kim, and had a great 4 mile run on the track of all places (I usually hate the track), and then lifted upper body weights and did a bit of ab work. I closed down the gym at 9 and came home and wasn't even starving so I calmly ate some mostly core foods.

It's been a while since I've been in such a good mood on such an ordinary day, but I'll take it. I had the feeling all day that I am a very lucky person. I have a job I really like, great friends, a wonderful, loving husband, for which I thank my lucky stars every day, and a body that functions and does what I want it to most of the time. I was sitting on the shoulder press machine waiting my one minute rest in between my level 7 and 8 rep and reading an article on Rachel Ray. I've never been much of a fan, but the article (of course) was centered on how she stays fit and still enjoys cooking all that food. She has some very matter of fact advice, something like"Life is too short to be a size zero. I'm never going to be that. I don't want to be that. I just buy clothes with stretch and enjoy my life. I don't deny myself, just focus on the good, healthy, wholesome things."

I've noticed that whenever I have days like these, seemingly wonderful days for no apparent reason, that I start to question my quest to be thinner. Sure, I can see both sides of the argument (there's that legal education again), but do I really want to spend the rest of my life dealing with cognitive dissonance over weight issues? I know weight issues will never entirely go away. You don't work really hard and lose 65 lbs and not have weight matters simply go away. Many people will tell you that maintenance is far harder then losing the weight, and I didn't' think anything would ever be harder then that. Sure, I'm 10 lbs over my weight watchers goal and my favorite no stretch (sorry Rachel) size 12 Express jeans don't fit right now, and I see them every morning draped over my reading nook chair, but some days they're just not worth any stress. I might not be as thin as I want to be, but I am happy, healthy, and have so many things to be thankful for. It's on days like these I really appreciate perspective. I just read online about the Buffalo football player who will likely never walk again after trying to tackle the opposing team's player and shattered his spine. Skinny jeans aren't worth that.

I was reading Nancy Clark's Sport's Nutrition Guide the other night and she wrote "every day you can choose to lose weight, maintain weight, or gain weight." It's your choice. You don't have to lose weight every day. And that's ok. In her book, she encourages a woman who's downfall is ice cream (that's me!) to have ice cream twice a week for lunch- the woman soon discovered she doesn't crave it when she can have it whenever. It was like I'd never read that part before, when I've read it dozens of time. It made so much sense this time around. You have to be kind to yourself. Rigidity doesn't work. That I know. Nancy Clark also writes about a body's set point. The point at which the body is happy- doesn't have a hard time maintaining this weight, but will fight going below. I think I have definitely found my set point, and while it is higher then my WW goal, and those skinny jeans don't quite fit, I at least know where my body tends to settle. It's taken about 3 years, but I finally figured that out. My goal is still to get into those skinny jeans and still fit in my clothes that make me feel the best, but I think I have to reframe my motive in order to get there. I think I can accomplish my goals by focusing on the wholesome, healthy foods and not denying myself the things I like. But make sure they are really worth it. Don't indulge in mediocre food. Life is definately too short to eat mediocre food!

I am reading the book "What to Eat"-about food politics and marketing and how we choose what to eat amongs the barrage of choices. Did you know there are about 430,000 food products available on any given day and the average supermarket and restaurant offers 30,000-40,000 of them!! The author has a mantra "eat less, move more, focus on fruit and vegetables." It seems so simple. If I can pick one of those aspects to think about each day my healthy choices won't seem so difficult or irrelevant.

In a world where it's so hard to find healthy snacks on the run, I find it becoming more and more a personal affront that I can't find something without high fructose corn syrup or sugar or modified something or else in it. For example, I recently visited my parents in Salt Lake City, Utah over labor day weekend. On the way back I was waiting for my flight, and knew I would get hungry in the air. Not wanting to have to succumb to the $2 craptastic trail mix (it was really bad) offered by Northwest these days I set off to try to find something reasonably healthy and not too expensive. But, to literally no avail. My options- The airport book/gift stores, meaning candy, salted nuts, prepackaged sugar foods and soda. Burger King. Pizza Hut. TCBY. Quiznos. Rock Mountain Chocolate Factory (at least they weren't hiding their marketing perogative). That's it. I was appalled as I compared these pathetic options to the Twin Cities Airport, where at least you could get an overpriced $9 salad at The Damico and Son's or French Meadow stands. There was nothing like that in the Salt Lake Airport. I wondered if the International Wing would be any better, but I somehow doubted it. Probably more americanized junk in case we missed it too badly abroad. So, I wandered aimlessly around the mini food court, thinking about just opting for a chunk of fudge at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company, where I knew exactly what I was getting myself into, or considering whether the TCBY frozen yogurt would taste any better then a Wendy's frosty made from powder and sugary milk when I spotted the second to last yogurt parfait in the cooler at Quiznos. I was bit skeptical of it's quality. But it proclaimed 'freshness' and 'low-fatness' and 'high calciumness'- how could I go wrong. It looked iffy. The fruity dividing lines were watery and faint, indicating the formerly frozen status of the blueberries, but I couldnt' really argue. It did after all have the nutritional information and if it was even remotely accurate, it wasn't so bad. I wondered about the sugar in the yogurt and gave it an inquisitive squeeze. This had potential. It would either be super awesome giving my rising hunger level or plain awful. I gave it a shake. The granola was a but clumpy and looked distinctly like a mashed up Nature's Valley granola bar, but I was willing to try it. I also bought a banana. Ok- so they did have baskets of fruit, selling slightly brown $2 bananas. Not too inspiring. Nearly $8.50 later, I took my feast back to the gate. It had taken me so long they were already boarding the plane. As I stood there clutching my wares, I looked around and made eye contact with a few other lost souls I had acknowledged in the food court when searching for healthy options. They both gave me a wry smile and a look of 'what else could I do?'-I looked down and grasped in both of their hands, was a yogurt parfait and a banana. And in the end, the granola totally was a broken up Nature's Valley granola bar...but it was pretty tasty. I thought of my coworker Sage, who has an affinity for Super Target yogurt parfaits and made a mental note to try one next time we journeyed to Target for mid morning nourishment.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Four Weeks to Go

So, I have four weeks to go until I run my second marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon. I have always wanted to run a marathon, but if someone had told me at this time last year that I would be running two marathons next year, I probably would have laughed. This time last year my husband and I were getting excited about our local wedding reception...marathons were FAR from my brain. I was just excited to wear my wedding dress again! So as the weeks before I again line up at the start line in the wee hours of the morning start to fly by I find myself thinking back on how I got into this in the first place.

As I started training for my first marathon, Grandma's Marathon, up in Duluth, MN, I realized how much I liked the distance, the focus, the routine. I ran the Twin Cities 10 mile race once before, back in 2005, and I 'trained' for about 4 weeks, and was pleasantly surprised to do much better then I had planned, finishing so much sooner then I EVER thought possible that my then boyfriend and roommate hadn't even left Dunn Brothers Coffee yet to meander over to the finish line at the Capital to watch me come in. I was so startled that by actually following a training program of some sort my body could actually perform better in a running race. Why this was such a realization to me I'm not sure. I have spent most of my life engaged in some sort of competitive sport or another, swimming on youth swim teams and then in high school, and cross country skiing in college. In all of these sports I 'trained' with the goal of performing well in certain events, peaking at the right times, and improving strength, agility, speed, and fitness over time. However, never during all those years of activity did I really stop to think about an overall training plan. I had coaches who told me what to do, and I didn't question it, I just showed up at practice, put in my time, and did my best and meets and races. I had known how to swim and ski since I was very young, and I knew I could ski or swim, even if I hadn't gone for a while, but runnning- oh no- running was a whole different beast. And now, as a funtional adult, done with school, and laden with the associated responsibilities, I was suddenly my own coach, and thus my own source of knowledge and training.

As I said in my profile, I have run most of my life, but never considered myself a runner. In my first year of law school I started running more as a way to jump start my weight loss and get exercise. By the summer before law school I had already lost 30 lbs (with 30ish more to go)...and had plateaued for a while-though thrilled that that I was leaving my heavier self behind. I wanted something more intense to help shake things up. So I went to Run-n-Fun, my favorite running store in the Twin Cities and oogled the running clothes and gear and bought a fresh pair of Asiacs. That was the first time I remember actually 'thinking' about running for running's sake. Not merely as a means of getting to point A to point B faster, or as part of a team workout, but to just go running. I started running 2-3 times a week, and to my amazement I really liked just running alone, running in its pure form. It definately helped with the continued weight loss and toned my legs in ways skiing never did. I kept running up during law school as a way to stay sane and to keep losing weight, although that got a little harder in law school! It required minimal equipment, and I could usually get on a treadmill when I couldn't read any more case law. I started running some 5Ks, the Get in Gear, the Race for the Cure, and found myself thinking more about times and pace and splits. However, I still didn't really consider myself an athlete, I think because I was heavier, and had always been a heavier athlete. At that point, in my mind athletes were for the most part lean, toned, women who looked amazing in spandex and ran in just a sports bra. And I didn't fit the part. I knew I was fit, but an athlete?

During my last year of law school I was waitressing at Sydney's restaurant on Grand Avenue and had the fortune of working the breakfast shift the morning of the Twin Cities marathon. I stood on the sidewalk on that misty morning, remembering watching the marathon as a college student at Macalester as the runners inched up Summit Avenue, and I thought...hmmm, could I do this?! To say you had run a marathon, how cool would that be! I knew I had endurance, I knew I was tough, I have skied many 20-30 Kilometer races in my life, some while fitter then others, and several in severely cold, sub-zero temperatures. I had endured numb and frozen fingers and toes, gotten frostbite on my chin and hips, and still lived to talk about it (and still liked skiing after all that!). But, running 26.2 miles....that sounded hard, and, unlike nordic skiing, there is NO glide in running.

That was about two years ago. I (wisely) decided that training for a marathon and studying for the bar exam was probably not a good idea, so I put it off. After the bar exam my amazing friend Kim joined Team in Training and ran the Rock N Roll Marathon in Arizona-she is truly one of the most amazing people I know. I thought, if she could do it while juggling a job, a 2 hour commute, a kid, a spouse, and a house, I could to, with only myself and a cat to really feel responsible for. So, I signed up for Team in Training, to do the San Diego Marathon, thinking it would help me get in shape ( I was hoping for an engagement ring sometime soon). However, I quickly realized that dealing with relationship stress, trying to find a job post law school, recover from the bar exam (ie. figure out my life) and training for a marathon didn't mix well. I promptly got injured from trying to run too far, too fast, too soon and ended up with tendonitis in my right foot for 6 months. The best part of that whole experience was I ended up buying my first pair of Keen shoes in desperation at REI because they were the only shoes I could find with removable insoles so I hobble around in my orthodics, and I've been hooked since.

Fast forward to the Winter of 2006. The snowfall in the mid-west had been pitiful. I found myself once again uninspired to ski or train for skiing when the snow nearby was so pathetic. Not having the time to travel long distances to snow and being sick of losing entry fee money to races not happening due to the warmth I began to hazily think of another challenge. In the meantime my sister and I basically scared each other into entering the American Birkibeiner. We were nordic skiers after all. Skiing the Birkie was like going on a searching for the holy grail, something you had to do, something to legitimize your committment to the skiing world, or at least we thought it might instill us with a new found love for skiing and inspire us to train. I had skied the Korteloppet (the half Birkie) in college, and whiled I was exhausted at the end, I felt sort of disappointed that I wasn't doing the whole thing (sort of like when I did the Twin Cities 10 mile run on marathon weekend). However, with minimal snow to ski on that winter, and my sister finishing her last semester of nursing school, sking the glorious Birkie didn't quite work out. As fate would have it, the Birkebeiner approached and I hadn't really trained. Now, even though I knew I could ski for several hours and probably emerge unscathed and still smiling, I knew it would be too fun-we're talking about a 56 K ski race. I knew I should have put in a whole lot more training then I did. In the end, my sister got sick, and I think we both just felt too tired (and probably lazy) and uninspired to drive to Wisconsin and ski on not so great snow for no official results. They ended up not officially timing the race because of the poor conditions, so we could have just gone up for a nice ski. But, for us the whole point was to be able to go all that way and finally ski down the streets of Hayward, WI and cross the finish that challenge will have to wait. I am still waiting for my change to ski down Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis to finish the Lake Loppet. (one year canceled, last year I dropped out due to painfully freezing my hands close to death! Lesson Learned: Never re-warm your hands in the warming hut and then keep skiing. Your gloves will freeze solid with your hands inside of them, which results in a lot of pain and an inability to even hold your ski poles. Not my idea of a good time. )

So, I decided to find something close to home. I decided this was the time to finally do it. I signed up for Grandma's marathon, and so did my sister. I was still worried about the training, because I knew I couldn't just run all the time. My past experiences had taught me that my body did best with lots of cross training, and less running. My friend Hilary told me about Jeff Galloway's method of run/walking. As soon as I read his book I knew it was the golden ticket for me and marathoning. I followed his training plan and did run/walk on all the long runs. Since it was the dead of Minnesota winter, running outside for hours at a time did not always appeal to me. I had finally bought a treadmill and was learning about the joys of watching tv while you run. Who knew! I watched episode after episode of Sex and the City, and any action movie I could find. Charlie's Angels and Mr. & Mrs. Smith were my favorites.

I soon realized that I didn't think I could run much farther then 12 miles on my treadmill alone or I would go crazy in the stuffy little apartment workout space where my treadmill was stowed. I had just started posting on a marathon message board on weight when a woman on the board (Thanks Supermel!) suggested I check out the Salubrious Running Club. It was the best suggestion I ever got. I joined, took their first marathon class, and couldn't believe how fun it was to run with a group and have support! Marathon day came and I knew I had trained and I was ready. I surpassed my expectations and finished under 5 hours, to my utter astonishment (again finishing so much faster then I had planned that my husband did an about face and sprinted back towards the finish line as he heard them announce my name) I still run with Salubrious and love the community and friends I have made there.

The sneaky kicker to all of this was that you had to sign up for the Twin Cities Marathon before you had even completed Grandma's Marathon and could decide if you would ever wanted to do a marathon again! Taking Jeff Galloway's advice, to wait at least a week before you decide if you'll do another marathon, I figured why not. I didn't have to run it...what was the harm in signing up? The $85 entry fee would probably motivate me to do it anyway!

In training for Grandma's marathon, I thought it would be a great way to lose the last bit of weight I was hoping to shed. I thought it would be so easy! How wrong I was. I ended up gaining at least 5-7 lbs training for Grandma's marathon, leaving me (still) with about 10 more to go to lose. This time around, training for Twin Cities I decided to focus on losing weight, and maybe not run quite so much. Things were going well, however in the last month, I've faced many challenges. My injured foot from Grandma's training has flared up and my knee has been bothering me. I've been running less so I wasn't sure why. My food choices weren't so healthy and I think portion control temporarily was forgotten. Perhaps the long runs were harder because my base was different? I'm not sure why, but so far I haven't had a good long run. I've also been doing more running on a treadmill which I'll have to stop.

So, with only 4 weeks to go before I venture back out into this marathon thing, my goals are to cross training more, eat healthy foods to fuel my body and prevent injury. I'm already looking forward to taking off after this marathon and focusing on other active pursuits, and maybe, oh, another marathon....

Today I went on a wonderful hour long bike ride along the Gateway trail. We had the most beautiful weekend here in Minnesota. I'm glad I got to take advantage of it.

The First Post-Is this thing on?

So, I've been thinking about doing this for sometime, setting up a blog. What would I say? Would anyone read it? Did I even want anyone else to read it? My original idea was to start one as I was training for my first marathon, but now that's over and done with and I'm hooked. With only 4 weeks to go until my second marathon, I began to think that having a place to go to write down my thoughts, document my days, etc., would be nice. And since I can type a hell of a lot faster then I can write (thanks to three years of law school lectures) a blog seemed the best approach.

I always liked journaling, but my hand seriously just got tired. And I tended to journal mostly when times were tough, when I was really wrestling with things in my life. I thought it would be nice to have a more accessible way to reflect on my life, my day, etc. It was always very illuminating when I would read through old journals, full of angst, self-inward examination and questioning, when as I read, the answers and choices I should make seemed so obvious evident. But a lot of the positive and good stuff was missing and forgotten. Occasionally I would come upon entries of wonderful, funny things that has happened in my life that I had forgotten, and I loved that. My mother I'm sure would be horrified that I've decided to post something personal on the internet, but I think it will be somewhat cathartic and freeing. Why I feel the need to explain why I have a blog I'm not sure, but I guess I had to convince myself that it was a rationale, reasonable idea- I am after all a lawyer. So, here I am, about to document my goals, my days, my experiences.

I already wish I had started this so long ago. There are so many retroactive posts I want to write! But you have to start somewhere......