Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Candid Reflections of 2011 and Embracing Challenges and Fears in 2012

I have been hesitant to write another post because the world seems overwhelmed with blogs; everyone seems to have something to share, valuable or not. In the past months, I found myself questioning the purpose, direction, and focus of my own blog. I recently read a discussion on DailyMile that asked bloggers why they felt the need to share with the world their personal stories, successes and failures, photos, reviews, and beyond. As I read the responses, I thought about the various motives behind writing a blog. I must admit that some seem more valuable and inspiring than others but who am I to judge? Nonetheless, I promptly recalled the reasons why I began my blogging adventure. When I started my blog in 2010, I saw it as an opportunity to express myself, to capture some of my best and worst running (and overall life) experiences, and to share my lessons learned. I also viewed it as an opportunity to share my story and to be honest about my struggle with an eating disorder while attempting to live a more balanced and healthier life and to become a better runner. During the voyage, I simply hoped I might inspire someone along the way. Ultimately, I had no desire to possess many followers or to become a world renowned blogger. I simply hoped that I could reignite my passion for writing, process some of my thoughts and feelings, document some of the most important running (and other monumental) moments in my life, and possibly touch one or two people at the end of the day. Once I made the decision to hop back on the “blogging saddle,” I vowed to be candid about my story and to remain committed to my original purpose. As I began to think about my next post, I was even more leery about writing anything that followed the typical endings and beginnings post that we frequently see in December and January...but there I was again questioning it all and finding the intrinsic value of doing such a post. So, here I am writing again and sharing my musings about 2011 and my priorities for 2012.

Immediately after my last run of 2011, I was excited to tally up the miles and reflect on my accomplishments. I ran a total of 2500 miles in 2011 which was over 1300 miles more than I had run in 2010. My total workout miles for the year which included running, walking, biking, using the elliptical, etc. was 3175!! I also PR'ed in every event and ran my first ultra marathon, a trail 50k. So when it was all said and done, I had the best running and overall fitness year of my life! What an accomplishment!! Surprisingly enough, this isn’t what resonates the most with me as I reflect on the past year.

In the middle of September, my running took an unexpected turn. On September 10th, I ran my first 50k and one week later, I ran my best half marathon at 1:30:37, taking the place as 1st overall female and winning some really awesome shoes I might add. = ) Prior to that race, I was having some foot pain and two days after that race, the foot pain became unbearable forcing a 9-week hiatus from running. I failed to listen to my body, too focused on racing, and I suffered a strain in my plantar fascia. I cannot find the words to illustrate the disappointment and frustration that I was feeling at that point. I had already registered for the Detroit marathon scheduled for October and the Indy marathon set for early November. I was looking forward to running yet another PR and ending the year with victory. After some failed attempts at a quick recovery, I was sidelined from running and unable to finish the year with my anticipated marathon PR.

During that time, I struggled even further with my eating disorder. I was at a place that I believed to be recovery but through my treatment, I learned that I had simply minimized my binging with food and strengthened my obsession for running. I was still living my life consumed with weight, size, calories, and grams of fat. I was still striving for perfection and a sense of control that fueled my eating disorder. During my injury as my miles decreased and my weight increased, I struggled even more. I felt alone, isolated, and depressed. I was no longer running each morning to prepare for my day or at night to alleviate stress from a long, strenuous day. I was no longer meeting the group for Tuesday and Saturday runs and I was missing that camaraderie. I was no longer running races on the weekend, thus missing that sense of rush and excitement that comes when you meet or surpass your goals. The bottom line was that I wasn’t running and I simply didn’t know who I was. Running not only provided me with comfort and relief for my eating disorder, it also provided me with a sense of identity, a sense of accomplishment, and self-worth.

Who am I if I am not a runner? How can I “fix” this eating disorder if I can’t run off the calories? How can I watch all my friends put in great miles and meet their goals while I miss out? During these times in my life where it feels as though my world has collapsed (in a very minimal way I admit), I often try to find the deeper meaning of it all. I examine opportunities for self-realization and growth and I use my social worker strengths perspective to turn it all around. So, it went a little something like this. “Yes, you aren’t running but yes, you can still go to the gym and workout. Yes, you gained a few pounds, but perhaps you were too thin before and this is healthier for you? Yes, you aren’t running races on the weekend but you are spending more time with your husband and the ones you love the most. Yes, you aren’t putting in any running miles and you probably won’t meet your mileage goal for the year but you have more time to devote to your other interests. Yes, you are injured but with some patience, commitment, and dedication, you will most likely be healed in the near future.”

Through my own positive reframing and support from my husband, family, friends, and DailyMile community; I was able to work through the feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. I continued to work even harder on my eating disorder and began a recovery plan to start running again. As the weeks passed, I slowly began to heal both physically and emotionally. I was able to put in some miles on my 33rd birthday at the end of November. I gradually began to rebuild my mileage and rejoin my running community. Consequently, I ended the year running a few more miles but still falling short of a few of my goals. More importantly, I concluded 2011 overcoming a foot injury feeling more mentally stronger and confident than ever before. I felt like I had been given a test and I think I passed with a B, not too shabby. = )

While I admit that each day is still a struggle with my eating disorder and I am not completely healed from my foot injury, I truly believe that I am on the path to recovery in more ways than one. I am committed to seeking counseling when I need it most, expressing my fears and anxieties, and asking for support from those I love. I learned the value of taking a day off when my body needs it and not worrying about how many calories I did or did not burn off that day. I temporarily let go of some of my running goals, so I can simply enjoy running again. I renewed my gym membership, pledging to cross train more often. (I can’t lie, this truly is a struggle!) While I am still in love with running, something that brings me much joy and comfort, I have found solace in other areas of my life. I strengthened my relationship with my husband, built new friendships while strengthening old ones, and became more invested in my community and helping others. I renewed my love for reading and found great pleasure in Words with Friends. = )

As I look forward to 2012, my priorities include living a healthier and more balanced life which includes focusing on continued physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. I am committed to the process of recovery for my eating disorder, allowing myself to accept imperfections, lack of control, and whatever misfortunes might come my way.

As my husband and I plan for the year to come, we hope to start our family, beginning the journey of parenthood. I have postponed any hard training or racing for the time being as my priorities shift to beginning our family. While the thought of running less, gaining weight, and bringing a new life into this world, terrifies me in ways that I cannot exemplify, I am determined to tackle this fear and embrace a new challenge. While we have hopes and plans for the year to come, I recognize that life is full of uncertainties. Thus, I look forward to whatever comes our way. I embrace each moment, determined to live life to the fullest.

As I end this post, I am reminded why bloggers often write much more frequently. It is difficult to sum up the last five months in just one post!! = )

Happy, Happy New Year to you and yours!! Here’s to a blessed year dedicated to loving, learning, growing, and giving in new and profound ways!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Why a Marathon? Another Reminder...

At 6:00a.m. this morning, I began my quest to complete marathon #3, a challenge that I thought I would never be able to conquer. The past two weeks preceding this marathon were no different than the others, unfortunately, as I was plagued with knee pain. This time it was accompanied with some hip and lower back pain. Thus, I vowed to take it easy after my 10k last weekend. I allowed myself to rest as needed this week which meant no running for three days while enjoying a massage and sleeping late in the mornings. However, the pain continued just one day before the marathon and I was uncertain of my racing future. (I am starting to wonder if this pain is a sign for me to slow down to physically and mentally prepare myself for race day because I think otherwise I would just keep going.)

The Carrollton Marathon was over a two-hour drive from our house so we spent the night in a hotel and woke up at 4:00a.m. to head over to the race. I was following my usual pre-race routine of stretching, meditating, multiple bathroom breaks, and kisses from Sylvester when I realized I forgot to put on deodorant. Epic fail!! I told my husband that there was no way that I was running 26.2 miles in the heat without it. (I get funky on 5-mile runs in 20 degree weather!!) It was 20 minutes from start time but I begged my husband to take me to look for some. After two failed attempts at gas stations, we decided to get back to the race. While in the car, we searched for anything remotely close to deodorant. We found some hand sanitizer and my husband told me to use it since it kills bacteria and bacteria is what makes you get stinky. (My husband's theory, not mine, but I heeded the advice.)

We arrived back at the start line at 5:58a.m. WHEW, close call!! I began the race feeling nervous about my knee and the fact that I didn't get to use the restroom at least one last time. (I usually go at least five times before the race, this time I only went twice.) However, I knew that the show must go on! I started out running the first four miles close to an 8:00 minute pace. My knee was feeling good so I went with it and ran a pace that felt comfortable. I started running 7:35-7:45 miles and at mile 13, I realized that I was on pace to run under 3:30. I continued with that pace despite my stops at mile 6 and 15 to drop some "kids" off. My stomach seemed queasy for some strange reason. I also realized that my husband's theory of hand sanitizer as deodorant might be working after all, so I used more at the restroom stops! = ) Around mile 19, I started to lose my thunder and my pace was dropping to 8:15, 8:40, and it kept going down. The heat was exhausting. I was so hot and dehydrated, I just couldn't seem to drink enough. This constant flow of water and Gatorade made my belly feel like it was going to bust! Not to mention, my legs were fatigued and I started to feel pain in my legs and on the top of my foot. At one point, I remembered thinking that every muscle in my lower body ached...(well, at least that is what I told myself.) At mile 19, 20, 21, and 22, I asked myself why a marathon wasn't 20 miles, or 21 or 22 or 23 for that matter. I just wanted it to be over with. I was miserable and I kept asking myself why I even wanted to run this damn thing. (Note: Around mile 14, I was telling myself how much I love marathons and I couldn't believe how fast the time was going by. I was enjoying the scenery and just happy to be there. Funny, how my tune changed.) I had to make one final stop at mile 24 to drop more "kids" off and I struggled the last couple of miles. A fellow runner reminded me that we had just 2 miles to go and that I had to finish strong, words that I needed to hear!!

As I pushed myself those last miles, I began to fall in love with the marathon all over again. I thought about the physical and mental challenges that a marathon brings. I recalled the months of training and preparation that lead up to that day and the sense of accomplishment when you finish. I also remembered the camaraderie and support from fellow runners on the course which is remarkable.

As I came closer to the finish line and I saw my husband and our, dog Sylvester, I was ecstatic! When I was about 200-300 meters from the finish line, I realized that I was just seconds from my previous marathon time. So, I pushed it, and ended up finishing at the exact same time as my last marathon (at least unofficially according to my Garmin and the race clock, the official results have yet to be posted.) As I crossed the line, I felt so humble, yet so proud. (However, I won't lie, after that initial rush, I felt HOT, SWEATY, NAUSEOUS, TIRED, and THIRSTY! I just wanted to sit down and eat my Popsicle!)

Overall, it was a great small race with awesome volunteers and runners. I was originally leery about the 3 loops for the course. However, I became fond of it because it allowed me to count down loops rather than miles, well, at least initially! = ) I also appreciated the fact that I knew what to expect after the first loop and I could anticipate the course!!

At the end of the day, my husband and I share our highs and lows for the day. In response to my husband, I stated that the marathon was both my high and low. With tears in my eyes, I told him that it was my high because I remember those days when I yearned to run a marathon but that voice inside me told me that I wasn't strong enough, fast enough, brave enough, or determined enough. Years would pass by when I simply looked at marathon registrations, never having the tenacity, courage, or determination to fill out the form and begin my training. Now, here I am with three marathons under my belt in the past nine months and I can't help but be thankful and proud. I explained to my husband the physical and mental challenges that one must endure to complete a marathon. There is a point in the race, where you have to tell yourself, that you can, that you are strong enough, fast enough, brave enough, and determined enough!! There is a point where you push yourself to go farther than you ever thought was possible!! Cliche, I know but these words hold so true to my heart and soul!! Running provides me with the self-confidence and reassurance that I can tackle whatever obstacle that comes my way. It encourages and inspires this small town girl who often feels lost in such a crazy, big world. It reminds this girl who is often full of self-doubt, fear, and anxiety that I can do whatever I set my mind to, an irreplaceable feeling. I feel as though we all seek those challenges and experiences in life that allow us to self-examine, reflect, grow, find meaning, and validate our existence. Running fulfills this role in my life.

While sharing my high, I also noted to my husband that running another marathon was such a blessing. I feel so blessed and fortunate to be able to run 26.2 miles and I am so grateful for my physical health and strength that allows me to put one foot in front of the other.

When I discussed my low for today, I also reflected on my marathon. While I made it to the finish line and I conquered some obstacles, I recognize the places for growth. I still battle that voice that tells me that I can't do it, that I am not worthy. That voice that tells me to give up because it is just too difficult, often telling me that it is absolutely impossible. You know, that voice that immobilizes your faith, hope, and perserverance and feels you with fear and doubt. At times during the race, I allowed this voice to prohibit me from continuing. It was nearly unfeasible to find the mental strength that I needed to endure and to push on. There were several points towards the end of the race where I knew that I was still close to reaching my goal of 3:30-3:35 but I couldn't find the inner strength to push myself slightly further...disappointing as I reflect back on those moments.

At the end of the day, when I ponder on the total experience, I am merely thankful to have finished another marathon. I am so thankful to possess the physical and mental health and strength to run 26.2 miles. I am so grateful to have the love, support, and encouragement from my husband, family, friends (including DM) that help me to achieve my goals. I am reminded that I do love marathons!! (I have been secretly planning for marathon #4 for the past month, contemplating the Monumental Marathon in Indy in November!)

Ultimately, I am reminded to live, love, and be happy; seizing every moment and believing in myself!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Journey of a Marathoner

Yesterday, I ran my second marathon, Glass City, exactly 6 months after running my first marathon, Detroit Free Press. I definitely didn't planned it that way...It was 4:30a.m. and I was brushing my teeth, getting ready for Glass City, when I had the epiphany that it was exactly 6 months since I had become a marathoner. I yelled at my husband that I had just made the connection and I truly believed this held significance in my marathon journey.

To quickly recap my first marathon experience, I must remind you that it was just 13 days before our wedding...and no, that was not the initial plan. After signing up for the Detroit Free Press Marathon, my husband and I decided to move our wedding date up by 8 months. No, I wasn't pregnant, but yes, we were beyond ready to start our union. Little did I know that it would be extremely difficult to plan a wedding in just a few months while simultaneously training for my first marathon. Needless to say, I ran my first marathon with inadequate physical and mental training. (Hey, it is hard to give it your all when you are picking out bridesmaid dresses, decorations, music, flowers, and the list goes on!)

During those months of preparation, I struggled with ongoing knee pain that included interruptions in my training schedule, a cortisone injection to help me manage the pain, and significant damage to my overall self-confidence. Despite my attempts to recover and become 100% healthy, I entered the race with an injured knee and high hopes of just making it across the finish line. I won't go into further details, other than saying, my knee gave out at mile 17. I spent the last 9.2 miles, walking, jogging, and slowly running to the finish line. I survived and I was thankful for that. However, I knew that my marathon journey had only just begun.

Even through all of the physical and emotional struggles of training, I knew that I would do it all over again. I was determined to train again, this time smarter and stronger with a renewed purpose and focus. I was now happily married, so I could cross at least one obstacle off the list. I was also determined to run a spring marathon in the hopes that this goal would keep me motivated to train during the brutal Michigan winters. I entered the winter months with a sense of purpose and motivation that I never knew existed. I must admit that I had been a fair weather runner, who often abandoned her outside running during the coldest months only to return to it when the temperature began to reach about 50 or 60. This year, I stayed focus and put in the most mileage ever. To put it all into perspective, I ran just 99 miles during the first 3 months of 2010. In 2011, I ran 795 miles in the first 3 months. My goal was to not only run a better marathon, but to become a stronger runner. Yes, I've been running for over 10 years, but I admit that sometimes I lose sight of my goals. I often allow fear and self-doubt to impede my goal attainment.

Once again, I knew that maintaining consistent training during the vicious Michigan winters would provide me with not only the foundation to execute a better marathon in the spring but the confidence I needed to obtain my goal. If I could survive running in the cold, ice, and snow, I could do anything, right? Thus, consistency was the name of the game!!

When race day came, I had high hopes but I was afraid to make my expectations known. I had failed at the marathon before, I was terrified of failing again. The two weeks prior to the race, I started having knee pain that I eventually connected to my intense speed workouts. So, I decreased the intensity of my workouts and really focused on easy pace running along with strengthening and stretching my leg muscles, core, and back. The week of the marathon, I drastically reduced my mileage, visited my masseur, and made a few trips to the chiropractor. The knee pain subsided but it didn't completely disappear. I woke up on race day with minimal knee pain but it still brought back horrible memories of my first marathon. I shook off all the negative energy and I prayed that I would simply do my best. Truth be known, I was hoping for a 3:35-3:40 marathon which would qualify me for the 2012 Boston Marathon.

The morning of the race, I made 3 trips to the bathroom which reduced the amount of time for my warm-up. I started the race with not even a mile of warm-up, but I held on to my self-confidence. I knew that I was ready. I thought about all of the long runs in the 0 degree temps, my 20-mile training run on a treadmill (that's just torture), and all my preparation until that day. After a brief stock of my training over the last 4 months, I continued my running, thinking, "just give it all you got."

I started out the race fairly conservative and I managed to stay with the 3:40 pacing group for the first 11 miles of the race. At mile 11, I had bathroom issues that I could not defer any longer. I had to stop but in the process, I lost a good 3-4 minutes of time. Right after my bathroom stop, I saw my running mentor, Tom. I was surprised and thankful to see him. He provided me with some much needed encouragement and motivation while he ran with me for about a half mile. I let him know that I had been staying with the 3:40 pacing group until my bathroom break. He told me that I could easily catch up with them. At that point, I started putting in 7:30 miles so I could catch up to the pace group.

At mile 16, Tom found me again. This time he had on shorts and was ready to go. We ran about 3 miles together, passing up the 3:40 pacing group. My splits were back to 7:30s and 7:40s. I felt stronger than ever. Tom told me that I looked great. He reminded me of my 60-70 mile training weeks and told me that I was ready for this day. It was exactly what I needed to hear. At mile 20, I started to slow down, I was afraid I couldn't manage the pace for another 6.2 miles. I began to doubt myself once again. There was no running mentor or friend to boost my confidence and encourage me the rest of the way. At mile 22, I really lost steam and was hovering around an 8:45 pace. I tried to adjust my ponytail and my hair tie broke. I had to finagle it back together while running in the wind. Have you seen all of my hair? There was no way I was running another 4 miles without my ponytail! :) Miles 23 and 24, I was just hanging on for dear life. I needed some motivation at that point!! Where's Tom when you need him the most? I just couldn't push myself. Physically, I was a little tired, but it was definitely the mental barriers that were holding me back!! Plus, that wind started to get brutal again!! It was smacking me in my face and literally pushing me around. At mile 25, I stuck with my mantra, "just give it all you got." I ran mile 26 at a 7:42 pace, my second fastest mile of the race. My official time was 3:38:41, an hour and 13 minutes faster than my last marathon. I had met my goal and qualified for Boston.

Lessons were learned during this race and I definitely have room to grow. However, I have to say that I was humble and proud to run across that finish line knowing that I had achieved my goal!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Runner Giving Thanks

Just four days before Thanksgiving and five days before my 32nd birthday and I am asking myself, where did this year go? It is hard to believe that 2010 is coming to a close in 41 more days. While many folks love this time of the year, I have to be honest and say that I am not really exhilarated by it all. I often think that holidays are so overrated...full of unnecessary stress, countless parties that have no real meaning and purpose, pressure to buy meaningless gifts for everyone from the co-worker to the long-lost cousin, a frantic shopping day called Black Friday full of crazy shoppers, long lines at all my favorite stores, and an overdose of cookies, cakes, pies, and all things sugary...just not my cup of tea.

Call me Scrooge, but I just don't get all hyped up about presents, stockings, Christmas music, lights, egg nog, collard greens, and turkey. Well, I don't discriminate against Thanksgiving or Christmas, I treat all of the holidays the same. My husband and I don't get too worked up over any of the holidays because they all seem superficial and too commercialized, often losing their true meaning. We also believe it is fundamental to give thanks, express our love and admiration, show care and concern, and give to others all year round not just on February 14th or December 25th. Okay, so I am digressing and you probably don't care how I feel about the holidays.

Well, despite my apathy towards this time of the year, I do like to use this time to take an inventory of my life and to count my blessings. I try my best to do this on a regular and consistent basis. However, Thanksgiving reminds me of the value of doing so.

Reflecting on 2010, I must give thanks for all of my blessings. I became engaged and married to the most wonderful man in a matter of just eight months. (That sounds like I just met him in February, we had been dating for almost four years when we became engaged.) I also ran three of the biggest races in my life this year which included two half marathons and a full marathon. Overall, I have been blessed with a year full of love, peace, health, and happiness.

While this has been a phenomenal year, I am not going to lie and say that it hasn't brought challenges and obstacles. It most certainly has. It has included illnesses and sudden deaths resulting in the lost of close family and friends which were devastating. Nonetheless, I have tried to remain optimistic and I feel beyond blessed at this point in my life. I have a phenomenal husband, an amazing family, wonderful friends, three jobs that I really love, good health, a roof over my head, and enough clothes for a family of six. What more could I ask for? Well, I would like a warmer pair of running gloves for the pending freezing temperatures and I would really like another North Face full-zip fleece for lounging around the house but really, NOTHING!!

Well, I was inspired by a fellow athlete on Dailymile who shared her post about a runner giving thanks. Well, I thought it was awesome and I wanted to follow suit. So, what particular things make my life more enjoyable as a runner? Well, here is a list of a few things that I am thankful for, in no particular order:

-My Garmin 405: It is simply amazing. I have only had it for about 6 months but it is hard to believe that I have been running for all these years without it. It helps keep me focused on my runs and it tracks my pace, distance, and heart rate providing me with motivation to push myself farther and faster.

-Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews: They taste fabulous! They are great for my long runs and quite honestly, they are just good when you want something sweet and fruity! Love them!!!

-Fat Free Chocolate Syrup: It makes my post-run protein shakes taste amazing.

-My Ipod: It truly is a wonderful invention. Don't you remember those days of trying to run with a Discman? Don't act like you didn't! You remember going to the gym trying to decide which one or two CDs you wanted to workout with. Well, thank goodness for the Ipod. Just last night, I was creating a new playlist to serve as my motivation for my run this morning. I never run with my Ipod during races but it is my lifeline for my training runs! Thank you, Apple!

-Dri-Fit Clothing: Again, another incredible invention that makes running so much more enjoyable in all four seasons. I am particular thankful for the Nike Dri-Fit line because their shirts and pants are actually long enough for my tall body!! My running tights don't look like running capris!

-My Health: I am beyond thankful to be blessed with good health that allows me to put two feet on the ground each morning and keep going. We often take our physical (and emotional) health for granted, not realizing that it could be gone in an instant. Some days I run simply because I can and I am thankful for that.

-My Husband: I am thankful to have such a wonderful and supporting husband who allows me to neglect some of my responsibilities to pursue my love of running. I work ALOT and he helps reduce the burden by helping out at home and with my work. He also understands when I sacrifice our time together in order to get a good night sleep or a long run in. He is also the best cheerleader, photographer, and my number one fan. He believes in me when I don't even believe in myself. He has been to almost every race that I have done, often waking up at 4:00a.m. to drive to the race. I heart him!!

-My Friends and Family: I don't run with a running group and all of my runs are done solo. Thus, I am thankful for my family and friends who allow me to vent and listen to my crazy running stories. They always offer their love and support even when they don't quite understand why I get up at 6:00a.m. to run 15 miles. For those that are runners, I am particularly grateful for their mentoring and advice over the years. For those who are not, I am appreciative of their compassion and empathy as I share my joys and pains of running. Bless your heart for even listening to me rant and rave about all of my races, buying new running shoes, black toenails, runner's knee, achy back, hip pain, and the list goes on!!

-Dailymile: Another incredible invention that allows me to track every workout! I use to write down every single workout in a notebook trying to determine my pace and calories burned, it is no longer necessary with Dailymile. Not only it is a great tracking tool, it is also an awesome social network of athletes who provide me with inspiration to continue to pursue my goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Thank you for all of your support!! You help to get me out of bed some days!!

-Considerate Drivers: I truly appreciate those drivers who take the time to look both ways and allow me to cross the street. Running can be dangerous anytime of the day and I am thankful for those drivers who express concern about my safety and are willing to wait a few seconds for me to cross the street.

-Sunny and Calm Weather: As a runner, the weather obviously plays a fundamental part in every determines what I wear, when I run, and sometimes, even my mood. While it is nice to wake up to sunny weather during my training runs, it is truly awesome to be blessed with great weather on race day. I am still thanking God that I didn't have to run 26.2 miles in the rain on October 17th = )

-Races: I love every aspect of races. I love the camaraderie of the fellow runners who provide their support, I love the amazing spectators who cheer us on, I love the volunteers who sacrifice their time, and I love the sense of accomplishment that I feel from completing a race. I also don't mind the free t-shirts, medals, and post-race food!!

So, for all these things, big and small, I give thanks!! I am thankful for an awesome year thus far and I look forward to the years to come!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reflecting on the Big M's: My Five Cents

Almost one month after my first marathon and 13 days into marriage, I am still wondering if it is day or night. The past few weeks have disappeared like a thief in the night and I have been frantically searching for this time bandit. Consequently, I feel as though I've had minimal time to reflect on these monumental experiences of completing a marathon and entering matrimonial bliss. The past week my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Jamaica and it was the first opportunity that we had in a long time to simply rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Days of jerk chicken, "no problem man," feeling irie, pina coladas, walks along the beach, and warm weather were just what the doctor ordered for both of us.

During those days in the Caribbean as we lounged at the beach, chilled at the poolside bar, drank a glass of wine at dinner; my husband and I contemplated the past few months and took stock of our lives. I recall sitting at dinner, my eyes flooded with tears of joy, telling my husband, "I feel so very blessed." Thinking back on that moment, there are no better words that can describe how I feel about my life right now. Feelings of gratitude and appreciation disable me and I am frozen in this very moment. I feel beyond fortunate to have completed my first marathon, one of the most mentally and physically challenging experiences in my life. I am thankful to have had the strength, courage, determination, will-power, health, and support to finish the race. Additionally, I feel so privileged to have married my best friend in the company of my family and closest friends. I am thankful to have found such a loving and committed partner to share the rest of my life with. What more could I ask for?

As previously noted, it has been almost one month since the marathon, but the day remains etched in my mind like it was yesterday. My first marathon was remarkable... The weather was incredible, the course was beautiful, the spectators were amazing, and the fellow runners were supportive and encouraging. I can recall the first couple of miles of the race as we crossed the Ambassador Bridge at sunrise and I was in awe of the beauty that surrounded awe of the complete experience amidst thousands of runners. As we ran through Canada, Corktown, Indian Village, Belle Isle, and downtown Detroit; I thought about the months of training leading up to the race but I ultimately allowed myself to get lost in the moment. I thanked each volunteer every time I grabbed a cup of water or Gatorade. I took the time to "high five" the spectators along the course and even sang along with some of the bands. I appreciated the high school students who had sacrificed their Sunday morning to entertain and motivate all of the runners. I chatted with other marathoners who were also seeking to finish their first marathon. I allowed myself to enjoy each and every moment...

While I sing praises for such a wonderful marathon day, I have to admit that it was full of its challenges and obstacles. As I shared before, I have struggled with several cases of runner's knee and you guessed it, this race experience would be no different. I had been experiencing knee discomfort the week preceding the marathon and started race day with the same level of discomfort. However, I loaded my knee up with KT tape and was determined to put two feet on the ground. I started the race just hoping to finish and manage whatever pain came my way. Well, it was quite possible until mile 17. At that moment, the pain became unbearable. I stopped in my tracks and headed to the sidewalk. I attempted to massage the knee, stretch out my muscles, and began praying that I could manage the next nine miles. Well, to keep a long story short, the next nine miles were atrocious, consisting of stints of walking, jogging, and running. While I was determined to cross the finish line, there were moments that I felt defeated and wanted to quit. However, the support and encouragement that I received from the fellow runners and the spectators along with my stubbornness, transported me to the finish line. The last mile was just brutal but I was invincible... As I came to the last tenth of a mile, the tears rolled down my face and I threw up my hands feeling proud, ecstatic, humble, and thankful to finish the race. My final time was 4:50:53. While it wasn't the time I had been anticipating, nothing compares to the sense of accomplishment that I felt for achieving this goal of mine.

So our wedding day came and went and I've been wondering if I was even present..but I have the video and my signature on the marriage certificate to verify my attendance. I was forewarned that the day would whiz by, but I wasn't prepared for this kind of swiftness. I couldn't believe how rapidly both the ceremony and reception began and ended. I've already watched the video just so I can relive the day. Despite the fleeting time, it was an amazing day, my feelings indescribable. Tears streamed down my face as my brothers walked me down the aisle and I met my soon-to-be husband. My mother offered an impromptu speech at the reception expressing her love for my husband and her support for our marriage while paying homage to my was simply beautiful...Overall, it was a wonderful day bursting with love, joy, and happiness.

Thirteen days into marriage and my life is transforming. While I am surely a spring chicken when it comes to marriage experience and any matrimonial advice for that matter. Although, I must share that I have already learned many invaluable lessons in less than two weeks. I am learning how to be a wife, to love more deeply, and to completely share my life with someone else...I am thrilled with every moment. I am amazed at the revolution that has occurred within our relationship and I am truly looking forward to the days, weeks, months, and years to come...

So, at the end of it all, a marathon and a marriage was a phenomenal way to end my October! Yes, I am hoping for more marathons but praying for just one long, happy marriage! = )

Monday, October 4, 2010

Runner's High

Just 12 days before the Detroit Free Press Marathon and I have to say that I am truly ecstatic. For the first time in months, I am truly looking forward to this experience. I am feeling more confident than ever that I CAN tackle this goal of mine.

Experiencing numerous peaks and valleys during the past four months of training, my enthusiasm for running my first marathon has slightly wavered. Some moments I am bursting at the seams with excitement for October 17th, while other times, I think I just want to throw in the towel. Well, I apologize now for my oscillation. Suffering a knee injury for the second time in a row during my marathon quest has really put a damper on my self-confidence and my overall zest for this endeavor. Okay, call me a quitter but there have been times when I simply want to give up. The sacrifices have appeared to outweigh the benefits. My training regime has been overwhelming and even annoying at times. Running, stretching, strengthening, eating, resting; running stretching, strengthening, eating, resting; and running, stretching...!!! Do you see the monotony of it all? Can you understand my plight?!?! Despite this fluctuation between love and hate for running my first marathon, I have continued the journey. Okay, okay!! I times, it has been with indifference.

Thankfully, this past weekend changed my apathetic attitude. One race put it all into perspective. On Sunday, October 3rd, I ran my 2nd half marathon, the Brooksie Way. It had been over three months since I had run any races and almost four months since I ran my first half marathon. Like any race, I was feeling quite anxious the night before and concerned about the pending weather conditions predicting rain with cold temperatures in the low 40's. Nonetheless, I followed my pre-race routine of veggie deep dish pizza for dinner, stretching, meditation, and checking all of my race gear. On the morning of race day, my fiance and I woke up around 4:30a.m. to head to the race site. We arrived at the race shortly after 7:00a.m. to gloom and chilly temperatures. In case you were wondering, cold and dark doesn't make for ideal race conditions. However, I fought the negativity and tried to stay optimistic about my second attempt at a half marathon. While there was a small part of me hoping to reach a PR, the larger part of me simply wanted to finish the race and gain confidence about running the Detroit marathon in just two weeks. As we got closer to the start of the race, the clouds faded and the sun appeared. My fiance and our Yorkie, Sylvester, provided their usual hugs and kisses for good luck and I headed to the start line.

The race began and I took off with the crowd. The temperature was chilly and the winds were blowing. However, the sun was still shimmering and I was merely thankful for no rain. Within the first mile, I felt a sudden urge to go to the bathroom even though I had gone twice in the last 50 minutes. I fought off the urge and continued running, managing to avoid bathroom breaks for the entire run. (I realize now that this must be nervous energy.) So, the first six miles I felt pretty good as I ran through the streets and some trails. Around mile seven, I encountered the infamous hills of the course. I felt myself slowing down slightly, but I still managed to maintain a fairly decent pace. The next three miles were challenging as I continued to face hills and even a dirt road. Through it all, I felt confident about my running ability and I carried the torch all the way to the finish line...

Throughout the race, I reminisced about my last half marathon and the struggles that I experienced during that event. The last three miles seemed unbearable and I hardly had the strength to carry on. I even stopped to walk a couple of times along with a pause for a bathroom break. However, the Brooksie was atypical. The last three miles I felt stronger and faster than ever. I was amazed at my endurance, speed, and more importantly my confidence in running. I felt like a runner. I believed that I could do it...

As I faced the obstacles of the course, I thought about the months of training preceding this race, all of the early mornings logging in miles when I rather be sleeping, all of the strength training workouts at the gym and at home when I rather be spending time with my family and friends, all of the stretching before bed each night when I really just want to curl up with a good book, and all of my attempts to follow a well-rounded diet when really I just want to indulge in Mike and Ikes and all of my favorite treats. So when it was all said and done, the benefits did outweigh the sacrifices...

Just earlier that week, I had hit a running milestone of running 150 miles in one month, a feat I had yet to accomplish. Consequently, I was already on a runner's high as I started the race. This enhanced my confidence and elevated my overall positivity for that day. I also knew that after this race, I would be achieving another landmark of running 45 miles in one week...

Yes, I have been running for years but sometimes I simply doubt myself and my capabilities as a runner. I become overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and fear and I lose sight of my goal. I simply give up rather than finding the tenacity to push through and carry on. These past months, I held on and I refused to let go...I was amazed at the outcome.

Well, to kill the anticipation and to end the story, I finished the race with negative splits and a final time of 1:47:58. Five minutes faster than my last half marathon, I set a PR for this event. I wish I could provide adequate descriptors to illustrate how I felt as I crossed the finish line. I reckon there are some moments that you just have to experience...

To sum it all up, I walked away feeling more confident than ever about running my first marathon and my overall ability as a runner. Feelings of pride, modesty, self-assurance, and gratitude overcame me. I thought to myself, "this is what running is all about." I was extremely thankful for the experience. I was thankful for my health and strength. I was also thankful for my wonderful partner who supports my goals unconditionally and allows me to make so many running sacrifices...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Caught Up in the Numbers?

Just 43 days until our wedding and 30 days until my first marathon, I can't help but to be obsessed with counting, right? Over three months ago, I began the journey of training once again for my first marathon. So throughout my training, I am constantly counting and feeling a tad bit obsessed with numbers. I track my miles, pace, calories, carbs, protein, and fat and try to ensure that I am following my training schedule. How many miles did I run? What was my pace? What were my splits? How many days did I run this week? What was my carb, protein, and fat intake for the day? How many reps did I do for stretching and strengthening? I am constantly logging my miles in Dailymile and tracking all of my workouts. Numbers, numbers, numbers!!!

Also, during the last two months, my fiance and I made the decision to change our wedding date from June 25, 2011 to October 30, 2010. No, I am not pregnant and yes, we are a little crazy. The bottom line is that we are both beyond ready to say our "I do's." Next summer just seemed too far away. As I plan all of the wedding details, it's back to numbers. How many are on the guest list? How many have sent their RSVP? What's our budget? How much is that cake topper? How much are those flowers? How many tables will be in the reception hall? How many centerpieces do we need? What are the measurements for the sweetheart table? So, here we are in the midst of it all, fanatical about numbers and of course, I can't help but count down the days to two of the most epic events in my life.

As I've become obsessive compulsive with counting, I can't help but wonder if I am missing the bigger picture. Fixated on the details, am I forgetting to enjoy the moment?? Yes, I am thrilled that we are becoming husband and wife. I look forward to the day that we express our love and commitment among our family and friends and truly began our lives together. I also can not wait to cross the finish line of my first marathon, a lifelong goal of mine. I am beyond excited to reach this running milestone. Yes, let's be honest here, there are days that I simply want to fast forward to October 17th and October 30th because the anticipation is torturing me. However, shouldn't I be savoring each day?? Well, absolutely. It reminds me that life is a journey not a destination. It is essential to live in the present and cherish each and every moment. Time is not promised to anyone...

Over Labor Day weekend, we planned a trip home to visit my mother. We spent a few days at home helping my mother around the house and just enjoying our time together. As we plan for my bridal shower and the wedding, we have been going through old photos of when I was younger. As my mother was searching for photos, she found a bag of old pictures of my father when he was in the military and stationed in Vietnam. Some of the pictures were dated from 1966 and 1969. It was so nostalgic and sentimental to get a closer look at my father's life. These were pictures that neither my mother or I had ever seen before. It was an opportunity to not only learn more about my father's life but to also honor his life and legacy. His time on earth seemed to end so suddenly and I often wonder why I didn't treasure more of the time we shared together. We often think we simply have more time but so often we don't.

Within the past week, we lost a close friend of ours who was 34 years old and married with 3 children. She went in for a minor surgery and later suffered a seizure, went into a coma, and abruptly passed away. We were shocked and saddened by such a tragic loss. Once again, we realized that time waits for no one and tomorrow is never promised.

This past week, I spent a couple of days on the southeastern coast of NC for a work trip. I oddly enough brought two right shoes and decided not to join the barefoot running craze so I didn't run while in NC. I have to admit that I was angry about my oversight but it truly was a blessing in disguise. I spent two days with 3 fabulous ladies and spent my "running" time just walking on the beach enjoying conversations with women I came to appreciate and admire. While I did wear my Garmin to track our miles during our walk, I had to remind myself that it wasn't about numbers. I wasn't counting down to anything, I wasn't training, I wasn't racing. I was merely enjoying the moment as we watched the sun rise above the ocean. As I walked down the beach, I felt the sand in between my toes and the waves crash upon my feet. I smelled the salt water and collected a few seashells while taking pleasure in the companionship of some remarkable women. This is what life is all about...

With all of this rambling, what's my point you ask?

Well, I wholeheartedly believe that life is about setting and achieving our goals, believing in ourselves, and accomplishing our dreams. It's often about transitioning to the next phase of our lives. There is always something to get to...there are details each step of the way that we must tend to. However, when it is all said and done, life is about letting go of it all. Forget the numbers and merely take delight in this very moment...remembering the true meaning of it all.

On October 17th, I hope to run my first marathon. While numbers are an essential part of training, on that day nothing matters more to me than crossing that finish line and accomplishing my goal. It will be a moment of strength, humility, gratefulness, honor, and pride. On October 30th, I hope to marry my best friend. On that day, it won't be about cupcakes, centerpieces, programs, flowers, and all of the crazy details that we get caught up with. That moment will be about our love, admiration, commitment, and partnership.

So as you contemplate the next chapter in your life, remember that life truly is a journey not a destination...