August 11, 2012

Positivity

This week, I've been trying to be more positive. After my mini-meltdown on Monday and Tuesday, I decided to commit to a few small changes to get back on track - I know in the past, I've struggled with throwing myself completely back into a routine after slipping, so I decided to think small for now: increase water, get back into running, and eat mindfully. When I drink more water, it seems that eating better/less comes more naturally. I am now on a different running schedule, preparing for the half instead of the full marathon, but I am still lagging in the miles. I ran twice so far this week (and will be heading out for my third run in the morning with Lorelei!), with no distance goals but to just get back out there and get moving. I'm feeling much more confident thinking I need to run 6 or so miles this weekend than when I thought I need to run 15 miles this weekend (and consequently stayed in bed panicking instead). Progress with eating better is slow but steady - a good amount of the regain has already come off very quickly, as it tends to do once I stop overloading my system with processed junk. Now, to just maintain that focus and move forward.

Some other good things I'm a bit behind on sharing: getting back to making progress on my 101-in-1001 list!  In the past few weeks, I've completed a couple things.

First, #74 - try two new meats. I'm a fairly adventurous cook when it comes to spices, fruits, veggies, grains - but meat (or animal protein, I guess you could say, because seafood is included!) is one area where I tend to be a bit cautious. I've seen a few interesting sounding meats in the butcher case at Whole Foods, but was unsure about preparing things myself, so I left it up to a local expert, and tried both elk and alligator at Hot Doug's, a small local restaurant that makes interesting and unique sausages.

I went for the first time back in December - Matt got a plain hot dog with nothing on it, and I got a duck sausage with foie gras and truffle aioli. We have different tastes, for sure. This time, he branched out a bit, and tried a chicken sausage with caramelized onions, tomatoes, and Dijon mustard. He also tried the alligator sausage with me - it was quite good. He didn't try the elk, though, because it had a bacon-garlic spread on it, and he keeps kosher.

Another item I accomplished was #50 - get a massage. Even though I've lost a good amount of weight, I still feel incredibly self-conscious about my body - sometimes even moreso. My skin on my stomach is loose and my arms are covered in stretch marks, permanent reminders of the way things once were. A massage seemed like a huge self-esteem boost - first, I'd have to take off my clothes so a total stranger could rub me down. Then there is the massage table, something I'd have to lay on (even now, as unreasonable as it may be, I still have a fear of breaking furniture). And finally, it would be an investment in my mental and physical well-being, something I have been struggling with for the past year or so.

A few months ago, I found a good deal for a massage on Groupon and bought it, figuring I'd use it after the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon in July. Because we ended up walking a good amount of the race, though, I wasn't in as much of a need as I thought I would be, so I decided to save it for after the marathon in October. Then, last week, it hit me that I was stressed out incredibly and it would do me well to relax a bit, so I made the appointment - after all the transitions of the past year, especially the past month and a half, I certainly needed it.

The shop was fantastic, very calming. My masseuse was terrific too, very professional and very understanding when I explained it was my first massage and that I'd lost a bit of weight. She could definitely feel tension in my back and shoulders!

A third item worth mentioning is #97 - meet one of my blog friends in real life. I already crossed this one off last year when I met Cynthia, but I've since met several other blog writers/readers. Meet-ups are always incredibly fun. Cynthia (then pregnant, now with an absolutely adorable 4 month old baby girl) and her husband came to my apartment and I made crêpes. I also met Marisol while in California, and we did Bay to Breakers together.

A few weeks ago, I met up with Katie from Runs for Cookies (and from my Ragnar team!). She and her husband came to the city for a day, so we had lunch and explored a bit and talked a lot. It was wonderful - delicious vegan food, her first time at a frozen yogurt shop, and lots of really fantastic conversation. I've been reading Katie's blog for quite a while, and she is such an inspiration to me - I love how real she is. She shares when she struggles (something I try to do myself) - it shows the reality of weight loss/weight maintenance, that happily ever after is a heck of a lot of work, even though it's incredibly worth it. I'm not really one to play favorites or keep a blog roll or anything like that, but if you're looking for fantastic maintenance folks to follow, I can't recommend Katie, Ellen, and Caroline enough. The wisdom that they have to offer has been so valuable to me and so helpful on my journey. I'm beyond grateful.

And about a week or so after meeting Katie, I got an e-mail from a reader who doesn't have a blog, but has been reading mine for a little while and said she'd be in town for work and would I like to meet up? Oh, and by "work," she meant...


Super cool! Because of the nature of her work with the tour, I can't share pictures of her or even her name - I'll call her Jane - but trust me that it was unbelievably amazing. We met before the show, and Jane gave us a tour of the backstage area and introduced us to a few behind-the-scenes folks. The show was incredible - I wasn't sure what to expect since I don't really listen to pop music, but I recognized a few of the songs, and regardless, it was an amazing performance - especially Enrique, he put on a heck of a show. So much energy!

The best part of the night, though, was before and after the music, when I got to sit down with Jane and talk about running, weight loss, life. She enthusiastically showed me her new Fitbit (she logged a crazy amount of steps while working!), and asked about the Ragnar project and about meeting Katie. It was a really wonderful evening, and I'm so lucky to have these kind of incredible opportunities, all thanks to my little blog!

What about you? Do you have a 101-in-1001/'day zero" list? What have you "crossed off" lately?

August 6, 2012

The ninety-nine percent

I read on an infographic somewhere once that fewer than one percent of Americans have completed a marathon. It was never a surprising statistic, yet I believe it even moreso now that I am in the midst of preparing for my own.

I first thought about running a marathon on Week 1, Day 1 of Couch to 5K. At 295 pounds, running a 15-minute mile pace for a minute at a time was the fastest I'd ever gone. It felt like flying, and I cried at how good it felt to be able to move like that. At 345 pounds, I had trouble walking from my bedroom to the bathroom down the hall. Now, I was training my body to not walk, but run, and for miles and miles. That day, I knew I had great things in store for myself as a runner.

Besides the ability to move my body in a new way, I think what initially drew me to running was the challenge of it. Running tested me and my limits. I had to push my body while training for a 5K when I'd never ran before. Preparing for an 8K after the 5K, then moving up to a 10K, and finally to a half marathon - each a mountain to climb in its own way.

The thing is, though, that they were as much mental challenges as physical ones. As I prepared for the 5K, I doubted myself. I couldn't possibly run for three miles without stopping, could I? But I could. As I prepared for the 8K, I doubted myself. Running for almost five miles was impossible. Until it wasn't. Preparing for the 10K, for my first half ... still a flood of doubts. But I persevered. I pushed forward. And I made it happen. I was (and am still) not just recovering from a formerly obese body, but from my formerly obese mindset, one that feels limited and incapable and intensely insecure, even after losing 50, 100, 150 pounds.

Despite the struggles and despite the nerves, I loved training for my races. I love the feeling after a long run, especially one where you wanted to quit but didn't - it's an amazing feeling of success, the runner's high you hear about. It's real. And it's incredible.

But here's the thing.

I haven't been feeling that on my recent training runs for the marathon. In fact, I hadn't been feeling it on my not-so-recent training runs, either. It really hurts to admit that I haven't enjoyed running for a little while - it's felt more like a chore, an obligation, a negative stressor. And it's become such a negative part of my life that I've mostly stopped doing it - a few runs here and there, but not nearly the mileage I should be putting in at this part of the training.

When I was in California, I bribed my students with bonus points to get them to run a 5K on campus with me. When announcing it, I told them the only thing I love more than everything French, is running. And I honestly believed it.

Now, not so much.

A few weekends ago, I volunteered at a 5K/10K race here in Chicago. And as I quickly and efficiently ran the gear check, I silently cried a little. Because I miss smaller races. I miss the excitement of training for an event, completing it, and looking forward to the next new thing. I registered for the marathon six months ago, started running for it three months ago, and it's still two months away.

I'm worn down. Burned out. Exhausted. I just don't have it in me right now. It isn't that I can't physically run the marathon - a few weeks of intense training and I'd be mostly back on schedule. My problem right now is entirely mental. I've had a very difficult year, and the burden of an intense training schedule is not helping me at all with my attempt to restore my sanity after living in isolation out West. My problem with binge eating is even worse right now than it was in California, perhaps just because of accessibility, but regardless, the lousy feeling isn't worth it. I'm not going to wear myself down even further just for a medal.

So, there you have it. I'm withdrawing my bib from the Chicago Marathon 2012.

Right now, I'm coming to terms with the fact that I am the 99%. I am not a marathoner, nor will I be in the near future, or possibly ever. To be honest, it feels like more of a relief than anything else - which is good, because a lot of my actions and decisions lately have left me feeling like a failure. I am not a failure. This is a difficult time, and I am struggling. But I absolutely refuse to give up on myself. The choice to withdraw is an incredibly healthy one. I'm prioritizing: my mental health is more important right now than being able to say I ran 26.2 miles.

And passing on this race doesn't mean I'm done entirely. Quite the contrary - it frees me up to get back to running the way I enjoy it. I have a few races lined up fairly soon - a half marathon in about a month that I'm confident I can complete, and a 10 miler in November - not to mention that I'm in Chicago, not small town California, and I could do a 5 or 10K every weekend if I wanted to. I want to get back to that good feeling. I want to enjoy that runner's high.

I want to fall back in love with running. And with myself. And this is what I need to do to make that happen.