Thinking Ahead

A few weeks back a local running store had a “sidewalk sale”.  They were trying to clear out the winter stuff and the remaining stuff from last summer to make room for the crop of this years gear.  I headed over hoping to score a new pair of Altra’s, but instead came out with a pair of shorts and a long sleeve running shirt.

At the time I posted on a Facebook group that I started with some of my friends to encourage each other.  My status read, “Bought a pair of shorts today that are too small (they were on the 50% off rack). Gives me something to work towards.”  Some of the responses that I got in return were not exactly what I would call motivating;

nyah, take them back and get something that fits…you said you were swimming in your blazer…nice fitting clothes are a better motivator than too small…if too small clothes were really a motivator, most of us wouldn’t have a closet full of “someday” clothes…..”

I didn’t buy these shorts to motivate me because they were too small.  I bought these shorts because I knew that by the time summer rolled around I would be IN these shorts.  Why not buy an amazing deal (normally $50 on sale for $15) when presented with one?

When I got them home on March 15th and tried them on they were too small.  I could get them up and over my hips, but they weren’t even close to zipping. However, I was proud that I could get them over my hips! They were 2 sizes smaller than anything in my drawers at that time.  That was nearly 10 pounds ago.  Today while I was picking up and straightening my bedroom I picked up the shorts and though, hmmm, I wonder…..

IMG_5986THEY ZIPPED!!! Granted they aren’t as loose as I am comfortable wearing, but they are up and zipped and I can sit down in them.  It’s not quite shorts weather yet, but by the time that it is shorts weather they will fit more the way that I like shorts to fit.  Although, if I were dating a butt man he’d be in 7th heaven.

I think the thing that I am most astonished by is that my friends were trying to poo poo my purchase.  Look, I know that I have struggled with my weight. Heck, most days I’m just thrilled to be half the size of my mother.  This time though it is different.  Not only am I working with Saint Mary, something that I have never done before, but this time I am doing it for me.  I am not doing it for the Navy.  I am not doing it for any other person other than myself.  I wanted to do this for me.  More importantly, I’m not doing it in any way that can possibly trigger any of those pesky dark places that I was exceptionally worried about.

The people I surround myself with I thought would be happy for me.  Instead, they are saying things like, “I’m getting too focused on the numbers” because I wouldn’t buy a dress a size bigger so I could zip it myself (the smaller one fit but I couldn’t contort myself to get it zipped).  No! I am not going to buy a dress a size bigger when a.) I will be out of it in no time and b.) damn skippy I don’t want to buy clothes that are a size bigger I don’t want to go back I only want to go forward.

See, I see myself every single day. I don’t see the changes that my body is making.  I see them in the numbers, both weight and measurements.  It’s not until I actually try clothes on and I am able to purchase smaller clothes that I actually have something that I can wrap my brain around.

Now, I will admit that every day is a struggle to not cheat on my journal by saying I ate something that I didn’t actually eat, or work out more than I said I would.  I know, though, that if I actually did do something like that not only would it send me spiraling into the dark place, it would also completely derail all of the progress I have been making by listening to Saint Mary. She has science on her side and science trumps all other things.

I’m very proud of myself.  I’m proud of the progress I am making. I’m not where I need to be or want to go, yet, but these shorts are an indication that I am getting there.  30 pounds down, 25 more to go.

When is enough, enough?

After last weekend’s run I came home, took a shower, and almost immediately began to feel itchy.  Strange, I thought.  I started racking my brain of any new soaps, scented items, or anything else I could have been exposed to and came up blank.  Being asthmatic and having sensitive skin I’m pretty stringent on what I use to avoid that kind of nonsense.

Monday rolled around and my upper arms were covered in a rash.  By the time Tuesday got here I was literally watching the rash spread down my legs.  One visit to the doc and two shots later I was told that I was having a hyperactive immune response.  Basically, I had inhaled too much pollen last weekend and my immune system was completely freaking out.  Similar to when you eat something you are allergic to.  Huh, well that’s new….we shall add that to the list of things I NEVER WANT TO EXPERIENCE AGAIN!!!

I was scheduled for a 10k race this weekend. I had already budgeted out the calories.  Now, I may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but when my normally white car is currently a green one I realized that running a 10k was probably not in my best interest.  I did something I have never done before, I scratched.  Granted, I swapped out probably the hardest spin class I have ever done in my life (gee, thanks Lauren) for the 10k to maintain the balance with St. Mary, but still I scratched.

I have come to realize that sometimes it is going to be in my best overall interest to NOT run the race.  Granted, I don’t like the feeling that came with it, but I realize that living to run another day is more important in the grand scheme of things.

When asthma kicks your @$$

Ah yes, spring has sprung.  The birds are chirping.  The sun is shining.  The pollen, mold and grass counts are through the roof!  Ugh.  The downside to living in the mid-Atlantic is that you get the joys of northern trees and southern trees.  Usually, there is a small break between the budding to enable my poor immune system to ramp up slowly.  Not this year.  We went from 20 degrees to 80 quite literally overnight.  What this means, for me, is an asthma flare up, a big one.

Thursday morning I woke up and felt like I’d been hit by a truck.  I stayed home from work and slept an extra 5 hours! Poor Perry was excited I was home but didn’t understand why I wasn’t interested in playing ball. I knew that my race was in jeopardy, but I was determined. 

Sunday morning dawned with my chest rattling like a 3 pack a day smoker and my wheeze sounding more like a hissing tire. Crap.

Now most sane people would have scratched. I never professed to be sane. Instead,  I determined that I was going to have to do the 5 mile race vs. the 10 mile I had signed up for. There was absolutely no way I was going to make it 10 miles. I hated doing it considering I had budgeted the calories with Saint Mary for the 10 miles, but I really didn’t have any other option.  At least 500 calories burned is better than 0 calories burned. 

We got to the race super early so we offered to work the check in desk. By the time the safety brief started at 0850 I had already taken my medicine, twice. Luckily I had my safety inspector with me.  

service dog 

I knew that between him, my medicine, and Shadow we’d be ok. We started off with all the junk rolling around in my chest. As we started our first incline I was really wondering what kind of crazy I was to be doing this. 

Now, one of the amazing skills Perry has is the ability to sense an attack coming way before I do. He will start running beside me first then behind me (to slow me down) and if that doesn’t work then he outright lays down on the trail and refuses to take another step until I take my medicine. Today, he did it twice. I took my medicine and he stayed right next to me until whatever it is that he keys off of went away. 

When we hit mile 4 I was definitely thankful I didn’t do the 10. One more stinking mile. My legs felt great. My lungs on the other hand were screaming for me to stop. My gas tank was empty and my lungs were completely on fire. This is not good. I pushed myself further knowing we were almost there. 

As we turned the corner into the finish chute there was one minor hill up. Cruel I tell you. Outright cruel. Pushing through I crossed; 1:06. I’ll take it. A 13:16 mile isn’t bad for a girl who could barely breathe. 

We made our way down to the food table I got myself a banana and him and bag of popcorn. He deserved every stitch of it. He did his job today and then some.  

dog popcorn

We laid in the sun for a bit until my lungs stopped burning. Listening to the awards ceremony I had to chuckle to myself. I will never win an award for speed, but if they gave awards for persistence and determination (ok and a smidge of stubbornness) I’d most certainly rack up the points. 

I probably shouldn’t have run today, but if I did all the things I shouldn’t do I might as well live in a bubble. I refuse to let my asthma control my life. Yeah it may kick my ass once in a while, but I refuse to let it win. 

Cherry Blossom 10(ish) Miler: A Volunteer Perspective 

Tulips and Old Glory

Copyright me

I had originally thought about running the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.  However, I checked the time requirements (something I do for every race) and I knew I wouldn’t meet the 2 hour 20 minute cut off time.  So, I decided to volunteer instead.  Plus, I got the added bonus of cheering Lauren (one of the awesome instructors from Biker Barre and CUCB 2015 Social Runner).

Sunday morning started off cold, so cold in fact, that I had to break out my EMS Techwick shirt. I knew it was going to get hot, but I also knew that if I didn’t dress properly I was going to freeze my butt off.    That’s the beauty of being raised by a Dad; he teaches you to be practical over beautiful.  Of course, as the sun started to rise the temperature quickly climbed, but it was very easy to shed layeIMG_5884rs.

The water stop was actually kind of nice to work because once we got set up we got to watch the start of the 10(ish) Mile Race.  I say (ish) because, unfortunately, there had been a pedestrian/motorcycle collision which forced a course alteration.

It was amazing to watch the elite runners, both the male and female, go streaking by.  That is a pace I will never reach.  Heck, I have entire months where I can’t even run outside because of the air quality.  It is amazing nevertheless. The crush of other runners came along shortly after the elite men went streaking by.

Now, when I say crush of runners, that is exactly what it was.  The entire street was packed with runners as far as the eye could see.  And they just kept coming and coming and coming!  Holy biscuits that’s a lot of people.  I honestly don’t ever see that many people regardless of when I run because, well, I’m so far in the back.

Once the 10(ish) mile folks cleared a certain point they had the 5k folks go. Time to go to work!  I got put on line duty to make sure that every one made it all the way down to the turn around point.  I honestly think I had the best job ever.  Not only did I get to cheer folks on, but I go to encourage them on too.  From my perspective putting names on bibs was the best idea ever.  I’d find someone who was struggling and I’d say something like, “Come on Jessica, you’re half way there you can DO IT!” They’d smile and pick up their pace a little bit.

My favorite runners, though, were the ones that you could tell this was their very first race.  They were struggling.  They were pushing.  They were the ones that I identified with.  I rooted every single one of them on.  “You are lapping everyone on the couch!” “You go! Half way there, it gets easier from here!”  Yep, those are MY people.  The ones who may not be fast but damn do they have persistenceIMG_5876.

I’m with you Woody, I give this race a thumbs up.  I would most certainly volunteer again for this race.

Perils and Discovery of Weight Loss

The internet and magazines are filled with “Loose 10 pounds in a week” or “Eat only sardines and drop 5 inches”.  You know those crazy articles touting some sort of ‘new’ way of dropping weight or inches.  Working with Saint Mary (the nutritionist) there are no fads; it’s science.  She weighs me, we discuss my workout plan, we come up with a daily allowance by food group, and I weight/measure and document what I eat, oh, and yeah, I actually do the workouts.  When you have science on your side the weight comes off; granted, one pound at a time.  However, we as humans suck a detecting subtle changes. We also suck at patience which is probably why those articles are so prevalent and pervasive.

I’m pretty sure that these subtle changes are how I wound up swimming in my clothes.  I was sitting on an interview panel last week and one of my male (straight) co-workers leans over between interviews and whispers in my ear, “Dude, this (pointing and circling my outfit) isn’t working any more.”  I looked down at suit I was wearing; ok, perhaps the man had a point.  I was practically swimming in my suit jacket. I also know that when straight men start noticing that you are swimming in your clothes it is DEFINITELY time to go shopping.

Now, I must mention I detest shopping.  One of the worst perils of weight loss is that you can’t shop online since you have absolutely positively no idea what size you actually are.  Combine that with the fact that women’s clothes vary from store to store I knew I was going to have to bite the bullet and actually go shopping.  I called Bella’s Mom and said, “Do you want to go with me?” She jumped at the chance.  I’m fairly confident she leapt at the chance because me going shopping is as rare as a Western Lowland Gorilla.

When I walked into one of my ‘go to’ stores for work clothes one of the sales clerks greeted us and asked what size I was looking for.  I said; extra large.  I mean, that’s been my size.  She took one look at me and said, “Honey, you are most certainly NOT an extra large.” In my mind I immediately thought, “this lady doesn’t know squat and just wants to make a sale” and proceeded to pick clothes off of the rack in what I perceived my size to be. Then I got to the fitting room….

I swam.  Like really really really swam in the XL.  Luckily I had grabbed a L just in case.  Nope, I swam in those too.  Well crap.  This is going to be more challenging than I thought.  Bella’s Mom was more than happy to fetch smaller sizes off of the rack. By the time all was said and done I had dropped 2 full suit sizes and down to a medium in tops.  What the biscuit??  When did this happen?  HOW did this happen??

Bella’s Mom smugly said; “You do realize that every 10 pounds you loose is a full dress size, right?”  Um, yeah, sure I knew that…..

The perils of weight loss is that everything starts to get to be too big.  Bras, underpants, workout clothes, and even my favorite stockings. Being a girl is NOT cheap.  As I tried on these smaller clothes I began to realize just how much my body shape has changed.  Between the running, spin, and torturous wonderful barre sessions I guess I really have changed.  Yes, I stand on the scale and take my measurements every week, but listing it on a sheet of paper doesn’t make it truly real.

I walked out of the store that day with a bunch of dresses and one new suit.  I figure this way as I continue to loose weight through the summer the dresses will hide the swimming a little bit better.  When I got home I started weeding through my closet and drawers pulling out anything truly TOO big.  The pile is getting rather large.  pile of clothesI just bought a shirt at Shamrock that may have to go into the pile soon because when I wore it yesterday it was more like a dress than a shirt. Notice the bag in the right corner?  Those are pj’s I got for Christmas that I can’t wear because they are already too big (and non-returnable).  Luckily, all of this stuff has a good home with several of my friends who have placed dibs on it.

This week I hit another milestone.  A former friend of mine had purchased a pink and orange Tommy Hilfiger polo shirt for me a couple of years ago.  It’s been hanging in my closet with the tags still on it because it had been too small.  Yesterday, I tried it on and it fit perfectly.  Of course I wore it to work!

While the cost of replacing all of these clothes isn’t going to be cheap.  Nor is the work that I am putting into getting this smaller self easy.  It is all worth it, though.  I just keep telling myself that every time I hear the “ca-ching” of the register and my wallet weeps.

Hills, hills, and holy HILLS

Before I ran Shamrock I was scheduled to run several EX2 Adventures 10 mile races.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to not cooperate and they were rescheduled.  Honestly, if I had run today’s 10 mile race before Shamrock I think I would have had a completely different race and more definitely not in a good way.  If I had run this prior to Shamrock I might have even completely rethought Shamrock.

Fountainhead kayakThis morning I headed to Fountain Head Regional Park a park which I had been to before last spring when Perry and I went kayaking.  I knew that the park was EXTREMELY hilly considering that the road down to the kayak area is, well, almost straight down.  I also knew that this run was going to be tough in another way.  It was a loop run.  This means that the 5 mile runners do the loop once and the 10 mile runners do the loop twice.  Ah, temptation right in front of me on Holy Saturday; how freaking appropriate. It had also rained a couple of times during the last week so the trails also had the added benefit of being a little sloppy.

IMG_5850If I have learned anything over time it is pacing.  Unfortunately, with a trail race like this pacing gets thrown completely out of the window somewhere after the hills start.  It became all about just finishing. Up one hill and down another.  Rinse and repeat.  I’d like to say that the downs were more pleasant than the ups, but honestly, after a while all you really want is a little bit of flat ground so that you glutes stop burning.

The nice part about the first time through was that there was a really nice lady in front of me who I was shadowing.  I knew what was coming up on course because she went through it about a minute before I did.  Plus, it was nice having company.  Then there came the point on course that I knew was going to come.  A very lovely gentleman was standing with a bright orange signal flag.

“5 miler or 10?” He inquired.

For a split second my body screamed WOMAN SAY FIVE!!!!  My mind immediately told my body to shut up.  See, I had already told Saint Mary the nutritionist that I was running this race and we had already budget the calories for this race, all 10 miles of it.

“10!” I shouted back.

He waved me to the left for me to start my second loop bypassing the finish chute.  My body waved meekly at it as I went by.

As I ran the first lap of the entire course I was much more tentative than when I ran the second lap because I knew what was coming this time.  The downside was, I knew what was coming this time.  The first section of the course while being a little hilly had absolutely positively nothing on the second half of the course.  Which was actually great the second lap around because I was able to pick up a little bit of a speed (and a Shadow).

The nice thing about EX2 is that there is always a sweeper on course.  This is someone who stays behind the last runner (ahem, me) to make sure that they get in safely.  As I started in on the second half of the course I picked him up near the entrance to the lollipop.

I chugged along through the second lap of the course running where I could run, walking down the hills where necessary (steep/muddy), and slogging my way uphill.  I swear those hills got bigger the second time around, much bigger.  Somewhere around mile 7 or so I started to wheeze.  I don’t know if it was the dampness, the pollen, or my lungs wondering what the fuck I was doing out there.  I stopped mid-hill (up) and bent over.  All I wanted to do was quit. I slowed my breathing, took my inhaler, and pushed on.

I knew that when I came out of the lollipop I could quit.  All I had to do was turn left instead of going straight and I would get to the finish in less thatrail runningn a half a mile.  My body was like, “Yeah, yeah! That is an excellent idea.”  My mind told my body to shut up.  We pushed ahead along one of the only spots of flat ground, rounded a corner, and proceeded to land nearly ass first in 8 inches of mud.  Perry stood there looking at me with half a “are you ok” face and half a “ha ha you fell in mud” face.  I almost rubbed my hand on my ass to get my hand clean, right up until I remembered Shadow behind me.  I figured running through the woods with a big hand print on my butt, while amusing, wasn’t exactly how I wanted this race to go down.  I was already last I didn’t want to be laughable too.  Hey a girl has to have some kind of pride.

I started to get really tired around mile 8.  I realized this when I managed to roll my ankle two times in the span of a quarter mile.  I knew that the last 2 miles were going to be absolute glute busting torture. The only thing I knew that was even remotely saving me was all of that seat work the Biker Barre had been putting me through.  I kept apologizing to Shadow.

“I’m really sorry I’m slow.  I’m really sorry you’re missing pizza. I’m really sorry.”  Over and over again.  Shadow was really nice about it, though. He kept telling me that he never minded as long as someone was putting in their full effort like I was.

Making the last stream crossing (there were 3 on course) and climbing the hill I finally saw it, the 1 mile sign.  I placed my hand on it as I went down the last big drop.  Crap…..what goes down has to go back up and that last hill up was not only steep, but it was rocky too.  Fuuuuuucccccckkkkkkkk.

Up the hill I went.  Digging deep.  Really deep.  Lungs burning, ass burning, wanting to stop and cry kind of deep.  When I got to the top of the hill I knew that the rest of the course was relatively flat.  I heard Shadow say to me, “I can see the parking lot.” I couldn’t.  All I could see was 6 feet ahead of me on the trail desperately trying to not roll my ankle (again). I got to the spot where the lovely gentleman had been before and Shadow said, “Turn to your right then you will be in the chute, finish strong runner!”  I could hear the awards ceremony going on.  I popped out of the woods to the sounds of cheers and claps.  I threw my arms in the air and headed for the finish line.  For the love of all things holy I finished.  I looked at my time; 2:33.  Not too shabby.  Can I collapse now?

Coming out of the chute one of the faster runners came up to us with a glass of water for Perry.  I thought that was super sweet and completely indicative of the EX2 races.  After I managed to get a drink myself I walked up to Jim and his staff and said, “Thank you.”

They both looked at me like I had a second head, “What for??”

“Thank you for having aid stations even for the last runners.  Thank you for still having food on the table for the last runners.  You have no idea how many races I have done where there wasn’t any aid station there by the time I come through.” (Just as an aside, I check every single race I run for time requirements and I do not enter any race I am not qualified for, but so many companies are there only to support the front of the pack.)

“We have a policy of no runner left behind.”

“Well thank you.” I said choking back the tears.  Thank goodness for sunglasses.

While this particular race literally kicked my ass I know this;  I will run this race again in the fall, and I will do better.  I will also continue to race and volunteer with EX2 because, hey, any company that does right by ALL of their runners is a company that I want to support.