2015: The Year of the Sine Wave

“If you have a body and move it regularly for physical health and mental sanity, suck it up you’re an athlete.” Sally Bergesen.

If I had to describe 2015, I would describe it as a high frequency, high amplitude sine wave.  There were a significant number of ups and downs but a constant movement forward.  The ups and downs were hard to take, but forward is always a must; and my forward led me to the point where I had a couple of epiphanies.

img_7726My first came out on the trails earlier this year and that is; I am a runner.  All of my life running is something that I had a love/hate relationship with. Even when I was a child and my cousins would do races on my grandparents farm; I always came in dead last.  This year, though, I had a moment where I realized just how much I loved it.  Granted, I will never be Sally Bergesen or Anna Frost, but I love to run.  It’s the absolute best part of my day getting out on the trails and clearing my head.  One of the biggest lessons I learned this year was that when I cut the cord and stopped running with music out on the trail I actually started to run better.  My running became more present and more focused.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still slow, but I’m happier.  On most days, anyway.

I realized I am not EVER going to be a fast runner.  What I do have, though, is endurance.  There was a quote by  Gunhild Swanson, the oldest finisher of the Western States 100 that encapsulates my running style perfectly; “I can’t out-sprint them, but I can certainly outlast them.” The hike up Hurricane Hill with my brothers where they dubbed me ‘Mountain Pony’ made this crystal clear to me.  I may not get there very fast, but I can go all day long.  I think this is why I’m actually excited about the Utah 50k with my brother.  He’s the fast one in the family and likes to rib me constantly. Perhaps this is where the tables are turned and Big Sister gets to have the last word.

Second, is a more recent realization and one that I am not 100% comfortable wearing just yet, but that is;  I am an athlete. I remember the first time that word was used referring to me.  I was attempting to do kettlebell swings at CrossFit and one of the coaches said to me after I made a minor correction they wanted in my swing form; “Excellent correction, I see you are an athlete.” No, no.  Really, I’m not.  When I hear the word athlete, I think of my idols; Amelia Boone, Sally Bergesen, Anna Frost, Rose Wetzel.  In my mind those are athletes.  They are powerful, graceful, strong, and fast.  Definitely not words I would describe myself, especially in the graceful category.  Yet, somewhere along the line it had snuck up on me and bit me in the ass.

Huh.  Maybe nearing 40 I’ve finally figured out how to operate the controls of this body of mine.  I say this and then I look down at the scar on my left knee  acquired from landing Superman style not once, but twice, during a trail race.  Then again, maybe not.

 

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2016 Big Hairy Ass Goals

TerrifyingI saw this posting on social media and I immediately smiled.  It succinctly sums up 2016 for me.  It is going to be terrifying and amazing, but mainly terrifying.  That my friends is exactly what I wanted it to be.

This past year has been a pretty big year in the changes department.  I’m only now starting to truly realize just how big those changes are.  Just in mileage alone I had a 290% increase in miles over 2014.  I weigh 30% less than I did last year.  I’ve halved my clothing size and I doubled my half marathons (to two).  I even ran my first Spartan Race.  As the weight has come off and my fitness has improved my goals have grown.  I want to continue to push myself to be the very best version of myself I can be.  With that in mind I sat down and laid out my 2016 goal (and races);

My big hairy as goal is to complete every race (12) that I have entered.  Let’s be honest, that count is accurate as of today most likely it will only go up because, apparently, I’m an addict.  Now, some of these races are freaking HUGE in distance (like my 50km), some are HUGE mentally (like any of the Spartans), and some are going to be HUGE physically (like the two races at altitude when I live at sea level.)

As such, I’ve also set out this summer to start running/climbing/training in the mountains; well, what we out here in the mid-Atlantic like to call mountains.  I’ve already booked my campsite to enable me to climb Mount Rogers.  I’m also looking to climb Spruce Knob.  I’m going to start spending as much time as I can out in the mountains to try to push myself and my training.  Ok, plus I really love it out there so there is always that perk…..but I digress.

I’ve also set the goal to do the Maryland portion of the AT.  One of my co-workers who also has set some massive goals for 2016 needs to get some mountain miles in too.  We are currently working the logistics for us to be able to knock that portion out.  Who knows, maybe that will lead me down the 10 year plan of finishing the AT one state at a time.

Finally, my goal for 2016 is to run happy.  That may seem silly, but it’s taken me a very img_7726long time to say “YAY! RUNNING!!!” I’m going to continue to cross train for that specific reason.  I never ever want to get to the point where I hate running again.  Granted, I have places that I love to run more than others (dirt vs. pavement, parks vs. city), but I still find that lacing up is the best part of my day.  From the grin on Perry’s face I think it’s his favorite part of the day too.

For the love of polka dot

My grandparents were dairy farmers and as with most farming families you never ever EVER bought anything new unless you aimg_7683-1bsolutely positively had to.  This extended down to the large pack grandchildren.  Clothes were passed down/around from cousin to cousin until they were threadbare and beyond repair.

My favorite time of year was when I got my cousins clothes.  She is a couple of years older than I am, but she always had the most awesome clothes.  The downside was that I was always trying on things like snowsuits in the middle of summer.   Even my First Communion dress was her hand-me-down!  Waste not want not.

One of the things that most people don’t talk about regarding weight loss is how freaking EXPENSIVE it is.  I’m not talking about the groceries or the exercise clothes.  No, no, I’m talking about things like underpants or, even worse, bras.  When you have dropped from a 16 to a 6 everything needs to be replaced.  Now, I was very lucky in the beginning that I inherited a closet full of clothes from a friend of mine.  Over time I have had multiple friends donate a couple pieces here and there which has been a God’s send.  That has allowed me to focus in on buy other necessities that you just can’t inherit (you know like bras and underpants).   However, what this has done is develop a bifurcated wardrobe.  I either had work clothes or exercise clothes and nothing in between.

Last weekend I was going to the movies with a friend.  I suddenly realized;  oh shit I have absolutely zero casual clothes.  All of the casual clothes I inherited were now way too big.  I needed to (wo)manned up and brave the mall set on a mission for a couple of pairs of jeans.  I begged Bella’s mom to go with me so that I wasn’t venturing into the mall the weekend before Christmas without a battle buddy.  Jokingly I posted up on Facebook my plight and seeking prayers for my sanity and survival.  My cousin retorted with, “What size are you now?”  When I responded to her I received in return, “Two boxes are in the mail.” HOT DIGGITY!!! Cousin clothes!!  It was like a was 6 all over again! I got so excited.
img_7658-1When the first box was delivered I opened it with giddy anticipation.  What kind of awesomeness was going to be in there? Jeans and shorts, oh my!! I immediately texted her to thank her. She asked if they fit and demanded evidence of such things.  (She was always the bossy big cousin so of course I had to comply.) She reminded me that another box was in the mail on its way.  I could barely contain my excitement.

Yesterday the second box was delivered.  I ripped into it barely containing my glee as multiple shirts poured out of the box.  More specifically polka dot shirts poured out of the box.  I absolutely love things that are polka dotted.  You can’t be angry when looking at polka dots.  You just can’t.  As I began to hang up the clothes in my closet replacing the ones that I was swimming in I kept saying, “Oh! I like that!” “Oh! That’s really nice!”

Now, anyone who has ever shopped for a female knows that finding one item that they like is nearly impossible, but an entire box full of clothes seems like a Christmas miracle.  Just ask my mother.  Bless her heart, but she and I are polar opposites when it comes to clothes.  Here I was, though, surrounded by an entire box of clothes that I loved.  When you think about it my cousin and I basically wore the exact same wardrobe as kids.  It only makes sense that we would have similar tastes as adults; for love of dot.

I now have casual clothes! Hooray! Now off to go see if Santa brought me underpants.  Wow, I never thought I’d ever say that. Wait, does Santa shop in the lingerie section?

The Mountain Bug

IMG_7227There is just something about being out west that speaks to me.  The space.  The air.  The hands down drop dead gorgeous beauty of it all.  I’m quite certain it’s been in my blood since birth.

When I was a small child my Dad would speak about the mountains in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming with a hushed respectful whisper.  Even now, when he can’t travel, his eyes still get this far away look when he talks about his time in the mountains.  After spending my own time out there exploring I absolutely get it. There is just something magical about them. This past year I’ve had the luxury of getting to spend more time out in those beautiful mountains.  The more time I spend the more time I want to spend.  Dad laughs and says, “Kid you got ‘da bug’.” He’s right, though and I’ve got it bad.

Army Brother is getting ready to deploy for several months.  He approached me with an idea.

“I want to do a race with you when I come back.  I want something to train for, something to look forward to, but most importantly you’d better make it hard.”

Hard you say?  Hm. I started looking at various options and races.  The one

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thing I knew, though, it had to be in the mountains.  We both find joy and pleasure being in the mountains.  Perhaps it’s because we share memories of Dad’s death marches, known to most normal humans as ‘hiking’.  Excepting hike with my Dad truly was like a death march.  Or perhaps it’s because we share DNA.  Either way, I started looking. I threw a couple of options into his email box and he wasn’t interested.  I didn’t even get a ‘meh’ from him.  Then this past weekend I came across the North Face Endurance Challenge Utah race.  My eyes lit up like a Christmas treeI texted him the link and received a response almost immediately.

“Are we doing the 50 miler?!” I could feel the glee coming through the phone.

Um, no.  I love you baby brother, but even I have my limits right now.  We settled on the 50k.

Wait, what?? Did I just agree to do 31 mountainous miles with my brother?  More importantly am I really that excited about it?  Why, yes, yes to both.  Who is this person??

When I approached the Marine Brothers their retort was; “in a car or on a horse because you can’t be serious about doing it on foot.” Okay, boys, I’ll take that as a no.

I guess Dad is right, I really do have ‘da bug’.  At least I have good company.

One year later: Seeing the change

On December 19, 2014 I finally had enough of struggling on my own and I made an appointment with a nutritionist. To this day, is probably the most sane thing I have ever done in my life.  Bringing in “adult supervision” is what truly has made the difference in my journey.  Sainted Mary has worked with me, encouraged me, allowed me to make controlled decisions, and has hidden most of the math from me thereby making it nearly impossible for me to fall into the dark place.

As I sat in my appointment this week with her going through my food journal, still struggling with some of the most recent events and their ramifications, we realized it had been almost a year to the day that I walked into her office.  She asked me if I remembered what I weighed when I walked into her office.  I told her.  According to the “official” scale I have lost 54 pounds in the last year.  That’s a pound a week.  Considering there were weeks that we planned for no weight loss (e.g. half marathon weeks) that’s not a bad average.  I’ve also been taking measurements at home because, well, you can’t live life by the scale alone.  In the last year I’ve lost;

  • 7 inches in my waist
  • 5.5 inches in my hips
  • .75 inches my arms
  • 4.5 inches in my thigh
  • 4 inches in my calf

My hips are currently smaller than my waist was a year ago!  I’ve gone through several changes of wardrobe.  So many, in fact, that I’m fairly certain that Goodwill knows me by name now; from a 16 to a 6/8.

Last weekend I ran, with friends, the same course that I ran for the 12ks of Christmas last year.  I’ve cut over 2 minutes off of my time and I ran the entire way without a single walk break. I’m sure much of that has to do with the weight I’ve lost, but hearing my heart through the stethoscope at the docs office I know that my heart is most certainly healthier too.  That is kind of the point isn’t it? To avoid double bypass surgery like my Dad had when he was 40?

I’ve really struggled, though, actually seeing the change in myself.  I look at myself every day.  I can see that the numbers on the scale are changing and that my measurements are going down, but it’s still hard to see the change.  I’m still me.  I’m still the geeky goofball I was.  I don’t actually FEEL any different.  It wasn’t until last night that I truly saw the change.

Last night a friend of mine from Biker Barre was having her holiday party.  Another friend IMG_7577of mine had donated to my closet a couple of months back when she was cleaning out her closet.  Knowing I had to get dressed rather ‘fancy pants’ for the party at BikerGirl’s I pulled out this rather sleek cut Calvin Klein.  Not only did it go on, but it zipped! I stood in my bedroom for a minute completely stunned.  When I got to BikerGirl’s house knowing that this was a rare occasion she and I were not only in ‘real’ clothes, but all dolled up we asked her boyfriend to snap a picture.  When I looked at the picture it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Who the hell is THAT girl? Where did she come from?  I barely recognized myself.

I’ve always avoided the camera.  I’m just not one who likes getting my picture taken, except in certain situations (e.g. weddings, special events, etc).  So, I haven’t really seen a full body shot of myself.  I don’t own a full length mirror.  This truly was one of the first times I’ve seen myself with this new body. Good grief what a different a year makes.

I’m not done yet.  I’ve discussed with Sainted Mary how I would like to try to loose a bit more.  My body fat percentage is not where I would like it to be.  Doing CrossFit this winter should help with that.  If this weather continues to hold running slow with the Maffetone Method will help my aerobic base, and if not, then I have my home away from home, Biker Barre.   All I know is that slow and steady wins the race and there is something to be said for adult supervision!

My goals for next year; complete a Spartan Trifecta, run my ass off at all of the races that I have registered for (and not come in last), lose at least 5% more body fat, who knows maybe I’ll finally hit ‘normal’ on the BMI chart!  It’s good to have goals.

Shadows

I went for a run today.  

 For those of who you know me that is a huge deal. For those of who who don’t let me explain. 

I had been running, alone, for over a year. Then I started dating this amazing guy who also shared my passion for running. We started to run and do other activities together. I even shared my secret running location; that place where I went when I needed to clear my head. It was great because his pace is/was faster than mine so he’d take off down the trail/course and I’d quicken my pace after him. Hey he’s cute and that will cause any girl to run faster. I liked to joke with him how I always knew when he crept into my thoughts or I saw him when I ran because my heart rate went through the roof (I had proof).  Then WHAM! Things changed and my desire to run (and eat for that matter) disappeared. Left in their wake were shadows. Shadows of him. 

I was required to come to Germany for work. ShooterGirl ordered me to pack my running clothes, just in case, she said. I was in no mental state to disagree with her. I dutifully packed my clothes and got on an airplane devastated and with zero desire to run. 

Directly across the street from where I am for work is a park. The Germans are “big on trails”; I was told. The first two days I was here I just looked at it. Shadows. Lots of shadows. I miss him. I miss chasing him. I miss the laughter.  I miss our talks. Luckily, the weather matched my mood and it was cold, rainy, and dark. 

On day three, while the sun was still not making an appearance it had stopped raining. A dear friend of mine said to me, “Go run. You ran before him. It was something you did with him. Don’t let him take that from you.” I mulled it over. 

Today, day four,  I woke up and the sun was still on strike. After sitting through several hours of folks sniping at each other in a conference, where my head kept wandering to the shadows in my mind, I decided I needed to try to run.  At lunch I broke away from the group and whispered to a colleague, I’m going running. I’ll be back late. She nodded her head and off I scampered to change my clothes. 

According to the hotel clerk the park had both paved and unpaved trails. I had no clue where I was headed I just knew I had to try to chase the shadow. I’m still not sure if I’m chasing the shadow or trying to chase the shadow away. My feet landing on the trails made little to no sound. All I could hear was the sound of my breathing. 

As I passed my first mile the momentarily quiet in my head was overwhelmed by the tsunami of emotion that washed over me. I miss him. Every moment. Every day. Over and over this ran through my head. My legs kept turning over as the tears rolled down my face. 

   
 By mile 2.5 I snapped out of my fog of memories and thoughts long enough to realize that I needed to turn around. Lunch was only an hour and as much as I needed to keep going, for myself, my job was not paying me to play hooky. I made a direct path back towards my hotel room for a quick shower. 

When I hit stop on Coconut (my TomTom) I had logged nearly 4 miles. I craved 4 more. Damn you responsibilities. 

The shadows are there. They will always be there. Some people never leave a trace while others leave permanent fossilized footprints. But today I went for a run and today that has to be enough.