Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Seek and Find

I don't workout because I have to. I don't workout (only) because I want to lose weight. I don't workout so that I can eat more.

I really ENJOY working out. I love running, biking, swimming...and I love strength training.

I've missed it.

Like...A LOT.

A little over two years ago, probably about the time I was waiting for my neurologist appointment (so maybe February 2016), I went with a friend to shop for her daughter's prom dress. She was scouting good places to bring her daughter back to. She had found a couple of dresses that she asked me to hold up so she could take pictures. I could BARELY hold up these dresses! These weren't heavy beaded gowns, they were LIGHT airy chiffon type dresses. And I seriously could hardly hold them up.

Dresses... this was just a few months after completing my second Ironman. I had been working out at Iron Tribe for over a year at that point. I had an 80lb clean PR and a 55lb press PR.

That weight is NOT impressive, but I should not have had an issue holding up chiffon dresses!

I remember that day. I became EXHAUSTED at moving hangers on a rack. It was CRAZY. I had gone from 18 mile very hilly long runs to not being able to run a few miles; from 80lb cleans to becoming exhausted moving hangers on a rack.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago...I was ECSTATIC for having jogged a slow 12 (SOLID) minutes in Orangetheory. ((I'm smiling as I type this because it still makes me happy!!))

I have never stopped loving working out, even when my body just couldn't hang. But there have been many times in the last couple of years that I've felt like I'd never be able to really workout again.

Yes, I know I just completed a marathon...I WALKED 90% of it. That takes mental strength, but not physical strength.

And that's what I've kept coming back to...I've gained MENTAL strength in the last two years. I have gone from not really knowing how to grocery shop and cook food* to juggling a lot of different things (well). (*I did know how to shop, but I remember wandering around the grocery store as if I was in a foreign country...I wish I could explain it but I just can't express to you how awful it is to not be able to make your mind engage at will.)

As great as it is to have mental strength, I've missed the physical strength and endurance I used to enjoy. I've worried at times that I might not ever get back to feeling truly (physically) strong. But in the last several months I've seen myself getting stronger!!

And then I feel myself appear to lose it all....

I started working out at Huntsville Adventure Boot Camp last fall. I LOVE Joe Martin (boot camp king). And I really loved going to boot camp. At the start of the year I was trying to go 5 days a week...two of those days after teach Spin. I had also added running and swimming back in.

Yeah, I know...too much too quick. Blah blah blah...whatever. Knowing something doesn't stop me from doing what I want. :D

Obviously, it didn't last. I backed off swimming and running, and then I gave up teaching Spin on Friday's. And then I backed off every day boot camp...

Then I had to deal with the issue of sleep. Bootcamp was at 5:30am (or evening hours which never work for me). But I had been waking up at 1am and staying awake until like 3:30. Going to that early of a class meant waking up at 4ish so I could take my meds and take care of the dog and cat. When I didn't go to class I could go back to sleep at 3:30 and sleep until 6:30 or 7. That seemed to give me enough sleep, so I gave up going to boot camp.

But I missed working out. I wanted to work out. I needed to work out. I wanted to work out in a a group setting because I know I need a measure of accountability that working out alone just doesn't give me right now. Then I found OTF. It's intense. It's fun. It's one hour. It's VARIED--different every single day using a variety of equipment (treadmills, rowers, weights, medicine balls, TRX, benches, ab dollies...). And they have class times that really work for me. I can sleep in and then go workout. Or just sleep in...

And as I starting working out I saw myself getting stronger....until I didn't.

It's like this terrible roller coaster....up and down. But Dwayne helped me see the other day that there has been a steady progression of getting stronger. It just doesn't feel like it every day. My slides down aren't as fast or as far. And I really do feel like I'm gaining ground a lot of days.

But....why do I do it (run, bike, strength train...I'm not really swimming right now)? Do I do it to see results or do I do it for the love of doing it?

Kids don't play hide and seek because they love finding the child they are seeking. They do it for the love of the game It's fun to be the hider. It's fun to be the seeker. At the same time if the hider is never found or if the seeker never finds...the game has no meaning. It becomes un-fun VERY fast....

Finding strength, finding endurance MATTERS. Having faith that I WILL find it matters more.

Thanks for stoping by and sticking around....

Ready or not, here I come.

((I tried to find a picture that worked for "hide and seek" but the pictures on Google didn't look like what I was going for...some of them were down right creepy! Dwayne said I should include a picture of him because all posts are made better with pictures of him...and I think he's probably right. I love that face!))

That water was REALLY cold!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Cotton Row 10K Take 9...

Cotton Row 10k was the first race I ever "trained" for. I had run a few Race For the Cure 5ks when I decided I wanted to run the Rocket City Marathon. And I had run the Wounded Warrior 5K turned 3K  when I found out about Fleet Feet's Next Steps Program. But, Cotton Row was the first race I ever trained for. Looking back, I should have trained for the 5K instead but at the time I felt like I could already cover the distance of a 5K so I didn't see the point to "train" for that distance. I wanted a challenge.

And I got it.

Because I had not been running and then ramped up my volume and intensity too quickly, I spent most of the training time fighting off a nagging "injury". I think it's in my nature to love the idea of a challenge. But follow through and staying committed to hard work in the face of obstacles was not in my nature. Training for and completing that first Cotton Row was a huge accomplishment for me. I didn't HAVE to do this hard thing but I did it even in the face of adversity.

It's been the only race I've run EVERY SINGLE YEAR since I starting running. I don't know that I'd call it my "favorite" race. (I'm partial to McKay Hollow 25K, and even though I've only done it once, Mountain Mist 50K, but all the races I've done have been really very good.) But Cotton Row holds a special place in my heart.

I have been really struggling this year to lose the weight I've put on (thanks in large part to being on steroids oner a year), and to regain any measure of fitness. I've tried some various things, but if I'm being totally honest, my running has just continued to slide down hill. Part of that is lack of consistency in getting out there to run. But a bigger issue is that when I do try to have any kind of "plan" I end up exhausted and completely run down. So I've taken the path of VERY SLOW progression of fitness rather than "training". I assess pretty much daily where I'm at and I am not stressing over where I am at physically right now.

I've started working out at Orange Theory Fitness-which I LOVE LOVE LOVE. It's close, they have class times that fit into my crazy schedule, the workouts are different every single day, and it's one hour of HIIT. The intervals are agreeing with me but I can scale on days I need to. I never feel like I'm in competition with anyone other than myself. I can say that I've done more actual running in OTF than I have in the months before I started there, but it's still VERY LIMITED in terms of volume.

On top of all that, Dwayne and I had both hurt our hip (he was sprinting up some stairs at work and I failed to listen to my body at OTF!) and we had been sick with nasty colds for three weeks!

Because of all that my expectations were EXCEPTIONALLY low going into Cotton Row this year. I figured I'd just get out there and run/walk by feel and enjoy the day.

Since Dwayne was feeling better he decided to try to actually run the race and said he'd come back to get me when he was done. I lined up further back than I ever had before and chatted with a friend.

The race had a new director this year and she did an AMAZING job of revamping the opening ceremonies!! Instead of lining up at 7:50 and then not actually starting until like 8:20, she had the Memorial Day ceremony at 7:45 (ish?) and then we started running right at 8. The comments were brief but appropriate and they set a perfect tone for the run. When the gun went off it took a minute or so for me to reach the start mat and then I slowly started jogging. I pretty much jogged flats and downs and then walked any uphill parts. I found some people to chat with here and there along the way and then something wonderful happened!

I found a woman up ahead of me wearing a swirled red and blue tie die shirt!! Why is that wonderful??  It was incredibly hypnotic! It didn't really make me run any faster but I think if I had allowed it to it would have!

We played a little leap frog until the hill...I think that's when she got ahead of me and I never saw her again. Just before the hill Brother caught me and threw two cups of water on my back! We walk/ran together until the hill and he left me to run up it (good for him!). My goal this year was to keep walking and not stop!! I made my goal!! (Barely.) I did get a little light headed and my vision started getting a little squirrelly but I am 100% positive that was a blood sugar thing.

I had been eating a lower carb diet the last couple of weeks (trying to get this weight off) but decided to take carbs in during the race. I had taken a Gu just before Brother caught me. That probably spiked my blood sugar. I wasn't dizzy or anything I was just seeing some stars and had some spots I just couldn't see. It's happened to me before (MANY times actually) and it's totally normal from what I understand. It's sort of like this picture, but not totally.

Even though I know what it is, every time it happens I get a little scared. It's like when you are watching an intense movie, you can tell when something is about to jump out at you but you jump when it happens anyway! As I passed by a HEMSI guy I almost stopped to have him check my blood sugar but I decided to keep moving.

We got down to the bottom of the hill and I started struggling. The down hill part was mostly over and the work was ramping up. Brother was talking but I was not really in a mood to talk nor was I really in a place to be able to make conversation. I had stopped interacting with spectators and had stopped telling volunteers thank you. It was sad because those things usually help "refuel" me but I was hitting a place where all I can really do is just focus on moving forward.

I never wanted to quit and I didn't really want it to be over. But I was just strongly internally focused on what needed to be foot in front of the other. Brother told me swirly shirt was up ahead of us and was surely catchable but I didn't care at that point. I told him to please go on because I knew I was slowing him down. But he refused and continued to try to distract me.

It's strange. I can't describe what happened to me. I didn't really want or need distraction. I actually enjoyed the difficulty of the work. I think if I had been completely alone I would have been able to find that place inside myself that is willing to be uncomfortable which would have allowed me to move along "faster". But it was also nice having someone on the journey. Somewhere along the way we saw Dwayne coming back. He had finished and backtracked to come find me. Brother left me to go catch swirly shirt (and a race walker he has a rivalry with).

I was trying to explain the place I was in to Dwayne but I just couldn't put it into words. I still can't. When we turned onto Clinton I was a little sad that it was about to be over. All the flag bearers with the pictures of the fallen soldiers always hits me pretty hard but it seemed there were more out there this year.

At some point a woman in YOGA PANTS passed me!! I told Dwayne I couldn't believe I was getting passed by yoga pants!! He told me I could catch her if I wanted to. I didn't believe him but it gave me something to work for so I started after her. I was able to totally put every other sound and sensation completely out of my perception as I slowly gained on her. I knew I couldn't kick too early because I truly felt like I might pass out, but I knew I had to kick if I was going to catch her so with about 50 yards to go I poured out every bit of effort I had in me...and I got within about 2 feet of her! (And I did NOT pass out!!)

My Garmin says I picked up pace from walking when she passed us (17:38 pace) down to a 6:15 pace!! I have never felt the way I did at the end of this race. I can't describe it. But I liked it. My mind kept saying "you are going to pass out" but my body didn't feel like that. My body felt mostly strong. I felt in control of my limbs more than usual. I think the difference was how strong my mind was (is). My mind was telling my body to do something and it was responding. I think that's a very good sign.

Now...that was such a tiny part of the race I'm not going to get excited. I had a lot in the tank because it was my slowest CRR ever (1:25!) and I walked A LOT. But I felt GREAT afterward and I felt great yesterday and today. Like I didn't even run! I attribute a lot of that to the lower carb diet. (I indulged after the race but only for the day.)

Just ignore all the open tabs...I have a lot going on right now! :D

Overall I am EXTREMELY pleased. I ended up with a 13:31 pace which is MUCH faster than I expected to be. I think that has A LOT to do with the fitness I'm gaining at OTF...and I've only been able to workout there because I started this year working out with Joe at Huntsville Adventure Boot Camp. It's all a progression. A very LONG progression. But I don't actually feel like I'm sliding further in a hole anymore. 

It honestly feels like I'm making actual progress. The effort it's taking still feels completely out of proportion, but at least I don't feel like I'm expending all this energy only to slide slower than I would if I weren't making the effort at all. Does that make sense?

Thanks for stopping by and sticking around!!! Time to get some work done so I can close some of these tabs!!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Getting My Money's Worth

Ever since I saw the size of the Little Rock Marathon's medal (BIGGER THAN YOUR HEAD), I knew I wanted to do that race! Okay, it was ONLY because of the medal, I grew up in North Little Rock and love Little Rock...but that medal is HUGE!

The race is super fun because they change the theme every single year. They make a big deal about announcing the theme and revealing the medal. Every year I've had something going on around the time of that race that prevented me from doing it but I had it on my radar last year as I started trying to get my endurance back up. And then they had the big theme reveal:

The whole idea of a "QUEST" was right up my ally. I decided right then I was going to register.  But I had to wait until December to register and to see the medal:

The idea of doing a marathon is all well and good, but the actual training and running of it is quite another. When I registered I put together a training plan for myself and set out to make my comeback my "quest"...

However, my return into the world of endurance sports was not what I expected it to be. I realized I simply do not have the energy or strength that I really NEED in order to properly train.

Leading up to this race I keep reminding myself that it has an EIGHT HOUR cut off time!! They ENCOURAGE walkers!! With my marathon PR being 4:2?, and having done that talking the entire time, and speeding up the last two miles, the thought of doing an EIGHT hour marathon was a little sad but the thought of being able to do a marathon at all after all I've been through the last two years thrilled me to my core! I spent a lot of time in the beginning of the year on my walking treadmill (it only goes up to 2 miles an hour!). One day I got a full FIVE hours on that thing!

I did a few "long runs" but really I think my longest was only about 6 or 7 miles until the Hot Chocolate 15k turned 7 miler. My training was woefully inadequate to say the least. But ...EIGHT HOURS to WALK a marathon? To me, that boiled down to mental toughness.

I was right.
And I was wrong.

My daughter, potato2ironman was signed up for her first half marathon so we planned to stay together until the half/full split at mile 11. Her cutoff was four hours. Her training was as inadequate as mine was. Really it was even less because she wasn't on the walking treadmill leading up to the race and she didn't have the benefit of past experiences to draw from.

Also doing the race was a guy I've adopted as my brother and (a well seasoned/experienced marathon race-walker), his daughter (for her second marathon), a friend from Huntsville doing the half, an athlete I've been coaching since I first started who is now more of a friend than "an athlete I coach", and my husband! Originally he said he was going to do the race WITH me, but that was when he thought I'd be running more than walking!

My "frathlete" was coming from Canada so we rented a house for the week she was going to be in town in my all time favorite part of town, Hillcrest. I got to see my best friend (sister) and my son before she got into town and then we settled in until Dwayne, Ashley and her boyfriend got there the next day.

The expo was AMAZING!!! It was exactly what I like race expos to be--LIVELY!! It was FULL of cool vendors (90% of which had something to do with running), and FULL of participants. That's fairly easy to do when you have like ten thousand people doing your race weekend! (I don't know how many they have doing the race, but they have a 5k, 10k, half and full marathon plus a kids race.) They had a cool stage area with big self stations, and really cool vendors. I had two favorites...a lady selling race charms (like for necklaces) and another one called 73Threads. I'm not going to gush over just how much I loved them, but I did spend a good bit of money at their booth...and I did invite them to come to the Rocket City Marathon expo...and I did a happy dance when they said yes!!! :D. ((The pendant person can't come to our expo because she is from Dallas and their marathon weekend is the same as ours...bummer.))

We decided to just go to the grocery store for dinner foods since we all had different pre-race dietary needs. And then we turned in fairly early.

Race morning we were all up and about well before sunrise and at the race start in time for the obligatory bathroom stops and photos!

Ashley and I lined up at the very back. We sough out the 8 hour pacers (who we found out were NOT the sweepers*). After what happened to us at the Hot Chocolate 15k turned 7 miler, we didn't want to take any chances with cutoffs. As we lined up I went to make friend with the cops who I thought would be following us all day* and then I met someone who, little did I know, would come in handy closer to the end of the race... a self proclaimed "Fire Ball Aid Station".

Let me explain...this participant had a full Camelbak running bladder ful of Fire Ball cinnamon whiskey!! (Yes, I did have to verify this for myself...I figured the alcohol would kill any germs from the spout...)

About 8 minutes after the "actual" start of the race, we crossed the start line...and it started to sprinkle rain! At least it wasn't freezing cold like the last race Ashley and I did together.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the first 11 miles with Ashley. She is a very fun person to be in a race with. We were cheering the spectators and dancing and cutting up. Even when it started raining much harder, she was having as much fun as I was. She had been having some issues with her shoes leading up to the race and ended up having to get new shoes so I was worried about her but as long as we were walking, she was fine. It bothered her if we tried to run much so we just kept our pace up enough to stay with the 8 hour pacers.

It wasn't until about mile 6 or so that I started doing some math. We were WAY ahead of the pace we thought we were. That's when we found out the 8 hour pacers were banking time on the front half of the course because they knew the second half of the marathon course was much slower! That was fine for me, but it meant Ashley was going much faster than she had intended. When we found that out, we slowed down.

Let me just say, I LOVED the course. I loved everything about it. It's HILLY and it has a TON of turns. It goes through some "less desirable" parts of town but it also goes by some of the best Little Rock has to offer. There's even a short bit on the North side of the river. There were lots of spectators (even for those of us in the back of the pack), and the aid stations were all ROCKING. The police were INCREDIBLY friendly, and every single road was protected by police or crossing guard type workers. There was some great music on the course and SEVERAL things to take pictures of along the way. When they say they encourage walkers, they REALLY MEAN IT!! I never felt like I was pulling up the rear of anything. ((Part of that is because I wasn't....turns out, from what I understand, they have an 8 hour cut off for official finishers, but they don't actually cut anyone off. The police roll behind the last people in there race no matter how slow they are!! I NEVER saw them behind me even one time.))

At the half/full split off I said goodbye to Ashley as she headed out to finisher her race alone, and I forged ahead, knowing I still had another 15ish miles to go! It had rained off and on the whole morning and I was pretty soaked, but I wasn't cold and I had good layers to add/subtract as needed. But I was VERY sad to lose my running buddy. I strongly considered cutting my race in half, but I REALLY wanted that marathon medal, and I wanted Ashley to have the chance to do finish this super hard thing on her own. I knew she could do it and I hoped I could too.

I decided I wanted to catch up to the eight hour pacers so I started a nice run/walk by feel. I was feeling strong but I knew there were hills coming and I still had 15 miles ahead of me.

About an hour went by when I got the text saying Ashley had finished!!! I started crying and telling anyone who would listen around me that my daughter just finished her first half marathon!!! They all cheered with me!! :D

I finally caught, and passed the 8 hour group! I was feeling really strong and full of myself but I was feeling a little bit of a hot spot on the bottom of my left foot. It wasn't a fully on blister yet, but it was certainly threatening to get there. I decided there was northing I could do about it, so I kept run/walking along. Not like I would quit over something like that....

And then we hit the real hills...and then it started POURING down rain. It was so hard I thought it might be HAILING!! I actually started laughing. I was coming up to an aid station on the outskirts of Hillcrest (only about 1/2 mile from the house had rented). There was a group of kids working it who were having a RIDICULOUS amount of fun dancing in the rain. Seeing them dancing and laughing reminded me that rain isn't a bad thing! That was just what I needed to keep me moving away from the rent house that was calling my name, bidding me to quit early and just rest!!

Up a huge hill...the one I thought would be the worst because it was SO long....through Alsop Park (the perfect scene for an episode of Criminal Minds thanks to the feeling of isolation in the woods), and down to the river.

Can I say, I love the Arkansas River? I love Rebsamen Park and the Arkansas River Trail (a greenway that runs along side the river although you can't actually SEE the river). But by the time I got there my foot was HURTING. I wasn't able to run much because that hot spot had bloomed and was a squishy, burning, full-on blister. Every other part of me felt GREAT except my stinking foot. The part of the course that runs by the river is a VERY VERY VERY long, flat, straight out and back. It felt like it would never end. When I hit the turn around point I saw the Fireball Aidstation gal!!!

Can I say, Fireball really DOES take pain away? I probably would have finished about 30 minutes ahead of where I did if I had a little flask of that to carry with me!! (Either that or I wouldn't have made it back at all...either way I think I would have been happy!)

But the Fireball anesthesia "shot" didn't last long. My foot was hurting. I couldn't really run at all from the squishy pain. No matter what I tried, I would involuntarily shift my weight which would have caused some other issues that I just didn't want to deal with. At one point I was texting with Dwayne (yes, texting in a "race"...I was WALKING for crying out loud!)...that man actually suggested I QUIT!! It was mile 23.5!! He thought he was trying to be supportive but I quickly told him that was NOT what I needed to hear.... I had less than 3 miles to go. I needed to hear him tell me to suck it up buttercup and get myself to the finish line no matter what. ((That's almost exactly what Bilbo told me when I was winging and complaining to her!))

I forgot to say that earlier in the race Ashley and I saw my "sister" and her kids along with Ashley's boyfriend. It's always so wonderful to see spectators, but it's especially wonderful to see YOUR spectators. I was feeling pretty down when I saw my cheering sister, her kids. my daughter (wearing her medal), her boyfriend and my son who drove over an hour to come cheer for me! Seeing them was WAY better than Fireball! It gave me what I needed to get through my one last challenge.

Before I get to that, can I just take a minute say, it's HARD work to spectate a race!!? You don't train for it. You don't have the excitement of the course moving around you. You have the stress of trying to be at a certain place at a certain time...a time you have no perfect way to know because your runner can speed up or slow down along the way (that is IF you have a tracker on your runner, which I did but most of the time you don't). And, it's fun to cheer for runners, but it's really YOUR runner you are wanting to see, and you only get to see them for a fleeting moment in time. It's hard work. If someone comes to cheer for you at a race...they seriously LOVE you.

When we drove the course before the race I made a point to say the long climb leading into Hillcrest was going to be the hardest for me. It's just such a long climb that never seems to end... But Dwayne said a short little hill at the end would be the worst because it was at the end (like mile 25) and it was steep. But I said he was wrong because it was so short.

Can I just say he was ...right... (again). Holy hills Batman. When I saw that thing I just wanted to cry. There was a gal close to me who asked me if we were really going the right way! (She didn't know!?) I told her we had to be since the road was closed and there were a ton of other "runners" (walkers) ahead of us! It was stinking HARD to get up that dang hill. I don't think it would have been an issue if not for that blister. I had energy (thankfully), and (other than the pain in my foot) I was feeling really good about the day. It's funny how one (not so) little thing than derail all the other things.

After I got over the hill Dwayne was telling me I was super close but it felt like I was still miles and miles away. He told me where he was waiting for me so I started searching for him. ((It wasn't hard, there was pretty much NO ONE out there, but I can't see very well...)) Right before I got to him I came upon the "Lipstick Station"! North Little Rock is home to a Mabeline factory, and they are sponsors of the race. They have a tent set up at the 26 mile marker where you can actually put on lipstick and primp before your big finish! (No, I didn't stop, but I did let her give me some lipstick that I quickly gave to Dwayne to carry!) He gave me a big kisss and I slowly jogged by my cheering section through the finish!!

Can I just say that finish was one of the sweetest moments I've had. It seriously ranks up there with my Ironman finishes and my Mountain Mist finish. Honestly, I think it was "better" than my first marathon finish. When I did my first marathon, I had trained hard. My longest run leading up was 22 miles (or close to it). I had done like 90% of the training the Fleet Feet training group plan had prescribed. I wasn't positive I could finish, but I was fairly confident. For this one, I had NO IDEA if I'd be able to finish it or not. I wasn't willing to risk injury (a blister is not an injury by my definition even though it was painful). And I had NOT trained. I felt confident in my mental toughness to get through a hard thing, but sometimes the hard thing wins.  The ONLY reason I was able to do it was the 8 hour "cutoff" finish time was right around 7:45!! But that's why I picked this race. Okay, the medal is why I picked it, the cutoff is why I was okay signing up even though I wasn't sure how "training" was going to go.

Can I just say I LOVED this race? I will certainly do it again. I hope I'll be trained next time. I hope it doesn't rain next time. Either way, I know I'll have a great experience next time.

Oh...and I took one ONE HUNDRED PICTURES during this race!!! Quote from Dwayne "we had a totally different race experience"... Yes we did, baby! Yes we did!! I'm so very glad I did or I might have forgotten all the wonderful memories from this race!!

Thanks for joining me on this journey!