Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rejecting Sanity

Today while throngs of people gathered on the Mall to rally to "restore sanity," I decided to reject sanity completely. You see, my cold is back, with a vengeance. So far the symptoms remain mostly above the neck, but they are fierce, including a nasty sore throat. But I'm running tomorrow anyway.

I'm sure my runner friends are now thinking "Well DUH, of course you're running tomorrow. Why wouldn't you?" But anyone who understands me, or has ever been anything like me, would realize that usually a bad cold is a legitimate excuse to stop everything in my world. Taking on my first 10K under these conditions is going against my habits and instincts. I'm so out of my element at the moment that I feel a little insane!!!!

I know that running with a cold is not THAT huge a deal in the grand scheme of things, but it feels significant to me. It is a sign to myself of my commitment to this sport. I'm not running tomorrow out of a sense of obligation, or just to prove something to myself. I'm running tomorrow because I've been preparing for this and looking forward to it and I'm just really really excited about the event!! Going to the expo today to pick up my race packet today was so much FUN!!! I'm completely in love with runner culture and I'm so proud to be a part of it. The expo even had me thinking I might actually want to run a marathon someday.....even though I know I really don't. So see....I've caught some of the crazy. :)

Anyway, if I'm going to be functional at all tomorrow, I'm going to need a decent night's sleep, so I need to wrap this up. I just want to state my goals, and then make a dedication for tomorrow's race.

I'm taking the three-pronged approach to goals that my friend Tyler uses: a reach goal, a realistic goal, and an easy goal. I've adjusted my expectations to reflect rounds 1 and 2 of my cold. For this race, my reach goal is to run the first four miles before needing a walk break. My realistic goal is just to run more than half of the total distance, no matter how many walk breaks it takes. My easy goal is just to cross the finish line upright and uninjured. :)

As for my dedication...I'm not sure how often I will dedicate races to particular individuals or causes, but I'm doing it this time because the race happens to fall on a very significant day. Two years ago tomorrow, my dear friend Amy lost her precious son Jack to severe congenital heart defects, just two weeks before his third birthday. Jack was an incredibly special little boy, who touched a lot of people in a profound way in his short life. I will never forget him, and especially not on Halloween. My thoughts and prayers will be with Amy and her family tomorrow, and it just makes sense to dedicate my run to them and to Jack. I will wear a red t-shirt in his honor, and will also wear some of his favorite symbols: a star, and a cross. The cross is of particular significance, because he had the deepest faith perhaps of anyone I've ever known...and it was his faith that brought me back to mine after a few months of personal spiritual crisis. In gratitude, in grief, and in love, I will remember Jack tomorrow.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Photographic Evidence

As promised, I am finally sharing some pictures from my second (and first successful) 5K. Consider this proof that I really did run the race and I'm not just making all this up. :)

See? Look at the joy on my face! :) This is my friend Jack and me after we finished the race.

Here we are just getting started...

And here we are approaching the finish line!!!

My hero! Thanks again, Jack! I couldn't have done this without you, and I appreciate your true friendship!!

So there you have it. I really did complete a 5K like I told you!! I hope I have some similarly triumphant pictures after this weekend's 10K, no matter how the run actually goes. :)

As far as my training goes, I did get out and run 35 minutes this morning. Breathing was still a little strained, and I had a lot of coughing after the run was over, but I can definitely tell that my cold is mostly gone. I feel reasonably ready for Sunday...I at least feel ready to give it my all and have a good time! Tomorrow or Saturday I will post some last-minute thoughts and my goals for the race. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Neck Rule

Last Thursday I missed my run because I was coming down with a cold. It has only gotten worse since then. I tried to do my scheduled five-mile run on Sunday, but it didn't go well at all. I was winded almost immediately and had trouble breathing throughout. I took a couple of walk breaks and only completed three miles. At that point I decided not to push it too far and just walked one last mile to get home.

It was only after I got home that I did a bit of internet research and discovered the "neck rule," which basically states that if your symptoms of illness are all above the neck (nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, headache) it's safe to exercise, but if your symptoms are below the neck, it's probably better to rest. Most of my symptoms were above the neck, but I did have some chest congestion which worsened after my run.

Under ordinary circumstances, none of this would be any big deal, but with my first 10K coming up this Sunday, I'm taking it more seriously. I understand I'll need to adjust my expectations for the race, and that's fine. I was only ever attempting it just to finish in the first place. But I do want to be well enough to at least do that, so I'm taking it easy for a few days until I can breathe more easily. I skipped my swim today and have already decided to skip my run in the morning. I don't know yet about Wednesday's swim, and I'm hoping to be able to do a short, easy run on Thursday. I'm also trying to get a little more sleep than usual.

I'd be lying if I said I'm not disappointed at this turn of events. The timing stinks. I really felt like I was on a roll after my successful five-mile run a week ago, and I thought I had a good chance of being able to run most of the 10K, with only a few short walk breaks. But the big picture is what is most important to me. I know I'll get back into the swing of things once I'm well, and I'll continue to make progress in the future. So I'm trying to stay positive and just focus on getting better so I can enjoy my experience on Sunday no matter what happens!

A side note: I finally have my photos from the Semper Fi 5K, and I will post them later this week!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Leveling Up

DISCLAIMER: I have no scientific evidence to back up what I'm about to say. This is simply my interpretation of what my body is currently experiencing. If you can prove me wrong and have a better explanation, feel free to share and I will not mind. :)

Fitness is like a video game. There are different levels, and each time you reach a new level, some tasks suddenly get much easier, and you can start developing some new skills.

I feel like I reached a new level sometime in the past couple of weeks. My second 5K was much easier than my first, and the week before that I ran nearly 4 miles. Yesterday I completed a 5-mile run, and it felt amazing! I only had trouble breathing during the 3 challenging hills, and I did not feel like dying at the end.

It seems like just yesterday when running 30 minutes straight was a real struggle. Now 30 minutes is an easy run, and twice that is more challenging than painful. Although my overall progress has been taking place over a period of many months, it seems like the change in the way I feel has happened rather suddenly, and thus my theory of fitness levels was born.

Please do not worry - this does not mean I am going to take my current level for granted. I do not expect every run to go perfectly now, even the shorter ones. In a video game, you can still be felled by an obstacle you've beaten a thousand times if you're not paying enough attention, or something has happened to throw you off your game. Likewise, I could easily tank a short 2-mile run on a random bad day. The difference is just that now my perception of what is an "easy" workout has been adjusted upwards, and goals that once seemed out of reach are now just barely beyond my grasp!

You can probably ascertain from this post that my 10K training continues to go well. I still do not expect to run the whole 6.2 miles the first time out, but what I do expect is to enjoy whatever portion I am able to complete. I truly am addicted to running now, and I'm having so much fun with it! It's amazing how much more enjoyable it is once you "level up" and get to a point where running a few miles is pretty easy. I look forward to improving my distance and time as I work towards the next level!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sweet Success!

10/9/2010 Semper Fi 5K
Official Time: 35:28 (Ran the WHOLE WAY!!)

Sorry it has taken me so long to write this recap! I've been super busy and mentally preoccupied, but now I'm ready to share my triumph!

After my long run last week, I felt somewhat confident going into this race, but my knee issues concerned me a little. Then I stayed up really late watching an exciting playoff baseball game on Friday night, which probably wasn't the best idea but couldn't be helped. I love baseball more than I love running. :) Anyway, I was not as well rested as I should have been on Saturday morning, and wasn't sure how that would affect my performance.

The physical conditions of the race were perfect. The weather was a comfortable temperature, and the course was super flat. We ran around Hains Point in East Potomac Park (Washington, DC), and the views over the water were simply gorgeous. It was a very small event (being held for the first time), so it had a nice friendly feel to it.

Speaking of "friendly," the best part of this race experience was having a running buddy, my good friend and former roommate, Jack, who agreed to do this even though he was only in town for two nights for a wedding. I really think he is the reason I got through the race! I might have been able to finish on my own, but my time definitely would not have been as good. He was a constant source of encouragement...and distraction! We basically chatted through the whole race, which made the time and the miles just fly by. Right towards the end it got rough and I was too winded to talk anymore, but Jack just kept encouraging me, and he got me to speed up, pass a few people, and finish strong!

I had dreamed of maybe finishing in under 38 minutes, and managed to do it in under 36! When I saw the clock at the end, with the time starting with "35," I was amazed and overjoyed! After hugging and jumping up and down and hootin' and hollerin' in celebration, Jack and I hung around for the awards ceremony. We applauded all the winners, and were impressed/ashamed by their times. A 72-year-old man won his age category with a time about 9 minutes faster than ours. Good for him!!! And WOW, I still have a long way to go to really be in shape, even at 40 years younger.

If you're wondering how my knee held up, it was perfectly fine. It bothered me a tiny bit at the beginning of the race and then I didn't notice it again the rest of the time. In fact, it only just barely hurt a couple more times throughout the entire weekend. I think whatever issue there was has just worked itself out, and I'm grateful. It will be interesting to see if the same pain returns again in the future, though.

I had a few other ordinary aches after dancing the night away at the wedding Saturday night, but stayed active anyway, going apple picking with my family on Sunday. It was a pretty physical weekend, and I love that I'm in good enough shape to do all those things without getting too worn out! I did decide to take an extra rest day from running, just to play it safe. So my next run will be tomorrow, and then another on Friday, and then I'll be attempting 5 miles this Sunday!

Now that I've conquered the 5K, I'm surging forward with my 10K training. My race is in 2.5 weeks, and I'm hoping to be able to run at least 2/3 of it, maybe even a little more. After that, I will continue with 10K training, for another race possibly in December? And I will be on the lookout for another 5K or two. I can't believe I thought racing wasn't for me just because my first experience went so badly. This race was so much fun and I'm totally hooked! I imagine it will always be more fun to have a buddy than to go it alone, but I think I'll even enjoy running by myself now that I'm more comfortable with the whole experience.

By the way, the reason there are no photos with this post is that we have misplaced our camera. I hope we will find it soon, but if not, I will try to get at least one of Jack's photos of the two of us after the race! I've seen the official race photos and there are some good ones of us, but I don't know how to post those or if I'm even allowed to post them. If and when I get some photos, I will be sure to share them.

THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART for your continued support! I have accomplished one significant goal, but it is only the first of many! With you behind me, there is no telling how far I will go! THANKS!!!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Silent Anticipation

I've been uncharacteristically quiet this week, unlike the week before my first 5K attempt. There have been a thousand thoughts swirling around in my head, but I've been wary of putting them into words and sharing them with you, for fear of over thinking things, or jinxing myself.

So I will keep today's post simple and just update you on my progress. Last Sunday I set out on a 4-mile run, expecting to have to walk some of it. The chill in the air sparked a spring in my step, and I surprised myself by running the whole thing! I felt great almost the whole time, except when I was tackling some rough hills, and finished strong, feeling like I could have gone longer if necessary.

It seemed impossible that I could have just completed four whole miles, so I compared my route on and The former measured my distance as four miles, while the latter had it closer to 3.75. Either way, it was the longest distance I had ever run, and I'm very proud of it!

I really needed a win like that to boost my recently shattered confidence. Each day is its own, and each run is its own, and there are no guarantees. Running nearly four miles last week with ease does not mean my 5K race this week will be a breeze. I understand that. Just the same, I'm now going into this race with more confidence in myself than I would have had without that successful run.

One cause for concern right now is my right knee. Since my long run, I've had some mild pain in it off and on. It didn't bother me much during my shorter run on Tuesday, but has been getting worse and more frequent since then. It is a new sort of pain for me and I'm having trouble identifying the cause. This morning I overslept, and instead of just shortening my run, I chose to skip it completely and let my knee rest. I really hope it won't give me any trouble on Saturday!

Aside from the knee pain, I truly feel ready for this race. I will have my music, a running buddy, my own water, and a good attitude. My primary goal is to run the entire distance without walking, but in the event that I cannot achieve that, my secondary goal is to beat my previous time. I am certain that I will accomplish at least one of my goals, as long as I don't hurt myself!

I hope to report my results as soon as I get home on Saturday, but it's going to be a very busy day for me, so you may be in suspense until Sunday. If you are my friend on Facebook, you'll probably see at least a brief report as soon as the race is over! Please keep me in your thoughts on Saturday morning, and as always I am incredibly grateful for your support!

Friday, October 1, 2010

I Love the '80's

It's been nearly five months since I "owned my number" and celebrated dropping below 200 lbs. All summer long, my weight remained in the 190's, mostly fluctuating between 193 and 196. Today I finally broke through the 190 barrier and got back into the 180's!

I know five months is a long time to lose 10 lbs, but I'm actually fine with my rate of progress. Although losing weight is part of the big picture for me, it is usually not my main focus. I'm not willing to go to extremes to lose weight quickly, because I don't want to employ any methods that I cannot maintain long-term.

My approach to eating is all about balance and moderation. I do not diet. I just try to make mostly good choices, most of the time. When I indulge in foods that I know are not good for me, I don't call it "cheating." The psychology of that kind of language bothers me. To me, cheating is about dishonesty and breaking rules. I'm not trying to force my eating habits into strict rules, and I'm not lying to myself or anyone else about what I'm eating, so the word "cheating" just doesn't apply.

For me, the honesty is the key part. I don't delude myself into thinking I'm eating healthy all the time even when I'm not. I know when I eat a cupcake that it's not the best fuel for my body, and that I will likely see the results on the scale and feel them in my clothes. Being honest with myself about what I'm eating helps me to be aware when the indulgences start to get out of hand, and the bad choices start to outweigh the good. That's when I either have to accept that my weight loss is going to stall for a while, or start exercising more self-control to get my eating back on track.

Clearly the summer was one of those stalling periods (lots of cupcakes...and boy, were they good!), and now I'm back on track with the self-control. I'm happy to be back in the 180's again, and hope to go down another clothing size before too long. It would be nice to make a good chunk of progress with the weight loss before getting engulfed in the holiday's much harder to make good choices at that time of year!