Monday, November 22, 2010

Old Habits

Just like I lost a lot of the fitness I'd built up during my weeks away from exercise due to illness, so too did I lose the good habits I'd worked so long and hard to develop. I had gotten really good about getting up before dawn nearly every day to go for a swim or a run. Then I spent a couple of weeks stealing every extra minute of rest I could get, and stopped setting my alarm completely. Now I'm setting the alarm again, but I can't seem to make myself obey it.

You see, I'm chronically overtired. I never get enough sleep, and there's not much I can do about it. There just aren't enough hours in the day for me to be the mother, wife, and employee I expect myself to be.

Part of the reason I let my weight get so out of control is that I never made exercise enough of a priority that I could work it into my schedule. And isn't that one of the most common excuses not to work out? "I just don't have the time." But if you don't find the time to take care of yourself now, then later you may run out of time in your life too soon! So I finally started MAKING the time to get in shape. It wasn't an easy process, training myself to get up early every day. I am NOT a morning person, and I never will be. But eventually I made early morning workouts a habit, a routine, a natural part of my life.

And now all that has unraveled. I'd forgotten how delicious a soft pillow feels under a tired head, or how cozy the blankets are on a chilly morning. I forgot how good an extra hour of sleep could feel to someone trying to function on a deficit. Right now, sleep is kicking exercise's butt in the battle of my mornings.

I think I have just temporarily lost my focus. Now that winter is approaching and the racing season is winding down, all my major goals are further out on the horizon, so I don't have anything to be pushing myself for at the moment. I'm not feeling any serious motivation to break out of these old habits into which I have re-settled. I don't know why it has to be one extreme or the other for me. What I'd like is to find some happy medium...the drive to keep exercising several days a week even if the workouts are not too challenging. I'd like to maintain some reasonable measure of fitness through the holidays before I start training again for spring events.

So that's my struggle right now. Hopefully soon I'll have a positive update about how I've found my motivation again and eased back into regular exercise!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catching My Breath

Well, the cold I mentioned in previous entries, which I'd been fighting for about two weeks, ultimately morphed into bronchitis. I missed four days of work and finally dragged myself to a doctor last Friday. After a round of antibiotics, I'm finally feeling like a human being again, and I can BREATHE!!!!

The bronchitis was a surreal experience. I'm in probably the best cardiovascular health I've been in as an adult. I ran an entire 10K without ever getting so winded that breathing was a struggle. And then, just a few days later, I found myself out of breath just from walking into the next room of my house! I've been slowly getting better all week, but haven't attempted running again yet because I just can't imagine being able to breathe well enough.

While I've been out of commission, I've had time to ponder my goals. Achieving my goal of running a complete 10K on the first try was so unexpected that it really threw me for a loop...almost as much as failing at my first 5K goal did! I had planned on running another 10K in December, and expected THAT to be the first one I'd run all the way through. Now I technically don't need to run that race, so I'm thinking of skipping it to save some money and just resume racing again in the spring. On the other hand, without an event to keep training for, it might be easy to lose my motivation as I get caught up in the hustle and bustle (and eating!) of the holiday season.

As of now, I'm still undecided on the 10K, but I'm sticking with my plan to run a 5K Turkey Trot race on Thanksgiving morning. After two weeks off from running, I have no idea what kind of shape I'll be in, but I'm going to do my best. I might try to get out for a short jog tomorrow morning, but if I don't make it, I will definitely run again this Sunday. Wish me luck and a set of healthy lungs!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

So Good, It's SCARY

10/31/2010 Marine Corps Marathon 10K
Official Time: 1:16:50 (RAN THE WHOLE WAY!!!!)

Sorry for the delayed race cold has been kicking my butt, and I've also been waiting to assemble all the pictures. This will probably get a little long...please bear with me!

As I mentioned in my last entry, on Saturday I went to the race expo to pick up my packet. The energy there was amazing, and I couldn't help but take a few pictures. I love the spooky Halloween design on the t-shirt and bib!

I awoke before dawn on Halloween far before dawn, in fact, that I got dressed, drove to the metro, rode the metro all the way into DC, emerged from the metro to find it....still TOTALLY dark outside! I wasn't completely awake yet at 5am, but I tried to look alert for a pre-reace photo at home.

Here are the symbols I wore to represent Jack. I thought if I drew them on, they might come off with sweat, so I used foam stickers. I loved having them on my hands because everytime I looked down for any reason, I saw them and thought of Jack some more. He was definitely with me throughout the race!

This is the starting line for the 10K. I knew I wouldn't be lined up anywhere near it for the actual race, so I had to get my photo ahead of time. As you can see, it was still very very dark.

For you ladies who enjoy a man in uniform, this race had two preferences covered in one spot: Marines and UPS men! Dropping off my bag was one of the highlights of my morning. Heehee.

The pre-race atmosphere was fantastic! I just walked around for a while, checking out people's costumes (I don't know how some of them could run in their costumes, but they managed!), and taking pictures. There was a very positive, fun energy everywhere and I soaked it all in. Finally it was time to stretch, jog a little to warm up, and find my way to the start.

I lined up in the 1:20-1:29 corral, and that was perfect because the clock time of my finish was 1:24. We were so far back that we could just barely hear the national anthem being sung, but we sure heard whatever they shot to start to race! I'm thinking it was a cannon... When we finally got up to the start line, there was music playing and an announcer saying all kinds of encouraging things. The song switched to "Bad Romance" right before I crossed the starting line, and it was the perfect final burst of energy to get me going. I'm a big Lady Gaga fan, and my 5-year-old son sings "Bad Romance" all the time. So I started running feeling happy and excited!

The first mile felt like it went by really quickly even though I was running my usual pace. It was a challenge to dodge all the people who started walking early on, but I managed not to trip or run into anyone. I started out without using my ipod, but turned the music on sometime while I was crossing the 14th St. bridge. I ended up pausing the music several times throughout the race, anytime there were spectators cheering or other music playing, but in between I did rely on some inspirational songs to keep me going.

I'm glad I set my goals so low for this race, because I think the lack of pressure was what helped me keep going the whole time. All along I kept thinking "I can walk at any time if I need to and it's fine," but at the same time I realized that I didn't truly need to walk yet. I hit 2 miles, and then 3, and realized I was very close to my reach goal. As I approached the 4-mile marker, I knew I'd almost achieved everything I hoped to in this race, but I also thought about how I had completed a 5-mile run just two weeks before, and so i decided to keep going one more mile. I was so excited about completing 5 miles that I managed to take a photo with my phone and post it to Facebook, complete with the caption "Still running." Yes, I know, I run really slowly, or else that wouldn't have been possible. LOL

As I passed the mile 5 marker, I considered taking a walk break to conserve some energy for the big hill that I knew was coming at the end. But my ipod was blasting "Don't Stop Believin'" and all I could think was that I had just a little over a mile left to why not just keep going? So I did! I was really tired at this point, but also really motivated. I stopped thinking "I can walk at any time" and started thinking "I am going to FINISH THIS THING!!" Soon I didn't need my ipod anymore because there was loud music playing along the course. When I passed the mile 6 marker, I started to get emotional, realizing I was actually going to run the whole race. I think I would have cried a little if I hadn't been both exhausted and dehydrated. At the base of the scary hill was a Marine shouting encouraging things like "You're not finished until you get up that hill!!" Can you imagine any better motivation to charge up the hill just like a Marine? I went at it with all the strength I had left. It was insanely steep but thankfully very short. I think the hills I run regularly in my neighborhood had me well-prepared for this moment. And even if that were not true, there were throngs of cheering spectators, as well a wheelchair racer completing the marathon right next to me. It was a finish right out of a movie or something...and a truly amazing moment for me.

Unfortunately my kids chose to have one of their uncooperative mornings on Sunday, so my family didn't make it to the finish line in time to see me cross. Therefore the only running photos that exist were taken by the MarathonFoto people. Below are proofs of their shots of me approaching and then crossing the finish line.

Once I finished, I sort of wandered around in a daze for a while. I missed the medals at first because I was confused by all the crowds and didn't know where to go. I walked along where Marines were handing out Powerade, water, and bags of food, and almost kept going beyond there when I realized that a lot of people were wearing their medals. I found my way back to where they were being handed out, and an adorable Marine put one on me. Then I went and posed for the official "finisher's photo" in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial.

I was still somewhat in a daze at this point, so I just sat down on the ground and started eating a bagel. I took this opportunity for a self-portrait with my medal, which I posted to Facebook along with the exciting news that I had run the whole race!

Once I finally met up with my family and picked up my bag, we made our way back to the finish line area so they could see it. By then the marathon had already been won, but we watched a few other finishers cross. My husband took this picture of me with the finish line in the background.

Then we all took the shuttle to Crystal City and hung out in the "Crystal Run" area for a while. The kids took advantage of the snacks and fun family activities, while I stood on the side of the road and cheered on marathoners until I nearly lost my voice. That was almost as fun as running my own race! It felt great to see the appreciative looks on their faces when they'd thank us for our support. If you ever have the chance to be a volunteer or spectator for a marathon, you really should do it! It's an incredibly gratifying, not to mention inspirational, experience.

Overall, I'd say my race experience was 100% positive, and not just because I so far exceeded my expectations. It was just a great event to be part of, and I can't wait to do it again! There are so many people who run in memory of a lost loved one killed in action, or in honor of a brave soul currently deployed. As I ran, I thought of Jack and my own race dedication, but also offered a prayer for every loved one I saw pictured or named on someone's shirt. It's great to participate in an event that is about fitness and athletic competition, but has a deeper meaning also.

So my running time was 1:16:50, which is a 12:22 pace. My treadmill runs are generally at a 12:00 pace, and my outdoor runs tend to be about the same. I'm slow, but at least I'm consistent. And to quote a great shirt I saw on a fellow runner, "Slow mileage is better than No mileage." If you got this far, thanks for reading. I'm going to enjoy my feeling of accomplishment for a little while before I set another large goal. I hope to kick my cold soon so I can get back to running. As always, I'll keep you posted.

Semper Fi, everyone!