The Great Soft Drink Experiment

Last summer I challenged myself to complete a running streak; it began with a 40 day streak, and then I stretched it out to 80 days. Once I hit 80 days, I decided to make it 100 days. I ended up running at least one mile every day for 100 days. It was a challenge that reminded me I had to stay dedicated to my goal, avoid whining, and run no matter how tired I felt.

This summer I am taking on a somewhat different challenge. My entire adult life, I have drank soft drinks. When I was young and didn’t need to worry about my weight I drank Coke and Mountain Dew. After a couple of babies and some post-baby chub, I began my long-term relationship with diet soft drinks. Diet Mountain Dew has been a favorite for many years, but I also like Diet Pepsi (in a bottle) and McDonald’s Diet Coke. After a great run, I wanted a diet drink. When I needed to wake up, I wanted that caffeine boost. Mealtime? Diet Mountain Dew. I’ve drank as many as six or seven a day, but probably averaged four to five. I would read all of the research about how bad it is for me, but justified my addiction (it truly is an addiction) with the fact that I work out, I drink little alcohol, and I needed that one vice. And I love it. I craved it. And dammit, I needed it.

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I decided that this summer my challenge would be to at least cut back. I tend to drink more water in the summer, so it seemed to be the right time. The first couple of weeks, I would cut down to one or two a few days, and then I’d be back up to three or four. Last week it was time to get serious. I read more articles that stated diet soft drinks can cause me to retain belly fat (who wants that?), causes my teeth to erode (eww!), gives me belly issues (I don’t need help with that). Diet soft drinks are just not good for us. I was ready.

I began by allowing myself only one soft drink per day. That helped me to avoid the caffeine withdrawal and accompanying headaches. I would drink my one treat sometime in the morning, so by that evening a headache would set in. I took Aleve and the headaches were tolerable. Friday I decide to wait until lunch to have my one drink. Guess what! I didn’t want one. So I decided to wait until supper. By dinnertime, I realized that if I’d made it that long, I could make it the rest of the day without my beloved Diet Mountain Dew.

Friday was literally the first day in my adult life that I didn’t drink a soft drink. I was pretty proud – that is a huge accomplishment! I haven’t had a soft drink since; today will be day four. As I was pondering this challenge, I remembered the things I’ve learned through attending AA meetings with my husband. ‘One day at a time’ is one of their mantras, and though my addiction is not as strong as one’s addiction to alcohol or drugs, the mantra surely fits my situation. I can only worry about today. It isn’t easy. Saturday night my husband and I went out for our anniversary, and I craved that fizz and deliciousness of an ice-cold Diet Coke. When I pass the coolers at the grocery store or Walmart, I long to reach in for a Diet Pepsi. As I drive past Circle S, my arms twitch wanting to turn in and purchase my bottle of caffeine.

Besides all of the health benefits this change will provide, I think of the money I will save. Not only do I buy cases of Diet Mountain Dew at the store, but I stop in Circle S once or twice a day to get a Diet Pepsi, which costs $1.74. If I buy 10 a week, that’s $17.40 a week, and over $64 a month! That’s just stupid. I can get two pedicures with that. I can get an outfit with that.

I cannot promise I will be successful with this challenge. My hope is that I can avoid diet drinks long enough that if I do try one, it will taste awful (although I really don’t know if that’s possible). If I can finally begin to lose these few pounds I’ve been at war with, it will certainly give me more incentive to stick with it. If you see me grabbing a soft drink, please feel free to remind me that my teeth will rot and it will add belly fat. Or just rip it out of my hand and throw it far, far away. And then run.

On another completely different note, I’d like to say Happy Father’s Day to my husband and my ex-husband. Together, we three have raised some pretty spectacular kids. I am so blessed that my husband chose to love my daughters when he married me. He has always been there for them, supported them, and helped me with the running, homework, and daily stress. I am also blessed to have a great relationship with their dad. He and I have always made decisions based upon what is best for the girls. We have truly had a successful partnership in parenting. I have witnessed far too many divorced parents who spend so much time hating one another that they forget that at one time they chose to have children together. I have seen the suffering of the kids. My ex-husband and I did not criticize each other in front of the girls, even when others did. We never tried to keep track of time spent with one parent; the girls were free to spend as much time as they chose with each of us. We’ve sat together through matches, graduations, and contests so that the girls didn’t have to decide who’d they would sit with. I know that my girls’ father loves them and I respect that love. Now that our daughters are adults, they have told us how much they appreciate that they’re divorced parents get along so well; after all, they didn’t choose to be in a divorced family. Thank you, Randy, for being a great dad! Thank you, Gary, for loving all of us!

Running Remix

Sometimes in life, we need to step back and reevaluate our intentions. Whether we examine relationships, careers, or fitness, we need to realize our goals can change in spite of us. I am at a point at which I have to reevaluate my running, and believe me, it isn’t by choice. My knees seem to be rebelling, which infuriates me. I am trying to do something good that will keep me mentally and physically healthy, but my body doesn’t want to cooperate.

 

For non-runners the answer is easy — don’t run. Runners understand that it just isn’t that simple. Though I haven’t always been a runner, after six years it has become part of my identity. My friends run; my husband runs; I want to run. Running is an emotional release after a challenging day at school. It’s a way to celebrate life’s little joys. It’s a way to deal with tragedy when I don’t know what else to do with myself. Running gives me confidence, strength, and pleasure. Running makes me angry, disappointed, and frustrated. I love going for a run with friends, and I love running alone because it allows me time to process whatever is happening in my life at the moment. In running I find peace. Simply put, I cannot imagine my life without it.

 

I had already decided that I wouldn’t run a spring half marathon. My plan was to let my knees rest by sticking with shorter runs. After running the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon the past four years, it will be difficult knowing my friends are there and I am not. I do, however, plan to run the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll with my step-daughter Labor Day weekend. After my past couple longer runs, that was even questionable. Once I would reach 4.5 miles, my ‘good’ knee would begin to stiffen up – IT band. It felt exactly the same as my right one did two years ago prior to surgery. I hobbled to get to 5 miles (I’m not sure why I have to end on an even number), and ended up disappointed that I couldn’t go further.

 

I am currently reading Tales from Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. It is their third book together, and since I loved the first two, I knew this would be worth my time. One of the essays struck a chord. The woman had knee problems. Ahhh…a sister in pain. She began inserting walking into her runs, and was able to complete her runs. Even though the thought of walking part of a long run, or God forbid, a race, goes against my prideful spirit, I knew I had to try something, or I’d never be able to run long distance again. Yesterday was my experiment.

 

It was going to be a warm sunny day, so I was really looking forward to the run. I had to mentally prepare myself to walk. I know myself well enough to know that if I weren’t disciplined, I would try to run as far as I could, and then I would end up in pain and angry. I decided to run the first two miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile for the rest of my ‘run’. I didn’t know how far I would go because I just didn’t know how my knees would hold up. I had in the back of my head that I wanted to try to go seven miles because my friends who are running the Derby Half were running seven (again, my brain works in mysterious ways). I found that inserting the walking made the outing enjoyable. I looked forward to the breaks, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and didn’t stress over my distance. Each time I took off running, I knew I only had to run 8/10 mile. I ended up going eight miles – with no knee pain. I ran 6.8 miles, and walked 1.2; that’s further than I’ve been able to run in months. Even with the walking, I averaged an 11 minute pace, which isn’t that bad. Did pride step in? Of course. I was hopeful that no one would see me walking; afterall, I’m supposed to be a runner. In the end, I was very content with my effort. And I was figuring out what finish time I would have if I did that at Louisville. I think my husband might just kill me if I suddenly decide to jump in the race because he hasn’t been doing long runs. But we do have a hotel room booked. Just in case.


This is when I have to ask myself, what are my intentions in regard to running. To stay healthy? Or to compete? To spend time doing something I love? Or to beat people? The responsible answer would be that I intend to stay healthy while doing what I love, and I do, but I also want to run well. I want to have respectable times. I want to PR. In short races, I want to place in my age group. Is that going to be possible? I just don’t know. I would rather walk some if it will allow me to continue running, but my pride will have to adapt to this new vision of who I am as a runner.

Aging Gracefully

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I’ve been thinking a lot about aging recently. Having turned 48 last month, I keep thinking about turning 50. Fifty used to seem so old; now it seems quite young. Vibrant, in fact. I guess since many of my friends have already reached that milestone and didn’t suddenly become old, boring men and women, I’ve learned it’s all a matter of having peace with our lives and our choices.

Recently, I was thinking about the team at Everbody’s Fitness, where my husband and I are both instructors. We have an awesome team that cares about our members and celebrates members’ achievements, both small and large. But do you know what’s really inspiring about our team? We have twelve instructors, and nine of them are over 40! Several are over 50, and my husband will be 65 this summer. I believe you can ask any member who has attended our classes, and you will find that age is not a factor. Our classes are tough, and young folks  can attest to getting a kick-ass workout. Personally, I can hardly keep up with my husband in Spinning. Kathy, who is a 50-year-old Spinning instructor has recently added triathlete to her resume. Tabbie, a 40-something jack-of-all-exercise, can out work both men and women half her age. Many of us also run; we participate in races ranging from 5Ks to half marathons to marathons. We don’t let a number define us.

Personally, I am in the best shape of my life. Sure, I have about five pounds I need to drop, but as far as strength and fitness, I am in better shape at 48 than I was at 28. I didn’t even begin to exercise until I was 42. I had spent the previous 20 years raising kids, working, returning to college, starting a couple careers, blah, blah, blah. I have every excuse for not taking care of me. Of course, until my late thirties, I really didn’t have to worry about my weight, and then suddenly the scale began its ascent. Though I was eating no differently, those numbers increased. And then I noticed that when I went up a flight of stairs, I was out of breath. What? I quickly learned that being thin did not mean being in shape or healthy. I’ve since learned that not being thin did not mean being out of shape or unhealthy.

Throughout the past six years, I have run (lots of 5Ks, a few 10Ks, and six half marathons), taught Zumba, and now teach Tabata Bootcamp and HIIT classes. Admittedly, it’s much easier to fit in my workouts since my girls are grown and I don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch them. I don’t know how I would have pulled it off when they were all young, but if I’d made it a priority, I could have made it work. I think many of us, especially moms, get our children to the point that they can care for themselves, and finally decide to take time for ourselves. We realize we’ve let ourselves go, and it’s time to take control of our bodies and our health. For me, my wake-up call was turning 42. My father died of a heart attack at 42, and his brothers also died in their 40s or early 50s. My family history was not going to work in my favor. I made the decision to take care of my heart; I wanted to be here for my kids and grandkids.

Grandkids. What a joy! Gary and I have six between us, and each one brings us a level of happiness never before experienced. Then I look at myself as a grandmother, ‘Nana’ as I am known. As I don my Under Armour shorts, sports bra, tank top, and Asics, I picture my Grandmother Allen in her homemade cotton dress and thigh-highs. I think I saw my gram in pants one time. I picture her cooking up fried chicken and baking eclairs, sitting watching the news, and going to church. I loved her dearly and spent a lot of time with her, but don’t really remember her playing outside with me, and certainly don’t recall her exercising. My Grandma Greenland was a chubby lady, who happened to be the BEST baker. She could bake anything – butterscotch pie (my personal favorite), a plethora of cookies and cakes…yum. She enjoyed swimming. I can still see her in her blue flowery one-piece and matching blue swimcap, doing the side-stroke (I don’t think that’s an official stroke, but she rocked it). I wonder how my grandkids will remember me. I hope they remember that I got out and played with them, and inspired them to always set goals. I hope they remember my running races and living life to its fullest. Grandmas and grandpas today are forging their own paths. We are not content to sit back and let life just pass us by as we age. We are working to maintain our health and fitness so we can be integral, active members of our families.

Despite my efforts at staying fit and healthy, there are some parts of aging I can’t control. That’s bothersome. This whole saggy skin thing really ticks me off. I was well-aware of face wrinkles; we see those on our older family members and know they are inevitable. It’s what’s under the clothes that we don’t know about until it hits us. The other day I was sitting on the floor, cleaning the toilet, and I looked down at my bare foot and saw the foot of an old woman. Seriously! It looked wrinkly, dry, and just OLD. It looked like my mother’s foot. And then there’s the sagging leg skin. My legs might be well-toned for my age, but I can’t control the wrinkles and crinkles. When the sun is shining in when I am dressing, all I see is saggy old skin. When I look in the mirror, I see my mom. She is 81. I don’t want to see her in my mirror until I am 81. In an effort to remove my mother from the mirror, I even ordered Nerium, you know, that magical anti-aging concoction. I’ve seen some pretty amazing before and after pictures, and thought what the hell? I think I’ll bathe in it.

Another issue of being middle-aged is what to wear. When I was younger, I always wondered why people my age often tried to dress ‘young’. Now I know. In our minds, we are young. I don’t feel any older. I’m just me, and I’ve always loved clothes. I really have to be careful because I see young girls and think Wow! Cute outfit! I bet I could wear that! And then I realize I am almost 50, and just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. The problem is, I love most trendy clothing. Because of my height deficit, I have to shop in the petite section, and in many stores, the petite clothing looks as if it were made for my mother. Elastic-waisted polyester pants just aren’t my thing. Flowing, flowery tops…nope. Trying to find that balance of stylish, but not too young can be tricky. Thankfully, my daughters are good at letting me know what works and what to avoid.

Overall, I love the age I am. I enjoy my daughters as adults. I like the free time I have and the time I have with my husband. I would not want to go back to an earlier decade. My forties have been filled with many joys and sorrows, many changes, and many life lessons. I have enjoyed them immensely, and actually look forward to what my fifties will bring. So, no matter your age, take care of yourself. Don’t let life pass you by – you can never get these days back. We spend far too much time waiting for the weekend, waiting for summer, waiting for vacation. And then we complain that life is going too fast! We wish it away. What about today? Enjoy today. Do something for your health TODAY. Embrace TODAY.

This picture has nothing to do with this post. It was taken a couple years ago when this tall lady tried to pass me at the end of a race. Not happening. This NANA was gonna kick her butt! (I beat her)

This picture has nothing to do with this post. It was taken a couple years ago when this tall lady tried to pass me at the end of a race. Not happening. This NANA was gonna kick her butt! I couldn’t believe Bethany caught the moment. I just think it’s funny.

Here we go again…

Well, it’s January. Once again, we have a chance to start all over. We can make resolutions, start a new fitness plan, set goals. The year is ours; we can make it the best year ever. “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” Blah, blah, blah. Why is we start the new year off with great expectations, work towards those goals, and then our enthusiasm fizzles out as the year progresses.

Working in a gym, I see this trend every year. In January when resolutions are made, there’s not an empty treadmill or elliptical in sight, and classes are jam-packed with enthusiastic newbies. We are excited! We are going to lose weight and get buff by summer. We’re going to finally get that washboard stomach, get rid of our jiggly arms, and hell, we’ll just run a marathon while we’re at it. And then we discover it’s hard work. And it isn’t quite as fun as we thought. And the Bachelor is on, and it’s so much easier to sit on the sofa and watch these already buff young women drool over some egotistical man with finely tuned abs and great hair. We’ll go to the gym tomorrow. But then Idol is on, and the kids have homework, and…well…maybe the gym just isn’t for me. Who really wants to sweat on purpose? By February classes are full, but not packed, and by March it’s back to normal. We might have a few newbies who found they enjoy the results of their hard work. They realized that those rock-hard abs and Michelle Obama arms take time, and they’re willing to work for it.

Those who stick it out make it through most of the year maintaining our routines; we run races, go to classes, watch our diets, and encourage our friends to join us in the new healthy lifestyle. Then the holiday season hits. And it hits hard. Personally, I held it together really well until November 2; November 1 I ran a half marathon – I was in optimal (middle-aged-nana optimal) shape. After that I cut back on my running, but continued to teach Tabata and HIIT. Along comes December: parties, baking, and dinners…oh, my! I was still teaching and running a little (very, very little), but I was eating everything in sight. I begin baking Christmas cookies in mid-November, and I eat them as they come out of the oven. Somebody has to make sure they’re fit for human consumption. The cookies bring pounds. The pounds bring chub. The chub brings tight clothes.

This year was particularly rough. My father-in-law was very ill over Christmas, so we spent our time either sitting in the ICU waiting room or making the 2 1/2 hour trek to the hospital. My plans of running every day of our break went out the window. Cafeteria food, fast food, and cookies went in my mouth. One day I was feeling especially frisky, so I managed to walk a mile worth of laps at the hospital. I got some strange looks from the staff, but I needed to move. It still amazes me that it takes so long to get in shape and feel comfortable doing squats, burpees, and push-ups, but take one week off and I have to start all over.

It’s now 2015, and like many Americans, I have vowed to get back in shape. I run the Biggest Loser competition at our school, and the first weigh-in is tomorrow morning. I ate chicken bacon ranch pizza for dinner. Four pieces. That was totally unnecessary (but gosh, it was GOOD!). I’ve gone to the gym every morning before school, even a morning that I didn’t teach, so I could’ve slept in. (On a side note, I find it completely depressing that I now consider sleeping until 6:00 am sleeping in.) I am not going to be on a Biggest Loser team, but I am going to do the weekly weigh-ins and try to get to where I need to be. I am going to try to eat healthier (I say that every year). But really, 2015 is going to be the BEST YEAR EVER. Until December, and then 2016 is going to be the best year EVER!

A Change in Plans

After the Chicago 10k – actually, at mile 2 of the Chicago 10k – I decided that there was no way in hell I was going to run the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. At that point, I didn’t know if I was going to make it six miles, so 13.1 would be impossible. As soon as the race was over, I told my husband that we would not be running the Indy race. No way. No how.

And then I came home with my nice medal, jacket, and necklace. I ran Tuesday, and it was not a good run. I had to walk some just to get through three miles. I ran again Wednesday morning with some friends, and that run felt so much better. So yesterday after school I was home alone with time to ponder. I thought that maybe I could just run/walk the Indy race…if I could sucker someone into doing it with me. Gary really wants to run it, and he always does things for me.

I have tried to talk my niece Erin into running a half in the past, and she was pretty adamant about not ever running one. So I texted her. I asked if she’d be interested in meeting me in Indy to run/walk a half marathon. Her answer was quite shocking and unexpected. Her text read, “Ok, if walking is involved then yes.” Seriously. I didn’t have to talk her into it at all. And then she registered right away! Crap. Now I was stuck. I won’t back out on my niece. I am going to participate in the Indy Half. I truly doubt I can run 13.1 at this point, but I am pretty sure I can walk it. Heck, Erin and I ran 6.2 Saturday, and then walked 3 miles back to her apartment, so we just need 4 more miles. Piece of cake! ‘

Now the real training begins. I need to drink more water (as I am sipping on a Diet Pepsi), eat less junk (I ate a bag of Milky Way nuggets on the way home from school), and run distance. I plan to run nine miles Sunday morning. Please, Old Sore Body, cooperate! To celebrate this decision, I believe I’ll get some new running shoes, which are always motivating. I will also blog this journey because it keeps me accountable. You can expect lots of whining, a few victories, and probably some details you don’t care to know.

Sometimes Running Sucks

My running has been less than stellar recently. Considering I ran a 10k this past weekend, the timing is bad. I haven’t had a run that felt good in quite some time. Even three miles is somewhat of a struggle, so running over six was much more difficult than I anticipated.

I was thrilled to be in Chicago with my husband visiting my niece. Being from the ‘region’ in Northwest Indiana, which is only about thirty minutes from the Windy City, Chicago has always held a special place in my heart. I love the skyline, Lake Michigan, the museums, the shopping, and the architecture. It’s truly a beautiful city. I registered my niece and myself for this race a few months ago; we decided on the 10k rather than the half marathon, which turned out to be the perfect decision. Though I have run along the lake while visiting the city, I was excited to run a race there.

Gary and I arrived in Chicago Friday afternoon, dropped our things at Erin’s, and hopped on a bus to go downtown and get our race packets. That might sound simple, but we were slightly anxious that we would end up in the wrong neighborhood nowhere near race headquarters. As we exited the bus – on the right street – we began to take in life in the big city. Gary and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to country life versus city life. As he was commenting, “I could never live in this city,” I was saying, “I could so live in the big city!” Realistically, it would probably get old, so for now I’ll enjoy visiting Erin. That evening we met up with Erin for a pasta dinner, and went for a walk down to the lake. Since we had to get up early for the race, we were in early. One of us practically passed out while talking. I won’t mention a name, but it wasn’t one of the old ones!

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Saturday morning the three of us caught the bus, and took off for the race. While I am usually really grouchy the morning of a race (my nerves get the best of me, and I don’t like to talk or be talked to), I felt unusually calm. Even when we realized we had missed our stop and had to walk about 1/2 mile back to the start, I didn’t get stressed out. In my highly-anxious mind, that’s impressive. As we approached the starting line, there was a sea of pink. Although I typically wear pink, I went against the trend and wore yellow. This was my first all-female race, and I didn’t want to over-do the girliness. Tutus were not an option for Erin and me. No way.

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My goal for this race was to run it in under an hour. If we kept a 9:30 pace, we would do it. Our first mile, we ran a 9:08 pace – perfect. The second mile we ran a 9:13 pace, which was still good, and left us room to slow down during the second half. The third mile I began to struggle. STUPID. This was a 10k; I have run five half marathons; this should be easy. One huge mistake I made was not drinking any water on Friday. STUPID. In my mind, I was only running a little over six miles, so I didn’t need to worry about hydrating or nutrition. STUPID. I always need to worry about hydration and nutrition. Third mile: 9:40 pace. Crap. I told Erin to go ahead because she was running well. She wasn’t going to, but I told her I didn’t want to feel guilty for holding her back, so she went on. During mile four, I kept telling myself to enjoy the beautiful day; I was running in CHICAGO! I had the gorgeous blue lake with sailboats scattered about on my right, and the picturesque skyline on my left. There were runners everywhere. This race was different than any I have run because the course wasn’t closed. There we literally hundreds of other runners who were not participating in the race along the course.

Mile four….9:27…back on track. Lord, I was tired and my legs felt like I was trudging through wet sand. Mile five…I could do this. It was only a 10k. What was my problem? Why did I feel like I was not going to finish? And I was definitely not going to register for the Indianapolis Monumental Half that Gary and I had planned to do. No freakin’ way. Mile six. The last full mile. 10:05. For Pete’s sake, I just kept getting slower and slower. But I was not going to stop. The finish line was within my reach, and I was not going to walk. As I approached where I thought the finish line was, I picked it up a bit because I thought I was going to meet my goal. When I realized where the finish line actually was, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. My official time was 1:00:22. I missed my goal by twenty-two seconds. If you don’t run, that might not seem like a big deal; if you run, you understand just how frustrating that was. But it was over, and I hadn’t walked. (Erin and decided to walk the three miles back to her apartment. This picture shows her cooling off in a random fountain. Yes, I dared her. I didn’t even have to triple dog dare.)

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What I don’t understand is why my running has gotten worse since I quit running every day. Shouldn’t my legs be rested and ready to race? The last 5K I ran, my pace was 8:47. My pace at an August two-miler was 8:04. Now I am trying to decide if I want to keep trying to increase my distance, or if I want to stick with shorter distances and work on getting faster. On the way home from Chicago, I read an article about the benefits of 5Ks. Perhaps that was my sign.

When the results were finally posted, I saw that overall I placed 133 out of 977, and in my age group (40-49) I placed 33rd out of 301, which isn’t too bad. Erin placed ninth in her age group, and 75th overall, which is outstanding! She doesn’t usually run races, which makes it more impressive. So in the end, it was worth the effort. For our efforts, we got really nice jackets, necklaces, and medals. We also got to share some special time together. And we celebrated with Giordanno’s pizza that evening; I’d run another six miles for that.

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So, what’s next? Right now your guess is as good as mine. We are going to go watch some friends finish at the Evansville Half Marathon this weekend. I will likely attempt another long run Sunday. And if it sucks, I am never running again. At least not until the next week…or day. I hate running. But I love it, too.

I’m Going to Chicago (but not on the Megabus)

The weekend I’ve been planning for is finally here! Several months ago, I saw a post on Facebook about a race called Women Rock Chicago. There’s a 5k, 10k, and a half marathon, and it’s a girly race. Because my niece Erin lives in Chicago, and Chicago happens to be one of my favorite places, I registered my niece and myself for the 10k. The route winds along Lake Michigan, which is an amazing place to run. My favorite run took place when I was in Chicago for a conference a couple years ago, and I was able to run along the lake. Having the water on my left and Chicago’s incredible skyline on my right as I ran along made for a memorable run.

Gary and I are leaving in the morning. Gary will be driving. If you remember, my girls and I took the *&%^ Megabus to Chicago over spring break. I don’t think I could survive that twice.

Thankfully between my sister, brother, and daughter, our house and dogs will be cared for. We will go through the area in Northern Indiana where I lived when I was young, and plan to stop for lunch at Miner Dunn, which is the best burger dive ever. We hope to get into the city before rush hour, and will even attempt to take the bus from Erin’s apartment to the race expo. Though Erin sent very specific directions, I have a fear of getting off in the wrong neighborhood, which could be trouble in Chicago. Lord, help us!

The race is Saturday morning. I’d like to say I am ready and expect to run well, but that just hasn’t been the case recently. If you read this blog regularly, you know that this summer I ran 101 days in a row. Once that challenge was over, I scaled my running back to about four days a week, kept up with three to four days of HIIT, and took a day or two off a week. One would think my running would improve because I am rested (at least that’s what I thought), but, in fact, the opposite has happened. I ran much better and felt better when I was running every day. I have been trying to do long runs on the weekends, and got up to eight miles two weeks ago. Gary and I were planning to run the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon on November 1, so I was training for that while training for Chicago. I thought I had planned well. My body is not cooperating with my plan. And my knee hurts.

I don’t know if my knee just won’t be able to handle longer distances any longer, or if it will adjust to the distance and eventually stop hurting. I do know it makes me angry. I just want to be able to do what I love. So, what is my goal for this race? I won’t know until I start running and see how I feel. My eighth graders don’t really understand these types of races. Here’s the conversation I had with one class:

Kids: Mrs. Stath, we hope you win your race!

Me: Oh, I don’t run these races to actually win.

Kids: What? Why wouldn’t you want to win?

Me: I won’t win. That isn’t even a possibility.

Kids: Well, with that attitude you won’t!

Oh…If only it were that easy. One group of boys had me write down what place each one thought I would come in. I have to take a treat to the one who has the closest guess. It is a great feeling to know that I can show them that one is never too old to reach for goals, and that doing my personal best is what really matters.

I would like to finish in under an hour. If my knee holds up, my stomach cooperates, and my legs don’t feel like logs, I think I can do it. That would probably put me in the top 20% overall and in my age group. However, if I have to slow down or take walk breaks, so be it. It’s about the experience, right? I thought about not worrying about time at all, and taking time out to take pictures along the way, but once I get into my race zone, I know I won’t want to stop for photo ops.

While I am excited to see my niece, to eat Giordanno’s pizza, and have a weekend away, there is a downside to all of this. When I am running Saturday morning, my youngest daughter Addison will be teeing off at the golf regional, which she qualified for this past Saturday. Yes, sign me up for the Bad Mom Award. It’s her senior year, possibly her last golf match of the year, and I won’t be there. As much as I’ve complained about the boredom of a golf match, I hate to miss this one. We made these plans months ago, and as soon as the golf schedule came out, I saw that I would miss, and let Addison know. I am grateful her dad, who doesn’t mind a bit to watch five hours of golf, will be there to cheer her on, and to transport her from the golf match to the evening band contest…yup…missing that, too. So, Good Luck, Sweet Addison! I will be thinking of you as I run!

You can bet there will be an ‘after Chicago’ blog post. Until then..Run On!

halfstart-WR

100 Days..Done!

Back in May, Runner’s World issued a challenge to run every day from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July, which would be 40 days. The only stipulation was we had to run at least one mile each of those days. I decided I needed some motivation, so I took that 40 Day Running Streak Challenge. I found it to be very motivating, while at the same time rather challenging. The first two weeks my legs screamed that they were tired; they were used to a couple of rest days per week. After those first two weeks, I began to settle in, and my legs began to relent and accept that I was not going to bail on this challenge. 

By the end of the 40 days, I felt that I had accomplished a huge goal. In five years of running, I had never run more than seven or eight days in a row. I felt great, and I wanted others to have that same feeling of pride in knowing they could do something they might not have thought possible (or even wanted to attempt). I didn’t want to limit the 40 days to running, so I put out my own 40 Days of Fitness Challenge. It began the last day of my original challenge, so if I went one day past everyone else, I would have completed 80 days of running. Wow! Once I got to 80 days, I could have stopped. Then I thought 100 is really a nice round number. I bet I could run 100 days straight, which would really be an accomplishment. And so I did. 

Since school began, it hasn’t been as easy to work those runs in. I had gotten so far, that I wasn’t about to make excuses at that point. I also felt like my running had improved, and with some important races on the horizon, I wanted to continue to build my speed and endurance. There were days that my run consisted of a one-mile run with the dogs on our gravel road, but even those runs proved to be enjoyable. Well, they were enjoyable after the first tenth of a mile; that’s when the dogs were all excited about going on a run and they jumped all over me while howling. I’m sure it’s quite a sight! My long runs have been only five or six miles. Without having a true rest day, my legs wear out rather quickly. Now that I will be taking rest days, I am anxious to see if my long runs are easier. I’m running a 10K in Chicago in a few weeks, so that’ll be the true test of what the past 100 days have done for me. 

Today was my 100th day. I planned to run with my friend Debbie this morning because my daughter had a golf match after school. I didn’t even look outside when I got up, so I was surprised to see lightning and feel the brisk wind as I dragged my butt to the car before dawn. Once Debbie and I arrived at the gym and checked out the radar, we decided it would be in our best interest to stick to the treadmills. I guess I’ve been pretty fortunate that in the previous 99 days, I only had to rely upon the treadmill one time, but I certainly didn’t want my defining run to be indoors. Thankfully, we only had to run three miles because I really can’t run on a treadmill much further than that. When I completed my run, I felt that I should’ve earned a medal or some kind of bling. I did something I’d never done before, or even considered for that matter, and there was no finish line, no medal, no shirt, no crowds cheering my through the finish line. Nothing. Just the feeling of accomplishment that comes with meeting a self-imposed goal. I’ll take it! 

I will likely run tomorrow, making my streak 101 days, but that’s only because I teach an early class, and always run after that class. I plan to take a break from running Thursday and Friday, and then go for a long run Saturday morning. Admittedly, it will be difficult to not run. It has become part of my day, and I feel the need to figure out just when I can work a run in. I will abstain, however, because I want to run well in Chicago. It might be the only time I ever run a race in my favorite city; I don’t want to blow it. I am also running that race with my fast-running niece, and I don’t want to be the pitifully slow aunt. 

 

Anxiety Overload

Today was the Schweizer Fest Road Run, which takes place during our small town’s birthday celebration each year. There is a two-mile race and a six-mile race, which have been tradition for over thirty years. I hadn’t run either in four years. I have major anxiety at times, and running in that race is one of those times. I don’t like running in a race when I know so many people both running and along the sidelines. For some reason, I get physically ill worrying about running this race. I am a little nervous at out-of-town races, but nothing compared to this.

The first year I began running, I ran the two-mile, and did well, but I was so nervous beforehand that it took all of the fun out of it. The next year I decided to try again, and I was going to run the six-mile. Again, I was a nervous wreck. Once I start running, I settle in and do okay, but the prerace ‘jitters’ (more like small earthquakes), again, took away much of the fun. I placed in my age group both of those years, but that wasn’t enough to make me sign up again. Three years ago, I had decided I wouldn’t run, and as it ended up, I couldn’t have run if I wanted. My nephew Stephen died that week, and his funeral was the morning of the race. The Saturday of Schweizer Fest will always hold those memories for me. The following year, I decided it would be best to work the finish line and cheer on my husband. Last year I had knee surgery the week of the race, so I had a perfect excuse to sit out. I took my camera and took finish-line photos of my friends, and I truly had a blast. I posted them on Facebook so that they would have brag photos to share with family and friends. All of the fun without the anxiety.

And then it was suddenly time to decide what to do this year. I am always telling kids at school and friends at the gym to step out of their comfort zones, yet I was hesitant to step out of my own. I was set to run a 5k last weekend, and decided if it went well, I would run this weekend. Well, it went well. I ran my fastest 5k to date, and won my age group. I filled out my form and paid my $20. I thought about backing out every single day this week – including this morning. Yesterday as the day went on, I began to feel the panic. If you’ve never dealt with true panic and anxiety, you cannot understand. I know in my head it makes no sense; it’s just stupid. But my heart and body just react. When I would think about the race, my heart would race and my head would pound. Other than the Schweizer Fest runs, the only other time I have been as nervous was before the Derby Mini Marathon, and that was because it was my first race after my knee surgery, and I didn’t know if I would be able to run it all. I can say that in these situations, I am a bitch. I don’t want to talk to anyone, and really just need to be in a bubble. It’s a wonder Gary will go to races with me.

Although I fell asleep right away last night, I started waking up around 3:00 am (about the time some of my friends were getting home!), and felt restless the remainder of the night. Breanne wanted all of the Everbody’s crew at the gym at 7:30 for a group picture, but I knew I would be in no shape for that (or to be nice to anyone), so I didn’t even attempt to get there. At 7:00 am – one hour before the race – I was still in bed wishing it were storming so I would be able to stay put. My friend Caroline, who knows about my craziness, texted me, and seemed surprised to find I hadn’t even gotten up. My head hurt and my stomach was in knots. I finally got up; I had to get to the bathroom! It was getting serious. As I brushed my teeth, I noticed I was shaking. Seriously. I only had to run two miles; I can run two miles; I was a mess for no good reason. Thank God for Gary’s immense patience (though I think it was beginning to run low). We made it downtown, and I decided to walk a little. Since I hadn’t been out of bed long, I figured I’d better get these old legs moving or the race would be a disaster. I turned on some piano music, and took off by myself.

As I was walking, I was about to cry. Really. Even writing this I know it’s just crazy. I started thinking about Stephen, and finally told myself to suck it up, and that I would run this race for Stephen. Of course, I couldn’t share what was on my mind with anyone because then I would have done the ugly cry, so I sucked it up and headed to the starting line. I gave Gary a good-luck kiss because his race, the six-miler, was starting first. I found my best friends, Jackie and Kassi, and began to settle down. I just wanted to start running because I knew once I did, my anxiety would lessen.

I can honestly say I don’t remember much about the actual race. I couldn’t get my Runkeeper going, so I just put on my music and ran. My goal was 17 minutes, which is an 8:30 pace. For me, that’s super fast. At the one-mile marker, someone yelled out times; mine was 7:48. I immediately thought Shit! I’m going too fast and won’t finish! I slowed down a bit, and ventured on. As I rounded the corner toward the last two blocks, I ran out of steam. I felt like I was going to puke or pass out (If I puked on the street, my junior high students would NEVER let me forget it!). Typically, when I get that close to the finish I can kick it in. Not today. I just wanted to get to the finish. Once I crossed that line, my stomach returned to normal, my head quit hurting, and I felt great. I didn’t know my time, but I knew it was okay. Most runners just ran a race this morning. I almost had a breakdown, and then ran a race.

I really hoped to place in my age group, but when they announced that the group was 40-49 rather than two groups of 40-44 and 45-49, I figured there was no way I would place. I am 47, and was competing against women several years younger. And then they called my name! I placed third out of 53 (many of those were walkers). And as I walked up to get my swag, I heard my junior high kids cheering for me; that made it all worth it! Times were posted this afternoon, and my time was….drumroll….16:09 with an 8:04 pace! So was it worth all the anxiety this morning? Yes, but maybe next year I’ll get counseling in the months leading up to the race. Or maybe I’ll just take pictures.

Congratulations to all of the finishers today! There were a record 840 runners and walkers – pretty exciting for out little town! There are many runners I am super proud of, but must give a shout-out to my husband, Carol Vinson, Mary May, and to Katie Goffinet, who won the two-mile for the second year in a row! And I cannot forget to mention Sarah Goffinet! She did the two-miler, and ran to the finish line. For a kid who had little chance of surviving a terrible car accident nine months ago, she has certainly proven that she is a survivor! Sarah, you make us all so proud! Congratulations!

To all of my running friends (whom I dearly love), thanks for always inspiring me and pushing me!

What it’s all about…

Recently I have had some great fitness moments. I absolutely love to see people meet goals and accomplish things they never dreamed possible. This past Saturday, about 16 of my friends and family joined me for an Extreme 5K at a farm in Owensboro. A few of the participants were very hesitant about registering as this would be stepping way outside of their comfort zones. I assured them that we were just doing it for fun, and that no man – or woman – would be left behind.

As the day approached, I prayed that the race would be fun; I didn’t want all of those I had convinced to try it to be miserable, and even worse, angry at me. None of us knew what exactly to expect. The website boasted a tough terrain and some obstacles, and I had heard that it was a challenging course. This was one of those races at which I was not concerned with my time, but rather wanted to see that everyone finished, and had fun doing so. I ran a little, walked a little, and waited a little. We laughed, cussed, and snapped photos. Most importantly, we cheered each other on. We, as a team, let no one give up.

cornfieldgroup

 

The course was quite challenging. It was literally through cornfields, and the hills were killer. Thankfully, it wasn’t hot. The obstacles, well, they were a bit disappointing. There were only two, and both consisted of haybales. I was looking forward to the obstacles, but these didn’t present much of a challenge. The last one was a mountain of bales that we had to climb over.

This is me on top of the world...or a stack of hay bales.

This is me on top of the world…or a stack of hay bales.

The day brought some joyful moments. When one of the ladies who is in my Tabata group pushed through and finished, even when it was super hard, and then came up to give me a hug at the end, I was thrilled. Seeing my husband encouraging her and pushing her to keep running made me so proud. And when my friend Mary placed in her age group for the first time, I couldn’t have been happier. My daughter Addie and her friend Mary also participated, and both scored medals and corn hats. What could be more fun than a corn hat? And, our team won the team competition! We were the only team that had everyone finish the course! 

cornhats

That race was possibly one of the most fun I have done. This weekend Gary and I are running a 5k in Newburgh, and this one will be for me. I want to see what I can do (which might not be much since that will be my 69th day straight running…I have some tired legs!).

I also had a couple of great fitness moments this morning. After I teach my HIIT class at 5:30, I do some weigh-ins for our Biggest Loser and Corporate Challenge competition. One lady was doing the weight-loss challenge for the first time, and had been going to classes for the last week. When she got on that almighty scale and saw that she had lost eight pounds in a week, the tears started flowing, so, of course, I got all teary because I was so happy for her. She had just done spinning and HIIT, and it wasn’t an easy morning for her. Seeing that number on the scale made it all worth it. I bet she’s still smiling!

Before I left the gym, one of the weight-lifting guys stopped me and asked just what we do in the morning in the studio. When I explained the HIIT class, he said, “Oh! So you really are doing something! It isn’t just cardio.” Nope. We are busting out squats, push-ups, burpees, crunches, planks, and so much more. We talked about how beneficial HIIT workouts are, and he told me he would show me how to flip tires. That might not sound appealing to everyone, but I really want to try it. 

Do you think I'll look like this when I flip tires? Oh, wait! I have brown hair!!

Do you think I’ll look like this when I flip tires? Oh, wait! I have brown hair!!

As I mentioned above, I am still going strong on my running streak. I completed day 66 today. The first forty days I had to stick with one to three mile runs because my legs were so tired; I wasn’t used to running every day. Now that I’ve gotten used to it, I can run three to six miles, but at least a day or two a week I only run a mile so my legs get a little rest. My running can be so inconsistent. Yesterday, I was sore from Monday’s Tabata, so I really struggled to run five miles at a slow pace. Today I planned to run three flat miles, but felt so good during the first couple of miles that I ran five hilly miles. For some reason it just felt great today. It certainly helps that the weather has been cool in the morning. My goal is to get to 80 straight days of running, and then I plan to take some rest days to begin training for a 10K in Chicago, and a half marathon in Indianapolis this fall. After all the knee problems that caused me to be unable to run much of last year, I am so grateful to be able to get out there and do what I love. 

What are you doing to challenge yourself? Step out and try something new. Get out and exercise. I promise, you won’t regret it! 

Peace, Love, and Running….

 

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