Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What running has taught me

1. Sometimes you do things you don't want to.

When I first started running I hated it.  I didn't understand it and I certainly didn't enjoy it.  It seemed crazy to run for fun.  I just kept telling myself it would get better if I just kept pushing myself and eventually it did.  It didn't happen overnight, but through months of hard work it paid off.  Every run is different and each ones teaches me something new.  It's like having a counselor, teacher and cheerleader all wrapped up into one.  Every time you set out on a run it takes you on a new journey.

2.  Start slow!

I'm not sure why I thought I could just jump into racing without any training.  I guess I have sort of a complex about things and like to believe that I can do anything I put my mind to.  That's partially true, but when it comes to anything physical you better train first to prepare your body.  You have to walk before you can run, just like you should probably start with a 5k before jumping into a full marathon.  With anything in life, it's best to work up to it rather than jump in and be overwhelmed or worse, drown. 

3.  Take your time

This one I had to learn the hard way.  I'm stubborn.  It's really hard for me to quiet my ego and slow down when I know I shouldn't be going as hard or fast during a run.  Just this past weekend I made it through the first mile and felt pain creeping through my foot.  I knew I needed to stop but my pride didn't want to let me.  Eventually I gave in and walked, but it was harder to walk and take my time than to push through and finish strong like usual.  You have to know your own limits and pay attention to them.  There's no shame in slowing it down a bit, a 15 minute mile and 5 minute mile are both still a mile and at the finish line you'll get the same shiny medal to show off. 

4.  Set goals

When I first started running all I wanted to do was finish a 5k without stopping.  To do this I told myself I would do at least one race a month to make sure I was staying in some kind of shape (even if that shape happened to be round at the time).  Each time I reached a goal I would set a new one just beyond the grasp of that first one.  Whenever I conquered a new feat, I felt unstoppable.  Whether running or in just my day to day, I now feel like there isn't anything I can't do. The feeling of accomplishment and pride has to be earned.  It is always worth it.

5.  Celebrate your accomplishments

Sometimes its hard for us to be proud of something small, especially when we feel like we can do so much more.  I have to constantly remind myself of this one.  I often catch myself saying "oh it was just a 5k", but the truth is, even a shorter race has its challenges and celebrating a new PR or other accolade is every bit as important as others you may achieve.  Don't let anyone dim your shine, when you've done something you're proud of, flaunt it, you deserve it.

6.  Help others

This is my favorite.  I've always loved helping people, but being a part of the running community has enriched my life so much that I don't feel I could possibly ever give enough back to repay it.  Every time a friend or even stranger asks me for help with running or weight loss I get really excited.  I'm so glad to see others getting serious about their health and I love that they feel comfortable enough to ask me to be a part of that journey.  I will be your guru, support, encouragement, or whatever else you may need.  Once you get going, remember to take a look around and help those around you get to where they want to be as well. 

7.  Stay strong

There will be times when you want to give up.  You might lose sight of where you're going, or forgot how far you've come.  Keep pushing.  When you're able to keep going despite what may seem like the world crumbling around you, getting through it will be your best reward.  There's no easy way out, you can't go around it, the best way is to simply lace up your shoes and keep on going.  Don't let that roadblock stop you from getting to where you want to be, instead use it as a stepping stone to achieve higher success. 

8.  Just breath

Sometimes when I'm starting a race I get so excited and overwhelmed that I forget everything I've learned about running.  I jump out of the starting line like a prized thoroughbred (forgetting that I'm more like a pack mule) and quickly run out of breath.  I finally realize my grievous mistake and slow down to just focus on my breathing.  It's calming to take a moment and just breath.  Anytime you feel yourself sinking in, just take a moment to relax and breath.  It helps. 

9.  Listen

If you're a fast runner you might not ever experience this, but you should try it at least once.  Run with the back of the pack.  My very first half marathon I struggled, but being in the back with all those people who just wanted an opportunity to cross that finish line truly changed me.  They didn't need a PR, they just needed to prove that they could do it.  They were strong enough to overcome cancer, the loss of a child, or a multitude of other hardships and persevere.  Not just persevere, but grow beyond that and battle a beast they had never faced, a long distance race.  I laughed, I cried, and more than anything I enjoyed hearing stories from my fellow runners.  These tales from the road will move you, all you need to do is listen and be inspired.

10.  Smile

I've found that there isn't much a smile can't help.  This holds true for running.  Any race that I've had a hard time with, I just push down all the negative feelings and put a smile on my face.  You'd be surprised how people react to it, it's as if your happiness is infectious.  Encourage someone around you and offer them a smile, it just may be the thing they need to help them keep going.  Smile at the spectators to let them know you appreciate their cheers.  Just keep smiling, no matter what, it will almost certainly make you feel better and definitely brighten the day of those around you.

I'm sure there are plenty more, but 10 seemed like a good number to share so maybe I'll revisit this in the future and add a few things.  This list isn't exclusive to running, but can be applied to pretty much anything in life.  Being a runner has changed my perspective in ways I never thought possible.  I'm a better, stronger, happier person because of running.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Everyday I'm Hustlin'

Santa and Elf Gear
Before I became a runner I often thought that runners were crazy.  By often, I mean always.  Running whether inside or out, just didn't make sense to me.  Whenever I saw a runner out in the blistering heat or drowning in a torrential downpour, my mind always went to insanity.  There was simply no other explanation for why a person would CHOSE to do that to themselves.  On the lone occasion that I passed a runner during the winter, trudging through the snow, I assumed they must have gotten lost because no one would actually spend time outside at all, much less exercising, in subzero temps unless they had to.  Right? There's a lot of truth in that.  Runners aren't forced to, but they still have to get out there and run.

This weekend I realized that I am officially one of those crazy people.  I dragged myself out of bed in single digit weather to run.  I didn't just run, I paid to run, and on a Saturday morning no less. Believe it or not, I actually kind of enjoyed it.  I suppose I was a bit spoiled with last years weather because trotting out in that freezing cold wind was a nightmare. As soon as I stepped outside I had one of those "I immediately regret this" moments.  I'm not sure that any level of base layers could have kept me warm that morning. You reach a moment though when it doesn't matter anymore.  You hit that infamous runner's high and it seems like nothing can bring you down, not even the dropping temperature.

Cold, Struggle, Crowd, Reindeer
It's been a few weeks since my injury so I thought it would be safe to put some pressure on my foot again.  I made it to about mile one before the pain started to build through the numbness.  As soon as I felt that first twinge of discomfort I decided to stop and walk the rest of the race.  The only thing that kept me going was the joy of a cookie or cup of candy as I reached each new station.  I struggled from a run, to a walk, to a hobble until I finally crossed the finish line. I was convinced that despite my efforts, this was my worst race ever.  After checking the race results I realized that even with a bum foot I was faster than my slowest 5k time.  As discouraged as I was, I just had to keep reminding myself that a slow finish is better than a did not finish.

Bad weather or not, I still love the Santa Hustle.  It's a fun race, and the perks are pretty great for a 5k run.  In case you've never heard of it, you get a Santa shirt, hat, beard and there are cookies and candy along the course.  If you volunteer to help at packet pickup you also get an elf shirt and hat.  Once you get back to the festivities they have reindeer and all other manner of holiday treats.

Ironically, this made everyone stop running...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Viva Las Vegas!

Running the Rock'N'Roll Las Vegas for my birthday was the best choice I could have made.  This race was especially important to me since it marked the one year anniversary of when I started running.  I wanted to go big, I wanted it to be fun and more than anything I wanted an unforgettable experience.  I got all of that and more at this race.  I had never been to Las Vegas and running down the middle of the strip at night was the most memorable way to take it all in. 

Before I get ahead of myself, let's do a little visual recap of the whole trip...

keepin it clean...?

Birthday dinner/drinks
pre-race in front of the Luxor

post-race, 13.1 miles smashed!

The man, the legend, Dr Dribble!
ran into a fellow Rambler

this is how fast I run, seriously

about to fly off the giant shoe
set and ready to go
met up with some sorority sisters

Well after seeing all of that I'm not sure there's much left that I can say.  This race was epic.  I had tons of fun at the expo fooling around and picking up some sweet swag.  My birthday was spent doing what I love most, eating and running.  I met Doctor Dribble and was overjoyed that he didn't pass me until after mile 3 this time around. (Last time it was during the first mile, so I'm pretty sure that means I'm making progress right?)  I felt amazing for the first 7 miles, unstoppable really.  I crushed my 5k and 10k times, well at least that's what it felt like.  I think more than anything the atmosphere was so electrifying that I couldn't help but feel like I was a superstar breezing down the strip.  I made it til about mile 10 before I had to finally give in to my bodies requests and slow down to a walk.  That's when everything caught up to me, all the walking around and dancing in the days leading up to the race.  Will power got me through the last 3.1 miles because by then I was definitely on the struggle bus.  A fellow Loyola Rambler was working the medical tent at the finish line so I stopped to catch up with her and then limped my way back to my hotel.  The rest is a bit of a blur, but somehow I managed to eat some food, drink a lot of water and get myself into bed.  I would recommend this race to anyone who wants to try a half marathon but needs an extra boost or a fairly lax cut off time.  Hopefully I can be there again next year and maybe I'll even see you on the strip!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Exceed Expectations

On the left my very first 5k, on the right exactly one year later
Now that I've had time to recover from my last half marathon I wanted to take some time to reflect back on my original goal and what I did to reach it, then exceed it, over the last year.  I promised myself on my last birthday that I would do at least one race a month.  It didn't matter where, with who, or what distance...I just needed to get myself out there and hit the pavement (or trail, or mud, etc).  I became a little obsessed with finding races to make sure I kept up with my goal from month to month.  I tried to recruit friends to run with me to help keep me motivated and interested when my spirit would start to dwindle.  When I looked at races in the upcoming months I kept wondering how long it would take me to tackle a new distance.

At first I thought it would take me the entire year to build up to an obstacle course race or 10k.  They simply seemed too big of a challenge and I couldn't picture myself finishing them.  I didn't even dream about anything beyond that because it simply didn't fit into my realm of possibilities.  Thankfully I had friends that encouraged me and assured me they would help me through to each finish line.  I'm not sure what I would do without them because race after race they pushed me a few miles farther, made me a few minutes faster and held out a hand whenever I needed helping getting back up.

About halfway into the year I ran my first 5 mile race and much to my surprise did not die.  I didn't even finish last.  This gave me the confidence I needed to finally sign up for my first mud run (I may have been a bit over zealous and actually signed up for 3 all in the same month).  Those races, while tough and left me with plenty of bruises, were not nearly as "impossible" as I thought they would be.  I enjoyed them and when each one ended I secretly wished I could keep going.  If you hate running, OCR/Mud Runs are for you.  They're fun, exciting, friendly and best of all you get breaks from running each time you reach an obstacle.  I have to warn you that they will test your limits in some cases, but you won't truly know just how far you can go until you push yourself past your comfort level and realize your threshold is much higher than you imagined.  Get a group of friends together and try it out, having people to help you and cheer you on was what made the difference in giving it my all instead of just giving up. 

The month following my crazy mud month I ran my first half marathon.  I have a recap of it back in the archives ( In that post I explain the story of how I did it mostly by chance and a lot of luck.  After tackling a half marathon I set my sights on a triathlon and was able to knock 2 of those out in one month.  Looking back, I realize that my own doubt was the only thing holding me back.  Don't let fear get the best of you, it's like a pack of termites in a house eating away at the foundation that you've built.  Deep down you know you can do it and given the opportunity you'll be able to prove that the little voice that wouldn't let you give up or give in was right.

I'm sitting here reveling in the joy of my accomplishment and can't help but smile as I count the total of how many races I finished in one year.  The goal was 12, I more than tripled that number and have plenty of medals to show for it.  If you would have asked me then, I would have told you that doing close to 40 races is just crazy and there's no way I could ever do a half marathon or triathlon.  That's really what I believed then.  It's still a shock to look at the progress I've made and envision all that I will continue to achieve.  I'm not done, this journey isn't over, my race has just begun.
My sweet bling...always earned, never given

Resolutions, not just for New Years

From Halloween to New Years is my absolute favorite time of year.  Unfortunately, it's also the most difficult time to stay focused and refrain from overindulging.  Halloween, for the most part, is all about candy.  It's hard to escape the baskets full of treats at every turn.  Working in an office there seems to be an endless supply of temptation disguised as holiday spirit.  Once you've made it through the sugar coma, you realize that in a few weeks you'll be dancing with drumsticks and swimming through plates covered in gravy.  As a kid I loved Thanksgiving because it was like a second birthday.  Relatives that couldn't make it to my birthday always welcomed me to the dinner table with belated gifts.  Once you manage to button your pants back up and lift yourself off of the couch you say your goodbyes and exclaim how wonderful it will be to do this all again in a month.  This is what holidays have become.  Eating, sitting, sleeping and then repeating every day until the leftovers run out. 
On the left Oct '12, on the right Nov '13

Needless to say, it's a tough to make time to work out and really stay motivated.  Nothing tells you it's too cold to go for a run when you wake up to frost on your windows.  Everything about the holidays and winter say, be lazy, just eat, build up another layer of fat to keep your warm.  With all that being said, it would seem that we are amidst the best time to make a change.  Why wait until New Years?  Start your resolution today, right now, write down your list of goals.  It's important to visualize your results and keep yourself accountable.  You may think it's enough to just think about what you want to do, but trust me it helps to have a physical reminder of it.  Making a list will help to remind you why you started and more importantly where you want to go.

It was this time last year that I made my goals for the year.  With keeping that tradition, here's my list for next year:

-run a full marathon (hopefully Detroit or Chicago)
-complete an olympic distance triathlon
-finish a 5k in 30 minutes
-finish a 10k in under an hour
-finish a half marathon in 2:30
-lift heavy things, lots of's time to build more muscle!
-help others reach their goals
-figure out what I really want to do with this blog...any suggestions?
-run in every state (and eventually every continent maybe?)

I intentionally left out any specific pound or size goals.  I'm not really sure what my ideal weight or size is, but I suppose I'll know when I get there.  For me, this is all about being healthy and happy, not skinny.  Weight loss is a part of my journey, but not the whole thing.  Those little numbers on the scale don't tell my whole story or define me so I don't let them control me.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Confessions of a chubby kid

Back in my dancin days
So here's the deal, I've never been skinny. Sure my body has been many different shapes and sizes, but none of those were what is considered "skinny" or "thin". Even as a kid, the truth is that I loved to eat. I wasn't considered overweight yet, but with each year I got closer and closer to that "danger zone".  It didn't matter what the charts said though, my fellow classmates weren't shy about their judgement.

I spent the early part of my childhood living in Mexico, attending a school with some of the areas most wealthy and elite families. This meant appearances were everything and my over consumption at parties didn't go unnoticed.  Apparently you aren't supposed to eat in public as a woman.   It isn't ladylike to take seconds.  The other mothers would look at me with such appalled faces that I dared to actually eat all of what was served to me. Thankfully, even as a kid, what others thought of me really didn't bother me much. In fact, my mom often jokes about the time I went to a party and ate almost 5 times as much as the other girls.  As an active kid I had a healthy appetite and didn't see anything wrong with eating when I was hungry.  That's what I was taught, and to always finish your plate.

6th grade, I loved sports
Throughout the years my love of food would always keep me at the area of those growth charts that doctors felt the need to mention but weren't overly concerned as long as I kept things under control. Again, it was kids at school who told me otherwise. One of my most memorable and shameful experiences was when I was in 6th grade.  A 5th grade boy hit me across the back with a tree branch and yelled "run cow run". As much as that hurt, both physically and emotionally, I didn't let it bring me down. I'm blessed to have my parents.  They taught me to be a fighter and survivor. That's exactly what I did, I fought back the tears and didn't give that bully the satisfaction of knowing how deeply his torment stung. Through it all I developed a huge personality with a heart and sense of humor to match.  That's how I survived, I would plaster a giant smile on my face and bury the pain.

Middle School, I was up to at least 4 sports by now

By the time middle school came around I felt immune to any kind of negative energy and found a place among the popular crowd.  If anyone had anything to say about my weight or appearance they sure didn't voice those opinions to me.  High school was sort of the same, the criticism now came from coaches (this includes my dad).  They would tell me that I needed to train more or push harder.  I think what they really meant was if you could just drop a few pounds you'll be a far better athlete.  It just so happens that around this time my mom and grandma started going to weight watchers.  They dragged me along to the meetings and weighs ins week after week.  I hated it.  As far as I was concerned, there wasn't anything wrong with my body.  I didn't feel the need to shame myself because I didn't fit what someone else deemed the ideal body type.  I was happy. 

Party girl days...oh college
Then college happened.  I no longer had seasons of sports to train for or the rigid schedule of high school to follow.  I partied too much, ate recklessly, didn't sleep enough, and certainly didn't do enough physical activity.  I overindulged in all the wrong things and starved my body of all the things it desperately needed.  Each year I would pack on a few more pounds and before I realized what was happening I had gained about 60 pounds.  It's easy to fall into.  If you've never been there you can't understand.  People always say well you must have noticed, couldn't you tell you were gaining weight?  No, I couldn't.  In all honesty, I didn't notice each time I had to go up a size.  I would tell myself, oh it's just the fit of these pants.  You make excuses for yourself. 

Nothing that happened or things that people said caused me to make a change.  It wasn't until I decided to run that first race and realized just how unhealthy I had become.  After struggling through those 3 miles I made the decision to change things around.  It wasn't to be a certain size or weight, I just wanted to be able to run 3 miles without stopping.  It sounds silly now, but that's what I wanted.  In fact, if I could've run those miles at the same weight I was at I think I would have been OK with that.  I was the only person who could make that choice and stick to it.  I didn't have anyone to hold my hand or lead the way.  I did it on my own because I wanted to.  I didn't take any pills or follow a crazy diet, I just made small changes that led to some pretty big changes.  You didn't gain those extra pounds overnight and they aren't going to magically fall off in a week.  It takes hard work and dedication.  I'm constantly learning which are the right decisions to make, and I still stumble and fall from time to time.  I don't stay down though, I pick myself right back up and keep pushing forward because I refuse to be defeated.  Getting healthy and fit is a journey, just remember to enjoy the adventure along the way.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My body is my temple

Yesterday I received one of the best complements since starting this whole weight loss journey.  Most often people say something like "Oh my God you look so good now".  Yes, they mean it as a complement but what it makes you feel and think is that you weren't pretty or beautiful before the weight loss.  Sometimes it can be hard to hear something like that.  After my blog post yesterday though, someone told me that I glow with my health.  It was so simple and profound.  I love that people can look past the immediate facade and see that the light comes from within.  It isn't a smaller waist that has made me so happy and caused me to smile a little bigger.  What really makes my inner beauty shine through my exterior is my health.  I may not be the smallest I've ever been, but I sure do feel the best.  I don't need a gap between my thighs or six pack to make me feel that way.

My satisfaction comes from somewhere deep inside where a battle was brewing between that voice that says "no, you can't do it" and the tiny glimmer of light that keeps hope alive and keeps whispering "yes, you can".  With each mile I swim, bike, run, walk, waddle, jog, or stumble, I am able to kindle that fire a tiny bit more so that it keeps growing and shining out to help guide the way for others.  Being able to motivate and inspire others is what makes me feel strong.  Giving unconditionally of yourself to help others, helps you.  Whenever I'm having a rough day some sort of signal goes out and someone will reach out to me and ask for advice.  In helping them, it renews my drive to keep going.

I don't think I'll ever have a gap between my thighs anyway, and that's just fine with me.  Every body was built differently and while I have plenty of flaws, I love myself because despite all of the hell I put my body through it continues to persevere and conquer.  I still have plenty of fat, yes there are stretch marks too, eventually I might have some lose skin, and I'm OK with all of that.  Those are all part of the process.  I don't need to be perfect, I only need to be the best version of myself possible, whatever that may be.  There's no shame in having a curve to your hips or thickness to your thighs.

A friend of mine did a project where she had a group of women who were all considered "plus size" pose for photos and discuss their body image as well as self esteem and confidence.  It was an amazing experience and I encourage you to try something similar.  You'll be surprised to see just how beautiful everyone thinks you are even if you may not always see the beauty yourself.  So that being said, below is the picture from my shoot, I was at least 40 pounds heavier than I am now but there wasn't a soul in the world who could have told me I wasn't beautiful just the way I was.  I'm still curvy and sassy, there's just a little less of me now.
In this picture I was at the bigger end of a size 16, weighed over 220 pounds and I'm only 5'1

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A lot can change in a year

 Have you ever heard that saying you have to know where you came from to know where you're going?  My weight loss journey is a lot like that.  With each pound loss or new short term goal reached I keep reminding myself why I started all this in the first place.  The tricky part about success is remembering to stay humble and learn to take the good with the bad.  I often post transformation pictures, not to brag about my progress (OK, well maybe a little bit), but mostly to keep me focused and motivated.  Seeing my hard work pay off month after month helps me visualize the changes yet to come.  Be careful about the praise you receive though, it can be easy to get caught up in all of the hype and get complacent in your diet/exercise.  You can find yourself so overwhelmed by all of the complements that you lose sight of why you started in the first place and continue losing weight or altering your body simply to please others.  Try not to get hooked on that feel good high you have every time someone tells you how good you look now, so sometimes you might need to take a step back and evaluate what you want and what's keeping you going. 

I'm quickly approaching my one year runniversary and I've been doing some reflecting about the past 12 months worth of races.  I'm guilty of getting a bit caught up in all of the weight loss hype and losing sight of why I started all of this.  Today I took a look back at pictures from the last year and could hardly believe it.  Not because of the changes in my body, but because of how much I was able to push myself and conquer each new goal I set for myself.  When all this started last November my goal was simple, do at least one 5k race a month.  That was it.  Of course I made other goals for myself but none of those were fitness related, they were just general goals for my life. I could have never imagined that from that one goal I would become an endurance athlete, start a blog or anything else that's come of this crazy ride.

Now that I've come full circle and will be running the same race I started with a year ago, I couldn't be more proud of what I've accomplished.  In that time I have finished over 30 races including obstacle course races, a half marathon, a triathlon and more than a handful of 5k and 10k runs.  I guess you could say I'm an overachiever.  Somewhere along the way I realized that the harder I worked, the more my body changed and in turn the more I was able to push myself to accomplish.  So while losing weight wasn't the original goal, it became part of the process and I can proudly say I've lost over 40 pounds.

A year later from that first step and I have so many new goals that giving up and going back are not options.  I will continue to challenge myself, because with each new victory I gain the strength to tackle the next obstacle.
From Day 1, to now...what a years worth of racing looks like

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Run 4 Leland

Gear for the races in Leland's favorite color!
This weekend I'll be starting off November with 2 back to back 5k races.  Tomorrow I'll be running the Carrera de los Muertos 5k which is a Day of the Dead themed race in Pilsen and following it up with the Hot Chocolate 5k on Sunday (yes, they give out chocolate!).  These races are pretty important to me for a few reasons, first of all they're the start to the month of my 1 year runniversary.  It was back in November of 2012 that I first set out to do a 5k and here I am a year later with 5 races lined up for the month.  I guess you could say I'm kind of hooked.  Another reason these particular races are special to me is that they will be my first time running now that I have a buddy to run for.  His name is Leland, his favorite color is purple and he has epilepsy.

Purple is also the color for Epilepsy awareness

Did you know that November is Epilepsy Awareness Month?  Up until a few days ago I didn't either.  Through the organization I Run 4, I was matched with one of the most precious children I've ever seen and in the short time we've been matched I've learned quite a bit.  His mother teaches me something new every time we chat.  You see, my little buddy Leland has been having seizures since he was 9 months old, maybe even younger.  He's now 3 years old and experiencing even longer absence and grand mal seizures.  His seizures can last from a couple of minutes to 5 hours.  Thankfully he has a beautiful and loving family to take care of him and big brother who likes to help out.  

Since learning about his seizures I've started reading up as much as I can.  I realized how little I knew about seizures, what types there are and what to do if I ever encounter someone having a seizure.  One of the most surprising things I read was that 1 in 10 adults will have a seizure sometime in their life.  To read a bit more and learn about epilepsy check out

My buddy Leland!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

All we are given is possibilities

Getting my nerd on at NYCC
When I first started running I heard warnings from everyone about how much it would damage my body, runners are super prone to injury, you'll lose muscle and that I should stick to other kinds of workouts.  I enjoy strength training, but I really love running.  There is just something about letting go of all your worries, clearing your mind and just enjoying the wind blowing past you on your way to freedom.  Running does that for me, it frees you from your fears and awakens your dreams.  That moment is repeated each and every time your foot strikes the pavement. Going for a jog is probably one of the cheapest forms of therapy.  Put the past behind you and move on.

It's been almost a year since I took that first step towards many miles to come, and it wasn't until now that I have encountered my dreaded first injury.  Sure there was soreness and fatigue, but nothing that kept me from pushing through.  Last week I flew out to New York to be a part of New York Comic Con for a few days.  Once I had my travel plans set I decided to check out any races that might be going on so I could add that to my list.  Turns out the Rock N Roll Brooklyn 10k was that weekend so I convinced a couple friends to sign up with me and made it official. Bad idea.

Brooklyn 10k with some old (and new) friends!
If you've never been to a comic convention, or any convention really for that matter, it involves a TON of walking.  After my first day I was exhausted and already regretting my choice to sign up for a race.  Somehow I dragged myself off my friends couch that Saturday morning to head out in the brisk Brooklyn weather for the toughest 10k I've tackled thus far.  Prospect Park was no joke, that hill  towards the end of the race almost kept me from finishing.  I literally said out loud as I reached the top "thank the dear sweet baby Jesus this hill is finally over".  It felt like I was climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.  Needless to say the copious amount of the walking from the convention all weekend combined with a rough hill lined course took its toll on my body.

Abby and I pre and post race at the Monster Dash

A couple days ago (just one week since my initial injury) I felt recovered enough to do the Monster Dash 5k.  I wasn't feeling any pain so I thought I was ready to run again.  I got about 2 miles into my run when the pain hit.  About a half mile later it was too much and I had to stop and walk the rest of the way.  This was heartbreaking considering I was pacing towards a new PR, but my body comes first and I realized I needed to slow down.  Now I'm a little over 3 weeks away from my next half marathon and so nervous that I won't be ready considering my lack of training as I rest, or worse that I won't be able to run because of this ankle issue.

I was feeling pretty down about it yesterday, I was unwilling to accept that I have limits.  I don't like admitting weakness and definitely not defeat.  So hopefully with the proper care and rest I'll be where I need to be for Vegas.  Even if I have to crawl, roll, limp, shimmy or pimp walk then belly flop across the finish line, you better believe I will make it there.  In the mean time, I received the most amazing news today!  I literally have been smiling all morning since I read the message from I Run 4.  Finally, after months of waiting in anticipation, I have been matched with a buddy!  Awhile back I posted about motivation for running and the organization I Run 4.  They're really amazing and I definitely suggest you check them out.  I'm chatting with the mother of my buddy as I type this so I'll be writing a follow up post to tell you all about my little buddy soon!

Just remember, you're never given more than what you can handle.  Sometimes hitting rock bottom can remind you to start over and use that low point as the foundation to build your future on.  All you need is a new day to start over and make a change.  If you're having a rough time or struggling, have faith that you'll get through and be stronger for it.  When you don't have a leg to stand on, lean on your friends for support and let them help you continue pushing forward.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Woman in Balance

Ever feel like you're sinking in quicksand?  The more you try to fight your way to the top to get air you just end up getting pulled deeper and deeper into the pit.  It's a struggle, figuring out how to keep your head above water, but the best way to float is to find balance.  Remember when you were a kid and the first thing you learned about swimming was how to lay flat on your back and let your body just float to the top?  Life is the same way, sometimes you need to just relax and find your balance to stay afloat. 

Lately I've really been struggling trying to find the time for everything in my life.  I work full time, go to school full time, volunteer for various organizations and still need time to run and workout.  It's a lot.  Sometimes it feels like more than I can handle and I get overwhelmed.  Now that the days are getting shorter, it's getting harder and harder to fit everything into my day.  I can't get up early to run anymore because it's too dark to run by myself, that's not laziness, it's a safety issue in the city.  What I realized is that my way of finding balance is to focus more on my food now that I'm not spending as much time being active.  I refuse to lose my momentum or let my progress stall just because circumstances in my life have changed.  There will never be the perfect time for it, you just need to make the most of the time you do have.

I usually weight myself every Monday morning just to see where I'm at and keep a general idea of my progress.  I don't get caught up in the number, it's just one of many markers that I keep in mind to track where I'm at.  I have to say that after a couple weeks of school and a lack of quality sleep I was a bit worried to see where I would be.  I haven't been to the gym, or done much running, so the only thing that I had been focusing on is my "diet" (I use that term to generally define what I eat, not a specific regimen that I follow).  I'm happy to report that I actually managed to lose a pound!

When it comes down to it, there will always be something that will cause you to alter your plan and possibly veer you off course.  Be flexible and open to new options so that you can keep making progress.  Just because you were pushed in a different direction doesn't mean you need to go backwards or stop, keep moving forward and have faith that your focus and hard work will pay off.  You know how much you're putting in and what's realistic to expect from your efforts.  Don't expect to reap the rewards of work you're not doing, if you're honest with yourself you'll see the results.  Find your balance and you'll be unstoppable.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Just keep going

A few months ago I got an email advertising the Chicago Crosstown Classic 10k, a race that played on the rivalry between the north and south sides of the city.  I'm not originally from Chicago so I don't feel any real allegiance to either side, but at the end of the day I've only ever lived on the north side so it seemed an obvious choice to join Team Northside for the race.  At the time that I registered I was a bit nervous as this would be my first 10k race.  It was months away so I figured I had plenty of time to train.  Looking back now it's kind of funny that I was so nervous about this race and I ended up doing a half marathon and triathlon both before this one.

Let's take a little trip down memory lane to what my first 10k experience was.  The first 10k I ran was the Chicago 10k and it almost killed me.  I felt like I was going to collapse and turn into a little pile of dust.  I wanted to give up.  Around mile 5 my entire body was so fatigued and in pain that I wasn't even sure if I could make it to the finish line.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  I felt a mixture of pain, frustration but most of all determination.  I refused to be defeated.  After all, I had already done a half marathon, this 10k should have been a breeze.  The problem was that I was just pushing my body too hard.  I had been training fairly rigorously for my upcoming triathlon and had done a run through of the entire Sprint Triathlon distance the day before the Chicago 10k.  Crazy.  I know.

One of my biggest faults and strengths is that I don't think I have any limits, I like to think that I'm invincible.  Sadly, I am not, that day taught was a brutal reminder that despite the enormous strides I've made, I still have work to do.  It was a humbling experience to be so aware of the limits your body has.  It didn't matter though, I had no choice but to press on.  Somehow I was able to find a little pocket of energy buried deep in my heart that gave me just enough to get to the finish line.  It was rough, but when they handed me that giant Flavor Flav looking medal I couldn't help but grin a big toothy smile from ear to ear.  That big ol' shiny medal made it all worth it.

Reflecting back on that first experience I realized that for this 10k I would really need to step my game up.  I needed to redeem myself from that race to prove that I could do better, be stronger.  The Crosstown Classic was exactly what I wanted it to be.  I started the race amongst friends and each time I felt myself lagging I would look up and see a friendly face smiling back at me from the other side of course.  I don't think I've ever seen more of my friends than I did at that race.  It felt like every runner I knew was out there that day and they each pushed me just a little bit farther.  I'm happy to say that I felt great for all 6.2 miles of that run.  I was smiling, in great spirits and had high hopes of logging that coveted PR.  It was a great race and I had a phenomenal time being a part of it.

 I refuse to let anything stop me, whether it's in a race, at work, at school, or anything else in life.  You have two choices, you can either throw in the towel or you can use it to wipe the sweat off of your face and keep going.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Weight is just a number, don't let it define you

You're not fat, you have fat. There's a very important difference. You define who you are, not any arbitrary number like dress size or weight. Those things can change, but the person you are inside will remain the same. The most stunning accessory you can wear is your confidence. Let your inner beauty shine through and don't let anyone dim your light. Take a look at this before and current picture. I look happy in both don't I? That's because I was and still am, I felt just as beautiful as I do now when I was carrying around that extra 40 pounds.

Think about that for a minute as you take a look at the picture. The only difference between those two pictures is 40 pounds. Now, take a guess at how much my starting and current weights. I have a feeling most of you will be off, but hopefully the answer will give you some hope.
I've never been a fan of scales as a measure of success or progress. Sure they help, but they aren't the only means of validating your efforts. I've had countless people tell me that they've lost inches but not pounds. Don't take this as a set back, celebrate those victories because while you may not feel like it, those changes mean just as much as a few pounds.

Losing weight is a journey, and like any journey it will have ups, downs, twists, turns and any number of unexpected obstacles. It will be hard to keep going when you think you aren't making any progress at the beginning and feel like giving up is the only option. You'll feel like you've gone as far as you can when you hit a plateau and can't seem to break it, so you might consider turning back and falling into your old habits. Keeping up with your new body might seem impossible and you'll struggle to keep balance when maintaining your goal weight. You might get so overwhelmed with the praise you receive that you'll stray from what your original motivation was and lose sight of where you're going. Each new step of the way will have its own set of challenges and while it may not get easier, you'll get stronger with each one.

I've come a long way, 40 pounds is a lot to be proud of, but honestly there is so much more that I'd rather brag about. Losing weight has helped me run faster and longer which is one of my greatest accomplishments.  I've run a half marathon and countless other races of varying distances, some with crazy obstacles too. I've been fortunate enough to actually do a triathlon, something many people only dream of. While it may seem trivial, I can go into any store and actually find things that fit without getting frustrated or exhausted. These things are my real victories.  These tell me that I've made progress and have something to be proud of because the numbers still tell a different story. According to those markers, I'm still considered overweight and unhealthy.

I know it may not always be easy to see your inner beauty and to have it radiate out. It's a process to truly love yourself unconditionally even though it should be the one thing that comes most natural to us. Be proud of how far you've come even if you don't think its very much. I'm sure by now the suspense is killing you so I'll spill, I started at 221 pounds and am down to about 181 right now, I'm also a size 14. I'll go ahead and let that sink in for a minute. I have a sneaking suspicion that you might be in shock. It always throws people when I tell them and they say "but you look so skinny!". I think most of that has to do with the way I carry myself and the personality I portray to people. Confidence is key, if you believe you're beautiful and show that to others they will see it too no matter what the numbers say.
I saw this on Facebook and thought it might help put things in perspective for you

Friday, September 27, 2013

Make a list, check it twice

A New Year’s Resolution doesn’t need to start on New Year’s Day.  In fact, you can start a new year anytime you’d like.  There’s even a few perks of starting off your commitment to change during the “off season”.  A big plus is that you won’t be part of the resolutioner rush at the gym.  You also won’t have as many doubters that think you’re just doing it for the month of January, when you start during a random month people tend to take it more seriously for some reason.  

Last year for my birthday I made a book full of promises to myself.  I literally found a tiny notebook and on each page wrote something that I wanted to accomplish or experience.  My list ranged from learning a new language to getting a driver’s license.  Yes, I’m 26 and I’ve never had a driver’s license.  The first on that list though was to do a 5k race and follow it with at least one race each month.  As each month passed I tore out that page from the book and wrote a new.  My 5k page went to 5 mile, followed by obstacle race to eventually half marathon and triathlon.  Now my race goals are a full marathon and an Olympic distance triathlon.  I still have a ways to go before I’m ready for either of those, but writing it down and keeping them on the horizon ensures that I continue to work towards those goals.  

Writing down your goals is important in all aspects of your life really.  Some of the things I listed were silly like have dinner at Medieval Times or reorganize my room, but having them on paper helped me keep track of them and gave me great pleasure when I was finally able to cross them off.  (By the way I still haven’t had that dinner at Medieval Times so if you’re interested let me know!) A big goal that I’ve had for some time now is to go back to school.  At 17, when I was fresh out of high school, I moved away from everything I knew and started a new journey.  At the time I thought I had everything figured out and that I knew exactly what I was doing with my life.  I was wrong.  It was truly humbling when I finally had that moment of realization that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or where I was going.  Rather than waste time and money by continuing on a path that no longer inspired me, I dropped out of school right before finishing my last year in college.  It’s a decision that I often regret, but now I’ve finally come to peace with.  I realized that I needed to spend some time away to truly grasp what I wanted to do and to appreciate the opportunity to even be in college.  

As of this week I am officially a college student once again.  It took a lot for me to put my pride aside and take the plunge back into the unknown.  I’m on the right track this time around and am more determined than ever to finish.  Most people assume that I graduated and never ask so I just let them believe what they’d like so I haven’t shared this with very many outside of my close friends and family.  The momentum of this new chapter in my life was so strong that I decided to take another chance and stop by the DMV to take my written and vision tests to get my learner’s permit.  I passed with flying colors!  Now I just need to get some time behind the wheel so I can go back and own the road test.  

All of this has taught me some important things; it’s never too late and you should never give up on your dreams.  It doesn’t matter how hard it seems, if you keep pushing eventually they’ll give way.  So make a list, write down all of the things you’d like to do or learn or experience.  Check it every so often to stay on track and make any changes.  I still have 11 more major league ballparks to visit, continents to touch and courses to run so as long as I keep writing, I’ll keep dreaming new dreams to make reality.