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!