Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In which this loser is married to a winner

When you lose weight and get fit, you get all the credit.

All the compliments, all the kudos, all the praise and glory.

And that is fun and rewarding, for sure.

But in my life, there is one person who deserves just as much admiration as me, and that's my husband.

I've batted this subject around in my head on many a run and I never got down to writing it, but I thought today it's fitting as it is our 14th wedding anniversary.

Yes, I did all the obvious work, but Keith has done untold heavy-lifting behind the scenes. He may not be in the gym with me or eating how I eat, but he's done just as much work, with no public credit.

Just a few examples:
  • All the childcare when I am at bootcamp or out on a run. Every Sunday, our Sundays don't start, really, until my long run is over. Then we can begin our day. If I have a race, push any plans back further. I get up at 5 am six days a week for work or working out. Every Sunday, Keith lets me sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then go run, all while he's wrangling children (almost 7, 5 and 3), baking them cinnamon rolls and trying to wake the hell up himself. 
  • He's supported us on his one income with three young kids and still somehow finding a way for us to afford bootcamp, 14 months of Weight Watchers, the gym, $85 running tights, race fees, you name it. (Yes, I work part-time for Weight Watchers, but that income doesn't pay many bills.)
  • He's watched me fall asleep like clockwork about 35 minutes after I sit down on the couch every single time we try to watch TV together. God bless him for all the one-sided conversations he's had with himself before he realized I was asleep or about to be so with some nonsensical, mumbled answer to his question. After the kids are in bed and we finally get time to ourselves, alone, to relax and de-stress with "our" shows, I fall asleep. Every. Time.
  • When I'm about to lose it, he lets me get my shit together, whether it's eating a meal or getting out of the house. 
I am positive person and that is on full-display here. But I am human. I struggle. And, seriously, when my program gets hard mentally or the scale is not moving, you do not want to live with me unfiltered. On the days it's hard and the kids are driving me crazy or work is demanding (or both, God help us), I just want to eat myself into a coma. But I can't and it's full-out war in my head. I am fighting every single instinct and habit in my brain and it is not pretty.

That pressure valve has to release somewhere, and I can be a bitch, to put it mildly.

When you love someone who's trying to change something fundamental about themselves, be it food, another addiction, habit, what have you, it's not easy. Nor pretty. Those spouses/partners deserve so much praise because supporting that person in any way they can is "Wuv, twoo wuv," to quote The Princess Bride.

I was at a healthy weight when we started dating. I was overweight when he got married and I was obese by the time we started having children. Never once did he get on me about me weight or told me to start shaping up. He left that up to me and I would guess silently suffered as I did, waiting for my head to get in the game. He loved me at 287 lbs and he loves me today. 

And, a reminder, he's seen me through 100+ lb weight losses twice. Twice. Not only was it richer or poorer, it was having and holding through thick, thin, thick and thin again.

He's seen me at my best and at my worst. And on those nights when he walks through the door and everyone in the house is yelling and/or crying and it's all hitting the fan, I am constantly amazed he has never turned on his heel and left for a calmer port, like Kabul.

And for that, I am truly grateful. I may be a loser, but when it comes to a husband, I am the biggest winner I know.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In which I've maintained my loss for a year

Last Nov. 1 I stepped on the scale at my regular Weight Watchers meeting and realized I made my personal goal weight.

A year later, I'm still there.

I just want to let that sink in for a bit. Historically, I've been excellent at losing weight, but terrible at keeping it off.

This is such a big deal, and to me, it's more impressive than losing 125 lbs in the first place.

All my life, I would strive, strive, strive for the "finish line" and once there (or when I got sick of striving) return to my same-old, same-old eating habits and behaviors.

I'm not sure why that was, other than maybe mentally I still had not gotten my head around the fact there is no "finish." Ever.

I don't like to bring that up to people who are in the losing process as it sounds depressing, dire and unattainable. But, you know, it's the truth.

So what was the difference this time around? How am I maintaining successfully?

A few thoughts:

I accepted that there is no finish line. There is no "on" or "off" program, you are on all the time, forever, end of story. Yes, there are lax - or outright bad - days, for sure, but I get right back on the horse, tracker in hand. I can't do what I did in the past and expect to hold on to what I have.

I embraced the PointsPlus program. Given its flexibility, PointsPlus is a program I can work for the rest of my life without too much mental stress or any depravation. When I gain weight, I can lose it. When I lose it, I can maintain it. It's so doable and realistic, I can live my life and enjoy food within reason.

I set goals away from the scale. Registering for races has keep me running and running has kept me motivated and moving. Training plans for big challenges such as half-marathons have given me a series of incremental goals spread over a period of time, goals that I achieve and of which I can feel very proud. These longer-term challenges and training plans have me constantly looking ahead while simultaneously working on them today - a potent combo.

I want to make it clear, however. You do not have to run if you don't want to. So many of us weight-loss bloggers run and love writing about it, I worry that people think they have to become runners to become healthy, fit, happy, people.

There are plenty of other activities that are challenging and amenable to goal-setting. The key is to find one you enjoy.

I found activities I enjoy. In addition to running, I love going to bootcamp twice a week. If you asked me on that first day, "Will you still be here in 18 months?" I'm not sure what I would have said. Probably, " *#&$, no!" But I'm so glad I have.

I accept I am a work in progress. I have decades of bad decisions, behaviors, habits and emotions surrounding food. I understand that it will likely take decades to unravel those knots and replace them better ones. No more expectations of perfection, no all-or-nothing.

I am kind to myself. I refuse to beat myself up. I still have bad days, but I restart as soon as I can. I also try to pull something positive out of it. If a decision went wrong - why? What caused it? What could I do better next time?

I work for Weight Watchers. Those of you who don't know me in real life are thinking, "Wait, what?!?" I haven't blogged about that very big part of my life because it's not smart to blog about your job unless you're paid to do so or own the company. I have neither, so I haven't.

I've been working for WW since last November, first as a receptionist and now as a leader. The job has challenged me and given me more than I ever expected. And one unexpected benefit has been that everyone on staff is a Lifetime member maintaining their weight. So if I'm having a problem, I can ask questions, commiserate, whine or beg for help when I need it. Maintenance is an art and you need other Lifetime members who get it because no one else truly does. Working several times a week with other Lifetimers has provided me with a built-in support system for which I are so grateful.

I am not perfect, nor do I have it all figured out. I am a work in progress. And if you're a work in progress, there's only one thing you have to do:

Keep working.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In which it's a beautiful morning

For 40.5 of my 42 years, I have never been a morning person nor, really, an "exercise" person.

So you could imagine how I would fare as a morning exerciser.

However, when I knew it was time to add regular workouts to achieve my weight-loss goals, I realized it had to be in the early morning, before the kids woke up. I tried doing DVDs during my youngest's afternoon nap, but when she crashed, I wanted to, as well. Getting a sweat on was not my first choice. Plus, with the other two kids under foot there was always an interruption.

Zero Dark Thirty it is, then.

I started getting up around 5 am and it took a good two weeks to not feel like hot death around 2 pm. But I realized that once I got in the swing of things and got my bedtime/wake-up time synched with enough sleep, it was doable.

I can't tell you how many times I've pushed myself through a workout with the mental urging: This is the hardest thing you have to do today. Get through this and the rest of the day is easy by comparison. By 7:30 am, the hardest part of your day is done.

I was thinking about this last Thursday during a run. I stepped out of the house at 6:30 am and it was dark. Pitch black, like, middle-of-the-night dark. I stood there for a second wondering why (later I realized we wouldn't turn the clocks back for another 3 days) and then headed back into the house to get my reflective can-see-me-from-Mars jacket and light.

I started out under a full moon, which was spookily darting in and out of thin, wispy clouds. Running my backwoods route, in the pitch black, under a full moon the day after Halloween: half-cool, half expecting a zombie to come at me from the woods.

As cars whizzed past, lit only by headlights, I was grateful for my jacket and light. On a side note, I see a ton of pre-dawn runners out without reflective gear. Seriously? A death wish. At least get a light.

Soon, the dawn started to break, as if someone was slowly turning up a dimmer on the sky. I got to the halfway point of my out-and-back, which that morning was at the crest of a small hill. I paused for a second and looked around, noticing the sun was streaming out over the horizon. The sky was pure blue. The hardy, remaining yellow and orange leaves on the trees seemed to glow as far as I could see.

It was so crazy beautiful, a gift I would never have received had I not become a morning outdoor exerciser. I would never see, nor appreciate, the sunrise over a gorgeous fall morning in Massachusetts. I am not a nature person, never have been. For me, camping is best done in a hotel where there is a comfy bed, no bugs and maybe a minifridge. So to really appreciate and enjoy this is quite the sea change.

So there I was, standing on top of this hill, looking out over a beautiful sunrise, early in the morning and I thought, for the zillionth time in the past almost 2 years: Who have I become?

Yes, I knew I could lose weight. But look what else came with that determination. I became a runner - a half-marathoner. A person who goes to bed early to get up early, go outside and run through the back roads of New England. And actually like it. All of that? Things I never expected but for which I am very grateful.

I feel like working out in the morning outdoors is almost like a secret club. We get our workouts done and sometimes it is the most beautiful setting just for ourselves. Whenever I see another runner or cyclist on the road at the same time, I always want to look at them, like, I know, right?

I'm not saying predawn is the best time to work out because the best time for you to work out is any time you will do it. What I'm trying to say is the beauty of the outdoors and this quiet time with nature is a gift I never expected to receive, but one for which I am very grateful.

The other day I was mentally running through my week while driving. I swear, it's like I have a cable news crawl constantly running at the bottom of my consciousness: Karate today, 4 pm...Daisies tomorrow, 5 pm....interview today, 2 pm...article due tonight....out of Chobani, get to the store...15 PPV left today...

Anyway, one of the things on my crawl was that tomorrow was Thursday and I immediately thought: I get to run. Not I have to run, I get to run. Whoa.

And that is what always amazes me about getting healthy and fit. The gifts you receive reach so far beyond the scale or clock. The unexpected are the sweetest and most cherished.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

In which I try Bikram Yoga

Bikram yoga has been on my to-try list for well over a year.

I know people who enjoy it a lot, and the thought of a totally challenging, yet totally different activity from my regular running or bootcamp was appealing.

It seemed rather complementary to my two favorite workouts, and this afternoon I was finally able to finagle my schedule to give it a go.

But, as excited as I was to try, I was a little nervous. I had never tried Bikram before and it was outside of my comfort zone.

I have been running for almost two years and bootcamping for a year and a half. Even though I'll never win a race and I now only occasionally hit myself in the groin with a medicine ball, I do know what I'm doing, and that "I'll Make A Fool of Myself" mortal fear is long gone with both pursuits.

Returning to that slightly nervous area outside my comfy activity playpen was a little disconcerting. But, I remembered that not that long ago I was scared to run outside and I was scared to try bootcamp. And look what happened. I found two activities that I really, truly love, and have given me so much more than improved health and fitness.

Therefore, I shaved my legs, put on a fresh layer of deodorant and headed to the studio this afternoon for the 4 pm class.

I got there early to get a lay of the land: where do I put my shoes? Can I rent a mat? Where's the bathroom? And, most importantly, to ensure I got a spot in the waaaay back of the studio.

I indeed got a spot in the back of the room, which is heated to 100 degrees. I had concerns about how I would handle the heat, as I'm not flocking outside during the summer on such days, but - really - it was a dry heat. I laid down my mat and followed everyone else's lead: flat on my back, quietly relaxing like a lizard on a rock in the Mojave.

I could get used to this.

Soon, the instructor came in and we got down to the poses - 26 in 90 minutes. The instructor stood on a low platform in the middle of the room and, like a DVD commentary, narrated the class through the poses with a series of instructions, form checks, inspiration, reassurance and funny stories.

There were several new students in the class (which had about 24 people at 4 pm on a Saturday, impressive!), thank goodness. The instructor was very encouraging to new students, which I really appreciated, underscoring that we shouldn't try anything that causes pain or try to keep up with veteran practitioners.

Amusingly, I had to keep remind/stop myself from the temptation of Keeping Up With The Flexible Joneses. I'd look at some frighteningly flexible person, battle those natural competitive instincts and think, "OK, this literally is your first day with this. Do what you can and no more."

In prep for the class, I drank 64 oz of water throughout the day, and I had another 32 oz on hand for the class itself. Yes, like everyone else I was sweating like crazy, but the heat was comforting and soothing. My body felt like a lazy pretzel and I liked it.

Some poses I could do, others I had to modify quite a bit. I looked around the room and saw many others - newbies and vets - modifying, too. I saw all sizes and ages - it was no bikini triathlete supermodel class, thank goodness.

At one point, the instructor mentioned two quotes from Bikram Choudhury, creator of this discipline:

"Mess with the gods, don't mess with your knees" and "Kill your body."

The latter sounds pretty severe, but the instructor explain that what he really meant was "Kill your ego." Leave it at the door, come in and listen to your body. I loved that.

Soon, the 90 minutes was up and I was a puddle. I stepped out of the warm, welcoming bosom of the studio and into the changing/waiting area.

At first, the cool air was refreshing, but it soon turned into the realization, "COLD! I AM COLD!" I threw on my sweatshirt (which now has to be washed ASAP) and walked to the car.

As I walked out I took a mental inventory. I felt really, really good. Refreshed, relaxed and loose. The poses were challenging, yet doable, I will try to jam a class into my schedule every week.

The more I thought about it (and sweated), the more I realized how very good it is to be a beginner again - at anything. You're open and excited, and your ego is idling, not in overdrive.

You're learning and doing and trying something new. You may love it, you may not, but the real victory is in the trying; that stepping outside your comfort zone where real true growth occurs.

When I try new things, I'm still hesitant here and there because that fear of embarrassment still lingers. But I try, anyway, and that's a win every time.

When I was overweight (aka, all my life), I rarely tried anything new - especially activity - for fear of embarrassment. When you're overweight, you want to blend in, not stand out.

But now, even though the nerves are still there a little bit, I push through. I know no one else in class is watching me, except for the instructor, who just wants to me to relax and enjoy.

So I did.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Race Report: Tufts 10K For Women

I've been waiting to post this race report for a year.

That sounds a touch dramatic, but it is true, nonetheless.

I started running in January 2011. All I wanted to do was run a 5K. I finally did it, and then I wanted to run another one. Cut to June and I wanted a challenge, a goal for the summer. The idea of the Tufts 10K came into my head after I saw an ad on

Six miles? I can't run 6.2 miles. It's so far, so much. But I went for it. If you read through last summer's posts, you'll see dozens devoted to my training for this race.

Before I began training, the longest I ever ran was 3.1 miles. But soon came 4. Then 5. By the end of training, I was up to 8. Eight miles! I ran 8 miles? That lead to other thoughts, which would be realized sooner than later.

I trained for 15 weeks (way too long, really) for this race, only to sprain my ankle three days before the race, walking through the parking lot of an apple orchard.

I was mad. Incredibly disappointed. Pissed off, you name it. I had to drop out of the race, which left me as gutted as I've ever been for something relatively minor. Reading through those profanity-laced posts a year later, the emotions are still so raw, so real.

Anyway, what's done was done and I was left with one vow: I will be running this race next year.

Jump to, "next year," when I found myself a two-time half-marathoner. All of a sudden, 6.2 miles wasn't the dramatic, amazing accomplishment it would have been a year ago. These days, a 10K is a short Sunday run. However, that didn't mean it wasn't significant, nor that it wasn't worth avenging, so I did. I wanted closure, plus, although I've raced dozens of times, I've never run an official 10K race.

Luckily, my domestic running life partner, Sandy, was all-in as well, so we headed into Boston on a blazingly beautiful Columbus Day to run through the streets of Boston and Cambridge.

The Tufts 10K for Women is a mammoth race. There were 8,000 runners and walkers, the largest field in which I have ever raced.

We gathered at the Public Garden, got our bibs and then hung out, meandering until about 10 minutes before the gun. In our meandering, I ran into my friend, Dani, who's a fellow Weight Watchers leader, runner and all-around inspirational person. Check out her blog!

Soon it was time to get in our respective starting areas, by pace time. Big problem: There were so many runners, there literally was no room to squeeze in. I've been in crowded fields before, but nothing like this.

Shooting from the sidewalk on Charles Street, looking toward the starting line (which was actually around the corner) on Beacon Street.

Looking toward the back of the pack (my people!) on Charles Street.

So, I waited for the race to start, standing behind the rope on the curb. When the crowd thinned enough to jump in, I was off.

This would be an interesting race because it was the first big race I'd run without music. Previously, the thought of running without music was horrifying. My legs will stop! I'll just want to walk. I can't do it. I need it.

Last summer, during a 5K my Nano crapped out and I freaked. This year, I was ready to run without as I have been training with a metronome. It's part of the ChiRunning approach that I've adopted (and love) and I find I run better without music, matching my footstrike to a pace of 170 BPM. I still run with music once a week because I do like it. But, for better form and pace purposes, it's no headphones, no music. And, you know what? I don't mind it a bit.

My only regret about the metronome is I sound like a ticking time bomb. I felt bad for anyone around me that didn't have music and had to listen to my beep-beep-beeping throughout the race.

Anyway, we were off heading through Back Bay toward Memorial Drive and Cambridge on one gorgeous day. The weather was perfect for running and the scenery was gorgeous. I half wished I stopped here and there and took pictures of the striking Boston skyline, but I really wanted to run this one hard.

When we turned onto Memorial Drive, I wondered if I would see one of my dearest friends - and a great runner - Jeremy. He lives just a few miles from the course and I figured I would spot him, and I did.

I shouted his name and gave him the double finger guns as I ran by at, if I recall correctly, somewhere between Miles 2 and 3. That's the picture at the top of this post and the best running picture I've ever had the privilege to be in. As you know, I normally look like I'm bring assassinated.

Anyway, I felt great and was running really well. My splits were around 10:50 to 11:00 a mile - very, very fast for me. Yay, metronome!

The course was flat and fast, and as I ran I thought a lot about the past year of running. How all I ever wanted was just one 5K and how that pipe dream turned into an activity I really, truly love. How I look forward to my 6:30 am runs. How I like studying and improving my form so I can keep running healthy.

I thought about where I was when I started running and where I am now. It seemed too fantastic, too good to be true, but it was. For real.

Sooner than I thought, I was past 5 miles and winding back into Boston, heading to the finish line on Charles Street. The clouds had dispersed, the sun was out and it was getting hot. I was ready to put a bow on this one.

I do want to take a second and thank race spectators. They are simply the greatest people because they are strangers who clap, cheer and tell you you're awesome when you need it most. I passed the 6-mile mark and I knew the finish was just around the corner. Since I wasn't listening to music, I could hear every spectator's shouts and cheers, and I heard my favorite spectator comment ever. I've heard it at many races and it thrills me every time:

"You're almost there! The finish is right around the corner!"

Before the race, I was hoping to come in a 1:15. About halfway through the race, my splits were so good, I thought 1:10 would be a possibility. At Mile 5 I switched gears and at Mile 6, I went into my fastest stride.

I glanced at my watch. It didn't look like 1:10 was going to happen, but I decided to keep pushing anyway, why not? Never give up.

I crossed the timing pads and stopped my watch. 1:10:02. Pretty close, nicely done.

I walked through the chute, grabbed as much water as I could carry and set off to find Sandy, who came in about 5 minutes before me.

We headed home, tired but mission accomplished. I may not have had the triumphant ending I envisioned last year, but you know what? In the end, it all turned out pretty damn great, anyway. I went from a person who dreamed big and did little to someone who dreamed big and realized her goals.

A couple of hours after I got home, Sandy posted on my wall on Facebook. The official times were up. Mine - 1:09:59.

Never give up, indeed.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

In which I turn left

All week I was planning a 5-mile tempo (read: fast) run for today.

I have two races next weekend, one of which is a 10K, and I wanted a decent-length prep run this weekend to get race-ready.

I geared up this morning and walked out of the garage...into the rain. Not a downpour, not a sprinkle, but a steady shower.

What to do?

I could bag it, but with my husband on the road this week, my runs were going to be off-schedule and I wouldn't have time to get in anything over 40 minutes.

I swapped my bandana for a baseball cap and started out, thinking, Well, I could shorten it to a 5K distance. That's better than nothing.

Being an all-or-nothing person by nature, I was pretty proud of that option right there. I didn't chuck it all because 5 would be too nasty in the rain, I found a decent alternative. Gold star for me.

At a quarter-mile in I assessed the situation.

It was raining, but I wasn't soaked.

It was cold, but not freezing.

I had a decision to make:

If I turned right, I would take my 5K path. If I turned left, I would be locked into 5 miles.

Right, I thought. I'll go right.

So, you can imagine my surprise at the fork when I found myself going left.

What the hell? I thought we were going right?

Why am I going left?

Seriously, I was supposed to turn right, and I kinda flaked out thinking about my run form and there I was, suddenly locked into 5 miles.

Well, I guess we're doing the whole loop.

I ran the 5 miles and about halfway in it stopped raining. I would have been some pissed at myself if I chose just 3.1 and then it stopped - not that I want to run in the rain for over an hour, but you know what I mean.

All of our weight-loss and maintenance success boils down to decisions. And every day we make a zillion decisions that affect our level of success. I've always said that our victories come not at the scale, but in the thousands of different decisions we make each week.

Also, 99% of this adventure is mental.

Do I turn left or do I turn right?

Do the hard thing, the right thing, the thing that's going to get you what you want.

You will be proud of yourself every single time.

Turn left.

A Bravo sticker to any Dr. Who fans who get the reference. It dovetailed nicely and is one of my favorite episodes.

Friday, September 28, 2012

In which I write all about it

I had the great opportunity recently to write about my weight loss adventure for Massachusetts-based Bay State Parent magazine.

My story's in the October issue, which is out today. Click here to read it via the digital edition (page 38).

Folks in Central and Eastern Massachusetts can find it on your local BSP newsstand.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Welcome Half-Size Me listeners

Thanks for stopping by!

Head on over to Facebook and like A Lifetime Loser page, where I post more content and regular updates you may not see here.

Regular readers who may be wondering, "What is she talking about?": An interview with me is featured this week on Heather's Half-Size Me site. Enjoy listening to me talk (with quite a headcold) about losing, maintaining, scheduling and working out.

Monday, August 13, 2012

In which I am no longer a large guest

I love amusement parks, but for longer than I care to admit, signs like above caused massive anxiety.

Somehow I could suffer the indignity of weighing almost 300 lbs, but the thought of being turned away from a ride for being too large to fit in it safely, well, that was one step too far.

When our children were big enough to start trying kiddie rides, I ceded ride-buddy duties to my husband on almost all of them because he could fit. Me? Maybe, maybe not. I know I didn't want to get to the head of the line to find out.

Below left is a picture of me in June 2010, three months before I rejoined Weight Watchers (click for a bigger version). It was proof of the rare ride I went on, I knew I could fit in that turtle, and I did - just barely. I remember that drop-bar was diggin' in pretty hard, but I made it work.

Anyway, cut to last week, on the right. It was a world of difference, knowing I could fit in any ride I so chose. I could wait in line, without anxiety. If the kids wanted to go on a ride, I could go, too.

Later that day I was relishing sitting on a bench while the kids frolicked around a splash pad. A woman came and sat next to me. We exchanged "Hi, thank God, a bench"-es and I noticed she resembled me physically two years ago.

Her husband came over and they started a discussion about who was going on what ride next and she flat-out said, "I won't fit on them." She laughed it off, but I knew it was a front. (I swear I wasn't trying to snoop, but she was sitting right next to me.)

I knew that laugh. I knew what lies beneath. I'm glad it's in the past.

I've written it before and I will write it again: You encounter more victories off the scale than on it. This is one of those.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In which small victories are big

I so did not want to work out this morning.

I'm getting slammed with late-night work and that, combined with early-morning activity, is beating me up. I'm not getting to bed as early as I should and that's making my already aggressive lifestyle more difficult.

Case in point: Today. I only got about 5.5 hours of sleep. The alarm went off at 4:45 am. I hit Snooze until 5:30 am. 5:30 am and I am already behind the Eight Ball. Not a great way to start my day.

I came downstairs and heard rain. YAY! No running this morning. I'm heading into the last month of half-marathon training and this week is the apex - the highest mileage, the most time on the road. This is also a crazy time with work and home obligations, so of course they had to be the same week.

Today's run called for 60 minutes. That's longer than I like on a weekday because it means I have to get up even earlier than normal to eat, warm up, get out and get back before getting everyone off to where they're headed for the day.

Plus, I wanted to run at the track to work on my ChiRunning technique, so I had to factor in a 7-minute drive. Only 7 minutes, sure, but 7 minutes I didn't have to spare today.

So when I heard the rain I was psyched. A guilt-free, get-out-of-a-run card. I sat on the couch, ate my favorite protein bar, drank Diet Coke and read the New York Post on my iPad (my morning ritual). Then I realized, I didn't hear rain. Crap.

I checked the back porch, hoping to see raindrops plinking off the deck. Nothing. It seems the "rain" I heard was wind blowing the overnight rain off the trees. Crud.

I stood in the kitchen and thought it out. This is the only time you can run today. If you do not run this morning, you will be pissed at yourself all day. You're already tired, do you really want to add angry, too?

Then I realized if I ran, I could enjoy a cup of Barbara's Puffins, my favorite carbo-loading pre-run food. No run, no cereal. All right, I'll run.

I ate my cereal, got dressed and headed over to the track. It was muggy and hot for 6:30 am, but I was already there: the hardest part is everything that comes before I hit Start on my Garmin. So I hit Start and off I went.

I hadn't run at the track in months, so an hour going round and round like a stock car wasn't as deadly boring as I thought it may be. Time passed relatively quickly and I got my time in. Happy day.

I walked off the track after 60 minutes, sweaty and sticky, but with a clean conscience. Now, I could start the rest of my day.

I've found that the smallest victories are not only off the scale, but they're also the biggest. All those small behavior changes and good decisions add up. All of the I don't wanna, but I will anyway-s...

The scale, the finish line, they're flashy locales as that's where we think we get the big wins. But they're just the effect of success, not the cause. All those little, everyday good moves you make add up - they're where you win everyday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In which I need professional help

Not the first time I've stated - or heard - that, by the way.

Regardless, after I finished my first half-marathon a couple of months ago, I decided I needed expert advice when it came to running.

I knew I could run hard - and long - but I wanted to learn how to run smart. I wanted to become an efficient runner who, ideally, could enjoy whatever ability she had for as long as she could.

My theory with running, at least my running, is this: It's like gambling. The longer you gamble in a casino, the greater the odds the House will eventually get all your money. The longer I run without improving my form, the greater the odds I will get reinjured. And that is not what I want.

When I developed a neuroma earlier this year, I asked my bootcamp director (also a physical therapist) for advice on a good local podiatrist. The doctor he recommended was so popular, I wouldn't be able to get in for 8 weeks, so I went to another, who ended up being just fine.

But when I decided I wanted gait analysis, I made an appointment with Dr. Popular - and, yes, it took 2 months to get the next appointment. But it was worth it because not only is he a podiatrist, he's also an ultramarathoner and an Ironman. This man knows his stuff, to put it mildly.

I went a couple of weeks ago and it was fascinating. First off, this guy is extremely intelligent and built like Batman. Therefore, I renamed him - at least in my head - Dr. Batman. I am also not unconvinced he has a utility belt and fights crime at night.

Dr. Batman put me through a series of stretches and movements and then watched me walk on a treadmill. He didn't even need to see me run to deliver a diagnosis: I'm asymmetrical.

Basically, my muscles are all tight and twisted on my right side, so I'm lopsided. I knew this from bootcamp - I can do many exercises much easier on my left side than my right because my left side is loose and flexible and my right is not. And, this also explains why my neuroma and back problems all appeared on guessed it...right side.

So, what do I do? Basically, learn how to move symmetrically once more. I'll be starting PT in late August and learn how to walk, stand and move in the correct way so that my right side will eventually mirror my left. Dr. Batman says that will automatically correct problems in my running form.

And he also recommended a technique, ChiRunning. I've been reading the book and watching the DVD for a week now and it's fascinating. The bottom line: Many people use their muscles and joints incorrectly when they run, which leads to injury. Use your muscles and joints the way they were intended and you can run pain-free and efficiently.

No wonder why so many hate running and say it's hard and painful. It is hard and painful, because we're doing it wrong.

It's going to take many hours, miles and months to improve fully, but I'm on my way. I went out for an hour this morning, and it was fun. Well, as much fun as it can be running in humid, 75-degree weather in July.

New things to think about, a new goal to shoot for. It made the hour go quickly, I'll give it that at the very least. Employing the ChiRunning techniques felt weird. Not bad-weird, but different. And that's a good thing, in my book.

You know how I feel about goals, I love them. I need them. They keep me interested and engaged in a healthy lifestyle. And I love that running correctly is my new goal for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

In which every ounce counts

There are two words I hate to hear people associate with their weight loss: "only" and "just."

As in, "I only lost .2" or, "How'd you do?", "Oh, just 1 pound."

Every loss is valuable, every loss is worth celebrating and you should be proud.

But, every week, I hear a lot of "only" and "just."

We're not proud of all our losses, are we?

We always want more, and that is completely normal and human. But it's not realistic.

If you lost 3 lbs every week, something is very wrong with you, and I am sure all of a sudden you wouldn't want to see such dramatic drops each week.

Whether it's 10 lbs or 100, whatever we lose is amazing and hard. But what we have to realize is once we lose our weight and get to Maintenance, it doesn't matter what we lost to get there, it matters that we stay there.

When you get to Maintenance, whether you lost 20 lbs or 200, the playing field is leveled. We're all in the same boat: keeping it off.

Be proud of every loss - every ounce counts - and they get you that much closer to your ultimate goal.

Friday, June 29, 2012

In which these pictures are worth those 1,000 words

A few times on this experience (you know how I dislike "journey"), I've come across a picture of myself that's stopped me cold.

As in, "Wow", can't stop staring at it. They are the times when my brain literally can't process what it sees.

There was this photo.

Famously, this one. And, most recently, this one.

It doesn't happen often. Sure, I like a lot of photos of myself these days, but rarely do I get stunned by one. It happened again recently.

Once a year, my children get their portraits taken. This year and last, I've hopped in for an impromptu family shot (my husband is camera-shy).

Anyway, we got the digital proofs back a day later and this shot, this shot, blew me away. I've been looking at it for days now and I still am mezmerized.

I cannot believe that is me.

I've touched on it before and I'll say it again: I know I suffer from a touch of body dysmorphia. When I see myself in the mirror, most times I see everything still "wrong" with me. But in the rare photo, like this one, I like what I see.

Especially when you compare it to those below:

March 2010

June 2011

The kids got older-looking and I got younger-looking. Allrighty!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In which I am scared on a run

Gorgeous morning for a run, little did I suspect it would end with me almost having a coronary.

Blue sky, clear, warm - but not too warm. No humidity, birds chirping, you name it.

I'm almost done with my run, happily chugging along the country roads near my house and feeling quite satisfied with myself, as I am want to do in such situations.

I'm listening to my music, thinking about everything but running, and a *@&#^!$ DEER runs out in front of me, about 15 feet away, bounding out of the woods, across the road and into the woods on the other side. For the record, that is way too close.

Holy Mother of God, I almost had a heart attack.

I instinctively yelped something like, "GAAAAAH!, but amazingly did not fall out of stride, trip or pull something from the shock. I wish I was wearing a heart rate monitor at the time as the read-out would have been hysterical.

I've seen rabbits and turkeys on a run, but nothing as big, quick or fast as a deer.

I don't know if it's because I've watched too much Law & Order, but I always run a little on guard, half expecting a pervert, serial killer or coyote to bound out after me. So to have an actual large mammal come flying out of the woods was too close to realizing that than I ever wanted.

I only had about a half-mile left in the run and I swear my heart rate didn't get back to normal for a good half-hour.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Race Report: Worcester Firefighters 6K

Well, I'm never running this one again.

I don't recall smoking crack last night, but I did post the following on this blog's Facebook page:

Good News: Crafted a kick-ass playlist for the race tomorrow. Bad News: It's 50-something minutes' worth of music. Aiming to need only about 35 mins for 6K, which would be my fastest race ever (9:30 avg mile). Time for ruthless editing.

So, even though I don't remember a crack pipe, hallucinogens must have been involved somehow if I thought I could PR this race in this heat.

I read this a while ago from Gibson's Daily Running Post, and I should have heeded it the moment I thought about PRing this race:

"Nobody can tell you how to set a personal best. But here’s how NOT to: run with the idea of setting one. You cannot order up a personal best as if it were a turkey on rye. It's not a conscious act. A personal best is a kind of gift bestowed upon you. You’re not sure where it came from or how. It's very hard to achieve a personal best after you've run for a while and brought your times down. It takes training and hard work. But remarkably, those who achieve personal bests all say the same thing: how easy it felt. They weren't straining, they weren't pushing; it just seemed to come to them. If you run with the idea that you're just going to enjoy yourself, that you're going to relax and have a good time, that whatever happens, happens - well, those are the days when personal bests occur." -Kevin Nelson

After my experience today, I would say this is very true.

So, what the hell happened?

Well, I was all keyed up to run fast today because it was my shortest race since the Celtic 5K in March. At that race, I was coming off a significant back injury, so it was a case of Run To Finish. My next race was the half-marathon in May. Also, now coming off a foot injury, Run To Finish. Although, since it was my first half-marathon, it was technically a PR for that distance.

My last race was a 5-miler in Boston, the week after the half. Since I was just coming off the half, I deliberately took it easy. Run To Finish.

I was really looking forward to the Worcester Firefighters Memorial because it was short (6K). I was in good running shape and uninjured. I felt I was set up for success.

My one concern about this race was the fact it had a 1 pm start time. In June. No idea why so late, I wish I knew, but it always starts at 1 pm. I should have heeded that concern. Most races start early, 8 or 9 am, because it's cooler and you don't impact traffic as much early in the morning.

Anyway, got to the race about an hour beforehand and met up with Sandy, my domestic running life partner. We ran into other friends who were also running, took some pics and then headed off to Sandy's favorite part of any race staging area, the Port A Potties.

The Port A Potty line was long, so by the time our business was concluded, we had to hustle to the start. I grabbed a water on the way and downed about 12 oz before I chucked it and headed mid-pack to get ready.

After releasing memorial balloons into the clear, blue, blazing sky, the National Anthem and Amazing Grace courtesy of a bagpiper, we were off.

About a half-mile in I realized two things: It was crazy hot and I should have worn my compression shorts under my running skirt.

We soon passed a bank clock/thermometer and it read 80 degrees. I believed it. There was barely a cloud in the sky and the sun was blinding, hammering off the asphalt. There was zero shade and no breeze. Hot Child In The City, indeed.

I started the race hoping to pace around a 10-minute mile for the first 1-2 miles, then pick it up for the last 1.6. Pfft. By the 1-mile mark, I abandoned that plan and decided to switch to Run To Finish. It was just too hot with no relief.

To make matters worse, my allergies were kicking up something fierce. My head and throat were congested, making deep breathing more difficult. I was having breathing problems, something I've never experienced before when racing.

I took this rather seriously, and actually stopped to walk for 30-60 seconds a few times. By the time I passed the 3-mile mark, I saw ambulances taking off. Apparently, some runners actually needed medical transport. Yikes.

I was psyched when I hit 3 miles because it meant this cursed race was almost over. I was pissed at this race. It was short, I should have been faster and it should have been easier. In the half-marathon, I didn't feel half as crappy at Mile 13 as I did right now. I was pissed at this weather. Too damn hot. I was pissed at the organizers for a 1 pm start.

But, hey, at least it's almost over. There are the chutes. There's the finish line, not 300 yards straight ahead. Thank God.

Wait, why are all the runners taking a right? Why is everyone turning right? The finish line is straight ahead! And then I saw the pylon. And the race official pointing right. Crap, we needed to do a short out and back before heading toward the finish. Guh. I hate this race.

On the out-and-back I spied my friend, Rebecca (she's #357 in the pink, group photo). It was her first 5K and I was psyched to see her. I caught up, tapped her on the shoulder and said, Let's finish this thing.

While I felt like dump, she was spry and was actually fiddling with her iPhone to choose a good song to finish to. Atta girl.

We finished the out and back and took a right to head - finally - toward the finish. Over the timing pads and, thank the Lord, it was over.

I grabbed two waters and headed toward my predetermined meeting spot with Sandy. I spotted her on the way, grabbed two more waters, and we parked it in the merciful shade to talk shop.

So, as frustrating as this race was (45:22 finish/12:24 pace), there were a few bright spots:

  • Always fun to run with friends - before, during or after.
  • Given this was a race to remember six Worcester firefighters who died in a 1999 fire, it was sobering to watch several firefighters run or walk the race in full firefighter gear. I was hot. They were hotter.
  • About 2.5 miles in, the shark mascot for the local AHL hockey team roller-bladed by me in full furry getup. Gotta say, I wanted to trip him.
  • I was about 2 minutes into the race when another runner tapped me on the shoulder: "I have that skirt! I bought it for a July 4 race! It looks great!" Note: This is the second time a runner stopped me during a race to talk about the skirt. I will get on a whole post about this magnetic running apparel soon.
  • Just after the 1 mile mark, we ran by one Worcester firehouse. The firefighters were roadside with hoses, arching water into the air and down onto very grateful runners.
So, this one's in the rear view mirror. Thank you, Lord. Next up: The Harvard Pilgrim Finish At The 50, which ends on the field at Gillette Stadium. Yeehaw.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In which you need to put yourself first

I hear many people say they desperately want to lose weight, but feel they don't have the time because of family commitments, work, etc.

"____________ needs me. I have to ___________."

Completely valid and true.

Most of us are wonderful, responsible adults who put everyone else first: our families, our coworkers, our jobs, our friends.

We take care of everyone else and on the off-chance we have any time or energy left over, then we attend to ourselves.

Hell, just this morning I realized I was completely out of clean drawers because I've been doing everyone else's laundry for two days and ignoring mine. Sure, my kids have hampers full of clean clothes, but I'm currently wearing compression shorts under my jeans. Where did my good intentions get me? Tight undergarments.

Our instincts are good and beautiful, they are not fair to us.

I give you permission to be selfish. You are no good to others if you're not good to yourself.

If you feel like you can't put yourself first without someone saying it's OK, there you go.

We can't help others, we can't be beneficial to others, if we are broken ourselves. And by "broken" I mean, unhappily overweight, hungry, tired or in need of clean underpants. It's whatever you currently don't have that you need. You get the idea.

Here's a real-world example: Almost always, when at home I feed myself before my children. They don't eat what I eat, so before I make their meal, I make and eat mine.

Why? Well, when I am hungry, I need to eat. And I need to eat healthy well-balanced meals that keep me on program. I can't just grab a handful of Goldfish to tide me over. If I do not take the time to prep and eat, I will make a bad decision that will bug me for the rest of the day, most likely.

My children can wait another 30 minutes for dinner. They will not starve, they are ridiculously hardy beings.

In this department, I need to put myself first. The kids don't suffer, they get a satisfied, calm parent and a nice, happy meal, instead of a starving, bitchy adult who's about to gnaw off her own arm.

This is just one little way I take of myself that supports my weight maintenance. You obviously see I'm still coming around on the laundry bit, but you get the picture. It takes a while to get used to this. You may feel weird or selfish until you realize the benefits to you and others.

If you're putting yourself last, move yourself up the ladder, in at least one way. Give yourself a break and help yourself out. Taking care of yourself will make you a better you - for yourself and others.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Race Report: Boston's Run To Remember

Oh, hell, yes.

Boston's Run To Remember was one magical race, for many reasons. No. 1 being I actually liked a race picture enough to buy it. That has never happened before.

As you know, I have a history of collecting race proofs in which I look like I am being assassinated. But this one, dare I say, I love it. Why?

I look strong and swift. I am wearing knee socks and an American flag running skirt. I look like I know what I am doing. I look like a runner. I told you: magic.

But so much more was extraordinary aside from the race photo. Which, to review, was hot stuff.

So, let's get into this because this post is tragically overdue.

I had signed up for this race in December. I was born in Boston and spent the first 18 years of my life growing up 7 miles south of the Athens of America. I spent a goodly part of my life in and around the city, so I could not pass up the opportunity to run through some of its most famous neighborhoods without the danger of getting flattened by a vehicle.

I remember seeing the ads for this race last year, thinking, "I'm not ready to run 5 miles. Not yet." I had just conquered my first 5K and running 5 miles seemed so far away, so arduous. I distinctly remember thinking, Maybe next year.

Cut to December, when I was setting my sights on a half-marathon in 2012. Five miles? I got that. On the race calendar it went.

Last weekend's half-marathon cropped up within the past month. Normally, I would not race two big races (mileage-wise) in back to back weeks. But I'm a believer in things happen for a reason, so I figured I'd see how the half went and worry about the 5-miler later.

The half went fine. I took three days off from running, ran an easy 25 minutes on Thursday, and after that figured I would be fine for the 5-miler three days later.

I decided to give it a go, but take it easy. I would forget about pace, forget about running, essentially, and taking a page from Sheryl's book, race and take a lot of fun pictures on a very picturesque course.

See, in the past - and sometimes today - when faced with a challenge or roadblock. I still automatically think, "I can't."

"I can't race that distance."

"I can't race back to back."

Well, really, screw "I can't." My days of "I can't" are over. If I take a few minutes and think it through, I realize more often than not, "I can." Sure, if my legs or foot were bothering me, I would sit out.

After initially thinking, "I can't," I thought it through, took a health inventory, assessed my Thursday run and decided not only "I can" but also "I will."

I was so excited for this race for several reasons, primarily because I would get to race in town. Funny, growing up just outside the city, that's what I - and everyone I knew - called Boston, "town." Force of habit, I still do.

Talking with my Dad before the race, the conversation went like this:

"Where's your race this weekend?"

"In town."

As a public service aside, two requests from a native: Don't ever call it "Beantown." Only tourists call it that. Two, don't ask us where we pahked ah cahs. Don't try the accent, you can't do it (see Costner, Kevin, et. al.) unless you were born with it (see Affleck & Damon). But, by all means, feel free to walk around wearing a tri-cornered hat. They really are fun.

Anyway, I was thrilled to race in town, and two friends were going to be there, too, so I'd get to meet up with them for at least a little bit.

When I sign up for races, I pretty much look at three things:

  • Distance.

  • Date.

  • Shirt/medal/goodies.

  • That's all I basically concern myself with when it comes to deciding to register. I need to add "start time" to that list.

    About a week before any race, you get an email from the organizers, basically saying, "Hey, remember the race you registered for? Here are the details again, if you didn't pay attention when you registered, Melissa, and everyone else."

    When I get the email, then I start to concern myself with commuting, parking, bib pickup, logistics, etc. I got the Run To Remember email Monday and spied the start time. 7:15 am. Start time. Oh, crap.

    I live an hour west of Boston and I usually like to get to a race an hour before the start. That means getting to the race by 6:15 am, leaving my house at, good God, 5:15 am. Which means getting up around - help me Jesus - 4:15 am to eat breakfast, wake up, get dressed, regain consciousness, etc.

    This better be one damn fine race.

    So, Saturday night I got all my junk together and set my alarm, which promptly went off at 4 am Sunday. I was surprisingly spry, ate breakfast and headed to Cambridge to pick up my dear friend and running idol, Jeremy, who was also entered.

    At any point up until now, did I think I would be driving east, in the dark, at 4:45 am wearing an American flag running skirt and knee socks? I did not. But I got a pretty sunrise around Framingham.

    Sometimes, I actually stop and think, Who is this person? (This recap is very long anyway, but I owe and will give that skirt an entire post of its own, believe me.)

    I picked Jeremy up at 5:45 am and we headed over to the World Trade Center area in South Boston. We parked on Summer Street and took about a 10-minute walk over to the WTC, which was a good warmup.

    I knew this was a big race, and I like big races. They're exciting, fun and (usually) well-organized. However, this race was b-i-g. Previously, the largest race I've ever run was the Caremark 5K in Providence, about 5,000 runners, last September.

    Just before the race, we heard this one had topped 9,000 runners - 6,500 running the half-marathon course and 2,500 doing the 5-miler. I believe it, because the minute we hit the expo center, I felt like we were completely swallowed up. Bodies everywhere.

    We found bag check, then split up. Jeremy had friends he wanted to check in with and I needed a port-a-potty. I wish I got a shot of the line of port-a-potties because there had to be 50. A line as long as you could see (Sandy, I thought of you fondly). I concluded business and set off to find my friend, Dani.

    There's a lot of silly crap when it comes to social media, but there's a lot of awesome stuff, too, and one of those things is finding wonderful new friends.

    I met Dani through Twitter. She's a Weight Watchers Lifetime member, leader and runner. Hmmmm, sounds familiar. Check out her blog, it's ridiculously inspirational, she's totally wonderful and super fast.

    She also lives in Boston, so the opportunity to meet up with her at a race was awesome when I found out we were both doing the Run To Remember.

    Dani is one of the #wwmafia who all check in with each other daily via Twitter. We're based all around the country, but we've all got each other's backs in 140 characters or less.

    The crowd was so thick with people we had to text and finally call to find one another, but we did. Our time together was all too short, but we demanded photos (don't we look peppy for 6:50 am?) and made plans to get together and share a meal soon.

    Dani headed off to the jack rabbit runners and I went to the back. Since I was just going to run and have fun, I decided to run holding my point-and-shoot for the whole race. I would waste too much time otherwise digging it out of my belt or the super-cool pocket on my skirt every 200 yards.

    The half-marathoners went off about 20 minutes before we 5-milers, then we lined up and watched a State Police helicopter make the rounds against the skyline and over our heads.

    Seriously, it was a gorgeous day.

    And we're off!

    The arch of the Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowe's Wharf.

    I realized something about a half-mile in: It's hard to run and take pictures. If I saw something I wanted to shoot, I had to run off to the side of the road, ensure I wasn't in anyone's way (either on the way to the side of the road or at the side of the road), get a shot I liked and then take off again. Easier said than done.

    Running atop what used to be the Central Artery, which is now the Rose Kennedy Greenway, with the Custom House in the distance.

    I gotta say running on the Greenway was very cool. As a person who traveled the artery hundreds of times in a car, it was amazing to run through what now is a park.

    Funny story: After the race, Jeremy and I were walking near the finish as the half-marathoners were coming in. The announcer, as is the norm at races, was announcing finishers, by looking at their bibs and matching it with their names. We're walking by and we hear, "And here's another finisher, Rose Kennedy!" I yell, "WOW!" and we both start laughing because not only has old Rose has been dead for a decade or so, but also when she was alive she was the frailest-looking person on Earth.

    More Greenway.

    Running through the Financial District, toward the Old State House.

    Hanging a right on Congress Street, Fanueil Hall on the right (out of frame), The World's Ugliest City Hall on the upper left.

    Entrance to Faneuil Hall, bordering Congress Street.

    La-de-da, running through Beacon Hill (Charles Street).

    Even the Post Office is pretty.

    You go, girl. No significance to this picture, other than I am juvenile and I thought it was funny.

    Your typical Beacon Hill side street. Not so much in most other parts of the city.

    Where everybody knows your name.

    Pretty brownstones neighboring the Public Garden, of which I did not get a good picture.

    Outskirts of the Theatre District. I love how they renovated the Paramount facade. The Opera House is next door.

    RIP, Filene's.

    Downtown Crossing, decked out for Memorial Day.

    Old South Meeting House.

    My life in a nutshell.

    So, at this point, we're heading toward South Station and I realize, the race is almost over. If there was a 4-Mile marker, and I'm sure there was, I missed it amidst all my Ansel Adamsing.

    The funny thing is, this race seemed to go very fast, even though I was lolly-gagging my way through it.

    I looked at my watch and saw we had about a half-mile to go. I was surprised. It's over already? I suppose if you race for 2:45 the previous week, an hour seems like a brief interlude. I put my camera away and thought, "I want to really run." Enough picture-taking and touristing, jam this last half.

    So, I did. But, first, I actually fixed my hair, readjusted my Sweaty Band, which was very sweaty at this point. Hey, there be photographers and spectators ahead. I was wearing an American flag skirt. I had to look like I knew what I was doing.

    "Shipping Up To Boston" came up on my playlist, which was the perfect tune to launch me at race pace toward the end.

    We hung a right onto Seaport Blvd., with the Boston Children's Museum and the Hood Milk Bottle across Fort Point Channel to the right.

    Almost near the finish I spied Jeremy off to my left, cheering me on to the finish. And I was happy to finish. I felt great, but it was hot and I was toasty.

    After crossing the finish and reclaiming our bags, Jeremy and I compared notes, hung out for a bit and then headed back to the car. As I walked over Seaport Blvd. I got some nice shots of the half-marathon finishers coming in (the finish line was out of frame, below and behind me).

    Overall, this was one of my favorite races. My pace was crap, but I had a lot of fun. I got to run safely through a city I love and, I realized, I ran a 5-mile race and it seemed like a walk (or run) in the park. Wow.