Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting that itch again........

          I am getting that itch again to sign up for a race.....this time a 50K. My plan is to run a 50K race nearby home in Springfield, VA about 3 weeks-4 after the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon; therefore banking on the fact that I can use the marathon training and the marathon run itself as the training run for the 50K. I know, I am quite a little genius. The main issue now is WILL I BE ABLE to finish the race before the cutoff. Things are looking quite hopeful. One, my foot feels fine after yesterday's 7 miles. That is HUGE!! Second, I was able to finish the 7 miles in a 12.5 minute/mile pace! Granted this is treadmill miles, so I cannot be too sure this translates to my real pace on land...but, it cannot be that OFF, can it? 

        So which race am I thinking of? Well, I went onto the Trail and Ultra Running Group on Facebook and asked for a flat-ish 50K with a forgiving cut-off near my home and near the MCM date (third week in October). One race that stood out amongst the few suggestions was the Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K  . Sounds fine with the exception that it's, not two, but THREE 9 point something  loops.....emotionally, loops are a bit tough to swallow. But, it's the most possible one so far. 
         In doing research for the race I always look up last year's times. Having once before been THE LAST person in a race makes me keenly aware of other last place folks. As you can see, last year one person, age 24 came in at 9:02 this gives me hope that maybe, just maybe their 8 hour cut-off is not so hard and fast. Of course, I have no intention on going past 8 hours, but it's just nice to know. There is 480 minutes in 8 hours, for a 31 mile race that's about 15.5 minute mile average. Half of me is convinced I can do this EASY, but another part of me keeps reminding me, "it's a trail race", paces are often a bit slower due to obstacles, hills, and roots. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Week three marathon training done

                    This morning I got up not quite sure whether or not I could really do this. Last week after my long run of 6 miles (2nd week marathon training) I was basically unable to walk the next day. I started to worry that the injury that has plagued me for almost 3 months now would stop me at my tracks. But miraculously, and thanks to ibuprofen, compression and warm compresses the next day it was gone. But I was determined to take it slow the first 6 miles and then sprint the last, which is exactly what I did. During the firs 6 miles I watched a part of Mission Impossible and for the last mile I listened to my super monster playlist with all the tunes that make me move. I call this my no injury ratio. 

Here I am when I left the gym. Just so happy. 

         Here I am STILL glowing after I got to my mom's. My foot felt fine, I was mobile, felt strong and overall extremely proud. But I was also famished. I am obsessed with concord grapes. So OBSESSED that I could easily eat 3 lbs. of them in one sitting, IF I wanted to. But this bowl is all that was left of the 10 lbs. I bought in Virginia before we came to NY. 

               When I got home I saw I had gotten a package. It was my birthday present to me....of course a running gift!! Three amazing new and beautiful Sweaty Bands! Not only that but my hubby's birthday present to me was a year's subscription of UltraRunner, the magazine. If I could get running gifts (and garden gifts) for the rest of my life I will gladly take it. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

I am 43....older and wiser baby!!

                I am 43 and a day and I feel the happiest I have ever felt. Now, don't confuse the word "happiest"with what most people consider trouble-free, or ecstatic living even. I am simply at peace, that is my definition of happy. For as long as I remember I've been trying to change things outside and inside of me and all of the sudden all of those concerns have melted away with time, with only one central focus in mind, peace. For as long as I remember I've been trying to change my body, change my style, change my hair, change the way I am friends with people.....all in the spirit of "I cannot possibly be doing it right all along". Yet, maybe it's the age, or maybe it's the lack of results that so much trying brings, but suddenly I don't want to go that route anymore. There is a certain fearlessness about being 43 that brings me so much more energy and strength. and those are reasons enough to stop trying.

              Another reason I am super happy is that my long term mysterious injury on my right foot seems to have disappeared, or at least lessened. When you love running as much as I do, it's so depressing not being able to run, to really move and feel your powerful legs beat beneath you. The way I have been preventing injury these days is running 90% of my run at a comfortable aerobic pace, and then sprinting the last 10%. That way I still get that high that one gets from pushing hard, but I do it on a body that's already warmed up and ready to go. As an aside, I would not say I am back 100% yet. I have not really taken my runs out on the road and even on the 'dread'mill I have not added an incline to my runs. For now, it's just running without all the other technical things I will need in a trail race, but, trying really hard to continue running and no re-injuring myself. 

             One advantage of being older (by society's standards that is...for I do not feel a day over 22) is the ability to see that sexy is an amorphous thing which the viewer and the entity being viewed can easily manipulate without the need to do much of anything but change ones mind. I have experienced women larger than me, even less fit than me strut their shit with so much confidence, so much pride that it literally changes my experience of them. When you strut sexy, people see sexy. It has NOTHING to do with body size, clothing, make-up, age....nothing. We all have the ability to pretty much control how others see us, no matter what size out body is. Young people sadly often lack this knowledge and try super hard to look as sexy as they want to feel. While this is an admirable goal, it leads us to such misery and self-loathing. I have tortured myself for years trying to look as sexy as I wanted to feel and all it brought me was a distorted sense of self and low self-esteem, plus it's exhausting. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The lonely path of the plus-size athlete

            I read a wonderful, life-changing, article this week sent to me by a friend on Facebook called Fighting to be Seen as a Plus-Size Athlete by Louise Green and in it she speaks about her experience as a plus-size athlete. Before this article I did not dare call myself an athlete, not to myself, not in the presence of others. I have run and successfully completed six marathons, one grueling 50K and three half marathons, yet, I did not dare take that lofty title for myself. I am what society might call an overweight woman and in our world, overweight women are never seen as also athletes. Yet, there was this article, it felt beyond refreshing reading about someone else's experience in this area for it's generally a harsh and lonely journey; harsh and lonely, almost like running at 4am on a 20 degree morning and coming across another runner, how rare would that be? Well, reading this article, felt just THAT awesomely rare, I could hardly contain my excitement. But, not only is this journey lonely, but it's also one in which you have to be mentally strong, beyond anything you have ever thought you could be or wanted to be growing up. For example, you might be feeling invincible, strong, super-powerful after a killer 6-mile run, yet, people all around you, even loved ones, fail to sufficiently celebrate with you in these accomplishments, how could they? for ultimately, your larger-than-a-real-runner appearance says that you have obviously not yet reached your goals, so what one gets instead is .....(drum roll).... deafening silence. These loved ones DO mean well by the way. Hey, deafening silence ultimately is a very loving family's politically correct way of not hurting your feelings. Unfortunately, this is not very encouraging to say the least. There are days my only hope is repeating my mantra "Don't give up". I have long forgotten why not give up, only that I know deep inside that giving up brings along more negative feelings and negative feelings takes one nowhere good, so hence the mantra, "Don't give up."

              Being a plus-sized athlete is a lonely endeavor, but one that I have embraced without complaint for all these years I've bene running. Instead, I have taught myself to gain energy and strength from my own pride in my many accomplishments and that has been my never-ending fuel, my hope, my lifeline. Yet, it does not keep me from every once in a while from wishing. I wish strength were seen and recognized as just as amazing accomplishments as becoming 'skinny'. I wish my powerful thighs (of which I am very proud of by the way) were seen by others as more than 'too big'. I wish my excited talks about training for a marathon #7 were not met with awkward silence. I know, sounds gloomy right? yet, THE MOST amazing side affect of this lonely journey has been the newfound relationship I now have and enjoy with my body. I can honestly say, finally at 43, that I LOVE my body. I love my feet with its many callouses on my toes from running all these miles, I love my muscular calves when highlighted when wearing heels, I love my substantial thighs, my round and ever-present butt, my beautiful reassuring arms, my confident chest. At 43 (I'll be 43 in 1 day) I have never felt as strong a relationship with my body as I do now. Immeasurable pride is all I feel now for my body, whether anyone chooses to see that OR not, that is how I feel in my body and that makes me wake up each morning and smile and keep going and keep training. Whether others like it or not, I wear what feels comfortable and right for the weather, without worries about how it's perceived. On a hot day, you damn right I'll wear tanks, when running, I wear tights. Yes, my ass is 'what it is', round and in your face in those tights. But, if you don't like it? t's your problem, not mine.

         I end with the best lines from this article of which I pasted below:
             "she helped me see the importance of visibility and size diversity in athletics. Simply showing up in my body is a power move, pushing back against an ideal many of us struggle to obtain. Seeing larger bodies achieving athletic feats allows us to see ourselves in those moments. Right now, there are plus size athletes competing at Ironman, in the Olympics, in marathons, and in most races across the nation. Yet we seldom see them."


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"There’s one thing I know for sure: Seeing big bodies in our visual landscape has the power to profoundly change lives. I will never stop encouraging women to be bold and show up in their bigger bodies. Owning who you are and surrendering the fight for thinness at any cost is the best thing you can do for yourself. It's certainly the best thing I've ever done for myself." -Kelsey Miller

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pain free miles!! Yes!!

           Here are my new/old pair of sneakers. I have these sneakers to thank for running with NO pain....very exciting stuff. A few more pain-free days and I will decide to cancel my MRI appointment in August. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Morning after 4 miler.....

            Today I feel a lot better than I had in the past few weeks after having run several miles. I am starting to suspect that the main cause of my pain was made worse by my old sneakers. I guess my plan of turning my sneakers into minimalist sneakers by simply not buying new ones ever is not quite working. Yesterday, for my run, I used another pair (Brooks Pure Connect3) and voila! pain over.

        I am trying not to celebrate quite yet. Tomorrow is day 7 of my 1st week of marathon training and it's a five miler. If after THAT run I feel okay-ish THEN I will celebrate. But now I am still cautious about calling myself healed. In the meantime, I have an MRI appointment in a month for this issue. Hopefully it will be fully resolved by then. But one day at a time. Right now I am just trying to focus on making tomorrow's treadmill run successful. 

         Today I did weights at the gym. For the first time it occurred to me that the one most significant gift I've received from this injury has been my new awareness of other forms of exercise, such as weightlifting, uphill walking, swimming and of course, the dreaded elliptical. Nevertheless, I LOVE weightlifting so much that I will continue to do it even when I'm fully healed. 

        Here is the 16-week plan I am following for marathon #7, The Marine Corps Marathon in October 2016. Yes, I know, it's a one 20-miler marathon training plan. With all that's on my plate this fall, from extra after-school classes to working on getting Nationally Certified; I am not trying to even PR, just trying to finish. I am also looking into possibly doing a flat 50K race in December somewhere south of the DC area. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

4 nonstop miles baby!!!

                 Day 3, week 1 of marathon training done. I feel amazing. My sweet hubby suggested that maybe, just maybe my foot is not as bad as I feared and that I should go for a run...a real run. So, instead of walking my miles today I ran them. I feel amazing. Because I had been training so much with uphill walking the running miles went by MUCH faster than usual, so that was an extra treat. 
Tonight I will take some Advil, stretch some more and maybe even put some heat on my foot to avoid getting stiff tomorrow. I had to let go of my heart-rate training as suggested by Primal Endurance, (one of keeping my heart rate at 180 bpm minus my age) just too annoying hearing the beeps on my watch so often, and while at the gym. I did exactly what I know best and that is straight out run, no breaks...oh, and a touch of loud music. Off to take a hot shower hoping to divert the pain that will invariably come in the morning....then again, maybe not for I HAVE been working out....maybe not running, but daily for the past 2 months I have been doing something 'aerobic' almost daily, not to mention weight training every other day. More later...headed to bed. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Men at the Gym.....commentary bout power dynamics in space

           I've been now going to the gym for about 2 months, about 5-6 times a week. Currently, I do weights every other day, although that is a new development. It took me about a good month to even consider venturing past the ellipticals and touching the weight machines. It took me another whole week to actually read each machine's instructions and learn how to do them right. Now I am all set to continue this routine until my foot shows zero signs of pain for about 2 weeks, then I will be running again on my cardio days. 

           What I really wanted to write about was the men at the gym. Please know two very important things before I embark on this more silly, than serious piece, one, that all of what I am sharing are simply opinions based primarily on body language and facial expressions I have observed in men I don't know. You see, I hardly talk to men at the gym and most of the time I am even wearing earphones and listening to some hard stuff like AC/DC or Beasty Boys so as to pump myself up for the workout, but I am very aware of some undercurrent of power dynamics happening hidden in plain sight. Second, and this one is very important fact to remember; I am in no means interested in these men romantically. For me it's  more of a sociological commentary in men behavior and more specifically, power dynamics between men and women. As a woman who has gone to an all-girls' high school, then attended an all women's college and now teaches at an elementary school that is 99.9% women, I find men behavior very different than women behavior and nowhere is that more pronounced than at the gym. 

          The first few days of my exploration into the weight area I know I was clearly sending out signals of total confusion. Perhaps it was in my less-than-confident posture, or my quizzical expression as I stood by each machine and read its full set of instructions. Whatever it was that I communicated, the men in particular were very comfortable, confident. Some were talking to each other loudly, some were openly grunting as they lifted, some just walked tall. As I began to gain confidence in the machines and was able to quickly adjust them as needed to fit my needs I became more at ease, and no doubt this showed through in my posture and my facial expressions. As soon as this newfound confidence set in something else happened. The men in my immediate space (and not all by the way, some) became less loud, and more reserved. Of course, this could all very easily be in my imagination. Yet, it was not a change I was expecting to happen. I did not merely script all these behavior pattens in my head. I slowly came to realize that the more confidence I gained the power dynamics began to change. Of course all these changes are on the mega-subtle level, so subtle in fact that the undercurrent of communications are almost undetectable if you are not paying attention. 

           Just as in the old "which-came-first-chicken-egg?" we'll never know what spurred on what first. What I do know is that I am super proud of myself for claiming this gym space as my own. Like in running outdoors. The mere fact of running the same streets over and over again makes them feel less foreign, less 'other' and in this case the same principles apply....but the mere fact of coming in and using and working in the space daily makes it more familiar, more safe, more smooth.