Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Gentle Realignment (and racing updates)

I asked for help and boy did I get it.  Thank you to everyone who reached out to me, to the 30+ people who commented on my post, to the emails and messages I got on FB, and the text messages friends - thank you so much.  As the support poured in, I felt buoyed and walked through my day feeling lighter.  I forget sometimes, or didn't even realize in some ways, how many people read my blog.  It's like the human condition sometimes drives us to shame and self-loathing, which perpetuates the negativity, but once we shine a light on our pain, once we share it with another human being, that alone helps it to start dissipating.  And then, to be reminded that I'm not alone, that I'm not crazy, that I'm stronger than I am remembering at this moment, the I feel your pain, the understanding and compassion, the tips and links and welcomes - it really does help.  And I think it broke me out of the worst of my funk.  I wasn't able to do it on my own, but with support, I could.  I wish I had time to respond to each and every comment but it's late.  Just know if you told me to visit a website, I did. And I reflected on every tip, every suggestion and all the feedback and ideas.  I accepted all the virtual hugs and just basked in the support.  Thank you.

That's not to say I'm flying high with motivation, that hasn't happened yet, though I know it will sooner or later, it always comes - and then goes, and then comes again....  If you're a regular reader here you know I've been through these slumps before.  But this was different, this was the first one in maintenance that really had me scared.  I'm feeling less scared now.  Still not sure what the future holds, not feeling clear and certain that I'll get back to where I was, but not so afraid that all is lost and I'm a quick path to total relapse.

My food is still kind of eh.  I'm making improvements. No more random candy bar/chips/junk purchases.  Now it's just the food that makes its way into my orbit through happenstance - the ice cream cake in the lunch room, the pot luck goodies at the kids' preschool graduation, the pistachios Miguel brought home from work.  And then there's the more clear choice to indulge, like after a movie last night I decided to stop at a restaurant that has my all time favorite dessert.  I was in San Francisco (which doesn't happen all that often anymore) with no limit on my time (which also doesn't happen all that much anymore but is happening more now that I'm carving out some time for myself).  I stopped at Chow in the Castro and had their Ginger Cake with Pumpkin Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce.  omg, it is SO good.  And funny, I didn't feel all those negative feelings.

Ginger Cake (pictured here without the yummy ice cream)
The difference?  It was a conscious choice I made to indulge.  It wasn't something that I did reluctantly, wishing I wasn't doing it.  I'm not saying it was a great choice in light of the few pounds I've gained and how I've been feeling about the food I'm putting in my body, but it was still my choice and I felt fine about it.  [random aside: I was just googling the cake to see if I could find a picture to share with you, when I found an entire article about it - I told you it was good - including a friggin' recipe!  I might have a problem here people.]

Anyway, my point is about how our mindset, motivations, expectations, judgments, etc all work together to manufacture how we react to and feel about things.  My eating has been out of control not so much because of what I ate (though admittedly this is part of it) but about why and how I ate.  And because of that, my feelings about it are not good.  I remember on Monday when I was buying and eating the candy thinking, "Michelle, you know this does no good, when the candy is gone, you are only left with bad feelings, you don't truly want this."  Obviously that did not change my behavior in that moment but it contributed to my writing my last post, which was the step I needed to take to shine a light on my self-inflicted suffering so that I can begin to let it go.

I didn't mention in my last post that I'd returned to the gym on Tuesday for my first post-half-marathon workout.  I decided this whole week is going to be a recovery week given that between being sick two weekends ago and tapering for the half-marathon I had not been to the gym in exactly two weeks.  Which, light bulb!, might have contributed to my meltdown.  Ya think?  Aaaanyway, I went back on Tuesday and started with spin class.  I could only stay for about 30 minutes but it felt good to rock out with my fellow gym rats.  Then I did back/biceps/core, doing less sets than normal overall.  My back has been hurting less - though I still need to get to physical therapy - probably mainly because of the lack of exercise.

I took Wednesday off from the gym as I normally do, resisting the urge to try and squeeze in a workout to "make up" for Monday's day off.  I took the kids to storytime at the library, meeting up with some mom friends, and then we had a lovely picnic in the park afterward.  In the evening, as I mentioned, I went into the city for dinner (roasted chicken, potatoes, black beans, soup at Regalito Rosticeria) and a movie, a documentary as part of SF DocFest.   Oh and dessert, which you already know all about.

I hit the gym today, starting with a treadmill run.  I increased my speed from 6.4 with 7.4 intervals to 6.5 with 7.5 intervals.  I don't know why, it just felt like a good time to step it up.  I know, this is recovery week, so I decided while I was running to do 2 miles instead of 3.  I hit two miles in a bit under 18 minutes and decided to run for an even 20 minutes, so in the end I ran 2.25 miles.  Always pushing the envelope, but it's my own envelope so it's mostly ok.  After the treadmill I did chest/triceps/core.  Pushups were almost impossible with the deep scrape on my palm, but I figured out if I did them on dumbbells they were manageable.  Again, I did fewer sets on most of my stuff.

I left the gym and quickly headed to my kids' preschool for their end of the year party.  It was a potluck and there were all sorts of yummy foods.  I had a bit of this and that, and went a little crazy with the sweets, but I'm feeling ok about my choices.  Not thrilled, but ok.  I am gently nudging myself back to my routine, which is always what works best for me.  There's a time and a place for strict eating but now is not it.  I find I react better to a loving, gentle realignment of my true goals and desires with my behaviors.  Ohhh, realignment - I like that word.  Like getting your tires realigned - no judgment, just adjustment. 

So, there you have it.  A weight lifted, a HUGE thank you, and some gentle realigning.  Now...for some race-related news...

1.  The time-keepers at the See Jane Run half-marathon made adjustments to our official time for the drawbridge delay.

2:09:45 for a 9:55 pace - YES!!
2.  I did not get selected in the Escape from Alcatraz lottery for 2014.  So I'll be volunteering next year and trying for 2015.  But my lottery days are alive because I just threw my hat in the ring with the Marin Tri Club to run in the Nike Women's Half-Marathon here in San Francisco on October 20th.  

3.  I decided not to do a full marathon this year.  It's just too close to the Santa Cruz olympic distance triathlon I'm doing in late September.  I've been wanting to do a longer distance triathlon since before Marek was born and this is my year.  At least I hope it is.  I was hoping to go cheer my runner friends on but the Nike is on the same day so if I get in, I can't.  But if I don't, I will.  And I'm also out for the Tri for Fun in June.  The friend I was doing it with had to drop out and we have since decided to do something else this weekend.  I'll probably do the August one as a prep for the Santa Cruz. 

4.  Santa Cruz....there's a TriMore Fitness informational meeting for their 12 week training leading up to the event.  It's in early July and their program starts in late July.  I'm definitely going to the info meeting and we'll see if I feel like I can handle the 3x a week group workouts. 

5.  I signed up for our local 4th of July fun run, the Firecracker 4 Mile. I got a discount on the entry fee and it was just too good to turn down.  You might remember my grumbling about this race last year because of the hills.  WTH, who puts hills in a fun run?  Still, I ran my first ever sub 10:00 minute miles.  Let's hope I can match that this year.  And I guess I can't grumble about the hills, this year I know what I'm getting into.

That's all I can think of for now.  I've already started adding a few ideas for 2014 - The Wild Boar run, the Dipsea (if I can get in), and possibly a half-ironman (if the olympic goes well enough).  Knock on wood that I stay healthy enough to keep up with all these crazy-fun ideas!

ps - I'm hungry right now and I'm going to eat what I used to eat when I was hungry at night, a string cheese, instead of what I've been eating lately, dinner rolls.  Healthy choices = good feelings = improved confidence = healthy choices.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I. need. help.

My eating is starting to scare me.  I mean really.  The behaviors are so old yet still so familiar.  I have a hard time getting anyone to take me seriously, to hear my concerns, but I know inside that it is serious.  You may not have noticed but lately in my blog I've been saying things like, "I'll spare you all the calorie-laden details but...".  And I think that's because of embarrassment, shame and self-loathing.  Those are heavy words but I do believe it's at the core of my hiding what I've been eating.  So I'm going to break down and write the blow-by-blow of today's eating to just get it off my chest.

Breakfast:  Grape Nuts with Almond Milk
Snack:  Banana, string cheese (+ water and vitamins)
Snack:  Clif Bar (the whole thing)
Lunch:  Avocado/hummus sandwich with cheese and a tiny bit of mayo, bag of chips
Snack:  Snickers bar**
Dinner:  Black beans, avocado, cream, tortilla, mexican cheese, 1/2 of a rib eye steak
Snack: Grapes, slice after slice after slice of pumpkin bread, red potato with butter

Yesterday saw me eat two candy bars in one day plus a ton of Now&Laters, I had a burger with avocado and bacon with onion rings for lunch, and just snacked until I went to bed.  Somewhere over the past couple of days I had the thought, "I need help."  I've been telling myself I'll eat better tomorrow and each day tomorrow comes and is no better than the day before.  I start the morning out feeling clear and focused and by midday I'm eating things that make me feel like crap in the end.  IT'S SO FRUSTRATING!

I know this all started with the slump I was in.  Then I felt myself come out of it and had a brief moment in the sun and then I got sick and bam, back in it.  It was like my newfound non-slumpage wasn't well established when the sick thing just threw me off.   So today I was in a frustrating situation at work.  I'd eaten the sandwich and chips and was super full.  I pondered buying a candy bar and talked myself out of it.  But the stress level rose and I gave in.  So I'm eating the Snickers bar and I'm halfway through it when I said, "enough!" and tossed the second half in the garbage.

It's never too late to make a new decision.

That's one of my mantras.  I'd love to finish this post with a lovely little tale of how the rest of the evening I was true to myself and my goals and ate good, clean, healthy foods - but you saw what happened.  More junk and more food than my body needs.  What is going on?  I have ideas of course.  There's shit going on in my personal life, work is work, I'm taking some exciting career development steps but that still adds stress and added responsibility, I don't get enough sleep, and I'm allowing my brain to be lazy.

Miguel brought home half of a lemon meringue pie recently.  I ate all but a few bites of it before the day was over.  I had all these resentful thoughts toward him for bringing it home.  I know better.  My eating is not his responsibility.  In fact, unless I ask, I want him to stay out of it.  But that's classic externalization of blame.  And it's addictive thinking.  My brain has just gone a bit haywire and I've let it.  I've been stepping it up some, fighting back with the more rational, healthy thoughts, but it's slow going.  I hope this writing it all down, getting it all out, will help.

And of course I'm having to battle all sorts of other irrational thoughts, the biggest one being, "Well, that's it, it's over, you've gone back to your old habits and...".  The unfinished part is, "and you're going to gain all the weight back."  And my brain acts like it's not only a foregone conclusion, but that's it's already happened.  Give up, it's over.  I have an idea of how friggin' insane that sounds.

And further, I see how insane it looks.  I am not that woman anymore, and yet she haunts me, and taunts me and calls to me to be her, to let go, slip back, hide.  Wow - this writing is...enlightening.  I don't want to hide.

For a while now I've been enjoying wearing "cute" clothes, styling my hair, wearing make-up.  I was actually looking forward to summer so I could wear shorts and skirts more often.  But lately I haven't been into it.  I figured it was just part of my slump.  It's not fun to put an effort into dressing cute when I don't feel cute. But I wonder if wanting to hide is part of this.  What am I hiding from?

Dammit, this is just too much to think about.  Bottom line, I've been coping with my feelings by eating.  I've been using food in all the wrong ways.  And it doesn't feel good.  That's what I have to remind myself.  In the end, the food does not help, I am left holding the bag.

If hunger is not the problem, food is not the solution.

And it's sure as heck not about hunger.  It's about feelings.  And not exercising the strongest part of my body - my brain.  So I need to sit with my feelings, talk myself through the rough moments, build my confidence back up and establish a better recent past to break these bad habits that are trying to wiggle back into my life.  Fortunately I've done a lot of hard mental work over these past 6 years so even with all this unhelpful eating my brain is still there whispering, what are you doing?  you know this isn't good, think, Michelle, think.  So maybe my brain isn't so lazy after all.

Ok, what else can I do?  The title of this post is I. need. help.  I'm going to a meeting every week.  If I can't make my Friday one, I'll go to a different one.  Or two.  Or whatever I need to get some help.  I remember reading about a Lifetimer's meeting, maybe I need to track that down.  They'll understand and probably have some good advice and support.  I need it.  I don't want to gain 10 pounds and then reach out.  That said, it's not about the weight, or my clothing size, or my appearance at all really - it's about the thinking, the habits, the behavior.  It's about not feeling good.  I did not lose 90+ pounds to be feeling like crap.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

See Jane Run San Francisco Bay Area Half-Marathon Race Report

This week has been what I hope is an anomaly.  Prior to the half-marathon yesterday the only exercise I got was the 4.5 mile run I did on Tuesday.  You might recall that I was sick last weekend and I basically parlayed that with the upcoming half-marathon into a week of doing almost nothing exercise-wise.  Food-wise I really cut back on my eating to compensate for the non-exercise.  LYING!  I ate as any good carbo-loading excuse making girl would given the circumstances.  I'll spare you all the calorie-laden details but trust me when I say the 1 pound loss I posted on Friday was not as a result of my hard work and focus.  In fact, it's one of those the-scale-lies weights.  But I won't pretend I wasn't happy to see a lower number.  Despite the scale's lying ways, I'm still inclined to take it as a good thing when it tells me what I want to hear.

So, Saturday night came and it was time to prep my stuff for the See Jane Run half-marathon.  I felt tired and was looking forward to getting the kids in bed so I could do the same.  Of course, as often happens, them going to bed is like a mild stimulant, I'm suddenly awake enough to stay up for hours.  What's with that?  Anyway, I think I finally drifted off to sleep somewhere south of midnight.  But I must have slept well because the next thing I remember is the alarm sounding at 5am.  Up and at 'em!  I had a tiny headache and I'm starting to wonder if sleeping with the ceiling fan gives me a headache, is that possible?  Decided I might take some aspirin or ibuprofen if the coffee doesn't cure it.

I had my cereal and coffee and took a few sips of water here and there to hydrate.  The forecast was for a hot day and I debated wearing a tank vs a tee but in the end chose a t-shirt, I didn't want my shoulders roasting in the sun.  I wasn't satisfied with my intestinal voiding and hoped more might vacate at the venue.  How do you like that for details?  I never knew running would involve so much attention to pooping.  Good thing Laurie and I enjoy such conversations (as do most crazy runner types).  I might have to dedicate a whole post to poop soon.  Oh the anticipation you must feel reading that!

Anyway, Laurie and I hit the road a bit after 6am.  Neither of us had ever been to the venue in Alameda so we allowed extra time for snafus.  Other than having to look for street parking things went smooth.  We found a spot about eight blocks away and made our way to the starting area.

Didn't realize how matchy I was with my shirt and hat.
Can you tell how sunny it is?  There was a good but not massive crowd and plenty of porta-potties.  We got our bibs and pinned up before heading to said porta-potties.  Unfortunately my intestines were being stubborn and I had to hope that running with half-full bowels wouldn't cause me any grief. 

I drank more water and I wondered how hot it might get, it was entirely pleasant out but it was only 7:30am - not sure what it would feel like two hours later running the final miles.  There was a group warm-up and more standing around and then boom! - time to start running. 

And then I realized I never started my Garmin, so I had to hang back for a couple minutes while it found satellites.  I ended up running at the back of the pack, which made for a tricky first few miles.

We were roped off to one lane of the road and most of the people were running a lot slower than me.  You know I'm no speed demon but by starting in the back I was with people running 13 minute miles and/or walking.  To avoid getting stuck behind other runners I had to run a bit outside of the cones most of the time.  Fortunately there were almost no cars so it wasn't really a big issue.  I'd decided before the race not to have any time goal - I just wanted to go with the run-by-feel/run-happy thing I'd been doing on my training runs.

So I looked down at Mile 1 to see I'd run a 9:18 mile.  I knew I should slow down, I knew starting out too fast is probably the most common race mistake runners make, so I reeled it in some.  Mile 2 was 9:48, still a pace I probably couldn't maintain throughout the race.  In general I'm a believer in reverse splits being the smartest approach.  Guess I wasn't feeling very smart.  And I had no idea of the route that lie ahead.  I was telling Laurie on the way in that in the past I would have obsessively poured over all the race minutiae in advance.  But now I'm happy enough with seeing a route description that starts with, "This beautiful, flat course...". 

They had water stops roughly every two miles and I drank a few sips of water while running at the first couple of stops.  Mile 3 saw me continue with what would become my steady pace for most of the rest of the race, close to, but not over, 10:00 minute miles.  And I pretty much set that as my goal for the rest of the run.  I had some Gatorade at the Mile 4 hydration station and was feeling pretty good.  In an attempt to avoid post-run intestinal cramping I planned to use as few gels as possible.  I figured I might need something between miles 6 and 8 but the Gatorade gave me enough of a lift for now.

The route moved onto a paved trail and included running over a couple foot-bridges.  The paved trail had a lot of bumps from tree roots pushing the paving up.  I watched my step pretty carefully, especially after seeing another woman take a dive.  We also ran on some wide sidewalks that included uneven concrete.  That, combined with a sometimes crowded group, made navigating tricky.  I decided around mile 7.5 to have a couple Shot Bloks.  Normally I notice a boost to my energy about 15 minutes after having them but not this time.  I think the heat might have played a part.  There were a few people cheering on loved ones and given that this is primarily an all-woman run many of the signs were a variation on "GO MOM!".  I took them as written for me :)  Those weren't my kids out there holding up the signs but I soaked in the love anyway.

Just past Mile 10 we came upon a bridge and passed a woman walking in the opposite direction, "The bridge is up".  Huh?  I didn't know what that meant (we don't have these bridges in my parts) but I came up and around to see that, yep, the bridge was up.  It's a drawbridge, and fortunately, it was on its way back down.  I slowed my pace considerably, hoping it'd be down before I got to it.  I hate stopping mid-run, I immediately feel my muscles start tightening.  But I got to the waiting crowd before it was all the way down.  I decided to stop my Garmin, I saw no reason why I should count this toward my time.  I didn't know how long we stood there, somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute I'd guess.  I jogged in place and grumbled to myself about having a friggin' drawbridge in the middle of a half-marathon.  Who does that?

Anyway, I told myself to quit bitchin' and run happy, which helped.  Besides, it's not like I was going for a PR or anything.  The sun was beating down on us and we were running on a (very non-shady) paved trail that butted against waterfront condos.  Up ahead I see a woman with a hose, spraying runners.  Fun!  I swerved to get sprayed and felt grateful for her thoughtfulness.  So I'm running along, pushing myself to stay under 10:00 minute miles when I hit the 10.25 mile hydration station and took another Gatorade.  I had a few sips and quickly realized they'd mixed it way too strong.  I was looking for a place to toss my cup when - BAM! - I was heading quickly and directly for the pavement.  I'd tripped over part of the sidewalk.  A volunteer was right there and he helped me up, "Are you ok?"  Thankfully I was.  I kept on running and did a mental scan.  My hands were scraped up, mostly my left, and my knee was scraped but not bleeding.  My left hand took the bulk of the fall actually.


Funny how I fell for the first time ever just a few weeks ago and here I am, falling again.  Anyway, I figured this ought to distract me for the next few miles.  Way to put a positive spin on it, Michelle.  I hadn't been sure if I was going to have more energy gel but I was definitely having to dig to keep my pace.  So/ I decided to have 2 more Shot Bloks in the hope it would help me sail toward the finish line.  

I wouldn't describe the last few miles as sailing though.  I had to keep telling myself to push on, keep going, only a 5k to go, all those things you tell yourself to keep moving forward.  I even remember telling myself I was a robot that runs - so just run.  Move your legs, one after the other, just keep doing that.  I wasn't dying, but it wasn't easy.  Probably should have taken those first miles a little slower.  I passed the 12 mile marker and did my best to pick up the pace for the final mile.  As I neared the finish line and the crowds got louder, running happy came easy.  I'm almost there!  I crossed the finish line and happily accepted my finisher's medal, "I Ran for Chocolate."

I Ran for Chocolate
Then I remembered to stop my Garmin and saw a time of 2:09:56 - cool!  Full Garmin stats here if interested.  I ran an average pace of 9:47, something I was really happy with.  The way my training runs had been going I thought I'd be fighting for a 9:59.  The official results are 2:10:40, which means I lost about 40+ seconds waiting for that bridge.  The good thing is, even the official results give me a sub 10:00 pace, if only by a hair.

I'm really happy with my placement too, finishing in the top half across the board.  I wandered around for a bit, looking for Laurie (I never saw her on the course) and finding food to munch on.  And I collected my finisher's t-shirt, a technical tee that I think is my favorite race shirt ever.  I will definitely be hitting the gym with this shirt. The fit is similar to the Rock-n-Roll shirt, now my second favorite race shirt, but it's black so it's bad for running outside.  This one will be fabulous for running outside, making it easier for cars to spot me. 

Selfies in the kids' bathroom!
I collected my champagne glass and started munching on the See's candy it was filled with.  But I skipped the champagne.  First, the lines were ridiculous and second, the last thing I wanted was champagne.  I tried to find a first-aid tent to clean up my hand but all I could find were paramedics helping downed runners.  In fact, there were more people on stretchers at the finish line than I'd ever seen at a race.  I saw 4-5 people getting IV fluids, oxygen and the like.  Must have been the heat.  I ran into another woman who was scraped up too.  Neither of us wanted to bother the paramedics for antibiotic ointment and a bandaid given the more serious things they were dealing with.

I signed up for a massage and found Laurie.  We walked around a bit, there were some fun clothing and fitness oriented vendors out there, and then my stomach cramps starting setting in.  I re-visited the porta potties and pretty much spent the rest of the day in some degree of discomfort.  I really want to figure out this issue, having a great run and then being in pain the rest of the day is not cool.  Eventually we found a paramedic standing around doing nothing so I got an antibiotic wipe and bandaid.  I am too wimpy so Laurie wiped off my hand.  OUCH!  She 'bout killed me.

Check out the cool bag we got too.
But at least my hand was cleaned up.  By then I was up for the massage. Thanks to the National Holistic Institute for coming out!  My ten minute massage was lovely.  Then we hit the road for home.

Honestly, I would not be in a big hurry to do this race again.  My main beef is the condition of the road we were running on, coupled with the drawbridge and the way the route was too narrow too often.  I guess with the theme being every woman (of every shape and ability) joining together and running for chocolate (and champagne) it's not a race about racing, running fast, or getting PR's so the pavement and whatnot are not a big priority for the organizers.  Still, I had a great day and I'm very happy with how I ran.

In the back of my head is a question about when, if ever, I'll want to shoot for a sub 2-hour half-marathon time.  For now I'm happy to shift away from a running-only training focus while I look forward to doing my first Olympic distance triathlon in September.  Between now and then I might do the local 4th of July 4-miler or some other short distance fun-oriented run, but otherwise, my running legs are taking it easy.