Saturday, April 26, 2014

Guest Post: Mira's Race Report from The Hapalua, Hawaii's Half-Marathon

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If you missed Mira's first Guest Post telling her weight loss story, you can find it here. And below, you'll find her Race Report from The Hapalua, Hawaii's Half-Marathon. Thanks for sharing your report Mira!

Back in November of 2013, before I had even run my first half-marathon, I received a notice of a half-marathon happening in April in Honolulu. My husband and I always take a trip around our anniversary so I texted him “how about heading to Hawaii for our trip and I can do a half-marathon on the same trip?” Naturally he agreed to go to Hawaii for pretty much any reason. After I struggled my way through the Berkeley half-marathon in November 2012, I decided to hire a running coach. I was really catching this running bug and even though I was still slow and feeling like it was a lot of work, I was starting to find the joy in it. I would look forward to the long runs on the weekends like it was some special event. 

The trainer I hired made it all more scientific. I started doing tempo runs, fartleks, and intervals and measuring my heart rate and even learning how to actually run slow on a recovery run. I could feel my running getting stronger and started to understand how to better listen to my body's signals without having to look at the watch measuring me. I also got challenged to run faster than I thought I could. That was eye opening. Before I left for Hawaii, we went through every mile of the race deciding on pace, when to take the water or Gatorade offered by the race, and when to take my own Gu packet and especially, how to tackle that crazy hill at mile 10. I felt like I had a plan.

I planned my plane trip so that I would arrive with two days to acclimate and unkink my muscles from the flight. I also planned to have almost two days to recover after the race before I had to get back on the plane. The weather in Oahu was beautiful. 

View from our room with a rainbow omen
Our resort was amazing and I immediately began relaxing in a way I can’t around my kids. Friday was the expo and you were required to pick up your packet there because you couldn’t get it mailed or pick it up on the day of. Our hotel was an hour from the race location, so it was good practice for what was going to be an early day on Sunday. The expo was small but I managed to spend some money on new squishy “recovery” flip flops and some warming packs for muscles that intrigued me. 

Got my bib!
We then drove part of the course that went up the crater to see how big the hill I was facing really was. I can tell you it looked like nothing from the car.

I did my 10 minute run on the Saturday before the race, giggling all the way. Running 10 minutes used to be such a challenge, now it was barely worth strapping on shoes for. I then laid out all my gear, the spibelt to hold my gu and phone, the socks and shoes, hat, two choices of clothing and I had to decide between, watches, and so on. It starts feeling real when you start trying to remember all the things you need. 

We woke up Sunday morning at 3am and I had a packet of instant oatmeal, a yogurt and a cup of coffee before we left which was a pretty close approximation of my usual breakfast. 

This is what 3am looks like. Ouch!
I prepped my two pre-race drinks and we hit the road. On the way to the race I drank my water with electrolytes in it (nuun or something like it) because one of the greatest issues we were concerned about was dehydration in the hot, humid weather there. Once I got there my husband went off to park somewhere and take a nap and I took in the scene. There was a statue of someone known as the Duke draped in fresh leis, lots of people taking pictures in front of him and someone on a sound system telling us there were over 4600 people racing today! 

Duke Kahanamoku. And look, still dark out!
Unfortunately there were no honor corrals, where you sort by the speed you claim to be so that the faster people can start without weaving through walkers and slower runners. I placed myself pretty far back knowing I wasn’t a fast runner, but it seemed many people did not. 

Almost time to go!
About 30 minutes before the race start I drank my GenerationUcan pre-exercise sports drink. It isn’t the most amazing lemonade you’ll ever try, but it seems that it can extend my need for additional nutrition during the race to about an hour-and-a-half in, where before I was taking Gu around 30-40 min into a race. I went to the porta potties twice before the race but I will always regret not doing a very last minute one because when I started running I knew I wouldn’t make it without a bathroom stop. 

And we're off!
We started down the easy straightaway between all the fancy shops on Waikiki’s luxury row. It began raining off and on almost immediately but it was 70+ degrees outside so it didn’t feel too uncomfortable. The plan was to run the first two miles pretty slowly to warm up my legs, around 12-13 minute mile pace. There was a lot to look at and funny people to interact with and I remembered that the night before I had made it my first priority to remember to have fun, so I did. Very quickly we started witnessing the professional runners coming back from the first loop and we all cheered for them as some of them were local athletes. There was a water station around mile 1, water and Gatorade around mile 2.5, water and Gatorade around mile 4 but I was feeling so good I only took water one time. 

My husband was hanging out around mile 4 to cheer me on, which was fantastic. I was feeling strong and was starting to speed up a bit, trying to stay in the 11:15-11:40 minute per mile pace range. The weather was kooky but it just kept things entertaining. I finally had to stop to pee around mile 6 and was really frustrated to stand in line for 4 whole minutes just for that. It was going to be hard to forgive myself for that loss of time. I jumped back into the race and tried to keep myself from sprinting to make up time. I ran mostly in the 11:15 zone and around mile 7 I took a Gu to gear myself up for the climb up the crater. Around mile 9 the climb began just after I'd had another round of half-a-cup of Gatorade and a whole cup of water. I tell you, Gatorade is AWFUL tasting. Blech.

I soon noticed that I was the only one still running up that hill. The grade wasn’t steep but it went on for a full mile, and apparently no one else was determined to kick its butt like I was. I chugged up that hill slowly but surely, accomplishing that mile in 12:40. From there it was mostly downhill. The mental challenge was over, I relaxed and sped up to around 10-10:30 minute per mile pace. As I rounded the last curve up high on the crater we saw the ocean and an amazing rainbow encouraging us on the last two miles. For all of the downhill part I felt pretty good and speedy, but the final stretch to the finish line did not go as I imagined. My legs turned to lead. I surely intended to sprint to the end but I realized I had nothing left. It’s funny how your brain works because I was still running around 10:40 but it felt like I was dragging. I ran as hard as I could through the finish line...

...and straight to the porta potties to enjoy an uncomfortable intestinal experience that I blame entirely on Gatorade.  

My time wasn’t exciting, it was ok. In retrospect, the most important part is that the miles seemed to go by so quickly. I never felt like I had been running for 2.5 hours. I had no dreadful “I can't do this” moments like I had in other races. That is fantastic because I can approach the next half-marathon with the confidence that the miles might just melt away again. That’s very exciting!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Meltdown, breakdown, down, down, down...

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Yes, I did it. The classic thing everyone warns you very specifically not to do. What did I do? Too much, too soon. The thing is, I was feeling so good last week. I was in a bit of pain but mostly I felt like I could go about my normal day. Sure, no running or weight lifting - well, there was that tiny little gym visit in which I lifted tiny little weights that I should not have lifted NO MATTER HOW TINY - but mainly I was doing everyday stuff, that, looking back, I shouldn't have been doing. Stuff like draining the pot of pasta water and organizing stuff and shopping for Easter outfits and strolling around and just too damn much stuff. 

So what happened? I crashed. Saturday evening I felt so tired I barely made it to 8pm before I was in bed. And then Sunday morning it hit hard, I was physically and emotionally wiped out. I couldn't drag myself out of bed. We had a family Easter party to attend and I couldn't muster the strength to get myself ready, let alone the kids. I was feeling tired, sad and weepy. I literally pulled the covers over my head and shed a few tears.

Fortunately Miguel saved the day and got everything ready so all I had to do was get in the car. Not to mention my mom had given us the wrong start time and we actually had an extra half-hour, that helped too. But I'd learned my lesson. At the party I sat for half of it, watching the egg hunt and letting Miguel and my mom fix my and the kids' plates of food, and then reclined on the couch for the other half. I'm happy I didn't miss the party, it was very touch-and-go that morning. I've got a couple pics to share.

Always a family

My two babies
And I've been lying low since. I can feel it more clearly now that my body needs rest. I'm not lifting anything if I can avoid it and I'm getting lots of sleep. I started back to work on Monday and I knew I wasn't ready for a full day. So I called my boss and said I'd be doing what I can this week, probably half days all week. 

Unfortunately my first couple days back to work included a whirlwind of emergencies that were awaiting me, but I was able to at least physically take it easy, if not mentally. Oh, and I'm still coughing. So I went to the doctor, who said I've likely got a chronic lung inflammation and prescribed a round of steroids and a twice-a-day corticosteroid inhaler as well as a round of antibiotics in case I have a bacterial thing (because I've been waking up feverish at night). Whew, that's a lot.

So I know steroids can make you moody and I'm in no place for moody. I've taken the decision to do the antibiotics and start the steroids deal once I'm feeling a bit stronger. Not in the mood for any further breakdowns.

It's not all bad news around here though. The biggest good news is that I got the message and I'm resting as best I can and going to bed on time. After that, I'm continuing to heal nicely and the swelling has gotten considerably better, though still a ways to go. Finally, my eating is about as good as it gets - balanced, no binge behaviors, focused and connected to my goals. I'm paying attention to what I put into my mouth, to my hunger levels, and to what I truly want. Like I said, as good as it gets.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Guest Post: Mira's Story

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I first met Mira (who's been mentioned in this blog a time or three) at a Weight Watcher's event in January 2013, One Amazing Day, even snapping a pic with her that day for the blog. During the 16 months since it's been great fun watching her, but I'll let her tell her story. Without further delay...Here is the first of two guest posts by Mira, thank you Mira!!

Before pic
I always felt fat, even when I was a teenager and clearly wasn’t. I was lucky with the metabolism until my thirties and smartly got myself into working out (as little as possible) to maintain my figure for my wedding. I was never able to muster the energy to do any extra, I could maintain my weight, as long as I could work out enough to work out the candy and chips I ate daily. Because I had moved across country to a new city to be with my soon to be husband, I used food to feel less lonely and working out as a social activity. 

Then came the babies. Well, first came the attempts to make babies, which morphed into fertility treatments and then a triplet pregnancy followed by a surprise “magic” baby made the easy way. During the hormonal and emotional ups and downs of these few years how do you suppose I comforted myself? Right, food. Day after day of 3 infants crying and me running on no sleep just seemed to feel better with a few chocolate bars thrown in and some pizza after they went to sleep at night. Even though I initially lost weight after each pregnancy I quickly ate it back on just trying to get through the day feeling isolated, overwhelmed and guilty for all the things moms typically feel guilty about.

One day I looked in the mirror at myself, which had become a rare occurrence, and said “there is not one thing redeeming about you, you are so ugly.” Wow. That was a new low. I had never in my life been so down on myself. It still took a few months but the first thing I did was sign up for boot camp (Novato Adventure Boot Camp) and start dragging my butt to workouts weekly, but I really was only making it 2-3 times a week. Nothing really changed. 

Just before I turned 40 I decided to join Weight Watchers. I had hit an emotional breakthrough earlier in the month when I realized that motherhood and marriage just was never going to live up to the fantasies I’d created in my head so it was about time I started finding the positive in what I did have. I showed up for my first meeting and was angry. I didn’t belong there, none of those people looked like me, and on top of it all, the leader told me that my “hope” that WW would get my eating under control was not going to work. I needed to stop hoping and DO it. 

Well that made me more determined. At the next meeting when I was sitting there angrily feeling deprived and alone in my struggle the leader said something else life changing: “It’s not that you can’t eat what you want, you can! You just have to be ok with the results you’re getting.” That spun my head around. No one was forcing me to eat right or make better choices! I WANTED DIFFERENT RESULTS!

I got it. I got positive. I ate better, small baby steps, better each week, like finding a lower point yogurt or taking the cheese off of my salad. I started attending boot camp more often and actually wearing myself out during the workouts. The pounds came off. Most meetings provided me with nuggets of wisdom I could use in my every day choices. The other WW attendees started looking like friends and became my community of support. With a few of the usual hitches and plateaus I lost 40lbs that first year with baby steps and working out. I lost so much that I now had an apron of skin stretched out by my lovely triplets and refusing to conform to my new smaller size. I decided to get it taken off because my belly didn’t match my image of myself in my mind. I was a young athletic 41 year old and my belly looked like a wrinkled garbage bag. I’m happy with the results but I don’t want you to think it solved all my self image problems. I’m still working on that and pursuing new athletic challenges about which I will write on another post.

With Michelle at our local 4th of July run last year
And you should know, I’m not at goal yet, but I go to WW every week without fail. Since my mother passed in February I’ve been eating hamburgers like they could bring her back to life if I just consumed enough of them. I have myself and my soul to still work on but I believe that learning how to make good choices and finding the activities that I could do daily to keep fit changed my life. I feel younger at 45 than I felt at 25 and it was all because I chose to change.