Friday, August 30, 2013

This really does make me smile....

I get that a lot.  This week especially, after jumping out of a plane last weekend and immediately wanting to do it again and trying to talk anyone that would listen into going with me, I got suckered (not like it was really that hard to convince me) into running the Reach the Beach Relay in two weeks with a random team I don't know.  It went something like this, FRIEND: "hey I had to drop out of RTB so my team needs a runner do you want to do it?" ME: "Well, it's two weeks out from Berlin and I have a half marathon that Sunday, sure why not."  I was sort of thinking of doing an 18-20 miler that Saturday anyway.  It will be way more fun to spread those miles out over 24hrs in a van with 5 people I don't know.

When did this become my normal?  I love it.  Work and life in general have been really stressing me out lately so I guess it makes sense that I am trying to cram as many distractions as possible into my schedule.  Mission Accomplished.  Mind taken off stupid condo association and attempting to arrange for $8000 worth of masonry repairs when we have only $2000 in the reserve account.  Focusing on fun instead of Risk Management meetings and potential mergers/acquisitions. 

This weekend my mom is coming to visit and while I do my 20 mile training run for Berlin she volunteered to paint my front porch.  SCORE!  My proch is in serious need of some TLC.  Chips of paint have been flaking off for a while, I just sweep them off the porch and ignore the issue, but if I want to sell the place and get out of there I need to fix it up a little.  Thanks mom!  Oh and I mapped out a new loop I am really excited about running.  My old 20 mile loop is really 21 miles and it kind of sucks.  There's a long stretch along crappy sidewalks up a gradual incline and not very well trimmed weeds that force me to run in the road.  The new loop I mapped out is a combo of my two favorite loops, my 14 and 18 milers, but in a figure eight so I skip the crappy part and only run the parts I really like.  Only downside is that it will be very hilly.
After my run I don't really have any solid plans for the holiday weekend.  I guess I will help my mom paint the porch and then who knows.  I'd REALLY REALLY like to go skydiving again, but can't talk anyone into going with me.  Maybe I'll just go.  Or maybe I'll start my Oktoberfest training and relax and drink a few beers.  No matter what it is going to be an awesome weekend. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reaching new heights......

So, this weekend was kind of a big deal. I'm not sure if it has hit me yet or if I am still riding the endorphin high.  When I began this journey I wanted to change.  I didn't like the person I was and I didn't like the direction my life was going in.  I was unhealthy and very unhappy.  Little did I know that by simply getting off my couch and getting active, actually investing time and effort and care into deciding what types of fuel to put into my body instead of mindless eating (which I still sometimes do after a long run or a race), I WOULD change my life and change myself so drastically that I do not recognize that other person from 7 years ago.
That's me in the middle in the striped shirt with Comedian Bob Marley (summer 2006).

Since then I have done things I NEVER thought I would do.  I have met some amazing new friends.  And I discovered myself.  I am still, of course learning more and changing and growing everyday, but it blows my mind how far I have come so far.

At first as I began to lose weight every pound was a significant accomplishment for me.  It was a part of my past melting away and revealing a new person underneath.  I took great delight in the small things that most people take for granted.  For example, going to the movies.  That other person never went to the movies with friends, she went to the first show on weekend mornings when the theaters were empty so that she could sit with the arm rests up because she did not fit comfortabley in a single seat.  Or she rented movies from Blockbuster and watched them alone in the privacy of her home on her couch.  She never travelled.  She didn't even have a passport because she didn't see the need, she was never going anywhere.  Not because she wasn't interested in seeing new places, but because airplanes were extremely uncomfortable and she didn't fit in the seats.  Also, hotels seemed to stock the bathrooms with ridiculously tiny towels that never fit around her.  Same restrictions kept her from going to amusement parks and doing other fun things with friends.

When I broke out of that shell and discovered the new me, 100lbs. lighter and with a new found love for running and fitness and eating healthy, it opened a world of experiences to me that had been unavailable before.  I made a mental list at first of things I wanted to do now that I was free of the weight that had held me back and held me down for so many years.  A few years later after I had run half marathons and a marathon or two, even a few triathlons, I started to write down the list.  It started with #1 Get a Passport!  I have no excuse now, I want to see the world.  Then I added to the list things that had weight limits and I couldn't do before because I was too fat. #2 Go Skydiving.  I added all kinds of things to the list and have checked off many of them.  Races I wanted to run and physical challenges I never thought in a million years would be something I would want to do never mind that I COULD do and would like doing - somewhere in the middle of the list - Complete a Half Ironman triathlon (check, done, TWICE!).

In the past 6 years since I lost the weight I have run 13 marathons.  I'm training for my 14th - Berlin (33 days to go).  I've had a lot of fun and seen a lot of really cool places I probably never would have seen before.  I've become involved in events and worked with amazing charities like the American Lung Association for the stair climb in Boston and Dana Farber for the Boston Marathon (and raised nearly $10K for them).  I took a glass blowing class and jumped in the ocean on New Years day for a polar plunge.  But all this time the #2 item on my list was one that I kept putting off and saving for another day.  I was always too busy training for something or waiting for someone else to want to go with me. 

Well, earlier in the year I bought a Groupon for skydiving and it was about to expire, so two weeks ago I booked it and this past weekend I DID IT!  I was a little nervous and a lot excited.  The air field is about 30 minutes from my house in Pepperell, MA.  I went Sunday morning (Saturday I had to do an 18 mile training run, which by the way was awesome, I felt great and negative split it).  All week leading up to it I tried not to think about it.  I focused on work and on my 18 mile run, because I was actually more nervous about that than jumping out of a plane.  Then the time had come, I was there and it was real, I was going to go skydiving!

I really can't say enough great things about Pepperell Skydive Center.  The instructors and staff there were so chill and fun that it made the experience really awesome and not scary at all.  There were a few groups there when I arrived and then me, all by myself.  A friend was coming to watch, but I was jumping by myself.  I have accomplished a lot in life alone, this would be no different.  Plus, it was such a meaningful step in my journey, I think I forgot all the hard work that went into getting me into that jump suit.  By the time I had all the gear on and the process explained to me, I wasn't really even nervous anymore.  I was calm, kind of like I was at the start of the Boston Marathon.  I put in the time and the training to get there, I knew what was next, just had to do it.

I boarded the little twin engine plane with all the other tandem jumpers and my instructor and we climbed to roughly 13,000ft.  They opened the door on the side of the plane and since I was the last one in the plane that meant I was the first one OUT.  My instructor, Jag, told me to scoot forward a little, then a little more, then a little more, he stood up behind me sort of squating, both of us now resting on the edge of the opening.  We rocked back and forth, one, two, three.....and we were out and free falling.  I'll admit, my eyes were closed for that initial jump out, but once we were falling I opened them and took in the scenery.  I remembered the instructions and training and immediately got into the appropriate arched back position and then the photographer approached and we waved, blew kisses, gave thumbs up, knuckles, etc.  Then all of the sudden, I missed the signal Jag gave me and he pulled the rip cord and the parachute went up and opened. 

 We floated to the ground with a wicked fun ride twisting and turning across the sky.  Jag pointed out some areas of interest along the horizon, the Boston skyline and a few mountains off in the distance.  We approached the ground and he told me to put my legs up.  We slid to the ground along the grass and the ride was over.  I had completed #2 on my list - Go Skydiving.  Still hard to believe.  It was AWESOME.  I loved it.  I kind of want to do it again.  In fact, the exact opposite of the week before where I avoided thinking about it, it is all I can think about now.  Should I go again? When could I go again?  Maybe I should add AFF (Accelerate Free Fall) training to my "list".  I might just do that.  For now I will continue to ride the high and then I need to refocus on Berlin and set my sights on that goal.

It's going to be pretty hard to top this experience, but I think drinking a beer at Oktoberfest in Munich Germany might be a pretty awesome attempt.  Then maybe I'll start saving up for AFF training next summer. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Graniteman Triathlon re-cap

Transition area all set up (above) and the swim course (below). That buoy is really far away. 
So, considering it was my first bike ride all summer and I really didn't train at all for it, I did pretty great.  Finished 8th out of 14 in my age group.  The race has some weird distances.  It's a 3/4 mile swim which felt even longer this year.  Several people commented on that after the race.  15 mile bike which absorbs the transition times because they only time you coming out of the water and heading out on the run.  Then a 4.2 mile ridiculously hilly run.  I did the swim in 30 minutes, usually I think I'm around 25 minutes.  The bike took me about an hour then a few minutes for both transitions.  And the run took me 43:48.  My total finish time was 2:21:48.  My slowest time in the 5 years that I have done the race. 

Previous times were:
2009 - 2:06:43
2010 - 1:56:09
2011 - 2:00:40
2012 - 2:13:09

But without really training and with about 20 extra pounds dragging me down, I'm ok with those results. 

I was really nervous before the race, unsure of what to expect because I hadn't been on my bike all summer.  I knew I could do the swim and then gut it out for the short run, but the bike really sort of scared me.  I was afraid I would get a flat or some sort of mechanical issue.  None of that happened.  It was actually really nice to be back in the saddle.  And since it isn't USAT sanctioned, drafting is allowed.  So, I found a friend/competitor within the first mile and grabbed his back wheel and hung on as long as I could.  Without realizing it (or on purpose, who knows) he blew a snot rocket right at me and I got a nice mist in the face.  That's what I get for being so close.  I stayed with him until the first long downhill, then I used gravity to my advantage and slingshotted ahead of him for a few miles.  He passed me on the next climb.  And stayed just out of reach for the rest of the race.

Once I got off the bike and started running it took a while to settle into a pace.  I couldn't feel my feet for a good 2 miles and the first two miles are pretty much all uphill.  The run starts out with a super steep section that I decided to walk up this year rather than get winded and totally smoked in the first quarter mile and then not be able to run fast for the rest of the race.  So, I trucked myself up the hill and then there is a section of relatively flat road at the top and I relaxed a little and got comfy.  The last 2 miles are downhill for the most part so I cruised.  I finished strong, a little disapointed but feeling good.  Really didn't have any time goal going into it, just wanted to finish and feel good, so mission accomplished.

Afterwards was the annual BBQ at the Cains, the house across from the start/finish, family friends of my Massachusetts Mom Ann (or Annie as they call her).  I brought a cheesecake as usual.  S'mores - graham cracker crust with a marshmallow/chocolate chip filling topped with chocolate ganache, graham cracker crumbs and toasted marshmallows.  It was pretty awesome, but the ganache was too thick and difficult to cut through.  If I make it again I will just sprinkle chocolate chunks on top with the marshmallows.

I stayed up in NH Saturday night and drove home Sunday morning.  I had planned on doing 16 miles, but felt pretty spent from the tri and decided that rest was a better idea.  I still have 5 weeks of long runs to go.  I really want to get at least one good solid 18-20 miler feeling good and maintaining a pace under 11:00/mile.  I figured rather than do a sucky 16 and feel bad about it after, I should rest and let my body recover from the race and then do a really good strong long run next weekend.  I've got a few 14s and 16s done already, so if I can go out and do an 18 this weekend and crush it I know I will be mentally and physically ready for Berlin with a few bonus runs inbetween.  Plus, I really need to try and drop a few pounds before race day.  I'd like to at least lose 10lbs. in the next month. 

I've got 41 days til Berlin, then another 100 days until Dopey.  I can do this.  FOCUS!  Get back on track!  Oh and of course have some fun.  :)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Year of AWESOME, so far

So, I started the year off with the goal to make it as awesome as possible and I think I'm on target to meet or exceed that goal.  I've been trying to branch out and try new things and work on my 'To-do' list.  So far in 2013 I have checked off ten wicked awesome things:

Try snowshoeing 09Feb13
Pay off my college loans 22Mar13
Boston Trapeze School 22Mar13
Take a glassblowing class 26Mar13
Big Sur Marathon 28Apr13
Run RTB Relay as an Ultra team 17May13
Mt. Washington road race 15Jun13
Take a Pole Dancing class 25Jun13
Go to Walden Pond 17Jul13
Get a caricature drawn of myself 27Jul13

I have a few more things planned like running the Berlin Marathon, then drinking a beer at Oktoberfest.  I think I'd like to try one new thing or check off one item per month, some months have been busier than others, but I'm doing pretty good and it's only August. 

Oh and I have skydiving booked for the 25th of this month so that will be checking off another item.  I'm scared, but excited too.  It's one of the first things I put on my list.  I started the list as I was losing weight and once I reached my goal.  There are some things in life that require you to be under a weight limit and for a long time I was not able to do any of them because I was too heavy.  When I lost the weight and fell below the limit I started making a list of all the things I wanted to try.  I have about 200 items on the list so far and I add to it and edit it whenever I'm feeling inspired.  So far I have checked off 36 things.  Some of the early accomplishments didn't even make the list but I should count them.

I will have to review the list and see what else I can cram into this awesome year. Maybe some fun Boston things that I tend to overlook because they are so close to home and easy to do - duck boat tour, Freedom trail, and maybe be an extra in a movie...they do film a lot in this area. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Well, I didn't win powerball.....

So I guess I will have to keep working to support my running addiction. Luckily for me, I kind of like my job. I mean my dream job would be working for Runner's World and writing about my journey to maintain my weight and sanity while running and racing and just being awesome, but someone has to facilitate meetings and manage projects for biotech companies.  Plus, I'm ridiculously good at it.

Back to the important stuff, RUNNING.  August has been pretty amazing compared to July.  Mother Nature has cooled off and turned down the humidity a little.  It's not cool crisp fall weather, but I'll take it.  Over the past two weeks I've been able to run 2-3 days during the week and then get a nice long run in on the weekend.  Did 14 and 16 miles and both went well.  I'm still not exactly where I would like to be pace-wise, but I think I can get there before Berlin.  Still 52 days to go til marathon #14.

My 'cross training' has been pretty interesting this summer.  I haven't been on my bike once.  Which is kind of bad because I have a triathlon next weekend.  But I have been swimming a few times and I got a groupon for Pole Fitness classes and have been going to that every week.  It's really hard.  I have a whole new respect for strippers.  It is a legit workout.  Granted it's pole 'fitness' not pole dancing.  So it's more like Cirque du Soliel than a gentlemen's club.  After the first class I could barely move the next day and nevermind two days later, holy sh*t.  I've gone to 6 classes now and I don't get as sore after, but I still work up a sweat and have some nasty bruises to show for it.

Seven more long runs before Berlin.  Still totally blows my mind that I get up early on Saturday mornings and run 14-20 miles for fun AND I LOVE IT.  Even the shorter easy runs on week nights along the Charles are still strange to me to think about.  The shortest loop I typically do is 6 miles.  I have a vivid memory of one of the trainers, my friend Erin, back in the day at the Fitness Center saying to me one day, "I'm going for a 6 mile run, wanna come with me?" and I responded by laughing and saying "are you nuts?"  Not all of my runs are awesome, but just the fact that I get out there and I try IS AWESOME. 

Just last week, I ran 7 miles on Wednesday night and it was AWFUL.  I felt like I was running through wet cement and my legs weighed a ton and every single step was EXHAUSTING.  It was not too hot out, but a little humid.  I'm not really sure what was up, maybe I was tired from the Pole Class the night before.  Maybe I didn't drink enough water througout the day.  Maybe I didn't get enough sleep the night before.  Could have been any number of reasons, but it was slow and sluggish and not very enjoyable at all.  I stopped to walk a few times and thought, "ugh why is this so HARD?"  The next night I went out and did the exact same 7 mile loop and I ran it 10 minutes faster!  It was actually a little hotter out and really windy, but I felt amazing. 

I ran 5 miles Friday after work before meeting some people for drinks to celebrate International Beer Day and that went well too.  I did a different loop for a change and ran towards the Science Museum instead of running towards Harvard.  I'm not a fan of that side of the river for some reason, but it was a good run.  The drinks were good too.  I consider it training my liver for Oktoberfest after the Berlin marathon.  Need to be ready for those giant German beers.  :)