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. 

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