Happy Dance

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Published on: November 9, 2012

This race report is about, oh, a year in coming, but I figured you deserved to know.  You’ve been waiting a year, right?

So, without further ado, my Chicago Marathon 2011 race report:

The day started out ominously enough with a migraine. Blinding headache, nausea, shaky hands, the inability to open my eyes beyond little slits.  Yup – that’s exactly how I would have planned out my perfect marathon morning.

My normal pre-race Poptarts weren’t playing so nice with my stomach, so I opted not to be smart and not antagonize my stomach any more than I already had.  I wandered around the pre-race area (I had signed up with the running group CARA to train with and they had a spread out), trying not to puke, and after about an hour started to feel the meds kicking in … thank God.

I managed to force down half a banana and a few bites of a plain bagel and called that a victory! Headed out of the hotel to wander the streets — it was going to be another warm marathon — and once again was thankful for paying the money to train with CARA: they had special porta-potties just for us.

After all the pre-race rigamarole, I made my way to my 9m/m pace starting corral and bounced around nervously.  I was going to DO this!

The day started out ominously enough, but that all ended up being a non-factor, surprisingly enough.  I met the migraine with a “well, I’ll just have to deal with this” kind of attitude and I think that helped… getting all worked up about it certainly wasn’t going to make it better.

Went into the race as well-trained as I’ve ever been for a marathon. Nursing injuries that were only bothersome rather than worrying. The only downside: I had gained a good 5-7 pounds in the 2-3 weeks before hitting the start line. I’d like to have a mulligan on that, please.

Anyway – crossed the start line about 8.5 minutes off the clock time – not too shabby! I had lined up with the 4 hour pace group, but as we shuffled forward, I somehow ended up with the 3:55 pace group. This was *not* in the plan, but I just went with it. I had wanted to stick with a pace group, and ya just gotta roll with things, sometimes.

The 3:55 pace group disappeared by the third mile or so — I wasn’t really working to keep up with them — and I found myself all on my own. At that point my strategy was to keep as close to 9m/m pace as possible, without feeling like I was working too hard.

I was expecting spectators around the 3.5 mile mark, but they didn’t make it out — disappointing, but looking for them certainly kept me occupied! — and I knew that I’d have a long slog north and then back south before seeing friendly faces.

This first stretch actually went pretty well. I was feeling fatigued, but I thought it was “just enough” … meaning, I was pushing but not so much that I couldn’t keep this up. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t supposed to actually feel “easy”.

Saw my posse around mile 11.5 and that was a huge boost! They were screaming and yelling and had great signs they made, too! I stopped and chatted for about 30 seconds while they kept urging me to keep running. :)

Got through the half marathon mark at around 2:00:50 … so, less than a minute off my goal pace. It was at this point where I acknowledged that sub-4 probably wasn’t going to happen, though I still figured I would keep pushing until I couldn’t and see how the chips fell.

Miles 13-16 kind of flew by. At mile 16, I think I made a mistake — I tossed the water bottle that I had been carrying. Since it was warmer than planned, I wanted it with me, especially during the early parts of the race where the water stops are fewer. After mile 16, I knew I could count on there being water at least every mile, so I tossed it. Never should have done that, in hindsight, because it slowed me down (I had been stopping for Gatorade, but drinking my water from the bottle on the run). Oh well. Lesson learned.

And a note about the heat: the race started out in the lower 60’s and was in the low 70’s by the end. Definitely not ideal marathon weather. But, while I know I probably could have gone faster with cooler temps, I also didn’t suffer any major consequences from the heat, either. And plus, it was PERFECT spectating weather!

Somewhere between 16 and 17, I saw another friend who was watching out for me — total surprise to see her there! I almost missed her, in fact, despite the fact that she was screaming at me like a crazy person. Lesson: if *I* don’t know you’re there, it might not matter if you see me…

The wheels started falling off this marathon around mile 19 — I could feel my legs starting to tighten and cramp. And I basically told myself, “Don’t suck. Just do it.” like the Nike t-shirt said. Remarkably, I think that kept me moving forward more than I might have otherwise…

I didn’t allow myself to walk except during water stations. Of course, as the race progressed, I stopped earlier and walked longer, and you can see that in my split times.

I knew my parents were going to be at mile 22.5 and it was awesome to see them. I stopped for a bit, and both of them just kept snapping pictures of me standing there. Hee. My family doesn’t understand my desire to do these things even one bit, so it meant a ton to me to have them out there in support.

It was hard to get moving after that, but I did. And felt the blinders go on and the focus just be on one step after the other. Move forward. Go faster if possible. At this point, I was shooting for sub-4:10…

The rest of the marathon after seeing my parents was tough: I had thought I’d have some posse on the course, but never saw them (to their credit, they were there, but since I didn’t know WHERE they were, I ran right by them, oblivious to the screaming). But I knew I was just SO GLAD to almost be done with this thing.

Going up the bridge on Roosevelt and then turning the corner to see the finish line? Best feeling ever. But I knew I still had work to do — I was running right up against the 4:10 demarcation point that I had made up in my head somewhere down the line. So, I dug deep, upped the pace and stumbled across the finish line, 20 seconds ahead of the 4:10 mark.

And then I just about collapsed. And then I started crying. And then I started thinking, “damn, if I hurt this much NOW, I’m not even going to be able to walk tomorrow!”. Hee.

Got some water, got some food, took pictures and the sloooooowly made my way back to the hotel, where I was meeting up with everyone.

All in all, this was — by a huge margin — my best marathon.  I never gave up.  I never gave in.  I trained as well as I ever have and I know that I left everything I had out on the course.  Absolutely no regrets.

At this point I can say: I’m satisfied with my results and I’m never going to do another marathon ever again!  Yay!

(do you believe me?)  :)


Starting again. Again.

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Published on: October 31, 2012

Seems like this is where I always up:  apologizing for not keeping up with this blog.  Acknowledging that I fell off the writing wagon.  Yea, well… this probably won’t be the last time, I s’pose, but I’m going to give it another go.  Maybe it’ll “stick” this time.

So – I finished my marathon last year (just in case any of you were hanging on the edge of your seats waiting for my victory post) — and it was as good a marathon experience as I could have hoped to have.  I was trained, I dealt with race day variables (another warm marathon day), and can honestly say that while I didn’t hit my sub-4 hour goal, that I pushed as hard as I could, every step of the way.

I’m proud of my 4:09 finish and happy to finally say that I did a marathon the right way, to the best of my ability, and I feel absolutely no need to have another go ’round with it to prove anything to myself.

(don’t quote that back to me when I sign up again…)

Now, a year later, I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck I’ve been up to.  Right?

Well, this year has been tough in terms of training — some personal stuff that I’m just now taking care of has kept me off the roads.  Things are starting to turn around, though; I’ve signed up for a fun little 10-mile race that’s coming up in a couple of weeks… and I’ve even gone through some training spurts to get ready for it (it’s still gonna be ugly, though).

This year has also provided me with a new way to get rid of my money:  I’ve fallen in love with mountain biking.  On a whim, I went down to Brown County to partake in a women’s only mountain biking camp (they gave me a bike to use, how could I refuse?), and after just a day, I left there determined to buy a mountain bike sometime before the very next weekend so I could start hitting the trails.  I’ve never denied being an impulse shopper!

It’s a great sport — I usually don’t know what I’m doing, but I haven’t broken any bones (yet) and I’m having a blast with it.  The best way to describe it is that it’s like being a kid again:  all adrenalin and speed and dirt and fun.

On the nutrition front, I’ve had a similar arc to things:  started out great, took a dive bomb around March, and since then I’ve been battling my way back from my highest weight in years.  I’m about 6 weeks into eating whole, healthy foods, and am about 10 pounds away from my goal weight for the year (which is 7 pounds lighter than what I weighed on January 1st).  I’ve been logging over at MyFitnessPal.com and that’s been a great site for me — the community is really keeping me accountable for maintaining good eats (meaning: they yell at me when I get too far off plan…heh…).

Now that I’ve caught everyone up, I promise I’ll start putting together posts that are, you know, interesting and funny and all that other stuff. I’ve been saving it up for a year now, right?


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Published on: February 6, 2011

Why are things so difficult sometimes?

I was just telling a friend about how it is when you get in a good groove:  everything’s easy, the decisions are like second nature.  It’s as though your first instinct is to do the healthy thing… and everything else falls away, because it doesn’t support your long-term goals.

And when that groove eludes?  Man, it’s the pits.  Every healthy choice is a struggle.  It’s not even as though I WANT the ice cream… it’s more a basic need.  Like I might not survive without it. Which is ridiculous (well, maybe).

When things are going well?  I can’t even remember how much of a challenge it was, pre-groove.  And when things aren’t going so well?  It’s beyond my ability to even think in the long-term and how what I’m doing sabotages what I truly want.

I’m such a black or white, all or nothing person:  I don’t live in between on any level.  All in or all out.

Anyway – I’m really trying to find that groove.  Monday starts official half marathon training.  And Hal (of Hal Higdon fame, for those new folks here) will be pretty disappointed in me if I don’t step up and do it up right again.  And if I’m being honest?  I’m scared.  Scared to fail.  Maybe scared to succeed.  Or scared because I know how much work succeeding will require and I wonder if I even have that in me.

I surprised myself last season with as dedicated as I was to my half marathon training — that literally had never happened before.  And so I approach this race — with a similar goal in mind — with a little bit of trepidation:  do I have it in me to do it again?

Right now, this is my plan:  to take it just one week at a time.  When I contemplate the plan in its entirety, I get all freaked out about the mileage and the difficulty and the consistency required (especially with 2 feet of snow currently on the ground!).

So, I’ll break it down.  Next week, I have 6 runs that I need to get done.  I’ve got my schedule and plans in place to make sure that I get it all in.  And I’ll see where I’m at by the end of the week.

And then, I’ll take a deep breath and move on to Week 2.  That simple.

Time to start that groove.

By the wayside

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Published on: January 9, 2011

A triathlete friend of mine recently pulled me aside and asked me, point blank:  “so, are you even a triathlete anymore?  Or have you become a complete wuss and given up on the sport?”

Well, it’s true… I’m certainly not the triathlete I used to be.  In the past two years?  I think I did a total of one triathlon.  And that was an all-women’s sprint triathlon where I could wear my wetsuit (and it was basically a pool swim, even!).

So, yes.  I believe that officially makes me a triathlon wuss.

And I’m not entirely sure that’s something I want to change, either.  It’s well-known in these parts that I’ve got little love for the water.  If I never went swimming again, I don’t think it would bother me one bit.  I’m glad that I overcame my fear of it, and I’m proud of myself for taking on the 1.2 mile half ironman swim in Lake Michigan (twice already!), but don’t know that I feel the need to go back and do it again.

My reasoning goes like this:  I don’t like to swim.  I’m an adult.  I get to make my own decisions, especially about things that are considered “hobbies” in my life.  Therefore, the math looks like this:  don’t like to swim + an adult + make my own decisions = NO SWIMMING!! YAY!!

I suspect I’ll stay active in the sport to some extent, though mostly racing triathlons where I can hack the swim without training (meaning – easy, short, wetsuit-legal swim).  I do like the idea of duathlons, though.  I think the bike cross-training will be good for me, and what’s not to love about a race that allows you to run twice?  Right?!

This is the year that a bunch of my friends are headed to IMWI to race.  There’s a part of me that wanted to be out there with them… but, unfortunately (or fortunately!) there wasn’t another part of me willing to commit to the rather insane hours of training — especially all the time in the pool (I mean, 4500y swims??!  Just kill me now….).  I’m not totally discounting the idea of an Ironman.  But certainly not today.  Or this year.  But – someday.  Perhaps.

This is what I figure:  I spent the last 2 years doing not much racing, not much training.  In the past 4 months or so, my running mojo has definitely returned with a very fun vengeance.  And my interest is certainly piqued at thinking about how much I can improve my bike time in the Metlife Duathlon in June.  And that’s about where my racing desires end.  To be social, I might hop in and do the Subaru sprint triathlon, but that’s as wet as I’ll get this year.

You know, except for all the sweating I’ll be doing.


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Published on: January 4, 2011

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m kind of a goal-oriented person (can I be nominated for Understatement of the Year yet?).  I NEED something out there to work towards.  Because otherwise?  Yea, I don’t actually work at all.

My recent success at the half marathon distance has gotten me thinking about some pretty lofty (for me) goals.  I want to be fitter, stronger, faster and more competitive at 40 (okay, okay… 41 for the racing season) than I was at 30.

(Of course, 10 years ago I was 40 pounds heavier and spent more time on my couch than on my treadmill… so, perhaps my goals aren’t quite so lofty?)

Okay – let me modify slightly:  I want to be more competitive than I was a few years ago, when I was training regularly and in pretty good shape for a 30-something.  I want to prove that 40+ isn’t over the hill.  At least not for this chick.

Here’s what I’m after:

Another half marathon PR.  I’ll be following Hal’s advanced half marathon plan again, hoping that’ll spring me for a sub-1:50 half mary.  Actually, I’m going to shoot for an 8:15m/m pace half marathon (which is 1:48ish), but I’ll settle for anything less than 1:50.

And why is 1:50 such a magic number?  Because that’ll get me into a starting corral for…

The Chicago Marathon!!

Yep – that’s my big A+++ race this year.  I’ve tried the marathon 3 times now.  And haven’t yet really pulled it off to my satisfaction — there’s always been something that’s happened:  injury, intestinal issues, heat wave that got the event CANCELLED when I was at mile 22… you know, the usual.

So… fourth time’s the charm, right?

I’ll be likely jumping on the Hal train for the marathon as well, seeing as how he hasn’t steered me wrong yet (though if it’s a train, is there really much steering involved?  Hmmm).  It’ll be a vigorous, high-mileage plan and I’ve got to admit, Hal’s got me a little scared right now.

Luckily, I don’t have to think about that quite yet.  After all, I’ve got a half marathon PR to go get first, right?

Dunkless dunking

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Published on: October 21, 2010

Just a short update on my previous post about my slightly-crazy idea of having my body fat tested in a dunk tank:

It didn’t happen.

Yup – trainer dude had the stomach flu and was kind enough to cancel instead of passing it along to me.  He’s supposed to call and reschedule, but hasn’t yet.

So, in the meantime, I put my thinkin’ cap on, started up The Google and found another alternative:

The Bod Pod.

As I understand it (and – frankly – my understanding of such concepts borders on near-idiot level), it works in much the same way as the dunk tank, but instead of measuring water displacement, it measures air displacement.

Therefore – the Dunkless Dunking!

You get put in a pod that looks much like Mork’s egg (from the TV show Mork and Mindy… and, yes I realize how much I just dated myself), and apparently you sit very, very still for about a minute and that’s it.  No water.  No gasping for air.  No near-death thoughts floating through your head.  Should be a breeze!  Right?

I’ve done the research, and reviews mostly say that the bod pod results positively correlate with hydrostatic weighing (which is the accepted gold-standard for body fat testing), which is good.  However, I did find some articles that concluded that it overestimates body fat in some individuals — which is decidedly NOT good.

The upside with using a different method entirely?  If I don’t like the answer I get, I always have the option of blaming it on the Bod Pod (it couldn’t be MY fault, could it??).

The big day?  Tomorrow.  I’ve managed to drop a few pounds from last week, so I’m as prepared as I’m going to be for this.  And after?  Dinner at my Mom’s.  Which will either be a “dang, I’m AWESOME” celebratory dinner or a “I might as well do some major emotional eating to cover up my misery” dinner.

It’ll be tasty either way.

Getting ready for the dunk

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Published on: October 16, 2010

If y’all remember back to April 2009 (really? does anyone?  I know I barely do…) I had a pretty momentous adventure:  I went and got myself dunked in a tank to measure my body fat percentage.  Oh, the fun I had!

Now that I’ve managed to (mostly) erase the memory of the day’s overwhelming panic and anxiety, I’m ready to head back. See how I’ve done in the past 18 months.  If I’ve made a difference.

When I called to make the appointment, I figured that I’d have a few weeks to prepare.  You know, diet more, exercise more and basically drop, like, 20 pounds before I went in there. Turns out, they’re the epitome of efficiency over there — I called a few days ago, and they managed to fit me in on Tuesday.  Lucky, lucky me!

Which means it’s crash diet time!  I’ve been cutting calories (and keeping up training) in hopes of dropping at least a few pounds between now and then.  As a side note, this is actually working.  Meaning, my frustration with being stuck at the same weight was me just not getting the numbers right, probably.  Which is a story for another time, I think.

So, exactly how does today me compare with April 2009 me?

I do know that I’m carrying more muscle.  I look back on my logs from then and I was bench pressing about 50-55# max and now 65# is my warmup and I’ll top out over 100#.  Curling 30# then and 50# now. Squats?  Wow.  From 45# for a set of 10 to 145# for a set of 10 now. So – stronger.  No question.

But I weigh more.  Is it all muscle?  Hard to tell.  Despite being able to see actual muscles in spots, I’m still carrying a lot of fluff.  And not tasty marshmallow fluff, either.  Just sayin’.

Are measurements a more accurate predictor?  If so – then it’s anyone’s guess since between then and now things are relatively the same.  And yes, I have measurement data that goes back a few years.  I’m a geek like that.

So, I’m a little afraid. Logically I think that my bf% has GOT to be better.  But, there’s still a voice in my head that’s not quite so sure.  And – I might add – is pretty vocal about it!

And if actually turns out to be worse than before?  Well, I don’t think I can be responsible for my reaction… I might not be the most mature person at that time (hmm… perhaps I ought to let the trainer who’s doing this know that…).  Maybe I’ll be able to hold off the wailing and gnashing of teeth until I get to the car, though.


Hal made me do it

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Published on: October 10, 2010

So, after a month or so of just doing easy base miles, I’m now 3 weeks deep into Hal Higdon‘s advanced half marathon plan.

You read that right:  the advanced plan.  Now, as I’ve said here before, I’ve been a total slacker for almost 2 years now.  You’d think I’d want to be smart and ease my way into this, right?

You would have thought wrong.  I’m nowhere NEAR that smart.

Yea, I thought the beginner plan was way too easy.  And the intermediate?  I almost went with that plan — it seemed the prudent thing to do.  But, as I surveyed the running plans on the Hal Higdon website, I could almost hear the disembodied voice of Hal urging me to click on the Advanced plan.  “You’ll love it”, he seemed to whisper in my ear.

And I clicked.  And I did love.

It would be hard.  Well, advanced even.  But I thought:  this is just what I need.  Hal to ride my butt and get me to this half marathon in December in the best shape I’ve ever been in.

Yes, Hal’s got a tough job to do.  Whipping me into top form — after almost 2 years of nothing-much — wasn’t for no sissy running plan, that’s for sure.

And so far, the plan is coming close to, but not yet totally kicking my butt.  I’ve been running 5-6 times a week, and running more pain-free than I have in a long while.  Cardio’s building nicely, legs are feeling good and I’m really excited about training.  So far, Hal hasn’t led me wrong.

I’m taking it week-by-week, swapping workouts where life dictate, but haven’t missed a session yet, which is unusual for me. Typically I would have already deteriorated into not even looking at the plan by now — so, I’ m hopeful at the moment that this might stick.  Of course, 3 weeks is just a small bit (well, 25%, I suppose) of the full 12 weeks of training.  There’s still time to revert back to my normal behavior.

Perhaps this is my new normal?  That remains to be seen, I suppose.  I’m optimistic, though: hell, weirder things have happened.  And plus, Hal thinks I can do it.  And he knows everything, right?


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Published on: October 7, 2010

In the midst of my internet meanderings, I came across a daily motivational quote on potential, and in the middle of it were these two sentences:

“Think of all the things, once considered to be impossible, that are now commonplace.  Always remember that when there is a good enough reason, there is a way.”

And that got me to thinkin’ a bit … I mean, really – how many things have I now done that I was TERRIFIED of doing at one point or things that I would never have thought even be possible? And, as you can imagine, I managed to scrape up a few examples…

(drumroll, please)

5 Seemingly Impossible Things

  1. Running a 5k … I remember being at the Brookfield Zoo Run Run 5k/1 mile walk.  Some college friends and I were there for the Zoo Walk Walk (as we liked to call it), thinking it’d be a fun way to pass a weekend morning.  As I looked on at the people lined up for the 5k, I was probably 40 pounds overweight but still a weekend athlete, and inexplicably I thought to myself, “I could totally do that.  It’s only a couple of miles” (note that I didn’t actually know how many miles were in a 5k yet).  And then, even more inexplicably:  “Next year I’ll do it.  Next year.”  And next year?  I toed the starting line of the 5k.  I remember being so nervous, so scared I wouldn’t make it to the finish line.  I had trained, sure, but this was different:  for the first time in years, I was doing something competitive that was just me pushing myself as hard as possible.  I finished that first 5k in 29:36.  I was ecstatic. And mostly dead. Which was good, because if I had more energy, I would have puked.
  2. Running a half marathon … this has turned into one of “my stories”.  You know – everyone has them – the stories that you trot out for people that don’t know you too well, the stories that are fun, entertaining and are guaranteed a laugh or two.  Very long story short:  I broke my arm.  Badly.  I was in rehab for a very, very long time.  Long enough to become friends with some of the folks there.  One of the OT’s?  She dragged me, kicking and screaming into joining with Team In Training to run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville.  I thought she was crazy.  I thought *I* was crazy for allowing myself to be peer pressured into it.  Funny how the thing I so didn’t want to do, the thing that seemed like the longest, hardest thing I’d ever done turned into one of the best things I ever did for myself.  Or, rather, was forced to do for myself.  :)
  3. Getting up at 4am every day … a non-sports/non-tri-related impossible thing.  When I was in college, the 8am class was my nemesis.  Unless I absolutely had to, I wouldn’t schedule one because I KNEW I wouldn’t be able to get up for it.  One semester I ended up in a 5-day/week, 8am Advanced Calculus that just about killed me.  I skipped at least once a week — even though I could nap for 1.5 hours in between that and my next class.  If you would have told me then that I’d be STARTING work at 6am?  I would have laughed at you. No – I would have had milk (or Coke Classic, as my drink of choice back then) coming out of my nose, rolling on the floor, unable to stop the tears, laughed at you.  And now?  My alarm clock starts ringing at around 3:40am.  Every work day.  And – like the responsible adult I am – I get up and get going.  I honestly never would have thought it possible.
  4. Surviving a triathlon swim leg … when I decided to dip my toes into the triathlon waters, I knew that swimming would be my Achilles heel.  Even as a kid, going swimming wasn’t ever high on my list of things to do.  Oh sure, I was forced to go to swim lessons by my well-meaning parents, but I never enjoyed it.  In fact, the mandatory swim class in high school?  Yea, I managed to finagle my way out of it.  Wasn’t pretty, and the teacher (who – of course – was also the swim coach) openly derided me in front of the class, but hey – I didn’t have to swim.  Who’s laughing now, buddy? (at least that was my thought as I strode triumphantly out of the pool area and headed to study hall).  So, fast forward to summer, 2004:  my first triathlon.  Um, yea.  Perhaps, I *should* have taken swim class in high school.  It wasn’t pretty.  Lifeguard assistance was necessary (hyperventilation + swimming = notsomuchfun) and I ended up doggy-paddling to the other side of the lake.  I made it, but had decided then and there that this was the end of my triathlon career.  One and done!  Apparently, I’m a glutton for punishment, though…
  5. Completing a Half Ironman … I remember the debate, the back and forth about whether I could even dare to do such a thing.  The adrenalin rush when I went through the online sign-up.  The immediate panic about 3 seconds after the adrenalin rush.  And the low-level panic that stalked me throughout the 20-week training program.  I was nervous about it all, but mostly the thought of 1.2 miles in Lake Michigan made me so crazy it almost gave me hives.  And then – the day arrived.  To my amazement, Lake Michigan – for the first time ever, it seemed – was calm.  As I stood on the beach, awaiting my wave start, a calm took over:  I knew I’d be okay.  That somehow I’d make it.  That even if I had to bob from start to finish in my wetsuit, I could do that.  And you know what?  I did.  As it turned out, the swim was the best part of my day.  The bike?  Who knew that 56 miles could be so HARD?  And the run??  Let’s not even go there.  I started the run thinking, “I’m FINALLY at the part that I like the best!” but switched quickly to thinking, “OMG THIS HURTS… is it done yet? I’m never gonna make it!”  But – 6+ hours later, I crossed the finish line, never in my life so proud of what I had accomplished.  Style, panache and all semblance of sanity may have deserted me over the course of 70.3 miles, but I did it.

And what are some of your Seemingly Impossible Things?

To eat or not to eat…

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Published on: October 3, 2010

… that — as always — is the question.  Well, at least that’s always the question running through MY head at least.

I wasn’t one of those chosen few blessed with a metabolism that allows me to eat food of all sorts and quantities and not gain a pound.  No, I’m more the person who gains a few pounds just being in close proximity to ice cream.  It’s like magic, I tell ya. Black magic.

This past summer, with the whole not really racing thing going on, I also wasn’t training much, but still eating as if I were. And the outcome?  Pretty predictable — a 10+ pound weight gain. Just like that — POOF! And I felt pretty awful, both mentally and physically. So, what did I do? I turned to food for comfort, of course (logical, I know).  Hellllooooo additional 5 pounds on top of all that.

But then I started to get ducks in a row (my “life ducks”, as it were).  Getting more sleep. Training more.  Feeling better all around.  And yet?  I was still shoveling crap into my mouth with abandon.  Yes – I had an out-of-control duck in the house, quacking up all over the place.

Drastic measures were called for — I needed to jump-start a new nutrition plan.  After some incredibly careful and time-consuming research (read:  I read a forum post), I decided to try out the Paleo Diet for a month.  The reviews universally stated that it was hard for a few days, maybe a week, but then the results sounded like an informerical:  lose weight!  have more energy!  sleep better!  I mean, if everyone was having such great results with it, why shouldn’t I try it, right?

A brief definition of what Paleo is:  fruits, vegetables, lean meat and eggs.  This is not a low-carb diet by any stretch because all fruits and most vegetables were on the list.  What Paleo is NOT:  dairy, grains, potatoes and processed food of any type.  The basic theory is that our bodies, for millions of years, were built to process only these foods.  It hasn’t been until the last couple hundred years or so that we started adding dairy and grains to the mix.  And so – logically – our bodies aren’t as good at breaking those foods down.

Right from the beginning, I wasn’t sure that I  bought the pseudo-science behind the theory, but I knew a number of people with lactose-intolerance issues as well as gluten-intolerance issues, and thought it wouldn’t hurt to cut out those two things and see if it made a difference.  So – game on!  Not only was I getting my last nutrition duck in a row, but I was making it march, lockstep, with the others.

The weekend before the Monday that I was starting immediately put this in sharp perspective: this diet was many things, but it was certainly not a diet of convenience.  As I mentally reviewed the menu for the next week, I knew I needed to cook and cut and chop and portion out a whole lot of food.  I gamely spent most of the day Sunday in the kitchen:  I grilled up lunches and dinners, cut up fruit and vegetables for snacks, even made a batch of bison chili to freeze in lunch-portions.  One black mark against the diet already:  I had to spend a chunk of time devoted just to getting it ready.

But – onward.  With a refrigerator full of fruity tupperware and foil-wrapped meat, I was ready to rock and roll.

Breakfast was probably the toughest meal for me.  I was used to oatmeal with a greek yogurt chaser — both on the No Way In Hell Can You Eat That list.  The new generation breakfast consisted of eggs and some turkey with avocado.  Which – actually – wasn’t bad, though I did miss my usual stuff. Lunch really wasn’t much different than my normal I-grilled-last-night lunches.  And dinner? The only downside was that by the time I got home, I rarely wanted the leftovers that were in the refrigerator (quite satisfying at lunch – but didn’t want it for dinner). And was far too lazy to cook up something that met the guidelines.  Noting this trend, I started eating more during the day, and then at night I’d be satisfied with some frozen grapes or applesauce or perhaps a hard-boiled egg, not really needing a real dinner.

The first 3 days were awful.  Actually, almost beyond awful.  I felt crappy, I was hungry all the time (but still eating more calories than I ever had!) and generally lacking energy and motivation.  I took it easy these days; I backed off my training and just tried to stick to the diet. And I managed to survive without chewing my arm off (which – ironically – would have totally been on the meal plan).  By Thursday of that first week, I was back to feeling like myself, though no better than I had felt before I started the craziness.

After two weeks of the diet, I started getting better at the prep work.  I still dedicated an hour or so over the weekend to get things ready (grill some stuff and cut up some fruit), but I was spreading it out a little more, making sure I kept at least one weeknight open to do some restocking.

And so the month went.  One week I spent in class (rather than at the office) and because I wasn’t bringing in my own food, I definitely strayed — a bagel here, some pancakes there — but for all of my “I’m eating like crap!” laments, I was still eating a lot more healthy than I had been in months.

Other than that week, though, I didn’t cheat at all.  I really wanted to give this a fighting chance.

After the month was over?  The results weren’t exactly overwhelming, to be honest.  I lost a little weight (a few pounds) and about 4″ total.  I was feeling leaner, though, so that was good.  My personal opinion?  I don’t think there’s a reason for a person who doesn’t have some kind of food allergy to cut out entire food groups.  I decided that the gains I made, I could have done while still including dairy, grains and potatoes.  Just like a lot of things in life, everything in moderation — I don’t think that bread is evil, but eating an entire loaf in one sitting is (which I could totally do, truth be told).

So, my takeaway from all this?  I’ve added greek yogurt back into my diet — I felt I needed the extra calcium, since osteoporosis runs in the family.  I have pasta once a week or so.  And I’ve added two guilty pleasures back in:  Diet Pepsi and the occasional Pop-Tart.  Neither of these are going to send me to an early grave, as long as I don’t intend on surviving on those alone (and for arguments sake?  I would choose pizza and ice cream if I had to choose only two).

There are a few things that I’m definitely continuing:  lots of fruits and vegetables.  Instead of supplementing my diet with bars and low-cal “juices”, I’m going for whole foods.  And while Pop-Tarts aren’t exactly borne from nature, I’ve cut out almost all other processed food.  I don’t know for sure that it’s better for me, but it sure does SEEM like it ought to be better for me.  I’m also keeping with the very light dinner on most nights — I find that I’m just not as hungry when I get home as I used to be, which is totally awesome by me — I’m too lazy to be anything but happy with less work in the kitchen when I finally get home.

With the month over, I’m continuing to drop a bit of weight, and the 15+ pounds are just about gone.  I’m still sticking to eating healthy 95% of the time and feeling good about it.  And now that my running and training volume is up?  Yup – I totally deserve a treat like Pop-Tarts, don’t you agree?

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