Posts Tagged ‘thoughts’

The Quest Begins

So it begins. The Quest for 26.2 miles has started. It began yesterday in the bright sun and blessedly cool Sunday morning at SportsBackers Stadium. I am on Team Cocoa, which the coach, Ellie, joked about us looking like UPS drivers if we actually try to wear cocoa colored clothing. It is the slower team of the two intermediate teams. The faster team intermediate team looks like it is made up of human cheetahs. My team, not so much.

The intermediate teams were scheduled to run 7 miles, the novice team was running 4.

Gory details to follow:

Since I had poisoned myself the previous day with too many delicious but wildly greasy carbs at an awesome restaurant called My Noodle, my GI system was completely uncooperative. At the best of times, my pouch and small intestine (minus about 7 feet of it) are unpredictable, but yesterday’s reaction was completely predictable in the worst sort of way. It is the main hazard of being a Gastric Bypass patient and an athlete (dehydration being a close second).

Within the first 10 minutes of the run, despite my best efforts, I knew I was in trouble and I knew the only bathroom on the route was the bathroom in Bryan Park, which would be about the 3 mile mark (yes, I know almost every single open and available bathroom in the City). I suffered for those three miles, but I made it. While shuttered up in that sketchy little bathroom, I did the math and recognizing that there were no other rest stops along the rest of the 7 mile route, I decided to cut off the “Northside neighborhoods” section of the route and went straight back to the Diamond on the Boulevard. That took a little less than 2 miles off the planned route, but it saved me from more misery.

When I hit Brooklyn Park Avenue, where the planned route and my alternate route met back up, I wound up a pack of fast runners from the Green team; those human cheetahs. Most of them were running in the 8:30 minute/mile range and I couldn’t keep up, but running with them and being a half mile from the end, I knew I could damn well speed up. My insides cooperated long enough and I think I ran that last half mile in the 9:45 min/mile range. I was grinning like a hooligan in spite of everything. I could feel a change in my brain. I am really, truly, officially, and finally training for a Marathon.

You would think I would be unhappy or upset that I didn’t make the full distance on my first week of training, but I’m not. I know my body. I know its limits. I know I could have run those two miles if my system had cooperated. It was a beautiful morning and a familiar route. But I also know myself well enough to know that I would have ended up walking, with severe cramping and doing the “two-cheek-squeak” for the last miserable mile, and I would have felt horrible.

Two extra miles was not worth that kind of suffering.

So aside from all the miles I am going to log in the next 5 months, there are a bunch of other considerations to make to keep myself healthy and uninjured.

Diet: I want to limit repeats of Sunday morning’s gastro-intestinal festival, and that means being careful with carbs, avoiding dehydration, and seeking high quality calories. I need the most bang for my nutritional buck that I can get. No 3pm dashes to the vending machine for a rice krispy treat. I am trying to keep my desk stocked with nutritious options for when the mid-afternoon munchies hit. Whole wheat crackers and natural peanut butter (my variety has added flax seeds, for what that’s worth), mandarin orange pieces in no sugar added liquid, and high quality dark chocolates for those moments when chocolate is a must (it happens). Lunches will be lean protein and vegetables. Breakfasts will not devolve into an egg and cheese bagel from Cupertinos; hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurts, and occasionally things like steel cut oatmeal (have to be careful with oatmeal though; I need extra protein or my blood sugar gets a little wonky).

We regularly plan dinners that are pretty healthy, and they are usually planned on a weekly basis, with an emphasis on balancing Byram’s low-purine food requirement, my lowish-carb requirement, and my Mom’s need for variety.

I am making it a point to really focus on getting all my daily supplements in. I know what the FDA says about vitamin supplements, but their recommendations are for the general populace, not someone who has 7 feet of missing intestine and absorbs only about 2/3rds of everything she consumes. For me, vitamin supplementation is a must.

Cross Training: I know from my history that because I sit all day, my mid-section is kinda soft like a gummy bear, while at the same time, my hip flexors are tight as piano wire. The perfect recipe for injury. Mondays on the schedule are x-training days and I am going to focus most of those days on core strengthening and stretching. In fact, I am going to bring a yoga mat to work. There is a section of the 2nd floor where no one ever comes and I can do a full core workout without any gym equipment and never have to leave my building. Over the summer, when time allows, I might add in some evening swims with Grace at the Y. Being in the water will take my weight off what are sure to be sore muscles, while at the same time, you get some resistance training and cardiovascular benefits. Also, Grace time is Good Time.

Yoga: This goes hand in hand with X-training, but needs to become a regular act. At least on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I need to get up and do a yoga routine in the morning or before I go to bed if I run in the early a.m. during the hottest part of the summer. Again, injury prevention is my main goal; I can’t cross a finish line if I am too hurt to get to the starting line.

Sleep: it’s nature’s Reboot Button. It’s a key element of a good immune system (distance athletes are not famous for their abilities to fight off a cold). It’s when your body builds muscle. It’s when your whole system slows down and recovers from the strain of hard core training. I am going to start aiming to be in bed between 9-10 pm every night because many mornings are going to see me up and at them for early a.m. runs by 4:30 and 5 a.m. A morning glory I am not, but I am going to work on it.

Finally, and probably oddest…

Positive thinking: My mind is my greatest enemy. It is crueler to me than 100% humidity, 90 degree temps, and double digit distances. I have the power to make it my greatest ally. And so I shall work to that end. Stop the self-mutilating mental talks. “I am the slowest person on the team!” needs to become “I am lucky to be running with such amazing folks. I bet I can catch up to them just a little if I push just a little harder.” “Oh my god, 20 miles will feel like forever.” needs to become “I really cherish ‘my time’ and I am lucky to have the next several hours all to myself.” I can work on it, but the mind is the hardest thing to train. Wish me luck.

Just Different

I didn’t solemnize this day with a moment of silence. I chose to honor the day with a hard, fast run. I am not even going to put a qualifier on that sentence like, “fast for me” or “relatively speaking”. I ran the exact same route I ran on 4.15.13, and just like a year ago today, I was inspired by Boston. One year ago, I posted the run to my DailyMile account, happy with a fast run on a cool cloudy day, thinking of Boston and wondering about the two American women elites that I was cheering for were doing. Today, I posted a run to my account, with similar themes, fast run, cool and cloudy, and it was all about Boston.

Just different.

It’s one year later and everything is a little different, except the route. It’s a familiar 5k route that tracks north and west of my office through the City before coming straight east back on Main Street to my front door.

How I think of Boston is different. Last year, for me, it was all about Shalane and Kara, the hype, their rivalry, their friendship, and their potential to win. This year, I think of the non-elites, the spectators, the first responders, and the hallowed ground that is a finish line of a race.

How I think of running is different. Before Boston, it was my time. My headspace. My freedom from my desk. My adrenaline rush. My solitude. This year, I recognize that I am a part of something that is the opposite of solitude. I am part of a community. Meg’s Miles reinforced that for me. Being a part of something greater than myself is a very gratifying feeling, but it comes with a personal sense of responsibility. I have to DO something when the community is assaulted like at Boston or when Meg Menzies was killed. You have to give back; I donated to the Boston One Fund and I donated money to Meg’s family. And I ran; however meaningless it might seem in the face of terror and death, those miles mattered to me and to the running community.

How I think of spectators is very different. Before Boston, I never gave much thought to the random strangers standing alongside a race route, cheering, clapping, ringing cow bells, holding clever signs. Now I thank them as I run. No one would have ever thought that cheering on runners in a race could be a potential risk to life and limb. Boston changed that, too.

Boston isn’t on my “Bucket List” or anything. I am not training to earn my “BQ” and I don’t feel it is something I will ever want to go chase down. But I don’t think any distance runner out there doesn’t feel that there is something special about Boston.

A pair of angry extremists tried to take away the magic of Boston. They left a mark, to be sure, but if their goal was to scare us all into submissive hiding, they utterly and completely failed.

Boston is too Strong for that.

Going To The Sun*

I know I talk a lot about the tough side of running. When things go wrong, physically or mentally, it tends to wind up here. Let’s shift gears away from that, at least for today.

Today seemed like an ordinary enough day. Work at my desk job for about 4 and a half hours, then head to the ladies room and change from business casual into tech-fiber casual. Hair goes up, hat goes on, headphones go in (all the purists now have a case of the hives over my iPod), and down the elevator 10 stories to the city streets.

It is finally, for real and for true, warm here. 76 degrees out, reasonable wind speeds, clear skies, low humidity. You know, like it’s Spring or something. A warm, sunny day called for bared arms and a route with no shade. I headed for the Richmond Floodwall Park. On the Floodwall, I have seen a bald eagle, a black king snake sunning itself in the path, countless Great Blue Herons and dozens of Peregrin Falcons. I don’t run this route as often in the winter, and I don’t think I have run the floodwall at all since late last Summer. This winter was just too brutal to face the very cold harsh winds coming off the river, and there are spots on the top that drain poorly, so with all the rain/snow, it would have been half a log flume up there. I just avoided the route, but I have missed it.

So today was the day and it didn’t disappoint. The sun was warm without being burning. Sweat poured without leaving me feeling light-headed with dehydration. I had a falcon take interest in my neon green tank top and follow me at distance for a bit. The music on my iPod was perfect for my mood. I added “Let it Go” from Frozen to the playlist last night, and that was like fuel on a fire for me today. Topping the stairs of the floodwall, the roar of the rolling river over-topped the sound of my music, and it was glorious.

The world around me is just starting to take on that lightest shade of spring green; it is also still brown and twiggy, but there is promise springing up all around. We’re still a long way from the emerald green of summer, but also the wicked heat and humidity that summer brings along with it. It was a perfect day and a perfect run.

It is days like today, miles like today’s, that remind me why I do this thing. Why when so many people make cracks about “being chased by a bear” or reproach me about destroying my joints, or warn of the risk of unknown heart problems, I can let all of that roll off my back, lace up my trainers and go out and log some miles anyway.

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

*The title of this post is a reference to Going To The Sun Road, on my Bucket List as a place to go for a run before there aren’t any glaciers left in Glacier National Park.

Doubts

While we were at the Shamrock race expo, they were registering people for the Crawlin Crab Half Marathon, which is scheduled for the first weekend of October. I knew I had wanted to run that race, and Byram said “Go ahead and register today! Sign me up for the 5k while you’re at it.”

Well, two problems occurred. I had an account with the race production company (imATHLETE; also puts on Shamrock), but it was set up by Byram and he didn’t remember the password. Second, they were doing registrations on iPads, which I am not proficient in the use of. After 10 minutes of not even getting past the log in, I gave up and said I would register from home.

Three weeks later, being yesterday, I did. Byram had forgotten all about it, so I wanted to surprise him and sign him up for the 5k on Saturday, and I signed myself up for the “Shell Yeah” challenge, the 5k and the 13.1 the following day.

I kept waiting on Byram to check his email and was sure he would find a “Registration Confirmation” email and be so surprised, but apparently it only came to me. I waited a whole day before I sprung the surprise to him on FaceBook, and then forgot it is April Fool’s day, so he didn’t think I was serious at first.

Ah well, way to blow the wind out of my surprise sails.

In the meantime, I am contemplating three letters. MTT. That is Sports Backers’ speak for Marathon Training Team. $165 will get me 24 weeks of supported team training, my race entry fee, and ultimately a Richmond Marathon finisher’s medal (it really is all about the bling, I suppose).

It isn’t a question of can I do it. I know I can if I stick to the training plan. It isn’t a question of is my family okay with it. Byram (and Grace) have both thrown in their encouragement to the idea (I don’t think they realize how many hours I will be out of the house on runs in September and October). The question is all about my mental ability. Am I mentally tough enough?

Right now, all I have are doubts. 5+ hours of running, stuck in my own brain for that long? I get mentally weary at the 12 mile marker in a half. That will never do.

I trust my legs. I have doubts about my brain.

But I know of only one way to remove those doubts.

#MegsMiles

Last week, my thoughts were heavily dominated by the news of a local mother, marathon runner, and apparently all around good woman, was hit and killed at 8:15 on her Monday morning run by a drunk (and possibly texting) doctor.

If you are in the US and you are a runner, I would bet there is a 99% chance you heard something about Meg Menzies and #MegsMiles last week.

I hadn’t heard about her death until after I got back from my lunch run that Monday. A run where I narrowly missed being hit by a driver who deliberately ran a red light. I saw the car sitting in the intersection at Adams and Cary Streets, I had the green light to cross over the Adams portion of the intersection, so I proceeded. Apparently, the driver had been tired of waiting for the light, and I suspect he or she looked left and right to make sure there was no traffic (or police), and then proceeded through the red light without apparently looking straight ahead. It was a close enough call that I could put my hands on the car and shout.

I got back to work, opened the internet and saw the news about Meg and forgot about my own close call; a close call is nothing compared to what her family is suffering now.

As the week went on and Meg’s passing went viral, I remembered my own near-squashing and I got angry about it and about how drivers imperil the lives of pedestrians every day. Thank God I had been paying attention and had been quickly able to jump out of the way of that impatient driver. From the photos of the scene, it looks like Meg had nowhere to go to get out of the driver’s way who killed her.

The victim blaming made me angry, too. Comments ranging from “She shouldn’t have been running on the road.” to “Why not just run in a gym?” to “Were her clothes bright enough to be seen?” made me want to shake people (particularly the clothing one, which is too similar to blaming rape victims for wearing “provocative” outfits). Admittedly, there were fewer of these comments than the ones expressing sadness over the situation, but why were there any at all?

Even Hanover Public Works joined in the victim blaming by pointedly stating that “The shoulder is not an official pedestrian path.” Forgive my harsh language, but No Shit, Sherlock.

For most of the Richmond Metro Counties, there ARE NO official pedestrian paths. I know; I live in a county.

I am fortunate because I have three schools within 2 miles of my house, and near those schools are short stretches of sidewalks. For my favored 5.2 mile route in my neighborhood, I have less than 2 miles of sidewalk to run on. When I am running distances like 9-13 miles, I still only have those 2 little miles to work with to put some safe distance between myself and the cars on the road.

Worse than the lack of safe pedestrian paths are the hostile or distracted drivers. By and large, most drivers are fine. Some are even wonderful enough to move over in their lane a bit, change lanes when there are two lanes to work with, or even move a little over the yellow lines if there is no oncoming traffic. To those drivers, I always mouth the words “Thank you” and give them a little wave. I appreciate their care. Most drivers are just oblivious. They are fine too as long as they stay between the white and yellow lines and ignore me.

I can’t stand the openly hostile drivers. The jokers who think it is funny to slightly swerve at me like they are going to hit me. Ooh, funny! Thank God your dumbass didn’t slip on the wheel and not manage to correct course. A broken and possibly dead runner across the hood of your car would be hysterical, right? Police reports and insurance company law suits are a flipping riot, right? Then there are the folks that scream obscenities or sexually suggestive words at you as they pass you. They are less of a physical threat, but they are actively trying to steal away my joy. Thanks a lot.

But the scariest drivers are the distracted drivers. I see them texting, or on their cell phones, or eating, or looking away from the road; I see this far too much. And they don’t see me no matter how day-glo orange my shirt might be, or electric blue my pants are. They pass me by and never even know I was within 3 feet of their car.

I have heard the phrase “Runners need to be vigilant” a lot in the past week or so but generally runners ARE vigilant. Anyone who has run a single mile outside on the streets knows the inherent risks and that there is a lot we as individuals can do to mitigate those risks; we take out our earbuds or leave one out or keep the music level low; we wear obnoxious colors and patterns to be seen; we run against traffic; we wear blinking lights and reflective gear. But drivers have to do their part, too. Put down your phones, watch the road, and for the love of little kittens, if you’ve been drinking, call a cab, a friend, or just stay home, but please stay out from behind the wheel.

4 Year Anniversary

Happy Surgiversary to me. 4 years ago today, I went under the knife to undergo RnY Gastric Bypass, willingly undergoing a life altering surgery with the hopes of getting a new grip on my weight and my overall health and well-being.

Since then, I have run over a thousand miles, 4 half marathons, a handful of 5ks, one 10k, and a few adventure/mud runs. I am training for my 5th half marathon, and so far, that is going fairly well. I logged 7 miles on Saturday morning, which was my longest run since the AmFam Half Marathon (at least I think it was). My IT band did not give me any trouble. My GI tract did unfortunately, but that isn’t unusual given that 7 feet of my intestines are not in use and at the best of times, things can be unpredictable.

Since my surgery, I have cut certain foods out of my life for good. Fast food hamburgers and fries? I don’t think I have had such a meal even once in 4 years. Anything that has to be consumed through a straw (e.g., smoothies, frosties, frappachinos, etc.) has been stricken from my diet. I have not consumed a single ounce of a soda, diet or otherwise, in 4 years.

Then there are things that I know I simply cannot eat or I will find myself shaking, sweating, heart racing, nauseated, and all around miserable. Cake. Pancakes or waffles. Commercially made biscuits (I can get away with a really tiny homemade one on very rare occasions). Ice cream in any serving larger than maybe a tablespoon or two. Fried chicken in anything larger than a kid’s size portion (Chik-fil-A’s 6 piece nuggets are the limit for me; I refuse to eat those fake nuggets anyone else serves). Honestly, deep-fried anything is a high risk for making myself ill; I just don’t go there except on the rarest of occasions (usually while traveling and there simply aren’t any good options). I can have one or two pieces of bacon, at most. I prefer to use it for cooking with these days.

Then there are foods that surprise me that I cannot eat very well. Salads are not easily digestible and tend to fill me up too quickly leaving no room for protein. That really doesn’t work for me, so they tend to be rare and almost like a treat.

Chicken breast is another surprising one. When I cook with chicken breast, I do best if it is cut against the grain, shortening those long muscle fibers, and then cooked with lots of veggies or a sauce to try and put some moisture into the meat. Otherwise, swallowing plain chicken breast is akin to chewing and swallowing a cotton ball, only it sits in my pouch, painfully holding up anything else that wants to go down.

Hard boiled eggs. They feel like I am digesting a blown up rubber glove. Scrambled is okay, but I get off-put by the texture these days. And frying an egg tends to leave me feeling not awesome, but I eat them anyway. I have to eat something on weekend mornings.

Nuts. Well, it isn’t that I cannot eat nuts, but if I do, the aforementioned “unpredictability” of my GI tract suddenly becomes VERY predictable, but not in a good way. I only eat nuts when I know I am not doing anything very active within the next 24 hours.

Pulled pork BBQ. Byram makes amazing smoked BBQ and every time I eat it, I feel sick no matter how small my portion is. I suspect the combination of the sugar in the rub with the higher fat content of the meat come together to make me miserable.

Oddest of all things I think is oatmeal. I love a bowl of oatmeal, though I prefer mine savory with a touch of butter and salt. That said, if the only thing I eat for breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal, within 2 hours my blood sugar crashes to the floor and I become a shaky mess. If I have it with something else, like string cheese or yogurt, it is normally fine, but I don’t usually have room for oatmeal AND anything else. It is perhaps the one thing I miss eating most regularly.

Dining out is a completely different experience post-gastric bypass. Everyone knows that by and large, restaurant meals are vastly oversized, heavy on oils and fats, salt and sugar. Most chain restaurants do not serve very high quality meals, as well. So for me, dining out just anywhere has lost much of its allure. Visiting any buffet is a rare thing anymore, but if we do, we usually go to Chinese buffets. I aim for sashimi and sushi, maybe some soup, and a small amount of any dishes that don’t look too oily. If I am forced to darken the door of a Golden Corral, I go for a rare cut of steak, any veggies that don’t look drowned in oil, and a cup of their chili. Pro-tip: chili at most restaurants is a great fall back for gastric bypass patients. It typically isn’t horribly fatty, it is full of protein, fiber, and lots of flavor (most of the time). I used to go for New England Clam Chowder, but now I know better that the fat to protein ratio is really not in my favor.

I check appetizer lists in menus a lot of the time. It is very rare to find much that is decent in appetizers, but seared ahi tuna has become very popular and in a typically sized appetizer, it is a perfect meal for me. Some places are featuring “Hummus platters” or “Mediterranean Plates” which work very well for me too, and are often large enough that I can share with the table and still go home full. Hummus, some feta cheese, olives, tomatoes and onions, some pita bread (which I eat very little of), and I am good to go.

I love tacos. There is no getting around it. But not tacos like Taco Bell; I like the awesome taquerias that have begun to pop up all over Richmond. An order of three tacos, with fillings like al pastor, carne asada, and even lengua (ooh, scary!), are all delicious and in small enough portions that their fat content doesn’t tend to bother me. These authentic style tacos are not like American tacos that are loaded with sour cream and cheese. These just have their meat, cilantro, salsa, and typically some pico de gallo or just diced onion. And I usually tear off some of the tortilla, or don’t eat all of the tortillas, just the filling in one or two of them.

Pho is a recent culinary discovery for me. Delicious broth, fairly lean meats, and yes, lots and lots of noodles, but I can eat as much or as little of the noodles as I want. Yes, the serving is typically massive (like measurable in gallons, right?), but something everyone should remember is that while we were all taught how bad it is to waste food, it is FAR worse clean your plate and then find all that food on your waist.

Four years on and I am far from perfect. I do eat and drink the wrong things, I slack off of my work out routines, I screw up. All. The. Time. But that doesn’t mean I quit. That I say “Well, I’ve gained back some weight, time to throw in the towel.” I fight. I am fighting right now. I consider my surgery a gift and it is not one I am willing to relinquish.

I write about my surgery to remind myself where I came from, why I do the seemingly crazy things I do (like go run in the pouring rain at lunch today?), and why it is so very important that I don’t stop. I write because I know a lot of people think about this kind of life-style change, they have questions, they wonder if bariatric surgery is right for them, they wonder what life is like on the other side. There are tons of bari-bloggers out there, I am just out here offering just another perspective.

So here is to 2014. I have big plans so stay tuned to see what comes next.

Temporary

Every action must also have an equal and opposite reaction.

Isn’t that the Third Law of Motion? Seems like an appropriate quote today. Yesterday was a day of joyful post-race exuberance. I searched for new races to run. I read up on full marathon distance training. I hugged a couple of people, showed off my race medal to a few others, shared race experiences with others who ran, and got asked again and again how it went.

Today, the Third Rule seemingly must be obeyed. Blue. Low. Down. Lonely. Unhappy.

Ah, how could I possibly have forgotten about post-race blues?

My intent to fight back against them today had been initially to go to the gym and work out (not run, sadly; my knee is still very sore and stiff). Then I was asked to go get something on my lunch hour for the office (I am in the half and half creamer club and it was my turn to buy half and half). That would have made for a nice walk in the sun, so I shifted to that plan.

And then I got caught up in an epic, lunch hour-consuming project for work, and here I sit, angry at an attorney who isn’t even aware he is being thoughtless, frustrated that my plans were overturned, and mad that I let myself get derailed without fighting back.

I know I will feel better in a day or so. I know this is a temporary mental state (just like yesterday’s over-the-top feeling was, too).