Live It Up, Girls!

Warning, this could turn into a bit of a rant.

Let’s begin with some facts about me:

  • Like most women I know, I’ve spent more time than not being unhappy with my appearance.
  • Similarly, I’m as self-conscious about what I look like as the next person.
  • I have, at times, allowed my appearance (mainly my weight) limit the things I would participate in.
  • At the same time, I’m often willing to look ridiculous.  Go fig.  (Remember the massive decluttering project at my house?  Among other things, it unearthed my ninth grade yearbook.)
If you can't tell, my tongue is sticking out AND my eyes are crossed.

If you can’t tell, my tongue is sticking out AND my eyes are crossed.

  • When I started running, I began on the treadmill in the basement because it was the simplest exercise available at 5:00 AM.  And nobody would see me there.
  • I look a million times (approximately) better than I used to, yet I still suspect that it’s pretty ugly when I run.  I simply don’t care anymore.

Okay, so what’s this all adding up to?  Some recent events reminded me how I’ve allowed myself to enjoy life more over the last 2+ years.  Granted, it’s much more comfortable to enjoy life 60 pounds lighter than you used to be. For example, it’s way more fun to chase your kids around the yard when you don’t fear collapsing or need a breather every seven seconds.  But it’s also about just giving myself permission to do things because they’re fun, instead of skipping them because – well, you name it:  I’m too old.  I’m too heavy.  I’m a grown-up.  I’m too short.  I’m not coordinated enough.  I’m not fast enough.  I’m not strong enough.  I’ll look silly.  No one else is doing it.  I could keep going.  Okay, occasionally, those labels may be useful and accurate.  Maybe I AM too fat, old and weak to swing as high as I can at the playground and jump off (like I used to, well into adulthood).  But too many times, those labels are just bullshit.  So here are the stories:

Fun in the Sun day with Emily’s first grade class the last week of school.

The kids, parents, and teachers all had a blast.  I noticed a few of the teachers getting involved in the games with the kids (it might be in their contract:) ), but saw that the parents (mainly moms) were mostly staying on the sidelines.  Which is fine.  But – lucky us! – our kids are still at the age where they enjoy us joining them in activities.  In fact, I think they actually still prefer our participation.  We have but a few years before our mere presence existence humiliates them.  Well, maybe I looked ridiculous, and perhaps the other parents thought that joining in would interfere with the kids’ fun, but I jumped in to the limbo.

How low can I go? Um, this is pretty much it.

How low can I go?
Um, this is pretty much it.

Luckily (?) one of the other moms captured this and posted it on Facebook for me.  I think the kids got a kick out of me.  But then schools really hammer manners in kindergarten and first grade, so maybe they were just too polite to tell me I’m an idiot.

Birthday party at the pool.

One of Emily’s “old” friends from daycare had her birthday party at the big local pool.  So we knew a bunch of the other kids and their moms.  When I asked around ahead of time, the other moms weren’t planning to get into the pool.  (There were a bunch of dads in the pool but just me and one other mom.)

Now 1) since I was taking both of my girls with me, I didn’t really have a choice but to swim.  Emily is a great swimmer, but Cora hasn’t yet learned to swim without the aid of her “floaty” (vest), so I have to get in with her.  And 2) I think that, among the other moms, there was at least an element of wanting to just hang out poolside and enjoy some adult conversation – which I can totally relate to.  I might have stayed out of the pool to talk to the other moms if I’d had that option, but I was mainly thinking, “Woo-hoo! Free swim!”

Do I like myself in a swimsuit?  Hell no!  Do I simply look better in a swimsuit than the other moms?  Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!  Not even close.  But I like to swim.  So swim I did.  (I also learned, risking great humiliation – not to mention a trip to the ER – that I can still do a back flip off the diving board!  Yay me!  Too bad I don’t have a picture of that – it must have been a sight to behold.)

Remember up above where I noted that the kiddoes actually like it when we do stuff with them at this age?  Well, it wasn’t just my kids who wanted to play with me.  A couple of the other little girls came over to play with my girls and me, introducing themselves (e.g., “Hi, I’m Jane, who are you?”) and inserting themselves into our activities as only kids can.  I’m certain they didn’t need me to enjoy their time in the pool, but they actually seemed eager to interact with a grownup at the party.  And quite frankly, making some new, little friends (even just for the duration of the party) kind of made my day.

Aaanyway.  (I’m going to write a short post one day.  Really.)  Here are my own personal “life’s too short” to fuss so much about what you look like tips:

  • Not crazy about your smile? Smile anyway.  I’d bet the rent you look better than you do with a scowl.
  • Like to swim but don’t like yourself in a swimsuit?  Swim anyway.  No one’s even looking at you because they’re too worried about what they look like.
  • Like to dance but think you’re not good at it?  Dance anyway.  Who cares?  Eye of the beholder and all that….
  • Want to try something new but fear you’ll suck at it?  Try it anyway.  You probably will suck at it!  At first.  But you can still enjoy it.  And you will get better.
  • Have only pictures of your kids and your spouse because 1) you’re always the photographer, and 2) you just hate to get your picture taken?  Get into the picture.  Years from now, your kids will look at those pictures and wonder where the hell you were.  You’ll all wish you were included in those mementos.   More on why moms need to stay in the picture here.  (Seriously, click that already.)

Do you agree/disagree?  What would you add to the list?

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It Was the Worst of Times. It Was the Best of Times.

Race recap from Sunday – finally!  I’ve been busy this week (working; MASSIVE housecleaning/decluttering project underway at my house), so I’ve been unable to make this post a priority.  But better late than never, I say!

This is the third year that I’ve participated in the “ManUp” race (benefiting prostate cancer education and screening) held on Father’s Day in Pittsburgh – otherwise known among my friends as the unfortunate logo race.

I guess they were going for humor - I mean is there another explanation?

I guess they were going for humor – I mean is there another explanation?

Two years ago, I ran the 5K (my second).  Last year and this year, I ran the 10K.

Things I like about this race:

  • The 10K has but one, shortish hill somewhere in the early-middle of the race. (If I recall, the 5K is virtually flat.)
  • It’s one loop – v. two laps of a 5K or similar.
  • It’s a big, small race.  Not overwhelmingly huge like the Race for the Cure on Mother’s Day, but big enough for disposable chips and real chip time, with timing mats at the finish and start.
  • I have friends who go to this race with me – Nina all three years and Jessica the last two.
No, we're not posing.  We always stand like this.

No, Nina & I aren’t not posing. We always stand like this.

Things I don’t like about this race:

  • Aforementioned unfortunate logo.
  • Cotton t-shirt – which of course, I wouldn’t wear, regardless, because of (you guessed it!) the unfortunate logo.  But I really wish that races that attract at least as many runners as walkers would either spring for a tech shirt or just skip it all together.
  • Exclusive to this year: I did NOT feel up to running 6.2 miles.  I was dreading it.  But that’s the larger point of this post, so let’s get to it!

Given that I hadn’t run more than 5.5 miles in about three months, I was truly concerned that I’d struggle to run the race without walking.  Or crawling.  All last week, I was wishing that I hadn’t signed up for the race at all, or that I at least had selected the 5K instead.  I decided that since I wasn’t going to set any personal records or place in my age group, that I would instead pace my friend Jessica who’s been trying to close in on a one-hour finish time for a couple of 10Ks.  Nina was kind enough to pace me in a 5K last year, and I have not forgotten what a help that was.  So I figured I’d sort of ‘pay it forward,’ and I’d get to hang with my friend the whole time, instead of running all alone.

Now, Jessica will poo-poo her race times, but I think she’s amazing.  Her schedule (and her hubby’s) don’t allow for particularly routine or rigorous training.  In addition, she’s not spoiled like I am by a group of local running friends to meet up with  (she lives ~30 minutes away from me).  Although it’s entirely possible, and often desirable, to train alone, I know from experience that running with a group of women of mixed paces helps to prepare for races, as you push it to keep up.  In spite of these facts, she’s able to complete 5K and 10K races – plus a half marathon each May- without hurting herself.  That tells me a lot about how well Jessica has managed to stay active, focus on eating healthy, and take good care of herself her whole adult life.  (Unlike some of us….)

Jessica and I before the race

Jessica and I before the race

Anyway, we didn’t quite meet our goal.  (Which I guess means that I didn’t do my job very well.  I tried to push Jess without turning into a complete a-hole.  I may have failed at that, as well.)   However, the race experience was truly delightful.

It wasn’t particularly hot, but  although it had rained earlier,  it was dreadfully humid.  I hated every step and every second of the first two miles (which typically suck, regardless), primarily because I felt like I was wearing a green house on my head.  Just as we were approaching that singular hill, Jessica said what I was thinking, which was, “I wouldn’t mind if it rained.”  Almost immediately, it began to rain.  I literally threw my arms out to my sides, looked heavenward, and we said, “Thank you, Jesus!”

We enjoyed a steady rain for at least the next two miles.  We got soaked!  (Well, I got slightly more soaked.  I was already drenched in sweat at that point.  Remember: Hot, sweaty German girl on the run here!)   The rain was glorious.  I felt amazing.  And  I never hit a point where I wanted to stop.  Typically, I have at least one moment during a race where I hate it and cannot wait for it to be over.  But I was running, running, running….

Now, I have felt really good during a variety of races and training runs.  And I have been terribly, terribly happy and proud of myself after completing  notably long or difficult runs.  I distinctly remember the first time I ran more than five miles, completing a 10K five minutes faster that I expected (1:04:54).  And the first time I finished a nine-mile run, I was absolutely gleeful that I was “that” close to hitting double digits.  I pumped my fist (alone in the dark of the early morning) the first day I ran all the way to the top of a certain hill toward the end of a five-mile route I used to run frequently.  However, I don’t know that I can say that I have ever experienced the legendary “runner’s high.”  And I’m still not confident enough to call Sunday’s experience a runner’s high, but I felt pretty damn euphoric on that run.  Once the rain began, I never got tired.  At the end – even after giving it a really strong, finish-line kick – I felt like I could have kept going.  I felt so very blessed.  Blessed that I was there, that I had a good friend to run with, that the weather felt so refreshing, and simply that my body can run six miles.  It’s four days later, and I can’t stop thinking about how great it was.  (Or thinking that racing a little easier is fun.  I may never try to PR again!)

So the bottom line: Even though my chip time was my worst 10K finish, the time I had during the race was among the very best that I ever had.

In other good news, Jessica is still speaking to me after I dealt out all that “encouragement” (read: yelling and heckling) to her during the run.  I can’t wait until we go back next year to retrieve (and then pitch) my unfortunate-logo, cotton t-shirt.

Crowding Out Bad Foods with Good

When I first started losing weight, I made that my priority.  There’s some stuff in my family history (e.g., Type II diabetes) that would suggest that being at a healthy weight was essential.  So I signed up for Weight Watchers at work, and – with the exception of ensuring I ate at least the minimum number of fruits and veggies everyday – I didn’t worry too much about the quality of my food, as long as it stayed within my “Points+.”  That is, I decided I’d rely on diet sodas and some processed foods, to the extent that I had to, in order to get my weight down.  Then I’d worry about cleaning up my foods later.  You know, baby steps.

Well now it’s “later,” and I have to admit that I often have difficulty deciding what to eat.  I’m convinced that a strictly or at least mostly whole foods, plant-based diet is the healthiest option.  I sort of wish I didn’t know this (ignorance is bliss), but I can’t unknow what I know.  I find it tricky to find things that 1) I like, 2) are relatively simple to prepare, and 3) don’t require too much shopping outside of what I can find at the regular ol’ grocery store.  (And getting my family on board is a whole other battle I’m not going to win any time soon, which is source of stress that I won’t go into now.)

I have to admit that I’m in a bit of a funk with this lately.  (My daughter’s birthday party over the weekend really threw me off – can you say “TWO cupcakes”?)  But I am attempting to gradually incorporate some new, yet simple choices into my diet.  I literally have to re-focus my efforts weekly, and even daily, but I’m attempting to “crowd out” the bad choices with healthier ones.  Here are some of the things that are getting me through right now.

Buffalo Hummus
I’ve been eating hummus like it’s my job.   It’s yummy and I feel like it’s a healthier snack option – especially when I’m in a hurry.  That is, grabbing some hummus on blue corn chips beats the snot out of, say, pretzels and French onion dip.  I often eat hummus (typically garlic flavored) in this wrap with quinoa and veggies.    I’m also learning how to make hummus in my food processor – it’s healthier than the popular brands that contain too much oil and GMO ingredients.  Homemade is also cheaper than store-bought, but love this Buffalo-flavored version sold at Nature’s Way.  I’d like to make that one for myself, too, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to figure out the ingredient proportions to get the taste right.  It tastes  just like chicken buffalo dip but without all the grease and, you know, chicken.  Anyway, I’ve been known to have up to four kinds of hummus in my refrigerator (garlic, buffalo, spinach & artichoke, and homemade beet – yum!).

Beets!
Who knew?  I used to hate them!  Now I grab a bunch in the produce section every week at the store.  They go in my hummus (see above!), and they totally make a salad!  Added benefit:  They help keep your liver clean.  Bring on the wine!

Here’s one of my favorite salads:  lettuce mix + spinach, chickpeas, pineapple and beets. (I was out of strawberries that day.)

With just a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar

With just a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar – Delicious!

Berries
Another surprise:  I don’t hate blueberries like I thought I did, either!  Okay, they’re not my favorite berry, but they’re actually not bad.  (They’re a little ‘skin-y.’  And it freaks me out that they’re actually white on the inside, but I don’t have to look!)  I have a friend who attempts to “eat the rainbow” of fruits and veggies every day.  I thought that was great advice, as I noticed that I’m often missing the “BIV” end of the  spectrum.  Blueberries and blackberries help my cause and they’re super in this meal of cold quinoa (white & red) and coconut milk (plus strawberries).

Pretty AND tasty!

Pretty, healthy AND tasty!

Black Bean Burgers
I found a super, super simple recipe for black bean burgers from The Happy Herbivore – just six, common ingredients.  I try to make them for myself when the rest of the family is eating regular burgers.  I think they’re tasty, plus I’m not eating a completely different dinner than they are.

Kale Chips
I’ve been hearing about these wonders from my friends for a while.  I finally made them myself and I get what all the hype is about.  So easy and yummy.

H20
Okay, not a food, but same principle.  I’m trying to drink more water and finally kill my nasty diet soda habit.  I’m bad about both choosing water over something else and remembering to drink water throughout the day.  Here’s my latest trick for keeping up with my h20 intake:  Skip the regular water glass and drink it out of one of my stemless wine glasses.  The feel of the glass’ shape in my hand is just so pleasing to me.  It feels fancier and more fun than my boring old water glasses and plastic cups.  Getting more than one of my senses involved helps tremendously.

Bottoms up!

Bottoms up!

“Fast” Food
I try to have fast, finger fruits and veggies on hand, so I can just quickly grab something to snack on to either satisfy me or to prevent me from grabbing one of the kid’s snacks before I can think up and prepare a healthy meal option for myself.  Apples, bananas, and carrots are my go-to items right now.

What are your favorite healthy snacks and meals?

A Few of My Least Favorite Things

As much as I love running and nearly everything about it, I do also have some running peeves.  What are they, you say?  Well, thanks for asking!

People Who Come to a Dead Stop on the Pad at the Finish

I know that my brain stops working completely when my body is working hard enough to race.  But really people, can you be that stupid?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve nearly plowed into the racer in front of me because they went from 60 to zero in the space of half a second on the timing mat.  Here’s my lovely finish line photo from The Great Race last fall.

If you could hear that, I'm saying, "DON'T. STO-OP!"

If you could hear that, I’m saying, it’s “DON’T. STO-OP!”

Hello?  Like 5000 people moving quickly behind us!

I was mad at myself afterward for zigging around that guy when I should have just slammed into him.  He had it coming.

Walkers Who Start a 5K with the Runners
On the opposite end of the race, we have the walkers you have to zig around at the start.  Same zig-zaggy problem as above, only just as you’re trying to get in a groove.  Line up where you’re supposed to, walkers!

Heat
I come from a long line of short, sweaty, German alcoholics (Oops! I always take that a step too far!), so heat is my running Kryptonite.  It totally saps me.  I would much rather run in 15-degrees than in temps of 65+.  I sort of get used to it in the summer, but it always sucks.  I cannot believe that anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line runs.  Ever.

Post-Race Belly Aches
Racing often gives me terrible stomach cramps that start within the hour of my race finish.  The very worst time I got them was after I completed my first 10K – the one where I’d never run further than five miles before.  I thought I was going to die, I felt so awful.  It seems most likely to occur when I’m racing a new, longer distance – or when it’s just been a while since I’ve raced, as was the case after the 5K this Mother’s Day.  I’ve tried different combinations of pre-race and post-race food, but if it’s strictly a dietary thing, I haven’t yet figured it out for certain.  The apple cider vinegar water seemed to help after my most recent 5K.

Being Injured
Pretty self-explanatory.  I hated feeling like I was losing fitness (or at best, staying the same) while I was supposed to be improving.  I really hated having to bail on the Pittsburgh half.  But most of all I just hated not being able to go for a run for the fun of it.

Ugly Feet
Confession: I’m actually kind of proud of my ugly feet.  Looking at them reminds me that I did something good.

I’m not badass enough to actually get a black toenail or to have one fall off.  But this second toe did turn a bit blue by the time I ran my half marathon last fall.  What was weirder was that I grew a new toenail, in spite of the fact that the nail hadn’t fallen off.  It just grew over the old one.  That line there in the middle is nail polish I couldn’t get out of the rough edge of the new nail.  It’s almost completely grown out now.  I’m just a little sad about it.

FunkyToenail

My new and old toenails (over sharing here?)

BUT, I hope other people (or at least non-runners) aren’t looking at my ugly feet too closely.

My Hair
I don’t have great hair, but most of the time, I’m okay with it.  It’s not my friend when running, though.

Most of my pals have long hair and sport a cute ponytail or a headband on the run.  And their hair tends to look roughly the same at the end of the run as it did at the beginning.  I don’t have enough hair for a ponytail – and can’t grow enough for one.  But my hair is long on top, so I have to do something to keep my sweaty bangs out of my eyes.  A hat is the simplest solution, but it makes me hot in the warmer temps.  Last year, I decided to run a 10K sans hat – just clipped my bangs away from my face.  All was well until I saw my reflection in a car window right after the race.  I looked like something like this:

Great Scott!

Great Scott!

I had been smiling because I was pleased with myself for running 10K for the first time in just over an hour.  Then I saw myself and took on roughly the same expression as Doc there.

But Wait!  There’s More!
There are a bunch of other little things that aren’t my favorites.  I  don’t like how sweaty I get when I run (can you say “perimenopause’? I sweat while styling my hair.).  I don’t like treadmills.  I hate ice in the winter (that forces me on said treadmills).  But I think the rest of my grievances are common to most runners and not worth covering in depth.  (Oh, and I hate myself when I forget my Garmin.  I want credit for Every. Step.)

Also – as should be obvious – the good by far outweighs the bad.  I’ll take a bad, hot, blistered-&-bruised-toe run with crazy hair any day over no run at all.

What are your least favorite running-related things?

May 2013 Run-Down

I just totally stole this idea from Chunky Wonder Woman (whom I totally love)!  If you know me, you know I’m ticked I didn’t come up with her concept first.  It makes total sense that I’d copy something she’s doing.

I’ve never looked before at how many miles I’ve covered in a month or in a year.  But then, I did not have accurate data for 2012, as I only got my Garmin last June.  Here goes:

May 2013:

Miles Run:  46.39
Time Running: 8:20:16
Average Pace: 10:42 min/mile

Miles Biked*: 12
Average Speed: 10 mph

Pounds lost: 4
Pounds found: 4 😦

Races:
Race for the Cure (5K): 29:21
Service Above Self (5K): 27:08 (est time on 3.1 course = 28:24)

Highlights:

  • May 5th – SO proud of all my friends who ran the Pittsburgh Marathon, Half Marathon, or Relay!
  • May 6th – Hated all of those people and their stupid, shiny medals.
  • Meeting my friends Amy and Chrissy on Mondays for track workouts for a change of pace (literally, figuratively).
  • May 15th – my first run with my 5:00 AM girls in over a month!
  • Chilling with my mom and uncle for the Race for the Cure;  Getting to see one of my BRFs (best running friends), Nina there, too.
  • Racing with LOTS of friends at Service Above Self on Memorial Day!
  • Winning my division at Service Above Self.
Yes, it's a dog tag. Fitting, as the race benefits active military & veterans, if a smidgen creepy.

Yes, it’s a dog tag. Fitting, as the race benefits active military & veterans, if a smidgen creepy.

  • I forgot to mention this about Monday’s race!  On my drive over to the race, I saw a woman running up the street wearing a red t-shirt and star-spangled leggings like this:

images (1)

For a split-second, I was all, “WTF?” and then I realized she was doing a memorial run or otherwise celebrating the holiday.  I double tooted the horn at her and she pumped her fist!  I’ve been wanting (even before my Chunky Wonder Woman discovery) to get myself a Wonder Woman-ish getup for races, anyway, so I decided right then and there that I’d get one for next Memorial Day, if I don’t have one sooner.  (Note that Athena gifted Diana/Wonder Woman with her wisdom, so all this fits together neatly!)

If I am not qualified to run as Athena next year (i.e., if I lose the weight that I should, in case that was too subtle), I intend to wear this (from Gypsy Runner) with a red shirt:

Still had to be a SKIRT!

Still had to be a SKIRT!

Otherwise, I’m going to make myself wear and run in this:

To look the part more literally.

To look the part more literally.

Maybe I’ll still allow myself to wear my running shoes.

—————————————————————————————-

YTD Run-Down (Jan 1 to May 31, 2013):

Miles Run:  159.03
Time Running: 30:11:12
Average Pace: 11:20 min/mile

Those totals look so lame!  I had been hoping to run 750 miles this year.  To hit that mark now, I’d have to average almost 20 miles a week for the rest of the year.  (Stupid injury!)  I have yet to run 20 miles in a single week, although I think I came close 1-2 weeks last year.  Obviously, I need a goal revision.  Let’s see….

My new goal will be to run an additional 450 miles this year (for 609 total).   That’s just about 15 miles a week, and 20-25% more than I ran in May.  Challenging yet doable, especially with a half marathon (or two?) to train for.

Excited to see what June holds in store!

*I have no biking goals, so how often biking is a part of this roll-up remains to be seen.

** Breakdown
Jan = 23.53 miles
Feb = 43.92
Mar = 36.79
Apr = 8.39
May = 46.39