Monday, April 28, 2014

This girl is on fire?

Actually, she's not.  Last summer, Alicia Keys' Girl on Fire was my power song and it inspired me in so many ways.  However, now, nearly a year later, I feel like I should change the lyrics to my favorite empowerment song because I have hit such a huge brick wall.  When I think back to where I was last year and where I am today, it's a complete change.  I have no motivation at the moment to push myself to lose weight.

On the one hand, I've recognized that I've started putting weight back on and have nipped that in the bud, which is actually a pretty huge accomplishment for me.  Normally, I would just let the weight keep piling back on until I was back at my starting weight.  Luckily, I am motivated to not let that happen and I've taken steps to remedy that situation.  On the other hand, however, I don't have the steadfast determination that I had last summer, when I was so diligent about working out and what I ate.  I'm going easy on myself and I'm not sure how to get back to being the girl on fire.

Lately, when faced with food temptations, I have an internal struggle with myself and a lot of it has to do with how I'm dealing with my grief about my dad, I think.  I'm struggling with the brevity of life and how quickly one's life can change; how it is important to enjoy life and live it to the fullest.  This obviously has multiple applications in my everyday life, family, friends, work, and also food.  I know it seems silly to equate this to what I eat, but I find myself thinking "life is too short to not eat frozen yogurt or have a Pepsi."  Yet I find myself countering those thoughts with the thought that life is also too short to be in the unhealthy body I am in and if I want to be around for as long as possible, I need to change my habits.  Such a dilemma.  I feel like one of those cartoon characters who has an angelic version of myself sitting on one shoulder telling me to make good choices and a slightly mischievous version of myself on the other should telling me to live my life and eat what I want.

I thought that the friendly competition with my mom would help motivate me or writing out my birthday challenge goal would light another fire under me, but it hasn't.  I wish I could pinpoint what exactly motivated me last summer, but I think a lot of it was my challenge to myself and not wanting to back down.  Given that holding myself accountable to my own challenges isn't working anymore, I need to find new motivation, I suppose.  It's a good opportunity to reflect a little and re-evaluate, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I'm hoping to get out for a few runs this week now that my sinus infection seems to be on the downswing, so maybe a little time hitting the pavement will help re-energize me and re-focus my energy.

We had some crazy thunderstorms the past few days and I love a good thunderstorm!  I had to take a picture from my office this afternoon, because the sky got so dark and it was lovely watching the storm roll in and have the windows open to hear the rain.

Awesome thunderstorm rolling in 
Thank you all for the encouraging words you've posted on my blog the past few weeks; I really appreciate the good vibes and the helpful advice and tips!

"The struggle you're in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow." 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Has Sprung

And I know this because I have a wicked sinus infection and have been down for the count.  My throat started to feel scratchy on Sunday, but I chalked that up to spending most of the day outside at the park and being around the farm animals while we were there.  My throat was still bothering me Monday and when I woke up on Tuesday, I was completely congested and feverish so I stayed home from work.  I don't usually take off work for a cold or sinus infection, but we have a huge event at work tomorrow night so I figured some rest would be good and I didn't want to get my co-workers sick.  I made it to work yesterday, but probably should have stayed home again in all honesty.  My head felt like it was in a vice all day and I decided to throw in the towel and visit my friendly Walgreens Take Care Clinic.  Thank goodness for antibiotics!  I'm feeling much better today, although I'm still a bit congested.

Needless to say, my hope to return to running on Monday did not happen and I will likely not try to run until next week.  I don't want to push myself while I'm getting over this infection.  I'm doing a little bit better with my eating habits, although that is mainly due to the fact that I couldn't taste food for the past two days and it is really not fun to eat when you can't taste anything.

Tonight, my mom and I went to listen to a Holocaust survivor speak and it was really amazing.  I am a huge history nerd (always have been, always will) and the World War II/Holocaust era is one of my favorite time periods to learn about.  The speaker, Ben Fainer, spent 6 years in 6 different concentration camps, including Dachau and Buchenwald, before being liberated by American troops while on a death march.  In fact, he was liberated 69 years ago yesterday.  At the time when Ben was to have his Bar Mitzvah, he was in Buchenwald, so he celebrated years later in his mid-70's.  A local paper featured a story on his Bar Mitzvah and he received a phone call from one of his liberators, who he hadn't seen since April 23, 1945.  The two men became close friends and share their story in Silent for Sixty Years: Ben Fainer - Holocaust Survivor and we were able to get a signed copy from Ben tonight.  I'm glad Ben decided to share his story and it was lovely meeting him and getting to shake his hand.  I'm looking forward to reading his book! (Disclaimer: I was not asked to promote Ben's book; I simply wish to share his story.) 

Ben's book!
Lastly, I have to share two funny Mommy admissions.  1) I may or may not listen to the Frozen soundtrack even after my children leave the car (it's solid music, friends) and 2) Jack-Jack has expressed a keen interest in potty training, which surprises me a bit because Nick was right at 3 when he potty trained, so this seems early to me.  In any case, Jack used the potty this morning and I may have taken a photo of what he produced.  It may have been a mere fluke, but Nick and I made a huge deal about it because Jack was pretty proud of it.  I have a similar picture of Nick's first time on the potty and I'm not sure why I feel the need to capture it for posterity sake, but I do.

I will likely not blog tomorrow night due to the event at work, so here's wishing you all a Happy Friday! 

"The best project you'll ever work on is you."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Easter

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and a wonderful weekend!  I think Spring has finally sprung here and we had a beautiful weekend!  I did not get out and run this weekend, nor have I run since the half two weeks ago.  I am starting fresh tomorrow though and hoping that my hip is finally healed and that the lingering pain I had in my right foot after the half is gone for good.

We had a really nice Easter, which started bright and early at 7 when the boys woke us up to see if the Easter Bunny had visited.  The boys loved their baskets and had a great time finding eggs.  Jack has discovered Hershey's Kisses and he had to be sure to eat the ones from each egg before moving onto the next egg.  We had our annual Peep microwaving adventure after the egg hunt and both boys got a kick out of seeing the blue bunny Peep expanding in the microwave (Mommy got a kick out of it, too).

Later, I took the boys to a local park and we had a great time blowing bubbles, playing on the playground, and visiting the animals.  This particular park has farm animals and we saw horses, cows, a very pregnant pig, miniature horses, goats, turkeys, a bunny, and some very loud roosters.  Jack loved seeing the animals up close and Nick asked  if we could come back after the piglets are born to see them (according to the sign in the barn, the piglets are due May 1st, so not too long now!).

Be still my heart...My sweet boys walking together at the park. 
We had a really nice dinner at my mom's house and the boys had fun finding eggs at her house from the Easter Bunny.  I think the fresh air and all of the fun activities from the day wore the boys out, though, because they both crashed early and they crashed hard!

I'm looking forward to starting fresh tomorrow; healthy eating and working out on a regular basis again so that I can get back on track!  I'm making another batch of steel cut oats tonight for my breakfasts this week and I bought some fixings for really great salads for my lunches (almonds, craisins, mandarin oranges, goat cheese, turkey, and strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, yum!).  

"Rise up, start fresh, see the bright opportunity in each new day."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Swallowing my pride

I admit, I have been putting off writing this particular blog post for quite a few days, but it is time to rip off the Band Aid.  I started this blog to hold myself accountable for my weight loss journey and to share an honest story of my journey, including the good and the bad.  The MyFitnessPal progress bar on the right side of my blog formerly read 58 lbs lost. It now reads 47 lbs lost and that is really frustrating for me.  That would be 11 lbs gained back, bringing my current weight to 239.  Truth be told, at one point in November, I was down to 221 (I think I only saw this number one day), so in my mind, I've actually gained 18 lbs.  I'll be honest, I'm pissed.  At no one other than myself to be clear.  I should also point out that this did not happen overnight, I just have not been using MyFitnessPal at all so my progress hasn't been updated in months.

I've spent the past four month focusing on my half training and my dad's illness and subsequent passing rather than my weight loss, which was the right thing to do for me.  I realize that some weight gain was inevitable due to training, but I'm not thrilled with where I am at the moment.  Yes, it was the right thing to spend my time and energy focusing on my training, but it was not the right thing to revert back to my former eating habits due to the fact that "I was running" and therefore could eat everything under the sun.

I've also been stress eating/grief eating.  The first few days after my dad died, I experienced a drastic loss of appetite.  I didn't want to eat, I wasn't hungry, I only ate because I should (and mainly because Matt told me to) and nothing tasted good at all.  Within a few days, though, I was using food to cope with all of my feelings as I grieved.  Peanut Buster Parfaits from DQ became a particularly soothing treat.  Stress and emotional eating has always been a struggle for me and for me to be successful in my weight loss (and eventual maintenance) I have got to find other ways to cope with stress and my emotions.

I decided that after my half, I was going to get back into my zone and work to get down to my goal weight (definitely under 200, but ideally 180), so here we are.  My mom and I decided to challenge each other with a little friendly competition and wager; whoever loses the most weight by July 3rd wins $50 from the other one.  I love a little competition and so does my mom, so I hope this will be good motivation for us.  When I weighed in for our first weigh-in on April 7, I was 239.6 and last Monday, I was 238.7, so almost down a full pound.  This morning, I was 239, but I will check again on Monday for my weekly weigh-in.  (Mom, I think you are winning. Go, Mom!)

As I eluded to a few posts back, I have been mulling over a new birthday challenge for this year and since my birthday is 4 months from today, it seems like a good time to share.  My 32nd birthday is on August 18th and I'd like to lose 32 lbs by then, which equates to 8 lbs per month or 2 lbs per week.  I like to call it the 32 by 32 Challenge.  It isn't going to be easy, but neither was my birthday challenge last year.  I really need to do something to get my rear in gear and I hope the challenge with my mom in conjunction with my birthday challenge will give me the push I need.

I think subconsciously I have been stalling with this post because I knew I would get serious about the challenge and losing weight once I put it out there in cyberspace.  One of the things I love most about my blog is the accountability that it provides me when I write my goals and share them with others.  So there it is!

As I work towards my weight loss goals, I plan to:
  1. Continue to drink more water, particularly when I feel I am hungry between meals. 
  2. Resume tracking my meals and activity with MyFitnessPal (food tracking always been one of the biggest keys to success for me)  (Also, if you are using MyFitnessPal, feel free to friend me.  I'm Smyli57) 
  3. Resume running 3-4 times a week (including one long run) to keep base level so that when I start training for my fall half, I am not starting from square one. 
  4. Incorporate some type of cross-training 2 times a week 
  5. Be more mindful of the food I am eating
This was definitely not an easy post to share, but I need to get back in line and I knew sharing this would help me do just that.  

"I cannot change yesterday but I can change today." 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A recipe to share

I have been having a major craving lately for St. Louis Bread Co's (er...Panera Bread for anyone outside of St. Louis) steel cut oatmeal, which is just plain deliciousness in a bowl.  I went last week for breakfast and satisfied my craving, but I wanted more.  However, I did not want to continually spend the money to satisfy my craving, so I did a little online searching to find good recipes for steel cut oatmeal.

I actually learned quite a bit about steel cut oatmeal, so I thought I would share.  Steel cut oats, sometimes called pinhead oats or Irish oats, are whole oat groats (the inner part of the oat kernel) that are cut into smaller pieces.  What I also learned in the process is that steel cut oatmeal usually takes awhile to cook due to their minimal processing.  I am not a morning person to begin with, so the idea of having to do a lot of work for my breakfast was really unappealing.  However, I also discovered quite a few overnight steel cut oatmeal recipes and the result is life-changing (or at least it was for me).

Jacquelyn from MarinMamaCooks has a fantastic recipe on her blog for overnight oats that I highly recommend!  The recipe is super easy and it yields a week's worth of oatmeal that can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container.  Essentially, you boil 4 cups of water and then add a touch of salt and a cup of oats.  Let the oats boil for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the burner, cover with a lid and let it sit out overnight.  Brilliant!  When you wake up the next morning, the oats are cooked and, once reheated, ready to eat.  Voila!  (Jacquelyn has so many other great recipes, too, so be sure to check out her blog for other great finds.)

My toppings of choice this week are strawberries, walnuts, cinnamon, and a touch of honey for sweetness.  It is amazing!  I'm going to experiment a bit with my toppings and I have some mini chocolate chip morsels calling my name, perhaps for tomorrow's breakfast.

This is a really great recipe to make ahead on Sunday for your weekday breakfasts.  It's quick, it's delicious, it's healthy (ignore the above chocolate chip reference), and it's versatile because you can add whatever you'd like on top depending on what you are in the mood for.

So delicious! 

What are your favorite oatmeal toppings?  Do you have any other quick, easy breakfast recipes? 

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients." 

Monday, April 14, 2014

For your reading pleasure

I've been catching up on my blog reading the past few nights and wanted to share a few favorite reads with you before I call it a night!

Katie at Runs for Cookies posted her Motivational Monday post today (these are always fantastic posts to read; so inspiring) and I was drawn to a story about Katelyn running her first marathon in...wait for it...Paris!  I still maintain that I will never run a full marathon, but I would love to do the Paris 1/2 marathon someday.  Reading Katelyn's post was like running through Paris with her; I loved the pictures she posted and reading about her route through the city.  Running down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées? Running along the Seine?  Running next to the Eiffel Tower?  Yes, yes, and YES, please!  It made me a bit homesick for my favorite city, but it also gives me even more motivation to go back someday to run the 1/2!

Katie has also posted some great posts about her Ragnar SoCal adventures, so be sure to check those out.  Martha was also a member of Katie's Ragnar SoCal team and I've really enjoyed reading her recaps from the weekend (here and here).  Katie and Martha both mentioned the VooDoo donuts they had before the race and now, more than ever, I'm convinced I need to go to Portland to try these donuts I've heard so much about!  

Jessica posted a great review of Train Like a Mother by my favorite running gals, Sarah and Dimity.  Train Like a Mother is next up on my reading list and I appreciated Jessica's feedback on the book!

Lastly, check out this beautiful story from Runner's World; I saw this posted on Facebook last week and I was moved by the beautiful pictures of Boston Marathon victims and the messages they shared in the feature.  Photographer Robert X. Fogarty has a series called "Dear World" which includes message-on-skin portraits.  For this segment of the project, Robert asked several survivors to return to the finish line to take their portraits.  Each survivor selected their own message and the result is so powerful and inspiring.  

"There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rite of passage

Today, I purchased my pink 13.1 car magnet (a half marathon rite of passage in my mind) and it felt pretty awesome putting it on my car!  I must admit that when I used to see the 13.1 or 26.2 magnets on cars, I would roll my eyes and think Oy another runner but darned if I'm not one of those silly runners now and that is pretty amazing.

I like the way that looks!
I had a great day today; my mom, the boys, and I decided to hit up one of the newer outlets malls in our area and it was a beautiful day to be outside and do a little shopping.  I bought a really cute new outfit for myself (a skirt and top), which I haven't done in ages and my skirt size is a size I haven't worn in close to 10 years! 

We had fun walking around the stores and browsing and then we had a nice dinner out and treated ourselves to frozen yogurt.  Well, treat may be the wrong word given that this makes 4 days in a row that I've had some type of fro-yo.  A new frozen yogurt store (Tutti Frutti) just opened right down the street from my office (dangerously close) and it is so delicious.  I may have gone on Wednesday afternoon since it had recently opened and I wanted a treat, then again on Thursday because it was so good the day before and I was craving it again, and then again on Friday since it was the grand opening and the first 200 customers got free fro-yo and you can't pass up free fro-yo.  Generally speaking, fro-yo isn't the worst thing in the world to eat and mine would have been ok (vanilla with fresh raspberries and peanuts) except for the hot fudge I glopped on top.  We've made it a rule, though, that going forward we are only allowing ourselves to visit Tutti Frutti on quarter Thursdays (each ounce is only a quarter!), otherwise, we could get ourselves, our pocketbooks, and our waistlines in trouble! 

I'm looking forward to going for a run tomorrow; my first since the half on Sunday.  It was nice giving myself a little rest this week, but I'm itching to get out and run, especially since the weather has been so beautiful lately (of course, it does look like there is a chance of rain tomorrow). 

What is your favorite fro-yo combination?  

"A run begins the moment you forget you are running." 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

GO! St. Louis Half Marathon Recap

It's hard to believe that it's almost been a week since I did my first half marathon!  I admit that I was feeling a bit of the post-race letdown earlier this week.  Focusing on the race was really therapeutic for me and to a large extent, helped distract me from all that was going on the past few months, especially with my Dad.  I definitely had a bit of the "now what?" syndrome, but I'm feeling better as the week goes on and I'm already planning for my next half marathon this fall.

I did not go to bed nearly as early as I should have on Saturday night, partly due to the fact that I did not feel well.  I didn't eat anything terribly unusual that day, but I felt very nauseous when I went to bed.  I didn't think much of it and went to bed.  When I woke up on Sunday morning, though, I got sick to my stomach and had a little anxiety.  I couldn't be sick on race day and I just hoped that it was simply a case of race day nerves.

I got ready for the race and grabbed a Larabar and string cheese and headed outside to meet my friend, Mary.  We decided to carpool down to the race; her family was planning on coming down to see her finish, so she planned to catch a ride back to my house from them and it worked out well.  I really, truly did not feel like eating anything, but I knew it would be a bad idea to run on an empty stomach.  So, I choked down the bar, the string cheese and some water.  We arrived downtown in plenty of time, parked my car, and headed to the start line.  It was a little chilly that morning, but the temperature was expected to get into the lower 60's, which is perfect race day weather!  Mary and I had a great time people watching in our starting corral and commented on how much we felt like legitimate runners with our water bottles and Garmin watches.

My super awesome training partner, Mary, and I in our corral pre-race

We decided to start the race together, but I told Mary that when she was ready to take-off to go on without me, especially since I wasn't feeling too well and I run a bit slower than her pace.  We crossed the starting line about 10 minutes after 7 and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it wasn't too terribly crowded at the beginning.  I had expected to feel a little crammed in the beginning until we thinned out, but it wasn't too bad at all.  Mary and I split up about a half mile in because I was slowing down to pace myself.  I always get caught up in the excitement of the start, but I didn't want to get too overzealous and wear myself out.

As I was coming up one of the first small hills, I heard a strange sound behind me.  Shortly thereafter, a man passed me trailing a car tire behind him.  I'm fairly certain he was running the full marathon or at a minimum, the half (he was not a relay runner) and he had a belt around his waist with about 6 feet of rope trailing him.  Tied to the rope was your run of the mill car tire.  It wasn't a big tire by any means, but it was a tire nonetheless.  I have no idea how he got that past race officials, because I'm pretty sure that isn't sanctioned by the race organizers and I'm also perplexed by the purpose of this exercise.  Kudos to you, friend, for dragging a tire behind you for 13.1 or 26.2 miles, but I don't understand the logic.  

One of the things I liked most about this race was the scenic route it took through the city.  It really highlighted the sights of the city and we started by running through the Soulard neighborhood and through the Anheuser-Busch brewery, which was pretty cool.  At about mile 3, we reached our first truly significant hill and it was a bit of a doozy.  Quite a few people slowed to a walk and it took all of my strength to not stop to do the same.  Around this time we also came to our first cheer station which seemed to be sponsored by one of the Soulard neighborhoods.  All of the locals were standing on the corner in their pj's with cowbells and music and they were a fun crowd.  

I also received my first compliment on my skirt around this time.  I was actually surprised that I didn't see more sparkly skirts/tutus, although I did see two women dressed in Wonder Women costumes, which was awesome.  In any case, a woman ran past me in the brewery and complimented me on my skirt and my "pink"-ness (it occurred to me that nearly all of my gear was pink save for my sparkly purple headband and my green sweat band; the pink one was dirty).  As I approached the first water station around mile 4, I took my first GU in anticipation of Holy Hill at mile 6.  I had the Salted Caramel GU and it was actually quite tasty, although I'm sure it would have tasted a bit more heavenly if I had felt less nauseous.  The Salted Caramel has been my favorite flavor so far by leaps and bounds, though. 

As we ran out of Soulard and away from the brewery, I started to feel the urge to walk but I kept going since I wasn't even 5 miles into the race yet.  However, somewhere near Busch Stadium (again, cool route through the city) we ran past a White Castle.  I should note that I am not a fan of White Castle and the smell of it makes my stomach turn on a good day.  I got a whiff of the White Castle and almost got sick again, so I decided to walk for a bit.  I made it about 5.5 miles and I was a little irritated at myself since I knew I had at least had 8 miles in me, but I cut myself some slack since I wasn't feeling good.  

After we ran past Busch Stadium and the new Ballpark Village, we traipsed around downtown for a bit and then headed up Olive, which is affectionately (?) known as Holy Hill.  Holy Hill is a nearly 2 mile uphill stretch of the race and it is a race within a race.  You receive a separate time for the Holy Hill portion of the race and special awards are passed out to those who complete the Holy Hill section the fastest.  As we began up Holy Hill, we were blessed by priests with holy water, which was an interesting touch.  I walked much of the Holy Hill stretch and fell pretty far behind my anticipated pace, but it didn't phase me in the slightest.  

Mary called me right as I began going up Holy Hill and told me she had just finished it and it wasn't that bad, which was nice to hear.  After I finished Holy Hill, though, I thought to myself "That was actually that bad; I wonder if Mary just told me that so I wouldn't psych myself out."  Come to find out, Mary wasn't quite finished with Holy Hill when she called me, but she was a trooper and kept going.  There was a chocolate station after Holy Hill, but they were shutting it down as I went past but, in all honesty, the thought of chocolate was really unappealing so it worked out ok.  

There was also a GU station right after Holy Hill so I grabbed a TriBerry GU and went on my way.  The TriBerry flavor wasn't too bad, but it wasn't Salted Caramel!  As we approached mile 9, I was getting into familiar territory, as I was in the neighborhood of my office in the Central West End.  There were some great cheer stations in this area, including a group blaring 80's songs like Come on Eileen and 867-5309/Jenny.  When I got to the half marathon turnaround (literally right around the corner from my office), I watched some of the marathoners head into Forest Park for that leg of the marathon and I was in awe.  I know that I am the same woman who said she would never do a half marathon and I did this past week, but I have firmly convinced myself that I will not be doing a full.  I admire tremendously those who do, but I will stick to halfs! 

At this point in the race (around mile 10), I was definitely doing more walking then running, but I knew without a doubt that I was going to finish the race and that was a great feeling.  I got a text from my mom indicating that she, Matt, and the boys were settled at the finish line and I told her to expect me in about 45 minutes.  My legs felt very heavy and when I would start to run, they fought back so hard with the urge to walk.  This was probably one of the most valuable things I learned from this experience:  once you start to walk, it is very hard to make yourself run again.  Or at least it was for me.  

As I approached the last water station right before mile 12, I was giving myself an internal pep talk to run the last mile.  There was a woman next to me running with a friend who seemed to be in need of a pep talk and I felt like we were kindred spirits.  She and I both were keeping the same pace and both of us were desperately trying to tell our legs to run but they were not cooperating.  The woman's friend was running a bit to the front and side of her to cheer on her friend.  She was very energetic and kept saying "Come on!  You can do this.  Just run to the next stop light.  You will look back at this and think that it wasn't as hard as you thought."  When the friend stopped to walk, I could tell the other woman was disappointed and she said "Don't stop now!  Keep running, pick up your feet."  I appreciate what she was trying to do for her friend, but neither her friend or I were in the mood for such things, so I picked up my pace a bit to get out of ear shot.  For some reason, when I am that focused and struggling through something, I just need quiet so I can get in the zone and I feel like my kindred spirit operates much the same way.  

After I left the last water station, I could start to hear the finish line announcer, which gave me a nice boost.  I started running intently again at mile 12.5 so I could finish out the last half mile or so.  I started to keep a look out for my family for that extra boost near the finish line.  Thankfully, my mom wore a bright orange shirt so I spotted her fairly quickly, followed by Nick and Matt, who had Jack on his shoulders so he could see Mommy.  I was glad to see all of them, especially since last year, I missed seeing Matt and Jack at the finish for the relay.  Nick had made a sign that said "Go, Mom, Go!" and he had a megaphone I had picked up from one of the vendors at the Expo the Friday before.  It was really good to see them and it gave me a great energy boost to get across the finish line. 

I was so excited when I crossed the finish line and I made a beeline for the medal area.  I don't think I could have wiped the grin off my face after they put the medal on me; I was beaming.  I walked by the folks handing out the mylar blankets with no intention of getting one, but I felt like it was a rite of passage for a distance race, so I grabbed one.  I am so glad that I did, because shortly after taking my finish photo, I got incredibly cold, even though it was sunny and temperatures were well into the 60's.  I had goosebumps, though, and was glad to have the blanket!  

The mylar blanket looks like a cape and adds a superhero feel to this pose!
I took my finisher photo and then made my way through the post-race food area, which was literally a taste of St. Louis.  The finisher food included St. Louis staples such as toasted ravioli, Ted Drewes frozen custard and Dad's Oatmeal cookies (which happened to be fashioned together to make an incredible ice cream/cookie sandwich).  I also picked up a banana, a pbj graham cracker concoction, and some chocolate milk.  I started to feel a little light headed after I met up with my mom, Matt, and the boys, though, so I sat down on a curb and drank the chocolate milk to see if it would help.  I took a few bites of the ice cream sandwich, but gave the rest of the food to my family.  We had planned to go out to brunch, but I asked if we could do a celebratory dinner later that night since I was feeling lightheaded and wanted to go home to take a nap.

We started walking back to the car, but I didn't make it too far before I needed to sit down again.  Matt made sure I drank some water and after a few minutes, I was able to stand up and walk the few blocks to my car.  I'm not sure if it was dehydration combined with lack of food due to the nausea or if it was something totally unrelated, but it was strange.  

After a hot shower and a long nap, we went out to dinner to celebrate and I shamelessly wore my medal throughout the whole meal.  After dinner, though, I still felt a little sick so I came home and went to sleep.  It was the strangest sensation, just a weird feeling in my stomach, but luckily it was gone by the next morning.  I should add that I also shamelessly wore my race medal to work on Monday and strong-armed Mary into wearing hers when we went out for a celebratory lunch with our co-workers.  A huge shout-out goes to Mary for crushing the half marathon; she ran the whole race and I am so proud of her!  I also admit that my medal is still in my purse so that I can pull it out whenever anyone asks about the race and it will probably stay there for another few weeks!  

Me and all three of my guys after the half
My official finish time was 3:16:40 and I officially reached my good goal with this race. I am incredibly proud of myself and how far I've come in my road to a healthy life.  About 5 years ago, my mom and I walked in our first 5K, our local Komen Race for the Cure.  It took us about an hour and a half to walk those 3.1 miles and I literally could not move the next day.  I spent the entire day in bed and had aches in my body that I'd never experienced before.  Now, 5 years later, I am capable of being in motion for over 3 hours with very little complaints from my body.  I had minor soreness in my quads and calves as well as some aches in my shoulders, but nothing catastrophic and I was definitely mobile the next day.  It was pretty amazing to reflect on my first post-race experience and compare that to my experience this time around.  

It was a really amazing day and I cannot wait to do another half later this year!  I think one of the neatest things to happen post-race was that my mom told me after I finished that she was thinking of walking the half next year!  I think that is a wonderful idea and as I told her, she can definitely do it if she sets her mind to it!  If a half marathon is something you've considered (even remotely), I encourage you to go for it!  It is a wonderful experience that will challenge you in the most unexpected and beautiful ways.  You can do anything you put your mind to and if you need a little encouragement, let me know and I'd be glad to support you!

Thank you all so much for the encouraging posts on my blog, the supportive texts, and the wonderful Facebook messages!  I am blessed to have you all in my life and I can't thank you enough for supporting me on this adventure!  

"She believed she could....and she DID!"

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My first half marathon (the quick version)

I promise I will post a more detailed race re-cap soon, but Sunday was a good day.  No, I take that back, it was an amazing, wonderful, powerful day and I am very proud of what I accomplished.  I have been resting quite a bit this week after my first half marathon (pretty darn cool to type that, by the way) so I have been trying to get to sleep at a reasonable hour and therefore, slacking on blogging!

This beaut is mine!
I feel as though I should clarify; I actually feel pretty amazing following the half as far as sore muscles go, etc. I do think, though, that the past four months have caught up to me following the race and I am feeling mentally and physically tired, thus my attempts to rest and get more sleep this week.  

I appreciate all of the well-wishes, Facebook messages, and texts on Sunday!  It was so wonderful to have so much support and encouragement and I am so grateful to each and every one of you. 

Stay tuned for the full race re-cap! 

"Limitations only exist if you let them." 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

On the eve before my first half...

I have a range of emotions running through my head tonight. 
  1. Pure excitement; hence the reason I am up two hours past when I said I wanted to go to sleep.  I can't wait to step foot across the starting line tomorrow even though it requires a wake-up call at o'dark thirty.  I have been looking forward to this race for the better part of 12 months and in earnest for the past 4.  It's time to get this thing started!
  2. Gratitude; I cannot begin to thank each and every one of you for your continued support, encouragement, and advice as I set out to reach this goal.  You all have cheered for me in my successes, picked me up when I was down and motivated me when I needed a push.  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!  
  3. Sadness, because my Dad isn't here to see me cross the finish line.  It became evident during the past few trips I took to Ohio that Dad was proudly talking to his friends about my running journey and he beamed when I showed him the picture of me standing by the Stan Musial sign the day I ran the race across the bridge.  He told one of the nurses that it was one of his favorite pictures.  I know my Dad will be with me in spirit and today, my mom found his wedding ring in the safe deposit box so I'm going to wear it during the race so my Daddy can be with me.  It fits perfectly on my ring finger, so it now has a permanent fixture on my right hand.  
Dad will be with me as I cross the finish line tomorrow
I had planned to list nervousness as one of my emotions tonight, but I can honestly say that I am not nervous about tomorrow.  After writing down my good, great, awesome goals, I know that tomorrow is going to be a good day no matter what.  Truthfully, it is going to be a great day because I am setting out to do something I never in my wildest imagination thought was possible.  Given the circumstances of the past 4 months, I am as ready for this race as I possibly could be.  


Friday, April 4, 2014

Race Expo

Holy windy Friday, Batman!  After our stormy day yesterday, we had much cooler weather today and gusty winds, but thankfully no tornado sirens.  My friend, Mary, and I headed down to the race expo around lunchtime to pick-up our race packets and take a look around the expo.

The bib pick-up was very efficient; each race had it's own pick-up area that was organized by bib number.  It felt really official getting my bib and this is the first bib I've had with my name on it! 

It's official! This is happening! 
The expo
The expo wasn't too crowded at the time we were there, which was nice.  I picked up some GU's from my favorite local running store (Big River Running) because they had the Salted Caramel ones that I've heard so much about and they are very hard to find. I can't wait to try it and see if it is just as good as I've heard about.  We walked around for a bit and then headed back to work.  The expo wasn't enormous by any means, but it was a decent size and there was a variety of booths to visit.

I've figured out my race day outfit and I got the final piece of the puzzle last night.  I knew I wanted to run in a sparkly skirt of some kind (over my running capris) and on a trip to the fabric store a few weeks ago, I spotted the perfect fabric.  It was pink and sparkly and it already had an elastic waistband attached, so it was just a matter of sewing it together.  My mama is a handy seamstress (amongst her many talents), so she offered to sew it together for me and shorten the length a bit, too.  Thanks, Mom!  It turned out perfectly! 

A little pink sparkle will add the perfect touch to my race day attire
I'm proud to say that in an effort to increase my water intake pre-race, I haven't had a soda since Sunday.  It's been difficult at times (like tonight, when I almost caved and had a Pepsi), but I'm hoping the combination of no-soda, increased water, protein and carbs this week, and just eating better in general will help me feel at my best on Sunday. 

Tomorrow should be a fairly relaxing, pre-race day.  What are your plans for the weekend?

"If you are going to doubt something, doubt your limits."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Good, Great, Awesome

I hope those of you in STL or any of the storm ravaged areas tonight are safe and sound.  I love a good thunderstorm, but I'm getting a little annoyed by the tornado sirens.  Our day started at 5:30 with the sound of rain battering the window and the sirens going off and our day concluded in much the same way with two more rounds of the sirens.  Luckily, the damage in the metro area appears to be minimal at this point.

I have come across so many great articles this week; I'm not sure if it is because in my pre-race mentality, I am noticing more articles than I typically do or if I am subconsciously seeking them out.  Or maybe a combination of both.  In any case, the article I came across today is from Runner's World and the focus is dealing with pre-race jitters, which is very fitting.

There are several great tips in the article (apologies to any of my family and friends if I've unintentionally "unleashed the crazy") but my favorite is about setting multiple goals, including a goal that is not time related.  One of the coaches in the article, Jeff Gaudette, encourages his runners to set a "good," "great," and "awesome" goal to ensure that even if the day turns out to not be awesome, it is still a great or good day.  I love this idea and set my own "good," "great," and "awesome" goals.

  • GOOD: Cross the finish line.  I have been planning to do this race for a year and have worked hard the past few months (during what has turned out to be the worst winter in decades) to participate in this day.  Crossing the finish line is something I never thought I could do and it will be a huge accomplishment. 
  • GREAT:  A great race to me would be if I could run the entire race, save for a few water stops.  It is really hard for me to drink out of those paper cups and run, so I plan to stop at each water station for a few seconds to hydrate.  Other than that, I would love to run the whole race.  I know I can. 
  • AWESOME:  My absolutely perfect race would be if I could finish the race in 2:45, which would roughly equate to a 12:30 mile.  
Tomorrow, I am going to go down to the Race expo with my friend, Mary, so we can pick up our packets and I am really looking forward to that.  Here's to a less rainy day, though, tomorrow!  Or at least a less tornado filled day! 

"You have to want it, you have to plan for it, you have to fit it into a busy day, you have to be mentally tough, you have to use others to help you.  The hard part isn't getting your body in shape. The hard part is getting your mind in shape." 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Power of Positive Thinking

I think I've mentioned before that I listened to a great CD a few months ago by Dale Smith Thomas, who presented at a conference my mom attended a few years ago.  Mom brought the CD to me earlier this week because she thought I might want to listen to it again before Sunday.  She was right!  (Thanks, Mom!)

Dale's presentation is about making winning choices to be successful in all areas of your life and it's re-energized me in regards to my race, my weight loss journey, and my professional life.  I will post more on weight loss next week after the half, but I am already thinking of a birthday challenge for 2014!

It is interesting to me that each time I listen to Dale, something different speaks to me.  Dale speaks about the power of words in our life and offers new ways to phrase common negative thinking.  The first time I listened to the CD, I was drawn to changing the phrase I'm overwhelmed to I'm in demand because I happened to be experiencing some stress in my professional life.  This time around, I was drawn to her suggestion to change the phrase I'm nervous to I'm energized.  I love that; I am not nervous about my race, I am energized by it.

Another suggestion Dale offers is to write down your goals, because you have to address the what before you work on the how.  I really must keep this in mind and this morning I made a mental note to write down in one of my spare blank books (I heart blank books and have several) my weight loss goals for this year (well really, my lifelong goal).  As I write this, however, I realize that I need to write down my goal for Sunday, too!

I also had a great pep talk today at work from my co-workers, which I appreciated and needed.  My friend reminded me that I have been planning for this race for a year and it is a huge accomplishment to participate in it.  She reminded me that if I go into the race Sunday with negative thoughts in my head (I will cross that finish line even if I have to crawl on my hands and knees, I am afraid I won't be able to run it all, etc.) then I am going to start off on a bad note.  I really have been planning this race for a year and it is very exciting to know that the work I've put in will pay off in just a few short days.  I am committed to positive thinking from here on out. I am ready for this and I am really looking forward to race day.

"All we are is the result of all we have thought." 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pre-Race Excitement

Slowly but surely, my excitement for Sunday is winning out over my nerves.  I received my pre-race e-mail today from GO! St. Louis, complete with my bib number (#8355!) and packet pick-up instructions, which definitely helped build the excitement.  I signed my mom and Matt up for text alerts of my progress to help them plan their arrival time.  Last year when I did the relay, it was hard to gauge my finish time since I was the last leg of the race, so they waited for awhile at the finish line.  No easy feat with two little guys, that's for sure.  Given that I can better anticipate my finish time this year and they will receive the text alerts, I'm hoping to help them avoid too much wait time at the finish line.

I got an e-mail today from Saucony that had an article that caught my eye.  The article, Race Day is Here 5 Ways to Have the Race of Your Life, was fantastic and when I got to the bottom of the article, I realized it was written by Dimity and Sarah of Another Mother Runner!  I didn't notice the by-line at the top of the article when I started reading it and I forgot that they have a close relationship with Saucony, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover they wrote the article.

I love all 5 of the tips in the article, but I think my favorite tips are the last two.  Engage word power and Hold on tight.  I think both of the tips are going to be very important for me on Sunday.  I always say my running and weight loss mantra is I got this so I will definitely need to repeat this (out loud if necessary) when "my legs feels like tree trunks" because they will feel like that at some point around mile 8 if I have to guess.  I also know that I will need to push hard to get through the last mile or so.  Months of training will culminate in those last steps and I won't want to let go no matter how much my body aches or my brain says I can't.

For those of you who have run distance races before, what are some of your tips for running your best race? Do you have any advice for those last few miles? 

"Respect the training. Honor the commitment. Cherish the results."