Saturday, July 28, 2012

bix blog!

These little soldiers did some good work today.  I FINISHED THE BIX!  Seven miles, much (most?) of it on an incline.  Walked, ran, did not stop.  FINISHED!  Words cannot describe how grateful I am to my friend Sarah for provoking me into this what felt like utter insanity.  If I had skipped it, I'd have really missed out on something.  

I expected to put something up here right after the race.  It's funny...though I was terrified of how long we were running, I hadn't anticipated being too tired to even write a blog afterward.  Wow.  Coming home after the race, there was stretching and icing and showering and a huge bowl of chopped veggies for lunch, and then...when I thought it would be blog time...sleep.  Sleep wasn't "one of the choices available to me."  My body was having it and there was no negotiating.  Tried to get up after an hour, only to find my body had apparently converted to solid lead.  Pressed back down onto the bed, I slept a total of about 3 hours.  And am now sitting here with my feet up, listening to them tell me the story of what a job that was, and folks...I ain't goin' nowhere.  

But that's the afterstory.  Let's go back to the beginning!

Here we are, waiting for the fun to begin! YES we were excited...
It's a beautiful thing, living just a couple of blocks from the starting line.  Sarah and I had just a short walk to the back of the line, just ahead of the walkers, where we had been designated based on having no previous recorded race times.  It'll keep you humble, knowing the walkers are just RIGHT THERE - or it did me, anyway, as I already knew a bunch of them would be kicking my butt (this based on my experiences on the Chicago Lake Front Path - always [NOT] fun to be passed by a walker while one is running!)

This is the most "Chicago feel" I've experienced since moving back to the QC!
Seeing 20,000 people line up for a race is impressive.  Being a height-challenged person, I couldn't see most of it, but here's a glimpse from Sarah's phone.  

You can't *start* 20,000 people all at the same time.  Happily, we were wearing computer chipped tags, which meant our time didn't start until we actually crossed the starting line.  That was, ummm, either a block or 2 blocks from where we lined up and by my calculations from reading race results, it took us just about 4.5 minutes to actually reach that starting line.  At that point...HOLY COW.  I could look up Brady Street hill and see all four lanes of the road filled with bodies, top to bottom, side to side.  An awesome mass of humanity.  It's a rush you have to experience to appreciate, I think.  

Starting with that hill is discouraging.  We were running faster than I normally would.  It takes me maybe half a mile to really get to be "ok" on any run, and the (4-5% grade) hill takes up most (all?) of that distance.  Truth:  I didn't feel like I could finish the race, as we were climbing the hill.  Truth:  it took me another MORE THAN HALF A MILE just to recover from that hill.  I kept moving, but - dude - I was dying.  

But the crowd is a huge encouragement - both runners and spectators.  So much noise.  Cheering, music of every kind.  We were sprayed with yard sprinklers and told what a great job we were doing.  People knew just the right beat to turn up loud, music-wise, and more than once that beat helped me step a little faster - from stereos to live bands, the music was a crucial piece of the energy.

There were drink stations along the way - people standing holding out paper cups of water.  I quickly learned that if I am handed a half cup of water, I can swallow most of it.  When it's a full cup they give me...well, let's just say I end up wearing it more than ingesting.  This is NOT a complaint - after a bit, I was pouring water down my neck, down my back, on my head...and shuddering and hollering a bit for the joy of how good it felt.  You drink and you drop the cup and keep running.  After awhile, there were spots where we basically ran on a carpet of smashed paper cups (and if you're worrying about worries...afterward, all sorts of people were out raking up piles of cups from the street!)  

Because the race doubles back on itself, we got to see the superstar runners coming back around when we were just past the first mile marker.  They were incredible.  I can't imagine being able to move that fast at all, much less for that far.  

Each mile was marked with a huge banner, and featured someone calling out race times as we crossed.  That was helpful - I had checked out the "race calculator" on the race website ahead of time and knew we had to finish each mile in about 17 minutes to make our goal of doing it within 2 hours.  Definition of encouraging:  at every mile marker, we got to hear times that told us we were on track to make the goal.  We even ran the 2nd mile in 15 minutes, which MIGHT be a personal best for me since I took up running 15 months ago.  

Having Sarah with me was invaluable.  I guess it's POSSIBLE to run a race alone, but I know for sure more than once I stepped faster with her than I would have without her.  And the conversation and camaraderie along the way were great gifts.  A race buddy is a Very Good Idea.  

Fun things I saw along the way:  costumed runners, a dude on stilts (he beat us), someone running barefoot with tape on his toes, "the Marilyns" (you haven't lived until you've seen multiple Marilyn Monroes out for a run!), some foolish young guys running with beer, people of every age and size and all manner of getup.  The only bummer all day were some church folks, unsmiling, holding up "Repent, the kingdom is at hand" and ummm NOT radiating love. Really?  You're advancing the Kingdom like that?  Hmmm.   

The most moving thing (to me) was a soldier running in full gear with his packed rucksack.  Early in the race, he carried the black POW/MIA flag; if it was the same guy, he didn't have the flag at the end but he finished at the same time we did.  Feeling the burn of the run in my lightweight clothes, I appreciated what my son went through at boot camp on a whole other level and was nearly undone at it.  He didn't get cheering crowds when he ran all those times - he faced screaming superiors and weather much worse than what I was running in (and let's not even START on the fact he did a lot of it with stress fractures in his feet).  Yes, I finished the race fighting tears and praying for soldiers everywhere.  I'm not always *for* all the wars, but I am certainly behind those who give of themselves for the cause of peace.

At the turn-around there is a digital readout of race times.  We were at 57:02 there.  It was loud - drums and so much to take in that mile 3-4 just flew by.  I still wasn't sure we could finish within the 2 hours, because the race (other than the Brady Street hill) is largely DOWNhill on the first half.  How would we maintain the pace for the second half, fighting our way UPhill?  Sarah suggested the strategy of running for a count of 20 and then walking for a count of 10.  Great strategy.  It took us a long way. 

Little extras passed out along the way included "Mr. Freezie" ice pops and bags of ice cubes.  It was fun to see how much fun the volunteers were having as they blessed us.  If you can ever do this race, even just to walk it, I recommend trying.  It's a pretty great high. 

We ran more than we walked - we're in agreement that we ran at least 4 of the miles, including uninterrupted running for the last (more than) 1 mile.  Coming DOWN Brady Street hill was a rush.  Being newbies, we mistakenly thought the starting line was also the finish line, and we crossed it holding hands and hollering.  Thank God for the other runner who came by and straightened us out:  "This is not the finish line."  Oh.  Oops!  

Still, we got there.  Sweaty, soaked, sore, grinning like idiots.  Yup, we made it!  And we both finished several minutes before the two hour mark (my time was 1:56:29; Sarah finished a little before me.)

*Insert victory yell here*

We did stop by the race after-party, where all sorts of food and drink (the good-for-you stuff and the bad-for-you stuff as well) was laid out for our enjoyment.  The item that most surprised me there:  free beer.  The beer line was LONG.  Happily, I didn't want to be in it.  But really, free beer?  Someone committed some dollars there!  

I am a runner.  

It took me nearly 17 minutes per mile, but I am a runner. 

I was passed by walkers, but I am a runner.

I did it in size extra large running clothes, but I am a runner.  

It sent me to bed afterward, but I am a runner.

I finished.  I am a runner.

And, guaranteed:  that didn't happen - would NEVER have happened in MY life - without 19 months of personal, one-on-one "training" from the very God of all the universe, JUST FOR ME, on how to love my body.  I think I'll stick with letting Him teach me.  Like...forever.

To God be the glory.  Great things He has done.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

almost race day!...and apparently a sermonette

Last night I picked up race packets for myself and my friend with whom I am running the Bix.  The very size of the packet pickup helped me understand on a whole new level, how huge this thing is going to be.  All I can say is WHAT A PARTY.

I've been wobbling back and forth the last couple of weeks between excitement and dread.  Between, "I'm gonna do it!" and "What the hell have I gotten myself into?!"  Between trying to get ready, and trying to brace myself for my 2nd-ever-in-life ambulance ride (my first having been after an excessively dramatic fall off an overheated barrel racing horse when I was something like 11 years old). 

This morning, I'm feeling good.  I'm excited.  Butterflies in the stomach.  Joy that the weather man says it will be 70 degrees tomorrow morning at race beginning, and 80 around the time we should finish.  That is SOOOOOO much better than the 110 my worst imagination was saying it would probably be.  Mercy, mercy, mercy...THANK YOU LORD!  

A very supportive friend who wishes to remain nameless has decided to bless me with new racing duds.  I went earlier this week to do some pre-shopping so that getting them tonight wouldn't take so long.  I went into a store I never go to - one I've avoided like the plague because just driving by it made me feel:  fat.  poor.  highly unattractive.  I don't even know if they HAVE a "plus size" section and I've never had the nerve to go in and find out.  But my friend said they had a good sale going on, so...I went.

And I still don't know if they have a plus size section, cuz the stuff in the "regular sizes"...well, it fit me.  

And the mirrors in the dressing room...well, they didn't make me want to go home and get under the covers and cry myself to sleep.  They didn't even make me want to stop at Whitey's for an ice cream numb-my-emotions session.  THEY WEREN'T EVEN MEAN TO ME AT ALL.  I mean, I'm still me in the mirror.  And the things I've been hating on my legs about all these 36 years or so are still true.  But I look and I see progress, change, hope.  

I said this in my grat list yesterday and I'll repeat it here this morning:  I don't know what has changed more, my body or my mind.  

If you've read along for a little while or a long time and aren't yet asking God to teach you how to love your body...WHY NOT?!  

I mean, maybe "being on a diet" will get you skinnier.  Maybe.  Maybe "having an exercise plan" will increase your fitness.  Maybe.  But what if you could just let Him teach you to love your body, and those things would come along as A BONUS?  

From one whose mind is daily being blown by the process, I couldn't recommend it more highly.  PLEASE THINK ABOUT IT.  

End of sermon.

much love!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

a public apology, overdue

Meet my legs.  The object of my shame and contempt since I was 10 years old and noticed that my thighs were bigger than my little tiny best friend's.  I've been pretty persistent in hating them.  Pretty relentless in noticing cellulite.  Pretty merciless in noting the way my knees point awkwardly outward and we won't even START with my judgment of my ankles or the very white whiteness of them.  Oh golly.  

I'm thinking today I owe them a public apology.  I've really not been kind AT ALL in my attitude toward them.  I refuse to even OWN shorts, for fear that someone else will condemn them as cruelly as I do.  

Know what?  Today they were AMAZING.  I took 'em out for that "challenge run" that I mentioned a day or two ago.  

I didn't run as far as my secretly proud inner show-off planned to go.  At about halfway to my anticipated turnaround point, I got a little twinge of pain in my foot with the arthritis in it.  Just a little twinge.  But I remembered that my podiatrist said, "If it hurts, don't do it," so I figured I'd best not push it or gamble that the pain might get real.  Better beat a retreat for home.  (For the record, it never returned...and I'm icing it even as I type, just to help it not to flare up.)  

My plan was to run, prayerfully, as far as I could run.  It isn't all dark and cool out there today like my usual running weather.  It's about 85 degrees and the sun is blazing.  At one hour out, I was feeling like dying,  slowing to a walk (which somehow made me feel weaker and breathe much harder) when  cyclist passing me stopped, concerned.  "Are you okay?  You look very hot.  You should probably sit down."  I hushed the proud little voice in me that wanted to be defensive, and thanked him for checking.  And decided maybe the Lord had sent good counsel along the way, and maybe I should quit trying to be the superstar.  At the next opportunity for shade, I sat down.  For HALF AN HOUR.  It took most of that time to stop huffing and puffing and sweating.  I finished up what was left in my camelback water bag (I HATE wearing that thing to run, but one doesn't go out for that long without hydration, and it was what I had available.  Thank You Lord that it was available.)

The rest of the trip home was surprisingly easy.  I ran it.  I didn't get as tired as I had been.  I am a sweaty, soggy, disgusting mess but I know I love this a badass.  

And more importantly, I feel like I owe my legs an apology.  Look what they just did!  They are amazing!  I was out for 2 hours and ran about 6 miles, all told (I'm no speed demon, but I'm running laps around the me that used to sit on the couch...)  They ought to be treated nicer than I've been doing.  If you catch me practicing hate speech against them, call me on my crap and don't give me mercy.  Please.  I gotta be nicer to them.  Not flinching from putting their picture up on the's a start.

Meanwhile I've been stretching and stretching some more.  Drinking massive quantities of water.  Ate half a power bar, to help my body know it will get sustenance and needn't hold onto fat.  Icing my foot.  And can't wait to get out of these totally saturated clothes and into the shower. 

In other good news, I don't need to go shopping.  Rolling up my running pants as pictured works.  They didn't fall down.  I can do THAT for the Bix next weekend.  Which will be the next time I run.  Taking a break from running, from now to then, per general runner wisdom. 

This stuff is fun.  How crazy is that?!

Friday, July 20, 2012

running challenge

Oh WOW what a great run morning it was!  Cloudy, cool, breezy.  After 2 runs in a row in heavy, oppressive, liquid, hot air this was freeeeeeeeeeeeeedom!  Love it. 

My small group is currently doing a book called "Made to Crave"...really good stuff.  It's not exactly the path that I've followed in my "letting God teach me to love my body" adventure, but I've found it to be really sound.  I'd recommend it, if you need something more structured than my "listen to God and just do what He tells you" method.  There's a ton of stuff from it I'd love to share here, but I'm blogging from home and the books are on my desk at work (I do the homework on my lunch break.)  

In what I read there yesterday, the author (Lysa) shares about the beginning of her running journey, as she struggled with her unfitness and unwillingness and just forcing herself to do it daily (oh BOY I remember that part of the journey!)...and then came the day that the Lord challenged her to lean into Him and run as far as she could without stopping.  She usually ran something like 2 miles; that day she ran nearly 9.  Her point is not that you can run a long way, but that in the places where we lean hard into Him, He makes it possible for us to do much, much more than we would ever dream we could.

Which is how I became a runner after a lifetime of despising "exercise."

And how I turned into the lady who can (and LOVES to) do a 50-mile bike ride, after years of calling my brother crazy for doing the same.  

I'm so grateful for the timing of that reading.  I'm behind on the reading schedule.  But that little as far as you can while leaning on Me....hit me just at the right time.  I'm DYING to get out there and try it.  

Maybe this weekend will offer me that opportunity.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

night run

I ran last night.  I NEVER run at night, but the Bix approaches and my friend with whom I am running it wanted to see how we fit for pacing together.  

Truth:  I was DREADING it after that hot run the other morning.  My inner bawling brat baby self was all, "What have I gotten myself into?!!!"  But the good thing is, regardless of what the resistance is speaking to me, I CAN just get up and do the next right thing.  Which in this case was that run.

It was a nice time.  I mean, IT WAS HOT and we went something like 3.5 miles and there was no shortage of sweat.  And my knee got kinda funky about halfway through, probably because we were on sidewalks some of the time and they are such uneven surfaces around here.  Still, it was fun to be out with my friend, and it didn't tax me as hard as Monday morning's run did (probably because we mixed in some walking), and I DID IT.  Despite the dread and the unwillingness in me that wanted to set its heels and not budge.  Felt very good to have done it, after being so tempted not to.

I need to find me some very cheap running capris before the race.  I definitely noticed last night that my long black pants are HOT in the sunlight.  I generally *don't do* shorts, as part of my longstanding grudge against my legs, but I might do capris.  I might even have a pair in my hand-me-downs, come to think of it, and they might not even be too tight now.  Guess I need to figure that out. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

just this moment

Yesterday was one of the hottest runs I have experienced to date.  It was already something like 75 degrees at 5 AM, and my one sleeveless running shirt was still hanging to dry, so I was stuck in sleeves almost down to my elbows.  The air was heavy, muggy, hard to breathe. 

I still finished my run across the bridge and back, 2.5 miles, or about 5,000 steps (according to the answers I googled).  I managed that in the oppressive air just the same way I always do:  one step at a time.  It's really the only way to run.  If I start to dwell on how much further I have to go, what incline is ahead, whether I can finish or not...well, I quickly lose hope and motivation.  But if I just take a step, and take another step, and just continue staying in the exact moment of this's amazing, how far I can go.  I don't have to keep running for 4,999 more steps.  I just have to maintain my pace for THIS STEP.  And the way I take THIS STEP is lean into God and let Him push, pull, prod, and/or carry me through.  

It's a lesson that works across the spectrum, whether we stick with "loving my body" examples like focusing on just this bite of food rather than the next 40, or whether we turn it up a notch to examine...say...marriage.  Looking back I can see that I lost my part of the battle for my marriage when I stopped dealing in the moment and started panicking about how I could "live like that" for the rest of my life.  When we look way down the road, it looks too hard, and the objections start to rise.  I'm not able!  What about my "right" to have it as I want it?  Why should I have to try that hard, when others don't?  What about me me me me memememememememeMMMMMEEEEEEEEEEE?!  Forgetting of course that what is best for ME is to stay in the moment, trust God, give my best, and slap away the "what ifs" like the nasty flying blood-sucking vermin that they are.  

One step at a time.  Or, like my bike ride on Sunday that was almost as hard as yesterday's pedal at a time.  Push this time, and then push the next time, and don't worry about how many times I'm gonna have to push to get there.  I'll get there.  

It's worth it.  I arrived home yesterday without needing to stop or walk.  I was a little raincloud of sweat, leaving droplets everywhere I moved, and while it's not fun to push to that point, it DOES make me feel like a badass afterward (and for the record, I LIKE that feeling...if you're grown up enough to be over it, you'll just have to forgive me my childishness or drive on.)  It was worth the push.  It was best for this body.  It will bring its own rewards. 

This moment.  It's what I have.  Resolving to use it as best I may, and trust God for the cleanup.  

And you?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ordinary happy progress notes

I am pleased to say that the mason-jar salads were a HUGE success on my vacation.  They lasted the entire week - actually, I ate the last 2 salads after I got back home, TEN DAYS after I had made them, and they were still yummylicious.  I gotta point out, that's pretty cool when you figure I was storing them in an igloo cooler outdoors in 100+ degree weather.  While I iced daily and even sometimes 2 times per day, those salads did spend some time just sitting basically in chilly water.  I highly recommend mason-jar salads!

I mentioned 100+ degree weather.  While I was away at my music festival, it stayed up around 100 all week, and we did have 4 consecutive days over the hundred degree mark.  I sweated soooo much and I'm pretty sure I lost some pounds just from that.  Choosing to love my body for the week included drinking lots of water, eating those beautiful salads, slathering sunblock like it was going out of style, staying in the shade whenever possible, and taking naps to combat the heat and the short nights caused by awesome music.  

I am back to running.  Just doing it 3 days per week right now, so as not to tempt my arthritis to flare up in my foot.  It's hard to describe how GREAT it feels to be back at it - even after that exhausting week away camping in the heat, Monday morning I was awake at 4:30, well ahead of the alarm, chomping at the bit to be out there.  Same thing again this morning, only it was 3:30.  Running is not something I'm doing from obligation or even as an attempt to be smaller/look better.  I just simply love that way of loving my body.  Only God could make a change that big in me. 

The Bix (the 7-mile race I'm doing) approaches.  According to the website, I'll be racing in 18 days and 10 hours.  Great stuff.  

My body is changing.  I know not just because I see it in the mirror (and sometimes laugh and say, "Are you digging this, Lord...seriously?!!), but because every single day I hear it from many people around me.  

I like that.  I mean, I like the hearing.  But even more, I LOVE the place of loving my body.  As it is.  TODAY.  Not some day when it reaches some magical size.  Today, while I am still in full possession of thunder thighs and a muffin top and arms that swing and wobble in the breeze.  

Just.  Like.  This.