My First Half Marathon

As many of my readers know, the half marathon I was supposed to run in January wound up getting cancelled due to inclement weather so I was able to defer my registration to a different race. Well I’m happy to report that I finally was able to run my official half marathon with RunDisney last weekend, the Star Wars Dark Side Half, and it was a pretty awesome experience! In this entry I would like to regale you with tales of my training and meeting my goals and finishing my first official half marathon. I was able to run my first half with my godmother, Suzanne, and one of my oldest friends, Sarah, which was a great way to stay distracted and have fun for two and a half hours while running.

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Here’s just a preview of some of our shenanigans. 

For my last half, I did a novice training program by Hal Higdon that was really good for me given my starting point. The unofficial half I ran, I clocked in at around 2:53 which is pretty decent for a first go at running 13.1 miles. This time, since I was already pretty well trained from January (I picked up about 3 weeks after) so I wanted to try a different plan and settled on another Hal Higdon plan, the HM3 (for more experienced runners). Despite the fact that it would only be my first “official” half marathon, I felt pretty good after the last round of training that I was ready for a tougher program. I found it to be a great program and only had a couple of missed training runs in the 3 months and that was including a week where I was sick. I was also challenged by an article on the internet to run a 5k in under 30 minutes, which I finished in 28 and definitely attribute to my awesome training.

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28:05 – that’s right stupid internet article I AM in shape! 

Now let’s get on to the real exciting stuff, race weekend! For all RunDisney races you have to attend their running expo to pick up your bib and shirt before your race. They have tons of exhibitors set up at the Wide World of Sports selling various running accoutrements and health related stuff. There was even a booth set up by Celebration Hospital that had a body composition scan you could do for free and in just a couple of minutes.  Suzanne and I decided to give it a shot and I was thrilled with my results! After 8 weeks of bodyweight training (and several prior months of lifting) I apparently have 72 lbs of skeletal muscle mass and 18.7% body fat (despite my BMI being closer to 24). Based on this information I’m in the “fitness” category of body fat percentile and pretty close to “athlete” which of course gave me a huge boost of self-confidence which I assume helped me run my heart out the next day.

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Getting my body composition scan done, fancy machine and all. 

Now on to the actual race, which by the way starts at 5:30 in the morning, and required a bright and early 3am wake up on my part. So after sleeping about 4 hours (because nerves sometimes don’t let you fall asleep), we three lady warriors trudged to the bus stop at 4am to sit around in our corral for a while before it was our turn to run. Now it should be made clear that Sarah (who I’ve known for 20 years because we’re so old now) ran this race after having only 3 weeks of training and also one week of it being sick. Suzanne is a seasoned pro at running, she even finished a full marathon in under 5 hours earlier this year. And right in the middle you have me, who has been running for 18 months and trained the full 3 months for this race. But we stayed together for most of the race, Suzanne keeping me at a pace on track to finish in under 2 hours and 45 minutes, and Sarah kicking ass alongside us until about mile 9. I had my half marathon playlist in one ear to keep me motivated and Suzanne encouraging me and pushing me to go hard and stay on track in the other. One last motivation for me was knowing my dad & Suzanne’s son Hayden (one of my best friends and only 12 years old) were waiting for us at the Boardwalk around mile 12 to help push us through to the finish. I started getting emotional around mile 10, but after seeing them and getting to hug Hayden I couldn’t help but cry a little.

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Suzanne & I still leaping around mile 11, and hamming it up. 

I consider myself very lucky that Suzanne joined me in this race and volunteered to stick with me and pace me for my first race. Without her help I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to meet my goal and finish in under 2:45. Almost every time I wanted to walk or take it easy for a bit, I thought about keeping up with her and wanting to achieve my goal and kept running. Plus we took some amazing pictures together on the race course that I’ve already framed in my apartment and make me laugh every time I see them. I would like to one more time acknowledge the fact that she was placed in the C corral, her best ever, and she came all the way back with me in corral G so that we could be together. Thanks to her and a little bit of my training, I finished the race in 2:33:16 – far under my 2:45 goal going in. Throughout the race I didn’t have any issues until I was sprinting to the finish and my calves started cramping up. So what you can’t see in my finish line photo is the Charlie horse like pain searing through both of my calves, luckily I’m good at hiding my discomfort. I’m happy to say that after plenty of walking, a shower and a stellar breakfast at Olivia’s Café, I was all better for my day at Hollywood Studios and was able to enjoy wearing my medal proudly around the park.

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My finish line photo, feeling very triumphant and not at all like my calves are on fire and seizing up. 

For my first half marathon, I could not have had a better experience. RunDisney may not be perfect in their organization, but I had a great first race at the Dark Side half marathon and would most certainly do another in the future. I’m thinking my next goal might be to complete the dark side challenge, which consists of running a 10k on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. 19.3 miles in 2 days doesn’t sound so rough right now, but ask me again by the time next year’s race rolls around. For now, I’m going to keep running 3 days a week, bodyweight training 2-3 days (more on that soon), and working on my nutrition. At this rate, I’ll never stop working on being the best I can be- which isn’t such a bad position to be in.

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We 3 Amazonians conquered the 13.1 mile course, and I’m super proud of all of us! On to the next adventure! 

When Life Gives You Lemons

As promised (to no one in particular other than myself) over the weekend I decided to run my makeup half marathon, after last weekend’s RunDisney cancellation. I sit here with my laptop, medal around my neck to type this up. On Sunday morning at 6am, I dragged myself out of bed and laced up my shoes prepared to run 13.1 miles to earn that half marathon medal. When I began my run, it was still dark out so I had to use the flashlight on my phone in order to see the pavement in front of me. But I knew that the later I started, the longer I was going to have to be running in the sun, so a dark start was for the best. I plugged in my ear buds, put on an episode of the “Anna Faris is Unqualified” podcast and began my nearly 3 hour run.

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After nearly 3 hours of running, I did it. 

Prior to this point, the farthest I had run was 10 miles in my training and I had planned on running my first half marathon at the happiest place on earth, with thousands of other people alongside me. If you’re not a runner you might not understand the difference between a training run and a race, but they’re pretty significant. At a race you have mile markers, water stations, medical tents, and a group of peers doing the same thing as you that provide you with the motivation to keep going. At RunDisney events in particular, there’s a sense of camaraderie fostered among the runners. When you see someone struggling you give them words of encouragement or a high-five, and other people support you. In a race you have people to pass and someone to chase ahead of you, but on a training run you’re alone and have to support yourself.

As I chugged along my running trail in the dark, I let my mind wander as I often do on my long runs as it provides a great distraction. I spent time thinking about how far I’ve come since starting Couch to 5k in December of 2015, and how now I was embarking on my first half marathon. If I could finish these 13.1 miles, I really would be able to call myself a runner and put that 13.1 magnet on my car that I was so proud to buy. The medal I had picked up from Wide World of Sports last Saturday would have some meaning, it would mean that I had achieved something significant I had been working at for months.

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Post-run on the couch with the medal around my neck. Proud as can be. 

There were times where I got a stitch in my side and slowed to a walk or felt my quads getting tight and wanted to give up and just walk home. But you know what, I didn’t. Even when I had no one else holding me accountable and was doing this for no one but myself I kept going. I thought about when I was younger and I would cheat myself and lie to my mom about running a mile like she recommended to get me in shape for softball season. I would walk up and down the street for 10 minutes and then sprint down the hill by our house to get my heart rate up before I went home. I used to cut corners and cheat myself often when I was younger, but that was no longer the way I conduct myself. Today I was going to keep going and finish this half marathon even if it was just for myself and no one else.

When I got home and collapsed onto my couch, Gatorade in hand, it finally sank in that I had just run a half marathon. That I did it by myself without anyone holding me accountable. I already had the medal I was to earn, so I didn’t do it for the bling. This time I did it for me, to prove to myself that I could do it. When I started this weight loss quest some 19 months ago I never thought I would lose 100 pounds, let alone run a half marathon. I’ve achieved so much in that time and I didn’t do it for anyone else, I did it all for me and maybe a little bit for my mom.

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My reward for running 13.1 miles, 2/3 of a supreme pizza for dinner! 

I frequently think about my mom and what she would think about all that I’ve done. I’m sure that she would be proud of me, and I know there are lots of other people who are but I can’t help but wonder what she would have to say. My mom always had something to say about things and I just miss her unique brand of humor. One thing I know for sure, she would’ve been waiting for me at the finish of my first Disney half-marathon and cheering me on, rain or shine. And I know that no matter what I do as far as running in the future, she will be there with me in spirit as she is every day.

Depression And Finding Your Patronus

Depression is a topic I have touched on in previous entries, but I feel as though it should get its own separate piece. Most people have dealt with depression at some point over the course of their lives, for some people it’s a more frequent problem than others. I didn’t really have a whole lot of experience with depression prior to my mom’s passing, but after that I learned that sometimes depression was going to darken my doorstep and often it was going to be on the days I least expected it. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a total nerd and I really took some comfort in J.K. Rowling’s comparison of the dementors in the Harry Potter series to depression. It really struck a chord with me how suddenly a wave of sadness could pass over you and you could feel the happiness sucked out of you. I realized that I was dealing with my own personal dementors and I needed to find my Patronus to banish them away.

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This is an older picture of me & Ariel from her Harry Potter party with our friend Sam photo-bombing in the back with his chocolate frog card. Gryffindor all the way! 

For a few years after my mom passed I had no manageable way to deal with my depression, there would be nights where I would cry for what felt like hours until I was so hoarse and could barely breathe that I fell asleep, exhausted. I’m not someone who likes to cry in front of other people, unless I’m watching a Disney movie in which case I will bawl my eyes out, so it was sometimes hard for me to handle my grief alone. My boyfriend, Chris, is always telling me that I don’t have to be Wonder Woman all the time, I can take some time to cry and be upset but that wasn’t easy for me to do for a while, especially in front of others. After a year or so of doing nothing but crying to deal with my depression, I started to journal whenever I would become upset. While that was a good way to express my sadness and write about the things that triggered me, it wasn’t really helping me move forward. I’m sure at this point you’re trying to figure out what on earth any of this has to do with fitness and my weight loss, well I’m getting to that.

When I started working out last year and I began my “epic weight loss journey”, I started to realize that I wasn’t getting sad as often. For a while, I even thought maybe I was done being depressed which was foolish, but I had a bright side to things finally for a bit. I did however gain a better understanding not only of my body, but also my emotions when I started taking care of myself. I began to realize that sometimes I had advance notice of days when I would be wonky (my mom’s favorite word to describe feeling off), and that doing something active could help to combat those days. Sure, I still spend some days crying and some songs or movies trigger me into thinking of my mom and being depressed, but they are much fewer and far between than they ever have been before.

The greatest thing I’ve found to combat my sad days is going for a run, often times the days when I feel the most depressed are the days I’m more inactive. I’ve become so used to working out and being active, that on my lazy days I sometimes crave the extra endorphins. I really noticed a big decline in my depression around December 2015, when I began the couch to 5k program. I started to use running as a way to be alone with my thoughts and just zone out and listen to music and for me it worked wonders. Normally around the holidays is a really tough time for me and I miss my mom so much every single day, we had a lot of special Christmas traditions that I miss. But this year, I wasn’t nearly as upset as I had been in the past and anytime I felt myself starting to get depressed, I would just head out for a run and come back feeling so much better.

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Nothing like a nice cold morning run to wake you up and start he day off right. 

I want to make a point to say that I know the things that worked for me won’t work for everyone. Sometimes depression can be overwhelming and activity isn’t enough to make it better, I know that antidepressants and counseling have a negative stigma but they really shouldn’t. I genuinely wish the world would be more open to talking about mental health and acknowledge that for some, they need more than just “be happier” to fix the problem. In the past, I’ve sought counseling, but it just didn’t really do the trick for me.

I had finally found my Patronus, and it was running which I guess as an animal would be a cheetah maybe? If anyone can think of a better running animal, I will completely rework my Patronus. If it’s of any consequence I’m a Gryffindor through and through, Pottermore sorted and all! Anyway if you’re someone who struggles with depression like I do, I fully encourage getting active to overcome some of your sadness. Even if it’s just going for a nice long walk and listening to an audiobook, or doing a quick set at the gym, find your Patronus and keep those dementors at bay.

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An artist’s representation of what a cheetah Patronus would look like. 

Run?! I Thought You Said Rum!

Part of the purpose of this blog is to not only share my story with you, but also to share some of the aspects of my training and weight loss that have been more successful for me. One of the biggest influences on my weight loss and my training as a whole has been running. It’s kind of funny actually, as I never saw myself as a runner and spent much of my time avoiding running at all costs. I realize that not everyone is a runner and to be honest, I had never been in the past. In fact I absolutely hated running and always dreaded having to do it.

I was pretty athletic in high school as I mentioned before, but running was absolutely my least favorite part of training for any sport. My sophomore year of high school my track and field coach (I threw shot put and discus) would make us run a mile before we could practice throwing and it was absolute torture. Doing the Couch to 5k program made me not only enjoy running, but crave it. On my off days of the program I would often go for long walks to get my steps in, and would struggle to go that slowly. For the first time in my entire life, I wanted to run and I looked forward to it.

But before I get ahead of myself, I should explain a little more about what made me change my opinion on running and decide to get into the Couch to 5k (C25K) program. My godmother, Suzanne, has been a huge inspiration to me throughout my weight loss journey. She went from being a totally awesome albeit slightly overweight mother of two, to a ridiculously kickass woman who runs marathons and competes in triathlons and trains pretty much year round. Anytime I would get down on myself or struggle with my eating and cardio I would reach out to her and she would send me words of wisdom or encouragement or just tell me aspect of her story. Suzanne had definitely encouraged me to pick up running along the way, but I had always resisted because I never enjoyed running. I decided around Thanksgiving that I would give the Couch to 5k a try, I saw a lot of success people had with it on reddit and various other sites dedicated to fitness, even for people who were more overweight that I was.

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May of 2015 at Disney with my godmother, right before I decided to start my fitness journey.

On black Friday, I went out and got myself a new pair of Nike running shoes and geared up to start C25K on December 1st. I decided I would take things slowly and not pressure myself to go too hard or run when I wasn’t feeling it. Suzanne made sure to stress to me that I needed to listen to my body and take it easy sometimes. When I started out, I felt so awful and out of shape the first workout was pretty tough even though I had been doing the elliptical for months. But by the end of week 1, I was doing alright and holding my own. The program is 8 weeks with 3 workouts each week in order to provide you with time to rest in between. I finished C25K in 8 weeks, didn’t skip any workouts, and I could not have felt more accomplished.

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Day 1 of Couch to 5k and the final workout, notice how much better my mood is. 

After I finished the program, I took a couple of weeks to work on getting my speed up and build my endurance for a while. Three weeks into the speed workouts, I had to change-up my plan and started the Bridge to 10k program. Suzanne told me they had spots open for the Star Wars 10k at Disney in 8 weeks, which was something I had wanted to do earlier but the registration was closed. Luckily, The Bridge to 10k (B210K) was only 6 weeks which would give me time to build up to it before the race and have 2 extra weeks to fine tune. The situation could not have been more perfect if I tried. My training went pretty well, the time flew by and it was time to run my first 10k. I was so anxious/excited that I barely slept the night before and ran the race on about 2 hours of sleep, but I finished and ran almost the entire way. I finished in 1:22:33 and I could not have been more proud of myself (plus the medal was awesome).

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I had to keep reminding myself to keep it together and not cry as I crossed the finish line because this was going to be a picture I would always cherish. 

I took a few days off from running after my 10k, swearing that I wasn’t going to run for at least a week which did not end up happening. My first post-race run was good, I felt a sense of accomplishment for sure, but I also felt kind of empty because I no longer had a goal. After talking it over with Suzanne, and realizing I had plenty of time to train for it, I got signed up for the Disney Half Marathon next January. So yes, the girl who once hated running is now in training for a half marathon. I’m pretty excited for the race even though its months away, but I’m not going to lie I’m also really nervous. I mean its 13.1 miles! That’s a long way! So stick around for a while and watch me train for this half marathon, I’m sure it will be filled with fun anecdotes and lots of running.

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Suzanne and I are nothing but smiles and pride, with my shiny new 10k medal.