For the past five years April 4th has had a special place in my heart. It is the a day that I like to step back and look at my journey and accomplishments. It’s a day I celebrate PRs, smaller jean sizes, and goals that at one point in my life never seemed possible.
This year, April 4th feels heavy. Literally. For the first time in five years, when I look in the mirror, I see the same girl who walked into that first consultation. It’s hard to think back on the last five years of hard work and not feel sadness. It’s hard to ignore that pile of clothes in my closet that don’t fit anymore, or how my speediest run pace is a solid two minutes slower than what an “easy day” used to feel like. I feel even worse when I look at pictures of this little guy my body created and carried, and instead of focusing on his adorable smile, I can’t stop cringing at my own body.
But throughout these ups and more recent downs of the last five years, one thing has remained constant. It became apparent to me one day recently as I pulled out my long sleeve, lime green shirt to go for a run. This same shirt has magically fit me when I ran my first half marathon at my lowest weight, when I went for my last pregnant run at 28 weeks, and now as I try to navigate my way to my new role as a mother runner. It doesn’t matter where I am in my journey, it always fits.
This one (very smelly) green shirt stands for so much more. It is my foundation, it’s what got me to where I am today. It is home to me. The friendships I’ve made, the guidance, the therapy sessions, the ass kickings, they’ve been there for every step over the last five years. And no matter where I am in my journey, they’re always there to support me. They’ve seen me through my first mile I ever ran, white dress workouts, crossing the finish line on Boylston Street, and burpee modifications as my belly grew. It’s pretty incredible when you step back and think about it.
This April 4th may look a little different, but I keep telling myself it’s just another page in my book. A new chapter in my story. It’s a new starting point. Today is a reminder of where I’ve come from, what I can achieve, and the incredible supports I have behind me.
Here’s to the next five years. 🙂
My first “Blog Day” fell on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012. I sat at my desk at work, manically refreshing my web browser until suddenly, there it was. I held my breath, cringing at my name, at that god awful picture of myself in a coral sundress resembling a muumuu. I started to imagine all the ex-boyfriends, ex-best friends, family friends, co-workers who could be reading what suddenly felt far too personal to be sharing out loud. Too late.
And before I could fire off the text saying that I changed my mind about this whole ordeal, people responded. Old friends.(Soon to be) new friends. Family members. High school classmates. Saying they were proud of me, they were inspired by me, that they too felt these things. And although it was sometimes downright embarrassing to lay it all out there, it was these encouraging words that helped me continue to share my story.
Once my Rockstar journey wrapped up I moved my musings to this little site. My space to write, vent, share goals, fears, accomplishments. I’ve always felt like I was just talking to you, my friend, instead of posting off into the wide open interwebs. And because I love routine, I continued to write my weekly post for the next 119 Wednesdays (give or take a few schedule changes).
Last week was the first week there was no Blog Day.
I had been thinking about it for a while, going back and forth on how long I would continue this. The decision didn’t come easily. Running is my outlet. Writing is too. Together they have helped me on this long, hard, absolutely incredible journey of self discovery. I never started blogging to become famous, or because I wanted it to become my career (Sponsored posts and giveaways just aren’t my cup of tea). I wrote with two purposes.
In a world where thigh gaps are given more praise than powerful quads and wedding dresses are sized to make us feel like bridal hippopotamuses, I wanted to put it all out there. I wanted to tell the girls who are sausaged into their size 14 jeans that I’ve been there, that I know what it’s like to feel trapped in a body you don’t want. That some days you tell yourself you’re going to start skipping lunch to lose weight, only to end up eating everything in sight at 9pm. That I’ve cried in front of a mirror and a pile of clothes that just don’t fit. I wanted to tell anyone who’s ever felt these feelings that it’s okay to ask for help. To want to live a healthier life, even if it currently seems impossible. That teaching yourself to run is hands down the shittiest and most empowering experience of your life. That finding people who love, encourage, and support you can open you up to a world you never thought possible. That learning to love your body for what it can do instead of how it compares to others is a breath of fresh air you’ve just never felt before.
Ever since I dove into this adventure (come on now- I’m a swimmer and we all know I love a good analogy) I’ve had so many supports to keep me afloat. Nutrition, personal training sessions, triathlon swim classes… my version of Swimmies and Noodles. And while I’ll never stop appreciating the support they’ve provided- I’ve known when it was time to try and swim a few strokes on my own. In a way, this blog has been another form of support. In the beginning I needed it to keep me on track, to keep me from chickening out on these big scary goals. I don’t know that I need that anymore. This little slice of the internet has become my very own virtual scrapbook. Anytime I’m in doubt, anytime I feel like I can’t do something, I have all of these experiences to go back to. I can go back to what it was like the day I lost 50 pounds. What running 3 miles without stopping felt like. The unbelievable experience of my first triathlon. The mental struggle of my first half marathon. The fact that I ran the BOSTON F’ING MARATHON. All of those accomplishments live here, along with the feelings, bad days, and hard work that went into them. And just like all the other supports I’ve had along the way, I know that in the off chance I start to panic and sink on my own, I can reach right back out for help.
So maybe this isn’t a goodbye, maybe it’s just a see you later. Maybe after a few weeks without Wednesday morning posts I will realize that I miss my little piece of the world. And because I don’t want to say goodbye and I love a good quote- I want to end today’s post with one of my favorites. I found it on a card at the end of my Rockstar sessions and it so appropriately fit that time in my life. It does again now.
“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That is the beginning” – Louis L’Amour
As my running shoes sat collecting dust by the door (yes, cobwebs can grow in just one dramatic week) I scoured the internet, hungry for my next challenge. Something that I’ve found myself doing after every big accomplishment over the last 3 years, but there was always more to be had. Until now. With a Boston Marathon medal hanging on my wall every race I pulled up on the computer just seemed trivial. I was slightly worried that maybe I had reached my pinnacle; maybe I was done with this training business. I mean it has been one hell of a ride.
And just as I was thinking I would spend the summer kicking back on the couch I got this thought thrown at me: “I’ve always gone bigger, but have I ever tried to get better?” I knew the answer instantly. I’ve been chasing distance after distance, barely finishing one race before I’m training for the next. Running for me had become this challenge of how quickly I could climb to the top, how fast I could prove that I could cover these distances. But challenging myself to do them better? I’ll admit I don’t really know what that’s like. Most of my PR’s have been purely accidental.
Suddenly my answer became clearer. My challenge this summer is not to prove to the world how high I can climb, but to prove to myself that I can give it all I’ve got. I didn’t become the Half Ass Bad Ass because it’s a cute and catchy name – it happened because I far too often half ass myself through things. And I want to know what it’s like to push myself. To get comfortable being uncomfortable. To get better. To become faster. To feel stronger.
After a week off my feet I was finally given the go ahead to head out for a run. I was giddy with excitement as I slipped on my running shoes and turned on my Garmin for the first time since April 20th. With a gorgeous spring afternoon and legs that were well rested I imagined a perfect three miles. Instead my legs felt like they were made of brick, I couldn’t catch my breath. It may in fact have been the shittiest three miles I have ever run. But it was a start. Again. I realized that my journey with running runs parallel to my journey with weight loss: it never ends, it just changes direction. Completing a marathon doesn’t mean I’m done – it means I’m just beginning.
I just can’t even begin to believe that marathon training is officially coming to an end. I’ve got one more “long” run (not that 10 miles even feels long anymore) and then THAT’S IT. 12 more days. It’s go time. It’s unreal.
So while I sit here obsessively stalking the weather (it’s already changed drastically 3 times in the last 24 hours) and wondering if every cramp in my little toe is a real pain, I decided to come up with a list of things I’ve learned during this process. Advice to those pondering the idea of training for 26.2. Some of it I never saw coming, some of it I heard over and over again, but sometimes you just have to see it for yourself before something clicks.
It’s time consuming. I assumed that marathon training would be just like when I trained for my first triathlon, or a half marathon. I know now that it is so much more. My weekends have consisted of lots of water, single digit Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons spent recovering on the couch. Pretty wild right? (Shout out to my buddies who have been so patient with me these last few months, I’ll be back soon!)
Find your village. With that being said, you can’t make it through this process alone. Find your support crew, the people who understand why you don’t want to go out at 9pm on a Saturday night or who will sit and listen to the play-by-play of your 20 miler (even if they just smile and nod their way through your babbling).
Fuel is everything. I used to be pretty stubborn about fueling. In my mind holding out until the last possible minute made me tougher, but I would just crash. HARD. It took training for a marathon for me to figure out exactly when I need a boost, and to stay on top of it. Who knew you could actually feel GOOD running 10+ miles?
There is no worse feeling than a hill with no end in sight, and lungs that can’t catch an ounce of air. But you have to remember that there is also no better feeling than the downhill that follows, and catching your breath again. THE. BEST.
Your race, your pace. This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn, and one that I still struggle with every now and then. But, it’s been an incredibly helpful mantra to keep in the back of my head. I, like many other runners, have the tendency to compare myself to everyone around me. But at end of the day it’s my marathon and all that matters is how I get across the finish line.
What you do AFTER you run is just as important. The days I don’t stretch, foam roll, ice are the nights I usually hurt the most. It’s time consuming and not as tempting as immediately curling up on the couch, but my body thanks me later.
Ice baths suck. Nothing else needs to be said here.
You cannot eat everything in sight. I understand now why marathoners tend to gain weight- It’s easy to justify shoveling anything and everything into your mouth because you just ran 15 miles. I’m proud of the fact that I actually lost a few of the pounds I had re-gained earlier in the fall because I’ve been pretty consistent about tracking my food and sticking to what I know works for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t treat myself (Hi I’ll take an order of pancakes AND french fries please!) – but I always get back to business with the next meal. I know that in these last few weeks my weight will probably go up a bit, but I’ve accepted it because I know that I’m preparing my body to do this incredible thing.
You will love your body. I think this is the most important lesson I’ve learned. Despite all of the weight I’ve lost in the last few years it’s still instinct to nit pick and nag myself in the mirror. Until now. There’s something about putting your legs through almost 4 hours of running that makes you see them in a whole new light. Suddenly those thighs aren’t thick, they’re strong. Those calves aren’t bulky, they’re powerful. I’m proud of this body.
Dear Half Ass,
The last of the gray snow piles are melting. The days are getting longer, the birds are once again becoming a familiar background noise. Around you everyone’s minds are turning to baseball season, flip flop weather, garden planning. And while these things are on your mind too there’s something else that these chilly spring evenings remind you of. Something even better.
It’s now been three years. Three years since that night you sucked in your breath (and your gut), wiped your sweaty palms, and walked through that door. Three years since you finally admitted that you wanted help, to change, a different lifestyle. In some way the memories of those days seem blurry- it’s hard to imagine life without sweat, burpees, long runs and sore muscles. But sometimes you remember every single detail of how truly hard those days were.
It’s been an incredible journey to watch – highs and lows, weight losses and gains. Training cycles, My Fitness Pal, bedtime stories, egg muffins. I sat back and winced as you struggled through your first mile, watched your face beam as you ran a 5K without stopping, saw you cross the finish line of your first half marathon. I saw you learn how to swim, become a triathlete. Watched your strength and confidence change as your body did. I saw the satisfaction in your face when your jeans slid down your waist, caught you discovering muscles in places you never knew existed. I cheered at the finish line as you cruised into PRs, and comforted you as you learned that not every race goes as planned. I watched you form the most incredible bonds with people you never expected to have anything in common with. At first you were nervous to trust them but you quickly learned how much they cared about you, how much they just want to see you succeed.
It’s hard to believe that three years ago you stood in Kenmore Square, in your tight fitting size 14 shorts, wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever run 26.2 miles … FOR FUN. It’s even harder to believe that in just 16 days you will join thousands of other athletes (which by the way, you are now too!) at the start line in Hopkinton. You will stand there knowing that you have trained just as long and just as hard as everyone else to run the greatest race in the world. You have changed your body, your lifestyle, your mind, all for this. You will make that epic trek from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. And when you cross that finish line you will have proved that you truly can do anything if you set your mind to it.
People like to joke about how you continue to celebrate this day, but you and I both know how important it is to you. Important that you celebrate, that you remember the journey it took to get to this place, and that it doesn’t stop here. I know I’m quick to judge you – to nag you that you run too slow or that your thighs are too big – but the truth is that I couldn’t be more proud of you. I don’t tell you that nearly enough.
The sky is the limit girlfriend. Happy Anniversary.
“Are you ready?” That’s the question I’ve been getting more and more frequently as the days tick down. I stare back with a somewhat blank look on my face, because I don’t really know how to answer that. Ready for what? Ready for a nap? Absolutely. A snack? Always!
Ready to run a marathon? I’m not so sure about that. Does anyone ever feel ready? Supposedly scientifically speaking my legs and my lungs are – but the rest of me?
There’s a few things I’m ready for. I’m ready for this to be over because to be honest, I’m exhausted. I’m ready to not go to bed Saturday night fearing my long run the next morning. Ready to not wake up with random aches and pains. Ready to look down at my feet crossing that finish line. Ready to feel the weight of that medal around my neck. Ready to prove that I can do this.
But I’m also ready to go back to the beginning and start all over again- because you only get to experience your first marathon once. I’m ready for more time, more long runs, more practice fueling. Ready for more tips, more advice, more time to get this right. Ready for the countdown to stop moving so damn fast suddenly.
I’m ready for my last 20 miler out on the course this weekend because it means I get one more chance to practice. But I’m also scared shitless because I know this is it – I don’t get another chance to get it down. The next time I’m out there it will be the real deal. I’ll be alone. And I will have 6.2 more miles further to go until my feet cross that finish line. Until that medal hangs around my neck. I’m not ready for that yet.
Like so many other Americans my Thanksgiving morning began with freezing my ass off at a turkey trot. The same race that I can now say I’ve run three consecutive years. And the same race where two years ago, I ran 3.1 miles without stopping for the first time .Which in my short little running career, is still my proudest moment. Although the Feaster 5 is absurdly crowded and an hour away, it’s now a tradition I simply can’t break.
Last year I decided to run the 5 Mile option with a friend, which to this day stands as my 5 Mile PR. I registered for the 5 Miler again this year with the direction to add on an extra mile to make it my “long run” for the week. (Is it lame that I always feel a little bad ass when I’m out there doing extra miles before the race even begins?). This year I wasn’t going for speed, but simply to enjoy myself and get in a good, solid run (which clearly hasn’t been happening too often lately).
As usual it was a freezing cold day, and this year had the bonus of being my first run in the snow. The first mile is chaotically crowded, and then the 5 Miler splits off for a bit and there’s finally space to breathe and think. It was a perfect time to look back at what I’ve accomplished since I was here two years ago, about what this race means to me now.
For the last mile the two distances sync back up and share the road to the finish. I don’t think that last mile will ever get old for me. It gives me goosebumps as I remember the feeling of pushing myself, knowing I wasn’t going to let those legs stop for once until I crossed the finish line. Or the feeling of my lungs bursting and my legs aching, but looking at my watch and knowing I wanted to finish faster than I ever had before. And even though this year didn’t bring any of those exciting firsts with it, it still put an extra pep in my step.
It’s clear that the lack of “exciting firsts” directly correlates to my lack of enthusiasm lately. And while Thursday didn’t produce any shiny new PRs or challenges, in reality I ran 6 solid miles in preparation for training for a MARATHON. The BOSTON marathon. On that same road two years ago I could barely run 3 miles and yet, here we are today, about to dig into this crazy new challenge. And that’s something I’m incredibly, incredibly proud of.
At what point do you figure you’ve learned everything there is to know about running? Is there a certain amount of time that passes – or a specific milestone? In the last two and a half years I feel like I’ve learned a lot, even enough at times. At first it was the basics: put on a pair of shoes, head out the door, left, right, left. Then I started learned about paces, types of shoes, fueling, distance. You’re all set to go.
Ah except for this thing called mental toughness. Which it turns out- is not as simple as left, right, left. Mental toughness takes time to develop, mental toughness takes technique, practice, strength. I’ve seen a glimmer of it from time to time- when I finished Timberman completely on my own or just last week in that shit show of a triathlon.
But more often that not lack of mental toughness gets the best of me. I actually really suck at it. It gets lost in my brain, overpowered by this nagging voice that says I can’t do it.
It reared it’s ugly head this weekend – somewhere between miles 8 and 13. That’s usually where the wall hits for me. There’s nothing worse than cruising along on a beautiful fall day, visions of a PR on the time clock in your head when suddenly – there it is. It has the effect of a migraine, coming on fast and furious and you pray that if you try not to think about it it will just go away. These miles get blurry, your legs get heavy, and it’s hard to remember much except the feeling of wanting to stop. Of reaching out to the person closest to you begging them to make IT stop.
But the feeling that comes after that? It’s even worse, and it remains clear in your memory long after your feet stop moving. It’s the feeling of knowing you gave in, of disappointment, of regret. The feeling that you let the voice win again.
Despite the mental battles I crossed the finish with just :34 seconds to spare. A PR by the skin of my teeth, but a PR nonetheless. I’m proud of that, I know that I put in some decent work out there. I just can’t help but wish I could go back in time and change those seconds and minutes I wasted. It could have been so much more than :34 seconds.
And so I’ve answered my own question – there is so much more to learn. Mental toughness remains a mystery to me. I can’t grasp my brain around it. I’m hoping this break will help me figure out some motivations and methods to tackle it so that at some point I can jump far over that wall – and never look back.
In just three days I will put on the white dress I knew was mine from the minute I saw it. In three days I will walk down the grassy aisle, stand in front of my closest friends and family and declare my love for the boy I met eleven years ago this month. It still doesn’t feel real to me.
One would think it should have sunk in by now, since we’ve literally had the longest engagement in history (Ok maybe not the longest – but over two and a half years is a pretty long time). There were many factors in our endless engagement, some of which didn’t surface until after our decision, confirming my belief once again that everything happens for a reason. But the biggest factor was the girl I was on that bitterly cold February night.
I can make the joke now that he didn’t “slip the ring on” – because it was incredibly tight on my pudgy little finger. In the days after we got engaged I would take my ring off and assess the imprint it had left on my skin, the same way my jeans did. And I think that’s when the panic really set in. I couldn’t imagine myself in a white gown. I couldn’t think about standing in front of my closest friends and family, looking the way I did at that moment. The road from Point A to Point B was impossible.
We all know well by now that I did make it from Point A to Point B. And I couldn’t have made it there without this incredible guy by my side the entire journey. When I came home and told him that I had found a local studio that I thought would be the answer to all my problems his response was “Call them up!”. When I cried the first week because I was hungry and too sore to move he carefully portioned out my dinner for me, brought it to the table, and told me he was proud of me. He would leave water bottles in the freezer for when I got home from bootcamp that first summer. He celebrated every pound lost with me, and he reminded me of how far I had come whenever I got frustrated. He came to cheer me on at my first race, and has rarely missed one since. When I finished my first double digit run I crawled into the house to a card and a box of Lush bath supplies because he was so proud of me for sticking with it. I smile when I catch him talking about me to someone because even though he doesn’t know a thing about running, I can hear in his voice just how proud he is.
Sometimes I feel incredibly selfish for the amount of time I absorb in working out, training, running, racing. I feel guilty that I go to bed early on Friday nights because I have a long run on Saturday. I feel bad that sometimes I’m too tired and sore to do anything besides lay on the couch. But I know that at the end of the day I’m not just doing this for me. I’m doing this for us, for our future. Someday I want to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. I’m doing this because someday I want to be that mom whose kids are used to Saturday mornings in their jammies in the running stroller. I’m doing this because I want to show my children what it means to be strong, to face challenges, and to take care of your body. I want to grow old with the love of my life in the best way possible.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to put on that gorgeous white gown on Saturday. I know how much sweat, how many tears, how many miles and inches and pounds I have fought through to get to that dress. But the truth is- I’m more excited for what comes after that white dress. Excited for this new adventure together, excited to see what comes next. Andy has never seen me for anything other than the person he loves, even my worst times. But a relationship is that much stronger when you learn how to love yourself just as much.
And so in just three days I will begin both the shortest- and longest race of my life. A race that isn’t about how fast I get to the finish line, but enjoying it for as long as I possibly can. But just like everything else these days, it’s just right, left, right. 🙂
We all know I’m a sucker for anniversaries. I’m even more of a sucker for anniversaries where I can attach sappy symbolisms to them and with just 10 days to go to my wedding – I’m a sucker for anything soft and sappy lately.
Two years ago this weekend I ran my very first race, the Diva Dash (no judging). Fast forward two years and this weekend I will be running a 5K alongside the beginner running group I coached over the summer. How’s that for sappy symbolism?
You can’t help but stop here and ask “How the hell did this happen?”. At least I can’t. As I quickly flip through the images and events of the last two years it still comes as a shock to me. Road races, triathlons, half marathons… if you held a crystal ball two years ago I probably would have thrown it back in your face.
There’s so much about that first race that I never want to forget. I never want all that naïve goodness to disappear. It will always remind me where I came from. I knew practically nothing about running- I didn’t know about paces, or where a bib goes on your shirt. I had just gotten my first pair of “real” running shoes (which I didn’t wear for the race because I didn’t want to get them dirty) and I will admit now that I showered and did my hair before it because “I wanted to look cute”. I thought I needed to carb load the night before (truth be told- the fat kid in me just wanted an excuse to have pasta again). and I didn’t have a goal except that I wanted to finish. I was scared shitless.
And while I’m sitting here being all mushy and reminiscent there’s no way I couldn’t write about the person who got me across that first finish line. The one who two years later continues to push me across them- both physically and mentally. She is always a step ahead of me (more like 10 actually), and somehow always sees my potential miles before I can. I know I mention her all the time but she is every reason I’m here writing this today. It may not have taken a village to raise this runner – but it certainly took one hell of an individual.
Sometimes I catch myself saying something I’ve heard her say a million times and I smile. The thing about being a runner is you’ve got to pass on the tips and tricks that you learn along the way. I can only hope that someday I’ll be that person to someone else.