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. 🙂
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.
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.
“You can be anywhere when your life begins.
You meet the right person and anything is possible.”
I’ve never been one who can recite dialogues or sputter off movie quotes so it amazes me that a line from a teenage movie has stuck in my head for so long. And when I think back to April 4th, 2012 it immediately comes back to mind. Clearly on that chilly spring night, a part of my life was just beginning.
A year ago today I sat here and told you how I had just climbed my own personal Mount Everest. I had accomplished what was at one point in my mind was the un-thinkable. The evidence could be seen in my face, in my body, in my clothes, in my smile. I had fought a battle, and I had won. I thought I had it all figured out, that from here on out it was all downhill.
And now here I am, a second year gone by. To the eye it appears that not much has changed. In fact- I’ll confess that I haven’t budged out of the same 5 pound weight range for the last 365 days. And while you might consider that a disappointment the truth is it is an even greater victory to celebrate. Losing weight is one thing. Maintaining it is a whole new ballgame. It means this isn’t just a phase anymore. This is my life.
For several months I would wake up in a panic that I would look in the mirror and my old body would be back. That this was just all a big dream. After a year of maintenance I now know… this IS my body. I get to keep it. I get to use it to do all of these amazing things I never dreamed I would be doing. All it asks in return is that I take care of it.
Success in year two can’t be measured in simply pounds or inches. It’s measured in new experiences, in accomplishments. In 10Ks, half marathons, triathlons. It can be seen in my confidence, in my personality, in my happiness.
Maybe some day I’ll stop remembering April 4th. I’ll forget what I was wearing and how nervous I was. Maybe someday it will just be another day out of the year. It’s already getting hard to distinguish between what happened in year one and year two. It’s already difficult to remember what I did before I spent my days running, swimming, downward-dogging. The girl in the “before pictures” is becoming more and more of a distant memory, like someone stuck Kathleen in a fat suit. And while at some point I imagine this will all just be another chapter in the story of my life, for now I will remember. I will remember all those details, and all those milestones. I will celebrate happiness, strength, confidence. I will smile at the fact that on the night of April 4th I had no idea what was in store for me.
My story isn’t a “happily-ever-after”. It’s a “happily-as-you’re-gonna-work-for-it”. It’s not a story of magic tricks but of hard work, and not giving up. My fairy godmother didn’t cast any spells- she simply believes in me. She pushes me, and challenges me, she inspires me to keep going. My story is full of ups and downs, of challenges and successes. Tears of frustration and of pride. And the best part is? It doesn’t end here. My story has still just begun.
Today marks the first birthday of the Half Ass Bad Ass (The blog, not the person). I can’t believe I’m still here, a year later. In the beginning I gave this thing a lifespan of 4 months before I got bored, or ran out of things to say. But here I am today, 52 Wednesdays later, still rambling 🙂
More impressive than 52 blog posts is that this means I’ve survived a year “on my own”. I say that very loosely as I’ve had all the continued support, love, and guidance I could ask for. But most of you know that I started this blog as I wrapped up my incredible 12 weeks as a Rockstar, and so this was a place for me to document life and hold myself accountable as I re-entered “the real world” as this smaller, healthier version of myself. The last 52 weeks have been about me… living life as I now know it.
In trying to figure out how to eloquently put together my thoughts about this last year I was reminded of the lessons I’ve been learning. Many of them I have yet to achieve, but they are things I am working on. I hear them constantly and I know that at some point, they will all click. So to celebrate the last 12 months of my life, here are my 12 biggest lessons:
1. For as many times as you say “I’ll never ______”- chances are you’re gonna try it. And you’ll probably up liking it. If for some reason you don’t hey, at least you have a reason. For all the bitching I did about yoga … it is now one of my favorite parts of the week. Seafood and I, on the other hand, will probably never have a loving relationship. New things are scary. Challenges are scary. The unknown is ABSOLUTELY PETRIFYING. But I’m learning that the scarier the challenge, the greater the reward is. The only regret I’ve had so far? That I didn’t try these things sooner.
2. You can’t always measure success by a number on the scale. There are SO many other amazing ways to measure progress: When push-ups no longer require your knees, fitting into a dress you haven’t worn in 3 years, when you run a mile further than you did last week. The most important measure of success? It’s how you feel. When you wake up every day comfortable in your skin, feeling confident, feeling strong… well there’s just no number that speaks louder than that.
3. DO NOT try anything new on race day. On that same note, don’t show up at a race barely fueled and expect to feel good at the finish line (if you even make it there).
4. Food is not the enemy. Food is part of life, food is what makes you strong. You should never beat yourself up over a meal. Life is too short to not enjoy a donut with your buddy every now and then.
5. Trust your training. Trust your body. Trust all the hard work you’ve put in. Trust those who believe in you. And most importantly- trust yourself that you can do it. Because without that last part, none of those other statements matter.
6. Find your balance, whatever that may be. It’s easy to get caught up in training, paces, numbers and goals. Take a step back and breathe when it gets overwhelming. Focus on something else. When you start letting it consume you is when it stops being fun.
7. Bad runs happen. Bad races happen too. You get the car ride home to sulk and then it’s time to pull yourself together, wipe your tears, and pick a new goal to work towards.
8. Respect your body- both with what you do to it and how you speak of it. Fuel it properly, listen when it is giving you signs that you need a rest. Get massages. Stretch. And when you stand in front of the mirror, stop picking apart your imperfections. Those thighs and legs that you think are big and bulky? Think about the miles of abuse they put up with. For all the shit they take, they deserve a little praise every now and then. Those stretch marks that seem like they stick out? They are the battle scars of a fight you (and your health) won. Be proud of your journey.
9. The only person you should be competing against is yourself. When you spend all your time worrying about who is running faster and further you have no energy left to focus on your own goals.
10. There is no set time that passes, or one qualifying act that deems you “a real runner”. When lacing up your shoes fills you with a happiness words can’t describe, when you feel the burning desire to become better… you are a real runner. When a run kicks your ass to the curb, but you get up the next day and try again… you are a real runner. Don’t ever say it with a ? at the end, with hesitation. Say it boldly, say it proudly, hold your head up high … “I am a runner.”
11. In yoga we’re often told to find something in the room to keep us steady. This goes for life outside of yoga class as well. Find that something or someone that steadies you. Keeps you focused. Is there to lean on when you start to feel wobbly.
12. Remember the reason behind why you do this, why it’s important to you. Take a minute every day and remind yourself why you’re inspired, what it is that lights that fire in your soul. What better version of yourself to be than the best one possible? 🙂
Dear 52 pounds,
It’s been exactly a year since we last saw each other. And I have to be honest.. I haven’t missed you. Well, that’s kind of a lie. When it’s $&!-ing freezing cold out like this I joke that I want my fat back. But in reality I hope I never see you again.
And although another 13ish of your little friends eventually joined you, it was our initial breakup that freed me. Gave me my groove back. Made me into the person I am today. It was incredibly hard work, but saying goodbye to you was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I hate to be the one to tell you this but our breakup? Best thing that ever happened to me.
If you’ve been following my blog up in fat heaven (Where you disappeared to is still one of life’s great mysteries) you already know that I’ve been pretty busy since our breakup. I haven’t had much time to grieve your loss. Busy doing things like trying to see how fast I can swim half a mile, running half marathons, doing push ups, conquering hills on a bike, learning how to box, and getting my namaste on. And that’s just the beginning of the great things I have planned. You see- I’m learning that when you were in my life I spent a lot of time sitting around and wishing I could do things. And now? I go out and I do them. I try new things, even if they scare me shitless. I push myself. I eat to fuel my body. I sweat. I learn. I set big goals.
After we broke up I changed my name from “Fat Kid” to “Athlete”. Runner. Triathlete. Half Marathoner. Don’t all those titles sound so much better to you? I sure think so.
Since you’ve been gone you’ve missed some pretty incredible moments. Like the day I couldn’t stop staring at the girl in the wedding dress in the full length mirror. Or what it felt like the day I tried to lift all the weight I had lost. The amazing mess of hugs and tears when I realized I had just finished something I never thought I could do. When my feet crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. When I found myself in a store saying out loud “How is there every size of running tights except small?“. Yup, all these things really, truly happened.
Last year on New Year’s Eve I didn’t come up with any resolutions. I simply had a goal of not seeing you return, and to keep doing what I had been doing. It’s one thing to lose over 50 pounds but to keep it off for an entire year? Well that right there deserves a party hat and noisemakers for sure. And to ring in this new year? Keep setting new goals, keep registering for races. Keep swimming. Keep running, keep running, keep running. Keep surprising myself. Keep trying new things. Keep learning, keep growing, keep changing. Keep being proud. Keep being awesome.
Kathleen (the Athlete/Triathlete/Half Marathoner/Rockstar/Bad Ass)
It may seem to many of you that lately I have a never ending list of “anniversaries”. And while it may seem over the top (and sometimes annoying) the truth is that each and every one of them is very important to me. They celebrate a year of good things, of better decisions, of personal accomplishments. And today, I celebrate a full year of blog days.
That’s right, for 52 Wednesdays I have been sharing the struggles, accomplishments, highs and lows of this crazy journey that I’ve been on. For anyone not familiar with how I got here, “Blog Day” was the invention of my beloved training studio. The concept was that I would spend 12 weeks using their fitness and nutrition services and in exchange would document my experiences in a weekly blog.
When I was first approached about participating in this program I was immediately taken back. I had been doing my thing relatively quietly throughout the summer. I was smaller, getting stronger, and feeling happier- but I didn’t talk much about my experiences except to my immediate friends and family. To share my story with complete strangers? Document everything I put in my mouth and how I felt about it? To open myself up and share my struggles and fears? Well that just seemed absolutely terrifying.
But then I began to think about it more. It was obvious to everyone (except me who had been trying to deny it) that I had gained weight, and it was now obvious that I had lost a decent amount. And internally, I was incredibly proud of how far I had come. So why hide that? As I have learned as I mature- the feeling of just letting the truth be told can be incredibly freeing. And although the idea of putting my story out there felt scary and made me shaky- the realization that I had someone backing me up made it seem more doable. There was someone who believed in me. Someone who saw what I was capable of before I could see it for myself. Someone who was willing to take a chance on me. Someone who was willing to stick by me for both the good and bad parts. And as hesitant as I felt I eventually said “Ok I’ll do it”. If only I knew how many more times I would say “Ok I’ll do it” as a result of this.
I still remember the day my first post went live. I sat at my computer trying to control my jittery nerves, refreshing my browser over and over again. And all of a sudden there I was. I began to re-read the post I had already read a hundred times wincing at what I had written. Suddenly it seemed too personal, too emotional, way too embarrassing. And that picture of me I decided to use? GAH! What was I thinking?!
And while I waited for judgment and criticism the response I got was anything but. I was moved to tears by the instantaneous support and love. Suddenly people who I hadn’t even spoken to recently were congratulating me and telling me how I was inspiring them to make changes in their lives. It was the most incredible feeling. And with that first blog day the band-aid was ripped off, I was ready to dive in and get to work.
The next 12 weeks were a fabulous blur. With everything I was dealing with exposed and the constant support of friends, family, and complete strangers I felt inspired to push myself even further and harder. My life changed more in those 12 weeks than it had in the last 12 months of my life. And by the end I felt like this incredible new person. Stronger, more confident, happier, healthier. Ready to face whatever challenges came my way. And since I contributed these changes to the influence of blog day I decided that I would continue documenting my story on my own. And here we are today.
I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this blog up, I guess at some point even I will get sick of my “Wee, look at me!” attitude. I never started it to become famous, or to make people think I am this amazing person. I am nothing more than an ordinary girl, who was given an incredible opportunity by someone who had faith in me. This blog has been a way for me to keep myself in check and to keep myself moving forward. I often go back and read the posts from those first 12 weeks because sometimes it’s hard to remember that girl from a year ago. The challenges and crises I dealt with then are a worlds difference from what I worry about now (like how to fuel myself for a 12 mile run?)
For as much as I have said how grateful I am for blog day, I will never find the words to fully describe what it has done for me. Without blog day I never would have become a runner. I wouldn’t have gone from feeling like a chubby girl to an athlete. I never would have become a triathlete and I certainly wouldn’t be putting on the bib for my first half marathon in a few days. I wouldn’t be close to the confident and happy girl that I am today. And until that feeling goes away, blog day will continue 🙂
I’m happy to say that I am still riding out the high of my One Year Anniversary from last week. While I didn’t go rent a hall and throw a big bash (The thought crossed my mind- I won’t lie) I did spend a lot of time thinking about all that happened in the last year. I constantly compared myself now to how I felt a year ago starting out. The conclusion? I feel happier, healthier, more confident… I feel like a totally different person. I AM a totally different person.
“Anniversary Week” began with a nice little Monday holiday and I found myself with a day off and beautiful spring weather. Apparently, spring fever got the best of me because I ended up spending the day with a double session of bootcamp, a swim AND a run. Looking back, maybe not my smartest decision (My little arms were pretty damn tired by the time I got in the pool), but it felt great to go to bed that night and say “YUP, I did all that. Take that- half ass 😛
Waking up the morning of my official anniversary was like waking up on Christmas morning. I jumped out of bed, threw on my running clothes, and pretty much skipped down to the beach for my interval run. There’s no way this won’t sound incredibly corny- but as I watched the sun rise over the water I couldn’t think of a better way to start such an important day to me. I felt alive, I felt inspired, I felt unstoppable. I wish I could bottle up the feeling I had that moment and save it for the days when I don’t want to get out of bed, or groan at the thought of another pushup. If someone could figure out a way to synthetically create that feeling and pump it through the vents of a gym- no one would ever leave. The world would be perfectly fit and everyone would wake up foaming at the mouth to get in a 12 mile run.
And if you haven’t gotten enough cliche sappiness for one post- the celebration of my anniversary continued at bootcamp. Where I once sat wide eyed and anxiously nodding my head to every question, I now spent among friends- laughing, sweating, belonging. I walked into that building a year ago feeling insecure and anxious and this night? There was no where else I’d rather be. The crowning moment of my day was when I put the weight “back on” to do some squats. I don’t think I ever really knew how weighed down I had been until I put it back on my body. It was a pretty surreal moment. It made me appreciate running, jumping, walking…just BREATHING more than I ever have before. I don’t ever want that weight back on my body… unless it’s in the form of a vest of course 😉
Year Two already feels so different. I spent a whole year of my life trying to dig out the body underneath all that extra weight, and in turn- trying to find the person inside. And now I just want to use it and celebrate it in any way possible. While there’s still about 5 pounds I’d like to lose, they’re not all I think about anymore. I want to focus on running further and faster. I want more muscle, I want more strength. I want to conquer this triathlon. This past year I felt like I was always “borrowing” everyone else’s hobbies and now- I want to make them mine. I want to feel like an athlete. It’s time to take this girl from a half ass, to a bad ass!