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5 years of lime green love.

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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

Dusting off the cobwebs.

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

Oh hi there, remember me? Last time we met up here I had just crossed crawled over the Boston Marathon finish line and was living the life in runner’s Narnia. It’s hard to believe that was almost two years ago now.

So where have I been since then? Well fast forward exactly one year later and I found myself sucking air during the BAA 5K, a complete 180 from my athletic feat the year before. When I woke up the next morning and went for another sluggish six miler I started to realize how sore my boobs were. Somewhere in the middle of the day I decided to take a pregnancy test. And on the morning of Christmas Eve….

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Riley Parker entered our lives. 9 pounds, 4 ounces, hair for days, and eyes that could look right into your soul. It’s been almost three months since we met face to face and I every night as I rock him to sleep I look at every perfect little feature, amazed that he is mine.

I was blessed to have a relatively easy pregnancy physically, but mentally and emotionally it was a tough 40 weeks. After all my body had been through and achieved over the last four years the thought of undoing all of that while growing a human terrified me. And while I always knew I wanted to have kids, it took me some time to accept that I no longer had control over my own body. As a first time mom you don’t really look “pregnant” until the 6th or 7th month, but I could feel my body changing in small ways almost overnight. It constantly put me into panic mode. So at the end of my first trimester I made the executive decision that I no longer wanted to know how much weight I had gained, I only wanted to know if it was becoming a concern.
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And so I ventured on. I ran until I was 28 weeks, completing 6 road races with my little buddy inside. I continued to strength train several times a week, and I was in the pool just two days before my water broke.

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I ate, as conservatively as a pregnant girl often does; chicken became an enemy pretty early on, bagels were constantly on my mind, and my afternoon snacks consisted of peanut butter and fluff.  I’ll admit I got pretty lenient towards the end, more lenient that I have been with myself in a very long time. I can very clearly remember parking my big belly on the couch the night before my due date with a bowl of peppermint stick ice cream (which in real life I don’t even LIKE!) and some holiday Joe Joes. “Eh, what does it matter at this point – I’ll deal with it once this baby is here”. Looking back now I can be honest with myself and say that I was eating to deal with how I was feeling about being 40 weeks pregnant, becoming a first time mom, and missing my active self. Old habits die hard. I’ve never considered myself thin, but looking at old race pictures made me realize how true it is that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. FullSizeRender 4

No one prepared me enough for just how foreign my body would feel those first few days after giving birth. My feet had ballooned due to all of the fluids I was given, my hips seemed wider, my boobs had reached porn star status (medium nursing tanks? THAT was a joke) and my stomach was a numb ball of putty. And to top it all off, I had this lovely Frankenstein-esque scar across my abdomen from ending up with a c-section. I remember comparing my body to the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. It was definitely hard to swallow what I saw in the mirror.

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I gave myself the “I just had a baby” card and told myself I would deal with it after my 6 week checkup, when I was finally given the golden ticket to exercise again. To pass the time until then I spent Saturday mornings walking laps around the indoor track, cringing that I was still wearing my maternity workout pants and cursing the toned, athletic women running by. Was it just my imagination or was I once one of them? That girl who I had been just 9 months ago seemed like a very far off memory. And I continued on with my baby diet postpartum because, duh, breastfeeding.

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A few nights before my doctors appointment I decided to bite the bullet and look at the damage. I sat down at my computer, clicked into my provider’s online portal… and there it was. I had to blink a few times just to make sure I was reading the right line and then my heart sunk and I started to cry. I had gained a total of 56 pounds from my last pre-pregnancy weight. I was almost back to my starting weight from years ago. The weight I swore I would never see again. My biggest fears of getting pregnant had come true.

And so here we are again, in a place all too familiar and yet completely different from 5 years ago. I thought it was easy to come up with 100 excuses in the past, but having a newborn gives you at least 150 of them. Part of me feels insanely embarrassed that I’m here again, but as I’ve realized in the past it’s better to just face the facts and get down to work.

In order to do that it’s time to pull out the old tricks from my bag: logging (does anyone remember my My Fitness Pal password?), monthly appointments with my RD/savior Andrea, and some good old fashioned Couch to 5K. Oh and you! In trying to figure out how I got there the first time I found myself pouring through old blog posts and reading over my entire story, from day one to the end. And I realized that yes, writing here helps keep me accountable. Even if no one is reading it. So I’m back in action. It may not be weekly (hell, I already am a day off from when I said I was going to write this), but my goal is to keep this up for as long as this journey continues… and let’s be honest it’s never ending for me. Now let’s go find the Half Ass Bad Ass and get her back.

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Deep breath and here we go… again.

 

Endings & Beginnings.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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What I learned training for my first marathon.

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).

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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?

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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.

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Ice baths suck. Nothing else needs to be said here.

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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.

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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.

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That white dress

Three days.

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.

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Babies (and just friends) in 2003.

 

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.

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One of the few pictures of us I have from the months around our engagement.

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.

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My biggest cheerleader, always.

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.

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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. 🙂

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Stuck in a moment.

In weight loss there are stages. When you first start out, everything sucks. Mountains seem immovable, goals seem like they’re on a road with no end in sight. But then you get the hang of it. You feel better, your clothes are looser, people start noticing the difference. And then comes the plateau- the scale just doesn’t seem to budge. People stop complimenting you because it’s now your normal. Plateaus are a weird place to be in and you find that you either keep pushing, or you become content with where you are.

I find myself in a plateau again. But this time it’s not in regards my weight. It’s my running. I see the similar pattern. It sucked at first but I stuck with it. Just as I did with my weight loss I began to check off milestones. People congratulated me, told me I was inspirational. I chased goal after goal, thirsty for that insatiable feeling of accomplishment.

Hard to believe this was two years ago...

Hard to believe this was two years ago…

Two summers ago I sweated my ass off, literally. I worked to create a whole new body, a new sense of confidence. Last summer I took that new body and I trained it to do things I never thought I could do.

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I wrote a blog post last week about all my summer goals and plans because it’s a lot cleaner and prettier to talk about moving forward. No one wants to read a blog where you whine and complain. But this is a blog about keeping it real. And at the end of the day I’m still recovering from an injury. I’m still working on a “two steps forward one step back” schedule. I can make all the plans in the world, but they mean nothing if I don’t continue to work on rehabbing and rebuilding first.

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It’s a hard place for me to be in. I’m not patient. I want instant results. I want that sense of accomplishment back. I want to chase down goals. And no matter how much I try to retrain, my brain constantly goes to that “must catch up to the other kids” place. Add any combination of these to a bad run and it’s a recipe for disaster. I kick and scream like a toddler in timeout and God knows – I totally deserve one.

Once again I’m reminded of where I’ve come from. I’m reminded of where I’ll go. And I’m reminded that this isn’t a quick fix situation. I’ve got to be in it for the long haul. I’ve got to be patient. I’ve got to be diligent with my routines. And I’ve got to remember why I’m here in the first place.

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The easy thing to do would be to cut my losses and move on. Find another hobby, one that’s less painful and that my body agrees on. But I love it too much. And I’ve come too far. And I want to get back to that feeling of accomplishment.

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One thing’s for sure- I’m never done learning on this journey. Just when I think I have it all down, I’m reminded that I’ve got a long way to go. These moments are teachable… even if I learn the lesson while kicking and screaming. 😉

The girl from the past.

I could tell you one of two stories today. The first story would be about the girl who’s back in action after an injury, training for her half marathon and everything is going smoothly. And while that’s happening there’s a more important story to tell. This one is about the girl who’s well… struggling a bit. And since I’ve kept this blog going with the intention of always being honest and using it as a tool to hold myself accountable- I will stick to the latter story.

For the last few months I’ve been coasting. I thought I had this whole maintence thing down. I thought I was invincible. And as a result… I got a bit careless. A few too many fro-yo dates. A couple extra nights where I drank at dinner. The old “I just ran 5 miles so I can eat everything in sight” mentality. Invincibility disolved when the scale recently started showing a slightly higher number than I’m used to a little too frequently. Not enough to make a difference… but enough to make a difference.

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I of course went into panic mode. I stood in front of the mirror and tried to pinpoint the culprit spots on my body. My brain immediately transformed what I was looking at in front of me to “that girl” from days gone by. I felt my stomach jump up into my throat. And while I tried to blame it on a million different life factors that I have going on at the moment, in my heart I knew the underlying factor.

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This is where I want to hang my head in shame and disappointment. I’m the rockstar, the success story – I shouldn’t be backtracking here. I’m supposed to be thriving, running away from that girl of the past, not letting her creep back in. And as if admitting it to myself isn’t hard enough- the fact that I openly tell my story to the entire world (well, whoever actually reads this little blog) is even more mortifying. Nothing like airing your dirty laundry smack in the middle of the interwebs.

I had two choices. I could deny that this was happening… or I could confront it. I’ve been down that first road before. I remember watching the scale climb higher and higher and pretending I didn’t notice… until it got to the point where I was crying for help. So I did what I knew I had to do. I admitted my setback. I asked for help. I clung to my lifeline.

Ironically just a short while ago I actually saw the girl of the past, in the form of another person. At first glance I was annoyed by her. And then I remembered what that felt like. I remembered that frustrating feeling of being trapped in a body. I remember what it felt like to not be able to do a sit-up, to steam in envy over someone who could run more than from one light pole to the next. It was a very real life reminder of where I’ve come from and what I sometimes take for granted now as the years and months go by. And more importantly- it was a reminder that I am not invincible. I don’t get to move on and pretend the past never happened. This is a part of my story, and my life, forever.

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So I’m going to pick my head back up. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and start fresh. I’m going to put one foot in front of the other. And while I’m disappointed in my small setback, I’m proud of myself for recognizing it. I’m proud of myself for admitting it. I’m proud of myself for blogging about it. And I’m proud of myself for promising that I will keep moving forward- I’ve worked too damn hard to ever see that girl in the mirror again.

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Just keeping it real here kids.

Seeing the glass half full.

I feel as though I owe my readers (Readers? Am I even cool enough to throw around that lingo? Does my cat count as a reader?) an apology. Maybe even a pat on the back. And a “thanks for sticking around”. Looking back through my last few posts I realize I’ve become quite the Debby Downer/Negative Nancy over here. Between the burn out of winter training and then this break I’ve had the whiny-ness of a toddler before nap time. And while it’s been a challenge and a new experience I’m also finding a lot of positives to it.

A rekindled romance.
I may have kicked off my running shoes for the last few weeks but that doesn’t mean I’ve become a slug on the couch. I vowed to stay as active as possible by increasing my other workouts.  And because of that bootcamp and I were able to fall in love again. I realized that for the last few months I’ve been showing up because I felt like I had to and just sort of going through the motions. But with my mind off of miles I’ve been able to focus more on to how strong my body is getting, how many more push ups I can do, and finding new ways to challenge myself. It’s been a good reminder that you get out of something what you put into it. Burpees are a love/hate relationship for everyone but even we’re in a good place right now 🙂

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You know it was a good workout when you leave part of your shirt on the floor in the form of a sweat stain!

Here fishy, fishy.
With the decision to step back from track workouts and long runs I looked for something else to focus my energy on… swimming a full mile. I’ve kept up with my swimming throughout the fall and winter, but always stop at a half mile. The night after I decided to call it quits for a bit I had a boatload of pent up frustration and hit the pool. I strapped on my watch and told myself that I would see how far I could make it past the half mile mark. I made it to .75 and thought “Why not keep going?” and just like that… BOOM. Full mile the first night I tried. I felt that “look what you just pushed yourself to do!” feeling start to seep into my wrinkly fingers and spread right up into my proud little heart. I pulled myself out of the pool beaming. What to know what happened next? I did it again. And again. AND AGAIN. In fact, I’ve swam almost 9 miles in my time off. The bad ass is still in there.

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first mile on the watch and it feels so good.

It blows my mind to think that just a year ago I was struggling through my triathlon swim class. The fact that I was going to have to swim a half mile across a lake in July kept me awake for so many nights. These days I know I’ll sleep soundly after a night at the pool and I’m pretty confident that swimming will be the strongest leg of the triathlon for me this summer. Who ever would have thought I’d be saying that?

Food for thought.
One of my deepest, darkest fears (And biggest hesitation in taking a break) was that of course… that I would gain weight back. This forced me to admit that while training to run long distances I had gotten into the habit of justifying what I was eating with what I was running (“Oh you’re running 8 miles tomorrow? Eat that cheeseburger AND french fries girlfriend!”). That’s not to say I’ve become a nutrition disaster, but I felt like I was able to get away with more. In my mind if I wasn’t gaining weight no harm done… right? WRONG KATHLEEN, WRONG! Clearly this is not a healthy mentality. This break has given me a chance to re-visit how I’m eating and fueling. That’s not to say you shouldn’t allow yourself indulgence every now and then, but mac & cheese ain’t gonna make that track workout any easier. Part of me wonders how much my nutrition correlates to how much training broke me down.  But while there’s nothing I can do to go back and change the past I can admit my faults- and work harder on it the next time. I’m curious to see if there’s a difference in how I feel training.

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lunch & snacks done right!

I guess when all’s said and done this break hasn’t been the worst thing to happen to me. A few new achievements, some valuable lessons learned and at the end of the day… I’m itching to get back out there. 🙂

Birthday lessons.

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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? 🙂

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New year, new challenges

Ever since “Operation Make Kathleen Faster” was put into effect I’ve been feeling like I have a lot more pep in my (running) step. A new driving force. An end result to strive for. While I’ve been getting to know this “new self” of mine I’ve come to learn that I am a much more productive (and happier) runner when I have something I’m working towards. It gives me something to visualize when I want to stop. I like having a schedule of workouts, I like carefully transcribing them into my log book, I like counting my mileage and being able to check things off…. I just really like training. Is this normal? Do most runners? Am I just in the honeymoon phase? Guess we’ll find out eventually.

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Favorite part of the week… adding up my miles.

With this surge of energy I was pretty excited for the first race of the year. It’s just a small, local 5K but last year I set a pretty big PR for myself that even today, I’m still not sure how I managed to pull off. A year later, some actual training, and I figured I’d cruise across the finish line hours ahead of my previous time (Slight exaggeration, obviously).

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Fiancee thinks he’s funny and decided to add his own artwork to the picture he snagged at the race last year.

And then the week prior to the race life happened… of course all at once. I got sick- nothing life altering but enough to have me checking to see if I threw a lung up after every run. (I still managed to get my long run in while sick, and in the freezing rain/snow. Dedicated? Bad Ass? Mentally insane? Verdict’s still out on that one). Simultaneously we were hit with some of those charming New England features of black ice patches, negative wind chills, and a decent sized snowstorm. Oh and the icing on the cake? Those lovely shin splints have decided to grace me with their presence again. Between the weather, my constant hacking, and my nagging “shin bumps” I was forced to take a few days off. And it. was. TORTURE. There was a day when I would get angry that swimming or bootcamp made it onto one of my “rest days” and suddenly one day of complete and total rest threw me into a frenzy. When did that happen?

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Womp womp. Go away shin splits, you’re not welcome here.

So while I shouldn’t have been expecting miracles on race day there was still a teeny part of me that wanted to impress myself. I’m still trying to learn that not all races can, or will, end in PRs. Not every race can be your best. And while in my head I was hoping I would fly like a little Kenyan it took not even a mile for me to realize that wasn’t gonna happen. Between the cold, the wind, my cough, and my shins I was pretty miserable. It was an out and back and it seemed like only seconds before I saw the first runners heading in (How was that even possible?). They made it look so easy, like they were just breezing by. I eventually hit the turn around as well and told myself I just had to make it back and it would all be over. I passed the walkers who looked so happy chatting and laughing as they went and for a split second- that looked so good to me. As quickly as the thought entered my head I shut it out. I remembered that burning desire of wanting to be better. “Shut it and run” I growled.

The course ended up being super short (barely over 3 miles) so on paper it looks like I flew, but I can’t rightfully claim it as a PR. It was however, a very real and painful reminder that this is going to take a lot of work. And it’s not going to happen overnight. Suddenly, I’m reminded of being overweight. I remember all those diets and quick fixes that seemed ideal at the time. I remember spending 10 minutes on the elliptical and expecting to immediately be 10 pounds lighter. I remember looking at the overall amount of pounds I wanted to lose and feeling incredibly overwhelmed at how long it was going to take me. But I did it. It didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of hard work, every single day. Same concept, new goal. I’m not going to wake up one morning and be a better runner. It’s going to take time. It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to hurt sometimes. But as the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy. I’ve been here before. I’ve worked hard for what I want. So I’ll do it again. One lung bursting step at a time.

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Oh MilePost, it’s like you know exactly what to say at the right time.