Sunday, September 2, 2012

The 360 - When life turns you upside down

Life is messy...  and wow did mine take a wild dip in the finger paints.

I doubt anyone was actually tracking this blog since it never really got off the ground, but I hate when someone leaves you wondering about the ending when you've been reading along. Anyway, in January of this year my life pretty much imploded in the most drastic of ways, and life as I knew it took a 360. I was much too distracted, and honestly just flat out depressed, to give training the respect and dedication it required. If I couldn't put in 100 percent it wasn't worth the turmoil/worry to what I was already going through.

So, as hard as it was... I knew I had to put off the dream.

It was a rough decision since the money had long been paid, but more so just emotionally because I have so much invested. So many years. So many training hours. And... here I am stuck at 95 percent accomplished. It's hard emotionally to feel like I haven't finished out what I started. Mentally though I recognize I've done way more then most people will ever attempt. It still feels so open ended though.

I'm not embarrassed. I'll happily tell anyone who's interested how I made it to mile 23 or whatever of the marathon in two separate hilly Ironmans. I'll also tell them about my "blazing" (cough) 6+ hour Marathon finish at the Chicago marathon. When you've come from where I started, it's nothing short of awesome to even be able to have stories like this to tell.

I don't know where I am going, but I do hope to eventually finish up this bad-boy. It just wasn't meant to be this year and I'm way too deconditioned to even think about next year. For now I need to focus on starting to get back in shape and losing some of the weight I added while I wallowed earlier this year in my own misfortune. If and when I do sign up for Ironman again I need to focus more on my running.

Honestly I have no clue now where my life is headed in general though.

For now (fitness wise) I'll settle for a fall 5k. I'll be doing the Monster Dash in Chicago. I'll probably have to walk/jog, but at least I'm still out there chugging along. My new apartment has amazing access to the lakefront path, so I have no excuse not to get out there and enjoy all the awesomeness that Chicago has to offer.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Finding Comfort in the Now

Recently on a website that I frequent people were posting before and after photos of their weight loss. My reaction to this was interesting because a year or two ago I would have not hesitated adding some photos, but now, or at least in that particular moment, not so much. I tried to analyze why this has changed. Why would I have been proud before and feeling sheepish recently? I guess it comes down to I struggle a bit of feeling stuck part way. Being up some weight from my lowest adds to the discomfort.

Triathlon has been bit of a double edge sword for me in regards to how I feel about my body. On one hand it's helped me maintain most of my weight loss over the past few years, and allowed me to accomplish things I never even thought possible. On the other hand I know I'm still very heavy for a triathlete. I sometimes feel worse about my weight more so then I would have if I wasn't involved in sports. Ignoring the obvious "I don't look like these other people" (because I know that doesn't matter) I'm constantly reminded every other time I go out for a run that it makes me slow.  I'm reminded every time I bike up a hill that this is harder then it needs to be. And lets not even talk about the evils of bathing suits and loose skin.

One of my online friends once told me that women that do Ironman usually average about an hour slower on hilly courses. Now add 50 pounds to that! Also, an online calculator tells me that at goal weight my bike would be an hour faster. Who knows if that is true, but you can see how it adds to the constant feeling of "You're not where you need to be".

So, recently I am struggling a bit to find a happy place for where I am at as I work on where I want to be. What helped is looking at a folder of old pictures. I don't have a ton of them because I was very stealth in avoiding photos at my heaviest weights. (If you happen to have some send them to me!) They served as a more concrete reminder to be grateful for the now. It's been quite awhile since I've looked into a face that round, and I hardly recognize that version of me.

It was a reality check of sorts. It quieted the annoying voice of dissatisfaction... at least for awhile.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Marathon on a Whim

I realize I still need to post my almost-Ironman race reports so you can get a feel of what I've been through to get to this point, but in the meanwhile.... Last month there was the Chicago Marathon.

A few weeks before Ironman I was given the opportunity to run the Chicago Marathon. I knew that doing a marathon only 4 weeks after Ironman isn't the best of ideas, but sometimes when something falls into your lap it feels like it was meant to be. Anyway, that's what I told myself so I'd let myself pull the trigger... Plus, hey FREE! Races, especially big city marathons, aren't cheap. I had wanted to do the Chicago marathon ever since I watched "Spirit of the Marathon" a few years ago. Actually, I remember coming out of the theater and saying to my husband... "that was so very cool, but I'm not sure I could ever do one", but secretly it had sparked the desire in me. So, I grasped the opportunity on the spur of the moment. I figured as long as I recovered smartly that I could avoid injury, and while it wasn't an ideal situation it could still work. It knew it wasn't going to be pretty though.

So, Ironman came and went, and I didn't run as much as I had planned during recovery. I ran only a handful of times, and I lost fitness in the 4 weeks between Ironman and the Marathon. That's the frustrating thing about Ironman is you spend all this time getting really fit, then you have to taper for a few weeks and take a few weeks to recover and it feels like you lose tons of ground. I knew it wasn't a good situation, but I'm a bit stubborn and I figured I would walk what I could not run.

One would think that hey you just trained for Ironman and a Marathon is just the last part of Ironman, so what's the big deal? Well, my longest runs this year in Ironman training had only been 10 miles long give or take. My longer runs were split between days, which lead to the shorter training runs. (i.e. run at night and first thing in the morning on tired legs) I'm sure this method works fine for some people, but I found it a bit frustrating. The year prior I had been running nearly 3 hours straight in the peak of training. So you maybe think... "Wait, so that means you did Ironman never having run more then 10 miles this year? Are you Insane?" Well... no... I did do a half marathon earlier in May, but quite some time had passed since then so pretty much the answer is yes. Yes, I am that foolish to do a marathon pretty much not having trained for it specifically.

So... I "ran" the marathon. It was actually a very very cool experience. I'm not going to lie it was pretty damn hard though. I managed to run straight through for the first hour, and for the next two hours I did 10/1 run/walk, but stuck to it like clock work. Past the halfway point it degraded a bit into one of those run as much as you can convince your body to go, and walk in-between irregular intervals. By mile 15 I was starting to get worried, as I was starting to walk more then I really wanted to... but somewhere past mile 15 I decided to do "speed" walking. Surprisingly this method was actually working fairly well and ended up being faster then my actual running. I was even passing quite a few people now. At mile 18 where people normally run into "the wall" where your body doesn't want to move one more step... I found no wall! I finally did hit the wall but not until much later then most people do (mile 24). At that point I pretty much had to walk it in. This extra endurance and wall moving, I have to credit to my Ironman training. I also believe if I had taken in more calories I may not have hit a wall at all. (I only had about 600 for 6+ hours) but you can analyze these things to death after the fact.

Anyway, I loved it. It was an amazing experience overall, and of course the crowd support for such a mammoth city like Chicago is pretty much spectacular.  People lined the course and cheered us on pretty much the entire way. Must have been hundreds of thousands of people. Plus, you get to experience the different neighborhoods each represented by the various cultural music. The music helps perk you up. I especially liked the Chinese drum circles in Chinatown.

While running in Lincoln park down streets full of colorful fall leaves I felt lucky to be experiencing this. Never would I have imagined a few years ago running with 45 thousand other people through the streets of Chicago... on a rather toasty fall day. For 26 little miles.

While my time was slow in the end... I was still very pleased given all I had been through recently. Something about getting to cross that finish line helped take a small part of the sting out of the whole wrong-turn mess in Wisconsin. It's not how I envisioned my first marathon to be (I would have liked to RUN the entire way), but I still think it was worth taking a chance on, and hey... Holy Crap. I've finished a marathon! Who is this girl?

Monday, October 24, 2011

A little History

So, I guess a little background here would be useful. I'm overweight, and I have been my entire adult life. My heaviest weight occurred in 2006/2007 where I topped out at a rather scarey 302 pounds. I had lost weight before, but it never stuck. I'm not going to say it's because nothing worked, because usually dieting works to varying degrees as you follow the plan. However, to be a success you can't just go back to the way things were.  There is no "end" of a diet. You only fail when you stop.

So, what was different this time? Honestly, I have nothing magical to say here. I guess I decided I was going to not stop. It's that whole lifestyle change you always hear about. By now I had a fairly good handle on what I should be doing, and it's pretty much what you already heard from others... moving more and eating less. Easy answer, but much harder to implement when you're trying to break a lifetime of very bad habits. It always felt that was something OTHER people could manage to do, but not me, but all it really took is not giving up.

On the food end of things I started doing what I knew worked. For me that was counting calories and recording my intake in a food log. I didn't follow any special diet or anything. For me it's about doing what is sustainable for the long haul. I try and make the best choices I can at any given moment. So, if I want to squeeze in something bad (Hello cookies!) I find the room for it, but overall I try and make healthy choices. I have way too much of a sweet tooth to not allow room for real life.

On the exercise end of things I started walking. I started off by walking to the super-market near our house which is only a mile away. I then extended those walks out by 3, 4, 5 miles... I also started getting into exercise videos. Turbo Jam was one of my favorites. I liked variety so I started using our exercise bike. With all this work and the food logging the weight started to come off.

So how does this lead us into triathlon and Ironman of all things? A few years before this I had read the book "The Slow Fat Triathlete", and I decided to read it again. No idea what caused me to even buy the book in the first place, other then it sounded so FAR out of my realm of possible that it was pretty intriguing.  Lot of heavy people get into running as they lose weight becuase besides being a great calorie burner, it's just something they've never been able to do. There is something very satisfying about changing that reality.

I can't even say triathlon is something I dreamed of doing, because it was just something so far outside the realm of possibility that it didn't apply to me. I didn't even know any triathletes, and I certainly didn't have a sporty bone in my body.

The book inspired me to learn to run. I've NEVER been able to run before... not even the 10 minute mile in grade school. I'd run half a block and my lungs would be on FIRE. Lots of people suggest the couch-2-5k program for learning to run, but for someone who was still heavy and was never active, that program was just a bit too aggressive for me. Someone else suggested a book to me that had a 13-week program that eased into things a bit more realistically, and something magic happened. I started to run, yes I was learning to run at 230lbs. First one minute intervals, Two minute intervals, three... and so on. And about 14 weeks in I could run for an entire hour w/o stopping.

Somewhere in the middle of my learning to run it occurred to me that I was already riding the exercise bike, and knew I liked biking, and now I was learning to run, If I threw in swimming...Why not a triathlon? I could try a triathlon... Couldn't I? Really? It seemed a bit insane, but it sounded like a good goal to keep me on the right track.  However, had not swam since I was a kid. I signed up for a class with a local multisport group. It was only 5 class sessions, but was enough to get the basics down. Then I signed up for a swim pass at our local university so I could practice on my own.

So, I decided to sign up for the Chicago Olympic Distance Triathlon. Somewhere along the line I came to my senses and decide I need a practice run before the longer race, so I also signed up for a sprint distance triathlon. I bought my very first road bike ever in April 2008. (I had been riding a MTB before that) The Sprint was in July and the Chicago Triathlon was in Aug 2008. The races came and went and were hard but fun! I too was now a slow-fat-triathlete!

Since then I've been up and down in weight wise, but never over 230-ish since my initial weight loss.  I went from a size 26 to a 12/14 (Although, I think I'm a 16 currently. ugh.) I've been as low as 180 and currently I'm about 210. Yes, I have a ways to go to finish this off, and it certainly hasn't been a straight pathway on the way down, but I've managed to keep off most of it for over 3 years now.

I also continued to race for fitness. Triathlons are additive in that way, In 2009 I did a 15k and another Olympic. In 2010 I did a Half Mary, Half Iron and trained with a group for Ironman Wisconsin. In 2011 3 half marathons, a full marathon, half Ironman and most of Ironman again... and I already have 3 races registered for in 2012.

Ironman though still alludes me though. I made it to mile 133 in '10 and this past year I did 135-miles. (I'll post both those race-reports shortly so you can see what kept me from finishing SO close to the end) I WILL obtain my goal of Ironman Wisconsin in 2012, and I plan to do it as close to goal weight as possible. (150)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stepping Forward

So, Here I am. Trying to figure out how to lay out next season. How do I best set myself up for success? So many different directions one can go, and right now I'm pretty much frozen in fear of making the wrong choice. The truth is I'll probably be fine no matter what direction I go if I put in consistent work, and also lose most of my extra weight. Yet, it seems like such a make or break kinda call.

I guess the first step is to not really have an off-season. While most people just dial it down a few notches over the winter I have a bad habit of dropping training too much, and then spending months and months trying to re-gain ground. I already feel like I've been entirely too inactive already even though Ironman was a mere 6 weeks ago. I've done a few runs, and a few swims, and sad to admit I have not even been on the bike long enough to wipe off the Power-Bar-Perform drink off the handlebars from Ironman. Sticky!

So, I am looking into all of my options. There is one thing for sure this year though is I'm going to listen to my gut and not feel guilty about adjusting things along the way. I've had good advice from good people, but one thing I think I've confirmed is I'm not your typical athlete. I have a very a-typical background, and maybe that requires not so typical of a plan.

Step one though is making weight loss a rather large focus. This is the time of year to do that. You would think one would lose tons of weight training for an Ironman, but for most people, especially females, it just doesn't happen that way. There is lots of "fueling" for 6 hour bike rides and 3 hour runs, and you have recovery nutrition to worry about, and your body is generally hungry. It's not impossible to do it later in the season, but doing it now sure makes life easier.

So tonight I ordered a bodybugg. I've used one in the past but I somehow lost mine. It's one of the best tools I've used for keeping track of a deficit.  It's rather eye opening to see how much one does NOT move around in a day until you see it all graphed out in front of you. In the past it's been useful for trying to make sure I keep active when I'm NOT exercising... and therefore burning a lot of calories throughout the day. It's just a tool... but a useful little bugger.

I have a lot to post about in the future. A little about my weight loss history, my race reports from my two "Almost-Ironmans", and Oh yeah... and there was that little race I did 2 weeks ago called the Chicago Marathon... A race which I didn't even know I was doing until a handful of weeks beforehand!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Starting Over Once again

I created this blog for my training in 2011 Ironman Wisconsin, after not finishing in 2010.  I never got around to blogging about it, so this blog sat empty and lonely. This past Sunday was this years Ironman Wisconsin race, and I was back to finish up business. Again it wasn't my day. This time I basically had it... and managed to make a wrong turn around mile 18 of the marathon. It was in an unfortunate spot, and the mistake added about 3 miles to my race. 3 miles which I could not afford to add and still beat the clock. It was a bit tragic after all I've been though with the past 2 years of training, but what can you do.

I didn't sign up right away for a third time. I went home and thought about it. I really was not expecting registration to be open by the time I got back. Normally the race fills withing minutes/hours. Yet, late Monday it sat there open... waiting for me. I was considering doing a different race. Perhaps Ironman Arizonia next year instead? It is a flatter and slightly more forgiving course. Especially to those of us who don't fit the triathlete body type. You see, I raced this years race still carrying much more weight then I wanted to. I'm still clocking in at just over 200-lbs and only 5'5. The bike course there is pretty unforgiving. There are relentless rolling hills... for hours on end... not exactly designed for your Athena type triathlete.

But another race just wouldn't feel right. My heart is with Ironman Wisconsin and I need to finish up business there.

So this is the year. 2012 is going to be the year. 133 miles ('10) and 135 miles ('11) and 140.6 miles is what it takes to make this girl an Ironman. So, as they say. The third times a charm right?