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A good friend of mine made an interesting observation recently… she said that I tend to default to exercise goals when I need an emotional or confidence boost. That when other big focuses weren’t exactly going my way, running or triathlon was my fall-back plan to inject my life with excitement. She is absolutely right, 100%. Even though I haven’t participated in any major events in over a year and a half, it’s always in the back of my mind. When is my next race? What is my next exercise goal? I think this is a positive thing, but it also makes me wonder why I place such importance on accomplishing physical goals. A 5k isn’t enough, not even a 10k… it has to be a marathon. It has to be a Half Ironman. I have to beat my old times. Why am I so competitive with myself? My friend thinks it is a control thing… being able to control something that has a process and a high probability of success. You can predict a training schedule, you can mostly predict the weather, and you can predict that if you do x and y, you will get z. There is comfort in a formula. There is comfort in an end date for a definite result. That is very rewarding for me. I like that seemingly impossible distances can be conquered with enough will and determination. That way of thinking can be applied to most other areas in life as well. You do the work, you get results. Training is also a great visualization exercise. Envisioning yourself at the finish line is almost as rewarding as the real deal. There is no other pride like it.
Alllllll that to say, I’ve formed an awesome team with some friends call Team Half Crazy and we will be participating in the Florida Half Ironman on May 19! If anyone else is interested in joining our little team, let me know. We have 5 members so far, all girls (myself, my sister Christy, Lauren, Hope & Wendy…holla!). We are not all located in the same city, but will be tracking our training online together. I will be following a 20 week training schedule which will start at the end of December… so plenty of time if you want to consider it. My other goal in preparation for the Half Ironman is the Atlanta Marathon in March. I’m already about 8 weeks into my training schedule, and so far it’s been clear sailing. I literally found the easiest program out there to complete the distance. I’m not too concerned with my time, but if I can finish with 9.5 or 10 minute mile pace then I will be super happy. Honestly, just crossing the finish line of my first marathon will be awesome enough for me.
I have an idea!!! Thought of it yesterday as I was completing my blog entry. I’d like to start telling stories about people who’ve accomplished a personal dream. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I haven’t figured out an exact schedule yet, but I went through a list of inspirational people off the top of my head and there are plenty to get started with. In fact, I’ve already nailed my first one down and I plan to share her story with you guys next week. My hope is to share relatable stories of everyday people making their dreams a reality by describing their process. By seeing others do, it will in turn generate a positive momentum for the rest of us. I will let you know soon when you can expect the first story and overall schedule. It’s exciting to have a new assignment for my blog!
Speaking of announcements, I have one more for today. I’m officially putting my hat in for the Georgia Marathon (in Atlanta) next March! Eeeeeeeks. I’m really excited, and also a tad bit nervous. Will my knee be ok? I think so. It will be almost two years to date from when I injured it in my first attempt at the marathon (small inner meniscus tear). Looking back, I know now it was from overtraining and not listening to my body. I’ve been told by more than one doctor/therapist that as long as I do my stability exercises, stop when there is pain and ice after workouts, I should be more than able to complete the distance. Pretty exciting to think about. As of right now, I can do 6-7 miles with no problems. Going downhill is really rough on my knee, so I take it extra easy while descending. What will probably be most difficult for me is trying not to have an unrealistic time goal. Someone please remind me that I said that a few months from now!
I have several other dreams waiting patiently for their turn in the sidelines. I’d like to do a full Ironman one day (not necessarily any time soon), finish my book, make a feature film (then make many more!) and continue to let happiness be a way of life. I guess goals do take more than one form – hard deadline, recurring, ongoing, etc. Some are physical, some are spiritual, some are cause oriented. All equally as important. As long as we are either thinking about or are actually in the process of accomplishing something important to ourselves, then our lives will always be worth living.
I have a new obsession: tiny houses. I can’t stop looking at them…they are so itty bitty, cute and quaint. Some even have wheels and can be transported around! Oh my goodness. Through my stalking I discovered something called Katrina Cottages (affordable house plans for Hurricane Katrina victims), which eventually led me to the Cusato Cottages website. I’d like to think that I could live in a space that small long-term, but let’s be real here, even with my positive experience in the Mini House sometimes you just need a little bit of space. It would be fun to have a tiny house as an office space or vacation spot. I can totally picture myself having a mini retreat spot in the mountains or beachside one day, or a tiny writing/art studio in the backyard. It’s fun to dream about. Just look at the photos and you will see why!
Last night I pondered some long-term physical goals, and I feel fairly motivated to attempt running a marathon again. I have my eyes set on the Georgia Marathon on March 17, 2013 which gives me plenty of time to train. I found a great 6 month training schedule here (which I realize the race is now only 5 1/2 months away) that seems really doable. I don’t want training to overrun my schedule or make me exhausted, so I was happy to find that this only required four days a week with one being a long run. I’m going to give myself till the end of the week to fully commit, and if I do then I will start next Monday the 8th. If my knee does well and I’m able to finish the distance, then I might consider going on to the Florida Half Ironman on May 19th. The swim is in the bay, so the water should be flat and the saltwater will help me stay buoyant. Even though I’ve loved participating in the New Orleans Half Ironman in the past, I just want the glory of having a successful swim under my belt, which I’ve never been able to do in NOLA with the rough waters of Lake Pontchartrain. But as to not overwhelm myself too fast, I am going to take baby steps. First step: yes or no to marathon. Second step: start following training schedule and doing stability exercises for my knee. Third step: decide in January about the Half Ironman depending on how my training is going, and if I’m feeling it. No pressure, only fun!
If I do decide to take on the marathon, then the first thing I’m going to do is treat myself to a new pair of running shoes. I’ve worn down my current pair to the bone, which is something that I know better than to do. Plus a new piece of equipment is always energizing and inspiring. I will keep you posted on my decision!
Today is day one of our two-day vegan challenge! I totally forgot last night that we had moved it up a day, so I’m grateful that I was reminded before I messed it up. Before going to bed James and I briefly discussed what we would have for breakfast, and with my tired mind I agreed to a bran muffin. Of course this morning I realized that muffins are usually made with eggs, and I had no luck in my extra 10 minutes before work finding a vegan variety. Instead I opted for a Kind Bar with no dairy. It was only 200 calories, so I will be sure to have a good lunch. My plan is to eat at the Golden Temple Cafe here in Birmingham, which has a big selection for vegan eaters. For dinner we are making vegan meatloaf, inspired by my friend Tina. Going vegan, even for only 48 hours, has freaked me out a little. It is a pretty different way of life, much more so than going vegetarian. You really have to look at every ingredient to make sure there are no animal components. Just to test your knowledge, check out this list of foods that look like vegan but might not be. Actually, after reading this list… I discovered that I already messed up!! My Kind Bar had honey, and I didn’t realize that was a non vegan ingredient. Dang. I guess the point is the learn! I should have done more homework.
Last night I had a “top ten” moment for 2012. I was at my parent’s house after work getting ready to go on my evening run. The rain had just stopped and the air was cool and crisp. Mom just happened to ask if I wanted to take Lily with me, as she had a jogging stroller I could use. I needed some motivation anyway, and it made me really excited to share a run with my little niece. I even took Jack with us since I trained him to run way back when he was my puppy. The three of us went on a mini adventure together. I turned my Pandora on and let it play for all of us to hear as we moved along. We found a fresh tennis ball for Jack to run with about halfway through, and Lily was singing to herself in the stroller. Once we reached the top of the final hill, I could see downtown Birmingham off in the distance. The wind was blowing a cool breeze, and at that moment I felt 100% happy. All was well with the world.
Last night I had a glass of wine with my sweet friend Micah Manor at her place in Highland Park. We listened to the last winds of Isaac outside of her open front porch door while she whipped up some homemade spaghetti with wheat pasta for us to munch on for dinner. Her home is very uniquely her, with items from the sea thoughtfully placed almost everywhere you look. Even she looks like a sun bunny fresh from a day at the beach, complete with dark skin and sun highlighted hair. Micah is also very laid back, especially for a Leo, so there is an instant calm that surrounds you once you step foot in her little beach bungalow. She gives you undivided attention while you speak and gives heart-felt advice. Her stories and updates are also quite entertaining, so I love getting refreshed on her life. There is an innocent honesty about her that I admire.
This morning I got up bright and early at 4:15 a.m. to take Vero to the airport for her trip to Austin, TX. What is it about getting up at an ungodly hour that makes it a little fun? It’s almost like bragging rights for the rest of the day with instant sympathy. Waking up that early reminds me of going to Six Flags when I was younger, b/c we always had to get there when the gates opened in Atlanta, Georgia (an hour ahead and a 2.5 hour drive from Birmingham). Anything before 5 a.m. usually means an awesome trip of some sort, which is exactly what Vero had in store. I also enjoy taking people to the airport, because you can feel their enthusiasm before a fun adventure. Of course the second I dropped her off I went back home and snuggled in bed for another hour or so.
Yesterday evening before heading over to Micah’s I had a great solo run. I popped on my headphones and played some amazing music, and got lost in my own head space for about 45 minutes. I found some new alleys to explore, my favorite one being a little cut-through over a field of grass. It was on top of a hill and had an unexpected view of tree tops and the golf course, very close to the downtown area. I had a lot of ideas as well during my run, which inspired the creative wheels to start turning. I love when that happens. Very few things can beat a run at your own pace on a peaceful, windy day.
This weekend I am heading to Atlanta to see James for a few days, which I always look forward to. Today is also the last day of August, can you believe it? That means fall is well on its way. I’m ready to see what the rest of the year has in store, and to spend my time with those I love the most.
Yesterday evening I met my girls Brandi & Vero for a group run with three options: 2 miles, 4 miles or 6 miles. I was one minute late for the start, and as I was driving up I yelled out of my car window for them to wait for me. I quickly parked my car and hit the ground sprinting to catch up with the crew going down 7th Avenue South. When I caught up with them about a minute or two later, I learned that Vero had signed us up for the 6 miler. Since my butt has been a casual runner as of late, 6 miles hasn’t been on my radar in quite some time. But I knew I could do it. Also, I knew I would have the option to peel off at mile 4 if I wasn’t feeling it…which was a pretty decent back-up plan. The outside air was almost fall-like as we started on our way. I felt a surge of energy from the temperature and had a solid start. Once mile 2 and mile 4 came around, I was still feeling great. So I decided to go for the 6. The course takes you through Highland Park, 5 Points South and the north side of downtown by Linn Park…. almost exactly the same as the Vulcan Run. Once we hit the downtown area on our last leg, my soul just lit up with happiness. I hit me that the weather was indeed the first sign of fall coming our way, and that the end of summer was upon us. It is always a little sad to say goodbye to a season, but nothing lights me up more than the fall…especially the anticipation of it. It means that all of my favorite festivals are just around the bend (including the Sidewalk Film Festival next weekend, where Crush will debut in B’ham), and also my favorite holidays. If we were in a permanent state of fall, I would be one happy girl.
As we got to mile 5 of our run, I knew mile 6 was within grasp. In fact, I wasn’t even feeling that worn down or tired…it seemed like any other run I do during the week. Then I wondered, is anything perceived as “difficult” or “hard” exactly that – just a perception? I went into that run with a great attitude, then finished with ease. Of course, it is important to say that I do 4-5 mile runs on a regular basis, so my body was prepared for the distance. But besides that fact, I think it was my confidence that pulled me through. I just felt good. Once we were done I was really, really proud of myself. Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment.
I started reading this amazing book called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg last night that I purchased at Church Street Coffee and Books in Crestline Village. It immediately caught my eye as I was browsing through the titles, as I’ve always felt like habits literally run our lives from the second we wake up to the moment we go to bed at night. I also believe that we can do almost anything we want if we program our minds in the right fashion in order to succeed. Habits take the form of things that we do, to the things that we say to ourselves. It’s hard to break a habit, and it’s equally as hard to create one. Within the power of true success is the ability to do just that…as needed when goals change. I am looking forward to absorbing every word of this book. Also, if you live in the Birmingham area, you must check out that little coffee shop/book store. It is the perfect place to find a great read without overwhelming you with a sea of options. Just being in there made me want to have 4 books under my arm waiting to be ingested into my brain. You must go by and visit, it is worth the drop-in!
There are so many different types of runners. There are kinds that run in groups, soloists, early birds, night owls, outdoor lovers, indoor machine grinders, hill seekers, city dwellers, countryside adventurers, mountain climbers, beach trackers, those who love hot weather, those who love cold weather, long distance marthoners, short distance sprinters, the list goes on and on. Some people run in next to nothing, some like as much coverage as possible. There are confident endurance seekers and run/walk beginners. Some are competitive with others, some are competitive with themselves, while others are just doing it for the fun or health benefits. I think this goes for almost every kind of exercise or physical activity, or mental states in general. These are also the exact reasons why one should never be intimidated to start something new, as there is no right or wrong way to make it your own. When I’ve told people in the past that I love to do triathlon (not so much this year since I’m taking 2012 off), they think I am a crazy person. What they don’t realize is that I busted up in my first sprint tri with a mountain bike, cheated in the majority of the swim (water was shallow) and almost walked the entire run portion. Nobody ever said that you had to be good in order to participate. You have to start somewhere. Before I knew it I had enough confidence to do a Half Ironman, two even, which still gives me the best feeling of pride to look back on. But I know runners, like Vero for example, who have no desire to do races or train. She just loves it because it makes her feel good. Because of that, she is one of the best and dedicated athletes I know. I think everyone should have a physical activity that they love to do, no matter what it is. Walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga – our bodies just need to move. They were made to do activity. I sit in front of a desk most of the day five days a week, so I really look forward to getting the opportunity to be outside and be free. I much prefer being outdoors than inside a gym. Nature is free, and belongs to everyone. You don’t need a gym membership to be active. You don’t need to spend a dime.
So what kind of athlete am I? I am a runner. I love to run outdoors with Vero and Brandi or on my own, with music or silence, with nothing but the open road in front of me and the sky above. Sometimes I have races or goals, sometimes I just run to stay in shape. Other times I run just because I want to. That’s the best reason of all.
I love heat. When I am chilly, which is often the case when I’m at work, I love a hot drink or a heating pad from our spa area. It’s a great sensation to go from cold to warm, something in the back of my head tingles when it happens. I will also take running on a hot day over running on a cold day anytime, as there is nothing worse than getting up early only to freeze your tushy off. I thought this statement might be appropriate since it feels well over 100 degrees outside today, and only I would be really excited about that. I was so cold in my office this morning that I bought a hot decaf coffee and sat in the midday sun for about 10 minutes… it was pure heaven.
Speaking of running, I went on a 4 miler this morning with Brandi and Vero around Avondale Park through our special alley route. Vero likes to call this “freestyling,” as we don’t have specific directions as we go along. It’s a lot of fun actually, except for the fact that it has more inclines than our other runs. Luckily Brandi was the one with all of the stories to tell this morning, so I got to breathe as needed for the extra challenge. While I’m still not up to par with them fitness-wise, I am feeling pretty good with my ease to run 4-5 miles as I’d like. My knee has also been doing really well… no irritation or ghost pains to worry about. That is great news for when I do decide to up my weekly mileage again.
I love that Brandi and Vero both have other exercises that they do to work on core strength and over all fitness. Vero usually spends 10-15 minutes each morning before we even arrive doing sit-ups, planks and lunges. Brandi alternates her fitness routine with running and yoga, which makes her super strong and lean. I’ve been considering for a while adding something new to my regimen, but haven’t quite had the motivation to do so until now. I still don’t plan on participating in any races in the near future… though I might consider Race for the Cure in October and the Vulcan Run (10k) in November since those are distances I do on a regular basis anyway. I guess if I want to do bigger races in 2012 like another Half Ironman or marathon/half marathon, I will need to start planning and training by the end of the year. We will see! It’s kind of fun to just do what I want, when I want. Especially since I am an active person anyway.
Do you love to dance? For some it is a little like public speaking… it can arouse some serious insecurities in even the most confident. I am really, really glad that I learned to love dancing, as it’s one of the only things I can do where I completely lose myself awareness. I can’t sing, I can’t act, and I can get some jitters before talking in front of a crowd – but you bet your bottom that I will bust a move like a fool when the time is right. I wish I could do that in other areas of life instead of being so self-contained. Something to think about.
This morning marked the running reunion of Vero and I after her 2 week trip to Europe visiting family & such. She brought me back a special present – a Tour de France keychain that her aunt caught mid-air as the peloton passed through her parent’s neighborhood in Belgium! And I love love love it. She also took some video as the cyclists zipped through town, and it’s amazing how quickly they come and go. It seemed as if they were going 40-50 mph right in front of her face. I hope I get the opportunity to see the race live myself one day too. I can only imagine the powerful force those riders emit. It’s really crazy to think that they are still out there competing in that same exact race… in fact, I watched them this morning as I was getting ready for work.
Speaking of athletes - have you ever seen ESPN’s annual Bodies We Want photographs? Dang, is all I have to say. That’s some serious motivation to keep your rear in gear. I loved looking at their heights & weights…especially the women. It is so interesting that two athletes of similar shape, height & build could have such a weight difference. They are all so beautiful. The other night while watching some Olympic Trials, I heard a female runner say that she never hits the track without her make-up on. I thought that was pretty fun to see a girl breaking stereotypes of elite female athletes. Who says you can’t wear a little lipstick while kicking some ass?
Our bodies want to be moved and used. Every time I do something active, my brain rewards me with lots of feel-good endorphins as if to say thank you. It may not always be easy to find the time and energy to do something physical, but it’s always worth the effort. Sometimes I when I run, I think of the miracle that it is to be able to use my legs in such a way. I am moving myself purely by self-propelled energy. There are so many things going on within my brain and body that I’m not even aware of to be able to do so. I think that’s a pretty amazing thing.
Last night was my monthly “drinks with Debbie”, and we couldn’t have had a better time. It makes me so happy to see her happy, and she was beaming from the inside out. We have an interesting relationship, as we don’t really hang out outside of our dates, and we don’t share many close friends. This actually makes us feel more comfortable to share personal information, and makes our time together very special since it doesn’t happen very often. She has several wonderful things going on for her right now, and they are all greatly deserved. I see so many good things coming for her in the near future too, which makes me want to do a little happy dance. I think I will do one now! If you’ve never checked out her blog, you should do it now. We’ve been doing our monthly dates for a little over a year now, so that’s something to celebrate.
Today is the last day of spring! Seems like summer already, doesn’t it? I am looking forward to many days poolside or beachside with my SPF 1,000,000 and a cold drink in hand. I also love running in the heat, which I think I’ve mentioned before. I’m always really careful about hydrating before and after a hot run…as I know it is tough on the body. I feel like I’m a little behind the pack these days, as Vero & Brandi have become superstar runners. I have been there before as well, and I know that I can return to that state of fitness when I am ready to mentally go there. But it’s been nice for a change to run just because I want to, and to relax a little bit when it comes to my fitness goals. I do get the itch when I hear about someone’s amazing 7 mile run and how much faster they are getting, but I also enjoy going at my own pace right now. Luckily, Vero doesn’t mind going my speed when we do our runs together, as she really appreciates the social side of it. I am very thankful for that! What I do need is new running shoes, as the ones I’ve got now are about to bite the dust. And that’s not good at all for your joints….so hopefully this weekend I can make that happen.
What I put in my body makes such a big difference in how I feel. Eating too much can make you feel heavy and bloated, while not eating enough can make you feel a little cranky and irritable. There are only a few people who I know of in this world that don’t have to watch their diets at all…. and even they aren’t 100% carefree. Athletes have to eat more than the normal person to keep their weight up. Overweight folks have to eat less in order to shed the pounds. Even people who are at their desired weight have to periodically keep an eye on the scale in order for it not to move in one direction or another. Even the luckiest of us still have to deal with age at some point, which inevitably brings new body challenges. I think this is important to remember when you feel like you are alone in your weight struggles, because you certainly aren’t. We all have to find the right balance for our individual lives, and the correct perspective for our own happiness. Food is a significant part of life, we should be able to enjoy it while also keeping our bodies healthy. It is supposed to taste good and make us feel alive. As I’ve gotten older I have a greater appreciation for vegetarian and vegan cuisine, while not necessarily always eating that way. By learning how to live off of fresh ingredients from the earth you become a more creative chef overall. You can make a deliciously satisfying meal without even touching a meat product. It is a little harder for me to go without dairy, not gonna lie, but that is also possible. Food is an adventure, and our bodies are a reflection of the journey.