Thursday, December 22, 2011

Honey, Who Shrunk My Pants?! - Fitness Challenge Month One

Last month before Thanksgiving my husband and I decided we'd have a monthly fitness challenge. Late into the night we discussed the terms, the reward for the winner and all the specifics. Honestly, I was feeling heavy and needed some motivation. My husband also was feeling like his waist was entering the room before he was. Actually, he said, "I'm fat and out of shape." Excuse my poetic license.

Halloween is the unofficial start of the season of eating badly. The sugar doesn't take a break until Valentine's Day. We both would comfort ourselves through food. The availability of comfort food increases exponently during the short days of the winter months.

Let me be clear, neither of us are overweight, but we have habits that are not doing us any favors. Chip bags should not be single serve, if you know what I mean. I ran two marathons this year but still manage to eat more than I burn. It's not rocket science. Eat less and burn more. On paper it's easy. In real life, chocolate won't last two days in my house. Habits are hard to break. I needed my competitive nature to be engaged. We also had to come up with a way to reward ourselves without food. It's so easy to do.

So here's what we came up with:
  • On the Ides of the month we would take three measurements. Two measurements would be our weight and our waists in centimeters. My other measurement would be my hips, and my husband would measure his chest.

  • The person who had the greatest percentage drop in the measurements would win the fitness challenge that month.

  • The reward would be three hours of uninterrupted guiltfree childless at-home time. Time that you could do anything you want.

Here's the summary on Month One:

I lost.

Brandon lost three pounds, and I lost a half a pound. Our waists remained the same as did his chest. My hips expanded. Proving once again that gravity sucks. Okay. Okay. I didn't gain weight over Thanksgiving. And now there's more room for WIDE LOAD on my bum rather than WIDE LOA. I'm a little down and haven't got my head in the game for Month Two, as I just finished some fries. They were fantastic by the way. Hopefully the half marathon in five weeks will kick my big ol' bum. I wish I had three uninterrupted hours to think about it...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Predawn Gathering

I was early this morning. That really means I was on time. I'm normally last. I'm really good at by-the-skin-of-my-teeth or just being late. Today I wasn't the first car, and I wasn't the last. After the cold cold weather this past weekend today was warm. Above freezing is considered warm. And it's dark.

The car headlamps go off, and the real headlamps go on. It's still dark. Next week is the shortest day of the year. It will still be dark when we finish. As we're heading into official winter, I've been running a few mornings a week with my sole sisters and brothers. We venture onto the road or on the trail with more and more layers. And with more lights, blinkies and reflective vests.

It's a four mile start to the day. Before dawn and barely awake, I choke down breakfast and some water on the way. I have to be out and home before my husband leaves for work. In the car one of the radio stations plays old school R&B before 6 am. A little C&C Music Factory makes me smile. Once, a deer has run across the road. Drivers are not particularly fond of my slow start as they rush up from behind encouraging me to speed. I've gotten in the car so I just have to make it to the parking lot.

I'm not a morning person. I set my alarm for 5:30 am. If I don't get up right away my dogs lick their lips until I get up. They are conditioned to wake up at the first human stir. They know me well enough to know that I'll get up. They are my insurance, and the other runners are my accountability.

We travel in packs. Sometimes there are two or three packs separated by pace. We catch up on our lives as we run. There are stretches we don't talk. It's like having coffee without the caffeine and the comfy chairs. However, it does have all the rush and energizes me for the long day ahead. Today the sky was just turning pink as we finished. A beautiful sunrise to a new day.

I grab my key and shut the door. We say our hellos or grunts as we stand in the parking lot. Everyone is here, and it's time to run. I love the predawn gathering.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Globe Turkey Trotters...and Yes, I Did Win!

Two 10 K Turkey Trots: Clear Water Outdoor's Turkey Trot and the Kenosha Mayor's Turkey Day Run.

Bobbi Welch and I ran both races. She ran the Clear Water Outdoor trail race with a friend on her friend's first 10 K. It is so fun to be involved with other runners on their "firsts." Little did I know that Bobbi planned to race the Kenosha 10K!

We were the only ones from our running club that we know of that raced in Kenosha. There were several other Turkey Trots around boasting beautiful courses and great swag. We went the way of the mothers of many children, cheap. The course ran through part of the Wisconsin Marathon course on the way up to Carthage College and back. I have run the Wisconsin Half Marathon twice, including its inaugural year. It's a flat course by the lake. If you're not racing and get a chance to look up, it's fairly pretty.

There was no race day registration so all we had to do was pick up our packets. The shirts are cute, and I was pleasantly surprised to find no turkey on the front. Bobbi was sporting the Clear Water Outdoor's Turkey Trot shirt which draws a little more attention. I heard a woman along the way say, "Oooh, that's green!" Since there was no race day registration, we got great parking, were able to go to the inside bathrooms twice, and stayed warm until the race started. It was a Thanksgiving Day miracle.

So Bobbi let's me know that she wants to see if she can finish in under an hour. Wha! Um. Okay. I'm slow. I enjoy a good plod, especially when I am planning to use all my energy to eat pie later. Bobbi's an amazing runner who has come a long way in short time. As a busy mother of four, she's inspirational. And she's driven. I thought that the least I could do was hang on for as long as I could, which turned out to be for four miles. That's when I had to just watch the green lantern shine out in front of me. I played chase with another woman for the last two miles. Every time I got in the corner of this woman's eye, she would take off. Honestly, after a while it was fun to run up to her just to see her take off. For her energy spurts, I was willing to flex my pie muscles.

My homemade T Day shirt: Will run for some pie!

Bobbi finished in 1:00:21. It's not under an hour, but it is a PR. I finished in 1:01:26, and that is a PR. One of my students asked me after the first Turkey Trot if I won. I laughed and said that I finished. Then I said, "Yes, I won. That's winning to me." When I watch the Chicago Marathon, there are elite winners that finish while I'm still eating breakfast, and then there are the rest of the winners who cross the finish line for hours and hours. That's part of the joy of running. Every finisher is a winner. A job done. A goal completed. I have a few race medals and shirts that say 'Finisher.' I understand all the shirts can't say 'Winner,' but I know 'Finisher' really means 'I Won!'

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Giving of Thanks

I'm in the middle, in between Thanksgiving Day races. On Saturday I ran the Clear Water Outdoor's Turkey Trot 10K in Big Foot Beach State Park in Lake Geneva,WI. It was a trail race with rolling hills. I enjoyed the trees and the trails. I was thankful that the tree roots on the trail were painted white so we wouldn't trip on them. I was thankful for the weather, the wonderful company of the Grayslake Running Club (GCR) and the other runners who inspire me to run faster, specifically to the lady in brown who ran/walked the whole way and would sprint up the hills because she could.

On Thanksgiving day I will be running the Mayor's Turkey Day Run in Kenosha, WI. It's another 10K, but this one will be on the road. Yes, I am using it as an excuse to eat. Most likely, I would eat the same amount, but this at least means I get a workout in before I put on my elastic pants.

I've never done either of these Thanksgiving Day races before. I'll be honest. One of the reasons I'm doing these races is because they were cheap. However, one of the other reasons I am doing the Mayor's Turkey Day Run is because Jenny Crain holds the women's record for it. I first read Jenny's story in Runners' World. Jenny Crain is inspirational and reminds me to be thankful. Jenny Crain was an Olympic hopeful runner that was hit by a car. Today she struggles through physical therapy to walk and talk. I ran the Milwaukee Marathon this year along with the Jennipede. The Jennipede is now the largest number of runners to finish a marathon together, and the record was set to raise money for Jenny's therapy costs. She's an amazing fighter.

It can all change in an instant. I know that. There is so much to be thankful for right now; my family, my friends, my home, my health. The list is a long list. This Thanksgiving count your blessings or at least try.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Admitting I'm a Runner is the First Step

I turned a corner recently. I don't know when I did, but something changed. I think now I'm ready to admit that I'm a runner. Previously, I would have just said that I run. Why? It was because I thought if I professed to be a runner then I would most likely stop being one. Runner suggested a title rather than a constant doing. I figured if I became a runner I'd then sit on the couch eating bon bons. My card would be punched, and I'd have arrived, sat down, and stopped running.

I've run for a long time. I've never been on a track or a cross country team. I took a running class in high school. I don't think I threw up in class, but I'm sure I threw up sometime in the semester. At the end of the class we had to run a 10K. I had wonderful friends who paced with me at the back of the pack and talked about what kind of food there would be at the finish line. At the end of the semester, I got the "Most Improved Runner Award." I called it my "I Don't Suck as Much Medal." Same def. I thought the runners were the kids in the class who ran a half marathon instead of the 10K.

In college I took a 10K running class. I also took dance classes and ice skating. My 10K class was taught by a wheelchair runner who came in third at Boston that year. There were plenty of runners in my class. No throwing up here, just a good in class dry heave. When asked what my favorite distance was, I defaulted to the two mile because others had said it, and it was the shortest. Our final was a 10K. I'm not sure why, but I had to take my final at a different time than everybody else. I ran my 10K on the indoor track alone, which for me was nice. When I finished, my instructor told me that he was glad that people like me took the class. Me, the running nonrunner.

There have been periods of my life that I ran a race every weekend. It has always been theraputic, even when being passed by an older women in polyester pants and Rockport shoes. Even when I had to ask the high school kids on bikes following the last runner in the race to move back a little to give me space, it's been good. I was running when I met my husband and have been running through the birth of our three girls.

About that corner, I noticed that I've rounded it twice recently, once when talking to my husband and once when talking to a friend. I asked my husband about buying gear. It was something I felt I needed at the time, and it seemed like a bigger purchase. He said, "You've been running since I met you and you're still running so I think you'll use it." Oh. I guess I do have a running history. And when talking to a friend about a race, I realized I didn't really care about the swag. I know. It was a shock to me too. Maybe I run because I am a runner.