Archive for June, 2012

Between Goals

Posted on June 29, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Last Saturday I participated in the 2012 Gator Bait Sprint Triathlon at beautiful Lake Boerne, Texas.  The race was capped at 300, and for the third year in a row it sold out.  Redemption Race Productions puts on the race, and this is the first one of theirs I’ve done.  They’re a lot of fun and well organized, and they put on some interesting races—like a duathlon that starts in a cave.  You better believe I’ll enter that one.

The Gator Bait started with a 500 meter swim—a big triangle out into Lake Boerne, followed by a 13 mile bike up Heartbreak Hill, and ended with a 4-ish mile run through the park.  (The run was 4-ish because the park layout recently—and apparently surprisingly—changed, so Redemption wasn’t quite sure how long the run actually was.  Relieved is what I was. We guessed it was about 3.5 miles.)

Heartbreak Hill is aptly named—about ½ very steep mile right before the turn-around point.  I promised myself at the beginning of the race that I would NOT get off my bike to walk it up. Thankfully, I made it, moving so slowly at one point that I was sure I was going to roll backward down the hill.

I am happy to say that I finished the race under my estimated time, and at a personal best.  Yay!

It’s been two years since I’ve done a sprint tri, and I had forgotten how nice it is to hang out for a few hours with triathletes. Everyone was kind and supportive, and it was inspiring to see so many people in such great shape. It made me want to do more triathlons.

But I have spent this week laying low, focusing on strength training and core work, getting  ready to hit the cardio hard again next week.  It’s nice to be in limbo, on the Nonplan Plan, for one whole week.

But I know it will be even nicer this weekend to pick out the next race, set the next goal, and get focused once again on running.

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Keeping Time

Posted on June 22, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This Saturday is the sprint tri for which I’ve been training for the past 8 weeks.  I’m pretty psyched about it and feel both mentally and physically prepared.  The tri legs are a 500m open water swim, a 13 mile bike, and a 4 mile run. I would be happy to finish it in under 1:45, which would be a personal best.  I think there are some pretty serious triathletes—like training for an Iron Man serious—in my age category, so I don’t expect to place. And I’m good with that. It’s been a great experience simply training, and I love being in the race itself.

What I love about training and racing is that when I’m in the moment, I’m truly in the moment. It’s one of the few times in my day when I have learned to be present.  I don’t think about what’s coming next or what’s come before; I can simply be.  My mind is laser focused, and, if what my latest fortune cookie tells me is true, a focused mind is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.  I believe it.

So I was a little bit surprised last week when I had a moment of fear during one of my runs.  I realized that race day was almost here and my training would be done.  Then what?  Go back to sleeping late, eating the Girl Scout cookies still hidden in my freezer behind a wall of vegetables and chicken, regrow my toenail? For the first time in weeks my mind strayed into “what comes next?” mode, and it wasn’t pretty.  I lost track of what I was doing—my breathing, form, and pace—and when I came in I actually got out my calendar and got on my computer to see what sprint tri or half marathon might be coming up in a month or two.

Thankfully, reason dawned.  There was no need to panic—there are loads of races all the time.  I had no business looking for one then; there was still 10 days to this race, and this race was all that mattered.  More important, perhaps, my run that day—or any day—is all that really matters, because that’s all there is.  We aren’t promised the race or the finish.  We are given only the day.  All we can be sure of is the moment we are in, so we need to make the best of the moment, focused like a laser.

So I am ready for Saturday’s sprint tri.  Now, if I can only apply that kind of focus to the rest of my life…

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Flag Day Inspiration

Posted on June 15, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Thursday, June 14, was Flag Day.  I was privileged to attend the celebration of two people who became permanent U.S. residents, a mother and daughter from Haiti.  I know B, the daughter, through Girls on the Run.  I have seen her run. I have seen her cross the finish line in two races.  For a long time, however, B could not run.

B came to America about 2½ years ago at the age of 9 after the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti to its core.  She came alone, on a stretcher, to a country she did not know and one whose language she did not speak.

B and her mother, R, were close, and R did everything she could to give B a great life in Haiti.  They both valued education. To this end, R ensured that B had the best teachers in Haiti, even though that meant that B’s school was too far away for her to walk to.  However, if it had been close enough for most children to walk to, B could not have made it there.  She had an illness that often left her debilitated and prevented her from walking.

R did everything she could to find treatment for B.  They went to many doctors in Haiti, but the doctors could find no cure.  They went to traditional healers, but B could not be healed.  So they prayed, but B did not get better.  They were baffled and frustrated as B continued to suffer.

When the earthquake struck, B was at her school, studying.  The building collapsed, killing many, including B’s friends and teacher, and leaving B’s leg pinned under debris.  Trapped for hours, she lay under the rubble and called for help.

In the middle of the earthquake, R’s thoughts were of her daughter.  With tremors still shaking the island, R made her way to her daughter’s school, only to find it destroyed.  Trusting that B was still alive, R dug in the rubble with her bare hands.  B continued to call out for help until her mother found her.  Soon, B’s uncle, and then the entire village, was there to uncover B.

When they dug her out, B’s leg was completely crushed by the weight of the building. Although she spent time in the hospital, a terrible infection set in.  Doctors prepared to amputate B’s leg.

But what B didn’t know was what was happening over 1000 miles away. Her soon-to-be foster family—3 young girls and their parents—watched the crisis in Haiti unfold.  Moved by the devastation, one of the girls spoke up first and asked if they could adopt one of the many injured children.

That was the first step in what would take a web of strangers—doctors, charities, and private citizens—to bring B to San Antonio.  R was strong enough to choose hope for her daughter, and sent her off alone. B was courageous enough to leave.  It would be an entire year before B could be joined by her mother.

Through the efforts of remarkable doctors, B’s leg was saved.  She underwent a series of painful surgeries, without whining, without complaint.  What’s more, her doctors diagnosed the disease that had limited B throughout her life.  Fortunately, it’s one that can be successfully managed.

Finally, B is pain-free.

Almost two years after B arrived, I had the privilege of seeing her run.  At the time, I didn’t know it was a privilege.  At the time, I didn’t know her courage and her strength.  I only saw a girl running.

I don’t think B knows that her bravery has fingers long enough to touch virtual strangers.

At the celebration, I chatted with a friend of the family.  She said that when she told B what an inspiration she was, B said, “What’s an inspiration?”  On Flag Day, in the Federal Building, surrounded by the web of people whose faith and love and hope crystallized into action, there were too many inspirations in the room to count.

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Diet Is a 4-Letter Word

Posted on June 8, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I had a run-in with my arch nemesis this week.  Fritos.  He won.  What’s worse, he has a friend.  Julio’s.  If you’re from Texas, you’ve probably seen Julio there on the shelves between his rival corn chips, and if you’ve had him you understand his power of persuasion.

It seems I had a fiesta in my pantry this week.  The timing figures—on the heels of my thoughts about garbage.  Thankfully, the fiesta is over. Has it affected my training?  Fortunately, no.  My sprint tri is in two weeks (yay!), and my workouts have been going well.  Has it affected the way I feel about myself? You bet. Disappointment is the first word that rolls to mind, like a thundercloud.

But the big question is this:  Will my lapse in nutritional judgment this week cause me to change what I eat next week? That is, will I go on a diet?  The big answer:  Absolutely not.  In my opinion, diet is a 4-letter word.

There are dozens of diets on the market, always have been, always will be.  Each time a new study touts the superpowers of one kind of food or the evil powers of another, there’s bound to be a book, an infomercial, a talk show segment, or some other media blitz right on its heels.  That’s not to say the studies aren’t important. They are. But information is only good when it’s used wisely.

A diet cannot last forever.  A healthy lifestyle can.  What’s the difference?  A diet has a beginning and an end.  Many diets require the dieter to eliminate entire food groups or to overindulge in others.  They require an exorbitant amount of willpower, which always fails, partly because it is physiologically impossible and certainly unhealthy to eliminate or overindulge, and the dieter’s body will pressure her into balance—which means she eats what she “shouldn’t.”  She gets frustrated and quits, or she meets her prescribed time limit and, inevitably, the diet ends.

Most diets also require the dieter to consume less calories than he expends.  Makes sense, especially if weight loss is the goal. But often, the number of calories prescribed by the diet is far less than a body actually needs to function—which means the dieter loses energy, gets weak and lethargic. Cranky.

The body knows what it needs.  It needs calories to pump the heart, run the brain and nervous system, move the muscles and the bones they’re attached to.  If the body doesn’t get enough calories from all the food groups, it goes into starvation mode, slowing down metabolism to conserve energy—hoarding all that fat the dieter is trying to shed.

No diets for me, thank you.  I prefer to live a healthy lifestyle.  What this means to me is that there is no beginning and no end to proper nutrition. I eat all the food groups, every day. I don’t worry about what time I eat my last meal.  My body doesn’t refuse carbs after 3:00.  I don’t panic if Fritos wins for a couple of days.

Let me repeat that.  Sometimes Fritos wins for a couple of days. But since I’m not on a diet, that’s ok. It’s my mind—my opinion of myself—that pays the bigger long-term price than my body.  This is because I have chosen to live a healthy lifestyle rather than to be (forever) on a diet.  I know what the effects of saturated fat are on my arteries when the Fritos win.  That—and not the effect on the elastic in my pants—is why I’m disappointed in myself.

I do have some general rules of thumb I try to follow:

  1. If God didn’t make it, don’t put it in my mouth.  This prompts me to eat more whole foods and far less processed foods.  (Yes, I still try to argue with myself how God did, in fact, make Fritos since he made the people who invented, manufactured, packaged, shipped, and shelved Fritos, the corn that’s in the Fritos, the people who created and operated the machinery that made all the other gunk that’s in the Fritos. You see how it goes.  It’s exhausting, really, this kind of logic. Still, sometimes I let it win…)
  2. Graze like a gazelle.  If I eat small portions all day, I feel better. And who doesn’t want to eat all day?  When I do, my metabolism runs fast and steady throughout the day.  I have less of a desire to overindulge in anything because I’m always satisfied, never starving, and I don’t overeat to the point of discomfort. I know I’ll be eating again in just a few hours. It’s a beautiful arrangement.
  3. Don’t eat anything bigger than my head.  Seems like a no-brainer when it comes to foods like watermelon. But this also means that if I choose to have pizza, I can’t actually eat the whole thing. I would. But I can’t.

These rules of thumb have come after years of learning to listen to my body when it tells me what it needs.  They’ve come because I do read the reports about nutrition and exercise.  They’ve come because my main goal for my body is disease prevention.  If I focus on keeping my body healthy and disease-free, I gravitate to the foods that will do that and steer away from the foods that won’t.  In the process, my weight corrects itself. My tastesbuds have more than adapted to whole foods—I actually look forward to them. And I have more energy, more clarity of mind, and feel better than I have in my life.

What are your thoughts about diets?

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Garbage in, Garbage out

Posted on June 1, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I love food.  Always have.  I love to eat it, cook it, smell it, look at it, think about it, and talk about it.  Sometimes I even dream about it.  But I can’t tell you how many food conversations I’ve had during which one of the participants holds up a hand dismissively and says, “Well, you’re a runner. You can eat anything.”

That sentiment, I’m afraid, I do not love.

Many people take up running because they want to drop a few pounds.  They know they need to get some cardio work into their routines—or they need to start a routine—and running seems like a fit.  Some lose weight, some do not.  The difference?  It’s not only the output. More than likely, it’s the input.

I took up running for a much different reason than weight loss.  A nice by-product has been that I keep my weight in check.  I don’t do this by eating “anything.”  I do, however, eat what I want.  And lots of it.

A funny thing has happened over the past several years.   My wants have changed.  I used to be the queen of canned ravioli and packaged macaroni and cheese.  Now, you couldn’t hold me down and force feed me either.

Sometimes I think I crave, say, macaroni and cheese, and sometimes I even talk about it for days on end. What I crave is not the food itself, but what the food represents.  I now know enough about my body to know that if I did break down and eat macaroni and cheese, 1) I would be immensely disappointed in the taste, and 2) I would feel sick for at least a day, probably more.

The more I’ve run (and biked and swam), the more efficient my body has become at metabolizing food—if it’s the right kind of food.  For me, that includes oatmeal, fruit, sweet potatoes, kale, and just about any other vegetable I can get my mouth on.  It’s not cake and crackers and pizza.  Even if I think I want it to be.

When I eat “anything,” I cannot run.  That is, my sleep patterns are interrupted and I feel lethargic the next day.  I feel like I’m running with a boulder in my belly, and my legs feel like lead.  Those factors do not make for an enjoyable run, at least not for me.  And for the rest of the day, I’m not the most pleasant person to be around.

That doesn’t mean that I never eat “anything.”  Sometimes I choose pizza or bananas foster over running.  But I recognize in the moment that it is, in fact, a choice, the consequences of which I will have to live with the next morning.

You’ve heard people say that our bodies are like machines and need the proper fuel to keep them operating the way they’re intended to. I’m not going to say exactly that, because I believe our bodies are so much more than machines.  But there’s something to it.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Just like our computers.  Our eyes.  Our thoughts.  Our bodies are no different.

So you’re a runner but some mornings a sharp stick in the eye seems like it might feel better than even your 2 mile route?  Take a hard look at what you’re eating.  Are you serving what you want—and is what you want serving you?

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