Saturday, August 15, 2009

19 months later...

This first post is a book...get a cup of's how I roll...

So...I'm 19 months late on starting this blog. Call it laziness, call it fear, call it denial, call it being overcommitted, call it being flat tired...I've got an excuse if you come up with a reason for not starting more excuses...

I'm not sure if I expect anyone to read this--and that's ok--this is for me, but having done a blog for Casey before blogs became the rage, I found it cathartic then...I'm hoping I will find the same sense of peace I did then, now.

In a perfect world I would have started this in January 2008 when my journey began. I'd been home a couple years from DC in helping to care for my brother Casey when he was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), and came to the realization over a succession of eye-opening experiences that my life needed to change. I had become a recognized comfort eater while living in the Fisher House at WRAMC--food was my complete comfort when I was stressed, when things weren't going with with Casey, when I missed my boys at home...and how could you pass up fresh baked sweets that church ladies were continuously bringing into the House, because there is NOTHING better than church ladies cookies under cellophane.

It had gotten to the point I had gone up yet another size in pants, and I'd had it. I'd caught too many glances in the mirror of this person I didn't even recognize anymore. So it was time to put action to my goals.

I wanted to set out to lose at least 50 start. Thanks to friends I was working with, I started on Weight Watchers. I learned what a portion size was (talk about an eye opener--Americans are pigs, that's all I've got say about know what I mean) and started to drop alot of my comfort foods. I made the plunge and hired a trainer--I put my money up for grabs so that I'd be held accountable to get to the gym. It was hell to start with, but I remember standing in my closet one morning, and saw a glance in the mirror that I was beginning to resemble my former self, that I had some shapeliness to my waistline again. It was working, and that was enough motivation for me.

In June 2008 I added in tae kwon do to the picture. My son had started lessons, and the instructor kept telling me "Why just sit there when you could be doing something during that time?" Combine this with the factor that I am all about working towards some kind of goal that has some kind of tangible reward, the appeal of earning belts and moving up the ranks made my mouth water--I've always been a competetive gal. I began to work out in the dojang, in total embarrassment of my body as I had to wear a white uniform...felt like the Michelin Man in the pants as big as I was, but I did it. But blessings abound, as I met a group of women every shape, size, height, weight, and age who were all there for their own reasons. No one made fun of me when I was red-faced and panting, no one laughed at me as I fact it was the opposite. I was offered help in learning forms, I was given extra instruction with a smile when I tentatively asked, I was asked out for coffee with the girls--I belonged! And isn't that what we all want in life, is to be accepted? Never in my WILDEST dreams would I ever consider myself a martial still amazes me and I am honored every time I say it...but almost a month ago I earned my red belt, and am two belts away from the high honor of black. I stay on track by next fall I could earn my BLACK. Just wow....

As the pounds kept dropping and I began to buy smaller sizes, I kept a niggling thought at bay in the back of my head. In October 2005 Casey completed the Marine Marathon in his hand-crank bike in about 2 1/2 hours. I was in awe of his determination, his hard work, his skill and his ability to overcome adversity. And I kept thinking to myself, "If he can overcome ALL of that, if he can do it, what's my excuse?" I'd come up with excuses, of course...but they all kept disapating one by one...there really wasn't any excuse I couldn't run.

I started to talk with my husband about this, did he think I could run? His usual supportive self, he told me I could do anything I worked hard for, he'd be there to help. I talked to my trainer, did he think I could do it? Both he and my former trainer told me I could do anything I set my mind to and worked at. But the issue became did I think I could do it?

My trainer started to work with me on running, just small distances and we built up from there. I will never forget the day that I ran my first mile in 30 minutes and DID NOT STOP. It was slow, it was steady but I got there. There were shouts of joy and high fives, he was so proud of me, and I was proud of myself. I cried in the bathroom minutes later, praising God that I was able to make it. If I could make the first mile, I could make more.

I started talking about this desire to run with my friend Steve. Steve is the ultimate runner. He is lean and wiry, he has the runner's physique with probably 2% body fat (if that). He runs marathons with a glee that I found myself oddly attracted to, and wanted to know where that desire came from. He has set forth a challenge for himself to run a marathon in every state in our nation, and is working on it. We would talk at length every time I would walk into our local market and I'd see him there on his lunch break. He'd let me talk until I got all my thoughts out, and he'd add to them, conjuring up more for my mind to ruminate on later. Being we are in the same Sunday school class as Steve and his wife, Kristi, I naturally began to talk with Kristi about this, as well. She had some of the same desires as I did, as she'd love to be able to run with her husband. We kept talking...

In November 2008, Kristi let me know about a local 5K race one Saturday morning. She, Steve and their young daughter were going to sign up to run, why didn't I join them? I'd been working hard in the gyn running on the treadmill, it was time to pound the pavement instead. The race was in support of the local library, how can you go wrong giving money to the library? So I signed up, scared to death, but I signed up...better news was my husband also signed up, so I wasn't alone!

The morning of the race I was terrified. How was I going to survive 3+ miles?? We stretched, said hello to all the familiar faces who'd come out to run, I started praying I wouldn't embarrass the daylights out of myself. Good news was it was a small attendance so I wouldn't be too much the laughing stock of the race. The gun went off, and Kristi and I began to run. We made it further running that I ever imagined, we walked when we needed to breathe (which was often). We put one foot in front of the other.......and before we knew it we were pushing hard and crossing the finish line in under 40 minutes! I was thrilled, I was shocked, I was over the moon! I was hoping for an hour, but under 40!!! Biggest shocker of them all was when I checked Kristi and I's times...I WON A 2ND PLACE MEDAL!!! Talk about all the motivation I was realization that this was a sport you could work towards another tangible reward for in the end...oh baby, I was all over working for medals!

I went into our local running store that next week, Luke's Locker of Colleyville, I was determined now to seek help. I am blessed with a best friend who is the research queen, and it's rubbed off on me over the years. Again, I was blessed when I walked in and greeted by female store staff who were actually thrilled when I let them know I was just starting out running, and could they help me with shoes, answer my questions which we limitless, help me with staff member actually clapped for me, threaded her arm through mine and showed me through the entire store, step by step. I wasn't treated like a piriah, I wasn't treated like the fat girl with necessary pity to be doled out....I was treated like...and I still tremble when I say it...A RUNNER! I was fitted, I was taught, and I was introduced to a program that was starting up right after Christmas through the store that would teach newbies like me how to put one foot in front of the other---BINGO, PRAYERS ANSWERED!! I told them my story of how far I'd come, how I'd lost so much weight, and that I secretly had a goal to run a long distance in honor of my brother...before I knew it the entire store staff is around me listening, and asking what else they can do to help me. It was one of the best days of my life.

Fast forward to January 2009. It was a cold Saturday morning, 6:45am. We met at the store again, all of us new and experienced runners in one spot. We stretched, and were introduced to our coaches. We'd gotten a flurry of emails the week before from our coaches, the store staff and so on about joining The Beat Goes on program through Luke's Locker, so at least I knew I was in the right spot, now putting faces to names. That morning we began slow....10 minutes walking, 10 minutes running (or as long as you could), 10 minutes walking. We got a chance in these first few weeks to talk to our coaches, and they found out what our goals and objectives were. Again I shared my desire to run a race in honor of Casey, I really wanted to run the Marine Marathon....I thought. We began to increase our distances, shortening our walking times, increasing the running. We had homework all week of how long to run, how to was not easy. I went through ups and downs, good and bad weather, getting hurt, healing....but it was getting easier week after week! I began to enter 5K races on Saturday mornings with my teammates, and looked forward to them. Again, being that I am Miss Work-For-The-Gold-Star like a kindergartener, I loved starting to collect race shirts and bib was a sign of accomplishment! My times began to get better, and I was feeling on top of the world.

I decided to finally actually look up the Marine Marathon--this meant I would actually have to take action---GASP---was I ready???, and what about if they had a half marathon? I was quickly discovering 26.2 miles was probably further than I wanted to run and moreso to train for, but a half....this was feasible! It was a commitment I could stick to, could train for, and I think...dare I say, wanted to do?

I remember googling the run, finding the site, and discovering that the Marine Marathon is the only race held that day in October, they do not hold the half the same day...and it is in MAY, coincidentally on my son's birthday weekend. Being that I was a month from this AND it was sold out, but more importantly I was SO not ready for this, where to go now?

I talked again to Steve, my marathoner friend. What should I do? He suggested finding a half locally for my first. I wouldn't have to travel, I'd know the climate, it would be less stressful. Why not do the White Rock Half in Dallas? It wasn't until December, which means I'd have more than enough time to train. Good news was with the Beat Goes On (BGO) program wrapping up, Luke's Locker was offering marathon and half marathon training starting in June--BINGO, ANSWERED PRAYERS AGAIN! Again, I went into Luke's to ask a million more questions about the program, and they answered every one of them until I knew all I needed. I signed up on the spot, and was thrilled to find out my coaches from the BGO program would be my trainers again, as well as my friend Angie from church! Prayers were being answered right and left, God is good, people!

Best part of all this...while talking to friend Steve about all this, I was also talking to Kristi again, as well. She was on the fence about doing the half program, and we'd all encouraged her to try, but it was ultimately up to her. I am THRILLED to say she did join, and she's my running buddy on Saturday mornings when we start training at 5:45am!

So here I am.......and it makes me want to cry when I say it........AN ATHLETE! I am a runner, I am a martial artist. I never, ever in my right mind thought I could say that about myself. No, I'm not a stereotypical looking athlete, but I bet you a million bucks I have the heart and willpower of one.

I am in boot camp four mornings a week. I am at tae kwon do 4-5 times a week (soon to be more once school starts.) I run 4-5 mornings a week. I am eating well, splurging every once in awhile. I'm at a plateau in my weight, not losing as much as I thought I would have by this point, but I'm ALL OVER finding answers right now as to why I've seemed to stall out.

So I send this out into the void, not sure if I really want anyone else to read this, other than it gives me the pressure to post so that I have a journal of this path I've taken. Maybe someone else will read it and get it and realize they aren't alone in their struggles, too?

My favorite quote about running is from a marathon runner/inspiration speaker named John Bingham. He says, "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." That's me, in a nutshell.

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