Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Post Marathon Post: Part II...8 months later

This post was originally titled "The Post Marathon Post: Part II...7 months later." That changed this morning. I left my blog in the starting gate. Not sure if that's irony or not. It's been a hard 8 months.

I started training for this marathon a year and a half ago. I remember a conversation with my good friend during the course of our training (she was in the process of training for her first full Ironman) and she had this quote that she shared with me "Remember why you started." I held that quote close to my heart because it reminded me of her and our friendship as I pushed through the long Saturday runs of training. And I thought of this as I pushed through the grueling 5 hours and 58 minutes that I ran my marathon.

Sitting here, eight months removed from my marathon, I look back on why I started and what that race means to mean. I started because I wanted to lose weight. I started because I was trying to regain my life in a job that left me feeling overworked and needing mental time for myself. I started because I wanted to prove that my life was full and meaningful even without a husband or children. I started because I didn't think I could do it. Even as I gathered my things up the morning of my marathon to get on the bus to the start line, I doubted myself. I doubted that I could do it. There has to be a small amount of crazy in someone that wants to willingly run 26.2 miles in a certain amount of time. Was I crazy?

The marathon experience is hard to explain to someone unless they've actually done it. It's not actually 26.2 miles, at least it wasn't to me. To me it was a series of 1 miles increments. And when a mile seemed too impossible at the end, it was running from tree to tree. And cheering section to cheering section. And then it became just putting one foot in front of another. And when I didn't think I had anything left, there was my friend who literally ran with me to the end.

Three weeks later, I had knee surgery on my meniscus. I had injured it in August, but with an amazing group of physical therapists and appointments three times a week, I made it through the marathon. I'm not sure they really know how much they did for me. They weren't just there healing my body, they genuinely cared about me as a person. They were genuinely excited for me when I came back and had finished my marathon. They encouraged and pushed and supported in ways I didn't even know I was missing, until there they were.

Training for and running my marathon was one of the best things I've ever done in my life. The reasons I run are endless. The things I've gained are endless. The questions I still have are endless. I'm by no means a marathon expert, but what I would tell people is to find their own marathon. Find the thing that you're not really sure if you can do, and do it. If nothing else, try. Maybe you'll fail. But what if you succeed?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Post Marathon Post: Part I

The Post-Marathon Post: Part I

(Editor's note: I wasn't planning on making these multiple posts, but I just finished getting to the starting line...and it's already getting pretty long. I would imagine two more posts after this one. Enjoy!)

I'm just about a full week out from the completion of my first marathon. This last week was my time to reflect and relive the experience as I verbally shared parts of it with people who asked. Finally, I'm going to take the time to reflect and recount the experience of last Sunday as a whole.

After having knee issues for the better part of August and into September, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the starting line. My longest training run was only 15 miles. After finding out I was sporting some torn cartilage and a torn medial meniscus in my left knee, I was down to one run a week (the long Saturday run) per my physical therapist's direction. Three days of 6am physical therapy a week. And if I'm being totally honest, those mid-week workouts on the arc trainer usually (read:always) got pushed to the side as my job became overwhelming and I usually opted for sleep over the workout. And yet, there I was last Friday, boarding the plane to head up to "chilly" Milwaukee from Phoenix. It was 102º when the plane took off and 52º when we landed. Literally a 50º temperature swing.

This wasn't a trip meant for seeing friends and family (though I managed to squeeze a little bit of that in), and as I sat on the plane the life I have in Phoenix got shut off. For the entire weekend I wasn't Ms. O., I was Andrea. I turned my job off. The correcting I brought along stayed in my backpack the entire time, and instead I spent the time on the plane reading the chapters in my multiple marathon books about the actual race, mile 26, and the post-race recovery. In my head I mentally rehearsed the final three miles which I had run before I left Milwaukee last July. I looked over the course map, creating mental goal markers for myself to loosely give myself an idea as to where I was on the course route at any given time. And I enjoyed a little of the free DirectTV, courtesy of Southwest Airlines.

Saturday was expo day. Walking into that expo building, stuff got real. I'm always in awe of the elite athletes. You know, the people God genetically created to be good at running. I should have taken some pictures at the expo, especially of the display of all the shirts and medals from all 35 years of the marathon. Shopped all the finisher swag. Bought none of it, because, well...I wasn't a finisher at that point! Settled for a pint glass and a coffee mug. (To those of you who know me: Shocking. Beer and coffee. Not.) Saturday afternoon I was able to grab lunch with a friend, I even allowed myself a Spotted Cow. Saturday night I spent with my fam (minus the Minnesota contingency) at one of my favorite places in the whole world, Miller Park. I started chatting with a pair of guys who were sitting behind me about the marathon the next day. They thought I was crazy for being at the ballpark the night before. I was sitting, I was relaxed, and mentally it was one of the best places I could have been.

Saturday night I got a decent night of sleep before the marathon, but my body decided to wake up just about every hour on the hour. It didn't seem to bother me, as I'd just roll back over and go back to sleep. No alarm was necessary, as my body naturally woke up just after 5am. Immediately I started putting on my race day outfit. Stuff was getting real! Pretty soon I was in the car with my cousin and headed to the Italian Community Center to catch the shuttle up to the startline in Grafton (shoutout to Chrysta for taking me down there at 5:30am).

There was a moment on the shuttle where you're about halfway up to Grafton and my mind goes "You know you have to run all the way back down to Milwaukee, right?" Shortly after that the "Am I insane?" moment hit. Before I could even process that information we were getting off the interstate and the doors to the bus were opening at Grafton High School. I had 30-45 minutes before they would start corralling us to the start line. I took advantage of using a real toilet one last time, and reassessing my apparel choices for the umpteenth time. Popped my IB, my Extreme Endurance, one last drink of watch, and ran into two of my former coworkers. It was so great to seem them and talk through my gameplan one last night. Right before Brandon (who has done multiple marathons and runs much faster than me) walked away he looked at me and said, "We'll see you at the finish line." I sarcastically commented that I didn't know if they'd still be around by the time I finished. He very confidently looked at me and said one more time, "We'll see you at the finish line." Those words ran with me the entire 26.2 miles.

I was alone again, standing in the 5:30 finish time corral. I started chatting with three ladies near me. They had all flown into town from different parts of the country to run this marathon together and they had a supporter (Robin) that was their cheerleader/fueler/encourager that met up with them every 2-4 miles on the course. They immediately adopted me as one of their own, including me in every picture they took throughout the entire day. It made me feel like my group of girlfriends that is now spread out all over the country was right there with me. All of a sudden it was 7:25am, and people started moving forward towards the start line. My heart started fluttering a little bit...this was it. The man at the starting line lifted the gun to the air and POW! we were off. Well...about 2 minutes later when we actually got across the starting mats we were off. (Those two minutes become pretty important about six hours later.)

Friday, June 12, 2015


While I haven't been consistent about blogging Sundays, I have been consistent about blogging once a week. This week's blog is brought to you at Sip Coffee & Beer House in Scottsdale, AZ. One of the best parts about being "off" in the summers, is that you can work remotely for a large majority of prep work. I'm not really "off." We might not have school in session, but I'm working and prepping for next year like a mad women. Music selection, travel plans, outfit selection...sometimes it feels like I have more work in the summers than I do during the school year. Haha, just kidding.

I love a good coffeehouse. Probably goes back to the many hours I spent avoiding the snow and studying at Larkspur in college, which apparently is now Lola-An American Bistro. Pair a good coffee with free wifi and I am a happy girl. Add on the fact that it's also a beer house and you'll have a difficult time getting me to leave. I found this little gem on Google, gave it a try, and it's starting to become my goto place to sit and work. The mornings are pretty quiet, but the traffic definitely pics up around noon.

Lots of blogging topics have been swarming my mind these days. As the mileage starts to increase, so does the amount of time I have to just think. Three quick thoughts on the blog today. Race recap, minor injury, and goals.

Race recap: FroYo5k
Both the 5k and the 10k were offered, with the 10k just looping the course twice. Overall, I was fairly happy with my performance. I set my fastest 5k time in a long time during the race. The froyo treat at the end was AMAZING. While some people were commenting about how they were going to get sick from the froyo at the end, I thought it was a fantastic treat after a very hot race. Heat was probably my only complaint about the race. Race officials were late in starting the race, which in the AZ heat can really kill ya. My runs outside I try to start around 5:30am. Scheduled at 7am, this puppy didn't start til almost 7:15am! But one under my belt. Huzzah!

I sidelined myself for two days this week. After my interval training on Tuesday, I experienced some pain in my right calf starting Wednesday. When I woke up and it was still present on Thursday, I decided a trip to my local running store was in order. The pain was in the same leg that I pronate on, and suspected that I might be having a cause and effect situation going on. After telling my life's running story to Flash at Sole Running Sports Zone, we determined that is was probably time to retire my pair of shoes. Lighter shoes=less mileage available on them. I tried on a new pair and holy cow...night and day difference. It was like running on clouds of air verses flat pancakes. The hardest part of the process was deciding what color to get. Kinda in love with these new turquoise Saucony Kinvara 6s. I spent the rest of the afternoon Thursday doing an easy pool workout and Thursday evening bonding with the heating pad. This morning I woke up to a calf that felt MUCH better, but still could use a little more time off. Since tomorrow is my long run, I figured an extra day off wasn't going to hurt. Swimming again this afternoon.

Weekly Goals!
1- Drink more water. Yeah. I still suck at this.
2- Keep interval training and lifting a regular part of my schedule.
3- Do a better job meal planning. I'm starting to fall into the habit of going to the grocery store every other day and that is not good for the budget or the balanced diet.

Keep running everyone! Live. Laugh. Love.


Friday, June 5, 2015

What's your recipe?

I love to cook. (As is evidenced by the fact that I had to pause Chef to write this blog post.) In my past life I have worked in two bakeries and a deli. Days of cleaning up and prepping food gave me an insatiable love of both cooking and baking. I often get asked which one I love more, and I don't have a good answer. Both present unique and different opportunities. To me, the love of standing at the farmer's market picking out fresh veggies is just as wonderful as pulling my latest creation out of a hot stove.

My most recent cookbook purchase was Racing Weight Cookbook. (The picture to the left is the Nectarine Stuffed French Toast from the cookbook. It was AMAZING.) As I prepare for my upcoming marathon, and to just improve my health overall, I've taken an extra interest in the type of food I'm putting into my body. I'll admit it, a few sour gummy worms somehow manage to make their way past my lips from time to time. But I like to think that the majority of food passing through the gums are good food choices to fuel me in my workouts.

Cookbooks aren't the only type of books that I manage to collect. One of my dreams is to live in a large enough space where one room can be simply lined with bookshelves and books. When I moved to Arizona, the guys who were kind enough to come help me unload the moving truck jokingly asked if I brought anything besides my bed, papasan chair, and my books. (I don't think they were really joking though. The amount of boxes that had "books" as their label was a bit ridiculous...or awesome depending on how you look at it.) There are three bookshelves devoted to books in my small one-bedroom apartment right now, and I'm rapidly running out of space.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, or were at least paying attention in the first couple paragraphs of this post, you might have already caught that I'm planning on running a marathon. (If you haven't caught that by now, well then you might have the same attention span as some of my high schoolers.) Most of the time when I mention my marathon training to a fellow runner, they offer their favorite book of choice that has helped them reach their goal. Currently on the shelf sit:

Shout out to all my fellow runner friends for their recommendations. Daniels' Running Formula is the latest and greatest to grace my bookshelves. Sometimes it can be very overwhelming to consider all of the different options and opinions. But one of the reasons that I love being somewhat obsessed with my training is the same reason that I love cooking and baking.

Go to the bookstore. (Or Amazon...let's be real.) Pick out five different cookbooks. Look up the recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I'm willing to bet that while all five are fairly similar, each cookbook will have their own spin or variation on the recipe. However, you'll always end up with chocolate chip cookies. You personally might be drawn to one recipe over another because of your preference, but it doesn't make any of the other recipes better or worse than the one you like.

Each person is their own recipe. What might work for one person to lose weight and prepare for a marathon might be quite as "tasty" to another. Which is why I'm glad that I have different options and schools of thought to consider. But here's the flip side. You could drive yourself batty finding the "perfect" training program. It's almost like the dangers of online dating...there's always another person/recipe/training plan out there (we're going for the triple analogy here, folks). At some point you have to go with your gut and what you think is going to be the best for YOU. It's all trial and error.

Here are a couple of things I've learned so far:

1) If I'm going for weight loss, I have to take my fish oil regularly. It just helps me maintain a better balance in my body. Check out this article if you're interested in learning a little bit more about fish oil supplements.

2) I need to surround myself with like minded individuals to be successful in my weight loss. I can't be around people who don't respect my dietary choices. And as stupid as that sounds, you wouldn't believe the amount of people who give me a hard time when I opt for the salad or to skip the beer. (Ok, I am a Wisconsin girl who loves her beer. So maybe I don't always skip the beer, but I like to have the option.)

3) Right along with number 2 (somewhere Chandler Bing and Joey Tribiani are laughing right now...), I need people who are going to encourage me in my goals and choices. I want people around me who are going to ask me about my training and be genuinely interested. One of the worst responses that someone had when I told them I was going to train for a marathon was, "Are you crazy? I would NEVER want to do that! Who would ever want to run that far?" The snarky self inside of me wanted to respond with, "Well, no one is asking you to do it, but I am going to run it." But alas, my filter was kicked on that day and instead I'm now sharing it with all of you.

4) I love to make lists. Oh, wait. I knew that one already...onto number 5...

5) Interval training is where it's at if I want to slice time off of my mile. This is what I struggle with because I want to be faster, and yet I love settling into that easy, long run pace. I know those bad boys are good for me though.

6) Ice the knees, heat the calves, quads, and hammies. (Ice cream optional.)

7) You have crappy knees, so strength from other areas is key. Hip flexors need attention and loving too.

8) There is no substitute for a strong core.

9) Instagram is an amazing place to surround yourself with strangers that are as encouraging as your best friends. And many times, that stupid picture and the likes I get from other runners and triathletes is the thing that gets me out of bed and running in the morning. #hashtageverything

10) Running on an empty stomach makes me really hangry the last ten minutes of my run. Cinnamon raisin english muffin it is.

11) Running from 5-7am in Phoenix is the only sane time to run outside in the summertime. Thankfully I'm a teachers and have the flexibility to make that my run time in the summers. The only ones subject to my non-morning person lovely self are my running shoes.

12) Having pretty running shoes helps. If you're not looking forward to putting them on, you're not going to like what you're doing in them either.

13) I get bored. It's important to be training for something specific and to change it up. Right now I'm aiming for the marathon, but I'm also planning on doing a sprint tri about two months before. The swimming and biking help to break it up and give my mind some other things to think about. Plus the low-impact cardio certainly can't hurt!

14) Hit the gym. Regularly. And not just the cardio side. (See number 8).

15) Heathy people are happy people. I challenge you to go to any sort of run or multisport event. You will not find angry or frustrated people there. (Unless of course there's the occasional keys locked in the car or cell phone water injury.) Isn't it better being happy? Plus all that health stuff helps boost your immune system too.

16) It's ok to splurge. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to make a habit of eating pizza and beer every night. But I'm a realist about it too. I'm not an elite athlete. It isn't my job (although I'm currently acting like it) to run races. So it's ok if I indulge in a treat every now and then. This is one that I have a hard time with many times. As someone who has struggled with her weight the better part of her adult life, there is a lot of guilt associated with treats. I'm working remembering that they are "treats" and not "habits" and moving on with my life.

17) There's a difference between a quality workout and a mediocre workshop. I need to continually strive to make them quality workouts.

18) I need to drink more water. Come on people, I live in the desert. But even if I didn't, I am constantly working on upping my water intake. Everything (and I mean everything) just functions better when you're hydrated.

Oh boy, once I got going on that list I had a hard time stopping! That's the power of the list, people. And on that note, I'm off to hit the swimming pool...that is if the thunderstorms can hold off. (Yes, thunderstorms in Phoenix today. CRAZY. Cue the crazy driving...I mean crazier than normal driving.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

This one's for you...

This one's for you.

This blog post is for all the people who are unhappy.
...for everyone who is scared to go to the gym.
...for everyone that thinks it is hopeless.
...for anyone who is sad, lonely, or depressed.
...for the person who wants to feel good.
...for the 8 year old inside of you that loved to swim, but you're not sure if they're still there.
...for the kids who loved to ride bikes outside in the summer, but haven't in a long time.
...for the person that doesn't think they can run, but desperately wants to.
...for the person that is on their journey.
...for the person that has journeyed before.
...for every person.

This blog post is for you.

I've found on my weight loss journey that there have been many ups and downs that I go through. But there is always a similar pattern. I want to share something with you from about 17 years ago.

When I was 14 our eighth grade class trip was to Washington D.C. Growing up I was very insecure about my body. We were required to wear nice clothes on the trip and I can remember going to Kohls and getting a pair of black khaki pants that were size 7. And I felt larger than any of the other girls in my class. I don't know that I felt fat or even overweight, I just felt like I didn't fit in with everyone else. And I proceeded to feel not good about my body right into college. And then I decided to do something about it. So I got moving. But the midst of my collegiate healthy awakening, I came across the picture of me in eighth grade and I remembered how I felt at the time. And you know what? I looked at that picture in college the same I view it today, I look like a pretty standard 14 year old girl.

But isn't that one of the huge hurdles in any sort of weight-loss or fitness journey? It doesn't always matter what the reality looks like if your head is some place else.

Here's the truth. First and foremost, who you are is beautiful, regardless of the size that you are. You are where you are in life right now because that's where God needs you to be. You are beautiful and special because God made you who you are and He doesn't make mistakes.

Do you remember the TLC show What Not to Wear with Stacy and Clinton? Many of the participants said they dressed the way they did was because they were planning on losing weight and were just biding time. The thing that Stacy and Clinton always responded with was that it is important for you to dress your body as it is right now, not as it could possibly be six month from now. I always thought that was good advice, but I think there's something more to it now that I didn't understand before. You dress your body now for success because it makes you feel better, which puts you in a better position to be successful in other aspects of your life (health, relationships, work, etc.). If we live in a state of constant self loathing, it is very difficult to take any steps in a positive direction.

So stop criticizing yourself! That's not going to get you anywhere besides BummedOutsville. (Go back up two paragraphs and re-read.) So now you feel good about your insides, but you want your outsides to match? Here's my encouragement to you...take a step. Take one step forward. Steps forward don't have to always be big steps. Make your big goal, and then put several smaller goals in between where you are now and the larger goal laid out in front of you.

You want to run? Start tomorrow with a walk. It's the same as running. Just one foot in front of the other.
You want to swim? Buy a suit and don't get a rat's patootie about what other people think because you're there and we're all a work in progress.
You want to bike? Find a place to rent one in your city for a day so you can fall back in love with the freedom that those two wheels can offer.
You want to go to the gym? Go. The only person stopping you is you. They will be happy to have you (and your moola).
You want to feel good? Turn on the 80's cardio station on Pandora and have your own private dance party at home. I have yet to find anyone who doesn't feel awesome after rocking out to Livin' On a Prayer.

Life is too short to deprive ourselves of everything it has to offer. Make tomorrow a great one!

Live. Laugh. Love.

*Editor's Note: The author of this blogpost also has to give herself this pep talk on a fairly regular basis. Nobody is perfect. We're all a work in progress trying to make tomorrow better than it was today. High five, fellow people. Go forth and be awesome.