Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The First Buddy Run

Today was the very first official Team in Training (TNT) Buddy Run for the summer 2011 season. I was a little bit nervous about coming to this Buddy Run because I am a mentor this year, which means I am responsible to make sure that the run flows smoothly and that all the participants are accounted for at the beginning and the end. I was also nervous because I have never done a Buddy Run at Lake Merritt in Oakland before, and have only run around Lake Merritt once or twice in my life, so I wasn't very familiar with the territory where we would be running. On top of all of that, I had my usual nervousness about whether or not I would be the slowest person running, and what other participants would think of me given my slow running speed.

Despite all these trepidations, I arrived at the Buddy Run site ten minutes early, and found the location where we would be meeting very easily. I was the first mentor there, so I was the welcoming committee for the various members of the team who decided to run with us tonight. I expected to be somewhat nervous about this part as well, but found that it went quite smoothly. All of the ladies who attended the run were very friendly, shared their names and a little bit about themselves, and soon we were talking about how the run would go.

The beginning of the run was fairly disorganized, I'll admit. Between my lack of experience running Lake Merritt, the injury to one of the other mentors who was supposed to be helping lead, and some confusion about how far people should actually run today, it felt pretty scattered. But we made it through, and we began the run - if little bit later than we would have otherwise hoped.

Sure enough, as soon as everyone took off running, I was in the back of the pack. But unlike previous run with TNT, I was not as far back as I have been. In fact, I was just a little bit behind the other folks in the group, a new situation, and one that I was quite happy with. Initially, I was running by myself, and found myself focused on attending to the surroundings and how the runners in front of me were doing rather than my own running experience. However, as I eased into the run, I found my body responding and relaxing. Then some of the gals in front of me slowed down. I realized with a start that although they had started out faster than me, I was in better shape for a longer run than they were. That was a revelation!

I caught up to them quickly, and struck up a conversation with one of the gals who looked like she was struggling a little bit. For the remainder of our time around the lake, she and I talked about training, my experience with TNT, and her questions about different ways she could move forward to get herself where she wanted to be. It was a great feeling to be able to offer her my experience and suggestions, as well as information that would help her move towards her goal.

It was also a personal accomplishment because I have very rarely run with other people, and when I do I usually don't have enough breath to hold up a conversation. But today's run was different because I was able to have a conversation with another runner while still running. Granted, I had to take a few deep breaths from time to time, and my sentences were a more choppy than if I were just having a normal conversation, but I was able to do it! Having the conversation with her helped the rest of the run pass very quickly for me, and I left the run feeling happy about how I did both as a runner and as a mentor.

What a great way to start!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Got Louie?

First of all, a word about my conspicuous absence. It's been about 3 months since I've posted, and I apologize for dropping the ball. Somehow, spring semester at school always seems to kick my butt more than fall semester did, and this year was no exception. I managed to survive through internship applications, interviews, and selections as well as completing the last classes required for my graduate program and still maintain my focus on self-care and weight loss. It's a little bit miraculous that I've survived this well, actually. All that being said, life is calming down (a little bit) right now, and I have the luxury of taking a few minutes to myself to write to you again.

As of today, I've lost nearly 140 pounds. That number is staggering. There are many fully-grown, healthy adult women who weigh less than I have lost. I can't even wrap my brain around how much of a difference it is. In order to get a sense of it, when I was at the pet store the other day, I calculated that it would take four of the 35-pound dog food bags I normally get in order to match how much weight I'm no longer carrying. This was all the more stunning when I picked up one of the bags and realized how heavy it felt. There's no way I could pick up four of them at once! Yet that is what I was carrying around with me every day. All of a sudden, the reason for my constant fatigue and difficulties doing the things I wanted to do became crystal clear. Of course I was exhausted! Of course I couldn't move around well! Of course my body hurt every time I did anything at all!

I am so grateful for where I am right now; words simply aren't enough to express my feelings. I'm not at my goal yet - still 20 pounds to go - but I'm now in the process of planning what I will eat when I'm on maintenance to ensure my success at keeping the weight off. My husband is the (mostly) happy recipient of my culinary efforts, and has found his own energy level picking up as I have begun feeding him well-balanced, wholesome meals. I've also gotten to the point where I've decided on a transition date (pending the doctor's approval, of course). On June 13, I will have my first solid food in literally a year, and will begin the difficult journey of negotiating food and calories in the "real world" once again. Excited? You bet! Terrified? For sure.

As you know from reading other entries in my blog, one thing I have really enjoyed doing as I have gotten more fit is running. My running has improved significantly since my weight loss has begun (I know, big surprise, right?), but it has particularly gotten better in the last several months as I have trained for and completed two 5k races. My next 5k race is scheduled for June 5, and my hope is to run it at an average pace of less than 13 minutes per mile.

Part of losing the last of my weight and keeping all of it off is making fitness part of my life in a way that it never has before. The first time I tried to do that as an adult was in 2006, with my first season in Team in Training (TNT). I made huge progress - going from not being able to run a single mile to running nine miles in one morning - but injured myself and didn't reach my goal of running a half marathon. Well, now that I'm healthy again (in knee as well as the rest of my body), it feels like time to pick that goal back up and finish it. I have rejoined TNT, and will begin training for the Nike Women's Half Marathon in June of 2011. I'm so excited! Not just for the possibility of finishing my goal, but also for the structure and support the team will give me around fitness and exercise. I have learned that I just do better when I'm on a team and I have a goal. The best part is that this time, I do believe I can "do the dam thing" (as Coach Al from TNT would say) because I've already successfully completed one half marathon, and my level of fitness now is far better than it has ever been in my life.

The theme for TNT this year is "Got Louie?" You can read his story here, but the short version is this: Louie was a man who battled chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), and after he regained his strength from going through treatment, he decided he wanted to complete an Ironman triathlon to show that he could still live his life despite his illness. Ten years ago, he completed his Ironman triathlon and inspired multitudes of people with his story, and his strength. Sadly, he passed away a year later, but his strength and vitality live on in the memories of those who saw him battle his disease and live his life the way he wanted to.

This year, the folks at TNT are asking us, "Got Louie?" because they want to know who it is that inspires us to do what we do. I have lots of Louies, and you'll hear about them more later, but what's striking me right now is this: Because of my weight loss and my tenacity in running training as well as many other areas of my life, I am Louie too. I have had friends tell me I should be a motivational speaker; in fact, on Monday night I have received my first request to speak about my weight loss process to a group already (and I'm not even done!). I have had countless people, friends and acquaintances alike, tell me that they have been inspired to do something to improve their health, fitness, or weight because of seeing what I am doing for myself. To be that kind of inspiration to someone else is a profound and unexpected privilege that I hope never to take for granted.

Who's your Louie?