Greetings from outside the comfort zone

I'm officially recovered from back surgery and have been pretty much in non-stop motion ever since. I have a half marathon in two weeks and I really needed to catch up on some miles but with a promise to myself that I will not skip strength and cross training! That is what is going to keep my back strong enough to keep running - hopefully forever.

Over the weekend I took part in a 24 hour adventure race called Questival. I was worried about hanging with my younger friends for this one and it turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done. Our team page is here if you want to see all of the shenanigans!

There were crazy challenges all over the city at all times of day. So so so SO far out of my comfort zone. It was all unknown and completely out of my control. (Oh and we had half marathon training during it all!)

But it was also was a big step in my physical recovery and a huge step in my mental recovery. I felt comfortable being out and about in the city again. I was excited about the unknown and I was only really anxious a few times. I truly had a blast and that has not happened very often in the last 7 months.

I'm going to try to live here for a while outside the zone. Just to see what happens. Less control and more going with the flow. I'll keep you posted!

Speaking of going with the flow, New York Marathon lottery is tomorrow. We will know if I'm running a marathon or not this year in less than 24 hours. Kind of exciting!!

 

Imperfect balance

I got an email from someone who found my blog today and it inspired me to check in and write - even when things aren't perfect.

I just had "one of those weeks". Full of fire drills, emergencies, drama and a roller coaster ride of emotions. Personally and professionally. Throw in some construction and plumbing and you end up here for lunch by Thursday.

Because of the surgery I can only fit not quite half of this most delicious cheesesteak in the world in my stomach. It went great with 2 beers.

I was supposed to go to yoga that evening but the tile guy was still here and I was about to lose my damn mind so I took the dogs for a walk. Of course it's "one of those walks" where they get all tangled up in their leashes and eat garbage while I try to pick up poop walking 140 pounds of dog by myself. I'm dragging them back up the street in tears when neighborhood crazy guy comes out and asks me if I'm okay. (bless his heart) Yes, I was that much of a disaster.

I woke up this morning feeling better and more clear headed (TGIF!) after a really good nights sleep and I realized that I didn't really turn to food at any point during all of the ups and downs. The trip to Fred's Meat and Bread was planned and not an emotional reaction to anything. Don't get me wrong, I was really looking forward to it but I had balanced out that decision during the rest of the week without even really realizing it. I'm proud of myself for that.

I drank too much, I ate too little. When I did eat it wasn't nutritious. I didn't work out and take care of myself. Shit happens and I kinda don't feel guilty for any of my decisions. I will run 11 miles tomorrow and consciously make it better week next week. 

Shoutout to Kathleen who inspired me to write about this today. I told her that the advice I usually give people who ask is:
"Just stick to it. No matter how much crap/life/work gets in the way you owe it to yourself. Your decisions are the only thing in this life you have control of and if you keep them 90% good it’s possible to find that balance (I think?!!??!) :) "
 

Reset

 

Nope, sure don't!

I had the chance to talk to a friend yesterday who's a seriously accomplished runner about 10 years older than me that has had the same back surgery as me. He said he had to set the reset button a few times in his life - basically adjusting his expectations and checking in on the reality of aging. My inner brat whined about how I didn't want to start over again and that I had lived enough lives already and just wanted something to stay the same. He laughed and said I was right and that while I get a gold star, that's how it is.

There's so much truth to that. I don't want to start over. I've had my Minnesota life, my Florida life, my college life, my professional life, my married life, my fat life and my skinny life and now I have to accept whatever this next life is going to be. I have no clue.

This weekend, with the help of my sister, I cleaned out my husbands closet. 13ish years of his clothes. His work clothes were easy. His football (aka SOCCER) stuff is never ending but I've managed to give most of it away to people who will appreciate it. His music t-shirts were 2 drawers full and that's when it got really hard.

This is about all that remains of the most incredible person I've ever met in the best life I've ever had. How is that even possible? It doesn't make any sense. Not even a little.

I'm 47 and starting a new life that I never wanted. I can't run from it (for now) and I can't eat my way out of it. I can't drink my way out of it (I've tried and it's a really bad idea). I don't know what to do with it but it's still my job to make it a success story, not a sad story.

I'm so glad I talked to my friend. If he can make it without running for 6 weeks so can I. I've got no choice in this matter or any of it. Maybe this next life is about accepting just that.  

I see the doctor again on Wednesday but still have 4 weeks to go before I can run again. Once I can do that again or ANYTHING for that matter I'm sure it will get a little more upbeat around here but for now it's the honest ramblings from the depths of my (very) confused mind.

 

"Don't barf at the biscuit"

When I did the Peachtree Road Race in 2014, I had said in an interview on the local news that I was going to run it in under and hour so obviously I HAD to do it! When I got to the Flying Biscuit restaurant (which is literally about a 1/4 mile from the finish) I smelled food and had been running so hard and so fast that I almost had to stop and throw up but I didn't. I said in my head "YOU ARE ALMOST THERE. DO NOT BARF AT THE BISCUIT." I kept going and finished in 59:33. I have thought about that moment so often and use that phrase all the time and that's exactly how I'm going to finish out this year.

Next Thursday I will have a LUMBAR LAMINECTOMY to hopefully rid myself of the herniated disc that has been making my life agony for the entire month of December. It's a pretty standard surgery and I should be able to go home the same day - hopefully running again after 6 weeks.

I'm also getting a new furnace as I write this.

It's been so hard being in pain physically and trying to drag my way through the holidays without my husband. But somehow, I'm still managing to feel grateful that I can have all of this done - especially during the holidays when people want to be off work but instead are working hard to take care of me.

Speaking of taking care of me, The lovely folks at Tempur-Pedic saw my story on the TODAY show and sent me 2 huge super comfy pillows. How cool is that? They are amazing and they will make my recovery that much more enjoyable :)

Soooo just keepin' it together. The darkest days of winter are over and hopefully that means some brighter days ahead for 2017. Happy Holidays everyone and I will keep you updated on the surgery.

47

While 47 is not normally a milestone birthday it was a big one for me. My dad died a couple weeks before his 47th birthday and so much of my motivation to get healthy came from wanting to make it to this birthday. And beyond.

I wasn't looking forward to it without my husband but my friends and family MORE than made up for his absence this year. I'm not sure I could have gotten through it without them.

My celebrating involved lots of partying but also a half marathon. The race was tough but it was worth it because I got to spend 2 hours and 44 minutes with some of my best friends running through my city and then celebrating with them the rest of the day. This is how I'm trying to find my balance these days - making exercise fun and not over indulging unless I've REALLY earned it.

It's not easy right now. I've been sobbing myself to sleep almost every night and waking up confused but I've been told (by a professional) that unfortunately that is pretty normal. I know it won't be forever but it sure feels like it right now. The holidays are NOT helping.

I made it though. 47 and stronger than ever. Here's to another 47 more. Maybe by then I can win my age group finally :)

Love and running

 

Somewhere along the way of this very long hot summer, I lost my love of running. It shouldn't surprise me considering the loss of my husband and the physical and emotional affects of that but I was scared it was gone for good. Plowing through 20+ miles while randomly bursting into tears sucked but it sucked with my tribe by my side and I made it through.

I was worried about running New York - Not gonna lie. I ran/survived all long runs but never did 22. I did some of my weekly runs but nowhere near what i did for my first marathon. My teammates were setting big goals and I was just hoping I could even finish.

About a week before the race my coach Amy (yes THAT Amy Begley - former olympian and MY friend!!) announced to the team she was dropping out of the elites and running the race with me. I've never been so humbled and there will never be enough words to thank her for that gift that I didn't even know I needed.

It's been impossible sum up that race and this is what I've come up with

Never once during my running tour of NYC did I ever question anything. None of the usual 'Why do people do this shit' or 'this is stupid' or 'are we there yet'. NYC marathon is the answer to that question. THAT RACE is why people do this shit.

I think my first comment to Amy was "we are 1 mile in to Brooklyn and I want to live here". 26.2 miles and 5 hours 44 minutes and 32 seconds later I fell in love with it again.

To be honest,  It could have been the fact that I had an elite athlete with me catering to my every need - making up my Nuun bottles and feeding me gluten free pretzels and calming me down when I almost got killed by kids running into the course or when I saw someone have to go in an ambulance. Amy could have finished in under 3 hours but she chose to be by my side for almost twice as long as it would have taken her. Incredible huh?

It's been a hard week emotionally and physically but I ran all my runs and loved them all - including a 5k where I cried the ENTIRE way - now THAT should be an olympic sport lol.

Tears, Trifle, Thanks and Thirteen Point One.

Wow. So I've pretty much been doing nothing but watching myself on the TODAY show, working, running and listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. Did I miss anything? :)

The comedown from the NYC trip of a lifetime/dream come true was way harder than expected and suddenly it was the holidays - which we will get to in a minute. Somehow, due to coaching and people being in and out due to injuries, I ended up being the rabbit for my 12 minute half marathon training group who were running 13 miles On Saturday. That means I've done a full and 2 half marathons in one month. It's been absolutely necessary for my sanity however.

I've been okay as long as I keep moving. The minute I stand still is when it gets hard. I was making my thanksgiving trifle and tears were falling into the vanilla pudding as I stood and stirred it. It has to be constantly stirred so I had no choice but to stand and stir and deal.

I was just plain old mad Thanksgiving eve. My best friend and my biggest helper wasn't there. I had to get the kitchen aid mixer out of the basement and take out the recycling and feed the dogs and put all the stuff in the car and the endless list of crap that needed to be done. I had a sink full of dishes and no one to clean them so I just left them and went to the bar. That worked for a bit but then I had to run a half marathon really early with a bit of a hangover!


The Thanksgiving half is one of my favorites (it was my first half!) but this year was extra special since a few of my favorite trainees were becoming first time half marathoners. We have a tradition of staying and tailgating until the last person finishes. I can't think of a better way to spend my thanksgiving morning than that. Of course it's also a great 1,300 extra calories I can consume - specifically beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes and LOTS of champagne. I had dinner with my friends and neighbors and it ending up being a great day.


Friday? not so much.

It's the regular days that I think about Ali the most. We would have had a lazy morning and then eventually wandered to the bar and then probably got a pizza and watched a movie. Instead I paced around the house sort of working but not really doing anything. Just lost. The down time is something I'm just going to have to suffer through because there's not an immediate solution other than finding my new normal. I can't fill the emptiness with food. I can't run ALL the time nor can I drink all the time. There has to be a balance of that somehow.


Saturday I ran and ran and ran. On my own with music (Hamilton!!) but no watch. I had no idea how far I was going or fast but it felt awesome and it was a beautiful day. Training is over through the holidays but I still have plenty of races on the calendar in December.


Sunday I went to the top of Kennesaw mountain with my besties and did my first real attempt at a trail run (truthfully it was mostly power hiking rather than running but I did manage to run some!) I have a trail half marathon coming up in January and it was REALLY hard but we were with seasoned trail runner so I learned a lot had a great time.

This was a super long way of saying that in a year where it's sometimes been a challenge for me to be thankful, I'm thankful that my body has let me continue to be a marathoner and that I'm constantly lifted up by my friends and family.

I have so much to say and I'm still writing my book - in fact this post was getting so long I had to break it into 2 so stay tuned for some more stuff in the next few days. Writing is really helping me process all of the ups and downs - I'm used to writing mostly about the ups but sharing the downs has been cathartic for me. Thanks for reading if you've made it this far! :)

 

Just eat the fu#*ing english muffin

It's been a long LONG time since I've posted and I've been putting it off for months now but the time has come to write about the day that everything changed.

On July 25th, I woke to a phone call at 6:30 am from a random person telling me my husband had been in a bicycle accident. As I got dressed in a haze I packed my laptop thinking it would probably be a long day in the ER but everything would be fine. I kept saying "please be okay. Please be okay." Over and over. When I got to the desk they sent me through a door and that's when I saw the ER full of people and 2 people on top of him doing CPR. I knew right away that it had been over an hour and I just collapsed into the arms of the doctor.

There was no accident. He just died of a heart attack right then and there on his bicycle on his way to work. Just like that the love of my life was gone forever at 51 years old and suddenly I'm a 46 year old widow. I can't even believe this is my life.

In the weeks leading up to this, I was experimenting with the whole 30 diet after gaining 15 pounds training for my first marathon.  It was SO hard. My brain missed dairy and alcohol the most. My body missed grains. My heart missed having fun and being social. Whole 30 is not recommended during training or intense physical activity but at this point I was "only" doing 10 mile runs at that point ramping up to my 2nd marathon. On July 23rd, after that 10 mile run, I finished in cold sweats and saw black spots and headed to the nearest breakfast restaurant to say goodbye to the whole 30 and eat an english muffin.

When I got home I broke the rules again and jumped on the scale and was delighted to have lost 15 pounds in the 17 days I made it on the program. Of course in my brain that means "let's celebrate and and have fun and drink all weekend now wooohooo!!"

I had A LOT of fun and A LOT to drink that day. So much so that we woke up the next morning in the guest room to my 5:30 alarm. I was confused but got up as I remembered I was supposed to go on a sunrise hike. He asked where I was going and I said "hiking stone mountain!" He said "You're crazy!" I said "I know!" and I kissed him and walked out the door. That morning while I was out hiking, he completed a huge personal challenge of his own which was 10,000 miles on his new bike on map my ride.

Later that day we spent the afternoon in our local pub laughing about the night before and how we ended up in the guest room ;). It was SUCH a fun weekend. More fun that people should be having as I would say about some of our weekends together.

The next morning he left for work and never came back. I'm sure he kissed me. In fact I know he did but I don't remember. What I am thankful for is that I ate the english muffin which led to a weekend of fun which was to be our last.

To me the moral of the story is about balance. Something I'm always seeking. I was obsessed with my weight gain and took a drastic measure to change it but lost myself in the battle once again. Health and maintaining my weight loss is important. Happiness, love and fun are important too.

People ask how I'm doing and I say okay but really I'm not sure. I'm still going to run the NYC marathon which is a former fat girls dream come true. In 2010 I wrote about doing it one day for Al Roker but now I'm doing it for Ali too. He was supposed to have come with me on this trip in 28 days.

Stay strong, hug your loved ones and find the balance. You just never know. You will always be the love of my life Alistair Tait.