Thursday, March 29, 2012

And the winner of the Marine Corps Marathon Golden Ticket is...

Hi everyone!  Well, as promised, I held the drawing tonite for the winner of the Marine Corps Marathon Golden Ticket.  Thanks so much to my two entrants - Jen and Joe!  Jen, I was thrilled to see you entered because you're such a loyal reader!  And Joe, I was so excited to see a new reader!  Thank you both for your amazing stories about selfless acts - Joe, I always love it when people get to finish with their kids!  Those kids will remember that forever, so way to go!

So without further ado, here's the video of the drawing (yes, I'm going to make you watch the video)...I hope this works (I tried to attach the video once, but it didn't work so I had to pull the post down and try it again...this should take you to a Google page with the video.  And by the way, my dog Bailey in the video is sporting a fashionable "cummberbund" as we like to call it, a.k.a. a diaper.  He's 15 1/2 and rather incontinent, so you do what you gotta do):


So the winner is Joe!! Congratulations, Joe!  I'm so excited for you and I hope you keep coming back to visit the blog!  Jen - I'm sorry that you didn't win....You've always been such an amazing commenter and fellow blogger!

Joe - I will email you the code and information for the Golden Ticket entry.  If you haven't received an email from my gmail account by Friday evening, please send me an email at mwally40@gmail.com.

Also, Joe - It'd be great if you could keep me posted on your training.  Is this your first marathon or your umpteeth marathon?  Do you live in the DC area or will you be traveling here?  If you're traveling here and need travel tips, please let me know.  And if you'd like to do a guest blog post on your training, trials, tribulations, and triumphs, that'd be awesome!

Thanks again to both of you...You're both winners given the amazing selflessness you displayed in your races!  Keep on runnin!

Life Through Endurance...: THE RACE: Here's Your Chance to Get Into the Sold Out Marine Corps Marathon....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

THE RACE: There's Many A Freudian Slip Twixt The Mind And The Body

Who's ready for their weekly psychology appointment?  If I haven't mentioned it, I was a psychology major in college.  I read a lot of "self-help" books (for lack of a better word) and if I could have done anything other than be a lawyer, I would have a been an FBI forensic psychologist.  You know - like Silence of the Lambs. I love that stuff.

So I guess it's no surprise that this blog combines my love of endurance events with, well...the mental game.  That's how I roll....I'm always analyzing...always...people, cases, me, life...the world is a Psych 101 textbook for me.  

So I found it pretty hilarious when I committed a textbook Freudian slip at my acupuncturist's office tonite.  We were talking about basic maintenance - coming in more frequently for basic body maintenance and not letting so much time lapse between visits.  It's like your bike:  you have to do routine maintenance or it just gets all gunked up and doesn't ride worth a crap.  I know that, and yet often I maintain my bike better than my body.

Worse yet, lately I've been maintaining my body better than my mind.  I've been focusing so much on rehab-ing my calf injury, getting back into a workout routine, strengthening up my flabby core, and trying to find my swim mojo, that I've totally lost my mind. I mean, literally, lost track of working on my mental fitness as much as my physical fitness....

So tonite as my Mr. Miaggi was working his acupuncture magic, we were talking about "cleaning up" (his term, not mine) some knots in my muscles, and I said - without even realizing it "Yeah, I've been focusing so much on the outside that I've neglected the inside."  Doh!!

What I thought I meant initially was that I'd been focusing so much on just getting my running game back, getting some bike strength, and trying to figure out my swim form, that I was ignoring some of the muscular tightness and pain I'd been having.  But, what hit me two seconds later, was that I also meant that I'd been focusing on my physical health to the expense of my mental health lately.  Hmmm....break out the couch!

Well without getting too heavy on folks, I think that your mind-body connection is like the connection between basic bike maintenance and efficient bike riding.  If you don't put in the maintenance, you're going to have a rickety ride and most likely break down or get a flat.

As athletes, we're used to pushing ourselves.  We even credit our mental strength with getting us through tough physical times.  But what happens when you're so focused on your physical strength that it comes at the price of your mental strength?

I wouldn't dare go out for a bike ride without first checking my chain to see if it needs cleaned/lubed, making sure that I have a spare tube, patch kit and CO cartridge in case of a flat, and airing up my tires.  Yet every day, I rush about my normal routine without really making sure that my mental tires are fully aired up.  As a result, I'm constantly riding slightly deflated, both mentally and physically.

For quite some time I've been meaning and wanting to learn how to meditate.  For a Type A, control-freak, busy-body like me, rocket science literally would be easier than calming my mind.  But - after my little Freudian slip - I now realize that I need to make that happen.

MindBodyGreen is one of my favorite mental and physical well-being websites.  If you search for "benefits of meditation" on their website, you'll find a wealth of articles, including 7 Health Benefits of MeditationStudy: Mediation Calms Pain, and 7 Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation. I love the last article in particular.

So what are the mental and physical benefits of meditation according to these articles?

  1. "It enables us to let go of our ego and struggles and makes space for healing, creativity, stillness, intuition and connection to our spirit." 
  2. It "brings your attention to the present moment.  It prevents you from living in the past or worrying about the future.  Plan for the future, but live in the present."
  3. It "allows you to let go of anything that limits possibilities.  It gives you confidence, courage and the ability to trust yourself and block out impressionable thoughts.  it keeps you grounded and centered - less pushed by what's going on around you.  Your intuition becomes clearer about what is right for you." 
  4. "What's happening on the physical level is very much a reflection of what's happening on the emotional and spiritual levels.  In other words, in order to heal and thrive physically you need to pay attention to your emotional and spiritual well-being."  
  5. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate; improves circulation; reduces perspiration; slows respiratory rate; reduces stress and anxiety; and lowers blood cortisol levels. 
Wow - pharmaceutical companies and shrinks would be asking for a bailout if everyone practiced meditation!  

So with all these benefits, why is it so hard for people like me to meditate?  According to this video by Lisa Dawn Angerame, an Advanced Certified Jivamukti Yoga teacher and Senior Certified Baptiste Power Vinyasa Teacher, our current societal mentality of wanting instant gratification makes many of us reluctant to make the commitment that meditation requires.  She explains that mediation is just that - a commitment.  You can't just sit down and expect to "turn off your mind."  Ah, well there's my biggest problem:  we control freaks want instant gratification.  

When you first start trying to meditate, you have to make the commitment to sit for X number of minutes a day, or sit for X number of days a week.  You also have to expect that your mind is going to jump around - it's not just going to sit still like a dog upon your first command.  You have to train it.  According to Lisa Dawn Angerame, "[t]he point of mediation is to have these things happen, acknowledge it, become aware of it, and release it."  

Sounds easier said than done; but, as with anything, you only get better with practice.  MindBodyGreen provides 5 Easy Tips for mediation for beginners
  1. Be comfortable in a quiet place. 
  2. Become present - totally aware of your surroundings. 
  3. Take long, deep breaths and focus on your breath. 
  4. Once you're focused, take note of your body, starting with your toes and working your way up to your head.  
  5. Practice, practice, practice.  
So I guess I need to set aside my need for instant gratification and recognize that mediation, once learned, will provide more gratification than I could ever dream.  But gaining the full benefits of mediation requires maintenance - consistent practice.  It's just like bike maintenance.  You have to learn how to do it, practice it, and do it every day if you want to make sure not to break down.  

So, I guess my little Freudian slip has made me think harder about my desire to do meditation....

Do you meditate?  What do you find to be the benefits?  What tips do you have for a beginning "meditator?"


Monday, March 26, 2012

THE RACE: Here's Your Chance to Get Into the Sold Out Marine Corps Marathon....

Attention all runners!!  Were you one of the many people who tried to get into the Marine Corps Marathon this year, but got trapped in the internet traffic jam and didn't get registered?  The Marine Corps Marathon sold out in a record 2 hours 41 minutes this year.  So unless the internet gods were on your side, you're probably already searching for another fall marathon...

Well look no further....

I hold in my hand a ticket that is more valuable - at least among the running community - than a ticket to a Lady Gaga concert.  (And honestly, if I had a Lady Gaga ticket, I'd actually pay someone to take it off my hands...I'd rather endure water torture).  Maybe you thought it was an urban myth...A ticket too good to be true.  Maybe you've scoured Prince William Forest Park, hoping to find a Golden Ticket that someone may have carelessly dropped.  Maybe you don't know what the hell I'm talking about....

I'm talking about the Golden Ticket...the only way into MCM (aside from a charity slot)....(enter the image of a golden light appearing and angels singing "aaaaaaaaahhhhhh")....

The Golden Ticket is handed out to those runners who complete the Marine Corps Irish Sprint 10k on St. Patrick's Day at Prince William Forest Park in Quantico, Virginia.  And you would not believe how many people are chomping at the bit to finish that 10k and get their mits on that Golden Ticket....

I signed up for the 10k as a back-up in case I didn't get into MCM through the actual registration....But unlike some of you, I didn't have any problem getting registered online.  But I ran the 10k anyway and had a great time...Read about it here:  Marine Corps Irish Sprint 10k race report.  So, you know what that means....My Golden Ticket is up for grabs!!  I feel like the head monk in the movie the Golden Child from whom Eddie Murphy is begging for "the knife"...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr0JXSM_0Nk  I hold all the power!!  Whaaa aah aah (that's my evil laugh)....

Because I already have my coveted entry, I wanted to share the MCM love by bestowing upon one of you lucky readers this elusive Golden Ticket....

Here's what you need to do...

  • Leave me a comment answering the following question:  What is the nicest thing you've done for someone else during a race?  Answering this question is a condition precedent to entering the drawing (that's lawyer speak).  
  • In your comment, leave me your first name and your email address. (You can leave your last name and/or website if you want).  If you do not have an email address, you must provide a phone number where you can be contacted in the event that you win the Golden Ticket.   
  • You must leave your comment and contact information no later than 6:00 p.m. EDT (east-coast time in the United States) on Thursday March 29, 2012.
  • Only one entry/comment per email address will be allowed.  
  • By leaving your comment and contact information, you agree that you will use the Golden Ticket to register only yourself and not anyone else.  I don't want any folks who haven't entered the drawing to be eligible.  You also agree that you will try your best to actually get to the start line of the MCM.  I understand that anything can go wrong during training and life that may prevent you from getting to the start line.  But I need you to commit that if you win, you will do everything in your power to take advantage of this coveted opportunity to get your feet to the start line and not waste the chance to do this amazing event in the Nation's Capital.
  • If you win this drawing, you must register for the MCM with the Golden Ticket entry code by this Saturday March 31, 2012.
  • The winner accepts full responsibility for having reliable access to the internet and registering on the Golden Ticket website before the registration deadline expires.
  • The registration fee for MCM with the Golden Ticket code is $92 plus processing fees.  By entering this drawing, you agree that you have the full amount available to cover the entry and processing fees.

Here's what I'll do...

  • On Thursday March 29, 2012, I'll place each name/email entered from the comments on its own little piece of paper and throw them all in a basket or box to draw out a lucky winner. 
  • I'll will try to videotape the entire process so that you can verify that I have included all the names and fairly chosen one randomly out of the basket/box. 
  • I will post the lucky winner on this blog on Thursday March 29, 2012. 
  • Also on March 29, 2012, I will email the lucky winner (or call, if no email address is available) with the website and entry code that is needed to register with the Golden Ticket.  That's right - you need an entry code - that's the beauty of the Golden Ticket!  
  • I do not accept responsibility for any technical issues with the Marine Corps Marathon or Active.com websites or any other websites that are involved with registering for the MCM using the Golden Ticket entry code.
  • I also do not accept responsibility for any hacking of the Golden Ticket entry numbers that would prevent the lucky winner from using the entry code. 
  • No purchase from me is necessary and I will not accept any form of compensation for the Golden Ticket.    

!!  IMPORTANT !!

The deadline for registering for the MCM with the Golden Ticket entry code is Saturday March 31, 2012.  So the lucky winner must go to the website and enter with the Golden Ticket entry code by this Saturday March 31, 2012. Do I need to repeat that?

For the lucky winner, I'd love to follow your journey of training for the MCM, especially if this is your first marathon.  You may even want to write a guest blog post with your trials, tribulations, triumphs, and tips.

Please spread the word, enter by this Thursday at 6:00 p.m. EDT, and cross your fingers!!

Thanks for playing!! 

  

Friday, March 23, 2012

RECOVERY: Tips For Rebounding When Mother Nature Knocks You Out With Colds And Allergies

(Note:  Before I start, I want my readers to know that I read and respond to every single comment.  I love your comments, so keep 'em coming.  If you aren't signed up for email notifications about responses to your comments, please make sure to check the posts on which you've commented because you'll always see a response from me!)
Cherry blossom trees in DC...read on...
The life of a litigating attorney means that my schedule has as much consistency as the spring weather we've all been having.  Some days it's totally what you expect; others, not so much.  The past couple weeks at work have been very busy - and will continue to be busy - because of a big court of appeals brief I have to write. So legal writing has been taking precedence over my blog writing...as it should if I want to continue to have a roof over my head!  So please bear with me if my blog writing and reading is a bit spotty for a little while...

In these few minutes I have before I hit the hay, I wanted to spit out a little something to give me a break from reading cases and writing "therefore, the court should blah, blah, blah..."

This busy period at work is a particularly bad time to get sick.  But alas, thanks to Mother Nature's crazy antics, I've either come down with a cold or the worst case of allergies I've ever had...So it got me thinking:  Isn't there a better way than pumping myself full of drugs to tackle the spring cooties?

Before I get into that, I want to say how dismayed I am at the 1-2 punch that Mother Nature can deliver.  On one hand, she has brought us an incredibly early and wonderfully welcome spring.  Here in the Nation's Capital, that means an early appearance of our world-famous cherry blossom trees.  On the other hand, the early spring can me earlier attacks of spring allergies and colds...As much as I've loved the beautiful cherry blossoms, daffodils, and other flowers, I think they're going to kill me!!

If you've never been to DC to see the cherry blossoms...Well, I'd love to encourage you to do so, but honestly, if one more tourist or tour bus hit this town, it may push me over the edge!  My road rage elevates about 500% during the spring tourist season around here.  So for now, allow a few of my pictures to satisfy any curiosity you may have about our cherry blossom trees....

On Wednesday, I biked to and from work, and did a loop around an area called Hains Point (for a total of about 20 miles for the day).  Hains Point is a little peninsula that's bordered by the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.  It's a great place for runners and cyclists to train because a loop around the Point is somewhere between three to four miles.

It's also a nice place to train because it has amazing waterfront views and, during the spring, an abundance of blooming cherry blossom trees.  So after work on Wednesday, I took a loop around Hains Point on the way home on my bike to see the cherry blossoms, which are in full peak bloom:

View looking up Hains Point lined with cherry blossom trees...

The pictures don't really do it justice...
Looking across the water...














Hmmmm...well at least the flowers are pretty...
And of course I had to attempt the self-photography...















And two more....

Doh!  Can you find me???


Peek, there I am!!
   
So my ride was awesome - I even ran into some friends I hadn't seen in awhile (including Katie in her cute little running skirt).  I got home, headed to the pool for a quick swim, then settled in to work on my brief for awhile...

I was feeling good about my productive day frolicking with Mother Nature.  But as the nite wore on, I started to feel like crap.  My nose was running like there was a faucet in my face and I literally was sneezing every couple minutes.  I figured it was the pool where I go to swim (which is saltwater) because it does that to me sometimes....

Alas, when I work up this morning, I felt like ca-ca.  Nose still running, sneezing constantly, ear ache, headache, and overall deflated feeling.  So either Mother Nature blessed me with some wicked allergies, or I'm catching a cold.  I'd hoped to go for a run today, but I barely had the energy to get off the couch.    

Instead of turning to drugs, I try to nurture my self with food, liquids, and other natural remedies.  So I wanted to pass along natural remedies that work for me or that are proven to help you get your energy back when Mother Nature knocks you down:  

  1. Neti Pot:  I've used a Neti Pot for years and fellow blogger Stephanie at Usually Stephanie recommended this also.  If you've never tried a Neti Pot for colds, allergies, or sinus infections, I highly encourage you to give it a try.  It looks like a tiny little plastic teapot into which you dump a little packet of saline mix.  You put some water in the pot, mix in some saline, stir and, well...dump it in your nostrils.  Get some tissue ready, bend over the sink, tilt your head to one side, gently put the end of the pot in one nostril, and tip it until the water pours into your nose.  The force of gravity will actually drain it out the other side of your nose.  Kinda gross, but well worth it!  Once you've drained one side a bit, gently - and I mean very gently - blow your nose.  You don't want to do this too hard or your ears will pop.  Then repeat the process on the other side.  You will be amazed at how much gunk you can get our of your nose.  I do this in the morning and sometimes at night if I'm really congested.  This is a proven, all-natural way to help relieve the congestion of allergies, colds, and sinusitis.  
  2. Tea:  I love tea and it's always a go-to drink when I don't feel well.  Yogi tea is my favorite brand for hot tea.  I love them because they have various flavors depending on your ailment, like particular types for cold season.  For iced tea, I love, love, love, Honest Tea's Community Green tea.  I don't like sugar in my tea, and the Community Green tea is only lightly sweetened with cane sugar and orange flavor. According to the Livestrong foundation, "herbal teas that contain natural antihistamines may reduce mild allergy symptoms.  The 'Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine' lists stinging nettle, licorice root, Chinese skullcap, gingko, echinacea and cramp bark as potentially beneficial teas for treating allergies."  As for colds, Livestrong recommends that herbs such as "ginger, honeysuckle, slippery elm, echinacea, goldenseal, stinging nettle, astragalus, elder, eucalyptus, boneset, and yarrow" may help stimulate your immune system to help fight off colds.  Of course, try to find organic teas to make sure they're free from pesticides and, as always, you should consult a doctor before taking any herbal medications, especially if you're pregnant.   
  3. Try to avoid dairy and sugar: If you have a cold or allergies, you may want to refrain from dairy and sugar until you get your symptoms under control.  Not a problem if you're a vegan!  Dairy and sugar are mucous-forming, and certainly when you're coughing up a lung or sneezing your brains out, you sure don't want anymore mucous floating around in your system!  
  4. Eat nourishing foods:  Did you know that 80% of your body's immunity is in your digestive tract? In addition to staying away from processed foods, dairy, and sugar, you'll want to eat certain foods when you're battling a cold or allergies.  My favorite vegan Ironman, Brendan Brazier, recommends consuming not only the obvious fruits and veggies, but also "pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, kale, and spinach" all of which "contain excellent sources of vitamin A, which can reduce the severity and occurrence of colds."  Today for lunch, I made a delicious, comfort food creation of my own.  I started with a green salad, loaded with lettuce, spinach, carrots, sunflower seeds, almonds, and nutritional yeast.  Then had a grilled vegetable sandwich on whole grain quinoa bread, with a spread consisting of a special blend from Brendan Brazier's Thrive Foods books of nutritional yeast, tahini, and other yummy ingredients.  I felt better almost instantly just from the nourishing food.  As the day went on and my food digested, I started feeling a little run down again, so time to re-fuel!  
  5. Breathe Right Strips at night: If you want a no-drug alternative to help you breathe at night, try Breathe Right strips.  Or hell, wear them during the day too if you don't care what people think!  I find that these strips pull open my nasal passages so I can breathe better during the night and avoid waking up with a sore throat and stuffy nose.  
Those may not be the most scientific or earth-shattering tips, but they're pretty rock-solid alternatives to drugs.  They won't necessarily help you get rid of an actual virus, but they can help your immune system fight off the alien attackers that come from allergies and colds.  Plus, they'll help you feel better while you're trying to fight the cooties.  

I hope that Mother Nature is kind to all of you this year....

May these beautiful spring flowers not send you running away, sneezing....
Do you have any natural remedies that you use to fight colds and allergies?  

   




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

THE RACE: The Running Skirt Tops My List of Athletic Pet Peeves

I realize that I'm about to offend about 95% of women who run and do triathlons with the following statement:  I hate the running skirt.  You heard me, don't bother reading that sentence again.

I realize that the only thing that's gained popularity over the past couple years more quickly than the running skirt is Lady Gaga - the one thing that probably annoys me more and makes even less sense to me than the running skirt.  But still, call me crazy, I'm not a fan.  Why?

Well, it could be that I'm never really a band-wagon jumper when it comes to fashion.  Never have been.  I've always wanted my things a little bit different.

Or it could be because I'm a tom boy.  Always have been, always will be.  That's not to say that I dress like a dude - believe me, I love fashion as much as the next gal.  But at the end of the day, I'm most comfortable in jeans, a t-shirt, and my Simple tennis shoes (vegan shoes, of course).  And when I'm working out, I'm there to sweat and kick some ass, which I guess for me means that a skirt won't do....

Or maybe it's just because I couldn't care less about what I look like when I'm working out.  (FYI - because we're on the topic of pet peeves, the phrase really is "I could not care less."  It's not "I could care less."  That would mean that you actually don't care as little as you could, which defeats the point of saying that you couldn't care any less than you do...but I digress)...

Don't get me wrong, I try not to look like too much of a toolbag so as not to frighten small children; but I'm working out for me - not for anyone else.  And in fact, I often try to look a little silly because it helps me not to take myself too seriously.  Case in point, my Ironman "outfit":

Not an IM fashion statement:  Hot pink tri shirt, black & white swirly arm warmers, black compression shorts, and orange compression socks.
Also, I usually wear two braids when I'm working out, which initially started out to keep people from confusing me with a boy; however, now I've realized that wearing braids makes me feel younger.  Again, it's hard to take yourself too seriously when you're wearing braided pigtails...

Now some of friends tell me that they wear the running skirt - and, even worse, the running dress - because it's comfortable.  Okay, I'll give that one to you.  But if it's the underlying shorts brief or panty thing in the running skirt that you like, there are running shorts that accomplish the same thing...it may take some looking and I've had more than my fair share of running shorts that creep up, but I have found some that fit like a glove.

Some women say they like the running skirt better than spandex shorts because they just don't like their ass in spandex shorts - it jiggles around too much and isn't attractive.  Well, I have two things to say to that:

  1. Who cares if your ass jiggles - you're out there working out for you.  You're a real woman with real flaws, and unless you're anorexic or had the cellulite sucked out of your ass, your butt is gonna jiggle.  Stop wishing for a firm, tight, perky ass that looks good in spandex - it doesn't exist on any real woman.  Stop judging and criticizing your poor ass.  It gets you through a lot - it carries you to work every day, then you sit on it all day long, you make it sit on the toilet without a seat protector, you criticize it for being to flat and flabby, and then you expect it to look good in spandex?  Give your ass a break! 
  2. Why do you care what other people think of you when you're working out?  Again, you're out there for you - no one else.  If it's men you're trying to look good for, all I have to say is - seriously?  Do you really want to pick up a dude on the running trail?  And if you want to look good because you're concerned about what other women think, all I have to say is - really?  We're supposed to love and support other women.  If you think you're being judged by other women, then chances are you're doing some judging too.  Stop worrying about what other people think.  Who cares if someone random stranger, or even a friend for that matter, thinks you look cute in a skirt or jiggly in spandex?  
Maybe some women wear skirts for the same reason that I wear braids - it makes them feel younger.  Maybe some women wear skirts for themselves because they just like how they look in the running skirt.  That's valid - we all buy our workout clothes based on what we think looks best on us.  And maybe I don't have a solid rationale reason for hating the running skirt/dress.  But I can tell you this much - I'll run naked before someone forces me to wear a running skirt or dress....

So while we're on the topic of pet peeves, here's my top five list of athletic pet peeves:

  1. Running Skirts:  We've established that. 
  2. Women Who Wear Make-Up at the Gym:  Why do women do this?  Seriously, I want to know.  Is that they think they're going to meet a man at the gym and they're afraid that the man won't look at them if they don't have make-up on?  Or is that the woman thinks she only looks good in make-up?  Whatever it is, please stop!!  The gym, the running trail, the bike bath - they're all the one time when you don't have to spruce up.  Plus, has it ever occurred to the women who wear make-up when they workout how bad that is for your skin - to sweat with all that goop on your face?  You are not in a magazine ad.  You don't have to look airbrushed to go work up a sweat.  
  3. People Who Don't Announce Themselves On the Bike Trail:  I don't care how good of a cyclist you think you are or how long you've been riding, common courtesy and fundamental safety dictate that you announce yourself every single time you're passing someone when you're on your bike.  Some cyclists I know say that they don't announce themselves because they're either going too fast or it doesn't look like the person is going to get in the way.  Well, (a) if you're going to fast, all the more reason to announce yourself because your reaction time is so much shorter; and (b) you have no idea how many times I've seen someone - especially children or people who aren't familiar with how a trail works - jerk to their left just as you're about to pass them.  Just play it safe and announce yourself when you're passing someone, please.  And if you hear someone cussing you out for not announcing yourself as you pass them, that's me....  
  4. People Who Are Obsessed With Your Times:  The only person to whom my times in a race should matter is me.  And even then, usually my time shouldn't even really matter that much because any day that I finish a race in one piece and healthy, is a good race, regardless of the time.  But for some people, the first thing they ask when they hear that you've completed an event is "What was your time?"  And some people - at least some of the triathletes I know - actually want to compare your time to theirs, or say "wow, what happened" when you tell them that your time was something less than what they think is stellar.  Unless you're trying to qualify for something as a goal of your own - like the Boston Marathon or Kona - then screw the time.  Use it as a measure of your improvement, not of your success.  
  5. People Who Don't Respect The Distance:  I'm totally stealing this one from my faithful reader, Jen, who writes the blog A Lover of Words.  She wrote the other day about a woman who hadn't really trained very well for her first 1/2 marathon and was basically laughing it off.  On one hand, there's something to be said for not stressing too much about training and races.  But on the other hand, I feel that it's disrespectful and foolish to not appropriately train for a race and then just laugh it off.  I know a couple of people who didn't appropriately train for Ironman events.  One person, barely made the cut-off time by a couple of minutes, and only because a friend helped by running/walking half the marathon with that person (which isn't allowed).  The other person, intentionally didn't train for the Ironman just to see if you could finish an event like that without training.  In both cases, I felt that their approach was disrespectful - both to the distance and to the other people who put genuine effort into their training.  Now some may say that if someone can finish an endurance event like Ironman with very little training, then more power to them.  I disagree.  The hardest part of an endurance event like that isn't the event itself - it's the months and months of training, sweat, and sacrifice that you endure just to get to the start line.  So honestly, I'm not impressed with someone who half-heartedly signs up for and completes an endurance event without the proper training.  Sure, things go wrong during training and a race that may prevent you from executing your plan as you'd like; however, that's different than intentionally sloughing off all the hard work that goes into an endurance event and then patting yourself on the back when you finish.    
So there you have it.  I'm sorry if I've offended anyone out there.  I promise that I won't mock you if I see you in a running skirt...well, I'll try not to anyway.  Afterall, to each his own...and besides, you shouldn't care what I think anyway, right?  If you love your running skirt, then by all means flaunt it...I'll be flaunting my jiggly ass in spandex...

Do you love or hate running skirts and why?  And for the guys out there - what's your take? What are your athletic pet peeves?    

Sunday, March 18, 2012

THE RACE: Five Things I Learned from the St. Patrick's Day Race

Yesterday there were numerous races all over the country celebrating St. Patrick's Day, including at least three just in the DC-metropolitan area.  I participated in one of them:  the Marine Corps Irish Sprint 10k at Prince William Forest Park near Quantico, Virginia.  I'd originally signed up for this race because if you finish, you have guaranteed entry into the Marine Corps Marathon in October.  Like most popular marathons, registration for the MCM can be kind of a crap shoot.  Fortunately, I got in through the general registration last week, so I didn't need to run the St. Patrick's Day 10k...But I wanted to anyway...

I was so glad that I went. This was my first race of the season and my first really significant run since my Calf Injury of 2011 (the calf injury was so severe that I've decided it needs a formal name).  I just started running again about six weeks ago and because I'd taken so much time off from December until February, my re-training has had its ups and downs.  So I wasn't counting on much of a good run for the 10k...

I was wrong...

It was a wonderful race...but it was the perfect way to welcome the spring and shake the dust off my fitness and training.  And the perfect way to don my Irish running attire:

One added perk of St. Paddy's Day: It gives me an excuse to wear any and every color of green - my favorite color...
Granted, it was my slowest 10k time ever, but I finished with a better pace than I expected, especially with all the hills and especially given my running hiatus:  Irish Sprint 10k results.  But I honestly didn't care about the pace.  I mean would you really care if you had views like this:

One of the bridges we ran across.  It was a little bouncy! This is a fall picture taken from the  Prince William Forest website.
Another pic of PWF when it's in full green...It wasn't this full yesterday, but it's getting there...  
The race started out basically uphill...In fact, the first half of the race was predominantly up, then a little down, then way up, then a little down...And a good portion of the race was on wooded trails, which I don't normally run.  

After the race I felt exhilarated, partly because my calf felt great (although I had some tight hips), partly because the race was better than expected, and partly because I'd spent the morning re-connecting with spring and nature...What a great way to spend St. Paddy's Day!  

The rejuvenation with which I left the race got me thinking about some things I'd learned during my St. Paddy's Day Irish run:
  1. Cheap beer really does taste awesome after a run:  God bless the Marines, because they had green beer after the run.  All participants got one free green beer, that I'm sure was Budweiser or something similar.  Normally, I can't stand Bud, Coors, or any similar cheap, piss-water beer.  But I think because of it's near-water consistency, that cheap beer always hits the spot after a run!  
  2. Never leave a child behind:  There were 17 children (4 girls and 13 boys) under the age of 14 who ran the 10k.  I remember at that age that it was a struggle for me to make it through the 1-mile run of the President's Physical Fitness Test, so the thought of running a 10k at that age never even occurred to me.  My Leprechaun Hat's off to these amazing kids. There was one young lady who was running with her mom, who kept giving her daughter running tips.  The daughter was 13-years-old and adorable, with her long blonde hair pulled back in a braid and a green shamrock painted on her right cheek.  They were running by me for about the first three miles, where the majority of the long uphills were.  About half way through the last significant uphill (which was about 3/4-mile long), the mom took off ahead of the daughter.  The daughter, gasping for breath, tried calling out to her mom, but she was too exhausted.  She stopped and started walking.  I slowed up, jogged over to her, and said "no, no, come on, let's keep going."  She said ok and off we went.  I tried to give her a couple tips - breathe deeply, lean into the hill.  She made it all the way uphill without walking.  I high-five'd her at the top and when I knew she wasn't going to fall over, I was on my way.  The mother was about 25 yards ahead and I couldn't help but think "What the hell is wrong with you?? Never leave your child behind, struggling on a hill!"  I saw the girl and the mom at the end - they both finished and I congratulated the daughter, telling her how fierce she was.  The mother just smiled and walked away....I hope that someday that girl can outrun her mother and leave her behind struggling up a hill.  
  3. Remember what it's like to run as a child downhill:  Most of the young boys in the race, like typical boys, were running like a bat outta hell!! Uphill, downhill, didn't matter.  They'd been let loose to run in a forest - they were in heaven!  There were two young boys - probably closer to 9-years-old (the youngest participants), who were flying down the wooded hills like they're just been set on fire.  Their big feet clomping down the trail like it was made of rubber. I kept holding my breath waiting for one of them to go tumbling down hill. But as I gingerly made my way around the rocks and tree roots, I noticed that the little boys seemed oblivious to the hidden dangers in the dirt.  And they were faster because of it.  As children, we know very little fear.  We learn fear the older we get.  As an adult, I fear that by running on trails, I can twist my ankle, fall and bang the crap out of my knee, or possibly break something.  So I concentrate and take every step carefully, often tripping - probably because that's what I expect to happen. These young boys don't know that fear - they don't expect to fall. And they rarely do.  So because of that fearlessness, they fly down the hill like a deer.  My old, fearful ass isn't about to try to keep up with them.  But it made me realize how much I need to let go of that fear and remember how it feels to run like a child.  When you don't know enough to fear anything, you don't run the risk of having your greatest fears come true.    
  4. Trails feel good:  Yesterday was a great introduction for me into trail running.  I've been wanting to try trail running for some time now, but the fear described above, along with the hassle of trying to find some suitable trail shoes, has held me back.  (And harkening back to an earlier blog post, yes, I am sidelining myself with respect to trail running!).  But you know what - I actually loved it. And for my first real experience, I did a pretty good job - I only twisted my ankle very slightly on one little rock.  More importantly, I realized how amazing it feels to run on trails instead of pavement.  Going up and downhill, while technical and nerve-racking, was exhilarating and pain-free.  My form actually felt better.  So now, with my first taste of trail running, I'm feeling the urge to go find some trail shoes and start to dip my toes into this new frontier...
  5. There's nothing like a race to get your juices flowing:  It's been four months since Ironman, and before that, it'd been over a year since my last race.  In 2010, I did probably 15 or more races - duathlons, triathlons, cycling, and running.  I'd forgotten how much I love racing.  I don't love it because I'm particularly good at it.  I love it because of the energy, the sense of competition, the feeling of thousands of competitors all sharing one common goal - to be better than they were before the race started.  I love the beginning of the race when everyone is warming up, the music is playing, the energy is coursing through everyone, and there's that anticipation of what's ahead of you.  It's the culmination of your training, your chance to make a comeback, your chance to honor a loved one...whatever it is, it's your chance to shine.  God, I've missed that.  Now, after doing that race, I finally feel like I'm out of my winter training slumber.  It's time to join the ranks of athletes again.  Time to get the dust out of the muscles and lungs.  Spring is here, and with it comes life...and the race season...
What did you learn from your last race?  What's the first race you're signed up for this year?   
  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

THE RACE: Why I Became A Vegan (Part 3 of 4): Faith-Based Beliefs

How, if at all, does your faith or belief in something greater, influence your food choices? What do faith and food choices have to do with a blog about endurance? Well, to get through any endurance event, you need to have faith in yourself, which usually comes from a faith in something larger.  The same holds true for getting through life's challenges. But faith isn't just reserved for the big things. True faith permeates all aspects of your life whether you realize it or not. It even permeates your food choices and how you think about (or don't think about) where your food comes from. And as you know, your food choices are important for your endurance (i.e., your health) both on and off the race course.  So faith, food, and endurance have more in common than you think.

This third part of the four-part series focuses on the "religious" reasons behind veganism (because the first two topics on animal welfare and health just weren't weighty enough!).  I put "religious" in quotes because while I consider myself a Christian, I'm a fairly baby Christian.  I'm not much of a church-goer and know as much about the bible as I know about quantum physics.  But I'm a believer - even though I don't have all the details figured out.  I guess maybe that's the true essence of faith...

So when it comes to matters of faith (a word I prefer over "religion"), I usually turn to my good friend, Lois Godfrey Wye.  Lois is pursuing a Masters of Theological Studies ("MTS") at Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C.  Part of her hope for this degree is to bring about a greater awareness of the ways in which animal welfare is an important aspect of how we live our lives in faith.  Because I lack the in-depth understanding that someone like Lois possesses, my faith-based response to why I became a vegan often is stated simply as:  "I think that God entrusted us to care for all living creatures and I don't believe that God put animals on earth just for us to eat. I believe that it is egotistical and delusional to assign a value or worth to something or someone based on its usefulness to us.  I think that all living beings have their own intrinsic value apart from whatever self-serving value humans wish to assign."

That explanation, however, is pretty cursory without much to back it up.  So for this one, I've turned it over to Lois to provide a guest post with a more thorough examination of faith and veganism...Here are her thoughts:

Veganism and Faith: by Lois Godfrey Wye

I’m often asked what animals have to do with faith.  The answer is “everything.” How we treat those utterly dependent on our mercy speaks volumes about who we are. 

In the Judeo-Christian tradition[1] we look to Scripture to tell us who we are and who we ought to be.  Scripture tells us that humans are uniquely created in the image of God and are given dominion over all the animals. (Gen. 1:26-28)  This has often been taken to mean that we are given a free hand to treat animals as we like, without regard for their well being, because they are “only animals;” they have no souls, no feelings, and no value apart from economic value.  I believe a closer look at what Scripture has to say about dominion and power, as well as what it has to say about animals, compels a different result.  Scripture also has a great deal to say about our relationships with food. For me, a faithful reading of Scripture requires a diet based on compassion and mercy.  At a minimum, I believe it means a diet mindful of quantity of animal products consumed and most importantly, the source of those animal products.[2] 

Our creation in the image of God and our “dominion” over animals are closely linked:  “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  Gen. 1:26.  What it means to be created in the “image of God” has been interpreted in a variety of ways, often connected with the human ability to think or create or build.  Today, Old Testament scholars generally agree that our human uniqueness in the image of God is not a statement of our greatness, but of our responsibilities.  We are to serve as God’s representatives and to reflect His character into the world.  As Bruce Birch puts it, “God’s resolve to create in the divine image is coupled with a commissioning to have dominion. . . . It is as representative (image) of God that we are given capacity for power in the world.”[3]

So we must ask ourselves: how would God have us exercise our power?  To answer that, we must take into account: (1) how God exercises His power, since that is the character we are tasked with reflecting; (2) what Scripture has to say generally about the exercise of power; and (3) what Scripture has to say about God’s view of animals.  Each of these perspectives leads to the same conclusion:  we are called to exercise our power, including our power over our fellow creatures of God, with compassion and mercy. 

First, it is the foundation of faith that God exercises His dominion over us with mercy and compassion, particularly for those without resources.  God is the One to whom we turn when we are truly in need: “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him.  He is my rock and my salvation . . . pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”  Psalm 62:5, 8.  Second, Scripture consistently teaches that power is answerable to God and is to be exercised with mercy for the powerless and with justice.  “He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8.  “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.”  Luke 12:48.  The prophets in particular have a great deal to say about God’s views of those who exploit the weak and powerless for personal gain.    

Finally, God loves the animals.  He cares about their happiness and well-being.  He created them and called them “good.”  Genesis 1:20-24.  He covenants with them.  Genesis 9:9-17; Hosea 2:18.  He knows them all and he feeds them.  Psalms 50, 104.  He cares when they are harmed by human sin.  Jonah 4:11.  He includes animals in the Sabbath commandment so that they, too, may have a day of rest.  Exodus 23:12.  And, while Scripture does say that humans are “worth” more than animals, still, the animals matter to God and are not forgotten.  Matthew 10:29-31. 

But didn’t God give us the animals to eat?  Yes and no.  In the Garden of Eden, humans were vegans.  Genesis 1:29-30.  It was only after the flood, as a concession to human weakness, that God allowed humans to eat animals.  Genesis 9: 1-9.  And that permission came both at a price and with responsibility.  The price was the loss of relationship between humans and animals, as “the fear and dread” of humans came over the animals.  The responsibility was to recognize and honor that our meat came at the cost of a life given by God, shown in the requirement that we not eat the animals’ blood.       

I do not believe that Genesis is a literal and historical account of the prehistory of the world.  I do believe, however, that Genesis is true - that is, it tells theological truths about the ordering of creation and our place in it.  That scriptural account is very far from where we are today.  In factory farms, the lives of animals are not respected.  They are viewed only as economic units - not as living creatures belonging to God - and they generally live lives of unbroken misery.  How, in this setting, can “everything that has breath praise the Lord”?  Psalm 150.  In view of that, I believe it is wrong to give these systems economic support, and I believe it is wrong to partake of the products of the suffering they create. 

But in 1 Corinthians 8, doesn’t Paul say that there is nothing necessarily wrong with eating meat, even meat sacrificed to idols?  The point Paul was making was that what matters is not the food itself, but how what we eat affects others in our community.  For the Corinthians, the question was whether eating food sacrificed to idols would lead “weaker” Christians back to pagan rites.  For us today the question is whether eating meat will suggest to others that cruelty to animals is acceptable to God.  Our meat is not sacrificed to Greco-Roman idols, but it is sacrificed to the modern idols of personal convenience, lowest out-of-pocket cost at the market, and catering to the whims of our pallets. 

Nor is this a small matter.  The story of the Fall is centered on food (Genesis 3); food is closely connected with the Hebrews’ struggles to trust God in the desert (Exodus 16, Numbers 11); many of the laws in the Old Testament involve food (for example, Leviticus 11); the early church had struggles with food (for example, 1 Corinthians 8), and the heavenly banquet is the metaphor many of us use for the life to come.  Gluttony, vanity, pride, greed, and other sins can be closely connected with food.  Finally, for both Jews and Christians, a meal is at the heart of our central acts of worship and remembrance:  the Passover and the Eucharist. 


As a people of faith, we must think carefully about our food choices.  I do not mean that being a "good Christian" requires a vegan diet.  Each of us must consider these issues prayerfully and make choices that are right for us.  But people of faith are not given the option of hiding our faces from the harsh realities of factory farming and the implications of our participation in that system for ourselves, our communities, the animals, and the planet.  Nor can we disregard the fact that even humanely raised meat comes at the cost of a life loved by God.  For me, abstaining from meat and most dairy products is one way I can live as though the kingdom of God is, indeed, at hand.  And while humanely raised animals are at least respected as living creatures and allowed to be the creatures they were created to be during their lifetime, I choose not to eat them because I understand each chicken, cow, or pig, as a unique individual, just like a cat or a dog, and I believe that is the way God sees them, too.  Most importantly, I believe that choosing not to eat animals is a compassionate exercise of power, and as such is a means of living into the image of God.  

Thank you, Lois!!  For the rest of you:  how, if at all, does faith enter into how and what you eat? 


[1] My own faith is Christian and that is the perspective from which I speak.  However, the Christian Scriptures include the Hebrew Bible (known to Christians as the Old Testament), and to that extent Christians and Jews have a shared faith and tradition.   

[2] I call myself “nearly vegan.” I choose a vegan diet whenever I can do so without causing problems for others, such as those who are graciously entertaining me and have no idea what to feed a vegan, but can manage a vegetarian meal.  Also, from time to time I will share a vegetarian meal with my husband, who is an omnivore.  I also buy and cook meat for my husband, but am particular about its source.

[3] Birch, Bruce C. Let Justice Roll Down: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Christian Life. Louisville: West Minster/John Knox Press, 1991, pp. 88-89.  Another good book, specifically addressing animals and theology is Andrew Linzey’s Why Animal Suffering Matters, Oxford University Press, 2009.  Andrew Linzey is probably the foremost writer on the subject of animals and theology.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RECOVERY: Let Mother Nature Recharge Your Workout Mojo

I'm not a big fan of winter.  I hate - with every molecule in my body - being cold.  If there were a stronger word than hate, I'd use it describe how much I loathe being cold.  I can't function when I'm cold.  And during the winter, I'm always cold.  But aside from the physical ick of winter, there's a mental ick as well.  Winter is depressing.  It's dreary, gray/brown, everything in the landscape is dead or dormant, and it's dark for way too long!

I guess I really shouldn't complain too much because Washington, D.C. has pretty mild winters, at least compared to Nebraska where I grew up.  But regardless, have I mentioned how much I hate being cold?

So once the first glint of spring appears every year, I start to feel like I've just been released from a winter prison!  My pasty white legs come out of their thermal leggings, my scrawny arms shed their layers of long sleeves, my mood lightens, and I find every excuse I can to get outside.  

The past couple weeks here in the Nation's capital, Mother Nature has slowly been showing us her spring colors and showering us with unseasonably warm temperatures.  And people have been going outside in droves!  All this week it's supposed to be in the mid- to high-70's, and it's the equivalent of a drug.  People are absolutely giddy.  Nice to each other. Smiling as they're walking to work.  Everything and everyone is coming out of the winter prison.

This past Sunday it was a perfect, sunny, mid-60-degree day.  So my boyfriend and I went to Shenandoah National Forest - one of my favorite places.  It's less than a 2-hour drive from D.C., and in such a short amount of time, you can leave the stress of the city far away in another world.  I've done a lot of hiking there in the last 14 years and it never gets old.

The valley and hills behind me...Good incentive to be able to hold a plank so you don't fall off! 
The day was absolutely perfect.  We did a short hike on a trail called Rose River Loop, which takes you to a beautiful series of waterfalls, which were really flowing because of all the rain we've gotten.  Here's a picture of some of the waterfalls...they're some of the smaller ones in Shenandoah, but they're still pretty:

Some of the Rose River falls...
Amazing I didn't fall off the log given what a clutz I am...
And just because the picture doesn't quite do it justice, here's a video (I'm not the best videographer):

video

The hike was downhill heading out and uphill heading back.  I honestly love hiking uphill...I love the burn!  I love feeling like my body is actually accomplishing something.  I love the challenge - it forces me to really focus.  And on this particularly nice day, I loved feeling the sun on my skin, getting my heart rate up, and working up a sweat.  I was finally warm!!

The hike in Shenandoah on Sunday was just what I needed to recharge.  I've honestly felt in a bit of a funk all winter and I swear sometimes that I have seasonal affective disorder.    But now that the weather is getting nicer, and the daffodils, cherry blossoms, and dogwood trees are blooming, I feel like I'm finally in bloom too!  So it got me thinking about the revitalizing, recharging benefits that Mother Nature has on us.

I read an article on Physical Living that said the majority of people today suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder. Turns out that's an actual term coined by author Richard Louv.  Whether that's a widely accepted clinical term now, I don't know, but I like it. Louv is the author of seven books, including Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, and he proposes that children today have a severe disconnect with nature.  I'd go even further to say that most people today, especially those in an urbanized society, are deprived of a relationship with nature.

I'm not necessarily talking about communing with the birds and squirrels or joining some commune in the wilderness.  But there are benefits to spending more time outdoors.  The Harvard Health Publications from Harvard Medical School states that the benefits from being outside include:

  • A rise in Vitamin D levels:  Sun on your skin leads to the creation and activation of Vitamin D, which can help fight osteoporosis, cancer, depression, and heart attacks. Make sure to wear your sun screen though and don't overdo your sun exposure.  
  • Happiness:  natural light tends to elevate people's moods. 
  • Improved concentration:  Children with ADHD have been shown to have improved concentration after being outdoors.  Although this is not confirmed in adults, it certainly can't hurt to take a walk outside to clear your head...I know it helps me. 
  • You may heal faster:  A 2005 University of Pittsburgh study showed that spinal surgery patients had less pain, took fewer medications, and healed faster when exposed to natural light.  
Also, people (like me) are more inclined to exercise if they can go outside.  And why not - again, the natural light makes us happy.  Plus, you're more mentally stimulated outside than when you're in the gym on the treadmill or stationary bike.  You get to watch the scenery, notice the people walking their dogs, breathe in the fresh air, and make fun of other people's pasty white legs (or maybe that's just me).  

It may seem obvious to most of you to get outside for your workouts.  But getting outside to exercise doesn't just have to mean doing your same old run or bike workouts.  Here are some ideas for other physical activity that you can do to recharge your workout mojo, or just give you a boost.  Now's the time, while we're still in the pre-season mode, to try some different outdoor activities:  
  • Walking:  Seriously, when was the last time you just went for a walk, maybe after your lunch or for a break during the day?  
  • Yard work:  Raking leaves certainly counts for exercise. 
  • Kayaking:  Great workout for your upper body.  
  • Roller blading:  What better way to feel like you're reliving your childhood roller skating days! 
  • Hiking:  A great ab, butt, and leg workout that also helps you build endurance. 
  • Trail running:  Get off the sidewalk for awhile and find a little trail.  (Just be careful not to sprain your ankle like I do!).  
  • Yoga:  Have you ever actually done yoga outside?  It's so liberating! Whole Living has a good outdoor yoga routine.  
  • Strength training:  Forget the gym...strength train with Mother Nature.  It's not hard to do some outdoor squats, tricep dips, or balance drills. Whole Living also has a great outdoor strength routine.  
So now that Mother Nature is waking up, why not wake up your tired old workout routine and make sure that during the day, you're spending some additional time outside...    

What do you do during the day to get outside more?  Do you have a favorite outdoor workout? 


Shenandoah when it's green in the spring/summer...







Thursday, March 8, 2012

THE RACE: Your Sliding Scale of Abilities

There are several things in my life at which I'm not very good.  And if I were to be honest, there probably are more things that I'm not-so-good at than things I'm really good at.  I've never really been superb, off-the-chart, kick-you-in-the-ass fantastic at anything...But of course that's my opinion based on my comparisons of me to other people.

On the flip side, however, there are a lot of things that I do fairly well, or at least average to above average.  Because of that, I've always been a bit of a multi-tasker, never really specializing or becoming outstanding in any one thing.  I think that's why I like triathlons so much - instead of focusing on being a really good runner, I could be decent at three sports and end up doing pretty well over all.

Among the list of things that I don't do very well are math and swimming.  And if you want to really drive me nuts, try to have me add and keep track of laps and distance while I'm swimming!  Growing up I always had good grades, straight A's in high school, etc.  So I never totally sucked at math, but it was a real struggle for me. And I certainly never took any classes beyond basic algebra because I knew it just wasn't going to sink in.  Math, numbers, economics, anything having to do with figures, just doesn't register very well in my brain.  Never has, never will, and I'm fine with that.  I get by, I can balance my checkbook, and one of the main reasons I became a lawyer was so that I didn't have to deal with math (I'm totally serious).

I've learned in the past couple years that swimming is along those same lines for me.  There are just some things about swimming that just don't sink in for me.  After three years I still don't really know what the "catch" is or how it's supposed to feel.  I can't figure out for the life of me how all the different parts of my body are supposed to work together to make me a stronger more efficient swimmer.  My brain just can't tell my body how to be coordinated.  I never have been and never will be, an outstanding swimmer.  And I'm fine with that.  I get by, I make up time on the bike and the run, and as long as I don't drown, then I consider it a good swim.

What my diminished abilities in math and swimming have made me realize is that there always are going to be things that are lower on my ability scale than others.  To some people, not being very good at math or swimming or whatever would be considered a "weakness."  I don't like that word.  It's too negative.  It seems to take too much away.  To me, every single thing you can do - no matter how well you can do it - is an ability.  And those things that you aren't able to do, aren't a weakness; instead, they're either an ability that you just haven't learned, or things you don't need to learn.

I like to think of my abilities as existing on a sliding scale.  My scale probably goes from 0-20 rather than 0-10 because I just need more variation.

My sliding scale of abilities...that I could think of off-the-cuff...

Abilities like math and swimming - which I am able to do - are lower on the scale, like at maybe 8 or 9. Hopefully over time, my swimming will progress to an 11 or 12.  Maybe someday it'll get up to an 18 or 19, but I don't expect it to, and I'm fine with that.  Being able to play guitar is at a big fat zero right now, but not because it's a weakness - because it's an ability that I haven't yet learned.

Abilities on the lower end of the scale...
Running, on the other hand, is more like a 13-14 for me right now.  And I know I'll be able to get that up to a 17 or 18.  Being an attorney is probably at a 15.  Being a friend/family member/girlfriend/doggie mommy, are the highest end (at least I hope they are!).

Abilities at the higher end of the scale...
Everyone has abilities and how you rate your abilities on your sliding scale shouldn't be done according to what other people's abilities are.  The values on my sliding scale are what they are because that's what I feel my capabilities are.  Notice I said "capabilities."  I like that word because within that word exists the word "abilities."  I don't know what the dictionary definitions are, and I'm not even going to look; instead, I'm going to assign my own meanings that make sense to me.

Abilities are what you currently possess.  I have the ability right now to do zero pullups.  I also have the ability to run 5 miles.  Capabilities, however, are your capacity to do something - your capacity to have an ability.  I have the capability or capacity to do a bunch of pullups.  I also have the capacity to run a marathon.  I just haven't fostered those abilities yet to achieve what I'm capable of.

So even if you can't walk, don't judge your abilities by what others can do.  Judge your abilities by what you, yourself, are capable of.  If you can't walk, you may be capable of pushing yourself in a wheelchair fast enough to complete an Ironman - which I've seen people do.  So while your ability to walk may be low on the scale, your ability to roll your way through a race could be as high as 20.

More importantly, our abilities aren't just physical, or mental for that matter.  I know some very bright, intelligent attorneys who probably rank themselves very high on their scale for intellect, oral advocacy skills, writing skills, etc.  But, in my opinion, they should rate themselves very low on the scale for emotions.  They haven't fostered their ability - although they are quite capable - to be loving, kind, giving, or humble. Conversely, someone who has what society deems to be a mental disability, may have the ability to love, give, and be kind that goes well beyond what any scale could measure.

So take a good look at all of your abilities - the traits, characteristics, qualities, functions - that you currently possess. Don't think of any of them as a strength or weakness.  They are all abilities, some just rank higher on your scale than others.  Then take a look at your capabilities and see if there's anything that hasn't yet made it onto your scale.  Do you need or want to foster that ability?  If so, then just get it on the scale - who cares for now where it falls.  If you don't need to have that ability, then don't worry about it.  For example, most people don't know how to calculate Pi.  If you don't need to have this ability, then who cares if it's on your scale.

Taking all your abilities into account, step back and look at how varied your scale is.  Note that some of the things that are lower on your scale, might just need to be that way to allow other things to be higher on the scale.  At the end of the day, it's not about getting all your abilities at the top of the scale.  It's about recognizing all of your wonderful abilities, and allowing you the room to continue to grow and evolve if you want to move some of them up - or even down - on the scale....

What's your sliding scale look like? 


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

THE RACE: Marine Corps Registration Opens Today at 3:00 pm EST

Six years ago I did something I never thought I'd do...I signed up for my first marathon - the Marine Corps Marathon.  After eight years of running, I'd finally decided to take the leap...

I'd picked MCM because my Grandpa - a Marine in WWII - had passed away the year before.  So I thought, what better way to salute my amazing Grandpa than by running 26.2 miles in "his" Marine Corps marathon...

My mom, her fiance, and several friends came out to support me the day of the marathon.  I remember that it was a particularly chilly October morning and I was layered up.  I'd even had special t-shirts made for my mom and me with my Grandpa's Marine Corps picture on the front.  My shirt said "Papa's Buddie Mike" because "Mike" had been his nickname for me since the day I popped out...

My Papa Norman's Marine Corps pic that I put on the front of my shirt...
It wasn't quite the experience I'd hoped it'd be...I was about 45 minutes slower than I'd wanted and I had horrible foot pain (caused by laces that were too tight) for the last half of the marathon.  But I finished...exhausted and in pain.  I limped my way to the UPS trucks where our gear bags were, which was about 1/2 mile away from the finish line - a part of the event that sucked almost more than the entire race.  There I found my family and friends waiting for me, proud that I'd even finished my very first marathon...

As I laid on a bench waiting for the car to come pick me up, I swore that I'd never do that again....

I was wrong. The following year I signed up again, hoping to redeem myself a little bit.  You know, for a Type A person, "just finishing" sometimes isn't enough...I wanted to do better.

The 2007 MCM was significantly worse in terms of pain.  I had developed what I later found out to be horrible IT band problems.  At about mile 6 when it started to feel like someone had beat me in my knees with baseball bats, I wasn't sure I was going to even finish.  Coupled with that were some GI issues, which forced me to veer off Rock Creek Parkway into the woods (along with about 50 other people) to take a dump...There's no pride in marathoning and you have to just let your inhibitions fly out the window.  I remember using a discarded t-shirt as my toilet paper (there was no way to forego a good wiping) and hoping that no one would come back to re-claim it...

For 3/4 of the marathon I was in dreadful pain.  By mile 22 I was actually in tears, walking a lot, and swearing I'd never do that damn race again...I finished, limped for 2 days, and put marathoning behind me...

Or so I thought...

Obviously doing an Ironman involves, what?  A marathon.  But surprisingly, I wasn't dreading this marathon as much as the other two.  I'd worked for about 10 months on re-vamping my running form, and I felt like I'd really improved.  I'd worked out my IT band issues too. 

Fortunately, my marathon pace for the Ironman was right in between my two times for the other marathons.  Typically, your marathon time in the Ironman is at least 30 or more minutes slower than your stand-alone marathon times, so that fact that my time was right on par with my other marathons, made me very happy.  And aside from just some general soreness from almost 15 hours of pounding, I actually felt better during my Ironman marathon than either of my first two marathons...

So with that minor victory, and encouraged by the fact that my Ironman marathon time was the same as my prior stand-alone marathon times, I decided a couple months ago that I wanted to once again try to redeem myself at the MCM...

Why?  Why do we put ourselves through this pain?  For each person, that's a different answer.  For me, it's not to show other people what I can do or make myself feel worthy.  It's to keep moving, keep improving, keep challenging myself.  Whether I finish another marathon or not has nothing to do with what kind of person I am or how amazing I am.  But it has everything to do with not feeling stagnant. 

When we stop moving, we die.  Gandhi said "continue to grow and evolve." You certainly don't have to do a marathon to keep moving.  But when you've gotten to point where you've done a ton of 1/2 marathons, don't you think it's time to give yourself another challenge?  If you've gotten fairly comfortable at whatever distances you're doing now, don't you think it's time to up the ante and push back into a bit of discomfort?  It's only through pain that we grow, remember? 

If that's not a good enough reason and you're having trouble finding a reason to push yourself to that next level - whatever that next level is - then do it for something bigger than you.  Do it for a charity that you love.  Do it for a loved one that you miss.  Do it to show your kids that their mom or dad will never just settle for what's comfortable.

I decided to do Marine Corps because I wanted to honor my Grandpa.  And honestly, both years, that's what kept me moving.  I remember him telling me the story of how he almost went AWOL one night during basic training, but decided that he needed to suck it up.  So I thougth that if my Grandpa can endure Marine Corps basic training and WWII, I certainly could handle a measly 26.2 miles in his honor. 

So in a few minutes, registration opens for the MCM.  And once again, I'm going to do something I swore I'd never do again...another marathon.  But this time, it's not just going to be for my Grandpa..It's going to be for me.  For me to see how much I've improved and continue to push myself.  For me to see if I can start thinking about how much I'd need to train to someday qualify for the Boston Marathon (and yes, I'm going to keep that hope alive, I don't care what anyone says).  I'm doing another MCM because if I don't keep pushing the limits, someday I'll start to slow down, only to eventually stop moving completely...

Are you going to hit the "register" button on a new goal this year that will keep you moving forward instead of being stagnant?