Setting lofty goals

27 May

For about six months, I’ve been working on a running goal I have. I have made this goal public now, and I’ve asked for advice and input. I want help taking my marathon training to a level I have never reached, so I’m sticking this out into the blog-o-sphere. 

Here’s the deal: I want to run a marathon and finish as close to 4:00:00 as possible before I turn 50.

Here’s the background: I started running in 2010 and finished my first marathon one week before I turned 40. My time was around 5:15 (I can look for the official time, but that’s close). In the last seven years, I have trained for ten marathons and completed eight. Even with those finishes under my belt, I’m still relatively inexperienced because I did not run consistently before I began training.

Here’s the setup: My best marathon finish in 2014 was 4:39:46. That’s a 10:41 average pace per mile. In order to finish a marathon in 4:00:00, I’d have to run 9:10 per mile.

Here’s the reason: You can say this is misguided, unhealthy, or even stupid. Years ago I heard someone say that most people don’t consider you a real runner unless you can run at least 10 minutes per mile. I know that’s rubbish and poppycock, and what constitutes a “real” runner is completely and totally relative to each person, but I have always had that in my head. And by that standard, I have never really been a real runner. Who cares, right? Let’s go with this instead: It’s important for me to set this goal and to be able to say I did everything in my power to accomplish it. I want to try, and even if I fall short, I know it will be a valuable learning experience.

Also, the BQ for me is 3:55. Not that I even care!

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I might look like this at the finish. But with slightly more agony.

What do I need to accomplish this goal?

I need help to create a strategy. This is a lofty goal but it is by no means impossible. I believe it will require attention to all aspects of training including nutrition, sleep, recovery, stress management, weight, body mass, strength, flexibility, gear, and (of course) running.

I need help figuring out how to safely lose about 15 pounds while training. Imagine running for four hours while carrying a gallon jug of milk in each hand. That’s the same as running a marathon with 15 extra pounds of fat on your body. It is logical to assume that losing fat will increase the chances that I can run faster over a period of four hours. I don’t want to be skinny; I want to be strong! I am strongly opposed to using pills, potions, or powders to lose weight, so don’t suggest I use your plan. I realize that losing weight requires adjustments to caloric and macronutrient intake as well as activity, so I want to choose (and eat a lot of) the foods that will support my goal and eat little to none of the foods that do not support my goal.

I do not need a training plan. There are literally hundreds of marathon training plan resources available online and in actual paper books. I have tried several different methods and not one has resulted in a more significant improvement to my performance than any other, but I do know what has worked well for me in the past and I know where to find plans.

I do need to run faster. That’s obvious, right? In order to run faster, you need to practice running faster! I’ve worked with trainers and have incorporated focused speed work into my training, and every single time I’ve gotten injured. That is a real danger for any runner, and it speaks to my inexperience and overall conditioning. I need help with this aspect of my training!

I might need a coach. I probably can do this all on my own, but there is no question that an experienced running coach would be helpful. I do not need a coach to write a customized training plan for me (see above). What does a coach provide, then? Guidance to help me get from where I now am to where I want and need to be.

I need your support and encouragement! Go for a run with me, or go for all of my runs with me! Tell me you’re excited and you believe in me and you think I’m gorgeous. It won’t make me faster, but it won’t hurt! Whatever you do, please, please, please don’t tell me I can’t do it or it’s silly to make a goal like this.

What else do I need? Should I join a running club? Eat more kale? Practice meditation? Get the same surgery that Jamie Sommers (the Bionic Woman) had? Spend a week with Shalane Flanagan or Bart Yasso? Do I just need more hugs?

 

Have you ever set and accomplished a goal like this? What did you do? What did you not do? Who helped you? What, if anything, would you do differently? Share with me!

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Getting picked last

23 May

Last week I had a junior high school flashback, and it was unpleasant. Does anyone have pleasant flashbacks to junior high? I’m sure some people have fond memories of their young teenage years, but for me it was all angst and embarrassment and trying impossibly to figure out how the hell to fit in with a bunch of people who were trying to figure out who the hell they were.

Out of the blue, my coworker said, “I should set you up with my buddy.” He texted his buddy, who replied immediately, “Send pics.” We snapped a picture. I tried to look cute. Since I have not received any follow-up from my coworker, I assume his buddy’s reaction was not favorable. In fact, I imagine he said, “Um, no thanks. She’s ugly.” I am positive he did not say, “Wow! She’s gorgeous! What is her number?” or I would have heard about it by now.

I had, and still have, no idea who this person is. I don’t know what he looks like or what he values. I don’t know what he does in his free time. I don’t know if he even wants to date anyone. While his rejection of me should not matter one tiny little bit, it does. It stings. Why? Because being picked last — or not being picked at all — hurts, no matter how old you are.

In junior high I had a terrible crush on a boy one grade above me. I wrote out the lyrics to Lionel Richie’s Hello and put them in his locker. If he told his pals about it, and I have completely blocked the memory if he did, I’m sure they all stood around and laughed at how gross and weird I was. Clearly, I still feel foolish and mortified by it, which is ridiculous because it happened 30 years ago.

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I also got picked last all the time in junior high. Last for kickball and softball and dodge ball and anything that required height or agility or speed. If we had smarts contests or spelling bees, I would be picked second (after the smartest girl in the class), but I don’t recall that we had a lot of smarts contests in my school. So that, combined with the fact that I wrote out song lyrics in an attempt to win the hearts of boys made me a bit of a loser. And I also loved Classical music more than 80s pop. 

So much of my life has been defined by the search for a partner and the rejection of hundreds (am I exaggerating?) of people. Of course I have had (a few successful) relationships! Of course there are seemingly well adjusted, normalish people who have liked me and wanted to kiss me! Lately, however, the people who are interested in going on a date with me are 1) married, 2) scammers who I assume live in a foreign country and are waiting for the right time to ask me to wire money, 3) sporting gold-capped teeth, or 4) located hundreds of miles away from my town.

I have a full, wonderful life. I am healthy and happy. I am surrounded by friends and family who love me and care about my well-being. But I really and truly want to be in love with a partner who loves me. Just one time, maybe for the only time, I want to be picked first. I want to pass that boy a note and have him return it with this message: Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?

Fuck junior high, man.

Giving thanks

10 May

It’s Grati-Tuesday. I am in a Facebook group of women (there may be men, or people who identify in other ways, but I’m not sure) who support and encourage each other. I used to see posts from Mona, the group’s leader, almost every day, but I have missed many of them of late. Today, however, I saw her post suggesting that we make a list of 15 things we are grateful for — and 20 if we didn’t feel like it. I don’t feel like it, so here’s 20:

  1. I am grateful for my sister, Megan, and her family. I moved here to be closer to them (and my other family members). I cannot express how grateful I am to be able to see them frequently.
  2. I am grateful for the opportunity to play games with and read stories to my nephew and nieces.
  3. I am grateful for hugs and kisses when I leave their house.
  4. I am grateful for my coworker who gave me a hug and told me she loved me today. She even said I was on her top 5 list of favorite people, and I know she meant it.
  5. I am grateful for another coworker who gives me a daily double fist bump.
  6. I am grateful for Charles, my Caribou bourista boyfriend, who makes delicious drinks for me.
  7. I am grateful for bacon. Let’s be real here.
  8. I am grateful for depression and the intense and frightening feelings I’ve been having lately because they allow me to reach out to and truly understand other people who are feeling suicidal.
  9. I am grateful for the friends who know what this feels like.
  10. I am grateful for the Facebook mental health support page.
  11. I am grateful for coffee. That should have been #2.
  12. I am grateful for Melvin.
  13. I am grateful for Instagram because it makes me feel popular, and yesterday a woman I follow commented on my post when I made her turkey kale appel meatballs and said my idea to add cider vinegar and sauteed apples to the sauce was amazing! Squeeee!
  14. I am grateful for my health.
  15. I am grateful that I can run.
  16. I am grateful for all of the teachers I’ve had and especially for my friends who are teachers today.
  17. I am grateful for the YouTube video I watched this morning. It was a powerful message from the father of the young man  who died of suicide last week in the town where my mother lives.
  18. I am grateful for surprises.
  19. I am grateful for laughter.
  20. I am grateful for Mona, who encouraged me to ponder gratitude today.

Taking life seriously

3 May

Life is too important to be taken so seriously, I was thinking as I angrily ripped cilantro leaves from the stems so I could finish making this guacamole to eat with the plantain chips that just came out of the oven. That was the actual phrase running through my mind.

I was fuming about something that happened on a Facebook support group in which I was a member — until the thing happened and I promptly left that stupid group. Serves them right. See how they fare without me and my years of therapy-produced wisdom.

Cliff’s Notes version: In a group about Whole30 Reintroduction (where you begin to systematically add back into your diet foods that you had stopped eating during your Whole30) I posted a question about chocolate. My post was deleted because chocolate is a trigger for some people…who are learning to deal with their food-related issues and searching for the happy destiny known as “food freedom.”

What the ever-living you-know-what?

So I was in my kitchen, tearing cilantro with a bit more gusto than is required to remove the leaves from the stems, writing in my head the diatribe I wished to post on Facebook, and chuckling to myself about adding to the post a picture of a candy bar or a bag of kettle cooked potato chips. And of course the irony of the situation was not lost on me.

I keep going back to the quote I can’t find, the one that was maybe a Facebook post written by one of my friends and not an actual famous person. It was about what we choose to get angry about or the weight of the thing that brings us down and what that reveals about us.

I have a friend who is preparing for another round of chemo. I have another friend who is recovering from a surgery. On Saturday, a family I know will have a service of remembrance for their family member who died last weekend of suicide. And I was upset that my post about chocolate was deleted in a group (of strangers on a social media site) where I was asking for support.

I knew, the whole time this was happening today, that I was taking it all way too personally. Have you read don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements? Don’t take anything personally is one of the agreements. “When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering,” he writes.

You guys, some days it takes so little to upset me, while on other days I fly through life without having to take my frustrations out on a cilantro plant.

I will be better tomorrow, and the guacamole will be better tomorrow, too. That’s how it is with guacamole.

Speaking plainly about suicide

2 May

Trigger warning: In the post, I am going to write about my personal experience with suicide and depression. I understand that this is a sensitive and painful topic. Please know that it is not my intention to hurt or offend anyone. I am writing because I believe this is an important issue that won’t get better if we refuse to speak about it.

***

Yesterday a young man in the town where my mother lives (pop. less than 3,000) died of suicide. I did not know him. I don’t know what happened or why, but I understand that his death was a shock to those close to him. No one saw it coming.

This news has hit me hard. These last few days I have been feeling down. Not very down, but especially blue. Particularly low. Depressingly…depressed. What is the modifier that explains I am not simply “sad” and about to feel a hundred percent better as soon as you tell me a good joke or hug me tight enough? I don’t know the best descriptor. I’ve been in the hole, and the news of this young person’s death is more meaningful to me today than it might be on any other day.

The other day, as I was turning into the parking lot behind my apartment building, I had the fleeting thought: Maybe the world would be better if I were dead. It came and went and I didn’t give it much weight, but a little piece of it lingered, waiting for today.

I have always thought of this thought as a symptom of an illness that I will probably have forever. It’s a chronic illness–sometimes I’m in remission for long periods of time, and then I have a flare-up. There is no warning. It doesn’t come on because someone made a mad face at me or because I don’t have a boyfriend or because it snowed. Before I realize what is happening, I’m in a black hole.

Depression is a sneaky, relentless bitch. It brings to the fore (in the middle of the night) every single mistake I have made in my lifetime and helps me imagine (in full detail) mistakes I have yet to make. It highlights all the people who dislike me and downplays the hundreds of people who love me. It points out my faults and weaknesses. It tells me that “someone is always listening” is complete bullshit, even though I know someone is, or will. It finds the one thing that will hurt me the most and says it over and over and over again. It convinces me that the world truly would be better if I had never been born.

I cannot be sure, but I imagine it is this way–and worse, yet–for others. Some of us live with this day after day until we can’t take it anymore. We don’t tell anyone because depression tells us that no one gives a good goddamn about us. We don’t want to bother anyone. We don’t want to make a big deal of it. We don’t want anyone (who hasn’t got a clue what this feels like) to offer advice. We just want it to go the fuck away.

Today was a hard day, but I am not in danger. I do not need to go to the hospital or call a hotline. I am remembering. I am mourning. I am worried. I am grateful. I am a little bit scared, but I will be ok.

I don’t want to say I am special because I know what it feels like to want to die and to try to die only to come out of it on the happy, shiny side, because that’s ridiculous. But for years, I have hoped that my ability to feel so deeply would one day become a gift, like a superpower that would allow me to literally feel another person’s pain and take it from them. Maybe it really is a gift. Maybe I already have that power.

I do want to say, “I am fucking listening.” Call me. Text me. Instant message me. Tell me exactly what you feel, the raw and real feelings, and I will not tell you to take a walk or a bath or a pill. I don’t know what I’ll say, but I just don’t want anyone to suffer alone.

Sharing my (opinion about) food 

29 Apr

Last week someone attacked my food choices, and I gave him a piece of my mind.

I’m being dramatic, of course. I have a “friend” who has an anonymous profile on a dating site (because he’s married). Don’t worry, I’m never going to meet him. I don’t even know his name.

Anyway, I expressed to him that I was having a hard day. He said he was sorry and then asked if I had found anyone to date yet. I said, “I’m thinking about putting up a table at the Natural Grocers store advertising for a foodie runner boyfriend.” And he said, “Don’t even get me started about that whole natural food thing.”

I was already in a bad mood, so I picked a fight and said I didn’t feel like I should have to defend my nutritional choices. After we exchanged many more messages, he said, “Good day to you,” and I left it at that. Ever notice how “good day” sometimes sounds like “eff you”?

I apologized a few days later for overreacting.

Most of you know I did my first Whole30 in March. Because the Whole30 has some pretty strict rules, and because it also quite literally changes people’s lives and relationships with food, some followers have strong feelings about it. Want some proof? Just go on the Whole30 Support Facebook page and ask a question about eating non-compliant foods while doing a Whole30. It’s like lions attacking an old, wounded antelope.

Lately I’ve been exposed to strong beliefs about food, nutrition, and diets or programs. I guess I’ve put myself in the position to notice them more, so I’m also more aware of my own reactions when people comment about my choices. Like when someone turns up their nose at my “healthy” lunch or makes fun of the fact that I eat Brussels sprouts or kale almost every day — it chaps my hide a bit. Or when I overheard someone at the gym saying, “I could never do Whole30! You can’t eat whey protein!” and, though she was not talking to me and her comment was none of my damn business, I felt mildly peeved and admittedly scoffed at her. Sorry, Gym Lady.

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Brussels sprouts, blueberries, eggs, and bacon baby! Looks gross. Tastes good. 

As a personal trainer, I am often asked to share my opinion or give advice about food, diets, and nutritional programs. I have strong feelings about several of them — both good and bad feelings — but I have to be very careful about what I say because I am not a certified nutrionist. I really, really want to go on a rant about some of the ones that are supposed to be healthy and all-natural and supported by research, but I am not going to do that (unless you ask me in private, when I am not working as a trainer, and then gurrrrrl…).

My choices are mine. I have made them based on the evidence I have gathered and deemed to be trustworthy. I assume that you have done the same, and I respect that even if I don’t agree with your choices. Just don’t dig on my Brussels sprouts, bitches, or we gon’ have words!

 

Remembering bits and pieces

26 Apr

I’m trying to lose weight. Fifteen pounds (as of today) to be exact. Usually I weigh myself on Thursdays. I use the scale at my gym, and I go there in the morning after I’ve used the bathroom (TMI) and before I’ve eaten breakfast. Today is Wednesday. I needed to weigh today because I can’t do it tomorrow.

Something has been off in my body and spirit for a week or so. I’ve had tummy troubles, and this morning I woke up with a terrible headache. Not that there are good headaches. Funny that I always feel the need to qualify my headaches so you know they are bad.

Anyway, headache. Didn’t want to get out of bed. Didn’t feel hungry or even want coffee, which is a sure sign that I’m in bad shape. Been feeling so, so, so very sad, and I don’t know why. Nothing has changed in my diet or my routine. I am not experiencing more stress. Yes, the weather has been rainy and cold and windy, but I live in North Dakota and it’s March.

So I was running late and I went to the gym, stripped off my coat and shoes, and stepped on the scale. I gained more than a pound this week. Last week I stayed exactly the same as the week before. Previously, I had been losing close to one pound per week.

I threw my coat and shoes back on and got in my car to drive to work, and I cried. Lip quivering tears with little whimpering sounds like kittens make. Over a weight gain. Really there has to be something more going on, because I’ve fallen into a funk and I can’t get out.

When I got to work and stepped out of my car, I was thinking, I wonder what would happen if I didn’t eat anything today.

Since I started feeling so low, I’ve had bits and pieces of a quote I believe I once read floating around in my head. It has to do with what gets us down — like you can tell a lot about a person by the things that get them down, or make them upset. I have been Googling the bits and pieces and can’t find it.

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This isn’t the one, but it’s good. And Einstein.

The quote itself doesn’t matter. What matters is that when I start crying about gaining (or not losing) weight and start thinking maybe I shouldn’t eat, it really makes me say, Geez, Wendi. Is that all it takes to get you down? Aren’t there more important matters in the world?

There are more important matters, and I have a lot to be grateful for, but at this very moment I know something is going on that needs my attention. There is a dis-ease in my body or spirit. Yesterday I thought about suicide — not making plans but just the thought that flies into and out of your head. It happens sometimes, and I know it’s important.

Instead of not eating, which I honestly don’t think I could EVER do, I decided to let go of two things today: the scale and tracking my food. It will be hard for me to do that, but ultimately I think it will help.

Thank you for reading this far. Please understand that I don’t want any advice about weight loss or mental health. I would, however, appreciate your support and understanding. Like, “I understand this feeling, Wendi. Is there anything I can do to help? Would you like a latte or a million dollars?” Like that.