I'm back

Life has a way of humbling us. Bringing us to our knees. It's been a long time since I've been in here... and in that time, a whole lifetime has passed me by. 

In February, I was diagnosed with a very early case of breast cancer. My oncologist was very proactive, and we began treatment immediately. Which is to say, I started chemo, and 3 months of feeling like refried ass. 

And I'm pretty sure that's a literal translation to how I felt. I was nauseous. Exhausted. Grouchy. And balding. I tried to run several times while on chemo, each time to get knocked back down to my knees. Old habits die hard... and I needed running to get me through cancer. 

Unfortunately, that's not how it worked out for me. 

The good news is that I did survive chemo and here I am, 5 months later. That's not to say that I am 'cured'... but I'm a lot closer than I was in February.

Which leads us to now. Here I am. 25 lbs heavier. Out of shape. And utterly miserable. 

I swore to myself that I would never gain any of the weight back and that I would never stop running. But the universe had other plans for me, and I find myself once again a fat runner.

Humbled, I started the C25K program yesterday. For someone who has done full marathons, it's a bitter pill to swallow. But hey- I'm really good at swallowing pills now, so why not this one?

It felt good to be running again. I was slow. I walked like the program called for. And I can't wait to do day 2... and to toe the line once again, even if it's the line to a 5k.

I'm back. I missed myself.

Going all Ross and Rachel on my training...

Well... for the first time since I tore my calf in 2009, I am officially on a training break. And I can't lie... it's weird, and I'm not sure I like it yet.

Why, you ask?

Well... the weekend of Cinco de Mayo I ran my 5th marathon. And physically, it was the hardest race I have ever ran. I was trained up. Ready to go. Conditions were perfect. And my body simply said no.

My asthma has been flaring up on me for the better part of 6 months now... and while I've tried to ignore what has been happening, the fact remains that for the past 8 days, I have been in full blown wheeze mode. Daily nebulizer treatments. Hitting my inhaler like a crackhead hits the pipe.

All in all it's an ugly picture. In the past year I have had bronchitis 4 times and pneumonia once. I have had weekly asthma attacks- wheezing, sats dropping, all out attack. And it hasn't been this bad since I was 10.

But let's be real here. I have been non-stop training for a half or full or in one way or another for almost 4 years. No breaks. Nothing. Just running balls out to the point of exhaustion, and never really giving my body a break. One of my best friends finally put it out there for me to see, and while I've looked occasionally at the trees, I've never really looked at the forest. So after talking with him, my family and my other friends, I realized that a short running break is long overdue.

I need to learn to run for the joy of running, and not focus on mileage or times. Not focus on getting ready for a race. Just... run. Feel the wind. Find a trail. Find myself again. And most importantly, let my body rest and heal.

I'm on a break. And like Ross, I'm sure I'll cheat on that break... but really, it's only 12 weeks.

I can survive that, right? (someone PLEASE tell me that I can... because right now, I'm not so sure)

Race week thoughts

Yeah. That.

Taper madness... insanity... insane in the membrane.

I'm officially in the taper period for my 5th marathon. This isn't my first rodeo. Or second. And yet... it feels just like the first time.

Nerves. Palms sweaty. Butterflies. Fear that I'll fail. Or fall short.

I'm well aware that I'm driving the people closest to me batshit crazy with my insanity. I'm aware that I'm being a neurotic bitch who is lacking in confidence. I know that I'm in need of constant reassurance and support. I know it and yet... there it is anyways. The filters are off, and all that is visible is the raw ugliness of my insecurities.

To those of you who I am talking about in that last paragraph- I'm sorry. I love you. And we all know that this will pass. Eventually. Until then- blah blah blah. Feel free to kick my ass (and know that when you do, I'll probably cry in a corner and wonder if you still love me. hahahaha. but seriously. I will.)

I've tried to distract myself with playlisting (worked for about 20 minutes... though I now have a seriously kick ass playlist!)... working out (and now my arms are toast)... relaxing in the hottub (only ended up overthinking life, love AND running)... and now blogging.

I know the cure for this insanity. 26.2 miles of pure adrenaline. Pain. Endurance. And seeing what this body can do- again. 26.2 miles to reflect on the batshit insanity until there is nothing left but a pure and clean soul. Running for 4.5 hours has a way of leaving you that way.

12 days until the OC Marathon. 12 more days of taper insanity.

I'm so f*cked.

Tucson Half Marathon- Race Report

Welcome to Tucson!

It's been a while since my last race report... even though between my triathlon and Tucson, I had two other halfs (American Discovery Trail Half- 2:18 and Long Beach Half- 2:18)... both were disastrous, and to be honest, I had no real desire to hash them out, and break down what went wrong. 

Given those craptastic races, I knew going into Tucson that I wanted redemption. To prove to myself that I'm a better runner than my last two races showed me to be. 

The trip didn't start off auspiciously... I knew I had to be up early to make my flight- and in my infinite wisdom, I failed to turn my alarm ON. Thank God, I have a natural tendency to wake up when I need to, and was only half an hour behind. Still... when you have a 75 minute drive to the airport, minutes matter, and I knew I'd be cutting it close. Or so I thought. I *ahem*, have a bit of a lead foot... and the 75 minute drive took me 60 minutes to do. Huh? What? Nothing to see here... 

Friday was all hanging out in Phoenix- shopping, kicking back, and enjoying family. Resting. Keeping my mind clear of any and all distractions (something that has always been a terrible problem for me...)

Saturday afternoon we finally headed out to Tucson. Let me be honest here... the drive from Phoenix to Tucson was like a trip through the butthole of the Southwest. Ugly may be an understatement. YAY for good music and even better conversation. :)

Oh... and Tucson? Your race expo sucked donkey wieners  you may want to have volunteers who aren't assnuggets. K? Thanks. Switching from the full to half involved a pissed off old dude who acted put out for having to help me, and the teens sitting with the shirts were worse. Wheeeeee. 

But hey! The view was nice!

Finally, we got to the hotel (a whole 'nother skanky adventure... note to self- NEVER go cheap when you're only staying one night... lesson learned.), and then hit Carrabas for a carb loading feast. One last run to pick up Gatorade, a banana and a powerbar for breakfast, and then we were back in the room for some sleep. Let me say now that whatever race nerves may plague me, falling asleep (and staying asleep) are never issues for me before my races. I was asleep by 8:30, no issues. 

We were up again by 4:30 am, and after eating my breakfast and drinking some Gatorade, we were on our way to the bus drop to take me up the mountain to the race start. (Did I mention the Biosphere is up that way? No? Well, it is. Cool, huh? Yeah, well... it's about the only cool thing out that way, so work with me here!) I slept again on the way up the mountain, and when we got there, it was COLD and pitch black out. I drank some water, some more gatorade, and hit the porta potties (three times, actually). About 30 minutes before the race, I did a warm up run, and on the way back up to the starting line, was blessed to see this: 

A simultaneous moonset and sunrise over the desert mountains... breathtakingly lovely.

The race started uneventfully. I knew there was a slight uphill to start, so I had a hard time hitting my assigned warm up pace of 9:35- I was kind of all over the place the first mile. Once we started the downhill, I hit my pace, and held it for the assigned three miles. I took water at each stop, and at the 30 minute mark, took my first Gu. (the water and Gu are important... previously I was a 60 minute, and every other water stop kind of runner...)

Miles 3-10 were an assigned 9:25 pace. I found myself holding it, and letting my mind wander. Things like... wow, this is a narrow course (we ran on the shoulders); holy crap, don't twist your ankles on those pay-attention grooves; did that guy wink, or does he have sweat in his eye; oooh, pancakes, yeah, I want pancakes; etc, etc, blah blah blah. Seriously. My mind was everywhere BUT my run. Which is good... and bad because when I looked down, I was running at a 9:00 pace, and my average pace was down low. Too low. I started to panic. Tried to slow down a little. Slowed down too much. Couldn't find my pace again. At mile 11, the constant barrage of rolling hills was getting to me on all levels, and when the first real hill hit, I fell apart. Walked up the hill. Then couldn't reactivate my legs. Mile 11 saw me going down to an 11:54 pace for the mile. WTF. 

Then my race angel found me. Some random runner chatting me up. Asking if I was ok (I was crying). When I told him I was close to a PR, he gently, but clearly told me to HTFU and move my ass. So I did. Pushed through the pain, and by mile 12, found my legs again. Hit a second nasty hill just after the mile marker, and walked again. And heard him telling me to move, move, move. So I did. 

And by mile 12.5, I KNEW that a PR was doable. So I pushed. And pushed. And pushed to the puke threshold all the way to the end. 

New PR, BABY, yeah! Chip time was actually a 2:07:14!

Bib, bling, and kick ass arm sleeves!

Old PR- 2:08:33... new PR- 2:07:14!! OMG! HELL YES! I've had the old PR so long, I was starting to wonder if it was a hump I wasn't going to be able to get over... but thanks to some last minute coaching, a lot of heart, and a sweet race angel, I did it!

Holy shit. I did it. I have another goal in mind for my next half. But for now? I'm going to enjoy this PR and now even mention the next one. Merry Christmas to me- thank you Santa, for getting me the PR I asked for!

Confessions of a carboholic...

Hello, my name is Alicia, and I am addicted to carbs. It has been 2 days since my last carb-binge.

No. Seriously. I love carbs. To my horrific detriment, I might add.

Bread, pasta, wine, beer, potatoes, fruit, desserts (ALL desserts)... you name it, I love it. I could eat carbs all day, every day and be just fine. And for a girl who doesn't eat much, that is saying a LOT.

I've never really given my addiction much thought beyond how wonderful running is in that I'm allowed to carb LOAD before long runs. How awesome is that?

Well. It WAS awesome. Until I went to see my doc about an aching hip (a topic for another blog post, but let's leave it at- the hip has me sidelined for 10 days and in PT indefinitely...), and because of a weight gain, resulted in my blood sugars being tested.

All I can say about the result is, WTF?!?!

The numbers, despite being on meds, were not good. That, in combination with my slowly growing ass lead my doctor to lay down an awful prescription. Three words that I was hoping I wouldn't hear anytime soon...

Low. Carb. Diet.

She might as well have told me to go easy on the air. I know you low carb, paleo, atkins people are rolling your eyes. Roll them all you want. I didn't realize how deeply addicted to the carbs I was until she told me to lay low on them.

But, I'll be honest, my performance at my last two half marathons was terribly disappointing. And I know I felt heavy, sluggish and out of sorts. Getting confirmation from the doc that I am, indeed, heavy and out of sorts was bad. And good. At least it's not all in my head.

So, I weighed (literally) my desire to be better, smaller, faster against wanting bread, pasta or sweets. And in the end, it wasn't even close.

So, yesterday I jumped off of the cliff and went low carb. Protein. Veggies. And... fruit (1 serving) and quinoa. Yes. Carbs. But ones that she said I can do in small portions.

Today... road trip. Not as solid of a low carb day, but still MUCH lower than I was doing. And I was conscious of my choices. Considered the carbs I was sticking in my mouth. And stood in the gas station, staring at the candy. Fairly sure I drooled, but... I behaved. Walked away. And damn near cried.

Pathetic. But... a victory none the less.

Tomorrow? Day 3. It's getting harder. And easier. But... I'm a marathoner. And if I can do 4 of those, I can do anything.

My name is Alicia, and I am addicted to carbs. God help me.

Hey, fat girl...

Hey, Fat Girl. 

Yes, you. The one feigning to not see me when we cross paths on the running track. The one not even wearing sports gear, breathing heavy. You’re slow, you breathe hard and your efforts at moving forward make you cringe. 

You cling shyly to the furthest corridor, sometimes making larger loops on the gravel ring by the track just so you’re not on it. You sweat so much that your hair is all wet. You rarely stay for more than 20 minutes at a time, and you look exhausted when you leave to go back home. You never talk to anyone. I’ve got something I’d like to say to you. 

You are awesome. If you’d look me in the eye only for an instant, you would notice the reverence and respect I have for you. The adventure you have started is tremendous; it leads to a better health, to renewed confidence and to a brand new kind of freedom. The gifts you will receive from running will far exceed the gigantic effort it takes you to show up here, to face your fears and to bravely set yourself in motion, in front of others.

You have already begun your transformation. You no longer accept this physical state of numbness and passivity. You have taken a difficult decision, but one that holds so much promise. Every hard breath you take is actually a tad easier than the one before, and every step is ever so slightly lighter. Each push forward leaves the former person you were in your wake, creating room for an improved version, one that is stronger, healthier and forward-looking, one who knows that anything is possible.

You’re a hero to me. And, if you’d take off the blaring headphones and put your head up for more than a second or two, you would notice that the other runners you cross, the ones that probably make you feel so inadequate, stare in awe at your determination. They, of all people, know best where you are coming from. They heard the resolutions of so
many others, who vowed to pick up running and improve their health, “starting next week”. Yet, it is YOU who runs alongside, who digs from deep inside to find the strength to come here, and to come back again.

You are a runner, and no one can take that away from you. You are relentlessly moving forward. You are stronger than even you think, and you are about to be amazed by what you can do. One day, very soon, maybe tomorrow, you’ll step outside and marvel at your capabilities. You will not believe your own body, you will realize that you can do this. And a new horizon will open up for you. You are a true inspiration.

I bow to you.

(taken from @I Love to Run on facebook...)