What I’m Loving – May 2018

Devon Yanko

Anything I can read or listen to about her! Specifically her Hoka One One ad

“My life has not been super easy. People like to define you very specifically by events and they extrapolate out your whole life from it. Being sexually abused is not the story of my life. It’s not necessarily what made me strong; I was strong before that and because of that strength I was able to survive that.

When I was in that situation it was really complex and if I didn’t have the ability to say anything or talk about what was going on in my life I could literally go exhaust myself by running as hard as possible. It helped me separate from everything else that was going on in my life and it just gave me a break.

I had to fight really hard to be who I am today and I faced it and I feel like that’s how I want to face the world. Light and dark are part of our lives and you have to hold them with the same levity because you’re going to go through those things. 

Running is a perfect metaphor for life…you will see me crying and being like ‘I don’t think I can keep going’ and then like 30 miles later I’m like happy go lucky, ‘gonna crush it’ and that’s what I love about it. I love that all of those things can exist together. ”

I wrote a post about what running means to me Here but after I heard this I just thought, “What was the point of trying to explain it in my own words when she said it in a more meaningful way?” I just love that people feel the same way as I do. It’s like we all go to the church of running.

If you don’t know much about her you should watch the documentary Western States 100 on Youtube about a 100 mile race in California. Devon is an ultra marathoner and a very positive person. You can also read her blog. I am excited to listen to her interview with Tina Muir on the Running for Real podcast during my run tomorrow.

Vicki Carr – It must be him

I discovered this song in high school and it’s amazing. The song is about a woman waiting for a phone call. Pretty simple. There aren’t many lyrics, just a lot of “OH DEAR GOD” and “I SHALL DIE”. I recently tried to explain to my husband what it means to be “extra” and this song is basically the perfect example in song format. Go listen!

I don’t come across this song often, but I was watching Live From Lincoln Center with Andrew Rannells in concert (Elijah from GIRLS) and he had it on his set list. It was so fun. Plus that concert is the only time I’ve enjoyed listening to “Born to Run”.

This Old House in Charleston

I am a huge nerd when it comes to watching This Old House. I’ve always been fascinated by the guys and how they carry themselves, so I’m willing to watch even if they’re doing a super boring house or working with a home owner who has god-awful taste.

At one point I thought about quitting college and just becoming a carpenter because they made it look so worthwhile to work with your hands and do a job well. I know now that would’ve been a horrible idea because I hate to problem solve all day every day and working as a contractor you gotta be good at that.

Tyler and I recently travelled to Charleston for the Cooper River Bridge Run and we were loving all the architecture. Now I’ve discovered the show is in Charleston and is working on multiple properties!

I basically swooned when they went to the American College of the Building Arts and showed me this beautiful plaster work some students were creating:

This old house 1This old house 2

David Austin Roses

I have big plans for the landscape at my house and I also love to collect beautiful things. For years I’ve been getting the catalog for David Austin roses. David Austin is a horticulturist who specializes in traditional English roses. I love every rose he has created because they are usually full like a peony bloom and beautifully fragrant. Each rose has a fancy name too and since I’m an anglophile I’m such a sucker for that.

I got this rose for my Mother’s Day present and I plan to add another bush each year. This is Carding Mill:

carding mill rose

Oprah Super Soul Podcast – Jack Kornfield: Buddhism 101

I am not ashamed to admit that I love Oprah’s podcast. A part of me thinks it’s so cliche to be part of the throng of Oprah lovers, but she is so positive and curious and strong that it was impossible for me not to see how awesome she is. Each time I listen to the podcast I feel uplifted.

A lot of the podcasts where she talks about spirituality ring so true for me. I’ve been thinking really hard about life and my part in the cosmos and this podcast in particular was a perfect match for what’s been going through my mind.

PLEASE listen to this one, even if you already follow a religion. I feel that if we were all to practice some of the principles they discuss our world would be a much more peaceful place. Be curious!

The New Yorker

So many times I’m just shocked by what good writing and curious minds can bring to me through this magazine. They can even make an article on stink bugs interesting:

Across the country, vineyards are facing a double threat, because brown marmorated stink bugs eat both grapes and grapevines. Worse, they tend to migrate to the center of grape clusters late in the season, then get harvested along with them. According to one study, the threshold for detecting a flavor change in grape juice is twenty-five stink bugs per thirty five pouds of Conord grapes. On the plus side, or something, evidence suggests that fermentation makes it somewhat more difficult to notice the taste of crused stinkbugs in wine.

Home Invasion by Kathryn Schulz

Date night

It’s been a long time since Tyler and I went out for a date night. For his birthday we arranged a babysitter and we were going to go to a minor league baseball game. Then it rained. We kinda hemmed and hawed about where we were going to eat and what we were going to do for fun and all the indecision was making me cranky.

Then I brought my mind back to the whole point of the damn thing, which was quality time. Even if we went to the same restaurant we always go to and didn’t do anything particularly date-night-y, that’d be just fine because we’d be paying attention to one another without distractions.

It. Was. Fantastic. We got to talk about so much and my favorite part was talking about my dreams. I’d like to write a book and I already have an idea for that so we were talking through it a bit. He likes to say I should just take my journals from my teen years and type them up because he’s sure I’d be interesting enough for a young adult novel. That’s so romantic that he thinks I’m that interesting. A book is gonna take a lot more work than that, but I can’t wait to do it so he can be proud of me 🙂

 

That’s my list. Hope you came across some things that you LOVE LOVE LOVED too.

What Camden’s Loving – May 2018 books

Camden is now 2 1/2 and I feel like I’m making great head-way in training him to love reading. Since he started sleeping in his own room we’ve been reading three books to him each night before bed. We always end with Goodnight Moon.

Probably shortly before Camden turned 2 he began asking to read books during playtime. He is willing to play toys by himself sometimes, but when the option of one on one time is available, he likes to have all of your attention. I think this is why he loves to sit and read books with us.

To introduce him to books during playtime, we started with touch and feel books until he was about 1 year old, then graduated to the Karen Katz lift the flap books like “Buzz, Buzz, Baby” and “Where’s Baby’s Bellybutton”. These work for any kids!

For his first birthday I bought him some Bizzy Bear books by Benji Davies:

bizzy bear deep sea diver

bizz bear demo

At 1 year old his little fingers weren’t yet strong enough to push the sliders, but he loved to watch mommy do it and is still interested in the books. (The video and pictures of Cam are recent so 2 1/2 years old) There are very few words with these stories, but the rhyming and the moving parts make them very exciting for early readers.

Most of my favorite books to read to Camden are rhyming because what’s more adorable than that? Books for bedtime are more likely to rhyme. One of the books he’s loving right now that is written with a great rhythm and some rhyming is:

The Pizza that We Made by Joan Holub and Lynne Avril Cravath

the pizza that we made

Because I want to provide him with a wide variety of books and topics we are not afraid to grab books that are way above his age recommendation. Some people might avoid these early reader books assuming they’ll be too long for a pre-reader. I actually think they are easier to grab without thinking than most hard back books because I know they won’t be too wordy. This one is great because it actually has a plot instead of some books where it’s just “Look out!” and “Brian is sad.”

I picked this next one out because brain washing is always a good idea:

Hooray for Books by Brian Won

hooray for books

Turtle knows he leant his favorite book to someone and has to go around to his friends to ask them. I love the message that it’s ok to like one type of book a lot, but if you try others it might be really fun! Everybody in the book loves to read, thus the brainwashing.

Puppy Parade by Jill Abramson and Jane O’Connor

puppy parade

In this book Scout is participating in a parade while hoping to win a prize for best tail or fur, etc. Scout narrates in first person and there’s enough emotion to read the story dramatically. The illustrations are really cute and so is the way Camden says the title.

The Littlest Train by Chris Gall

the littlest train

Camden is not insanely obsessed with trains, but like most little boys I know he has a solid interest in them. Lately this has been the book he asks to read over and over and over again. The littlest train falls off his train table and decides to explore. He gets homesick and wants to find his way back so other trains help to carry him home.

I love how it is illustrated. The author is the creator of Dino Trux which started as a book but was developed by Dreamworks into the show you can find on Netflix. The layout of the pictures has a distinctive comic book feel.

I do not love the way it is written. It feels like the illustrations were drawn, much like a story board is done first, and then there was an attempt to write the book around them. The plot is disjointed in places. In the beginning of the book it seems like “Mr. Fingers” will be the villain of the book, but at the end we find out he is the little boy who loves the train enough to miss him while he’s lost.

I’ve made a list of other books about trains that we’ll be working through in the next months so I’m sure you’ll see more of those on Camden’s list of books he’s loving right now.

 

Hope is the thing with feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers

I am late to the Instagram game because I’m not the type of person who likes to take selfies. Until recently I used Facebook as a way to stay connected to family and friends. In my short time using it, I’ve come to see that Instagram is a great way to connect with a community.

I love that I’ve found people who UNDERSTAND PERFECTLY what running means to me.

I love it that I’ve found people who are also grieving the loss of a brother.

I love it that I’ve found people who inspire me to be strong.

Another way I’ve been enjoying connecting with people’s stories is through Podcasts. One of the podcasts I listen to is “Ali on the Run” and this week I listened to an episode where Ali interviewed a reproductive endocrinologist, Meggie Smith. Through the conversation Meggie was able to recommend a documentary called “One More Shot” (which is available on Netflix).

“One More Shot” follows a couple, Noah and Maya Grobel Moskin, through their struggle with infertility. They have been trying to get pregnant for several years and it’s just not happening. Maya has limited egg reserves in her ovaries and their first try at IVF does not produce any embryos the Doctor believe should be implanted. The rest of the documentary follows their decision making process on where to go from there and also weaves some other people’s stories in.

I have also struggled with infertility. (I wrote a little about it here)

It’s hard for me to write that sentence after talking a bit about what Noah and Maya had to go through. I feel unable to stop myself from quantifying my time struggling with their time struggling. They endured the rollercoaster for 5 years. I only had to endure 6 months of infertility treatments. However, we have both been through the same emotions, the same frustrations.

In fact, as I began watching the documentary it triggered some memories and emotions from our time that had me crying hysterically when my husband came home from work yesterday. He asked, “What’s wrong?!” and all I could say was “I made a mistake”, haha. He said I scared the crap out of him. We joked about what ‘mistake’ I could’ve made according to where his brain went. I said, “You should’ve just assumed I scratched the car since that’s my M.O.” He said, “Yeah, or I expected you to be like ‘The engine fell out of the car on the highway and I had the tow truck bring it to the garage so I wouldn’t have to tell you what happend.”

The mistake I made was watching the documentary before emotionally preparing myself. Ever since writing my previous blog post I’ve been thinking a lot about when and how and why we will risk going through that whole thing again for another child. There’s uncertainty and there’s a little bit of PTSD allowing yourself to go back to those feelings.

With that being said, no matter where you’re at, I think this documentary is well worth watching.  I can tell you how hard it was, but I can’t show you. I am too embarrased to spell out IUI but they were willing to make jokes about the porn in the men’s private time room.

**Spoiler Alert** So now I wanna talk about some things I loved about the documentary. If I’ve made you want to watch it at all you should go do so before you keep reading. Or maybe you’re the type of person who is gonna Google Noah and Maya halfway through anyway to see if they ever get their baby and if so, heck, keep reading, haha.

First off, I just want to say I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE who took the pregnancy test too soon and had that experience. I paused the documentary, rewound and walked my ipad over to my husband so that he could see Maya say “Maybe there’s still a chance. I mean is there a line?” [pause] Noah: “It’s faint” Maya: “But there’s a line?!”

Oh my god. That was almost my exact same experience, right down to the Dr letting me come in for a blood test only to tell me I was “Kinda pregnant”.

Second part I loved so much was the retrospective commentary from Noah and Maya where Maya is trying to put a positive spin on why they’ve had to suffer through all this. She says, ” I feel like we’ve learned our lessons. I feel like we’ve learned the lessons of being patient and of not getting too ahead of yourself. Of being in the moment with whatever is.” Then Noah says, “I don’t need any new life lessons, though. Like, I don’t think this is teaching us anything anymore. I got enough f*cking life lessons to last me three lifetimes.” PREACH BROTHER! Oh my god. That feeling of wanting to lift your middle fingers in the air.

Even though it doesn’t make sense, so many times during an infertility struggle you find yourself railing against how unfair it is. I want a baby so badly and this person can accidentally get pregnant so easy when a baby is the last thing she WANTS. I did the responsible thing and saved and planned so that our baby will be well provided for. I dream and long for this baby and I’ve suffered enough, when do I get my peace?

Even when Maya and Noah finally get pregnant, they have such difficulty with the pregnancy, they’re so worried they’s miscarry.

M: “I’m scared. It has a heartbeat.”

N: “You heard it right?”

M: “I don’t want it to die.”

Who else was talking to their screen when this happened? I was murmuring loving thoughts throughout the whole thing, but there were so much more during this particular scene.

So… let’s talk about why I named this post “Hope is the thing with feathers”. The quote is from an Emily Dickinson poem:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

and sings the tune without the words 

and never stops at all

I love a story where hope prevails. So many times in life we have to struggle to be strong in order to make it to that point where our hope has been vindicated. It is the single most terrifying thing to acknowledge that sometimes hope is not enough.

I think the two most natural and common hopes that people have are to find a partner who understands and loves them and then through that love, create a family. There is a beauty in carrying your own child. The feeling of a baby’s kick, hearing the fetal heartbeat and knowing your body is sustaining that, and riding the waves of pain through labor–these are all things that I wanted to experience.

But the most common craving I had was to hold a baby and know that they were mine.

For me personally, I think I would be able to feel this way about a child who was not biologically mine or carried by my body and this is why I was open to the idea of adoption. Still, I prayed that I would not have to turn to that option because of all the risk of pain. It would be painful to wait, and wait and wait. At least with infertility cycles there are steps to complete and concrete results–you are either pregnant or not each month.

There is a woman in the documentary who decided adoption was worth the risk and she and her husband were matched with a birth mother. She talked about her anxiety for their first meeting, saying things like “What if she doesn’t like us?” Oh, that fear! Which is worse, fear or disappointment? 

I have a bit of guilt in spending any money on fertility treatments. I have the love to give and I’d love it to go to a child who needs a home, but this takes so much bravery! It takes bravery, strength and hope in large supply.

An infertility struggle goes: hope – disappointment – hope – disappointment – hope

The amount you allow yourself to hope is controlled (at least at the beginning) since you have a monthly cycle to work with. With adoption, unless you are a person with insane self control your hope keeps growing and growing. Who wouldn’t think “This is really happening?!” when finally matched? Who wouldn’t think, “This is my baby!” when they hold them for the first time? Something opens in your heart that can’t be controlled.

I just don’t feel like I could take the loss if my birth mother decided to change their mind. It’s like agreeing to try to become pregnant after being told there’s a pretty good chance your baby will be stillborn or pass away within the first year. It takes so much to be that brave.

I loved how the documentary so perfectly shows that a long, protracted struggle with infertility can also make it harder to control the hope in your heart. As the stakes get higher you just can’t help yourself.  This is what drove me the most crazy. You know you should modulate your emotions as if it were just another try, but you just can’t.

This is where community is so important. A casual acquaintance can’t know the struggle because they are not walking the steps with you. Blogging and podcasts and even Instagram will allow us all to put our stories out there and find someone who just GETS IT. The best part is that even if it’s still too raw for you to put your story out there, just reading other’s stories will be enough to help a little bit.

If you’re IN THE TRENCHES right now, I want you to know that if I could, I’d be murmuring loving encouragement while watching your story too. I know you can be brave and strong. Though a happy ending is not guaranteed, life is a series of these struggles that will not be easy to get through. There WILL be good times again. Treat yourself with love and kindness and find some things that make your soul feel happy.

Above all, never give up on the thing with feathers.

Half Marathon Training update-4 weeks in

training

After finishing “Brain Trainging for Runners” by Matt Fitzgerald I put together a training plan for four weeks. I wrote it all out and I was PERFECT through two weeks. Then I got sick. Yes, that May training log is accurate. Not a single damn workout in the last 12 days! GAH.

What started as a sinus infection went to infected lymph nodes and now my body is expecting an afternoon nap each day. My legs are itching for a run, but between Mother’s Day and early birthday celebrations for my husband, I don’t know if I’ll have any free time this weekend.

I am most disappointed because I was going to do a fitness test after the first four weeks and was hoping to see some improvement.

I’m trying to tell myself it’s no big deal for it to happen now because I am still MONTHS away from race day, but after my disappointing race in April I really want the next one to be a confidence booster.

If time trials go well in the next two or so months I might sign up for a random local 5k or maybe Tyler and I will do a virtual 5k.

 

Mother’s Day after Infertility

Mother’s Day after Infertility

This Mother’s Day I am reflecting on the time when I was desperately waiting to call myself a mother.

reward for everything right

I have Hashimoto’s Thyroid disease meaning I need to regulate my thyroid hormones with medication. I also have PCOS because of a condition called CAH. This means that my hormones are not balanced and so I knew before we even started trying to get pregnant that I might have issues.

Without normal periods it can be hard to know when your fertile periods are. I used basal body temperature charting in our first months to help with this.

It probably didn’t help that I was already very impatient. My husband and I had decided to reach a financial goal before getting pregnant. I watched our progress closely and obsessed on Pinterest re: everything baby.

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mom. Even in college, when I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I was letting my decisions be affected by the expectation of motherhood. One of the reasons I chose to become a paralegal instead of law school was so that I could have the flexibility to stay home with my kids.

I think we tried for about six months before deciding we needed to have a consultation with a fertility specialist. As part of the consultation my reproductive endocrinologist ran a full workup via blood work. This was the first time that I found out about the PCOS and CAH. Despite these issues, my Dr. was confident she could help us get pregnant.

The process of starting to work with a fertility doctor can be nerve wracking. The initial consultation is free but we had to have a meeting with the office manager before we could move forward with the process in order to have the expenses explained. Each round of treatment (each month) would cost at minimum $2,500.

I worried about how long it would take to get pregnant. Our funds were not endless. In fact, we had already decided to adopt instead of trying IVF because the cost can be comparable. However, with the monthly cost a full year of attempts would get us up to that amount pretty quickly too. I loved the idea of adopting, but I wasn’t sure I could handle the uncertainty and the waiting during the process. I was having a hard time letting go of the experience of being pregnant too.

We were lucky that my Dr. was literally next door to my job and they had early morning appointments as well, so we didn’t need to miss much work. For my first month my Dr. decided to start me on Clomid, probably about 2.5 MG. We monitored my follicle development in my ovaries via ultrasound. Based on follicle development and hormone levels measured through blood tests, we were able to determine my fertile window. Tyler and I tried to get pregnant the old fashioned way, but the monthly package also included the cost of IUI and we decided we should take advantage of this.

Like the many months before, I was unable to keep myself from getting my hopes up. We would say, “Wouldn’t it be great if this was all we needed, a little medication!?” We were entering the holidays and I was getting so sentimental about sharing the next Christmas with my baby.

Unfortunately, I had to deal with a negative pregnancy test once again. The next month we tried the Clomid at 5.0 MG, then the next month at 7.5 MG.

It was hard. Really hard. Each month of an infertility struggle you allow yourself to hope. It’s like applying to the college you’ve wanted to go to since you were 8 and receiving a rejection over and over and over again. A groundhog day of rejection.

I was eating healthy and exercising, but beyond that, there wasn’t anything else I could DO to make my body cooperate. I listened to a lot of John Mayer “War of my Life” and Coldplay “Fix You”. I started to cry as we talked to my doctor about the frustration and I think that prompted her to try something new for the next cycle.

She explained that since I was not having a period in between each cycle I was not actually ovulating the mature eggs we were tracking. She suggested we try doing a shot of hormones which would signal my body to actually release the egg in addition to the Clomid.

Tyler administered the shot for me. We had to inject my abdomen near my ovaries. For good luck, he wore the rubber band which had been around the package on his wrist. At the ultrasound to track my follicles the Dr. had said my uterine lining looked great. We were crossing our fingers.

The mind twisting two weeks of waiting passed and according to the package I was able to take a pregnancy test. I SHOULD have waited another day or two, but don’t people know life is SHORT?! I woke up and did my thing to get the test going then climbed back in bed with Tyler. I had him set his alarm for three minutes and then asked him to take a look. I didn’t wanna be the one to see a negative test again. He was in there for a couple full minutes and not saying anything. Then he said, “I THINK I see a second line. I THINK.” I yelled “WHAT!?” and ran to join him in the bathroom. He was right, there was just the faintest line indicating positive.

pregnancy announcement

We laughed to keep from crying. We thought it was just perfect irony that after such a struggle to get pregnant we would be robbed of that “We’re pregnant!” moment. I guess I shouldn’t say robbed since it was my own impatient fault… I asked my Dr. if I could have a blood test done to confirm. She let me go in for the blood test, but she was SOOOO annoyed. I get it. It’s a tough position to be in for a Dr. because it was too early to rule out the fact that it might be a false positive due to the Clomid drugs. They called me with the results but all they would say was, “The blood tests indicate you may be pregnant.”

Um…hello? That’s not more info than I already had. They probably should’ve just been blunt with me and told me I wouldn’t know for sure for another couple days. I waited two days and took another test and this one was for sure positive. Tyler and I took the day off to celebrate. We drove to King of Prussia in Philadelphia so we could go to Pottery Barn Kids and have a large selection of baby stores.

We got to announce our pregnancy to my parents on my Mom’s birthday. She and I cried because it had also been hard for her to watch us go through the struggle. We announced the pregnancy to Tyler’s parents before they drove us to the airport for our trip to Costa Rica. I was so happy to be able to take my baby along with us.

costa rica

On all the amazing adventures we were able to experience in Costa Rica, I had the added joy of being able to remind myself of the beautiful blessing I was carrying with me.

Morning sickness kicked in on the day we were due to leave, and continued through the 24 hours we were stuck in the airport, haha.

Even with morning sickness, I loved everything about being pregnant. Giving birth was the single greatest day of my life. The struggle was difficult but it taught me some things about my own strength. It increased my ability to be grateful for every moment with my baby. Having gone through that fire I know I can endure hard things.

Camden is a charming and loving boy. He loves me so much and he tells me so. He is everything I dreamed about and more! He frequently asks “Mommy, BIG HUG!” like he did in this picture.

hug.png

I have to admit, I am fearful to enter that struggle again for our next child. My husband and I want to have a more joyful experience next time trying to get pregnant. We want to be chill and let things be for a longer period of time. My husband isn’t quite ready yet.

The problem is, I’m already starting to feel the itch to meet my next baby. I can’t get pregnant now because I’m not done focusing on some personal growth. I want to be able to train for my half marathon in September without morning sickness and fatigue. Am I making the right decision? Am I robbing us of several months of low key trying but not trying to have a baby?

I guess we’ll have to see.

 

 

 

5 Easy Steps for Weight Loss Don’t Exist

Losing weight is hard. I have made this handy graph as a visual representation of why I am no authority on advice for losing weight.

weight graph

In case that wasn’t compelling enough, look at how much my body has changed:

weight-e1523996808281.jpg

I follow some great sites for workouts and healthy inspiration. Frequently they will run a story with the headline, “5 Steps to finally lose the last 10 pounds” or “5 Ways to finally change your body”. Sometimes I think “Click bait!!!”

Everybody knows what they have to do. What I’m interested in is why we don’t always do it. Yes, you may be able to organize a list, but unless “FIGURE OUT YOUR SHIT” is on that list, it’s not gonna work for you.

When you lose a good portion of your body weight people ask you, “What did you do?” The answer for me has always been, exercise and eat right. It feels good to hear their admiration—as if I’m someone who figured out a secret they don’t know yet.

About  a year and a half ago I decided I needed to lose weight in order to have enough energy to be a good mom. I got up every morning at 5:00 am to ride on my recumbent bike and watch reality tv or read. I had a calendar for the month and I had a pack of gold stars. My goal was to create a streak of 30 days where I had a star on each day. I had to prove to myself I could do it. Once again, I lost 30 lbs.

I DO know how to lose weight, but I’m also pretty good at gaining it too.

Every time I’ve gained weight, I’ve been going through some difficult stuff. I use food to cope and I spend all my free time in the company of my husband and my books. Nothing about that is so bad. It’s just imperfect.

This year I’ve been AMAZED by the progress I’ve made with running. I set goals and I accomplish them. My body can DO great things, so why do I still care so much about what it looks like?

Last weekend I was on a #runcation with my husband. We were going to run a 10k, a goal I had set that terrified me. You have to understand that when you’ve never been able to push past 3 miles in your workouts, doubling that distance sounds like a feat that will require morning, noon and night workouts and rock hard abs.

It didn’t take quite that much work (although I could’ve been better if I had accomplished those things too). I knew I had what it takes to run 6.2 miles. In training I had run 9 miles. This weekend was supposed to be my celebration. “You did it Sarah! You worked towards this and now it’s here.”

But I look at the pictures we took and I criticize my body. I say “You look so thin in the starting line picture and so swollen and whale-like in this one.” I say “Look at the spare tire around your waist! No one is going to even be looking at the cool boat you’re sitting on.”

I know these are horrible things to say to and about myself. I want to do what I know I SHOULD do, which is focus on what my body can do more than how it looks. I think the main reason I can’t is because I’m terrified that if I’m not vigilant—if I don’t watch the scale for any little uptick, if I don’t worry about losing more and lowering my body fat percentage—then I will gain it all back again and then what is all this work for?

Even the memories I’m creating of someone who is strong and determined… I would be too ashamed to reflect back on them because I’m ashamed to be fat again.

The truth is: I love myself even when I’m fat.

Being overweight is what I am, not who I am. The difference is, now I know that if I stay curious about how I’m processing my emotions and dealing with my struggles then I know I can try each day to be better.

This means that even if I have a lot of days strung together in which I don’t do so well at working towards that goal and I gain weight back again, the things I’m learning by PAYING ATTENTION and trying to be an impartial observer of my own life, those things will help me string together good days again.

You may be thinking (and you wouldn’t be wrong), “Yeah, but you’re not super fit, so the distance to fat isn’t that far off and you should be vigilant.” Guys, even super fit runners like Amanda Brooks (@runtothefinish) admit they are critical about their body after losing weight. Maybe she feels the same way.

Here’s the tough spot I’m in. I know my weight gain is related to me handling my life imperfectly. I also know that I will never be perfect. I could react by becoming a neurotic perfectionist and continue to strive for perfection. That’s not what my plan’s gonna be.

My plan is to be kind to myself because I’m trying to do my best. I’ll ask myself “Could you have been better today?” and if the answer is yes, I’ll try again tomorrow.

If we all try to do this maybe we will have a community of women who freaking love themselves instead of obsessing about what they would change to be perfect.

(Shout out to Pink!)

pink-billy-on-the-street-still-2

P.S. This pic is from a special episode of Billy on the Street called Billy in the Air. It’s amazing.

Cooper River Bridge Run 10k RECAP

Cooper River Bridge Run 10k RECAP

Last year I had set a goal that terrified me—run a 10k. You have to understand that when you’ve never been able to push past 3 miles in your workouts, doubling that distance sounds like a feat that will require morning, noon and night workouts and rock hard abs.

With the help of Runner’s World, I looked for races that fit my distance goal. Last year around this time we were in South Carolina for vacation. It was sunny and so much warmer than here in Harrisburg. We had been in Myrtle Beach, so when I read about the Cooper River Bridge Run, the chance to experience April in the south and also visit a new city was exciting.

In the interest of making it a budget friendly trip I used Air BNB to find reasonable rates. Did you know people rent house boats on there?! Well, we decided it’d be fun to stay on a house boat. My mom agreed to watch Camden, my two year old son, so that my husband and I could have a weekend away.

boat

crowded bridge

As you can see in the picture above, the race is very large. It caps at 40,000 people and since I’d never been in a race that large before I was worried about having to weave around a lot of people in order to get anywhere near my time goal. To prevent having to pass walkers, I needed to qualify for a running wave. That meant I had to have a qualifying time in a 5k of 30:00. (Thankfully this race allows you to qualify with a time for a shorter distance, generously assuming you will put in the work to be just as good in a longer distance at a future date.)

I had only run one race before, the Color Me Rad 5k race in Philadelphia several years ago. Color Me Rad is the cheaper step-sister of The Color Run. I didn’t specifically train for a time in that race and ended up walking a portion of it with my partner so that we could both enjoy the race. When we decided to sign up for the Cooper River Bridge Run it was already August. If I gave myself a couple months to prepare I thought I could get a qualifying time in November, in a Turkey Trot race.

(Stay tuned for recaps of these races)

Once Tyler and I qualified for the running wave it was time for me to start focusing on running longer. I added long runs to my weekends. In most cases I ran my long runs on the indoor track at my YMCA because I hate to run on the treadmill nowadays. The indoor track is 1/16th of a mile, so at minimum:

6 miles – 96 laps

8 miles – 128 laps

indoor track

Thank goodness for hand held clickers so I can just zone out. I found that long runs were best done listening to podcasts instead of music so that I would stay relaxed and keep to my slow pace. My favorites for running are “I’ll have another with Lindsey Hein” and “Oprah’s super soul podcast”.

Training was well-intentioned, but now as I look back on it I think I did too much moderate pace running and not enough 80/20. Many runners follow the 80/20 rule which is essentially that you do 80% of your running at an easy pace and 20% at a mix of moderate and high intensity.

You can read more about it here:

“>80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald

My break down was more 75% moderate, 25% easy and 0% high intensity. I was finding myself very fatigued as I piled on milage. I had enough energy to do 75 miles a month, then the next month was barely over 50 miles, then back up to 75. Partly this was due to stress of cold season with a toddler, but I think I may have been overtraining.

I used barre class and squats for strength training but I HATE to do core work, so in the weeks leading up to the race I knew I just hadn’t prepared to run fast. Doubling my 5k time was practically a moonshot. A brave goal was under 58:00 minutes, but I expected to be closer to 60:00.

I was really nervous I would disappoint myself. I kept evaluating my expectations. “Sarah, are you ok if you have to walk?” I thought the answer was no; I would be embarrassed and bawling at the finish if I couldn’t run the whole thing. In training I had been able to do a 9 mile run at slow pace so it was almost a given I would be able to run the whole way.

Truthfully, I just wanted to be happy. I wanted to be proud of whatever happened, so I tried to change my mindset. I put everything in perspective. I was so scared I’d never be brave enough to run more than three miles that I made a post on Facebook admitting to the world that it was something I dreamed of doing. Then I put in the work to do so. Bottom line, I was brave enough to TRY…even if I failed I decided it was all going to be about the experience.

I am so thankful I put the work in to focus on those things because the race was so much harder than I thought it would be. Sure, I saw pictures of the bridge. I knew we’d have to go up. BUT. I thought it would level out once we were up there and then we’d just coast downhill onto the flat road at the end…

I’m getting ahead of myself! After all, this WAS a vacation in addition to being a race. Our drive was 10 hours. TEN! Still, they were ten hours where we were only responsible for ourselves. Music, reading, podcasts with no interruptions? That’s worth the mild discomfort of being stuck in a car.

We arrived at the marina around 2:00 pm to scope out our boat. The manager was there and let us check in early. I parked myself pretty quickly on the deck and started to enjoy the sun and the sea breeze. Conveniently (or perversely, whichever) we could see the very bridge we would be running. Tyler kept staring at it with heavy trepidation.

boat deck

We relaxed for about half an hour, but the trip was so short because of all the travelling time so we had to force ourselves to get going and check off our sightseeing goals. The rental came with access to bikes and we decided to try to take them out. I have not ridden a bike since I was 8 years old. Leaving the marina we were able to ride them on the road safely and with extra room to spare. I felt like I was flying. A bike is so fun if you aren’t nervous. Add a busy road to cross, and a girl who is not confident nor coordinated enough to ride on a sidewalk and it’s a recipe for disaster. Tyler was afraid I’d break a toe and my race would be a no-go so we took the bikes back and drove into the heart of downtown Charleston.

There was a temptation to try to get glorious pics of Charleston like you’d see at www.galmeetsglam.com for my Instagram page, but ultimately I decided not to bug Tyler to take pictures of me posing and instead just hold his hand and point out things we both thought were cool about the houses. In exchange he tamped down his desire to pull them all up on Zillow to see how much they’d sell for.

touring charleston

Ooo you get a peek of my Oofos sandals—we created a product review of these which will be coming soon!

We spent about an hour walking the streets and loved it, but it was dinner time. I knew the restaurants on Broad Street would be really busy, so I wanted to try a place closer to the boat since we’d be finished eating around 8. Our Air BNB host had recommended Edmund’s Oast, but we wanted a place less swanky. I found Taco Boy online and we had some pretty amazing tacos there.

taco boy

Once we got back to the boat after dinner we decided to call it a night and try to get some rest. Tyler slept perfectly well, but I did not. I gave myself an hour before we left the boat Saturday morning-race day-to fuel with Orange Juice and Superhero Muffins I’d made ahead of time.

You can get the recipe here:

Run Fast Eat Slow – Superhero Muffins

We had about 1.5 miles to walk to get to our shuttle location. We had timed it the night before so we were not in too much of a hurry. The plan was to jog some of the distance anyway to warm up our muscles. As part of the info on the Air BNB rental we were warned that the train which crosses the road leaving the marina will blow it’s horn before it crosses usually giving you 5 minutes or so to get the heck out of there. The horn blew just as we were leaving the boat. “Oh crap!” I thought. By the time we got to the road we saw the train was already blocking our exit. Luckily before we could panic, the last car came into view. We could have missed the entire race because the bridge closes at 7:00 am (hello, the race IS the bridge).

The shuttles were loaded quickly, but once we were dropped off at the corrals we had to weave through the crowds to get to the front. I don’t want to brag or anything…but since I had planned so far ahead to enter the race we were the first wave for our time slot. There was SOME pleasure in passing people with “J” bibs and thinking “Outta my way, I’m headed to ‘A’ beetches.”

start line

The crowds were a blessing because it took my mind off of worries I would’ve had standing around in the corral. Instead we spent only about 15 minutes waiting. I thought there would be at least 5 minutes between the waves, but they walked us up to the start line only 2 or 3 minutes after the first runners took off. I started to cry.

I was so proud of myself. I was really excited to see what I could do. I was so freaking grateful for the opportunity to experience it all.

Tyler’s training was, shall we say, minimal. He was going to be my official race photographer and videographer…for as long as he could stay with me. Or at least that was the plan. I wanted to go out as slow as reasonably possible to start. I knew this would also be the best chance for Tyler to actually finish the whole thing while running. My goal was to start at 11:00 pace. I really want someone to do an academic study on what percentage of runners actually hit their goal “slow” pace during a race. We got pretty close: 10:00 is only a minute faster. To be fair, our effort was very low because of how relaxed we were.

running selfie

There were great spectators on the Mt. Pleasant side of the bridge. This was my first race with true spectators and it feels so great to have so many people proud of you—and impressed by you just for showing up and having the courage to do it. We learned at our first water stop that we do not know how to drink from cups while running. Life: “One sip for you, now go run up that bridge”.

Ahh, the bridge. Everybody ahead of us is faster than us. It’s a little unsettling to see them all slow down. I said to Tyler, “Why does it look like they all stopped running?!” Cuz they were in pain. Cuz people don’t bounce much when they are running up a steep hill. We took it like champs. In fact, we got half way across the bridge before we started to say to each other, “Does this EVER flatten out? We’re still going up!!”

That was also the moment we each got a side stitch and started cursing for water. The BIGGEST lesson learned in this race was:
KNOW YOUR COURSE MAP

The course map tells you where water is. Duh. I knew somewhere in my brain there were only two. This seemed reasonable since we were hopefully not running longer than an hour. Of course they can’t have cups on the bridge; the wind would pick them all up and throw them into the marsh. The race’s motto would be “Litter: YAY!” instead of “Get over it”.

IMG_2431

I was in deep pain but still determined when we finally started to go downhill around mile 4. As we were exiting the bridge I remembered something an elite runner had said about running tangents and for some reason this thought made me momentarily insane. I was like “I know stuff, I’m awesome” and decided I had to surge to run the shortest path to the water. Tyler said I was bookin’ it and he was sure this was the point I would lose him. Like I said, it was only momentary insanity. I had NO ability to surge at that point. We were still at an average 10 minute pace.

performace stats

I’m sure it didn’t help mentally to finally be at the water station and once again only manage a sip. I was hot and I was working hard. I knew I had to slow my heart rate down to be able to continue running the duration. I needed a sign of hope so my eyes were straining to see the finish line in the distance.

Once again:
KNOW YOUR COURSE MAP

I was not able to see the finish line, not because it was miles and miles away, but because we were running a horseshoe. We had two left turns to go before the finish. If I had known that I could have used language to motivate myself to make it to the next turn. I had to stop to walk around 5.5 miles. In reviewing my stats via my watch there was just no other option at that moment. My heart rate had climbed to 191. The highest it had ever been, even in my 5k where I had a decent kick at the end, it usually topped out at 186.

I think I just hadn’t practiced slowing down when you are that fatigued and impatient for it to be over.

Tyler had grabbed a popsicle, so he had a surge of energy and kept going without me for another .2 miles. He did end up having to walk for a little bit though too because he couldn’t get over the mental hurdle of the horse shoe either. We each walked about .07 miles.

Once I had my breath back I started running again and was very happy to cross the finish line. Tyler finished with a time of 61:18 and I had a 62:25.

brave face

For sure, there was momentary disappointment for me because I had to walk, but I was still pretty proud of myself. I just kept thinking, “That was freaking hard, but you did it!” Plus, if you have to walk, being able to hold out until after the bridge is certainly a bragging right. It was not easy to “Get Over it”.

We had a great time at the after party (although my makeup was blinding me in my left eye, hence the strained look on my face). There was a ton of free food, including Krispy Kreme doughnuts and the best BBQ I’ve ever had.

krispy kreme

Once we got back to the boat we both showered and climbed in bed to try to nap. I wasn’t able to sleep. I just wanted to relive every moment over and over. I turned on a baseball game and listened to the rain drop on the roof of the houseboat. The water started moving a bit more and we were gently swaying. It was a great trip and will always be such a full memory for me.

rainy boat

Things I liked:
-Well organized race logistics-wise (even the festival was very well planned, all the free food was on side streets to limit congestion in the park)

-Bridge was such an entertaining challenge

-Tons of free food

-Great communication for questions and concerns with race organizers

Things I didn’t like:

-The mind-f*ck of the course layout

-No sourcing for individual race photos (if Tyler hadn’t taken pictures of me I wouldn’t have a single in-race action shot)

-Announcer for the start was a bit meh

Repeatable?

Heck yes!