Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Runnin' on (Too Much) Empty

So, apparently I have a little problem with running.

First off - I am happy to report that I took six minutes off of my half-marathon time. Somewhere on my #dirtythirtylist that I started (and never finished, because I realized it was rather unrealistic to imagine that I would somehow learn lion taming and Mandarin Chinese between now and May 31) I wrote "run a half marathon in under 2 hours." I can scratch that off the list. I came in at 1:56, which is entirely awesome. Go me.

The problem - I celebrated my victory with another round of public vomiting. Not so awesome.

I know that gastrointestinal problems plague runners. And I keep experimenting with different means of trying to combat the issue. Eat less, eat further in advance, drink more water before and after, drink Gatorade, wait longer after running before eating anything. This time I waited too long and nearly passed out in a Wendy's on New York Avenue in DC.

Which is an interesting story in itself:

We were standing in line at the Wendy's on Saturday afternoon, a good four hours after we'd crossed the finish line. Somehow in that time, I had managed to only eat half a banana and some dried fruit. I just wasn't hungry after the race, and rather than force myself to eat, I chose instead to drink water and Gatorade. Stupid. (I also blame the incredibly packed Metro bringing scads of runners from the Armory back into the city, I blame Switchfoot for playing some awesome cover songs in the beer garden at the post-race celebration, and I blame Catalano for creepily finding me in a crowd of 30,000 and hanging out with us after the race. Side note: at any event of considerable size, Catalano has a very lucky and/or creepy habit of somehow finding me. She says it's due to the height of The Gentleman, because not many in a large crowd are 6'4", and he is usually to be found following me around. But it's downright freaky. I turn around - and THERE SHE IS. It's like she planted a homing device on me at some point. I wouldn't doubt this. I blame Vegas. I digress.)

If you've ever passed out from low blood sugar, you know how it feels: you suddenly get really, really hot. Your legs become rubber. The tunnel vision sets in, and you feel yourself start to sway. Every part of you is covered with a slick of sweat, and then you feel the floor begin to move uncomfortably close to the rest of you. I don't really remember everything that happened except that I ducked out of line at the Wendy's right after I informed The Gentleman I wanted a #1 with cheese and a DIET COKE (for health) and collapsed into a chair with my arms sprawled across a sticky table. And then the uncontrollable heaving began, and the next thing I knew, I was draped over a trash can next to the ketchup station, wretching nothing but Gatorade and banana bits.

You're welcome for that.

The interesting part - no one batted an eye

The Gentleman was desperately trying to get me something to eat and drink (he is not so great with the puking, but he is certainly a man of action when it comes to emergencies - when I got sick in the Middle East he went on a pilgrimage for Pepto on Christmas morning, and when I puked at the Baltimore half marathon he went out to hunt and gather as much Gatorade and water as he could find). I lay there, draped over the can, and dry heaving absolutely nothing. After what seemed like an eternity, an off-duty nurse who was enjoying lunch with her boyfriend came over to me and tore open a salt packet, shook some into my hand and instructed me to put it on my tongue. She gave me a cup of ice water and told me to drink as much as I could. By that time, The Gentleman had our food and a small Frosty for me. 

That Frosty was the best fricking thing I have ever tasted. I was exhausted, still sort of dry heaving, and still on the verge of passing out. The freezing ice creamy deliciousness was impossible to swallow at first, but after a minute or so of sitting there and sipping it, I became absolutely ravenous. I immediately housed a cheeseburger and an order of fries and promptly felt like a million bucks. 

Half an hour later, I was doubled over with cramps and I spent the next three hours in bed wondering if this was what it felt like to die.

Miraculously - by 7pm that night, I was completely healed. I scarfed a plate of nachos, some sweet potato fries, and the better part of a pizza that night. You know, because after months of training and eating right the best way to celebrate an athletic accomplishment is to stuff your face.

And, lest ye judge, I'll just go ahead and tell you that I spent the entire next day on the couch with The Gentleman eating Easter cookies and Pirate's Booty, drinking mimosas, and watching horror movies. It was pretty much the best day ever.

So, I've consulted a nurse/runner friend of mine who sent me some incredibly helpful advice about eating/training. I am going to attempt to either isolate the problem or figure out a way around it, whether that means eliminating foods from my diet pre-race, working out an eating plan ahead of time post-race, or something crazy I haven't even thought of yet.

I think a big problem is the post-race high. The adrenaline rush and the incredible feeling of accomplishment that floods through you when you cross the finish line sort of puts you in a stupor, and you forget about your immediate bodily needs. Blisters might bleed, your knee might be swollen, your head pounding, but you don't feel any of it with that amount of seratonin (or something) coursing through your veins. And, for me, it translates into not feeling hunger or the onset of cramping, and it's not until I am on the verge of passing out that I do something about it, which is too late.

Long story short - I am new to this game. My body is still getting used to the incredible things I am forcing it to do. To put all of this in perspective - two and a half years ago, I had a broken foot. The cast came off, and I probably couldn't have run a mile. And now? I know I can peel another five minutes off of my half-marathon time, and my dream is to do so without puking in a fast food establishment. Or anywhere, really.

But seriously- go me. And go Catalano, and Catalano's husband, and The Gentleman. We all ran hard, worked hard, and played hard afterwards. And some of us (me) puked afterwards. We are awesome.

Maybe next time, no puking. Live the dream!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Weekly Goals

So I have another blog post almost ready to go that features disgusting bodily processes and also a toot of my own half-marathon horn (WHADDUP, TAKING SIX MINUTES OFF MY PREVIOUS TIME BRINGING MY PR TO UNDER TWO HOURS?!) but first, it seems that one of my brilliant ideas is about to go viral so I'd like to take some credit where credit is due.

A couple of years ago, a group of us (including Legs and Joel) started a weekly email circulating. It usually went out on Mondays, and contained our goal for that week. It started out because some of us (mainly me) had found ourselves (myself) in a bit of a funk and needed to find ways to make life just a little bit better. And sometimes, just doing one small thing, getting one tiny victory, can change your outlook on a whole lot of bigger things that you feel like you can't control.

The idea was simple: pick something, anything, that's totally do-able, and DO IT. You're telling everyone on the email list that you intend to do this thing in this given period of time. There are no consequences for failing to make your weekly goal, except the sheepishness of having to tell x number of people on the thread that you suck at life. Which is pretty good motivation right there.

The goals ranged from "make my bed every morning" to "eating vegetarian all week." They were intangible ("be optimistic") and tangible ("work out for 45 minutes per day"); simple ("tell one person each day that I love him/her") and complex ("clean out my closet: donate clothes I no longer wear, reorganize my shoes, put away winter clothes, etc.").

Lemme tell you, even an accomplishment as small as just making your bed everyday can feel like a victory when you get to report, a week later, that you did it.

Recently, a friend of mine has been in a bit of a funk and so we decided to resurrect this practice. We are back on the weekly goals email and it's actually kind of exciting. Even though most of us are in far better places in our lives, I've found there's always room to say, "What can I do this week that will make my life look/feel/act better?"

For example: this week it was going to the post office. I frigging hate the post office. Joel has a joke, his "one Libertarian joke," as he refers to it:
Guy goes to the store the week before Christmas to buy his mother a gift. The store is mobbed, the lines are long. He finds a gift, waits in line, finally gets to the register, and says to the sales associate, "Wow, you guys are busy!" The sales associate says, "I know, it's been our best week ever!" Guy then goes to the post office to mail the gift.The post office is mobbed, the lines are long. He waits in line, finally gets to the front, and says to the postal worker, "Wow, you guys are busy!" The postal worker grumbles, "I know, worst week ever."

Ha.Thanks, Joel.

So I went to the post office to mail off some stuff that had been sitting around my room, just waiting to be mailed, and let me tell you what a relief it was. Just this one act - this one chore crossed off my list made me feel like I could take on the world. Vacuum my room? DONE! Dust my shoe rack? FINITO. The completion of one annoying, nagging chore can open gateways to cleaning up other areas of your life.

Or it can be a goal like: drink more water. Don't even get me started on health benefits of being well-hydrated, whether you're a runner or not.

I know, aren't I just a bastion of fun these days, all well-hydrated and going to the post office. Fear not, Glitteratis; April and May are already booked to the hilt with batshit crazy fun, including a baby shower, a Broadway play, two weddings, some family events, and (LET US NOT FORGET) my impending #dirtythirty birthday.

But anyway, I just wanted to take full credit for my awesome Weekly Email Update idea before Kid and Lee went off running and making money off of my brilliance.

Next post will be about how I puked again after last weekend's (otherwise totally awesome) half marathon. I know you're excited.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kid is Back!

My good friend Kid is back on the writing scene. You can find him here.

You're welcome.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Lifers

I think one of the hardest things to do is to accept people for who they are, and forgive them when they fall terribly short of who you think they should/could be.

This is especially hard with friends.

With family members, there's a certain amount of understanding there that these people were put on earth to drive you crazy in some way. And that you're supposed to love them, regardless. No doubt they feel likewise.

With significant others, you have to go into relationships believing that there are going to be things you don't like, moments you'd rather do without, and personality quirks that most of the time you find irresistibly charming. (Most of the time.) Again - it's a give and take equation, and you go into this kind of commitment understanding that there will be discrepancies and shortfalls and gaps between perfection and reality. All par for the course.

With friends, however, there seems to be a different set of expectations. At least on the surface.

We don't choose our family, for the most part. We may choose romantic entanglements, but the long-lasting ones, the ones worth their salt, are bound to come with moments where you have to remind yourself that you chose this person, that you love him/her, and that at this very moment in time you still accept him/her for who s/he is. It's that conscious "for better or worse" choice that you make when you make a commitment.

The friendship thing, however, is much more intangible. And what do you do when a friend steps so far outside of who you thought they were, or who you think they should be? What if they make destructive, hurtful choices that pain those around them? What if they seem to become less and less "themselves"? What's holding you to them? Not familial blood or a spoken commitment, that's for sure.

True, there are some friendships that are flashes in the pans. Matters of convenience, the children of circumstance. A season, as the adage goes. Or even just a reason, because the adage never equated "reason" to a "lifetime." The reason could be third period math, or a dorm room, or a shared yoga class. The season could be a marking period, a semester, or an actual season, like summer. 

Friendships are slippery things, bound to break free from you. The long-lasting ones, those lifetime gems, can weather a beating. The "reason" or the "seasonal" ones cannot. The tricky thing is learning to distinguish the different types of friendship, and giving them the allotted amount of energy with which they can healthfully grow. A "reason" or "season" friendship can grow into a lifetime. Or a friendship that you thought was "lifetime" material could wither painfully into an abrupt seasonal affair. 

As we get older, the friendships can tend to sort themselves. When big events begin to unfold in everyone's lives - jobs, marriages, moving, babies - the people who are going to be there are the "lifetimers." The reasons and seasons will fall by the wayside. And then when the stakes get higher - illness, death, divorce - those lifetimers are really going to prove their mettle. Who do you want by your side for the good times, and the bad?

Our families (we can only hope) will be there. Our significant others (we can only hope) will be there. But friends? They made no promises when they agreed to be your friend. They didn't sign anything. They are there of their own accord. 

So how obligated are you to be there? How much are you willing to put up with, how far outside of your box can you step to still love someone as they are even when you are certain they have become someone else entirely? You certainly don't have to. Breaking up with a friend requires no paperwork. Unless you count a good old-fashioned Facebook defriending, which shouldn't be overlooked these days. 

In my old age, my friendships are something I have come to realize need cultivation, time, and energy to survive. Especially because so many of my friends are far-flung across the US (and the world). And the lifetimers are not to be taken for granted.

It's a difficult decision to write someone off entirely. And not one that can be made overnight, or because of one action. More often, it takes a series of actions. A series of let-downs and disappointments. 

But how do you ever know if you are doing the right thing? If you turn your back on this person, are you essentially shutting down? Are you failing that person in a far more deliberate and worse way then however they may have failed you? The lines are blurry, the area a solid gray. Does longevity win? What if the "reason" was compelling enough? 

Time will tell. You have your gang of Lifers, you have your groups of Seasonal Wayfarers, and you have your solid Reasons. When one slips the ranks, you have to take a step back and decide how far you're willing to let them go until they're out of the running altogether. And, depending on what kind of a friend they were in the first place, this could be a foot or the circumference of the earth and beyond.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Do Yo Thang

Another half-marathon training session is nearly done.

Since January 1...I mean, January 2...I mean...well, sometime around the beginning of January after I got over the epic sinus infection, we started up training again. This time for the DC Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon  coming up on March 17. Switchfoot is headlining. I'm not a huge Switchfoot fan. I just like live music.

This eleven-week training course was a little different than last time. First off, because training in winter is far different than training in summer. We were lucky this year and blessed with a freak El Nina (El Nino? Global Warming? 2012 Mayan-Calendar End?) stream that kept temperatures well above freezing most of the time. I think I wore my Arctic Under Armour compression shirt that I got for Christmas (thanks, family!) less than a handful of times. Don't worry - I'm sure next year we'll be back to regularly-scheduled frigidness and it will get much more use. 

Secondly, and this was a shocking moment for me, I realized that my body is now used to 8+ mile runs. Even 10+ miles. While I slacked off a bit in the intensity training for short runs, I still got the scheduled long runs in and, for the most part, was surprised to find that muscle memory is a very real thing. I felt like I did far less this time around then last time, but I'm still getting in the long runs without too much fatigue. It makes me think that I might finally be ready for the dedication of training for a full marathon. Because, after you've run 13.1 miles, what's 13.1 more? Ask me again after the race, and we'll see. Especially if I puke again. No toenails lost this time so far, however, which sort of makes me feel like a slacker, to be honest. But then I think about where I was a couple of years ago when thirty minutes on an elliptical a few times a week constituted a "workout routine." How very far we have come.

The basics:

An important thing I've learned in training for a half marathon is that you don't really need to do anything too drastically different in terms of eating. A common mistake is to think that you need to "carbo-load" or take in more calories. Mistake.

I'm hungry all the time, but I'm hungry all the time anyway. The difference now is that if I don't eat regularly, I get dizzy and irritable and am subsequently likely to eat too much because I feel famished. I eat every couple of hours. Small meals. And you really don't need to consume too many more calories in training than normal. You just need to eat, and often. Breaking up three meals a day into six smaller ones worked well for me. As for carbs, everything in moderation: I find that I do much better, energy-wise, if I stick to primarily lean proteins and fiber and try to keep the carbs to a moderate amount. This doesn't mean I eschew carbs, just that I don't eat extra. I do tend to eat more protein, because it keeps you fuller longer, and because women tend to not get enough protein as it is. 

Things I consume regularly: tuna (canned and ahi), salads with oil + vinegar, turkey burgers in whole wheat pitas, brown rice, chicken, lots and lots and lots of eggs (yolks included - but I try to do 1 yolk for every 2 eggs), Kind bars (possibly my favorite post-run treat), Muscle Milk light (the 100-calorie chocolate kind), spinach, tomatoes, hummus, carrots, oatmeal, white fish, blueberries, Wasa crackers, black beans, Vitamin Water Zero, Power Bar energy gel chews, Gu, garbanzo beans, and dark chocolate whenever I can get my hands on it. The last one because it's awesome. I also like to combine food groups whenever possible - fiber with protein, carbs with protein, etc. And sushi is and forever shall be a wonder food to me.

My sleep. I am no longer of any use to anyone after 10pm. But I wake up around 6:15 like clockwork every morning. This habit is disruptive only on weekends, when I want to be a functioning human being past midnight and sleep past 9am the next morning. All of these healthy habits are wreaking havoc on my party life. Bummer.

As long as I'm eating and sleeping the way my body wants me to, I've got energy to spare. Unfortunately, my schedule rarely allows me to eat and sleep the way I'd like to, so I do feel like I get tired out more easily. But those days when I magically hit the hay early after a full day of healthy eating - there is nothing in this world that feels better. During training last time, I cut my caffeine intake by half. I'm no longer on that bandwagon, but I am much more conscious of it and try to limit it to before 2pm. And no more lattes or large coffees. Smalls or mediums only, and medium has to have at least a few fingers of decaf in it.

When I feel overwhelmed, when I feel small, when I feel like my problems are insurmountable, it's a pretty freaking amazing thing to say to yourself: remember when you thought running a mile was an accomplishment? Now you regularly run more than five, and sometimes even more than ten. Your body can handle 13 miles. It just takes time, dedication, and passion. Don't forget the passion part: if running just ain't your thang, it ain't your thang. Personally, I can't think of anything worse than swimming long distances. I have no desire to do it, and the few times I've tried it has not felt good. It just ain't my thang. You gotta find your thang. Because when it hurts, when you're tired, when you're running out of steam, you're gonna need that drive. 

Now, excuse me while I do and do my thang....