Entering the world of heart rate monitoring…

I’ve never been a data junkie. I only had a GPS watch for small chunks of my running career, it was never something I really got into. I also had uncooperative gear and so at the first sign of error I ditched it. I’ve never once monitored my heart rate for any activity. If I’m doing anything, I’m writing miles down in my bullet journal but even that has been sporadic as my training is sporadic.

Well. Look what Donnie got me for Mother’s Day, he gave it to me yesterday.

You see, it’s a smart watch. It is a Garmin Forerunner 235. It tells time AND it is a HR monitor and a GPS. He’s been using one for about a year and after protesting, “THAT IS WAAAAY TOO EXPENSIVE!” and secretly thinking Ummm…I don’t give two flying craps about this kind of data…, I opened it up and started playing around with it.

And like that, I’m a data junkie.

I’m so fascinated by my heart rate. I haven’t worn it on a run yet, I hope to do that tonight, but just my resting heart rate is something I’m intrigued by. I never even knew that before! And I took some time this morning to connect it to My Fitness Pal so I can maybe start tracking food too and – GUYS – WHO AM I?

Of course, this time next week it might be just a timepiece and I never make it do the fun things, but I AM SO EXCITED ALL OF THE SUDDEN. I can’t wait to test it out running tonight (Did I tell you about my toes? I’ve had infections in my big toes that have had me not running for 10 days) and watch it during the day! It tracks my steps so I’m going to make sure I get up and walk around my building sometimes.

AND! It gets notifications from my phone too, which I really don’t get a lot of, but it’s nice to see texts etc without having to look at my phone.

If Donnie had said he was going to get me one of these I would have told him, “Don’t waste your money.” I mean, they are STUPID expensive. I know because I’m the one that bought his! But…now that I’ve been playing around with it (I got 6.5 hours of sleep last night! I think drinking two margaritas next door helped fight the Lexapro insomnia :)) I am kinda loving it.

I’ll keep you posted. Maybe I’ll be one of those people that talks about their heart rate all the time!

Weakest Link

I was very worried about this stage race because I was the most undertrained of the group I usually run with every year. Two of them had big races in March and I hadn’t done a run longer than 15 miles since…November maybe? I did get myself up to 3 consecutive double-digit days, so I thought I’d be okay, but that was the BARE MINIMUM, and what I didn’t factor in was and I had done it on the ROAD no on TRAILS so it wasn’t quite as equivalent as I had hoped. Trails beat you up worse and in different ways. I didn’t have enough trail miles going into this weekend.

I was definitely the one everyone was waiting on for most of Day 1 and Day 2, but I found myself growing through a very reflective journey about that. Colleen and Chelsea know me better than I know myself, and we’ve all had our bad days and this is part of being a team, you accept the weakest moments of the others because everyone has weak moments at some point. I actually found myself making very big strides from feeling very guilty on Friday to acceptance by the end of Saturday.

But after Saturday’s race I had some toe issue. I periodically get blisters under my toenails. I’ve lost so many toenails to this ailment, I have lost count. Usually I can pop the blister under to relieve the pressure, but I just could not get to it Saturday night. So I knew Sunday was going to be worse than the other days.

I decided I needed to be as strong as possible on the ups and flats because the downhills were going to REALLY HURT. And this worked okay for about 9 miles. We had Kara running with us on Saturday so she and Colleen would run a little further ahead and wait while Chelsea stayed with me. It’s funny, Chelsea could tell I didn’t want to lead but she also knew she’d leave me so she was doing a great job of sneakily kinda looking back and checking on me and guessing when I’d need walk breaks so I never go too far behind but I also never had to holler, “Marco!” which is the sign I was falling too far behind to see anyone. It was impressive because I was able to stay “caught up” without feeling like anyone was waiting on me, EVEN THOUGH SHE TOTALLY WAS.

This was working for 9 miles. It was not pretty, but it was working.

And then we were going up one particular long stretch of up and my legs were SO TIRED at this point that I just kept stubbing my toe on stuff. Usually not a big deal, we all do it a million times, but when your toe is already swollen and in pain? It’s a catastrophe. I just kept falling further and further behind and I had to let the ONLY guy behind us pass me which put me in DEAD LAST place and I was going back and forth between sobbing (and I mean SOBBING) from pain to trying NOT to sob because it turns out it is REALLY HARD to regulate your heart rate when you’re crying so I was in pain and WANTING to cry but trying not to WHICH IS HARD WHEN YOU ARE IN PAIN. Then the sweeper caught up with me and while we weren’t close to cut-off territory, it still rubbed me poorly because A) I didn’t want anyone to see me cry and B) I didn’t want to be dead last.

I finally made it to the top of the trail and I just kinda hid my face behind my hat and talked to my girl gang in my “I’m crying” voice and we pushed to the last 3 miles.

But jeezus, it just kept getting uglier. There were more downhills which – at this point – just made me sob. I couldn’t stop crying they hurt so bad. So then I’d be back to trying to regulate my breathing because my crying was making my heart race and I SWEAR, you guys. Crying while running is like sprinting, you get SO OUT OF BREATH.

The last .6 mile of the 3 days is up a pretty treacherous and steep trail and we all just kinda knew, Kim is going to fall back and I just did my best, stopping and crying, and they waited for me at the top. Once we got to the top we could almost see the finish line and I told the girls I was probably not going to be able to run…or NOT cry, so we waited until the last possible and then started running it in and y’all? I have never sobbed that hard at a race…EVER…I just pulled my hat down over my face (I’m an ugly crier) and crossed that finish-line (didn’t even grab my medal) and ran up to the top of the amphitheater where I could cry alone and away from everyone.

Oh, and I took my shoes off. THANK GOD.

There were many other stories of laughter and joy, too. But I wanted to write about this one first because when I was lying in bed reflecting on the day last night, I was thinking about how I had kept referring to myself as the weakest link. And that was definitely true, but the weakest link is just that: The link that could handle the least amount of weight. But the links around that one still make it able to handle more than it could if it were not in the chain. Alone? I couldn’t have finished yesterday. I do not doubt for one second that I would have quit if I had been by myself. The pain was just too much weight for me to carry. But my girls, they were strong enough to divide the weight so I didn’t have to shoulder it all. Honestly, I never even considered quitting. They helped shoulder so much of my burden that I never imagined not finishing. Not even once…I never broke.

The Pressure of Success

I’m getting back into running slowly but surely. I’ve got a big stage race this weekend which will have me running 43 miles on my favorite trails over 3 days. I’m really not well trained and I don’t have the base I used to have as I slacked off SO MUCH since November, but I’ll survive and I’m looking forward to the confidence boost it will give me as I start to ramp up even more for my race in September.

But it’s hard. And you know why it’s hard? Because so many people celebrated my success with me before. So many people cheered me along as I got stronger and ran longer distances and beat PRs and conquered goals that I never even knew existed. Friends and family liked all of my race reports and congratulated me whenever I bragged on another hurdle jumped. I HAD SUCCEEDED and I had done it in front of an audience of people who I loved.

And then I faltered and my running faded and there were no more successes to boast about or goals to check off a list. And just in case no one noticed me missing at long runs and races, or maybe they just thought I was training privately instead of publicly – I put on 27lbs to act as proof that I had stopped training at the level previously. So now when those people who cheered me on see me, there’s no question where I’ve been…I’ve been medicating my depression and anxiety with donuts and beer while everyone pushed forward.

A friend of my recently discussed the pressure of being the “Fitness Story” – she too is struggling to get back what she had lost. You use those accolades, “Look at you! I can’t believe you went from Point A to Point B! You’re amazing!” to power you through continued success, but then you misstep. And the shame you feel over disappointing all of those people (Yes, we all know the disappointment is internal, but it feels external.) makes it really hard to get back up after that first stumble. And the next thing you know, you weigh more than you did when you started the journey back in 2009.

I always tell the story, “After my Dad died I weighed more than I ever had not pregnant…” and I discuss joining boot camp and getting fit which made me want to try running again and so one and so forth and look! I’m 20lbs lighter and I just ran a 100K!

That’s my story. But when I finally started trying to get back on track a few weeks ago,I was 10lbs heaver than I was at the beginning of that story. And while I’m chipping away at that slowly, I’m still heavier than I was when I started getting fit in 2010. And it’s hard to push every day when you’re realizing you’re starting further back than you were the last time. It’s like going to run a marathon – which you’ve run before and it wasn’t easy – only to find out at the start line that it’s actually a 50K.

But that marathon was so hard! And now I have run even further?!

But I trying to push past all of that. I’m trying to not compare this journey to the last one. I’m trying to recognize this as an entirely different journey with entirely different hurdles. I’m trying to look at past successes as proof I can do it, not reminders that I failed. I’m trying to separate the two journeys so that I can celebrate the past successes and then celebrate any future successes without connecting them with some months of missteps.

Because I need to allow myself missteps and not let them dissolve my successes. I have much to be proud of. Hell…the last couple months have been really hard mentally and I’m not out of the woods by any means…So while I’m not crossing finish lines, I’m fighting demons and those are more important battles to win than any medal from any race…no matter what the distance.

I mean, it’s like my brother’s #storypin says, The Journey Is The Reward.

The Downside Of Commenting On Weightloss

I’ve long said that I have this weird debate that happens inside of my head when I notice someone has lost weight. On one hand, I don’t like commenting on it because it implies the person looks better and 100% of the time I think they’re as beautiful without the weight as they are with it. On the other hand, if they’re working hard to lose the weight, then they may appreciate me recognizing it.

I usually don’t say anything, honestly. If I know they’ve been running a lot I find a relatable compliment to recognize THAT hard work, like “You’ve gotten so fast!” or “You’re not even huffing and puffing!” So that I notice their efforts without accidentally implying their previous body was less attractive.

This week two things happened and I realized why I’ll probably never offer unsolicited comments on someone’s weight loss (specifically) again. First? Someone on twitter mentioned that when her depression was the worst, she wouldn’t eat and people always complimented her weightloss and it felt weird because it was almost like they were happy she was depressed. Since I stress-eat I had never thought of that, so I considered that I shouldn’t mention someone’s weightloss unless I know it’s part of a healthy journey and not a side-effect of something difficult.

The second thing is that I was talking to my friend about weight gain and how these bodies we’re working to get lean again (we both are working towards the same race in the Fall) don’t bother us really as they are. But the weight gain has still depressed us and it hit me: I’m hung up on it because people comment on my weight when I’ve lost it, so I assume everyone notices when I’ve gained it and that they just aren’t saying anything.

I mean, we tell ourselves People aren’t as hard on us as we are on ourselves but what if people commented on my weight loss when I was training? This was my last “Race Day Body” – my 110K body in January 2016. As I was training I had tons of people compliment my weight loss and I loved it because I was working hard and it meant it was showing. And that body served me well on that race day and it was much easier to run with than this body now. That body weight – 133lbs – is my general race-day target whenever I’m training for something big because it’s easier on my legs and it’s a lighter body to run in.

This is my body now. I took this my first run at the YMCA last week and was trying to practice some self care because I was proud of myself. And I still am. I’ve been on track with eating and running for two weeks now and I can feel it all starting to feel right again. I did a hill workout this week. I ran 3 back-to-back double-digit days. I am feeling optimistic that training is ramping up and all is well. I’m feeling leaner already. But this body is very hard to run in. It was 159lbs the day I started back training, and I haven’t stepped on the scale since. I don’t really want to because I am having such a hard time with the weight I’ve gained, I don’t want to give those numbers more power.

But it’s hard not to remember all of the people who complimented the weight loss before, and to think: So they probably notice they gain, too. Right? And then I get depressed. And it’s dumb and illogical and I’m in a good place talking myself back from that self-criticism, but it’s there.

So I think I’ll focus on different ways to compliment people if I notice they’ve lost weight. If I know they’ve been working out or running maybe we’ll focus on that. If I don’t, then maybe I’ll try to think of some other way to compliment their hard work if they’ve been trying to get healthy – but if I don’t know anything at all? If I’m not close enough to them to know if this is a journey the’ve been on? I’m not going to offer my comments because it’s none of my business, really.

But most of all? I’m going to tell my friends they’re beautiful more often for no reason. Because I am surrounded by beautiful women in my work life, my family life, and in my friend circle. I mean – BEAUTIFUL – women full of life and love and kindness and joy and I want to make sure if I’m handing out compliments, they’ll stand the test of time no matter how much this beautiful person weighs.

Ouch.

So, I did survive the DizzyMonkey. I crossed both finish lines in decent condition. But since I was woefully undertrained and since I might have made a bad sock decision, I have feet that look like ground beef they are so beat up and I can’t walk very well and also my stomach is screaming at me, “WHAT IS WITH ALL OF THE WEIRD STUFF YOU PUT IN YOUR BODY THIS WEEKEND?”

Sometimes during a race something looks really delicious. Like a peanut butter bagel. Or a handful of peanut butter pretzels. Or vanilla oreos. Or sugar wafers. Or donut holes. Or…

You get the point.

You eat things you don’t normally eat because something inside of you sees it and say: THAT! I MUST HAVE THAT IN MY BODY RIGHT NOW!

And none of it fought me in the moment or during the races (Thank God) – I think your body kinda makes you eat what it wants: Sugar, Salts, Fats etc. But this morning? My tummy is all sorts of…UGGGGGG…

I did draw the link at the shots of whiskey though.

Yes. There were opportunities to do shots of whiskey. I will not tell when or where…but it was offered and some people I knew took advantage. I decided that since I hadn’t done a shot of whiskey since I was – like 23? I should probably refrain during a weekend of ultra running.

I’m sticking around the house this morning and going into work late to try to maybe sleep a little but mostly to let my stomach settle down a bit. Also hoping to spend some time with the kids since I didn’t see them at all this weekend. I’m glad this week is Thanksgiving. I don’t know if I could pull off a full work-week after a weekend like this.

Thanks again for cheering me on. It was truly a great weekend where I proved I always have more potential then I believe I have.

Maybe the giant celebratory beer last night wasn't the best thing to put on my stomach either...

Maybe the giant celebratory beer last night wasn’t the best thing to put on my stomach either…