Saturday, December 30, 2017

On being away, keeping it together, and who I am now

It's 9:45 pm on December 30th and I am feeling particularly cliché-ish in my desire to reminisce over the last well as to purge my thoughts on who I am right now.

For better or for worse, I am different.

I remember thinking back in April---when things at the Fruitstand were particularly crappy (I worked for a total misogynistic, racist ass) and I was stressed over my son's recurrent seizures and lack of progress at school, "Oh shit. I feel myself slipping away. How do I keep it together?"

I gained a few pounds, hadn't been running regularly but still was running  and I was doing the group classes for yoga at my work gym. I kept thinking I had time to get it together. I could lose the few pounds. I would start training soon for my marathon...

Things didn't get better at work--I was doing okay (read: hanging on by a thread) but I had reached a year and so could explore other opportunities within the organization. Plus, I was being head hunted by another company!

Things barely got better at school for my son and we upped his meds for his, there was hope.

But, every day...I felt lonelier. And more exhausted. And less like myself.

I didn't want to run.

I didn't want to workout.

I didn't want to watch what I ate and I didn't care.

I didn't care.

That was the change. I began to feel myself not caring. I went on a few dates. And I couldn't feel myself caring. I went on a few dates with the same person--and that person flaked out.

I found myself caring less.

There was hope when I started a new job. I immersed myself in work that I found myself loving! But now I was mentally exhausted when I got home. I was stressing over making sure I was at the top of my game with my new responsibilities. And I made excuses to not run. To not work out. It's why I couldn't eat well. It was easier to eat what was quick and available.

And I put on more weight.

And I was more tired.

And I found ways to cope--hanging out at happy hours, bar food, craft beers, drinks with coworkers and friends.

I did what I could to feel better. I was lonely and slightly angry by people who weren't. I was worn out by single motherhood and I was slightly jealous by people who had a parenting partner. I was burning the candle on both ends and wearing myself thin and I was envious of people who had a team to share the load.

You see where this is going.

I was so tired and exhausted and just DONE.  I don't even know how to say it. I stopped loving things. Nothing tasted good. Nothing felt good. I don't even know why I am saying this in past tense, because to be honest, I still fight this feeling.

I am not the same. I knew I wasn't the same when two weeks before the 40th Chicago Marathon, which I was last year SO EXCITED TO GET SELECTED TO RUN IN THE LOTTERY, I still couldn't muster a training run.  I ran the day before the marathon, and the day OF the marathon (obviously 26.2 miles) and not much before or after. I RAN A MARATHON WITH NO TRAINING.

A year ago, I was running a minimum of 125 miles a month, averaging 150 miles a month.

Now, I get in maybe 12 miles a month?

And I've gained a ridiculous amount of weight. Nothing fits. I can't stand looking in the mirror, but I still have to get dressed in the morning. I still have to have confidence. I still have to believe in myself.

But I don't want to. I don't want to. I don't want to love myself or get dressed or fake confidence.


I am going to be honest. This doesn't feel like me. I don't feel like me. I feel like hormones and chemicals and a body and mind that has turned on itself. I feel gross and unattractive and like a phony. I feel like I don't deserve love and to be honest I don't want to give it anyway (minus my kids--those little dudes I adore and worship and love and all that).

I keep thinking it's part of aging, something is off, I have a hormonal imbalance. And to some extent I have medical evidence that I am right.

But it doesn't make me feel better or make the uphill battle that I started fighting on December 26th any easier.

I have cut out sugars, and breads/most grains. I have cut out alcohol and dairy.

I have added in exercise, and meditation, and weights, and running.

I am starting a run streak tomorrow (December 31st). I have two months of membership at a yoga studio until the nearby Orangetheory Fitness opens up. I am committing to two-a-days for workouts when I can and I am committing to just MORE MOVEMENT.

I am committed to myself. I always have been. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health. I am different. But the difference in me isn't the obvious one. It isn't the weight gain, the thicker hips and butt, the rounder face. The difference is I have been knocked down and instead of hiding it, I am okay with sharing it. Instead of searching for someone to love me through this, I am loving myself and searching for a new version of me.

Yes, I've been away. Yes, I couldn't keep it together. No, I am not the same. I am stronger. I am better. I am wiser. And I have only started.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Running local, 408k, and podcasts, oh my!

I've been selected to be an ambassador for one of my favorite local race companies--Represent Running! You might ask, why is this one of my favorite race companies? Well, it *is* local. They hold three races annually, and when you run all three, you earn the Run the Bay Challenge medal! As a girl who loves her bling, I have to tell you--all three races have worthy bling and the cost of each race is affordable!

You can find out more about Represent Running by clicking here.

Make the races even more affordable by using my discount code (RepresentAG) for 10% off!

One race has already been completed. That race was the 408k-also known as the Race to the Row. This race takes place in the South Bay, and is the race closest to my home. It's also the first race that I ran with my mom running group two years ago!

I want to tell you more...that leads me to...podcasts! I debriefed the afternoon of the race with Elizabeth Bain and John Thompson of the podcast "Runner of a Certain Age." So, instead of writing any more...check it out and listen here!

You can also find them directly on Podcasts for your iOS device here.

Go listen! I tell stories about how I got into running, Represent Running, the 408k race, how I started running as Wonder Woman, and more!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Get it together, Mom...and other things you say to a marathon runner

Pre-race...timing tattoo that I refer to on inside of left arm
I ran my first marathon over a year ago. I decided to run it because I was going to be 40, and it seemed like an impressive thing to have on my bucket list. My bucket list has romantic ideas like "Go to Fiji" on it, but then it also has things like "Become a high-powered executive" on it.

I'm nothing if not high-achieving.

I had been running for almost ten years and two very consistently for the years before my first marathon. My goal was to enter the Chicago Marathon. Either I get in and I run it, or I don't get in and this wasn't a bucket list item to be checked off quite yet.

I got in.

I ran.

My time was 4:20:24. It was pretty impressive for someone running a first marathon. Experienced runners told me that now I knew the course, my time would only get better, there was speed training I could complete to get faster.

I entered the lottery again this year. And again, I was selected to run. Chicago Marathon 2016, my goal was a sub 4-hour marathon.

I ran intervals. I ran mountains. I ran intervals on mountains.

I also increased my strength training.

And you know what? I got faster. Sub 4 hours was not a pipe dream. It was a very realistic and achievable goal.

About three weeks before the marathon, I started getting lower back pain. Very weird, unexpected, so I backed off of running a bit. It was about time to taper anyway, so no big deal. My chiropractor said I could stand to increase the strength in my glute muscles. Sure, I will get right on that...after my marathon.

The week before, I had a twinge of pain in my knee...but I had had that went away after a couple strides. Nothing that I worried about.

I ran normal mileage my taper week. I ran a 5k the day before my marathon with a pace of 8:03 per mile.

I felt good.

I felt REALLY good.

Race morning, I made sure I went to the bathroom RIGHT BEFORE THE RACE (this was an issue the previous  year, despite NEVER having to use the bathroom during ANY of my training runs...even the 24 mile one).

I was in the corral, feeling strong.

I came out easy, didn't push mile one too hard. I had my pace tattooed to my arm and I listened to Siri tell me where I was in time every mile...I was under my goal pace by two to three minutes! It helped that the crowds LOVED WONDER WOMAN.

I then heard someone cheer for Batman. What? Why? My superfriend wasn't there...or was he? A fellow runner turned to me and said, I am glad you're beating Batman. I turned around and there he full Batsuit. We ran side by side (not on purpose) for about three miles. It caused quite a raucous.

I'm not going to lie...if people wonder (haha, not on purpose) WHY I run as Wonder it is...completely selfish...the crowds cheer loudly for me. It's like an injection of motivation at every step, around every corner. My time shows it. I can remember how big the crowds were at miles 1-4 and my time shows this. How big the crowds were around mile 16 (they put up a jumbotron there to send us messages from our fans) and that was a very fast mile for me.

Crazy thing...I've NEVER not listened to music during a run...For this marathon, I listened to the crowds, the people cheering, my fellow runners. I was so enjoying taking in the sights AND the sounds simultaneously. I had no reason to put in my earbuds...until I had a reason...I didn't listen to music during this marathon until mile 20.

Mile 20.

Around mile 18 I felt a twinge in my knee. I had been feeling so good for so many miles, I thought it was like past twinges. Something that, after a few strides, would just go away. I kept on. But by mile 20, I was in pain. Severe, run stopping pain. I tried walking for a half mile. I knew my time, and I knew I had a good 8 minutes or so that I could give up and still make it in under 4 hours. Mile 20.5 I tried to pick running back up.

Nope. Wasn't going to happen. The twinge felt like a surge going up my entire leg at that point. I didn't want to give up, so I tried speed walking. I noticed the difference between the two motions of walking and running and how my knee reacted. I realized the impact of my full body on my knee hurt, but while walking--much lower impact--my full body never left the ground. Less pain. I tried to speed walk for another half mile...then attempted running again.

I did this on and off for two miles. Tears started to swell in my eyes. Actually, they're swelling in my eyes right now as I type this. I looked down at my tattoo and realized my sub 4-hour marathon had slipped away.
The goal was this point, I just wanted to finish.

I was dressed as Wonder Woman, and very publicly undergoing a devastating and painful moment in my life. I choked back the pain and the tears and forged ahead. The crowds as I moved from Pilsen to Chinatown supported me graciously. I am sure they saw the pain...but their cheers were only encouraging. "You got this, Wonder Woman." "Go, go, go, Wonder Woman! "YESSSSS!!! WONDER WOMAN!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!" It was almost too hard to listen to. So I had to put my earbuds in and turn up the music. I didn't feel like I deserved those cheers, that love, any of it. I wasn't feeling so wonder-ful. I was embarrassed to be a superhero...and assumingly failing.

But, the crowds were the reason why I attempted to jog. If I was Wonder Woman, I would move matter what. Slow jogging and fast walking were how I got through miles 22 and 23...along with biofreeze, which WHY DIDN'T I KNOW ABOUT THE GLORIOUSNESS OF BIOFREEZE AT MILE 20? I slathered that stuff on at EVERY medic stop. Like, slathered. Graciously. IMMENSE AMOUNTS.

At mile 24 I almost started to cry on the course. A cheering woman on the sidelines looked at me and said, "You got this! You didn't come this far not to finish." She was right. I choked back the tears. A runner came up beside me. "You got this," he stated very matter of factly. He seemed to stick by my side and I realized, he is pacing me. I got some pep in my step. I had support. The pain started to fade just a little...maybe my body sending out endorphins because TOO MUCH PAIN?  He stuck with me. He was maybe thirty-ish. He was wearing a heathered grey dryfit shirt. I wish I got his name or his bib number. I ran the last two miles and actually finished ahead of him, but never would have had the strength to run if he hadn't been there.

I love the running community.

While I was walking, I pulled out my phone. I started texting people, responding to people on social media. I mean, might as well. I told my eldest son I was hurt, that it hurt bad, that I wasn't sure I could finish. He told me I could and said he'd call me back.

The second I crossed the finish, my eyes filled with tears. I started to sob. I wish it was a good sob. An "Oh my goodness, I just finished a marathon, how amazing is that" sob. But it wasn't. It was a letting go of a dream sob. It was a "But all that hard work" sob. It was I fought so hard for so long sob.

While I was sobbing, Joey called. It was too much for me. Someone who loved me called!

Here is the transcript, pretty exact word for word...

Joey: Mom! Congrats! You just finished a marathon! 
Me: *sobs* Nooooooo. The pain. *sobs* *sobs* *sobs* 
Joey: Mom. I can't understand you. What are you saying? 
Me: *sobs* My knee! *sobs* So much pain! *sobs* I didn't get my *sobs* time. *sobs* I was on time *sobs* to finish *sobs* in under *sobs* four hours. *sobs* I didn't. *sobs* 
Joey: Mom! Are you crying? 
Me: *sobs* Didn't even beat my *sobs* time from *sobs* last year. *ugly cry* 
Joey: Mom. You just finished a marathon. Get it together, Mom. Call me back when you're done crying. *hangs up*

Real talk. That's my first born.

So, needless to say, I am pretty sure I needed to hear that. I mean, there are probably different ways to have said all that, but I am pretty hard headed and I need things delivered straight, no bull shit. Hey, I finished a marathon. This year's time? 4:28:40. Just 8 minutes short of finshing it UNINJURED last year. Faster than other runners with no issues this year. Get over it, right?

I hobbled over to the after-race party. After an hour, my knee stiffened up pretty badly. I went to the post-race medic tent, saw a doctor, and they said IT band swelling. So, I am looking at IT band syndrome and lots and lots of PT and rehab.

No fun.

Of course, I've already started. I can run 3 miles no problems on pavement. I could run six miles on the good treadmill. But, I will have to become a different runner. I will never be the same. This changed me...emotionally, physically...and I learned about myself.

I learned, that despite being painfully injured, I could still finish a marathon. Which, check that off my bucket list.

After getting it together, this mom learned Wonder Woman is bad ass.
Can you tell I had just ugly cried?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Runner's World Cover Search! YES, I'VE ENTERED!

Please, take a moment to go and vote for me here. Running is a passion, Wonder Woman is an alternate identity, and sharing my story would be dreamy!

What was your BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT [in running]?

"Could I really run 26.2 miles? Is nothing impossible, or is that true only for superheroes? To finish my marathon, I mentally needed to display my strength, to see it in the mirror. And so, I discovered my running identity: Wonder Woman! Every race since the Chicago Marathon has been run in my full Wonder Woman outfit. I had no idea what impact running as Wonder Woman would have on my own confidence and motivation, or the impact on the crowd. As I run by spectators, they cheer for Wonder Woman: she is an individual that men and women alike want to see succeed. Children's eyes light up with delight. I've had little girls run up to me squealing with delight, asking to take a picture. For me, running as Wonder Woman has become a way to inspire not just myself, but other runners. I've had fellow runners at races tell me they stuck with me because the cheering helped motivate them, too. I've had good races and bad races, but the biggest joy I get is when I see my sons at the end of each race, and they proudly tell their friends, "My mom is Wonder Woman!""

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Of running off the crazy, running off the stress, and running off the calories

You may have noticed I am a runner.

You may have seen it here, here, or here.

I've gone through many stages of running.

STAGE ONE: The new runner
I first ran desperately, gasping for breath, hoping that I wouldn't fall off of the treadmill before I burned a single calorie or ran a single step. In those days, I was just about to turn 30, and three years was long enough to swear that "soon all of this baby weight will fall right off" before I finally realized it was no longer baby weight but just MY weight.

I was 186 lbs. The heaviest I had ever been in my non-pregnant life, and I wasn't happy. I had two little boys to keep up with and I knew if I wanted to do that, I need to get active.

I picked running.

God only knows why I picked running because I couldn't run the length of a soccer field before this without getting a stitch in my side. "I'm just not built for running," I thought. I accepted this and lived my non-athletic life from the stage, behind a debate podium, and in front of a student council.

But here I was now, dying on a treadmill, all for the love of being a more active mom for my two boys.

Also, I was vain. I felt fat.

I ate well, I went from one mile to six. I went from 13 minute miles to 7 minute miles. And I went from 186 lbs to 136 lbs.

I enjoyed that body for about a year! And then? I got knocked up pregnant with twins.

Once again, I gained that "baby weight." And while I might not have hit 186? I spent a good three years hovering in the mid 170s. And despite buying the best jogging stroller I could find (BOB!), I didn't run at all.

Until I moved to California.

Something about moving from 300 days of overcast and cold to 300 days of sunny and warm changed my mentality. And the running was gradual, but the eating better started right away.

STAGE TWO: The casual, social runner
I moved to California and became a raw vegan for the first 6 months of living here. That helped with energy and weight.

And then I became friends with TheAumsMama, a huge force in Santa Cruz living, and I started running again. We ran beautiful places.

We went to beaches, and farms, and ranches. Once day, I was so desperate to see her that I ran through a mountain forest RIGHT AFTER I DONATED BLOOD.

Yeah, I almost passed out on her.

We encouraged each other while we randomly and casually decided that mayyyyybeeee we would run this race or that race. And we did this together until we decided to run our first half marathon.

STAGE THREE: The crazy runner
I ran my first half marathon. It was like being bit by a bug. I finished that race and I was high on run.

And then I ran another. And then I challenged myself to run 15 races in 2015. Before I knew it, it had been five months since I had a month go by that I didn't run at least 100 miles.

And then, one day, I signed up for a full marathon (CHICAGO!!!). It was a lottery. And I got in.

I found myself moving from running several miles at a time a 3-4 times a week to running up to eight miles at a time five times a week.

I became obsessed with the shoes, and the running gear, and the trails. I became obsessed with my heart rate, and my cadence, and my pace.

But I also noticed, I was happier every time I went out for a run.

Kids stressed me out? Go out for a run!

Work got me down? Go out for a run!

Worried about bills? Go out for a run!

Concerned about running? Go out for a run!

Running became the place where I could clear my head. It became my sanctuary, my meditation, my happy place. When I started a run, nothing could get between me and the pavement. Yes, my thoughts were still there, but they would slip away, and I would realize I am strong, I am relentless, I am motivated, nothing can stop me, there will be a solution, I don't have to know the answer right now--the answer right now is a run.

I found ways to challenge myself (ten miles a day for ten days) and I have found ways to improve (hello, strength training!).

Running has been my best friend when I need someone to just be there and say nothing. Running has brought me some of my biggest accomplishments. Running has taught me how to accept difficulty and strife and running has taught me nothing is impossible.

Running also makes me feel like a badass who has a tribe, even if I don't see that tribe everyday, even if I normally run alone.

I honor myself with a run, my health--both physical and mental--with a run. And in return, the run takes away the calories, the stress, and the crazy.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Of my worth, working mother guilt, and other things of business

I switched jobs. It was a long time coming. Although my responsibilities have varied, I had been working my last job for over four years.

About a year and a half ago, I realized my salary was pretty far off that of my colleagues. I make 77%  of the same dollar for the same work, with the same education. And I have more technical work experience. I was upset, to say the least. And my manager at the time promised to bring me into parity, I was at the low end of my band, he said. It would happen at review, he said. And when I got my GLOWING review, with no significant bump, I brought it up, and was LAUGHED AT.  WHO TOLD YOU YOU AREN'T IN PARITY. You, I said. No, I never told you that, said my manager.

Well, okay.

I swallowed it.

I knew I had to get away. At that moment, I knew I would never get equal pay for equal work.  Not from him.  So I applied for another role and got it.

And now I've asked for equal pay. And I almost apologized when asking for it.  The words, "I'm sorry" almost came out of my mouth.  I'm sorry? As in, I'm sorry I'm asking for more money. I'm sorry I'm disrupting your day with my request. I'm sorry you have to think about this and me and ugly things like money because of my request. But I stopped myself. I even said, "This actually isn't a raise, this is actually just bringing me into parity with my colleagues."

But now I'm racked with guilt for having asked and worried about how I'm being thought of because of my request.

Which, stupid.  I'm worth it. My work is amazing.

And my work is what takes me away from my babies. To be undervalued by the thing taking me away from my babies, it kills me.

The day I asked for my raise, I missed half of one child's music concert at school because I had to leave to lead one meeting. I then missed all of another child's music concert because of another meeting. I worked until I had to leave to take a third child to baseball, where I proceeded to work on my computer THROUGH THE BASEBALL GAME.  And then I bought dinner, dropped him off, and went back to the office where I worked until 9 pm.  Afterwards, I went for a run. And in the locker room, I cried, because I realized...MY DAY.

I skipped lunch.

The babies. I missed so much. I worked through a baseball game (I did stop and video every at-bat, though!).

I'm worth 100% of the same dollar anyone else is making. My work is pretty amazing. My most recent feedback, "Just walked through the deck  with <....>. She said it's the best activities, look, and flow she's seen. Absolutely loved...the AppleCare portion specifically. Awesome job, and thanks again Angel!"

I have to breathe. And maybe go for a run.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The one thing I can control

When it comes to relationships, or even work, I have not had an idyllic life. Failed marriages, a bunch of first dates, I come pretty close to the queen of bad decisions when it comes to men. I'm also in a second career. Despite being desperately in love with teaching history, I'm now in high tech. In a stressful job. All the while I can't help thinking 8 year old me knew best: I should have been a lawyer.

But what has been pretty amazing is my journey with motherhood. I gave birth to my first son, a healthy baby boy, when I was just 25. I got to spend an entire summer with him before I went back to work. He was the most beautiful baby and everyone told me so. My baby Joey was my everyday sidekick. I was warned not to have a second child-- no one could compete with the gorgeousness of baby Jo-Jo. But when I was blessed with my lil man Eddie, I felt my life was perfect. This little boy, almost the exact opposite from his big brother, completed our little trio. The three of us, thick as thieves, were always on the go. Joey was an angel. Eddie adored his big brother. And I was a proud mama of the two most handsome men in the world.

Until I was the proud mama of the FOUR MOST HANDSOME MEN IN THE WORLD. I unexpectedly became pregnant with twins...a blessing...a gift. I was privileged to observe two human beings grow inside of me--and they did it TOGETHER. I saw one human "lick" the other one on an ultrasound. I carried two distinctly different people AT ONCE... And grew to know their relationship before they even left my body. Twin B, a non stop wiggle worm busy body. He kept me up at all hours of the night, as if to say, "Hey mom! Isn't there some place we could be going? Something we could be doing?" Twin A, my little chill baby. He poked me only every once in a while as if to say, "I'm all good, Mom. But don't forget I'm here!"

Their entrance into the world was one of the most traumatic days of my life. Twin B's heart rate went down to 30 bpm. An emergency c-section two months before their due date. But they came. And they cried. And they conquered the NICU. 

And my idyllic journey with motherhood began. Four boys. A set of twins. Curly headed, big brown eyed, caramel colored skinned, dirty hands, playful hearts, skinned knees, super hero and NFL dreaming boys. My life, as a mom, although difficult at times as a single mom, has been everything I could ask for...I am blessed. 

But three weeks ago, that changed. And now, at night, fear grows where there was once joy. My twin A, my Jakey, had a seizure. And the ER felt unsure whether it really was, so they ordered an EEG... Everyone assured me, nothing would be found, Jakey will be fine, things will work out, you will see...but all I saw were the abnormal results of the EEG. 

An MRI is scheduled for today. Friday, December 12th. I can't sleep. I can't stop thinking. I can't stop worrying. I'm sick to my stomach. My baby Jakey sleeps in my bed with me now. He can't be left alone (especially near water). The next three months are important months (he is most at risk for another seizure during this time). He needs an MRI (what if it is abnormal too). 

I can handle break ups. I can handle being let go from my job. I can handle divorce. 

I can't imagine handling bad news about my baby (please oh please God or universe or Buddha or Yahweh let him be healthy). I don't know how other parents have done it and survived (that sounds so cliché). I don't want to learn that I can survive it too (that sounds so selfish, is that okay to say). 

I feel like the last three weeks have been a bad dream. I hold onto my phone tightly all day, wondering when I will be called by Jakey's school to come get him (they've called twice and I go immediately). I sleep next to my baby and well, it's not really sleep because I'm afraid to close my eyes, in fear of missing an episode of some sort throughout the night. I am absolutely sick to my stomach. Later today, I sit and watch his MRI. And then the doctor will call for an urgent appointment if they find something. Or she can call to tell me the results are normal. 

So now I will fear the phone ringing. Again. 

My idyllic journey with motherhood has been shattered. Maybe not completely. But enough that I have realized that anything can happen. That I can't control the outcome of this. That I have to just love my babies hard. That I have to just enjoy his sweet loving face on my chest, as he snuggles up against me as he sleeps in my bed. He is the face I see first thing in the morning. He smiles slyly. He tells me I'm his best friend. 

And then I do then one thing I can control: I tell him he is mine.