Friday, September 27, 2013

Rock and Roll Like Gump

The morning chill left my breath visible in the pre-dawn darkness.  The sun had not risen over Palmer Ranch yet as the crowd of runners had begun to gather.  I had my timing chip, my bib number, and even better, a long sleeved dry fit shirt from my race packet.  It was Florida but it was November and the morning was colder than any we had experienced in a while.  My fingers were shaky.  Maybe it was the cold… or maybe it was my pre-race nerves.  My husband and I made our way to the starting line and found our respective corrals.  “2 hours and 10 minutes Tiffany, you can do this” I kept telling myself as I got in behind the 2 hour pace runner.  I had no iPod, no music.  Just me and my thoughts and my aspirations of 10 minute split times for my first “fast and flat” half marathon.  I tucked my gel packs into my back pocket and waited for the clock to count down.

The sun was first making an appearance over the horizon as the race began.  “Slow and steady, slow and steady” I repeated to myself.  I looked down at my GPS watch.  I had it on the wrong setting.  It was on Kilometers and not miles.  So much for knowing my pace…

I reached the first mile mark before I was even expecting it.  The volunteer there shouted out the time as each runner passed.  “8:30” she said as I slipped past mile 1.  Had I started out too fast?  Was I setting myself up for failure?   I didn’t know.  I just kept running.  

Miles 2 and 3 passed.  Then miles 4, 5, and 6.  My times were almost identical at around 9 minute miles.  When I reached 7 miles… I knew I was set in that cadence.  Nothing was going to stop me from achieving a sub 2 hour half marathon time at that point.  I was over halfway there and I had committed myself to running that race pace for the duration.

Miles 9 and 10 came and went.  I had used up both gels at that point and had made every water stop.  The streets were lined with well-wishers.  They had signs, bells, and cheered and clapped as the droves of runners passed by them.  I couldn’t help but smile.  I felt amazing.  Tired.. but definitely amazing.  

I wasn’t expecting to turn that corner on mile 12 when I did.  One. More. Mile (and an extra tenth of course).  I didn’t even stop at the 12 mile water stop.  The anticipation and desire to reach the finish line were all I could think of.  “I might actually do this!”.  My mind was racing.  I knew that the 2 hour pace runner was somewhere behind me.  Not far behind me, but behind me nonetheless.  I was going to do it.

I was approaching the finish line when I saw my husband in the crowd with his head down watching the time on his phone.  I knew he wasn’t expecting me for 10 more minutes.  It took everything I had to yell his name as loud as I could above the roar of the crowd around.  I saw the clock ticking way.  1:58… 1:58:30, 1:58:40…

I gave my one last push to cross the line at 1:58:56.  I had done it.  I knew that mingled in the sweat dripping down my face there were tears of joy.  I felt accomplished.  The early mornings, the strict diet, the weekend training… it had all paid off.  I even managed to finish 3rd in my age group that day.  I was hooked. 

And I have been ever since.

We went on to run the Rock and Roll St. Petersburg half marathon in the following February.  But now, I've conquered the 13.1.  I need more.
  So this is the year.  This is the year that my husband and I run a full marathon.  26.2 miles of perseverance, sweat, and maybe some tears.  But this will be no small feat.  It will take some serious training, discipline, and a lot of will-power.  I mean, where do you even start to train for running that distance?  In my little hometown, that would be longer than the distance from the Stanton Mountain Parkway Exit to the I64 interchange (I know all my Powell County folks are now thinking, “that’s absolutely crazy!”).

Good thing I have an Exercise Scientist by my side who always does his research.  If we were going to train, we had reduce our risk of injury as much as possible.  If we were going to do it, we had to give it our best shot and deliver our best performance.  If we were going to do it, we were going to do it right.

The solution?

A book called Run Less, Run Faster.  The authors are from Furman University’s FIRST program and have spent years developing various running programs.  I won’t spoil the book because it details a lot of their work, but I will tell you, if you plan on training for a race, this is an excellent resource.  You can even get it on Amazon for as little as $4.00. 
 It has pages and pages of race tables in 10 second increments to help you calculate your paces for the various runs.  You will do one short run to improve VO2 max, one medium run to improve your racing tempo and a longer run day to improve distance.

The best part?  It can start you out at a 5K.  The book covers common racing distances from 5K’s to Boston Qualifiers.  Even if you are a novice runner, there’s a plan in it for you.

I’ve had people ask me how to prepare for races.  Well, if you plan on running a road race, I couldn’t do this book justice.  It does all of the pacing and calculating for you, you simply have to adhere to it and put in the work.  It will help you customize your plan to your pace.

Cameron and I are 9 weeks out from our Marathon and in just the 7 weeks we’ve been training, I can see the merits of the book.  Three runs a week keep up from getting run down and each run has a specific purpose.  

I’ll be honest, I’m a distance runner and the sprint days, well… the sprinting/speed work days are not my friend.  But you know what?  When I’m finished, I know it had a purpose and I can feel myself getting better.

I know the proof will come on December 8th when I run the Palm Beaches Marathon but so far, this book is working for us.  Maybe it will work for you too :) 

Goal Time for the marathon:  4:20:00 (a 10 minute mile)
Above average performance:  4:10:00 (9:33m/mile)
Excellent performance:  4:00:00 or less (9:09m/mile or less)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Sky's a Different Blue

The sun slowly slipped down behind the Appalachian foothills surrounding Fern Hill Farm.  The guests were dressed in their Sunday best and were waiting patiently for the ceremony to start.  The beautiful bride arrived in a cranberry colored 1930’s Ford that Gatsby himself would have envied. Dressed in ivory and clutching her bouquet of crimson flowers her father had grown and arranged himself, she was the perfect mixture of homegrown and high fashion.  All the planning and the stress and the dress fittings, all the food tasting and the sleepless nights, all the fuss and the long distance arrangements dealing with a bridesmaid 900 miles away (yours truly of course) had all come down to this.  They had the flowers and the rings and their vows and the music.  They had a feast of BBQ and homemade pie waiting and they had the perfect weather on a Kentucky August night.  Most of all, they had a host of family and friends, myself included surrounding them as they embarked on the journey of being husband and wife.  It was a whirlwind of emotion and I barely had time to prepare myself to do it all over again.  Oh yeah… remember that little black dress I was supposed to wear for this joyous occasion?  It fit :)

 Three weeks passed and I hopped a plane back to Kentucky.  Tucked safely in my carry-on luggage were a strappy pair of silver heels and more importantly, a size 6 plum colored bridesmaid dress.  I hadn’t tried it on since April… when I was 10 lbs lighter.  I was mentally preparing myself for going to buy some spanx and practicing shallow breathing, you know…  just in case I had to suck it in to keep from busting out.  I texted the bride (my cousin) and told her I wanted to apologize in advance if I looked like a busted can of biscuits on her special day.  In true snarky family style, she replied “you better be glad I love you”.  And I was.  I was so honored that she had chosen me to share in her special day.  After college, the two of us had not had a chance to spent any time together.  My husband and I had moved to Florida and she had moved to Northern Kentucky, settling about 2 hours from the little hometown where we shared so many great childhood memories.  She had a son who was the light of her life, become one of the greatest Middle School Science teachers, and met a wonderful man who made her complete.  What a joy it was to share in all of that.

I landed on Friday, had lunch with my parents and “brother” and headed back for a little retail therapy at Just Plain Fancy Boutique.  While I was there, I tried on that bridesmaid’s dress.  I needed to know whether we were taking an emergency run to the mall for some Spanx and maybe a crowbar… to get me back out of the dress of course.  

It zipped.  When I say it zipped, I mean I had a LOT of help maneuvering and held my breath as the zipper made its way from bottom to top.  I knew I was one carb filled meal or dairy product away from bursting out of that dress.  I was devastated.  That dress was loose when I got it and now it had become my second skin.  But it zipped… and that would have to do.

The next day I avoided carbs, dairy and even water (which I know is not healthy) like the plague.  I kept telling myself that I just had to make it until after the ceremony.  Luckily, getting my hair done, a mani/pedi, make up, and helping set up occupied a lot of my time.  When the time came to slip that dress on for pre-wedding pictures, it was still tight, but I could breathe and move without sending my zipper flying into someone’s eye.  

The minutes counted down until ceremony time.  It was time for the beautiful bride to put on her gown.  The other bridesmaid and myself watched as the mother and maid of honor helped her slip into a strapless A-line with just the right amount of sparkle.  They zipped her up, fixed her veil and touched up her lipstick.

At that moment, as I stood back and watched her put the finishing touches on in the mirror, nothing else mattered.  She was clothed in happiness and love.  It wouldn’t have mattered if had come down the aisle that day in my skivvies for the bride was picture perfect.  There was one lucky groom waiting for her and I know he was blown away when he first saw her walking in.  Her fairytale day had arrived and all eyes were on the beautiful bride.

When I told the respective brides that I had gained 10 pounds they didn’t believe me.  When people tell me at I look great, often times, I don’t believe them.  Am I continuing to eat right, exercise and train?  Yes.  Will I continue to try and improve my body?  Yes.  But often times, I’m so hung up on who I used to be that it’s very hard to appreciate how far I’ve come.  I know I’m getting stronger, faster, and healthier.  I know I’ve improved in so many ways.  But I’m the first to admit that there are days when I look in the mirror and I don’t see a size 6.  I see a size 16.  The person I used to be.  I know that my perception of myself in the mirror is markedly different than how others perceive how I look.  I’m working on that.  I’m working on being less hard on myself and truly realizing that I’ve come a long way from the girl who had to lay down on the bed to zip those “Juniors Plus” jeans.  At this point, the battle isn’t in the physical work, it’s in having mental and emotional strength.  

I have to start telling myself “You can do this”, “You’ve come so far” and “You will achieve that racing weight your desire”.  Most of all, I have to start trusting other people.  Trust that they see the real me.  Trust that their compliments are sincere and trust that they see all the hard work I’ve put in, even on the days that I don’t.
Love yourself so you can love other people.  Don’t become so hung up on a number or a size that each day becomes a mental battle with yourself to even leave the house without feeling “fat” or “ugly”.  I know I have to start truly following this advice. 

Love that feeling that you get after a run or a great workout.  Love the way you look in that new dress you just bought.  Love the journey and not just the destination.

At the end of the day, it’s all about love.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Out of the Ashes

*I’ve been away for a while for good reasons that I will tell you all of soon, but I feel like today my return to blogging should be one of reflection and of reverence.*
 All across America, in little towns much like the one I grew up in, resources (both monetary and people themselves) are limited.  These little towns are served solely by fire departments of volunteers.  Volunteers who go to their “regular” job then devote their remaining hours to training for and responding to accidents, chemical spills, house fires and the like.  My dad was/is/always will be one of those brave and dedicated individuals.  

From the time I was old enough to retain childhood memories, I can remember my dad going to work every day, only to come home and be “toned out” to any number of things for the local VFD.  Supporting his family came first and foremost but his true passion, the passion for being a firefighter, came in at a very close second.   I could tell from the first time I watched my dad put on his bunker gear where his heart was.  He couldn’t get out the door fast enough and he was off to do his duty.

Some days he would come home with a smile despite the ash and soot that blackened his face.  He couldn’t be more excited to detail the days (or nights) events to my mom and me.  Other days, the silence was almost deafening.  I had never seen my dad truly cry, but I always wondered if those streaks down his face were that of sweat or tears.  It was obvious that those days had been the most trying and he was struggling with the life or lives that he was unable to save. 

Growing up around the fire department I gained a deep respect for the many days and sleepless nights these men and women endure.  Despite being an “only child” I have accumulated around a dozen “brothers” who are willing to not only lay down their lives for my dad and each other but for complete strangers without hesitation.  Despite the dangers, I never doubted that my dad was coming home from wherever he has responded to.  Whether he was fighting a blaze in the Daniel Boone National Forest, battling a house fire, or cleaning up a gas leak, he was always home and safe.  I understood my dad’s passion for what he did and his willingness to sacrifice life and limb for his brothers and sisters, or at least I thought I did.

On that clear September morning my Mom dropped me off at school as she always did.  I had just started 8th grade and my 1st period class that morning was “work-study” as the office assistant to the Attendance Clerk.  The TV in the front office lounge was barely above a mute and was programmed to the news as it always was.  I started the day filing forms and paperwork as I did every day.  But that day was not an “everyday” type of day.  That day our view of our country and our world would be changed forever.

I cannot describe the fear and the shock that I felt as I was glued to the news footage that day.  My mind, as I’m sure everyone elses did, was racing.  Were we truly safe there in small town America?  What will happen next?  Why did this happen?  I just wanted to go home. I wanted to hug my parents and hide from all the sadness and the hurt and the broken hearts and pretend like the country I lived in was and would always be the safest place on earth.  

The end the school day bell rang and it was time to go home.  I couldn’t get out to my mom fast enough.  We rode home together and talked about how the day had unfolded.  The short drive to my childhood home passed slowly.  The TV was still on the news when we arrived.  My dad had a stack of VHS tapes of which he was recording every second of footage from the screen.  He would go on to spend days and sleepless nights recording every bit of information about that day.  The preliminary numbers of those lost were already rolling in and New York’s finest firefighters, police officers and EMS personnel were among the lives lost.  Our nation had a broken heart and a defeated spirit and fear instilled into their very being.  My dad did not know any of those brave men and women personally but I learned that day that any loss of a brother or sister was a loss to the firefighting community as a whole.  I saw that somber look on my father’s face that I had seen before.  He may not have shed a tear in front of me that day, but I knew that on the inside, his heart was aching as the death toll of his brothers and sisters as well as his fellow Americans rose.  I know my dad would have done anything to be able to go up to New York and help find those who were lost and lay those brave men and women to rest with honor and respect.  

That day, I learned what true sacrifice was.  I understood the immense love someone has for their fellow human that they would lay down their life for them.  I understood what it was like to stand together and pick up the pieces when the world we knew came crashing down.  I had experienced true and sensational fear as well as an overwhelming sense of pride in my country and those who vow to defend it both here and abroad.   

12 years have passed since those events unfolded before our eyes.  It’s hard for me to believe that there are students in Middle School, like I was on that day, who will only read about what happened.  They will only watch recorded images of the things that flashed live across the TV that morning and the days after.  They will not (and I hope never will) experience the uncontrollable fear that gripped the nation as we waited to see what would come next.   I do hope that they will experience the great pride in knowing they live in a country where there are men and women who are willing to give their lives for others.  I hope they will understand and not judge when they see a tear flow down the cheek of someone who is re-living that day.  It is my hope that they too will come to understand the love of humanity that I finally understood on that fateful day.   

We have risen from the ashes, we have united as one, we have endured and we have persevered.   On this day, more than any other, we remember the true meaning of strength, courage, commitment, endurance, and sacrifice.  We remember.  Today and always.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Old. New. Borrowed. Very Blue

Most every little girl dreams of her wedding day. Meeting their true love, planning a wedding, and settling down in that little house I so recently spoke of. We flip through magazines looking for flowers and colors and linens and the perfect gown that makes us feel like a princess. We fill “hope chests” with all of notebooks of ideas and the perfect family heirlooms for our “something old”. We know someday that all of the hoping and dreaming will become a reality when we finally meet that special someone whom we cannot live without. Our day will come that we get to be the princess, even if it’s just for a day.

Next week will be five years since my husband and I said “I Do” and forever in front of God, family and friends. I spent the year and a half leading up to that day doing the same things every little girl does only that time, it was real. I picked colors and flowers and cakes and linens. I picked a gown fit for a princess and made sure the groomsmen were matched up perfectly. I already had my prince charming but it was time to pick the next most important people in my wedding party, my bridesmaids. I knew exactly who they would be. The girls (turned women) who had been with me through it all. They were there for me when my mother was sick. They were there for me through my dad’s accident, through my “incident” and through the tears and sadness. They were there for me through my darkest times when I lost those closest to me and they always knew what to say to mend a broken heart. We had sleepovers and day trips and shared in each other’s triumphs as well as each other’s failures. We watched as boyfriends came and went, doing our best to pick up the pieces when one of us had “forever” slip away.

We survived badly permed hair, the bell bottom jean revival, hair wraps, plaid and corduroy overalls, and the Spice Girl Era. We dreamed of marrying everyone from the Backstreet Boys to Jonathan Taylor Thomas. We dreamed of the day when we would watch each other walk down the aisle with our dream guy and promise them “’til death do us part”.

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, “They say nothing lasts forever. Dreams change, trends come and go, but friendship never goes out of style.”

Despite the world changing around us, my best friends and I have been together since 6th grade homeroom and before. They would be the ones who would stand beside me as I embarked on the marriage journey with my husband. I also knew that when the time came that they were ready to be the princess to their prince charming, I would return the favor. Their broken hearts were my broken hearts, their happiness was my happiness. They were the “sisters” that would always be there for me, and I for them.

Next month, my best friend Annie will have that dream day. She’s picked flowers and food and those perfect words. She picked her wedding gown and the accompanying bridesmaids dresses, and true to friend form, has asked me to stand with her among our other friends as she (and her husband to be) give their lives to each other. I’ve shed tears of happiness as I’ve receive invitations and looked through engagement pictures. Much like my husband and I had 5 years ago, they are going to have their perfect day.

So where am I going with all of this mushy gooshy rambling? Well, that little detail about me standing with her also includes wearing a custom bridesmaid dress from Carrie Karibo Boutique. (Sounds fancy, huh?) Said bridesmaid dress was ordered for my measurements in April. That means they are pre-house buying and pre-parental visit. Pre-stress and pre-weight gain. So what’s a girl to do?

Well I’m obviously back on track in terms of eating healthy but some damage has already been done. My measurements are for a 135 lb Tiffany and not a 143 lb Tiffany (Gah, 8 pounds!). Now I know 8 pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you are petite (that’s PC for short like a hobbit) like me, 8 pounds can mean the difference in 1-2 dress sizes. I cannot look like a busted can of biscuits on the best day of my best friends life. I don’t want to look back on her pictures in five years and regret my appearance. I want her day to be perfect. So where do I go from here? Well, I gobble down a pack of oreos, drown my sorrows and pray to the good Lord to melt away my fat… um… NO. That’s not how it works. 

Yesterday, with the encouragement and participation 

of my husband, I began the 30 day abs challenge. This will be 30 days of completely healthy eating. No cheat days, I have to do this(!), except for next Friday,  our anniversary dinner will be the one exception. So how can I tell if I succeed? Well obviously I want to be back down to a certain weight on the scale, but I also want to visibly see a difference. So, in the spirit of sharing my journey with you, I’ve taken some before pictures. 30 days from now I will take the same pictures and compare. 

So, if you’re feeling extra feisty, I’ve included the abs challenge below. Feel free to take this journey with me and submit your before and after shots on my facebook page if you want. Whatever keeps you motivated, do it. I know my motivation; getting in that sleek black bridesmaid dress and watching my best friend have her fairytale day. 

You know you want to...