Thursday, March 31, 2016

Four Legs - Part I

So despite my admonition on Sunday's blog post, you should adopt cats. I'm going to focus on cats for this post, and though you may not think it 100% relevant to running/Star Wars/my usual blog fodder, it is relevant to health. I'll tell you why in Part II tomorrow.

To start, you should know two things:
  1. I do not like cats. And I own two. So I don't want to hear you say "I'm not a cat person." Tough. Adopt one anyway.
  2. Ok fine. You can feel free to substitute dogs. Or Rabbits. Chinchillas. Miniature ponies. I really don't care. All pets are good for your health. 
My love/hate relationship with cats began in early 2012 when I made the following seemingly innocuous observation to my husband:

"There's a cat in our yard."

Had I any foresight into the series of events that followed this particular random cat sighting, perhaps I might have cut our time living in New Jersey even shorter than it already was.

We would see aforementioned cat trotting around frequently, but she wanted nothing to do with people. Definitely feral. Our neighbor - a kindly elderly handicapped woman - took it upon herself to feed this poor feral kitty, and our neighborhood birds were thankful for it.

Within 6 months... the cat gave birth to three kittens under our neighbor's shed. (One of these kittens - Zelda - would later find her permanent home with us.)

And then 6 months after that... she gave birth again.

Oh, and by the way - her original three kittens (including Zelda) - also had kittens.

You don't have to be an actuary to do the math. Our feral cat population was growing exponentially, and we'd be overrun unless someone intervened.

Unfortunately, the outlook is hopeless for feral cats and kittens when Animal Control is involved, and shelters usually won’t take feral cats. Our elderly neighbor couldn't do much, and the rest of our block had no interest in getting involved.

So my husband and I took it upon ourselves to start the Dale Road Cat Project. The project essentially became our privately funded trap/neuter/release (TNR) program, where we spent countless hours carting adult feral cats off to a low-cost clinic (Planned Pethood) to have them fixed.

I created the website to help find homes for their kittens. No need to go through the whole site if you don't have time - these are my two favorite stories:
  1. Evolution of the Cat Hunter - or why the Garfield comic strip is not the right place to learn how to trap cats.
  2. One of These Things is Not Like the Others - yes, even mother cats are assholes.
By the end of our time on Dale Road, we had TNR'd 11 adult cats and adopted out their 22 kittens to good homes.

If you think it heartless to re-release the adult cats back outside, you have to understand that these are wild animals. They've always lived outside, and it takes a really patient person to try to domesticate them. Adult cats are hard enough to adopt out as it is... nobody is going to take a mean one to boot. So at least we ensured they could not continue to procreate during their time outdoors.

The exception to the rule? Our Zelda.
She ended up staying with us much longer than the other adult cats because we needed her to play surrogate mom to some of the really little kittens that we captured. Because she was with us for 3 months, we were worried she might forget how to be an outdoor cat. She's been with us for 2.5 years now, and she's finally becoming a pet instead of that random roommate we never see.

So I don't know that I've done a very good job here of "selling" you on a cat, but you can imagine how grateful we were for those willing to adopt. And even though they drive me up a wall sometimes with their claws and persistent meowing, our cats certainly have some positive traits I can't ignore:
  1. Entertainment. Break out a laser pointer around a cat one day and you'll see what I mean.
  2. Pest control. Zelda hunts and eats the bugs that find their way into our house. Bonus points to her for getting the spiders, because I have severe arachnophobia.
  3. Affection. I could do without being covered in white cat hair, but I'll put up with it since they like lap time so much.
There are so many unwanted cats out there. I hope you do find space in your home for one.

Today's exercise: 4 mile Treadmill "F-*k it" Run, 10 min/mi



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Accentuate the Positive

There's a lot bumming me out this week. I debated pretending nothing is bothering me, but nah. I'll just purge it all here because maybe that will help me move past it all.

  1. Cats. I was criticized for what I said here. As if one blog/vlog post read by a small group of followers is going to all of a sudden halt all altruistic adoptions of unwanted pets. I... of all people... want you to adopt cats. Seriously. More on this another time.
  2. The race. This, of course, is not news. The thought of selling off my registration has crossed my mind, but then I remember this is the inaugural Star Wars Half at Disney World and there's not going to be another one. Plus I'll need to do this one if I want to get the runDisney Coast to Coast medal. So there's no way I'm sitting this one out.
  3. Fakebook... I mean "Facebook." We're all pretty selective about what we choose to post, right? I'm exhausted trying to keep up with everyone else's happiness. I get comments IRL about things I have posted on Facebook that I'm sure were not intended as criticism, but certainly feel like they are. So... for the first time in nine years... I deactivated my account. And I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders, even though my blog traffic has suffered a little bit because of it. (Friends, you can still reach me on messenger.)
  4. Easter Candy. I may have hinted that I wanted a 1/2 price Cadbury Creme Egg to my husband on Monday, and he interpreted that as "bring home every last bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs and marshmallow Peeps that CVS has available". Easter candy is like my kryptonite. With additional stress coming from marathon family visitation week, I'm fighting a losing battle here.
I need better armor to fight off Cadbury Mini-Eggs.
Quote of the day: "This is how you succeed: You fail so many times that you run out of options and the only thing left is success."

Today's exercise: 6ish mile run

M1: 15:42
M2: 15:48
M3: 17:20
M4: 16:57
M5: 16:18
M6: 16:35

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Blogroll the eighth-ish

Just trying to maintain some normalcy during this marathon family visitation week. As an introvert, I'm just begging for some "me" time, but certainly happy to find a minute to eek out a blog post.

Read this quote somewhere this week:

"Life will make you a 'loser' over and over again for a reason, but you'll never know what that reason is if you give up."Alright then, sub-2 half marathon. What else do I need to possibly learn before I make you a reality?

Train Like an Athlete:
Eat Like an Athlete:
Think Like an Athlete:
Sleep Like an Athlete:

I've got nothing here today.

Today's Exercise: Unplanned rest.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Cool Impossible

I can't believe I haven't mentioned this book* in any of my blog posts to date:


I read it at the insistence of my coach back in January, and it's been a pretty significant part of my training since I moved into my house in early February. (I would have started sooner, but some of the equipment I needed to do the strength exercises was stuck in storage. Just another way in which our homebuilder screwed us. I'm not still bitter about it, I promise.)

Anyway, the book was written by Eric Orton, the coach mentioned in Born to Run, also a good read for runners.

While I really enjoyed Born to Run, reading The Cool Impossible was like... eating spinach. Can't say I love it, definitely don't hate it, just find it necessary. When I run, I really hate thinking about things like form, cadence, stride length, etc... I just want to go out there and do it, ya know? Clear my head. Feel good.

But implementing the strength exercises in this book has probably kept me going strong and free from overuse injuries, important as I've added a lot more mileage over the past two months. (And I've fallen victim to runner's knee, IT band issues, and lower back pain while training for prior half marathons.)

The strength exercises are hard. I only do them on days that I run, and alternate between a set of leg strengthening movements and core movements. The leg stuff takes forever - but I'll usually throw on House of Cards or the latest The Walking Dead to make the time a little less torturous.

Whether or not this torture has made me any faster is questionable. But like I already said, I am happy to have remained injury-free, and I've definitely seen improvement in my ability to execute the movements without falling on my face.

My husband tends to give me the eyebrow raise every time I pull out the equipment needed to strength train: my ski poles, slant board, and stability ball. You know, one of these looks:


He finds my CI exercises to be weird and slightly amusing, but whatever. Glad I can keep him entertained.

*Amazon Affiliate Link. This means that if you click a link to Amazon through my site and buy something, I may earn a commission. Much obliged.

Today's exercise: Rest.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Most Important Lesson

At 5:30 this morning, the sound of claws digging across the door of the guest room next to our bedroom woke me up.

The cats registered exactly how they felt about being locked out of one of their favorite sleeping spots by our overnight guests. I jolted out of bed and chased them downstairs in the hopes that our guests hadn't heard and were still sleeping peacefully. I suffered in the role of cat wrangler for 2.5 hours until our guests finally rolled out of bed.

But it did give me the opportunity to record this:

video


So this is Kirbi staring me down and trying to puzzle out how she's going to get past me to break into the guest room:


I've never been a "cat-person" but I do feel a kinship to Kirbi. We both look innocent enough, but are driven to do whatever it takes to get what we want.

Today's exercise: Rest. Happy Easter to those that celebrate. My MIL gave me this card, so you know she's a keeper:


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hostile Takeover

I have four families. It's both a blessing and a curse.

My husband and I are both children of divorce, which has made for quite a puzzle in the past whenever a holiday approaches. We would engage in healthy debate over whom we were going to grace with our presence. Holidays have been less of a challenge since we moved to Florida, as only my mother lives nearby - the remaining 3 families are back in the mid-Atlantic.

When we moved to Florida, we extended the invitation to the 3 families to come visit us anytime.

We didn't mean that they should all come in the same week.

Tonight, my mother-in-law and her sister arrive for a two-night stay-over. My father-in-law and his wife are then stopping in overnight on Tuesday as they drive back north from a much longer vacay down in southern Florida. And on Thursday night, my father, stepmother, and half-brother arrive for an extended weekend visit. 

Just when I was trying to keep my stress levels low in preparation for April's big race. 

I think the hardest part about having company is being totally thrown off my usual routine, but in the past, I'd only have to deal with visitors in short sprints. So I'm working on planning out the week so I can adhere to my personal normality as much as possible. I have to accept that I may need to miss a few training runs. I may need to really work hard to keep my diet in check. I might miss a few blog posts.

I may also need to drink heavily, ruining my commitment to stay alcohol-free until the race.



On the bright side - since it worked out this way - I only had to marathon-clean my house once.

Oh, and as far as I know, my in-laws don't read the blog. But if they do... hi guys. It's your crazy daughter-in-law. Can't wait to see you.

Today's run: 9 mile long run before chaos
M1: 16:21
M2: 15:57
M3: 16:41
M4: 16:54
M5: 17:01
M6: 16:18
M7: 16:24
M8: 16:37
M9: 16:12

Friday, March 25, 2016

Thriving

I got something done this week I've been meaning to do for a long time - join Thrive Market.*

If you aren't familiar, Thrive sells Paleo (or Vegan, Organic, Gluten-Free, etc.) staples at wholesale prices. It's like the Costco, BJ's, Sam's Club for health freaks. Membership is reasonable - $60 for the year - and shipping is free as long as your order is over $49. Plus they usually throw in free goodies - for my first shipment, I got a free jar of coconut oil AND free glass cleaner. Woot!

Thrive has been around for a little while now, but because I was moving around so much, I wanted to wait until I got settled to join. 

Here's what I like:
  • Quick Delivery: Like I said, it's free when you place an order over $49 (not too difficult to do because there are so many awesome options) and I received my first shipment in less than a week.
  • Good prices on the following: 
    • Canned coconut milk (side note: I really miss the Trader Joe's brand that was $1.00 and I wish they'd bring it back!) - it's $2.45 here compared to $3.45 at my grocery store.
    • Epic Bars - Epic makes a really good Whole 30 compliant snack, but when you order direct from the company, it gets pricey - especially after adding in shipping costs. So now I feel like I can indulge more frequently!
    • Primal Kitchen Mayo - another Whole 30 staple, and so happy to have something to go with my canned tuna.
  • Hand-written thank you's: It's a nice touch.

There are only two things I wish were a little bit different:
  • Not the best deal on certain items: Coconut oil is definitely cheaper at Costco. Apple Cider Vinegar is cheaper at Trader Joe's. Just do your research before deciding what to buy! And know most of the items you would be buying at Thrive aren't available at your usual stops anyway.
  • Still need to maintain that Costco membership: I already mentioned coconut oil is cheaper there, but you can't buy your perishables at Thrive. Costco is where I get all of my meats for a month, and I'll usually pick up some bulk veggies while I'm there too. 
I'll end on another plug for Thrive though - for every membership purchased, Thrive donates a membership to a low-income family to help make healthy food affordable for all. I totally dig the socially-conscious vibe the company gives. 

*This is not a sponsored post in any way, just wanted to share my experience with them so far. And - in full disclosure - if you choose to join via the referral link above, it's mutually beneficial - you will get 15% off your first order. 

Today's exercise: Rest.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Progress

I knew today was going to be good when I woke up for the first time in three days without a migraine.

I'm loath to pop pills unless I'm close to dying. I managed to sleep off yesterday's headache before needing to get up for work.

But on Tuesday, I woke up at 3am in agony. I knew I wanted to run before work on Tuesday, and migraines of that particular magnitude don't usually go away on their own for me. So I took an Aleve and tried to go back to sleep... but it didn't work. I was in a bad way until late in the morning and was most disappointed about possibly missing a planned run. Fortunately, I was feeling better by the afternoon to work in my missed run.

So yeah... no headache today! I read up on headache triggers, but the only one that really applies in this list is staring at computer screens too much. Or possibly stress. But given these two things are daily occurrences - and migraines aren't - I don't think either are the culprit.

For now, I'm just happy to be back to normal today.

Since I was feeling better, I figured it was time to start introducing what I'm going to be using for race day fuel, just to make sure I have no negative reactions to it:*



UCAN powder: a good dose of carbs without the insulin spikes. I dumped a scoop into my blender bottle, shook it up, and tossed it back.

It was like drinking chalk.

Ah well. I have an excellent track record of eating/drinking lots of gross things, all for the sake of getting healthier. Why not this too?

Nom Nom Nom
UCAN does come in sexier flavors, mind you, but given my history with going overboard on hyperpalatable foods, unflavored was the right choice for me.

I can report that I had no physical reactions and a fairly improved run at MAF today compared to Tuesday. So I think this will be fine fuel for race day.

*Amazon Affiliate Link. This means that if you click a link to Amazon through my site and buy something, I may earn a commission. Much obliged.

Today's exercise: 6ish mile run:

M1: 15:39
M2: 15:56
M3: 16:15
M4: 16:28
M5: 15:37
M6: 16:14

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

May the course be with you

Rough 24 hours, but then I read this today:

25 Things About Life I Wish I Knew 10 Years Ago

The first two things on the list spoke to me:

#1. Struggle is good. Wish the author would have written a little more about WHY it's good, but I'm sure it has to do with perseverance, resilience, blah blah blah. If I had to guess why struggle is good for me, it's because it builds a foundation for me to understand that I can overcome challenges, and not back down in fear when presented with new ones.

#2. Don't complain. So I can't run a sub 2:00 half marathon. Wah. Oh, I've spent all this time and energy getting outside for a run in paradise while the rest of the world deals with winter. Wah. I have to go to Disney in less than a month to run an epically awesome Star Wars themed race and I feel unprepared for it. Boo freakin' hoo.

You can put your tiny violins away. I'm ready to shut up about it.

I spent some time looking over the course maps today. First, the 10K. Pardon my terrible screenshots:


So it looks like it starts out at Epcot, runs through the Disney Boardwalk area, then through Hollywood Studios, ending at the Wide World of Sports (WWOS) complex. I am a little bit worried about the end of the race being kind of boring. The last three miles are on the roads that separate the parks.

But I understand why it needs to work this way - they need to make sure everyone's out of the parks before they open for the day.

I was worried about the same thing - 'boringness'  - for the Rebel Challenge Star Wars Half at Disneyland - you run through the parks there first, and then head into the streets of Anaheim for the last 7 miles. I mean... Anaheim? How cool could that possibly be?

I was pleasantly surprised.

So here's the course map for the Dark Side Challenge Star Wars Half:


It kind of looks very similar to the Wine and Dine Half route, only in reverse - Wine and Dine started at WWOS and ended at Epcot. Anyway, the half follows a very similar route as the 10k, but then takes you out to 18 million overpasses (or maybe 4) until you hit Animal Kingdom, and then 4 miles of boring-ness til you get to the end at WWOS.

Did someone remember to invite the 501st for this one? Here's hoping...

Today's exercise: Rest

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Game Over

It struck me while I was at Disney on Sunday that my very next visit to the parks would likely be the weekend of the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge.

If that didn't strike me as coming up quickly, this came in my email today:



Cue panic.

I quickly double checked the countdown box on my blog, and sure enough, it’s 25 days out.

I’m toast! I have never felt so unprepared for a race before.

I never thought there would come a day when I’d be envious of running 10-minute miles.

It's not that I have a fear of getting a DNF (did not finish). It's just that every other half marathon I've run, I've always had hope. I've gone into every race thinking that it would be my day to hit a PR. It never worked out that way, but I still had the hope.

This will be my first race knowing that a sub 2:00 is really out of reach. I actually have no idea how long it's going to take me to run 13.1 miles this time around.

I am trying so hard to focus on other things for this race. Really. But there is not a single goal I can get jazzed about as much as hitting that time goal. Nothing else matters.

I'm trying to remember that this is likely not the last half marathon I'll do. But that just leads me down the path of wondering what the point of this half marathon is. And it's so frustrating because I have such positive associations with all things Star Wars, but now maybe I like Star Wars just a tad bit less.

The Dark Side Challenge. Truly, this race could not be more appropriately named.

For me, it has nothing to do with running 19.3 miles in one weekend.

My challenge? Pulling myself out of the darkness that is this self-hate and anger, and getting to a spot where I'm ok with exactly who/what/where I am at any given moment.

Can I get to this spot in 25 days?

Today's exercise: 6ish mile run:
M1: 15:53
M2: 16:47
M3: 17:07
M4: 16:53
M5: 15:19
M6: 15:50

Monday, March 21, 2016

Blogroll the... lost count

I have no good excuses for not writing today. Spelling my name N-i-c-o-L-A-Z-Y.



Train Like an Athlete:
Eat Like an Athlete:
  • Eat more, move less... have I heard this story somewhere else before?
  • Non-scale victories: Not a secret that weight loss is a major goal of mine as carrying extra weight slows you down. But I ditched my scale a long time ago. 
Think Like an Athlete:
Sleep Like an Athlete:

Today's Exercise: Rest. But hit 400% of my step goal yesterday traipsing around Disney!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Knot a Problem Anymore

In all of the self-induced 'drama' from Thursday's wagon-fall, I forgot to mention something that actually went right...

Thursday night was monthly massage night! Given my last few attempts at getting massage have actually caused more stress than reduced (see here and then see here), I have made a few strides in eliminating anxiety caused by worrying about the gender of my therapist.

Yes, I actually had a good experience with a male therapist without becoming a complete headcase before laying on the table. Really, only one thing was within my control - the rest I think was the universe trying to make amends after my last experience.

The one thing I did differently? Inquired in advance as to the gender of my therapist while making the appointment.

My intention in asking was, of course, to indicate that I preferred a female therapist. However, my husband was accompanying me for his own massage and I was booking appointments for us both. Unfortunately, at our desired time, there was only one female therapist available.

And - as much as *I'm* uncomfortable with male therapists - I think my husband might be even a little more so.

So it was either change our appointment time or take one for the team.

I really wanted a massage. So I booked it. I made the decision in advance that I was finally going to be ok with it.

When I arrived for my appointment, I was totally calm. And when my therapist introduced himself, I could not have felt any more at ease. He shared a name with my coach, a name I associate with trust. He also had an Australian accent, which I find totally charming. I lived in Australia and studied at the University of Queensland in 2001, which was one of the best experiences of my life. Talk about positive associations!

This is my favorite photo from Oz. This was the moment where I briefly considered dropping out of college, staying in Australia, and becoming a professional skydiver.
Anyway... tangent. So my therapist was totally professional. And provided the perfect massage - well-balanced between helping me relax AND working out the problem areas in my upper back (thanks, desk job.)

Lesson learned: Always, ALWAYS assume positive intent from the people you work with, and don't judge the next guy based on experiences you had with the last.

Today's exercise: "Meh" run:

M1: 16:39
M2: 16:26
M3: 16:47
M4: 16:25
M5: 16:33

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Empress Nicole the Passive-Aggressive

Greetings to those newcomers who have found me during my three minutes of reign at Sensible Castle. I shall reward you greatly for following the royal decrees of the kingdom...

...ah, too late. My reign is over. Maybe the next king will get you something nice. Don't hold your breath.

Sorry, friend, but you're like Chewbacca. Everyone gets a medal but you.
Let me summarize almost six months exactly of daily blogging here:

So if you are someone who also struggles meeting your goals, battles mental health issues, or loves running/Star Wars/Disney/anything geeky, feel free to click one of those little "follow" buttons at right (if you aren't on a mobile device) to get some updates. And leave me a comment or shoot me an email, would love to hear what you are up to.

And for those loyal few that are already up to speed, thanks for stopping by. Here's a sort of description of what Sensible castle is, but really only Cards Against Humanity players *get* it. 

Nothing new to update today, but will be back to running tomorrow.

Today's exercise: Rest

Friday, March 18, 2016

The pain of staying the same

30 days of painstaking effort adhering to an uber-clean diet for the purpose of self-experimentation... all for naught. Gone in a moment of weakness around flour and sugar last night.

My post whole 30 reintroduction plan is ruined - it's going to be hard to judge the impact of non-gluten grains and dairy now that I've ingested all kinds of inflammation-causing crap. And I had a less than stellar run this morning because of it.

So what do I do now?

I think of everything I'd normally do in this situation... and then do the opposite. This was the strategy I laid out for myself when I last crashed and burned in December, and had some success with it.

Old Nicole: Breaks down and wonders why the hell I'm so messed up.
Changed Nicole: Still breaks down but only momentarily... then realizes this is probably a lifelong battle for me and mistakes are gonna be made.

Old Nicole: Compares myself to others and gets incredibly envious of their successes.
Changed Nicole: Knows the only person I can compare myself to is the person I was yesterday.

Old Nicole: Looks at this failure and says "Well, I've got family visiting over the next few weeks, Disney trips, vacation.. It's too hard to do it right now. I'll get healthier when everything settles down."
Changed Nicole: Looks at what happened not as failure - and knows that every choice I make from here on out is another opportunity to do right by myself.

The only thing to do now is to go right back to doing what I know makes me feel healthy. I can not do another Whole 30 - incorporating some gluten-free grains is actually an important part of my race strategy, so I need to start reintroducing those now. But from here on out, every choice I make is one that will be a conscious choice - for my health and sanity - that I can feel good about.



Today's exercise: 6 mile run
M1: 16:54
M2: 17:32
M3: 17:32
M4: 17:28
M5: 16:54
M6: 16:39

Thursday, March 17, 2016

/Whole 30

So if you've been keeping track (as I know you all have because it's SO fascinating #sarcasm), you know that Tuesday was Day 30 of my Whole 30.

30 days of no grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol and sugar - done!

Now begins the process of reintroducing some of the things I've eliminated to see how they impact me and what to expect if I make them a normal part of my diet. This isn't my first rodeo, so I kind of already know the answers... the real test is whether or not I can stick to my commitment to stay away from things that make me less healthy.

Legumes first. Yesterday, I added about a 1/2 cup of black beans with every meal I had.

Result?



I had an off-day, for sure, but whether or not the beans are to blame is hard to validate. Here's what went wrong:

  • Energy: I had none of it. By noon, I was desperate for a nap. I nodded off while trying to complete my daily meditation. I went to bed early, but still felt exhausted when my alarm went off to go for a run this morning. But is this attributable to what I ate? Or perhaps I'm still trying to catch up on lost sleep from business travel and changing the clocks for DST? Plus I had to present at a fairly high-pressure meeting yesterday, a task that always drains me. It wasn't until early this afternoon that I felt a little more alert.
  • Uncontrollable urges around food: The binge monster still comes knocking every once in a while, but I've been pretty good at turning him away. I may have let him back in for a few minutes last night. It wasn't face first into a pile of donuts, mind you, but a binge on Whole 30 compliant food is still a binge. However, I've been feeling these urges more intensely over the last week anyway, so I don't think legumes are the culprit.
  • Bloating and grossness: With last night's overindulgence, is it a big surprise that I woke up this morning feeling like running was the LAST thing I wanted to do? Was it the legumes or just eating too much in general before bedtime?
I hate that there are so many damn variables to this process. I'm thinking I might try again later next week with a different type of legume - peanut butter perhaps? In the meantime, it's back to Whole 30 strict compliance for today and tomorrow. Will try non-gluten grains on Saturday. 

Today's exercise: Rest

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Elevated Heart Rate

At 5:30 pm yesterday, a frantic pounding at my back door startled me out of my office chair. I looked up from my work laptop to see my across-the-street neighbor standing there in his pajamas. I would have thought it comical for him to be ready for bed so early had his yelling not indicated something serious was going on.

My husband, who had also heard the pounding, came downstairs from his office and let our neighbor in.

He didn't wait for us to greet him. "Two men just stole your front porch sofa. They went that way," he pointed, indicating a direction that took them through our small community and out to the nearest street.

Stole our front porch furniture? Impossible... My home office has windows looking over the front porch. I always catch most movement out of the corner of my eye - even people just walking down the street. Surely I would have seen someone walk off with our furniture. And who would be stupid enough to just walk off with a giant sofa in broad daylight? I ran to the windows to confirm his story... and looked back at my husband in panic when I saw it was gone.

"Call the cops," my husband shouted over his shoulder as he threw on his nearest pair of flip-flops (over his socks, btw), grabbed his car keys, and took off in hot pursuit. Our watchful neighbor ran across the street and grabbed his vehicle, also taking a lookout.

I picked up our home phone and dialed 911. The operator answered and I could barely breathe out our problem.

"Ok," he said. "Where are you?"

I gave him our address. "Wait, where?" I repeated it.

"Ma'am, you're coming up in East Brunswick, NJ. I don't know what is going on with your phone, but had this been a life or death situation, we'd be dispatching someone to the wrong house."

Yikes. Remind me I have to update my internet-based phone service.  I hung up the phone and used my cell phone to try again. This time with some success - a uniformed police officer showed up within five minutes to take the report.

At this point, my across-the-street neighbor had returned from his patrol, his search yielding nothing. The uniformed officer jotted down his account. Ben also returned and appeared to be empty-handed. My heart sank. We just bought that sofa, a unique piece we thought could help us be "front-porch people" like you are supposed to be in the deep south. I did a quick calculation in my head and realized our homeowner's insurance wasn't going to make us whole again.

And then my next-door neighbor - a petite pregnant woman a few years younger than me - stepped outside and walked over to where we were standing. "Oh, I saw them," she said. "And I called Dave. He's on it."

Dave, her husband, is a high-ranking St. Pete police officer. We met them on move-in day last month, and I remembered cheering inwardly when I heard he was a cop. I knew I was excited that day for a reason.

"I know," Ben said. "I ran into one of his guys just now." Ben recounted the tale of stopping on the street just a block away to inquire from a fairly scruffy looking gentleman if he had seen two men walking off with patio furniture. The gentleman said - very quietly - that he was "with Dave," indicating he had been placed there under cover.

It would seem that in the span of the 15 minutes or so that these two men walked off with our sofa, Dave had deployed about 6 officers of the law in a two block radius of our house.

And in the time it took Ben to tell us about running into one of them, we were clued in that our sofa had been found.

Dave's wife was picked up to go see if she could positively ID the two men whose backyard the sofa had been found in, just a block away from where we live. She couldn't.

But she could ID the sofa. And it was ours.

So Ben and I were escorted over there to go pick it up and walk it back home.

It's living in the garage for the time being until we can find a way to nail it down to the porch.
Maybe we'll put up a fence.

And actually turn on our security system when we leave the house.

And install security cameras around our house.

Can you tell I'm feeling a little bit violated right now?

Even so, I am very grateful to know that we have neighbors that care. We wouldn't have our happy ending if it wasn't for them.

Here's where I'm at now, though: I was smacked in the face with a reminder that I live in a city, and while that comes with a lot of perks, there are things I need to be smart about.

Maybe running alone at dark first thing in the morning isn't the safest choice.

Today's exercise: Rest.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Afraid to pee

Oh, the bathroom habits of runners. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to making sure I'm cleared out before I head outside for a training run. A run can be ruined pretty quickly if you need a restroom and there's none available.

And nothing causes me more pre-race anxiety than long lines at the port-o-potties at the starting line of a race. There was one time I didn't get to "go" before the starting gun sounded: the George Washington Bridge 10k. Now, I know it doesn't usually matter if you start with the gun - most races give you a timing chip so that you know your exact time from when you cross the start to when you cross the finish - but I was getting really worried about getting stuck behind the walkers. So instead of intelligently and patiently waiting for a restroom to open up, I left my spot in line to go run the race. And - thankfully - I was actually able to make it the hour, no problem.

But here's where I think the bathroom OCD started for me: the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half. My final time was 2:02... just under two minutes behind my first half marathon time of 2:00:53. 

The key difference? I had to stop for the bathroom around mile 10. I was in and out really quickly, but then I went to wash my hands and there was a little girl taking FOREVER at the only sink available. 

I was like "Kid, you are about 3 seconds away from being thrown back onto the race course." Seriously. Damn my need to be hygienic. 

It may have been the thing that kept me from a PR. Maybe even a sub 2?

In related news, I came home from running errands yesterday afternoon to find that my husband had installed this:


That, my friends, is a toilet that apparently comes with a remote control and instructions.
So here's the deal - in 2009, my husband and I had the good fortune of being able to travel the world. Along the way, Ben fell in love with Japanese toilets. Heated seats. His/hers bidet. Dryers. Some even came with a button that would give you the "flushing" noise without actually flushing the toilet. When I inquired as to the utility of such a function, I was informed that it could help you be more discreet about your bathroom activities.

You know, as if nobody can really guess what you're doing in there.

So Ben finally found a way to bring that experience to our humble home. But it's going to take some getting used to. I mean... look at all of these features:

I am NEVER touching that Vortex button.

Intimidating, no? 

So now I have even more bathroom anxiety. 

But at least I can feel good about saving some TP.

Today's exercise: 5k

M1: 16:20
M2: 15:55
M3: 16:27

Monday, March 14, 2016

Judge me by my size, do you?

I have to be tougher than I give myself credit for.

The things I'm putting myself through to reach a sub 2 half marathon... would you be willing to do them? Let's take a look at a few recent exhibits:

1. Metronome: My runs used to only be fun if I had Lady Gaga or Journey accompanying me. Over the last two weeks, my earbuds play a different tune... the incessant beeping of the MetroTimer app, a necessity for getting my rhythm down and my cadence to that optimal 170-180 beats per minute. I'm not sure how long it will take for me to internalize it, but my ears are pleading with me to go back to iTunes, Pandora, Sirius, ANYTHING else. Seriously, I dare you to try listening to it for ten minutes... and THEN try doing it for two hours.

2. Darkness: 6:00 am rolls around, and I'm outside and running - plus I've already walked the dog, fed the cats, and squeezed in a 15-minute warmup. Do you know the determination it takes to peel myself out of my bed, stumble around my room in the dark so as not to wake the husband, and get myself going when it seems like the rest of the world is still peacefully dreaming? For most of my life, I knew I wanted to be a morning exerciser but could not make it happen until November of last year. But just because I can now do it consistently doesn't mean it's easy.

3. Weird eating habits: Tomorrow's my last day on the Whole 30, and I certainly didn't make it easy for myself trying to get through it while travelling for business. On top of that, I recently started taking fermented cod liver oil*:



FCLO is supposed to be the supplement of all supplements, providing a good dose of fat soluble vitamins in their most bioavailable form. (This article does a pretty good job of breaking down what it can do for you). But it's not ice cream, folks. This stuff arrives with a page of instructions - nay, encouragement - to get you through the process of taking it each day. You can chase it with grapefruit juice, apple cider vinegar, whatever you want to help get it down. But I take mine straight up.

4. Marathon: To the rest of the world, participating in a Star Wars Marathon probably means watching all of the originals, the prequels, and The Force Awakens when it comes out on Blu-ray on April 5th. And then there are people like me who intend on showing up to Disney World at the crack of dawn two days in a row to run 19.3 miles through the parks. And we won't even get to ride Space Mountain.

So yeah, I think I'm pretty tough.

Tough in a weird, geeky kind of way.

*Amazon Affiliate Link. This means that if you click a link to Amazon through my site and buy something, I may earn a commission. Much obliged.

Today's Exercise: Rest

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Blogroll the Sixth

Losing an hour + recuperating from business travel = I'm letting others write my blog for me again today.


This one didn't fit into any of my usual blogroll categories, but please watch it:

Think You Know What Someone With an Eating Disorder Looks Like? Think Again.

Train Like an Athlete:
Think Like an Athlete:
Eat Like an Athlete:
Sleep Like an Athlete: (Appropriate for the end of DST)
Today's Exercise: 7ish mile "happy to be home" run:

M1: 16:24
M2: 16:58
M3: 16:43
M4: 16:27
M5: 17:08
M6: 17:38
M7: 17:48

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Navigating the Death Star Part II

As I mentioned yesterday, navigating business travel while on the Whole 30 has been pretty difficult. I'm super excited to get back home tonight so I can resume life as normal (although I understand there are many out there who fail to see my life as I'm currently living it as "normal"). Luckily, I got to spend the last 24 hours with a friend who is super understanding, supportive, and patient enough to accomodate my pain in the ass food choices. We found an Italian restaurant on the San Antonio Riverwalk that was willing to cook me a whole 30 compliant meal, but I was less fortunate in my hunt for breakfast this morning. I was really looking forward to trying Humble House at the Pearl Farmer's Market, but when we arrived, they didn't have any options for me. My friend found me a Trader Joe's nearby so I could make my own brunch of hardboiled eggs and a paleo wrap with banana and almond butter.

The other major challenge I ran into was sticking to my training plan. I had originally intended to run on Thursday and Saturday morning, but my plans fell through. 3 areas to blame:

  • Weather: There was NO WAY I was running at MAF using the hotel gym. My colleagues are kind of all crazy athletic - every year I attend this meeting, I run into my team at the gym at the crack of dawn. If they saw how I "run" now compared to how I used to train, they'd never let me hear the end of it. So I was planning on doing my runs outdoors... until I woke up to rain on Thursday. Ugh. So I had to alter my schedule a bit.
  • Heels: I work from home in Florida. It's either flip-flops or nothing most days of the week. So when I have to break out the heels for professional meetings, my feet get really angry with me.
  • Exhaustion: I was in back-to-back meetings during the day, catching up on my real work during "breaks", and out til way past my bedtime socializing with my peers. I slept 9 hours over the course of 3 days. 
So running was kind of low priority over the last few days, but I did happen to get out for at least one shorter run yesterday first thing in the morning. It worked in my favor that we were staying at the Westin, a hotel chain that places a great deal of importance on guest health. You can get a map at the front desk that outlines local 3 mile and 5 mile running routes:


I didn't say it was a *good* map, but it was something.

It was a really slow run, but I couldn't be too bummed. It gave me a chance to do some awesome sightseeing at a really peaceful, quiet hour of the morning.  I usually only stop my run for sunrises and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, but I made an exception since I'm not entirely sure when I'll be here again:


I was really excited to be getting home tonight to catch up on some sleep... and then remembered we're losing an hour tonight. I'm just going to have to dig deep for some of that resilience I've been relying on a lot lately.

Today's Exercise: Rest.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Navigating the Death Star Part I

So I realize I haven't been posting my food charts lately. Part of me still feels pangs of 'what's the point?' since the revelation hit me a few weeks ago that I wasn't going to achieve my half marathon goal.

But I can tell you that my commitment to the Whole30 has never wavered. Just to give you a quick overview of the Whole 30 - it's a pretty restrictive paleo diet that is supposed to give you some insight into foods that are problematic for you. Because certain oils are excluded, it can make dining out very difficult, but not impossible.

I knew when I started last month I'd be challenged to continue the W30 during business travel this week, so I gave a heads up to our conference coordinator I'd need to get in touch with the hotel and any restaurants we'd be dining at while here. I packed some TSA compliant foods to have on hand for snacks while en route to San Antonio and to have at the hotel just in case - brazil nuts, roasted seaweed snacks, and some of these bad boys*:


Let me tell you, a cut up banana with some nuts in one of these wraps is better than dessert after you've been off sugar for almost a month. While it made for a higher carb meal, it was still pretty satiating.

Despite my attempts at prior planning, being on the Whole 30 during a business trip has been an incredibly difficult experience. Here were my top 3 challenges:

  • Feeling like I'm missing out. My adventure started on Wednesday when my flight out of Tampa was delayed due to bad weather in Houston. I was going to miss my connection in Houston to San Antonio. In order to get me on another flight, I was bumped to first class and given all the perks that go along with it. Not bad, right? Only all of the "amenities" of being a first class citizen were off limits to me. No booze. No chocolate. I'm really hoping the accidental upgrade isn't just a one-shot deal in life, because I really just wasted mine. Also, while at the meeting, free wine was flowing... but I partied it up with my tonic water and lime.
  • Having to go through the litany of foods I'm currently not eating in front of my coworkers, particularly when they are wondering why I'm being served a dry baked potato and veggies while they are gorging on awesome Mexican fare. This doesn't work out so well in convincing them I no longer have an eating disorder. 
  • Putting blind trust in the food that I'm served. When I was served scrambled eggs and fruit yesterday morning, I started the day highly optimistic. When a plate of gluten-free pasta was placed in front of me at lunch, I became less so... the lunch crew didn't have my list of food limitations, so I had to give them an order that I knew couldn't be messed up - salad with hardboiled eggs and olive oil. Most of my days were highly lacking in healthy fats and protein, but they were - as far as I know - compliant. It's what I don't know that's stressing me out right now - how much can I trust the results of my W30 if those scallops I had Wednesday night were cooked in vegetable oil?
Don't even get me started about drinking coffee black. What I wouldn't give for a blender and some coconut oil right now.

I'm on my own for meals the rest of the weekend and still looking for W30 friendly recommendations in San Antonio. Suggestions appreciated!

*Amazon Affiliate Link. This means that if you click a link to Amazon through my site and buy something, I may earn a commission. Much obliged.

Today's exercise: 4 mile Riverwalk "Run"
M1: 18:54
M2: 19:25
M3: 18:45
M4: 17:16

Thursday, March 10, 2016

runDisney Updates

Work travel is beating me up a little bit harder than I thought it would. More on that tomorrow.

For a quick post, just wanted to share some big updates out of runDisney:

1. Registration for Super Heroes Weekend Announced: This was formerly known as the Avengers Half and will be November 10-13, 2017. Registration will take place on April 12 (April 5 for Annual Passholders) at noon ET.

So... originally my intention was to run the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge next month and then retire from running. But because a few things have changed for me lately, I'm not really sure I'm ready to retire. If I do Super Heroes Weekend, I will have completed a half marathon at Disney World in Orlando (Star Wars) AND a half marathon at Disneyland in Anaheim (Avengers) - which means I could earn the Coast to Coast challenge medal!

I wish registration was happening after Star Wars so I could make a fully informed decision. But now I've got less than a month to figure it out. Do I continue riding this emotional roller coaster that is running half marathons? Hmmm...

2. Changes to Wine and Dine Half



So Disney announced with much fanfare that the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend is now adding a 10k and a few other events. But I think they were trying to cover up a big takeaway - the race will now be held in the morning instead of in the evening. One of the things that made this race so awesome and such a good memory for me - despite being the race that holds my WORST record - is that we totally got to take over Epcot until 4am following the race. While I understand that Disney does VERY well when they do these challenge races (everyone - myself included - wants those extra medals), part of the big appeal of Wine and Dine was that it was an evening race. Without a theme like Star Wars, Princesses, or Marvel behind it, it's likely to lose popularity.

I think this was a bit of a stumble, Disney. Anybody else disappointed by the news?

Today's Exercise: Unplanned rest.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Yoda to my Luke

No, we don't know how it works out yet for them.

Maybe he's the Obi-Wan to my Anakin. I guess we just have to see how it works out for me.

No matter what the outcome, I know I wouldn't be where I am at this moment - that is, healthier, happier, and hopeful for the future - if it wasn't for the guidance I've received from my personal Jedi Master, Coach Garret.

Everybody needs a coach. I don't care if you're an athlete, artist, academic... whatever you are doing, if you are looking to achieve a certain goal, perfect your craft, or just you know... want to find health, happiness, and hope as I did... you need someone who can help you see yourself as you really are, free from the desires of others.

Your coach doesn't need to be an expert. A peer can help you see beyond the clutter of your daily life and gain a clear perspective of where you want to go, as long as he/she has no vested interest in what your outcomes are and has some knowledge and experience with what you are trying to achieve.

Here's what my coach has done for me:
  1. Pushed me to leave my comfort zone - Garret first introduced me to the Maffetone Method. It was a drastic departure from the way I had been training - and, therefore, meant following it was taking a real risk that I wasn't going to achieve my sub 2:00 half marathon goal. But he reminded me that changing it up was a calculated risk - after all, my way (harder/faster/longer) hadn't been working.
  2. Offered guidance and answers - I read everything I could get my hands on with this new approach, but it left me with so many questions. He answered when he could and helped me find my own answers when he couldn't.
  3. Helped me set realistic goals - when it became apparent I wasn't going to achieve my goal, my coach helped me realize I had achieved so much more - finding the path back to health - and that even if a sub 2:00 half isn't in the cards for next month, I can get there for the next one.
  4. Challenged things I believed to be solid truths - for example, when I was ready to throw in the towel because I believed I could not run at a lower heart rate, he pointed out some key insights from my running data (cadence, stride length) that helped me see where I could improve.
  5. Inspired and encouraged me during perceived setbacks - that little voice that tells me I'm not good enough, I don't have the ability, I can't do this... was much quieter after consulting with my coach.
So how do you find your coach? I was lucky enough that he found me through the blog when I was at a critical low point in my training. But I don't think you need to put out an extremely personal daily journal that shares all of your hopes, fears, dreams, and shortcomings to get yourself a coach. 

Maybe you already know someone who fits the bill - all you need to do is ask them for help.

Or start looking online for a professional in your area. If you are concerned about budget, find out if there's a way to barter. You will find the value a coach can provide to be worth your time and/or expense. 

Of course, if you need a recommendation, I know a really good one and will be happy to put you in touch.

Today's exercise: Rest. Travelling.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Vlog

Travelling for work over the next few days means I'm strapped for time today. Working on pre-scheduling a few blog posts just in case I don't have any downtime.

In the meantime, enjoy my first (and probably last) video blog!

video

Today's exercise: 5ish mile run (oh, wait, apparently I did 6ish.. totally lost track!) with a metronome... gotta have more cowbell!

M1: 17:51
M2: 17:49
M3: 17:41
M4: 17:20
M5: 17:32
M6: 17:41 

Monday, March 7, 2016

You must unlearn what you have learned.

It was a good weekend for dramatic developments in my half marathon training.

Breakthrough the first: Realizing that I was much worse off than originally thought when I started training back in September. Understanding this has lead me to achieve a state of peace with myself after suffering a week of despairing with the knowledge that I will not hit my sub 2:00 half marathon goal next month. Now I know that I'm on the right track to get me to my goal for the next one.

Breakthrough the second: I can run at a lower heart rate - and improve my cadence and stride length. Previously, I thought these things were mutually exclusive. 

I'll back up a second - one of the key challenges I've had with the Maffetone Method is finding a consistent pace during my training runs. Whenever I felt like I'd have a good pace going, I'd inevitably hit the upper limits of my target HR and have to slow down to a walk. Walking would then quickly drive my HR too low in the other direction, leading to training using a run/walk method that was highly inefficient. Here's a good visual from earlier in February

See all those peaks and valleys in the blue and red charts? Not good.

When I tested my speed two weeks ago with miserable results, I initially thought the failure might be due to still training at an HR that was too high - that frequently drifting above 140bpm (like you can see in the graph above) might have messed me up, and that perhaps my MAF range isn't 130-140, but should be 125-135. But, from my own words, you can see how well I thought that would work out: 

I can try scaling back to 125-135bpm in future training runs, but my challenge here is that I can't actually run in this range. My slowest jog sends me upwards of 140, and walking drops me down to 120.

Given what I understand about myself now from breakthrough #1 above, I know I need to slow down even more. So the question is: how can I do this and still do something that resembles running consistently? 

The answer: Work on cadence and stride length. Take shorter, quicker steps. The ideal run cadence is 180 steps per minute, and I've been averaging about 160. To work on this yesterday, I popped in my headphones and swapped out my usual "Eye of the Tiger" playlist for an iPhone metronome app set to 170 bpm (I figured the best approach is to gradually work my way up from 160 instead of going at 180 right out of the gate). 

The result? I was able to run slowly the entire time. While I'm sure I looked ridiculous, I rarely hit the upper limit of my HR range. 

Compare this to above. Fewer peaks and valleys, except maybe where I needed to stop and cross a few streets.


So now that I know I can do this - and do it right, even if I'm really slow - I'm interested to see if I will start to make notable improvements in my pace much more quickly going forward.

Today's exercise: Rest. But I can't wait to see what I can do tomorrow (as long as I don't go insane from two hours of listening to a metronome).

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Breakthrough

I understand now why, despite putting in months of effort and training, I may not be ready for a sub 2:00 half marathon... yet.

It turns out I'm pretty broken. WAS broken, that is.

Not anymore.

Four years ago, right around the time I was training for my first half marathon, I stopped menstruating. I took a pregnancy test, breathed a sigh of relief when it came out negative, and otherwise didn't question it. As someone who is not planning on having children, I welcomed the disappearance of my monthly cycle. Headaches and cramps were a thing of the past. I saved a fortune on feminine products. And no more ruined trips to the beach. Lucky me, right?

I carried on my flippant attitude towards amenorrhea until I was at my annual check up with my Ob/Gyn later that year. She suggested performing some blood tests to check thyroid function, but my TSH levels came back normal. Her next recommendation?

"Stop running so much."

Yeah, right. As someone on the run, eat, repeat cycle, I wasn't ready to heed her advice. And my eating disorder was a very private battle at the time, not a secret I'd even let a doctor in on.

Over the following years, my period showed up, I don't know, maybe twice a year? It always caught me off guard. So when it came last December, I figured it was just another one of those random occurrences.

When it came again in January, I thought "Drag. You again?"

And when it came back for a third time in February, I gave it appropriate notice. Enough to bring it to the attention of a trusted mentor, who really put things in perspective for me.

A major organ system of mine had shut down completely - one that evolution depends on.

There was so much wrong with my body that furthering our species - the thing we're all wired to do (my choice to forgo motherhood aside) - was no longer a priority for it. That's kind of a big deal.

And I had brushed it off. For four years.

When I changed how I train back in November - from harder/faster/longer to the much gentler Maffetone Method - things started working the way they should again.

By running at a lower intensity, eating better, and paying greater attention to my stress levels, I'm definitely getting my health back.

But... given how long I was so broken for... I need to be patient and understand it may take me a little bit longer to get back to a place where I'm fully recovered enough to hit my sub 2:00 goal.

So to my running friends and female readers - I know we don't have the kind of relationship where we're like



But if you are experiencing anything like this, whether you want to have children or not, let's talk about it. Because I regret not listening to my body more fully a long time ago. If I did... how many sub 2:00 half marathons would I have today?

Today's Exercise: Another Breakthrough. But that's a story for tomorrow.

M1: 18:10
M2: 17:38
M3: 17:41
M4: 16:54