Yoga. (Second chances…)

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So let me tell you about my first yoga class…

I tried yoga about 8 years ago.

One time.

It was because I was on all kinds of meds with high blood pressure and was told it would be good for me and would reduce stress. I was also a full blown T2 diabetic and they were anxious to get me moving.  ANY kind of movement. They said yoga would be ‘gentle’ and an ‘easy place to start’.

I’ll be honest…

I grudgingly and resentfully went to the yoga class to get my doctor off my back.

I was around 300 pounds. It took EVERYTHING  in me to put on spandex pants and go to the class.

I spent the entire 45 minutes HUMILIATED.  Everything had to be adjusted or accommodated for me and my bulk and my inflexability.  Every move it seemed, the instructor was calling me out and correcting me. I was not only horribly inflexible, I was also trying to silently fight my belly fat rolls that were totally getting in my way and impeding my ability to breathe.

I hated it.

Every.  Freaking. Minute.

I left the class and proceeded to spend the next 5-6 years telling everyone how horrible, useless yoga was.


So fast forward to about 2.5 years ago.

I’m now reasonably fit, getting healthier. Working really hard to establish and love some healthy lifestyle patterns around food, exercise, my body. I’m really getting into trail running and openly aiming for an ultra.

I was complaining to my friend Kris about being inflexible.

Kris asks me to go to a yoga class with him.

He said the flexibility yoga could give me would help my running.

I reminded him that I hated yoga.

He supports me on this lifestyle journey 100% – running with me, eating my kinds of foods, listening, going to races, lifting weights… 🙂   I hesitate to accept his invitation ONLY because it’s yoga that we’re talking about….

I trust Kris. Entirely. He didn’t have to work too hard to wheedle out of me that the reason I hated it was because I’d tried it ONCE.  One time, long ago, when I was morbidly obese and I still very much burned with shame over the whole freaking experience.  I told him everything.

He promised he would go with me, that he knew the instructor and she was great. The class was small.

He said I would enjoy it.

He promised to do everything he could to help me feel comfortable.

So I put on my big girl panties.  Yoga mats in hand… We went.

Kris had to talk me through what to wear, what to bring and what to expect. Multiple times. And he knew I was still really nervous about it all.

But I have to say, as thorough as he was, he forgot ONE KEY instruction

I didn’t know this was about being QUIET and not TALKING.

Somehow the whole idea of yoga and meditation being quiet had totally escaped me…

I mean c’mon… I’m an extrovert.  I love social gatherings. I figured if we were all suffering to contort our bodies into these weird poses that we should be encouraging each other and sharing in the misery.

And let’s face it. I’m still just a little scarred from the previous experience.

It started off great.  I was actually starting to feel comfortable.

About 15 minutes into the class, the instructor begins to guide us into a pose that seemed physically impossible…

Sit up straight, relaxed and cross your legs.  Gently place the tops of your feet on your opposite thigh…

I said loudly and clearly, making defiant eye contact with the instructor…

‘THAT is NOT going to happen.’

Of course everyone looks at me.

Total alarm spreads throughout the very quiet room that I’d dared to speak out loud.  Loudly, out loud.

The instructor just smiled at me.

I am guessing that Kris is somewhere between embarrassed and mortified at this point.  He’s giving me the unmistakable SHUT UP look and the whisper/shushing that friends who know each other well engage in.

And I am now totally choosing to ignore him.

I said at least two more times…

‘What?!  Really?  That’s just NOT going to happen…’

At this point the instructor leaves the front of the room to walk over to try to help me.

Kris has lost his pose and composure and is now sitting on his mat, staring at me and openly trying to figure out how to help me.

The instructor pretty quickly, with just a few soft words, helped me find a good modification.

She kept smiling at me; like a GENUINE, whole face smile… Not irritation masked with barred teeth.  Looking back; I am guessing that Kris MUST have warned her about my history.

I calmed down.

I tried the next pose… with success. 🙂

I got quiet again.

I would bet at this point that Kris’s blood pressure and heart rate probably dropped exponentially. 🙂

At the end of the class the instructor even said she hoped I would come back. To another class. With another instructor. 🙂

I talked with Kris afterward and finally understood…  Quiet.  This is all supposed to be quiet.

What can I say… I’m a slow learner. 🙂

I have branched out and tried other yoga classes over the last two years.  And much to my shock and surprise, I have actually gotten to where I enjoy it immensely as long as I make the time and stay in a regular yoga practice.

So what happened to Kris?  Kris moved out of state and never went to yoga with me again. 🙂

OK… OK… I’m kidding. The truth is that Kris got his PhD about a month after the yoga incident and promptly got an amazing job on the East Coast. He now lives and runs and practices yoga in Tennessee. 🙂

Namaste.

Candy canes. (Freaking candy canes…)

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Me and my sis. 🙂  This picture serves as a good reminder for me when I’m faced with cravings or hard choices.  I LOVED my life at this point, but I’m not going back…
This time of year is dangerous for me.

I know I’m not alone.

Some of my favorite foods start appearing in stores and at Holiday parties.  They’re seasonal foods, which to my mind means they’re SCARCE and treasured and not-to-be-missed.

In most cases these crazy-wonderful-delicious treats are tied to some of the happiest memories of my life.

My happy childhood Holiday memories are built on food.  And again, I know I’m not alone.

Anyone else get caught up in the ‘OHH!  I used to love this!’, ‘It’s only available right now!’ and ‘The holidays aren’t complete without this…’  frenzy?…


 

I was shopping this past weekend with my sister.

We suddenly found ourselves in the candy/food/food gift aisle.

You can SMELL the sugar floating in the air.

Deb asks me as she’s holding up a package of something, ‘Do you remember this…?’

Fancy cookie mixes.  Almond Roca. Peppermint ANYTHING.  Chocolate everything. Fancy drink mixes.  Maple candies.  Candy.  Candy canes.

You get the idea.

My reply to my sis was ‘yes..!’

The conversation in my head was not so simple.

It was literally like a pair of little fat devils were sitting on opposite shoulders and whispering in my ears…

‘You could eat that and then just go run it off and you wouldn’t even have to give up any other foods today in exchange…’

‘You don’t have to tell anyone.’ (SEVERE RED FLAG WARNING.)

‘Actually you are at a stable weight Bets and you did just run a really big race… I mean, c’mon – you earned this! You could eat this and  totally get away with it and get back on track tomorrow.’

‘It’s the holidays!  Celebrate! This is only around for a short period of time! Why are you so freaking strict with yourself? It’s just a piece of candy…’

‘No one has to know… And you’ll only do it this once…’ (Again, RED FLAG WARNING.)

That’s NOT the kind of healthy thinking I’ve been working to develop as it relates to food and the relationship I want to have with food. I fight these cravings/impulses/habits all the time.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to think about it daily.

Holiday or not.

I wasn’t surprised in the least that this type of thinking showed up in full force surrounding Holiday foods.

I mean… I’ve been thinking this way for 40+ years.  It’s still kind of the default.  It’s oddly, sadly, disturbingly comforting.


 

Early in my journey to gain control of my lifestyle I had to handle things by NOT BEING around it…

So I didn’t go NEAR speciality or holiday food aisles. I avoided parties and potlucks. I couldn’t walk by the bakery section at Costco.  I avoided weddings and showers and parties. I brought my own food to family dinners.

I was very, very careful to limit just how hard I would have to test my resolve.  Stark?  Severe?  Yes… But I knew I needed some distance and some solid practice creating new habits surrounding food to combat the old ones.

I needed some time to get practiced and strong.

I guess I knew it instinctively, defensively; so I was really careful.  I was really restrictive for several years.  At times I still choose to be restrictive.

One more side note?  Remember…  This wasn’t just about losing weight for me.  I was in a fight to beat type 2 diabetes.  So I had a little different motivation than most to try to figure out ways to change my habits for good, not just a period of time.


 

So this time around, standing with my sis and staring at the container of food I used to LOVE…  That only around for a few weeks each year?

I caught the two little devils and their suggested thinking that wasn’t super healthy…  They’re old friends.  I knew their voices.

And I had a plan of action for giving them the boot…

  • I walked out of the aisle and went to look at Holiday cards.
  • I popped about 3 pieces of cinnamon gum in my mouth.  And chewed.  Hard. 🙂
  • I texted two friends about finding time for a healthy dinner or simply  TIME together to build some memories this next week.

Diversion tactics.

I’ve practiced them.

They work.

Getting out of that situation, finding something BETTER than the food gracing the aisles.

Taking positive action that resulted in something non-food related that I can now look forward to.

It worked.

I had a great dinner with two of my best friends a few days ago.  We laughed and built memories and just enjoyed time with one another.

It was WAAAYYYY better than whatever food tempted me in the first place.

Anyone else have any tactics that work at this pressure-filled time of year they would be willing to share?  

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So I’m slightly dreaming of summer in this wet, cold winter.  BUT this was time with friends.  A damn fine time with good friends!  And it didn’t involve food. 🙂  Wendie and Pote. 🙂 

Crossing the finish line…

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Betsy, TJ, Wade and Spencer.  Bibs in hand.  We’re READY to run!

Crossing the finish line of a race is an exciting and exhilarating moment in time!

You envision savoring the feeling of that experience for a long time to come.

The final – symbolical and literal – step in months or years of planning and dreaming and training.

YOU HAVE DONE IT!

You have succeeded!

Friends at the finish line are cheering and clapping and celebrating with you as they announce your name. They place a medal around your neck.  Strangers are calling out congratulations. Hugs. Happy tears. Pictures.

All the good stuff!!!

You are embracing a deep feeling of accomplishment.  A sense of completeness.  A surge of rightful pride in what you’ve asked your body and mind to do and how fantastically they responded.

It’s that single moment that signifies you can now check something really big off that ol’ life bucket list.


I just finished the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler a week ago today.

It’s been a dream of mine for close to 3 years.  I’ve trained for the race for the last few months very specifically, strategically.  BUT the bigger picture of this story is that I’ve really spent the last 30 months or so working to build toward this specific race distance.

This one, single day was the result of a whole lot of work.

Years of work.

I felt good about finishing, beating the cutoffs, racing that sucker EXACTLY to the plan Spencer and I had worked out and practiced.

I had a GREAT race and an incredible day.

I remain overwhelmed with gratitude and love for the friends who were by my side.  Literally.  Josh, TJ, Wade and Spencer were waiting on the course about 1/2 mile from the finish line for Wendie (my friend and pacer!) and I to appear.  They hooted and hollered when they saw us and then served as rowdy guardians, running with me right up to the finish area and cheering each and every step I was taking.

Then they were yelling and cheering for me at the finish. Theirs were the only voices I wanted to hear.

I felt a swirl of emotions about it all in that last tenth of a mile.

Very powerful, mixed emotions.

One of the strongest feelings?

Sadness.

WHAT THE HELL?!!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

SAD?

I’ve just run 50 miles.  I trained for years.  I beat the dreaded %$#@ing cut offs!  I did better than I thought I could.  I had – for me – a nearly flawless race.  I am staring at the smiling faces of five people I adore.  I can now really, finally, legitimately call myself an ultra runner…

How the hell am I feeling sad?

Yep…

It caught me TOTALLY and utterly off guard.

It felt like a gut punch.

I spent the next three days cocooned in a great vacation house in Sausalito,  sightseeing and being taken care of, building great memories with close and caring friends. We were all aware that I was feeling pretty emotionally raw and fragile.

I felt like I was on the verge of tears. I couldn’t sleep. I was indecisive. I was listless.  I felt I was disappointing my friends by not being happy.

I just felt sad and ‘not normal’.

I wasn’t happy or euphoric or elated or energized.  None of the things I was expecting or hoping to feel were present.

I was bewildered and confused by this unexpected emotional fragility.

I KNEW I was tired. I tried to chalk some of this odd and not-normal behavior up to being physically and mentally tired and sleep deprived and out of my carefully cultivated routine. I was very aware that I had just put my body and mind through a test they had never been through before.

The problem was I didn’t really understand what was going on in my mind until right before we were getting ready to leave for home.  I finally was able to semi-articulate what was consuming my brain and heart and had a long, honest talk with my friend Josh.

He assured me that this was all a fairly normal reaction given what I’d just done.


 

I sit here a week later and FINALLY, finally I am starting to appreciate what I just accomplished.

It’s starting to sink in. 

Josh and Spencer have both told me that there is a sort of commonly accepted catch-phrase for what I’ve been experiencing…

Post-event let down.

It will go away.  I will one moment, shortly down the road, feel the full weight of what I’ve accomplished.  And whole-heartedly enjoy those feelings.

It’s just a little delayed while my body and mind sort out what I’ve put them through.

You put a BIG goal out there. You focus on it 100% for years. You hit the event start line.  You take off.  After a few moments/miles you feel the hours of training kick in and take over and you settle in to do the work you’ve learned to do.  You’re flying and soaring and enjoying the event, life, the people around you!

Your mind, body, heart and soul are all working together to get you to the goal.

It’s an amazing feeling!

And then it’s done.

One last step.

You cross the finish line.

It’s suddenly all over…


So how am I taking care of myself and recovering fully from ALL of this?

I’m writing things down.

Savoring time with close friends.

I am focused on healing my body with good foods and long walks and lots of water.  And sleep.  Lots of sleep. 🙂

I’ll keep talking with my coach and close friends as I make discoveries or have concerns.

I am intent on heeding the caution that I take the time and simply enjoy, fully absorb, what I’ve just done.  That’s something I’m not very good at.  Now’s the perfect time to practice it. 🙂

And I’ll also heed the caution to be looking for that next big goal to embrace and get excited about – but to make NO decisions until I’m rested and recovered.

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Mile 47 (?).  Wendie was with me and I was craving ORANGES!  The finish line was just ahead…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

50 miles.

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Betsy, TJ, Wade and Spencer right after we got our race bibs!
Spencer, Wade and I just ran The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler in the Marin Headlands, California this past weekend. Spence and Wade had great runs!  I finished in 12:32.  (Yup. Twelve hours and 32 minutes.)
This was my first 50 miler.
It won’t be my last.
It’s been a three year journey to get to this distance.
I am still letting it all settle in that I finally, actually DID IT!
I’m overwhelmed with the encouragement and support that has been pouring in from friends. Literally. My phone alone showed 38 text messages at the end of the day and I was too tired to text anyone back until later the next day.
I have logged a lot of miles. I have learned so, so many life lessons.  I’ve made new friends and found new trails. I’ve gone through my fair share of running shoes, toenails, body glide, fueling, tripping/falling and all the glamour that trail running entails. 🙂
And I am even more in love with anything and everything related to the trail running community.

We’ll just get the basics out of the way really quick…

Here are some of the answers to the most common questions I’ve been getting from friends and family:
Yes.  I was sore for a few days after the run.  Legs, feet, back were the worst of it.  It’s getting better every day.  But stairs the day after the race were downright treacherous and I’m sure it was just comical to watch as we tried to navigate them…
Yes.  I continue to be ravenously hungry.  Stay out of my way. 🙂
No.  I did not run every single step of the race – some of the hills are too steep to run or the terrain is too uneven. You train to run, walk fast, hike with purpose – hell you might even be crawling at points in time – but you just KEEP MOVING FORWARD.
Yes.  I did keep moving the entire time, there is no break in the action.   This is a race, with cutoffs.  You have to keep moving as fast as you can for the entire time.
Yes. I might be crazy to be running 50 miles, but I love it and will do it again. You can make comments about my ovaries falling out, or trails being unsafe or my knees wearing out or a cougar making me their dinner… I’m not going to be listening.  Just fair warning. 🙂
Yes.  My feet are freaking ugly and I’m going to lose half of my toenails.
I LOVED the entire experience.
I don’t have the exact right words, but I will say that this experience reminds me yet again that running really has changed my life.
My whole, entire life.
No one can ever do anything like this on their own. There were many friends along the way who ran with me, encouraged me and have kept careful watch over the process.
Meet some of the folks who were very much with me on this entire epic journey every step of the way…
Josh. Gave me the original idea of running an ultra. He has logged hundreds of miles running with me and sharing his wisdom with me. And being endlessly patient with my learning.  It is a fact that I would NOT have even tried to run this race if it weren’t for my friendship with the Gums.  Those two individually and together encourage and inspire like none other….
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Wendie.  Pacer. 🙂 She paced me so damned well, totally ignoring my whimpering and whining at the 45 mile mark and forcing me to really push through all the way to the end.  Typical for Wendie, she was also being a light and encouragement to all of the other bedraggled and exhausted runners around us at the end of what was a very long day. She selflessly  put some of her recovery time from running the Seattle Marathon less than a WEEK before to the side to make sure I had help getting to the finish for my race. Friend. Pacer. Runner. Strong, brave woman.  We now sport celebratory matching trucker hats. 🙂
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Wade.  Wade knew me at 400 pounds 10 years ago. And this weekend we just ran the same 50 mile race.  Wade, perhaps more than anyone in my life, has the real-time, day-to-day view of what this journey has all been about. ALL of it — good, bad, ugly. He volunteered to help hold me accountable – and I took him up on it.  It was really important for me that he was at this race to see what all the work I had done was leading to…
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Erica. Erica ran weekly with me in training for this event starting back in September. I would let her know my long run, least favorite run or the one that made me nervous. She would rearrange her life to help me tackle the ‘problem’ of the week. I very, very much felt like she was at my side on this run.
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Spencer, literally has worked to teach me how to run.  From the very start almost 3 years ago when I trusted him enough to tell him about this crazy, secret goal I had to run an ultra to this past weekend when I crossed the  actual freaking finish line.  He’s been with me every step of the way on my crazy journey to be a runner.  He continues to help me learn to love the sport and embrace running as a lifestyle. It’s been a painful process at times as we learned to work together as coach and athlete. I have tested his patience beyond reasonable limits at least once. Maybe twice. Maybe even more than just a few times. Recently. 🙂
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Spence, Wade and I before hitting the start line. Our crew, Josh and Wendie, are taking the picture and holding all of our assembled crap. 🙂
I do have an official race report and would be more than happy to share it with anyone who wants to read it. I will warn you that it contains some raw and uncensored language.  Ask me.  I’ll share.  🙂
50 miles.
In the books. 🙂