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Running Changed My Life

6 Jun

Today is national running day so I thought it was a good time to write about running. You know…I get asked alot if I really, truly like running. I think so many people associate running with a form of punishment to whip our bodies into shape. A chore that some of us add to our exercise routine to burn fat, to look good, to be healthy.

At the prodding of my best friend, I signed up for my first 5k in 2008. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day at the time. I had been a smoker for half my life and had tried to quit more times than I could count and failed. Every. Single. Time. The problem was I really, truly liked smoking. I ran that 5k, still a smoker, and it sucked. I hated it. At the end of the race she looked at me expectantly, wanting me to love running. I looked at her like she was crazy and vowed to never sign up for another race ever again.

I honestly have no idea how she talked me into running a 10k next. “6.2 stupid, stupid miles” was all I kept repeating in my head. Why did I sign up for this? I had to actually train for this race. I couldn’t just wing it. So I trained. I kept smoking. But something changed when I finished that race…6.2 miles, to me at the time, was a REALLY long way…and I did it. There came a sense of accomplishment. A sense of pride. But inside I felt like a fraud…who can call themselves a runner and still be a smoker?

So I did something really crazy and decided to sign up for a half marathon. I quit smoking. I vowed that as long as I was going to spend the money and do a half marathon, I had to take it seriously. Something happened during training for that first half marathon. I went out diligently for my training runs. Mike joined me with Ava in a jogging stroller. He carried water and paced me. He kept me honest. He decided to sign up for that same half marathon. Our lives began to change…we talked about pacing, injuries, injury prevention and we ran many, many miles together. We did our long runs separately each week. Before I knew it, I started looking forward to the long runs.

My long runs were the only time I had that belonged to just me. No phone. No conversation. No bills. No Facebook. No email. No child. No husband. No friends. No chores. Just me and my thoughts. I wasn’t a wife. I wasn’t a mom. I was just a runner. And I knew as long as I kept running I would not smoke. I started to appreciate my body. The legs I once hated became the legs I adored. Not because they looked awesome but because they were strong and powerful and carried me along the way. My thoughts changed…I learned tenacity, commitment and sacrifice. I fell in love with running. The further I ran, the more I loved it. When everything in my body screamed for me to stop, I kept pushing on. I refused to give up. I counted light poles, trash cans, beach cruisers. I raced people on the bike path. I raced against myself. I raced for imaginary finish lines.

I get asked often, “What do you think about all that time while you run?” You have a of time to think when you spend that much time running…that’s for sure. Mostly I think about nothing and everything. I think about finish lines and seeing the people I love at the end of them. I think about the anticipation as I’m standing in the chute waiting for the race to start. But mostly when I run I just have this immense sense of gratitude for life and everything in it. Running is my meditation. It’s when I let go of everything and just run.

Running changed my life in a lot of ways. It brought me closer to my husband. I finally found something that made me want to quit smoking. I started living healthier. It changed the way I thought about my body. It made me realize that I was a hell of a lot stronger than I ever thought I was, mentally and physically. It taught me about commitment, tenacity and sacrifice. And I really hope that me running, sets a positive example for my little girl. I don’t know what her passions will be, but I hope that seeing her mama run lets her know that she is absolutely capable of anything she sets her mind to as long as she’s willing to put in the work.

Running is my therapy. I live for the long runs, the lost toenails, the sore muscles, the feeling that comes only when I know I’ve left it all out there on the path and given it every single ounce I had. I’m so glad I gave it a chance.

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Why do we treat the subject of obesity with white gloves, yet launch a full-blown war on tobacco?

13 Jul

DISCLAIMER: I’m going to preface this post with saying I am a former smoker. This post is a generalized and broad statement. This is not meant to be an attack on smokers or people who are overweight or anyone for that matter. I also understand that each person is different in weight and reasons behind their weight. This post is about lack of physical activity combined with overeating and our failure to help stop it. If you are overweight because you have a medical condition, please don’t send me hate mail. Please. I’m pretty sure this disclaimer will still have left someone out and I’ll get some sort of hate mail.  

I read an article in the LA Times a few days ago about obesity. The title of the article was “America just keeps getting fatter.” I won’t rewrite the article, but I will point out the big parts:

  • 30% of America is obese or overweight.
  • Only one state has an obesity rate under 20% (Colorado).
  • Two decades ago, not a single state had an obesity rate above 15% (READ THAT AGAIN!)
  • In the last 15 years, obesity rates have doubled or nearly doubled in 17 states.
  • Obesity costs our country $147 billion in medical related costs every year.

The information is only slightly shocking to me. If you look around, it’s not hard to see that our nation is expanding at the waistline. What troubles me even more is that we hear talk about how things need to change, but I don’t feel there’s a big push. I don’t feel there is any aggressiveness in improving the situation.

We launched a full-blown attack against the tobacco industry…and rightfully so in my opinion. Remember the Truth commercials? How about the commercials with the lady who had a hole in her throat and smoke coming out of it warning you about the dangers of smoking. Horrible, right? That commercial was so hard for me to watch…smoker or non-smoker…it made me uncomfortable. What the anti-smoking campaigns did is make us stop to think and informed us. Then the government stepped in and taxed cigarettes to the point of ridiculousness. The next anti-smoking step is to print terrifying tobacco warning labels directly on cigarette packs. We declared war on big tobacco. We said, “No more…if people want to smoke, then we’re going to make sure they know in the most graphic way, that it can and probably will kill them.” People will smoke anyway…I know this. I was one of those people. I quit when I was ready but I can say…all of the campaigns did make me want to quit.

Why aren’t we doing this for obesity? Because statistically, obesity is costing  our country $51 BILLION more a year than smoking. The CDC cites smokers cost the country $96 billion a year in health care costs, while obesity costs the country $147 billion a year.

This makes me so sad. I don’t know how to change a nation…and people, this is what keeps me up at night. I think about how I can change schools, change families and change thoughts. Because what we’re doing to ourselves is a slow suicide…just like smoking.

There’s No Crying In Running

23 Mar

It’s no secret that I love to run…more than most people. I didn’t discover my passion for running until about three years ago. And when I say it’s one crazy love affair…it really, truly is. I wake up at crazy hours and run in all types of weather. I run through my lunch breaks, after work and early on the weekends. I run when I’m sad, happy, at a crossroads, sick, healthy, light, heavy…I run. It’s what I do. So when I was sidelined by an injury 8 weeks ago, I immediately went to an orthopedist who sent me to a physical therapist. Because people, I need to run.

I watched the days tick my on my calendar knowing that I was supposed to be training for my first marathon and couldn’t. With each day that I passed, I told myself, “It’s okay. You’re a strong runner, you can catch up.” But reality hit last night when I got cleared to run, but was told that my marathon would have to be put on hold. Eight weeks just simply isn’t enough time to train for the marathon distance.

Oh I know what you’re thinking, “Oh don’t worry Janice, there’s more marathons.” True. There are. To my friends who run, or have run, or who love to run like I love to run, you know the disappointment in being told you can’t chase this dream right now. Because it is my dream…to cross the finish line and know that I put in the time, the miles and the dedication to get there. I’ve been working for three years to get to this point. Not just physically but emotionally. And every day I wish that I had discovered my love for running earlier, but I know that there’s a reason I’m here now.

So last night I was so upset. I got in the car and called Mike but he was in the middle of giving Ava a bath, so I decided to wait until I got home instead of trying to have a broken conversation. I called Heather and as soon as she said, “Hello,” the tears started flowing. Who cries about running? I didn’t even know it meant that much to me. I was genuinely heartbroken with the news. And I know to some people it may seem crazy, but I love running like some people love football or soccer or baseball or basketball. I follow the high profile runners. Almost every book and magazine I read is about running. I am extremely passionate about it. So to be told I can’t run the marathon I signed up for is like getting your team to playoffs and watching them go on to win it without you. It sucks.  

My physical therapist (who is awesome) told me that she would think about a way to get me to 26.2 in 8 weeks but that she didn’t think it was possible to do it safely. She suggested walk/running it. None of this is what I wanted to hear. Even though she was dead right, it didn’t make the news easier to swallow. Heather was great…she listened, she told me to sleep on it and that I didn’t have to decide right now. She was so positive and just kept reminding me it’s one race and to keep looking at the bigger picture.

When I got home I relayed the whole story to Mike (between sobs) and seriously y’all…you know what that man said, “Babe, don’t worry about it. We’ll find you another marathon.” And I said, “There aren’t any marathons that work for what I am looking for in my first experience.” And he said, “Well, then we’ll make our own course and you can run your own marathon.” ß He’s flipping awesome. For real. Can you picture the little handmade mile markers? I can. This is the man that used to run with me just so I didn’t have to carry my own water. He was my personal course support on long runs.

And then an email showed up from JP, who was supposed to run it with me, telling me that he knows how hard this decision was for me and that when I’m ready for 26.2, he will be there in a flash. And then I reached out to Tuti, who was sidelined from running a long time ago but shares my passion for the sport and his response reminded me why I run.

I run because I love to run. I run because it makes me sane. I run because I’m a better mommy and wife when I run. I run to absorb the lyrics to the music. I run because there is nothing like crisp air on an early morning run. I run because I am genuinely in love with this sport. I run to push the limits, to be faster, to go farther. I run because God blessed me with legs that will take me wherever I tell them to go. I run because I love the solitude. I run because no matter who else runs, I’m the only one who owns my run. I don’t run to reach 26.2, although I want to get there one day very, very soon. I run for the journey along the way.

Instructions: Mike’s Way

10 Mar

So I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a triathlon bike. My friend, JP, found it on Craigslist (most awesome friend ever) and it was a great deal. So we head down to West Hollywood to pick it up. The neighborhood was a little scary…I’m not going to lie. But the guy I bought the bike from was really nice and the deal was made. I present my super-awesome new bike that I’m terrified to ride:

Pretty, isn’t it? So the bike didn’t come with pedals. For those who may not know, these bikes don’t have normal pedals like my beach cruiser. The pedals on this type of bike you actually clip your shoe into. Here’s the bottom of my shoe and the pedal I have to clip into. This is important. And I promise the story gets more interesting.

Now…I had the shoes and the pedals and Mike put everything together. Bless that man. So he hands me my helmet and says, “Let’s go outside and practice clipping in and out.” I say, “Fine. But I don’t want to try riding yet. I just want to practice clipping.” He says, “Fine.” What he really means is, “You’re going to practice riding but I’ll say ‘fine’ to get you outside.”

I practice clipping in and out. No problem. This is easy. I can do this. Then of course he drags the bike out to the street and says, “Okay…let’s try riding.” I’m hesitant because I’ve heard how everyone falls over at some point because they can’t clip out. But he’s all confident, “You’ll be fine. I’ll be right here.”

So. This is what happens next:

Mike: Okay. So clip your first foot in.
Me: (Click) Okay. Left foot is in. Go up ahead to catch me when I stop so that if I fall over you can save me.
Mike: (Starts walking) Okay. Now clip your other foot in.
Me: (Click) (Tipping over) Oh no! Oh shit! I’m gonna…F*&K!!! OUCH!!! (TEARS)

I fell over. Right in the middle of the street, in the middle of the day, like a jackass. As soon as I could get my damn feet out of those pedals I stormed up the driveway…crying and clutching my behind. And when I say I was crying…I. WAS. CRYING! Ugly crying. Ladies you know this cry. Face all scrunched up. I left my bike in the middle of street I was so mad. I can hear Mike yelling after me, “Are you okay?” I keep on stomping, up the driveway, through the garage and straight to the couch where I plop down and cry some more. He gets inside and…

Mike: Are you hurt or embarrassed?
Me: Both.
Mike: Everyone falls Janice. It’s part of learning.
Me: I just don’t think this is for me. (bratty, much?)
Mike: Janice. Get your ass back outside.
Me: I don’t want to. I don’t want to fall over again.
Mike: I will hold the seat of your bike while you ride.
Me: Okay. Fine.

So on the way out he says to me, “What were you thinking? If you have both feet clipped in and you’re not moving, what did you think was going to happen?”

Well, gee babe, I don’t remember you saying, “Clip your first foot in, start pedaling and clip your second foot in.” THAT would have been helpful, right? And he’s like, “Well, of course you have to pedal.” And in hindsight I get that should have been common sense but I was a bit overwhelmed and I’m an extremely literal person. I was relying on him to coach me.

All in all, I got my butt kicked the first day. But I am proud to say that once I got back on I did fine. No more falling over and a little more confident. List of injuries:

  1. Road rash on elbow
  2. Overextended wrist
  3. Scraped knee
  4. Bruise on my behind the size of an oddly shaped watermelon
  5. Bruise on my inner thigh from the seat
  6. Imprint of the chain on my calf
  7. Bruised calf from where the pedal hit me

Bike: 7  Janice: 0

I Tri!

19 Oct

I’m a triathlete. Yup…that’s right…I did it! I’m sure some of you remember my Vineman post about my friend, JP, who inspired me to sign up for my first triathlon. He also was my coach and a damn good coach at that. He spent alot of time correcting my swim technique and trying to get me over my fear of swimming in the ocean. I’m terrified of sharks and the fact that I was going to look exactly like a seal in the ocean, well yeah, that didn’t help calm my nerves. I’d just like to share my experience and hope that I can inspire just one person to maybe give it a try.

The day started at 4:30 a.m. Up to get dressed, eat and get over to transition to get everything set up. It was cold and rainy. I get into transition and got an excellent spot to rack my bike and set up. Little did I know that when I’d return from my swim, some lady would have decided she liked my spot too and made it hers…literally. She moved all my stuff, including my bike over so she could have my spot. Pretty shitty in the world of triathlons. I did have the urge to move her bike to a completely different area just to mess with her, but didn’t. Here’s a shot of transition.

After leaving transition, Heather and I slipped into our wetsuits. Okay…slipped may be an exaggeration. It really should be illegal for me to attempt to get into a wetsuit in public. I’m dead serious when I say JP had to, literally, put my butt into the wetsuit. And people were watching. A bit humiliating. Once we are all wetsuited up we went over to the water and got in for a minute. Here we are coming out of the water.

Now it’s time to get with our wave group. I was doing fine until this point. They started playing the Star Spangled Banner and I got all emotional. It hit me that I could get injured doing this. Things could go wrong. I started to feel a little anxious about the water. And then I’m standing with a bunch of people I don’t know and Heather finds me again…instantly comforted. I almost started crying with relief. I felt a little alone for a moment and just seeing her, Annette and Liz made me feel so much better. And then it was time for high-fives and good-byes. It was RACE TIME! Here I am (far right, still standing) getting in the water. Orange is definitely my color. No?

The first four minutes of my swim I panicked like kid who just saw Jaws for the first time and was thrown in the ocean. It was the only time during the whole race that I actually considered quitting. I was that scared. It started okay and then I saw the kelp on the ocean floor. Not cool. It was dark, rainy, dreary and I’m in the ocean with kelp where bad things MUST live. I alternated between swimming and flipping over on my back to collect myself and calm down. Finally I gave myself a little pep talk. I said, “Damnit Janice…you didn’t train this hard to wimp out in the water…flip over and just count.” And so I did. I rocked the rest of that 1/2 mile swim and was so happy to get out of the water!

Transition 1 went smoothly and I was out on the bike. I was on a hybrid bike which is essentially a different version of a mountain bike. It was heavy. I was working my butt off and getting passed by all these people. I got frustrated because I knew how hard I was working and I just felt like the tortoise. Super slow and heavy. We did two loops around Fiesta Island. I was so done at about mile 10 where I gave myself another pep talk out loud. I even cursed at myself. I’m crazy good at kicking myself into shape. And then I hear “On your left” and I’m thinking, “That’s awesome. They just heard me go nuts on myself.”

I jumped off the bike, racked it and headed out for my run. Ahhhh running…my favorite part!!!! Until I get the dreaded side stitch which about killed me during Surf Cities Half Marathon. Of course…not even a mile in I get it. Not much to do but keep running. Which I did. I kept reminding myself, it’s only 3 miles…you can run 3 miles. This is a short run. Coming around the last turn I find some extra energy and pick up the pace for that last 1/2 mile or so.

Crossing that finish line felt super sweet. It was a really great experience being out there with so many women…some of them cancer patients and cancer survivors. I really loved the competitiveness of the women out there and the encouragement along the way. Another really awesome thing was Mike and JP were at every part along the way. When I got out of the water, when I got on the bike, off the bike starting the run, finishing the run…it’s amazing how hearing your name and knowing people are watching will give you that extra boost of energy. And I just want to say if you are ever a spectator of any race, we racers love hearing the cheers…whether they are for us or not. It’s nice to hear people cheering. It changes the vibe and energy of the race.  

I cannot express my gratitude to JP for the hours he spent whipping me into shape physically and mentally. He was there every step of the way and he believed in me. He believed that I wouldn’t wimp out in the water and I didn’t. And to Heather who inspired me a few years back to run that Skirt Chaser 5k and then a 10k and then a half marathon and then a triathlon. What will she encourage me to do next? And my wonderful, super awesome husband who has been there every step of the way. The man who cooked dinner so I could train longer. The man woke up at 4 in the morning to drive 2 hours to see me race. The man who didn’t bitch about my alarm going off on a Saturday morning to go biking. He’s been nothing but supportive and encouraging.

I have to say, I was overwhelmed with all the support that was shown to me throughout my training and up to race day…from my parents watching Ava to all of the wonderful Facebook posts, messages and comments. Seriously…I feel humbled and extremely blessed. I’m reminded again how lucky I am to have the people I have in my life.

DISTANCES: 1/2 Mile Swim, 20k Bike, 5k Run
OFFICIAL TIME: 1 hour, 42 minutes, 24 seconds

I’ve Lost It…Officially

17 Aug

I think I’ve officially lost my mind. Do you want to know what happens when I spend eight hours driving to Sonoma, four hours drinking wine, wake up the next morning at 4:30 am and watch a friend cross the Vineman finish line? I sign up for a half-marathon and a triathlon a week apart. For real.

I think I was feeling a bit inspired when I hit the “Sign up here” button. Because the problem is that it’s August 17th and I was supposed to start training two weeks ago but I decided to buy a house too. So yeah…there’s that whole moving thing getting in the way of my plan to conquer, well, everything. And then there’s that 9 mile run in there the morning after my friend Katy’s wedding. Yeah…that’s gonna happen for sure. As a matter of fact, if you’re in Michigan on September 11th and see me running just slap me because nobody should run 9 miles after attending a friend’s wedding. Running that day would mean I failed as a wedding guest.

Happiness is not luck…

3 Aug

I recently read the following in a book and it got me thinking. Here’s what I read:

“I keep remembering one of my Guru’s teachings about happiness. She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t you will eat away your innate contentment. It’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

How true that is for me. I’ve always believed that being happy is a decision you make. Life is filled with problems and hardship and I believe it’s up to me to decide how to handle those things. How easy it would be to sit around and feel sorry for myself. But that’s not easy is it? It takes energy to be sad, just as it takes energy to be happy.

The thing I struggle with the most is resentment. I resent many things and I’m working hard, always, to let go of those resentments because it eats at me and fills me with anxiety and mostly anger. And it’s hard. It’s hard to let go of something in which you feel you are entitled to feel. But I’ve also come to realize, I can’t control things that have happened or that will happen. I can only control my mind…I can only control how I choose to deal with it and let it affect me.

Sometimes when I’m falling asleep at night or when I first wake up in the morning those feelings are there. They are boiling and rising to the top of my throat causing my heart to do funny things that make me question if my heart is going to jump out of my chest. And I find myself repeating over and over, “Let it go Janice. You have to let it go.”

Don’t mistake what I’m saying here…I’m not having panic attacks every morning and night. I wake up happy almost every day and I enjoy life. It’s when the moments are rough or the memories of past hurt start creeping up that I have to remind myself to let go of what I can’t control and focus on what I can. And the only thing I can control is my mind. I can’t control my feelings but I can tell myself that while it may be okay to have those feelings, I have to accept them and move on from them. I have to let them go. Otherwise it will eat away at me and that…that’s just not healthy.   

What are you holding onto that you need to let go of?