Thursday, May 21, 2015

Affirmations

I got this in my inbox just now (just an email blast from Stephanie at Stupid Easy Paleo), and I felt like it was addressed directly to me. TBH... it made me tear up.

You are good.

-Even if you didn't set a personal best when you tested your lifts at the gym. 
-Even when you decide to be kind to your body and take an extra rest day.
-Even when your diet isn't perfect. (Because nobody's is...not even mine.)
-Even if you decide to back out of a competition because you listened to a gut feeling.
-Even when you struggle to balance life with training and work.

Moments of self-doubt and judgment are so easy in times like these.

You think, "I'm not good / strong / smart / disciplined / fast / resourceful enough."

The truth is that you're living what it's like to be a human being:

The ups, the downs, the moments of ease, the moments of difficulty, and everything in between.

So if your wave has turned into a trough, just keep moving forward without judgment and cut yourself a break. The tide will rise again.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Race recap: The Lantern Run 5k

I've been trying to run for fun, instead of trying to be in intense training mode all the time, in hopes that it will snap me out of this funk I've been in - fewer miles, less pressure, less anxiety. I've been putting so much pressure on myself and setting my expectations so high, that when I inevitably fail to meet them, I am wracked with self-loathing. And I need to stop doing that.

I signed up for this 5k totally on a whim, because it's definitely a "fun run" - to the point where if you'd wanted a timing chip, you'd have had to pay extra. It's an Asian-inspired nighttime run where they give you cheap neon-glowstick glasses to wear and paper lanterns afterward - exactly the sort of run I should do to relax and not put pressure on myself. (I know how jerky that sounds, that I just said I was doing a 5k to relax.)

So I opted out of the timing chip and even elected not to bring my Garmin, because who cares about time, right? I went with my friend Michelle, who is newer to running, and I figured it would be a fun time spent with a friend, at the end of which there would be Mogo's and Scoops (food trucks) and cute little Asian snacks from 99 Ranch.

Well, when we got there, they told us that everyone had been upgraded to a timing chip FOR FREE. Uh... yay? Now that there would be a time attached to my name, I knew I HAD to make an effort. But I wasn't going to leave Michelle behind either, so I would pace with her.

I don't know if this is their first year, but it was a bit of a mess. The packet pickup area was fine enough, but they did a warmup dance thing (why is it always a dance thing???) that finished with one minute to go before it was supposed to start at 7:30. And then everyone kind of headed over to the start line, with no instruction whatsoever about lining up according to pace, and we couldn't even see the start line because it was set up just outside the field at Spartan Stadium, and there is a little hill coming out of the stadium, so those of us who were farther back couldn't see over the top of the little hill. And then the people on the PA system started counting down the seconds (5 minutes late, might I add) and then... nothing. No one moved. We were still standing there, waiting for something, and I was like, "Come on, there MUST be other runners who know what they're supposed to be doing!" It turned out that no one at the very front of the crowd could hear anything that was going on at the very back of the crowd. And then finally someone sounded a horn at the front and we were off.

I know this isn't the sort of race you run seriously, but having to pick my way through all the people walking, who would not move out of the way, was still really frustrating. But the course widened as soon as we got to the street, so it wasn't that bad.

I didn't have a run strategy. After about five or six minutes of running, I told Michelle that we could walk whenever she wanted to walk, so that's what we did. Still, I suggested that we could try to finish under 40:00, if only so we could hit the food trucks sooner, so that's what we tried to do. The course was flat and straight, and we took up the entire street (for the out and back course), so there was plenty of room, and I began to relax into my pace a little. (Though to be honest, the downside of a 5k is that it takes me almost the whole thing to warm up, and then we're done.)

I loved seeing all the excited kids with their families, all the "non-traditional" runners, and all the fun costumes. When you do longer, "more serious" races all the time, the field of runners starts to become more homogenous. There were more "typical" runners at CIM, for example, than at this race. And you know what? It's all good. That's why all these races exist - to give everyone a chance to run and accomplish something awesome, no matter what your level of experience or athleticism.

So yeah, I'm glad I did it. (And not just because I had the most amazing short-ribs burrito and macapuno ice cream afterward.) It reminded me about the fun, silly side of running, and it gave me a chance to surround myself with people who are laughing and happy and just out there to have a good time without taking themselves too seriously. I need a little more of that in my running life.

We beat our goal, by the way. 38:50. That's the best pace I've run in a while.


It looks like a key, huh? But it's a lantern. Also, it glows in the dark.
Free stuff we got:



Eff yeah Asian snacks! I love that pineapple cake!
That balloon has a little tiny flashing light inside. I don't want to blow it up yet.
And of course, it's not a lantern run without a lantern:

Here's Spartan Stadium at night. I'd never been here before.

Next up? I don't even know. I've decided not to run Vancouver at all, so maybe I'll squeeze in another race somewhere. The next one that I have planned for sure is the Dirty Dozen 6-hour run in July.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tinkerbell Half Marathon #4

It's been a loooooong time since I've raced. My last race was the triathlon on February 28th, and I guess in a way I've been itching for some sort of event, because in the intervening time, I'd gotten really mentally and physically fatigued with my training and then decided to drop 2 of my 3 marathons for this year.

The last couple of years, I've jam-packed my scheduled with races (I actually did five races in January and February of this year alone), and it's usually because they keep me going - when I have an actual EVENT, as opposed to a training run, it motivates me. However, this year, I decided I would cut back on races once I started training for my marathons, just so I could focus more on nailing my paces and such - it was too hard to find races that lined up with my long run schedule in my training plan, and I didn't want to do races that were far above or far below the specified mileage. In hindsight, I think that was the wrong decision. Even when they don't go well, races are exciting and motivating, and it's always great to go home with a token of your achievements. (Never underestimate the power of a really cool finishers' medal.)

The Tinkerbell happened to line up with my marathon training plan, and I would've done it anyway even if it hadn't, since I'm going for a five-year streak. This is the first year the Tinkerbell has been held in May - it was previously held MLK holiday weekend, but Disney decided to hold the Star Wars Half that weekend instead, so Tinkerbell got bumped to Mother's Day weekend.


The fact that it's now in May made a big difference for me. Every year that I've been in Anaheim for a Disney race, it's been quite warm, even though it was January. But since their races start at 5:30am, I could at least always count on knocking out a good 5 or 6 miles before the sun would start to come up, and then it would only start to feel too warm for the last 3 miles or so.

This time the sky was already quite light by the time I crossed the start line, so the sun was out in full force before I even left the park. I mean, it was cool that I actually got to SEE the two parks while I was running, instead of running around in the dark, but still... this course is pretty unforgiving in terms of shade/coverage after the first eight miles, so having more intense sunlight earlier on this time around really didn't feel great.

I will admit that while I've been going to the gym to lift regularly, I haven't been running much these last couple of weeks (I've been in a slump), and I definitely didn't think to hydrate extra in preparation for the climate, so I was not in the greatest shape for this race, and I had quite a pounding headache starting around mile 10. I was waaaay more tired at an earlier point in the race than I would've been otherwise, and I have to say, I was really disappointed in myself :( I finished in 2:59:37, which is my slowest half marathon time since August. I mean, my goal anyway was to go under 3:00, which technically I did, but still, I was ten minutes slower than my Star Wars Half, and I did THAT one the day after running a 10k, on tired legs, so I was extra disappointed in my run this time around. (Even though the weather makes a big difference. Whatever. I'm a self-blamer for everything.)

Well, time to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get myself back on track. In the meantime, I was rewarded with a slightly-redesigned medal for finishing:


Four years of pixie dust
Next year will be the 5th anniversary, and you can bet that 1) I'm signing up for the Pixie Dust Challenge (another 19.3), and 2) I'm bringing friends.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Training updates

I've decided to switch to the half marathon for Vancouver USA, and to drop the Portland Marathon entirely. I think it's a telling sign that I feel more relief than grief about it. I don't think I'm in the right headspace to be training for a full right now (let alone three in a period of six months), and this training cycle has been fraught with interruptions and frustration ever since it started. I'm going to take some time to do a few half marathons for fun, start over with the Zombies, Run! app, and maybe even gradually wean myself off intervals a little bit. And then in August, I will start training for CIM with a different training plan (because using the same one for the last three years has gotten monotonous), and hopefully... I will finally finish marathon #4.

Thanks for following my saga. You can now all let out that collective breath I'm sure you've been holding

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

There is only hereafter

Inspired by this post on Can Anybody Hear Me?, I want to talk about this photo I recently posted of myself on Instagram. On the left is my race photo from the 2012 Tinkerbell Half Marathon, and on the right is my race photo from the Star Wars Half Marathon this past January:

A photo posted by Thu (@vivaglamr3d) on

Normally, I'm wary of Before/After photos, and I also don't like to emphasize weight loss, because it's not my goal, but I do want to talk a little bit about my weight loss.

Sometimes I feel guilty about pointing out that I've lost weight. Why? Well, a big part of it is that THINNER is a societal mandate. You can't escape it - everyone and everything in mainstream media encourages thinness, sometimes at the expense of your own health. It took me a long time to stop making weight loss my focus and to learn one very important thing: my body will do whatever it wants to do. I'm going to keep pursuing the activities that I love, and my body might lose weight as a result, or it might not, and I've made peace with the idea that it doesn't matter what the numbers on the scale are, as long as I'm happy with the life I'm living.

Lisa (from the above blog post) is right when she says that it's problematic to associate your "After" with a number. Your appearance may change, and your clothing size may change, but you never stop being who you are - your struggles and insecurities are not going to change. Your insides are not going to change just because your outside has changed; you need to change your insides.

And I'm not saying "you need to change your insides" as an admonishment. I'm saying that nothing can take the place of learning to love and accept yourself. Some people think that hitting their goal weight will help them do that, and for some people it works*, but I think a lot of people find that the internal unhappiness they were feeling before, in their "Before" bodies, still exists even after the pounds have melted away.

Weight loss was my goal for many years, and while I was successful in that endeavor for a time, I wasn't happy. To be honest, it constantly felt like work, and not the good, satisfying kind, but a stressful, anxiety-filled chore.

I stopped exercising and dieting for weight loss, and I started training for specific sports and eating to fuel my training, and it changed my life, not because of any weight loss that might happened, but because I learned to see my body in an entirely different light. I also learned to see weight loss itself in a different light - I stopped caring about having a "hot body," and started caring about having an efficient one, one that can run faster or lift heavier. If I'm trying to lose any weight right now, it's because I want to be better at my sports. But I'm not willing to sacrifice my personal health or happiness for that weight loss, so it either happens or it doesn't, and it's all the same to me; my body will do whatever it wants to do. 

And you know what? My weight hasn't budged much. As I wrote on my FB, the numerical difference in weight between my two pictures is less than 10 pounds, which only goes to show that the numbers on the scale don't tell the whole story. I've only lost a single-digit net amount of weight in the last three years, but in that same span of time, I've run 3 marathons and 22 half marathons, and in the past six months alone, I've brought my powerlifting total to 840 (385 deadlift/315 backsquat/140 bench press). People might tell me I look better now, and I'll accept it as a compliment, but the truth is that I don't look better; I feel better, and it's because I'm happy about the things I've achieved, which are not wholly dependent on weight loss.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't be mindful of your body and your physical health; I'm saying that your mental and emotional health is just as important as your physical health, and that thinness doesn't necessarily equate to physical health anyway. (And, for the record, health and fitness aren't the same thing either, even though I'm using them interchangeably right now.) Just like there's no magical pill for weight loss, there's also no magical number for personal fulfillment and self-actualization.

So, she's right. There is no After; there is only hereafter. There is no magical point where all your troubles and struggles will disappear, and everything will be sunshine and rainbows. There is just you, your body, for the rest of your life, and the lifelong battle to love yourself in the face of everything that encourages self-loathing. I have not reached my After, and I probably never will, and that is okay.


* There are definitely cases where weight loss will significantly improve people's quality of life. I will not deny that. I'm not here to judge which cases those are, either. I'm just acknowledging that they exist.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The uphill climb

My next marathon (Vancouver, WA) is actually my 4th marathon, but in training for it, I feel unsure about myself all over again. I have not yet reached that point where everything is just lock-step for me, and plus, training through the winter was a brand new experience, since usually I don't get much mileage during January, February, and March.

Hashtag: story of my life
It's been really hard not to compare myself right now to how I was doing at this point in my training for CIM a few months ago, especially since my tendency has been to focus on the highlights of my training from back then, rather than to remember the everyday ups and downs. For example, during my taper period, I managed to run ten miles at an overall 11:30 pace, which was waaaaaay fast even for me. (I normally go 12:30-13:30.) I remember being shocked... and pleased.

That's what goes through my head as I run now. I ran ten miles at an 11:30 pace. So when I fall short of that, which has been pretty much every long run these days, I get really bummed out. And I question myself. Why am I so slow? Why do I feel so sluggish all the time?

Nevermind that that run happened during my taper period, which was at the peak end of my program, and right now I'm just barely halfway through this current training period.

Nevermind that I had put in a solid 2+ months of consistent running to get to that point, whereas right now, I'm coming off a winter full of interruptions due to death plagues, nerve inflammation, and blisters from hell.

Nevermind that that particular run had me doing a 5/1 interval, and right now I'm still only doing 3/1 and 4/1 (so my pace is slower right now because my training program actually specifies it).

Nevermind all of those logic-filled reasons. The irrational part of my brain is dead-set on focusing on my shortcomings, even though they're not really shortcomings.

Even though I am the same person (inside), and I'm using the same training program, things are not the same, and I have to keep reminding myself NOT to compare, because it really won't turn out in my favor. My body really isn't the same - the changes in my muscle and fat composition are quite visibly different, thanks to a more solid background in weight training, and I'm more tired because I'm working out waaaaay harder, week by week, than I was before. The conditions I'm running in are not the same: it's April right now, and the weather is getting warmer all the time. My 20-miler is scheduled for the end of May, which is far different from the middle of November, which is when I last ran a 20-miler. And this time, my actual race is at the end of June instead of the beginning of December, and considering how I run better in colder weather, I can't necessarily expect that I'll get similar results from my training when the big day comes.

It's not fair to myself to compare my performances, because I'm not even training for the same race. But it's a hard habit to shake - I felt like I achieved a certain level of greatness (for me, anyway), and I'm so eager to get back to that point. And I feel like my body is not cooperating with me, when in reality, it IS cooperating with me, but I'm failing to remember that I'm asking it to do something quite different this time around (3 days a week of heavy weight training in addition to 4 days a week of training for a marathon in spring climate).

I'm not giving up - not even close - but it would do me some good to hit the pause button and get some perspective on the situation. And to stop beating myself up about it mentally and just enjoy the journey.