Great post from a new friend. Let’s not be afraid of our light. Shine On!

blu dog running club

This morning as I was busy ruminating obsessing about tomorrow’s upcoming long run, followed by a conversation about how I’ve only run this distance once; I came across this quote.  It was a powerful reminder.

I chose this quote as one of my motto’s for 2012 during my Reset.  And it found me again this morning when I needed the reassurance most.  Upon reading it, my mind immediately became still and my heart beat slowed.  It was like the moment when you know everything is going to be okay.

Besides, who am I kidding?  We’re talking about running 10 miles.  (Not a real world problem.)  It is a blessing I am able to do it all.  In light of my found-again zen like statemoment, I challenge y’all to get your shine on this weekend.

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Love my Curves

Recently, I posted this picture on my Facebook page and it seems to have caused quite a stir.

You’ve probably seen this photo elsewhere, it’s sort of making the rounds right now.  In fact, I hesitated to write this post, because this photo is being blogged about quite a bit lately but I had some things to get off my chest.  I figure if you’re bored with this topic already, you can stop reading at any point.

Anyway,  I shared this photo, proclaiming my love of my curves.  And received mixed results.  Fine.

I’ve battled with my weight my entire life.  My weight fluctuates and would skyrocket if I stopped exercising regularly or decided to just eat anything and everything I wanted.  I will never be naturally skinny, the best I’ll be is curvy and athletic.  Which I’ve grown to love.  Not to insult anyone out there, but I love my curves, I really do.  I appreciate my shapely, hourglass figure.  When I learned to do that, I found that my choices in food and exercise started to become more focused around improving my health, moods and general well being and less focused on the size of my jeans.

Apparently, many slender women are upset over this collage, which I totally get.  I cannot speak for the creator of this collage, but for me, implying that slim women are not beautiful was never

Alicia

my intent when I shared this.  I personally know several beautiful women who are naturally slender.  They eat, drink and enjoy life without obsessively exercising, counting calories or crash dieting.  They run, bike and practice yoga for their health and for fun and for mental release.  They see their own beauty when the look in the mirror as I see it when I look at them.  I don’t look at them and think “Man, she needs to gain some weight and add some curves before she’ll be beautiful.”  Just as they don’t look at me and think “Man, she needs to lose some weight and slim down before she’ll be beautiful.”  (At least, that’s how they make me feel.)  My friend Alicia is one of these women.  She is the lovely little thing pictured at right and she is strong and healthy and beautiful.  And in response to my posting this collage on Facebook, she shared this Sophia Loren quote with me…”Sex appeal is fifty percent what you’ve got and fifty percent what people think you’ve got.”   And goes on to speak of the importance of beaming confidence, sexiness, decidedness, kindness…. in regards to what is really “hot.”

But we’re strong women.  We’ve grown into strong willed, strong minded and strongly opinionated women.  We’ve battled our demons in the closet and in the mirror and we won.  Or at least we’re winning.

But many women, and girls, aren’t winning the battle yet.  Thousands of women are fighting a losing battle with their mirror and themselves.  And part of the reason is because the media is on the other side.  Fighting against them.  Everyday.  Promoting women like Heidi Pratt (top, left) who admits to having at least ten plastic surgeries, including liposuction on her already thin frame.  And Nicole Richie (top, second from left) who, while actually looking quite healthy in this photograph, admits to fighting a lifelong battle with an eating disorder, which she has stated she was only able to overcome due to fear for the life of her then unborn child.  THAT is the problem here.  Not that these women are thin.  That these women are destroying themselves only to look a certain way.  That society is continually beating us with images of rail thin models and actresses, photoshopped beyond recognition to make them thinner, longer and leaner and then marketing to us an unending stream of crash diets and exercise equipment so that we too can completely change our bodies into something more acceptable, because what we have isn’t good enough.  That is what is really terrifying.  And so many young girls and women are trying to look this way.  Trying all sorts of crazy diets and “cleanses” (insert image of eye rolling here) to drop pounds and to look the way that someone else is telling them to.  Or that they believe is the only way to be good enough because it’s what they see everyday, in print ads, commercials and entertainment.  I said I know several naturally lithe women whose frames and builds are the result of genetics and healthy, well-intentioned living.  Unfortunately, I also know several women whose thin frames are the result of severe deprivation and hours of punishing and painful workouts.  It’s estimated that 7 million American women suffer from Anorexia.  SEVEN MILLION.  And 15%-20% of them will die from it.  And for what?  Some ridiculously photoshopped version of perfection?  Woman aren’t suffering from eating disorders in effort to look more like Elizabeth Taylor or Bettie Page.  Women aren’t putting their bodies through torturous workout regimens to look more like Sophia Loren.  They’re trying to look more like Keira Knightly and Mary-Kate Olsen.

Let’s face it, if Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe were working actresses today, would they be working?  Seems doubtful.  Many sources claim that Marilyn was a size 12-16, and Bettie Page was close to the same.  Off the top of my head, I can think of one actress who fits into that range… Christina Hendricks.  And she’s gorgeous.  But one actress of hundreds is not enough to undo the societal mindset caused by an overabundance of images of skeletal women.  (On the upside, Ms. Hendricks was voted the most beautiful woman in the world by a poll of females for Esquire magazine in 2010.) And if it takes a collage like the one above to remind the world that shapely women are hot too and that having curves is also beautiful, I’m going to share it.

One of my favorite bloggers, Kate Fields Bartolotta posted about this same photo recently and stated that we should do away with the term “real women.”  But I disagree.  I want to be a real woman.  What we need to do is not insinuate that you need to look a certain way to be real women.  Let’s learn celebrate real women.  Woman who embrace who they are, be it slender, straight, athletic and curvy.  Be it witty, shy, flirtatious or obnoxious.  Woman who encourage other woman to be the best, healthiest and most beautiful versions of themselves.  Woman who see perfection in uniqueness.

I am a real woman.  and I’d rather be real than photoshopped.

me - not photoshopped

Special thanks to Alicia for letting me use her image.  xoxo

Being an Artist

“What is art that gets left unseen?”

Well what an interesting question I was presented with.  I was being gently encouraged to share my own “artwork” online.  Which led to my thinking, what is art?  I never considered myself an “artist” before.  But I do like to play with charcoal and paint.  I’m a little out of practice, but pretty good with a camera.  Is the product of my playtime considered art?

I’m not so sure.

Some of it is really bad.  Some of it is really great.  I could maybe consider some of my photographs art, especially some of the old stuff, from when I never left the house without my camera (and, ahem, film).  In fact, here is one of my favorites.

Slumber

But it’s not so much the photographs that make me question if I should be called an artist, I think some of them are actually quite good.  It’s more of my playtime “art” that really gets me wondering if I should even call it that.  Nobody would buy my paintings and charcoal drawings.  I’ve posted a photo of a painting here.  And there is a charcoal drawing you can see in this post.  But is that what makes art?  That someone is willing to purchase it?  I don’t think so, because I personally wouldn’t pay a dime for anything out of Picasso’s cubism collection.  And I’m pretty sure that we all agree that Picasso was an artist.

And then I have another issue with calling myself an artist.  I have friends who I truly consider to be artists.  The beautiful young lady who had shared a photo of an amazing pencil drawing online, prompting the above referenced conversation. That was a gorgeous piece.  In town, there are two brothers I know whose work will literally take your breath away.  Some dark, some light, all incredible.  Artwork so good that they both have made careers of it. And I have an old friend who seems to be able to capture just the most amazing images when he points his lens somewhere, anywhere.  These people are artists.  To call myself an artist seems to be a leap when compared the work they produce.  But why?  Seems silly, right?  Is it the end product that really matters?  Or is it simply the act?

“Art makes the world a better place.”  Same young lady.  Same conversation.  So … does it?  Does my relatively poor excuse for a painting make anybody’s world a better place?  Well, yeah.  Mine.  It makes my world a better place.  It gets me out of my crazy, loud brain for a few hours.  It makes be smile when I go back and look at it. and it makes me smile when I share it with friends. and if my world is a better place, I’m more inclined to make other’s worlds better too. Pay it forward.  Smile more.  Share the good energy left behind by letting myself go and not judging myself quite so harshly for a little while.  Energy is contagious.  Good and bad.  And playing with paint makes me smile and creates more positive energy in my little world.   So, at least for now, I’ll call it art.  So I guess that makes be an artist.

What about you guys?  Do you play?  What’s your favorite medium?  Do you consider yourself an artist?

CENSORSHIP SUCKS

I don’t want to be told what I can READ.

I don’t want to be told what I can LEARN.

I don’t want to be told what I can KNOW.

It terrifies me that we are looking at bills that could potentially limit the amount of information available to us on the internet.  Freedom is what this country was built on and one person or, for that matter any group of people, having the power to decide that I should not see something is the opposite of freedom.

Borrowed from Kate Bartolotta at Elephant Journal is this excerpt:

“There are other parts of the law that say that if there are sites overseas that the Attorney General doesn’t like, the Attorney General without any other adversarial proceeding can get an order asking American internet companies to cut off that site. In essence, this law takes a page out of the playbooks of China and Iran for internet regulation.”

~ Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Internet Law; Harvard Law School.

All over the internet you’ll find far more eloquently written information than I could possible put out here, but I can put it here and that’s what matters.  I can look at the links and gain insights here and here and even here.  I can ask you to visit those links and make your own assessments.  I can continue to use the internet to search for more information on SOPA.

or I can choose not to.  but it’s my choice.  as it should be.

So…. now what?

Wow, it’s funny, for all the bitching I did about how marathon training was cutting into my social life, I guess on some level, I didn’t realize how much of my life it was really taking up. Not just the actual training, but the being constantly aware of it, wondering if I’d slept enough, ate the right combination of foods and was it too much or tool little and did I get enough yoga in to counter all the muscle tightening from all the running…. It took up a huge chunk of my brain power. But it also gave me purpose and direction. My running was all of a sudden focused on an end result.  A solid goal. So with the marathon has been completed (hold applause, thank you), now what?

Ummm…… (crickets)

I literally don’t know what to do. Should I get up to run? All of a sudden, it seems weird to run, just to run. Pre-marathon training, this was not an issue. All I ever did was run, just to run. Now it seems…off? There’s no goal? I have no schedule to follow? How do I know what to do? Should I run hills? Intervals? Distance? What distance? This is weird! This is how race directors suck you back in! They know you’ll be flailing to find purpose and direction again. This is why I keep getting emails from RunDisney. They’ve got me. I don’t know how to stop. All of a sudden I’m not only considering the Princess Half Marathon at the end of February, but also another full.  On February 12, my brother’s birthday.  I ran one on my birthday, how cool would it be to run one on his birthday in the same year.  It would be touching.  It would be EPIC. What the fuck is wrong with me? Yikes. Ok, I need to get control of this before I end up dead smack in the middle of marathon training again.

Step 1. Breathe in.
Step 2. Breathe out.
Step 3. Repeat as necessary.

Here are some other things I might try…

Practice yoga. Whoa. I wonder what my body could do without all that running tightening up my hips all the time.

Go swimming. That’s right, there are other types of exercise out there. Remember that? Swimming was fun. It made my arms look good.  Also, nobody yells at me for holding my breath.

Ride a bike. I’m sure that I remember how. It’s just like … riding a bike. Sure, I can do that.

Go running.  Wait, how did I end up back here?  Yeah, I’m admittedly a little afraid to lose my newfound endurance.  Plus running still presents so many challenges.  New distances, like the Gasparilla 15k and the Ragner Relay from Miami to Key West.  Plus, I could certainly put in an effort to get faster.

Maybe it’s time to try a tri?  Definitely a new challenge.

Sit still.  Uh, scary.  Really, really scary.  You know what happens when I sit still?  My brain goes on a crazy bender.  It’s not pretty in there.

Well, I guess the truth is, I don’t know yet.  It’s really only been three days since the marathon.  I’m not quite feeling totally wound up yet.  I’ll take a few more days off to think about it.  In the meantime, I’m open for suggestions…

Being a Marathoner

Showing off the medals

Uh huh…. that’s me.  I did it.  I finished my first marathon and in my mind that officially makes me a marathoner.  At least for now.  Do I think I’ll do another one?  Probably.  Does that make me crazy?  Absolutely.  (Not as crazy as my twitter friend who also ran his first marathon at Disney this year and thinks he’ll “do one a year.” That would seriously cut into my drinking time.)  And as distance runner Frank Shorter says, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”  You know why?  Running a marathon hurts.  “Oh. My. God. Ouch.” Were the words that Lance Armstrong texted to his ex-wife following his New York City Marathon.  I remember reading the article in Runner’s World years ago and thinking ‘Christ, if Lance Armstrong is in pain, I will NEVER do a a marathon.’  Hmm…  Never say never.

Since it seems that I sweated out all my brain cells during the run, I’m going to use some of the signs and t-shirts that I saw along the route to help me get some of my thoughts out on the marathon.

Thanks for asking, this marathon is 26.2 miles too.  Leading up to this event, I was in awe of the number of people who asked my how long “this” marathon was.  I thought this was common knowledge?  So here is a little insight.  A marathon is 26.2 miles.  Always.  The distance became standardized in 1921.  It is based on the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger who ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens.  He ran 26.2 miles to deliver the message “we have won.”  In case this doesn’t sound hard to you, Pheidippides died when he got there.  Just sayin.

My race pace plan?  Start slow and then back off… which is exactly what I did.  “I didn’t train all that time just to come here and get it over with as fast as I can.” John Bingham. Yeah, I’m not fast.

Dead last finish > Did not finish > Did not start.  There is sense of accomplishment just in walking up to the

still smiling at mile 9

starting line of your first marathon.  There is also a sense that you may potentially vomit on your shoes from the nerves and anticipation of what you’ve gotten yourself into.  But the fact is when you line up to start a marathon, you’re doing something that most people never do.

“No marathon gets easier later. The half way point only marks the end of the beginning.”  It’s true.  Hearing you’re halfway there at mile 13.1 is only slightly encouraging at best.  You know the hardest part is still ahead.  You know you’re going to have to fight.  Hard.  You know in spite of the sweat and effort put in thus far, you’re still just starting to face the real challenge.  At the half way point, it’s time to dig in.

Pain is temporary.  Quitting is forever.  Oh this one stuck with me. When my knee got a little out of whack at mile 10 and the pain struck, this was the t-shirt I thought of.  When I hit the halfway point and put on my visor, realizing that the early morning sun that was getting in my eyes was quickly going to heat up the asphalt and make for a hot, hot journey for another 13.1 miles. I thought about this t-shirt.  When I hit mile 19 and and wanted to cry from the exhaustion, this was the t-shirt.  When I hit mile 24 and spectators were yelling “only two more miles” and I had to refrain from punching them in the face to remind them that when you’re running this fucking far, there is a HUGE difference between 2 more miles and 2.2 more miles.  Well, ok, that wasn’t the t-shirt.  That was really just lack of energy if I’m being honest.

Your feet hurt because you’re running 26.2 miles.  I loved this sign because it made me giggle every time I saw it.  It was a sweet, sweet reminder that I got myself into this mess and the only way out was through the finish line.  Oh and this one too. 26.2 – because 26.3 would be crazy.  Both of these signs could have and should have ended with ‘dumbass.’  Both of these signs could have just as easily said what I said to myself several times during the race.  “What were you thinking?”  “Only crazy people do this shit.”  Which is why I especially appreciate this gift from my best friend and tireless cheerleader, who flew from Connecticut for a weekend of no drinking and getting up at 3:30am, just to cheer me on.

Chafe now, drink later.  What?  Don’t want to hear about that?  Chaffing is only the beginning of the bounty of gifts provided to you by the 26.2.  Runners bond over the damage done by running.  Muscle pain is obvious.  Chaffing is no longer limited to arms and thighs.  Nope, it’s shocking to learn where you can chafe once your distances get longer.  Losing toenails is always a crowd pleaser.  Common among men running long distance?  Bloody nipples. Yeah, you read that right. Ouch.  Runners go from acquaintances to family in the medical tents.  Nothing like stopping at mile 18 to shove some Vaseline your sports bra to prevent any more chaffing.  Or shoving your hands down your pants to put some Bio Freeze on your hamstrings. There is no time or place for modesty mid race.  Yup, we’re all in this together now.  Plus, everyone out there, no matter how fast or slow understands exactly what Jerome Drayton means when he says “To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.”  Me personally,  I made out pretty lucky, but I do wonder how stuff happens.  Like when I went to scratch my back and realized I’ve chaffed all along the back of my bra line.  Or, now that the swelling has gone down, I see that I have bruising on the tops of my feet.  Seriously, how does that happen?

Way to go TOTAL STRANGER.  You rock!  I wish I could have hugged the guy who had this sign at mile 23. I

post race hug from Sharon

was pretty sweaty so I’m not sure he would have appreciated the gesture.  But that’s only because he doesn’t realize it’s not sweat, it’s liquid awesome. When you feel like every muscle in your body is ready to give up and you wonder how you could possibly finish, there’s nothing like a good laugh to remind you that you’re going to make it.  Cause sometimes, several hours into a race, we forget running takes balls, other sports just play with them.  Along the route there are spectators out there to support runners.  Like I said, my friend Sharon was there for me and like most of the spectators, she was cheering for each runner as they went by.  Crowd support was crucial for me and for some reason, that sign just made me laugh.  And man did I need a laugh at that point.

It’s not a miracle that I finished this race.  I’ve been training for it for half a year.  The miracle isn’t that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start.  The estimate is that in any given year, approximately 0.1% of American runs a marathon.  That means I’m a bigger bad ass than 99.9% of the nation.  Cool.

Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.

Being a Runner

What does it mean to be a runner? To me, it means intentionally running. I don’t care if it’s 10 steps or 100 miles. There are all kinds of special names you get to call yourself aside from “runner” as you go faster and longer – sprinter, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, so there is no need run a certain distance in order to be considered a runner.  So if you want to be a runner, be.  Get outside and put one foot in front of the other.  Move forward.  Move forward a little faster and now you’re a runner.  Congratulations.

I’ve been a runner since my freshman year in high school.  I grudgingly agreed to run track.  I had fun.  I was never good at it, I was never fast.  I’m still not.  But it did start a pretty healthy habit that I’ve stuck with, albeit on and off, for years.  I refuse to admit how many.  I formed some of my most cherished friendships and wonderful memories on those runs.  And to this day, I still hear my coach in my head.  Sometimes so loudly that I jump.  I’ve always run a few miles, a few times a week.  In 2009 I ran my first half-marathon and have been building since then.  I thought all marathoners were crazy.  Why would anyone want to do that?  So imagine my surprise when I realized that I’m just days away from my first marathon.

At some point, and I honestly don’t remember when, I decided that I would run a marathon.  Yup, all 26.2 miles of it.  I’m pretty sure I was drunk when I agreed to this. And I say “agreed to” but there exists a very real possibility that this was my idea… I THINK it went something along these lines…

My running partner and I had just finished two half marathons within two weeks of each other in 2010.  The first,

Disney Half Marathon

Pre-Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The Walt Disney World Wine and Dine was a complete disaster.  This was my second half, I had completed one about a year earlier.  Attending only because a friend was on the race committee and it supported a great cause, our county’s Healthy Start Coalition.  I did not train at all and walked a good portion of that race.  But I TRAINED for the Disney Half. and it was at night, so that had to be easier right?  WRONG!  I am not a night runner.  I fit perfectly and annoyingly into the definition of “morning person.”  What was I thinking?  Who the hell knows.  So needless to say, a race starting at 10pm and finishing just minutes before 1am was not a good experience for me. (That’s me on the left in the picture with my running partner, about an hour and half before the Disney race.)

But then for the second year in a row, I ran the Healthy Start Coalition Half Marathon.  In the morning, beautiful weather, my hometown, flat and fast race course that I was familiar with.  It was fantastic.  Every time I looked at my watch, I was ahead of my goal pace and feeling better and better. I set a new PR (personal record, for any non-runners out there) by almost 30 minutes.  I was elated after that run.  And then we started getting emails from Disney (remember the Wine and Dine Half was only two weeks earlier)… “You finished the half!  You’re half way to a full marathon, sign up for the full marathon now!”  They’re very peppy these little Disney marketing emails so, well, we considered it.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) I was scheduled for foot surgery that November, making my decision for me.

But then we started talking about it more.  Maybe we should do it in 2012.  We all planned on running the Healthy Start Half Marathon again in October of 2011, which would put us right on track for a full in January.  Besides, it falls on my BIRTHDAY, how cool is that.  (If you’re actually contemplating that question, the answer is ‘not very.’)  But it all seemed like such a good idea at some point (again, probably drunk) that we totally pumped ourselves up for it.  We had picked up a new running partner along the way and suckered her in too.  So now there were three of us.  We were so excited, we signed up within days of registration opening.  We were unstoppable. It was going to be EPIC!

Flash forward approximately one year….

Uh huh.  Yeah, training for a marathon is fun.  IF you love running, hate drinking and the idea of being sore for days after a workout sounds like a great accomplishment to you.  I don’t love running.  Well, I did, I think at some point.  No, I really didn’t.  I do it because it’s the workout that I hate the least.  I love the way it makes my butt look.  I love being outside.  I prefer running by the beach to being in some cardio-sculpt class with a bunch of sweaty strangers.  I do however love drinking (if you’ve read any other posts, you may have picked up on that…) and going out for drinks on Friday night and then running for four hours on Saturday morning makes for a rather tough start to the weekend.  I guess I’ll give in to the last one, I do feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m a little sore from a workout.  So marathon training for me is fun about 33% of the time.  Uh. Not a great percentage.

But I will say this.  Marathon training changes you.  I’ve quit a lot of things in my life.  I don’t like to call it quit, but really there are just a lot of thing that I started and never finished.  I’ve always been pretty ok with that.  Because I like to think of it as changing my mind rather than quitting (more on this topic in another blog…) My point is I refuse to quit this.  I don’t know why.  A few months back I was texting with a friend who asked me how my 14 mile run went that morning.  At that point, 14 was the furthest I’d ever run IN MY LIFE.  I told him. I told him the truth.  IT SUCKED.  It was a super hot, muggy Florida morning. I ran out of water around mile 8. I died a little out there that morning and at several points I wanted to quit or cry or both.  I told him all of this and he responded with simply “Don’t Quit.”  Well, truth be told I had no intention of quitting.  I had already passed that point and I don’t know when or why, but it was too late for me.  I was doing this thing. Short of a broken bone (which I’m kinda still kind of hoping for) I’m going to finish this marathon.  It’s not going to be pretty.  I haven’t been training enough over the past month.  I haven’t tapered appropriately.  I started training too early and got burnt out.  But I refuse to quit.  My only goal is to finish.  And I will.  Run, walk or crawl I will cross that finish line.  And then maybe I can say I’m a marathoner.  Maybe.  One thing I definitely am: Crazy.  Like I said, all marathoners are.

T-3 days to my first 26.2.  Wish me luck.

You’re better than that…

This phrase is a gem.  One of my personal favorites.  It’s nearly always said after you’ve already done something totally stupid.  As in “Oh, last night I slept with that guy I broke up with 6 months ago.”  To which your friends kindly respond with “You’re better than that.”   Um.  No I’m fucking not.  If I were better than that, I wouldn’t have done it.

You know I’m right.  I mean, what is the purpose of saying that to someone?  Just to make them feel bad?  Cause there is no other reason.  It’s not like I’ve ever looked at someone who said that to me and responded with “Wow, thank you for saying that.  I feel really loved right now.”  No, the closest thing I’ve ever come to in response is more along the lines of “No, fucking shit I’m better than that.  That’s why I’m spilling my guts to you, you fucking moron.  So that I can confess the sins of stupidity, seek redemption and move the fuck on.  But now that you’ve pointed out how stupid my decision was, let me jump in my god damn time machine and go fix it.  Thanks for your insight.”

Yeah, that phrase really bothers me.