Saturday, February 20, 2010

Let's talk about the B-L-I-N-G!

There are five finisher medals hanging on the wall next to my desk in my bedroom. Each one with a story, each one holding a special place in my heart. This morning as I slowly woke up from the exhaustion only two days of hard running in a row can bring, I realized that very shortly my collection was about to expand. In two months I have my first half marathon of the year and then at least two more to follow.
I remember my mom's medal collection, she had at least ten that I can recall. Not all from marathons though. Some from halves, some from 10k's or other races. I remember the Disney ones, the Donald Duck from the Disney World Half, and the Mickey Mouse from the Disney World Full. She didn't run for the medals, I don't think any REAL runner really does run for the medal. But when you put in that amount of work and dedication, having those medals around to remind you of what you have accomplished makes you feel pretty good sometimes.

Disneyland Half Marathon - By far one of my biggest pieces of bling and one that means the most to be becuase it was my first ever long race. It was the one that started it all, and at the same time it was one of the best and worst races I have run. I was in a fabulous place surrounded by amazing people who encouraged me to keep going and make it to the end. But by the time I crossed that finish like at 13.1 the bottoms of my feet hurt more than they ever have - they felt like they were on fire and it was one of my slowest times to date. And yet after all the hard work I was hungry for more.
Me (front row second from the right) with my pace group 'The Kathy -O's' proudly showing off our finisher medals.

Philadelphia Half Marathon - My first race that my whole family came to watch. My first time running in my new city. I ran alone, but I managed to PR which felt amazing. And the more races I added to my list the more I wanted to do.
Me crossing the finish line of the Philadelphia Half Marathon. And yes I felt just as miserable as I look!

Philadelphia Distance Run - Affectionately known as the PDR to the locals is one of the best race courses I've done. It was one of my best, and favorite races to date. I had been training with Larry for the Philadelphia Full for three months, I was in the best shape of my life, and I PR'd. After this race I kept pushing myself even further. Unfortunately the only pictures of me running this race are by the race photographers and I didn't purchase any of them. No family came to watch this race since it was not the 'it' event of the year. It was only supposed to be a warm up, to show my body how hard I would need to push. After finishing this race, I was still in total doubt that I'd ever be able to finish a full marathon

Philadelphia Marathon - At the time I ran this race, it was the most proud moment of my entire life. For four years I talked about running a marathon for my mom to see. Something she had done with so much passion and love for the sport, and not for any recognition or acknowledgement. My mom who I admire more than anyone on the entire planet for working twice as hard as she needs to every day because she knows it's the right thing to do. Having gone through all the training and finally understanding what she had done for so many years and then having her be there to watch me finish, definitely brought tears to my eyes. The pink bow attached to the ribbon on this medal is my lucky pink hair bow which I wear religiously for every race since this one. It's just my way of bringing a little bit of Lilly to brighten my spirits.

Me (in green) and Larry (in orange) Coming around the final turn to the finish line at the Philadelphia Marathon (also pretty sure that is my mom's hair in the bottom left corner of the picture)

Hartford Marathon - Bringing it back to my (almost) hometown to give my family a break from the five hour drive to watch me run. Let's be honest here for a moment, marathons are not a great spectator sport. Especially when the whole city is shut down for a race, it's the middle of November and freezing. Hartford was supposed to be the race I broke 4 hours. My whole extended family came out to support me - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and of course this was the day boyfriend meet them all. The race itself was a disaster and even though I PR'd with 15 minutes of my time from last year it was no where close to 4 hours and I felt like I had let everyone down. But Larry reminded me, when it was all over, that I accomplished something even he probably could not have done. I did not once ever, give up on that race. I ran at least half of the race feeling like someone was sitting on my chest and although I considered dropping out I never stopped moving. I even gave myself a final push at the very end. So when I look at that medal I know I am capable of anything.

Larry (again in orange) and Me (in blue) at the finish of the Hartford Marathon.

Hopefully by years end I can add at least three more finishes to the collection. Each race serving a purpose and maybe even a PR by the end of 2010. Until then I continue to look to the medals I already have to serve as inspiration and motivation to get up every day and work as hard as I can even it means sacrifice.

"There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going"

xx Sara

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Life in snow-globe. Or something like it.

From my boyfriend's apartment's bedroom window I can see the sun sparkle off the water of the Manayunk Canal. Snowbanks are piled up in every corner of the parking lot and if I had to guess I would say they were all taller than I am. It is the calm after the storm and everyone is trying to clean up the mess that a 24 hour long blizzard left. I sat on the bed cozy in my pj's, sipping coffee, and working from home. I am not yet ready to treck outdoors and begin to pick up the pieces. '
As I watch the sun melted snow (also known affectionally as water) I think about the possibility of going out for a afternoon run. Running outdoors is something I haven't done since christmas day, and something I haven't enjoyed since way before Thanksgiving. I can tolerate anything above 40 degrees, I don't mind anything around 60 degrees but I really love good 75 degree afternoon. Clearly that is not in the cards for me between December and April since I live in PA. Damn.
It is not that I am afraid to run in the snow, Ok maybe I am a little afraid. But more so I think it is just a big misunderstanding. I don't understand the snow, how am I supposed to run in it? Running to me means going fast, how can I go fast with 20+ inches of this fluffy white stuff at my feet? It feels awkward and cautious and while I am watching where my feet go every five seconds I am not letting my mind fly free as I would usually do on a run. This does not mean that it is impossible to run in snow, or that I should not run in snow, but it is this misunderstanding that keeps me from running out doors in the winter.
Of course I have been known to make a few exceptions. And wouldn't you know it's when Larry is involved. Somehow that kid has a way of making me feel like I can push myself twice as hard. Now that he is out of my life I find that some of my newfound running twitter tweeps have that same motivational effect.
It was a February evening in 2008. I had been keeping in shape at the gym and once a week Larry and I would meet after work for a long run through fairmount park. On this night in particular the weather was beyond awful. It was about 32 degrees outside, and a sloppy mixture of freezing rain was coming down from the clouds. This of course did not stop either of us. Something in me wanted to prove I could brave the elements and finish this five mile run. So I layered up in under armor long pants (probably one of the only times I will wear long pants to run) a few different running tops and my Disneyland Half Marathon windbreaker. Topped it off with a winter hat and gloves and we were ready to go. Of course I don't remember much about the run that night, the course and the conversation were probably pretty ordinary. But I will never forget the feeling of finishing the run despite the weather. When we got back all our clothes were covered in chunks of ice. The freezing rain had landed on us and frozen into solid mases. Even my hair was frozen solid. I of course changed into warm clothes right away, and when I was done I found Larry in his room already reading about running.
"Now I feel like a legit runner" I said to him as I leaned on the door frame to his tiny room.
"You finished a marathon, you were already a legit runner" He says to me.
And for a moment, I am as proud as I have ever been. Because it's not often that Larry recognizes ordinary people as legit runners.

xx Sara

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feeding my inner fat kid

Towards the end of my freshman year in college I started to realize I had been abusing my amazingly fast metabolism, and it was taking revenge on my body by working a little bit slower than I would have liked. I had always been pretty slim, but I was starting to grow into my pear shaped body, something I was none too happy about. So I went on probably the first of many 'diets' of my college life. It was probably the best thing I could have done for myself because up until this point I lived on pretty much junk food. I stopped drinking soda, eating ice cream, chips, and french fries. Not only was this my first diet but it was one of the longest times I have ever been able to go without indulging.
That summer I worked at least three different jobs but in my off hours I spend most of my time hanging out with my older cousin K. K and I were like sisters. She was 18 months older and was everything a true older sister could be. She teased me about everything I did that was 'uncool', she taught me most of the things I knew about boys, and of course she convinced me that everything we did, no matter how stupid I thought it was, was a good idea. She was not often right, she had lots of bad ideas. My mom always said that when we were together we shared a brain.
K's parents often went away on vacation leaving her at home so that summer there were lots of parties. Lots of trips to the grocery store to stock up on french fries, ice cream, soda, chips, etc. Wait, aren't those all the things I was giving up? She didn't really care if I had given them up or not, she just wanted me to do things her way. I remember being at the store picking out all these things and her making a comment that 'everyone has a little fat kid in their stomach asking for all these things, and yours is really mad at you cause you don't feed it anything good'.
She was right. Not long before this we had been out driving and we came across a Cold Stone Creamery. I had never been to a cold stone, and if it had been about six months earlier I would have been ecstatic to get ice cream mixed with my customized mix ins on a freezing slab of granite. But I turned her down. I watched as she selected her flavor and various candies cookies and sauces and the kid behind the counter mixed it up into a delicious mess. As we walked out of the shop, I turned down he offer to even try the concoction and said something she still continues to tease me about to this day. "Sometimes I like to eat yogurt and pretend it is ice cream"

Well this weekend I definitely fed my inner fat kid. He is so happy I don't think he will be bothering me for months.
I don't remember when I started to hear rumors of this crippling snow storm that was threatening our city, but I heard it was going to start Friday during the day so I had to form a plan of attack. I don't mind food shopping but I really DO mind food shopping with a bunch of snow paranoid crazies! So Wednesday night after work I headed out to the Acme and got ready for a snowed in weekend. When I walked into the supermarket, like always I went for the usual basics. Apples, carrots, bananas, bagels, and 12 grain bread, but what happened next I am not sure. It was like something took over me, like I was possessed with a sugar crazed no care for her wallet woman. The girl who usually only buys things on sale was suddenly reaching for brand name cereal, soda, ice cream, and chips - talk about out of body experience.
I am convinced there is something about being cooped up in the house all weekend that makes normal people exponentially more hungry that ever possible. I planned to stay all weekend at boyfriend's apartment, mostly because we had spent the last snowstorm at my place. But also because my neighborhood turns into a disaster in the snow and I like to stay as far away from there as possible until it gets cleaned up.
Friday night after working all day, I started off by baking about three dozen chocolate chip cookies, extra chocolate chips. We ordered two pizza's as we waited for the snow to arrive. And we finished up the night with large bowls of Eddy's Thin Mint ice cream. WHAT?
Saturday as the snow blanketed us in a white winter wonderland we made egg and cheese sandwiches, with coffee, and a side of chocolate chip cookies. Yes that's right - chocolate chip cookies. There was various grazing throughout the day of a piece of cold pizza here and there, a few bowls of cereal and later in the day I broke out the white wine. Hey why not? It's not like I had anywhere to go. At least the whole day wasn't terrible, we sautéed pork chops in olive oil and whipped up some rice-a-roni with steamed broccoli. But of course one dinner was not enough for either of us so we warmed up the rest of yesterday's pizza and ate that as well. what is that you say boyfriend? we couldn't possibly get any more gluttonous? oh well i think we could - let's have ice cream and just for kicks lets dip chocolate chip cookies in it. SOLD!
Now it is Sunday, and after bacon eggs and toast for breakfast, the only thing I want to eat for three days is fruit and ice water.
On most days, that little fat kid who lives in my stomach can be awfully annoying. He wants chocolate and cake and fat and calories but I have pretty strong willpower and I tell him to shut it and behave himself. He learns to put up with eggs whites, water, vegetables and fruit. But there is something about a snowstorm that buries my control. It blurs my vision with beautiful flakes, maybe it's the fact that snow looks like sweet crystals of sugar.

I don't know about my inner fat kid, but I sure am looking forward to tomorrow's workout.

xx Sara

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Breaking into the booty shorts club

Ok I have a confession, I like to run in as little clothing as possible. It's not that I am some kind of crazy attention seeker. I realize that it is extremely risky to run alone in the evening hours and the fact that I am clad in nothing more than shorts and a sports bra do not make me any safer. But to defend myself - clothes just get in the way. I can't stand the way T-shirt sleeves get all bunched up as my arms move back and forth. I despise running tank tops as their tight fitting bodies tend to creep up my torso and settle in a bunch around my narrow waist. I cannot spend an hour yanking a top down around my hips every three minutes. I hate pants when I run. Sometimes I can tolerate a legging but the length always feels awkward. There are days when even my regular running shorts are too long and they catch on my thighs. I have a bad habit of hiking them up so they are out of my way but of course they never really stay that way.
All that being said, It is a wonder to me that I still haven't broken down and got myself a pair of spandex booty shorts for running. Oh I have thought about it. There have been many times wandering through Dicks, or at Philadelphia Runner, my local running store, where I will see a fabulous pair of tight shorty shorts and just HAVE to try them on. I tell myself that this is it, this will be the time I will find a pair of shorts I like. That lasts all of 2.5 seconds because as soon as I am in that tiny little fitting room, the one with the three way mirror and the bad lighting that accentuates my butt in all the bad ways and none of the good ways, I take one look at myself in those shorts and remind myself why I still do not own any.
I wouldn't say I have body image issues. In fact I couldn't be happier with the shape I am in. More than anything I think I am just honest with myself about my body. I have been in the fashion industry long enough to know that I am with out a doubt pear shaped person. I am tiny on top and full on the bottom. Looking at the rest of my family I am not sure where this stems from but that really isn't the point now is it? I also seen enough people in life wear clothes that are either not their size, or not for their body type. Just because you want to be a size 6, and can squeeze your butt into a size 6 if you don't eat, breath or move, doesn't mean you should actually be wearing a 6. I have watched too many people look stupid to make that mistake myself. And so every time I wear those tight shorts I remind myself I do not have a tiny perky little backside and
So when I found myself in Aerie trying to find something to spend christmas gift certificate on I surprised even myself by picking up yet another pair of stretchy shorts to try on. Of course I also. picked up a few other styles including the traditional nylon shorts with the brief liner just to be safe. I don't shop often but when I do I tend to be overwhelmed by sales staff. Especially in a store that is aimed at people half my age. So when the sales girl comes up to me for a second time to see if she can start me a fitting room I just give in and go to try things on. Let's get this over with.
First up are the real running shorts. They are adorable, navy with white side panels and pink trim. They look short enough to not get in my way, but long enough to cover my whole behind and not just a part of it. I pull them on, and right away realize they are not made for people with my body. They are made for my 14 year old sister who is 5'5" and about 100 lbs with a perfectly flat stomach and no curves. NEXT! Second, I take a deep breath and pick up the spandex shorts. I am not at all convinced that these will look good but they have a nice fold over waistband at the top and so I convince myself this will make it better. Perhaps it was the spacious fitting room, or the lighting, or the fact that I was not spending my own money that night but as I turned and looked at myself in the mirror, I was for once, not completely horrified. I was quite pleased. Ok I take that back I will leave it with I was not horrified.
I actually jogged in place in my bare feet to make sure the shorts did not bother me at all until I remembered that the fitting room walls and doors stopped a foot from the floor and people were probably noticing that I looked like a total spaz. Ok I was sold. I was actually a little excited. I had finally got brave enough to buy spandex shorty shorts! But could I bring myself to wear them?
I packed them in my gym bag Sunday night. With no other options and knowing I needed to work out I would have to wear them. Monday after work - I faced the music and put them on. I did my regular Monday workout with SuperBoss and then I started up the treadmill for my run. The rest of my outfit was just adorable if I do say so myself. I matched my black shorts with a black Nike sports bra and topped it off with a turquoise Lilly tank that had a slight racer back cut at the back. It was supposed to have two buttons at the front but it had been a sample so the buttons were missing. Something that was a little too scandalous for an every day outfit made a fantastic workout top!
Long story short (no pun intended) I ran 5 1/2 miles that night in these little booty shorts and I loved every part of it. Next time I think I will go for a pair with out the fold over waistband. It kept creeping up and unfolding so I would much prefer something that stayed in place. But as far as the tightness and the shortness, it was like running in nothing with the benefit of being clothed. Now that I had made the jump and tried spandex shorts I was completely addicted. I now want to replace my whole shorts wardrobe with spandex shorts and get rid of my old baggy brief lined ones. Who knows maybe it will even future motivate me to tone up my hamstrings and tush.
Guess the moral of this story is you never know how great something is unless you actually try it out. That, and as much as our society emphasizes looks and appearances sometimes you just have to say "hey world, shove it" and do what you want. Because once I finally stopped worrying about what was in the mirror and got out there, it was pretty awesome.

xx Sara