Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Victory: The Oakland Half Marathon

So, here it is... the long-promised half marathon post.

I won't lie.  The run was great.  I never, never, never thought I'd be one of those people who talks about fitness in general (or running in particular) as a good thing... as something I looked forward to... but things change.

I was totally anxious the morning of the run.  I stayed up way too late stressing about things like sunblock and Port-A-Potties.  My alarm went off at 5:30am and I had 1.5 hours to eat and drink water and get out the door for the 7am bus to the start line.  In typical Heather style, I used about 15 minutes of my prep time to actually prep (sunblock, breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed) and the rest to read the latest edition of Vogue, start a new book, water plants and change my sheets.  Long story short, I missed my bus... my backup bus... and my backup-backup bus.*

I ended up walking 45 minutes to the start line, which was a good thing because by the time I reached the Starbucks in Uptown Oakland, I was ready for a bathroom break.  I was so thrilled to be able to use a bathroom with an actual sink and a toilet that flushed!  Port-A-Potties be damned!

I got to the start line about 20 minutes before we had to line up, which was just enough time to check my bag and down a banana (thank you, PointsPlus!  I might not have eaten this power food if I'd had to sacrifice 2 points for it!).

The next 2 hours and 20 minutes are sort of a blur.  I remember being really focused and humorless at the start line.  Other runners were cheering (doing actual cheers) and yelling (woo! yeah!) but I could not crack a smile.  All I could think was Do I need to pee?  I think I need to pee.  What if I have to pee while I'm running?  Did I put on enough sunblock?  Oh, God.  What if I get a cramp.  Or blisters.  What if I didn't train enough?  Can I still drop out?  Ugh.

Those anxious thoughts continued for about 8 miles, despite the fact that the lovely people of Oakland were out in full force cheering on their neighbors.  There were bands at every mile, plenty of water stops and a lot of stuff to distract anxious runners.  Still, I couldn't get out of my head until more than 1 hour in, when my iPod playlist landed on Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams".  I love that song.  It totally snapped me into the moment and, at the next mile marker, there was a group of about 20 members of the Raider Nation.  I high-fived a guy in a gorilla suit as a I ran by.  Friends, if there's anything that can snap you out of a funk, it's a group of guys in black and silver dancing to "Disco Inferno" while wearing gorilla suits and Afro wigs.  I wish I'd brought my camera so I could show you but I was way too nervous to worry about keeping track of a camera.

Miles 8-13.1 were much better than miles 1-8.  My friend Becca was standing at mile 9 to cheer and I saw her just when I needed a familiar face.  Miles 9-12 were around the lovely Lake Merritt, where I do my weekly runs, so I was on familiar turf.  At mile 10, I realized I was not in pain.  It dawned on me that I actually was going to finish, which was goal #1.

At around mile 12.5 or so, Becca was there to cheer again and my friend Carmel was with her!  What a great treat!  Seeing them kept me going until the finish line... where I saw them again! (They actually ran through a back street just so they could cheer for me... I love them.)  Carmel took this photo just a couple of blocks from the finish line.

People.  It was mile 13 and I was smiling.  Wild!

So, I finished in 2:21:02, which works out to 10:48 per mile.  That's a little slower than I'd hoped for -- I wanted to run closer to a 10:30 mile.  But I consciously took it easy because I wanted to run the whole way, without walk breaks.  I was also proud of my Nike+ stats for the run.  Pretty consistent pace!

Carmel took this picture after I crossed the finish line and got my medal.

After the run, Becca, Carmel and I walked to Becca's apartment.  As I freshened up, the girls made me the most wonderful brunch: goat cheese omelette/chicken-apple-cinnamon sausage/mimosa.  It was perfect.  And I slept like a baby when I crashed out at 9pm Sunday night.

It's wild to think how much you can change your life over the course of just one year.  Last March 27, I was miserable and felt trapped in a deep hole I didn't think I would ever be able to dig my way out of it.  I still have a lot of self-doubt, but that's what makes me such a planner and Weight Watchers is great for planners like me!

The next hurdle is another run this weekend in Washington, DC.  It's 10 miles so I feel confident about the distance... I just hope I'm not pushing myself too far.


*I missed the backup-backup because I walked into the rose garden while I waited and saw that new bushes have been planted, the fountains have been filled and a duck couple has moved in!  I took this photo as my backup-backup bus was pulling away without me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

9 Hours To Go! I Should Be Sleeping!

So.  I have been horrible about posting lately.  Life got sort of out of control.  There has been stress, but most of my extreme busy-ness the past few weeks has been due to wonderful happenings.

One of those wonderful things is this:

The Oakland Half Marathon is in just nine hours!  And I am running it!  And I can't sleep!  I feel like a kid who's about to go to DisneyWorld!  I feel totally prepared... I've been training like a madwoman, my running clothes are ready, my bib is pinned to my shirt, my breakfast is ready to go, I've packed my post-run change of clothes and I created a special half marathon playlist on my iPod.  Now all I have to do is run 13.1 miles.  Piece of cake.

I started seriously training for this run back in November, after I did a 10k.  I felt so strong and accomplished and good after that run that I decided to try for this one.  Tomorrow's run through Oakland is truly special to me.  I have a huge soft spot for underdogs and Oakland is nothing if not an underdog.  It's San Francisco's dirtier, harder-working sister -- pretty enough, but prone to poor choices and constantly outshone by the flawless Big Sister SF.

It's hard to compete with the Oz that is San Francisco -- I love that city more than vanilla ice cream drizzled with olive oil and dusted with chunks of sea salt from Boot & Shoe Service (which I've never actually ordered but I have a rich fantasy life with that menu item).   I think I (gasp) even love SF more than I love Paris.  But Oakland, sweet Oakland -- this city with a not-so-great reputation has my heart.  From its precious rose garden to its fabulous farmer's market... this city is like a big hug.  No question -- SF is breathtaking... but Oakland breathes.   Oakland is alive in ways San Francisco just isn't.

So, this run I am doing is a big deal -- tracing the streets of this city that is so, so special to me.  This is only the second year for this run.  Last year, I desperately wanted to participate as a way to support the city.  I'd done long run/walk races before -- but at an out-of-shape 256 pounds, I was in no physical condition.   Still, I thought in the back of my mind, "Next year."  I don't know if I believed it then, but I re-joined Weight Watchers a couple of months later and here I am -- down more than 85 pounds and preparing to participate.  

So, I went on my last pre-marathon run today... going at about a 9:30 mile for 3 miles.  This is my cute new gym outfit.

I also went to my hairdresser in SF and got these cute little French braids so I don't have to mess with my hair tomorrow.

Now, all that's left to do is RUN. (and of course, post a new blog).

Wish me luck!

Friday, March 4, 2011

I. Am. Struggling.

Ugh.  I am hoping writing about this will help me process it.

The past month or so has been a real battle for me.  I keep gaining and losing the same 1-2 pounds.


And as I write this, I am looking at the words and thinking, "Big deal.  1 or 2 pounds?  Less than a year ago I was weighed down by 110 extra pounds!" And I know that's true.  And I know I should remember that and believe it and use that knowledge as the boost I need to push through these final 30 pounds. But I can't seem to get back in the game.

The good news is, I didn't go to Taco Bell this week even though I wanted to TERRIBLY.  Like, I obsessed about it for at least three days and even calculated the points and -- when I'd burned through my weekly extras -- even calculated how much I would have to run to account for the binge.  I seriously wanted to BINGE and not the silly little hummus binge I had a couple of months ago.  I wanted the old eat-a-whole-pizza or dive-into-an-Extra-Value-Meal-with-a-hot-fudge-sundae binge.

I guess it doesn't hurt to admit that this was a really stressful week at work and I am also planning for a vacation next week, which, again, is great... but I stress myself out so much!  I feel like I have to plan every second of the vacation so I am not stuck with a bunch of downtime and a 6-pack and Lifetime movie for women.  So, all that genuine stress mixed with my self-imposed anxiety has done a number on me.

I always thought a plateau was when your weight loss slowed or leveled even though you were still doing all the exercising and healthy eating you'd always done.  Still, I would say I am at a plateau now even though I am definitely nowhere near as disciplined as I was a couple of months ago.  I am cheating A LOT.  No, not at Taco Bell, but I have gone through lots of granola bars and peanut butter and laughing cow cheeses this week.


I can honestly tell you I am dreading the scale this week.  And to make things worse I am weighing-in a day earlier than usual because I will be in New York City (yay!) on Saturday, which is my regular meeting day.

Here's hoping the weight loss gods acknowledge my resistance to the Bell and allow me a meager .5 weight loss or something.  I am thinking it will probably be a 2 or 3 pound gain.