Last Fall, I wandered into a 6am gym class with motivation to get fit. To lose weight.
I left less than 20 minutes into the class in tears. I couldn’t keep up. I felt like I was dying. I was embarrassed and I swore I would never go back.
Before anyone blames the teacher, it wasn’t him. He was awesome. It was me. I was ashamed at how heavy and how out of shape I had let myself become.
I did this to myself.
No one made me fat. Yes, life happened. Shitty things have happened in my life. Things that motivated me to stuff my face full of fatty foods. But no one sat there force feeding me except me. Wonderful things also have happened in my life. Things I had celebrated by, you guessed it, stuffing rich fatty foods in my mouth. And I had all the reasons in the book why I couldn’t work out. Hello I teach six classes a day, coach after school, and work at tournaments at least half the weekends during the calendar year (many of which require travel). I obviously had no time… except the time I was sitting on a couch stuffing my face or at a bar drinking and (you guessed again) stuffing my face.
So I was ashamed. And guess what I did?
Bought myself a high calorie beverage from Starbucks and drove myself through the McDonald’s drive-thru for TWO sausage McMuffins (with cheese!) and TWO hash browns. And a full sugar soda. You know, to wash the candy coffee drink down.
Here’s the deal. I know someone reading this is judging me. And that’s fine. I am putting myself out there and expect to be judged. It’s the Internet for heaven’s sake.
I know there are people who are out there who think that obviously if we just stop eating like what I described, we would all be thin. But for those who know me, or who have struggled with their weight, once you start packing on pounds, even if you switch to healthier choices, it is still incredibly difficult to shave off enough calories to start the scale moving down. I didn’t eat every meal at McDonald’s. In fact, I ate a relatively balanced diet most days out of the week. But between the amount of healthy food (portion control) combined with the comfort food combined with a lack of activity, my scale just kept climbing.
I was ashamed when I left that fitness class. And I never went back.
November 13, 2013 — I left work and took myself out for sushi. It would be my last meal where I would stuff my face freely and not worry about the consequences. I enjoyed and savored all the foods I knew I would be leaving behind. I was bloated and uncomfortable when I left the restaurant and I drove across the street to the HMR health class.
Nine months into HMR, I transitioned from Decision Free to Healthy Solutions. And six weeks after that I began the transition to Phase Two. I have spent the last six weeks battling life in the real world. And I won’t lie and say it’s been easy. It has been two of the hardest months I have had in a long time.
Losing weight in HMR, if you stick with the plan and don’t give yourself excuses to cheat, is incredibly easy. You are isolating yourself from the real world of choice. It’s safe. It’s easy. And throughout the process, the classes prepare you for life in the real world.
Some people have made judgey comments about HMR because they feel as though they are “better than that” and people should be able to lose weight on “real foods” and you “don’t learn how to manage life” and “the weight will just come back on.”
Here’s my take on those who judge.
Wow. I have been wanting to say that for years. Because I have struggled with my weight since I was a teenager. And I listened to those judgey people for almost that long. And every time I attempted to “just eat healthier” and failed, I would spiral further and the scale would climb higher.
Maybe preparing all of your own food from scratch and choosing healthy options on every menu works for you. That’s awesome! I am not judging your lifestyle so please stop judging those who make the choice to seek outside help in getting weight off and learning to manage that weight.
But I live in the real world of balancing an 80 hour a week job. And I don’t have the luxury of just “finding a new job” or “taking some time for myself.” I have to work. I actually LOVE my work. I am changing lives. I LOVE being a teacher and a debate coach. And that’s not going to change.
So let’s stop the judging and the diet shaming. Because I want to tell you something.
I got the pounds off quickly. I learned a lot about myself and the real world in the process.
And although I alluded earlier in this post that the last six weeks have been a struggle, it’s not because of HMR. It’s because the real world is full of choices and I am battling between the person I was and the person I have become.
I am healthier. I am stronger. But there is still a part of me that wants to override the healthy choice machine and pick the worst item on the menu. So every meal is an internal struggle. But in reality, it has always been that way. Now the healthier side is winning more of those battles and the unhealthy side is protesting.
I will continue to attend the HMR Phase Two classes for at least 17 more months. They hold me accountable. They offer me support. And they continue to teach me valuable lessons about myself and about the world around me. Last night I tried to talk myself out of attending this “Total Athletic Conditioning” class. I needed sleep. I have been incredibly run down as I have not had a day off without teaching, coaching, or traveling with students since the first weekend of October. But then I remembered how I have empowered myself. How amazing I feel after getting in a workout. And how I wanted to celebrate life and not make excuses.
So I woke up and went to this 6am class described as combining “athletic sports drills, weight training and other techniques that are specifically designed to improve your speed, agility, quickness, balance and muscle definition. Start with a cardio warmup – progress into active stretching – move into strength and endurance – then some speed and agility – balance and core and added PLYO… You will enhance your cardio anaerobic threshold.”
Scary description right?
I was scared.
I remember running out of that studio. I remember hiding in the bathroom. I remember crying.
I looked in the mirror and began to follow the instructor’s direction. I felt strong. I felt empowered. I felt alive.
After the class, one of the regulars (who had been there when I ran out last year) approached me and complimented me on how well I kept up for my first class.
I mentioned I had tried it once before over a year ago. But I didn’t mention running out. I didn’t mention the tears. I just ended by saying I planned on coming back.
And I do.
Now that you have had a chance to flashback with me to my first half marathon in 2009, let’s talk about taking this race back and owning it!
First, a quick side-by-side that I posted shortly before the race started. My Instagram post proclaimed:
Some races are about setting records. In 2009 I ran the #SJRnR half and finished the last three miles with ice Saran-wrapped to my back. Today isn’t about a PR (although that would be a nice bonus) — it’s about taking on a journey I started in 2009 and finishing it strong!
Let’s be honest, I still wanted that PR! The San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon course is know as one of the flattest and fastest courses out there. And it was my hometown which meant I could fuel the way I needed and sleep in my own bed. In other words, it should be perfect conditions.
What I didn’t anticipate was how hot it would get on race day. It was predicted to be unseasonably warm which meant extra hydration and the possibility of needing to slow down.
When I originally signed up for the race I predicted my time to be 2:45. In September I had already proven I could run a sub-2:30, so when I went to the expo I requested a corral change. And on race morning, after spending some time with coworkers and some of my students, I went to my new corral.
Now at the expo they had a booth for the PacWest pacers who would be pacing the course. They had pacers for 2:30, but I knew I could do that on my own. The next pacing group would be 2:15 which would mean shaving over 11 minutes off my Disneyland PR. I thanked the runner working the pacing table and said “maybe next year.”
However, when I got in my corral, I apparently entered the one in front of my new corral by mistake. And I ended up directly behind the 2:15 pacers. I did some quick mental math. I had run a 10k at a pace that was almost a minute faster than the time I would need to hold for a 2:15 finish. Could I really keep the necessary pace to finish in 2:15? I knew I had issues holding a steady pace, going out too fast for many of my races this year. So maybe I would just *try* to stay with these pacers, no shame if I ended up falling behind. It would just be fun to see what it was like to run with a pace group for awhile!
The two women pacing the 2:15 group were super nice. A number of people talked to them during the first couple miles but I held back, right behind them, not wanting to commit to getting to know them since I didn’t know how long I would be with them. However, as we passed the four mile mark, I began to realize I could stay with them. And after the 10k mark, I was embarrassed at the thought of falling behind.
By mile 8, I really wanted to slow down. It was getting hot and I knew I could still PR even if I added a couple minutes to each remaining mile. But then I did a mental and physical check. It was all mental. Physically I was doing fine. And I took a moment to reframe — did I want to see what I could really accomplish? Or did I just want to shave a few seconds off my time.
I began to reflect on my journey to get here. From 2009 when I initially attempted this race. To the 130 pounds I have shed over the past year. I have become so much stronger physically and mentally. I pushed through and when we hit mile 10, I knew I had more energy in the tank.
So I pushed ahead of the lovely pacers who had prevented me from going out too fast and who served as a motivation not to slow down when I wanted to back off.
I began to pick up my pace, not wanting to burn out but knowing I could go faster. Miles eleven and twelve were two of my fastest miles during the race! But it was getting hotter and I was feeling the burn. Mile 13 was hard. The quicker pace got my lungs a little cranky and mentally I was struggling as I remembered how much pain I was in during this mile in 2009.
Then my trainer showed up alongside me! She was there running the 10k and stayed to run me (and her husband) in for the half finish. She started yelling motivational chants and telling me to kick it. I pushed so hard for that last tenth of a mile and finished smiling!
Confession: This is not my first health & running blog.
In 2009 & 2010, I kept a blog where I thought I was anonymous. I was clearly naive. And I shut it down when I found out people I knew were reading it. I was embarrassed. I was slow. I was overweight. Who was I to write about health. My writing wasn’t me, it was a facade I was attempting to create. Which is why when I started Healthy Academic, I knew it had to be different. I had to be okay with being public. And I had to write from the heart.
But the funny thing about the Internet is that you can’t escape your past. And as I began to write my 2014 San Jose Rock and Roll Half recap, I wondered if those previous posts included a recap from 2009. I opened Pandora’s box and uncovered over 200 posts. And while I won’t bore you with many of them… I wanted to flashback to my first half. Forgive me for the writing. And for the choppy transitions. This was multiple posts I have edited to become one:
Oh I completed my first half marathon last weekend… no big deal…
Yeah I am lying…
IT WAS A HUGE FREAKIN’ DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you have followed my blog, before my writing blocks the last couple months, you know I was training for this run. You also know I was told I would never run. So my goal this year was to complete a half marathon. Unlike NY resolutions that you have less control over, a half marathon was a concrete goal to work towards.
When I fell down the stairs in August, I lost motivation to blog, to cook and to take care of myself. I felt like I sucked. I couldn’t even walk down stairs for heavens sake! But I had already paid for this half marathon… so with the support of my friends, I started walking. My doctor had told me I was not allowed to jog at all or even walk long distances, especially if I wanted to make it through the 13.1 miles in October. So I spent September NOT training for my half marathon.
Sane people I want you to know that you shouldn’t attempt to walk a half marathon when your doctor says you will only be able to complete it if you DON’T train. I recognize this is not something that makes sense. I did some aqua jogging and lots of strength training that wouldn’t affect my lower body that was still resting.
But how did I make it through 13.1 miles (and that .1 becomes VERY important in this story)???
I set my original finish time at 3:15. That would be a little less than a 15 minute mile which is almost three minutes slower per mile than my latest 5k time but was a reasonable time for me since I hadn’t done one before. But after falling down the stairs, I forgave myself for the knowledge that I couldn’t perform at my best and I accepted a time of 3:30 as my goal. The maximum time allowed for the half is four hours and I was hoping I wouldn’t be bringing up the rear.
When the race started that morning, I had my intervals set at 1 minute jogging and 2 minutes walking. I figured that even though I hadn’t been allowed to really work out for the previous weeks, this was a starter interval so I should be okay.
And I actually felt like I was moving so slow! It was weird to force myself to walk in the beginning (I actually ran for a good five minutes before starting the intervals because I was embarrassed to be seen walking near the start). However, despite feeling slow, my body has improved over time. At mile 3, I was well under my 46:30 pace time if I was trying for a 15 minute mile, like my original goal (I was at about a 14 minute mile).
I felt amazing. Yes people were passing me for those three miles, but I was way ahead of where I thought I would be. AND I WAS GOING SLOW! Or at least I thought I was.
At the 10k check point I had slowed down to a 14:45 minute mile. However, despite slowing down and keeping those beginner intervals (and stopping for a bathroom break at mile 5), I was only about two minutes slower than my 10k in July. Seriously?!?!?! At this point I felt both amazing but also frustrated. I knew I would have to stay consistent in order to make it under my 3:30 time. I had also secretly gotten my hope up between miles 3 and 6 that I could come in at 3:15 or less. Silly overenthusiastic me!
Mile 7 came and went and I felt myself starting to slow more. I had the beginning of a couple blisters on the bottom of my right foot (right under my big toe) and I had stepped down funny on the left foot at some point. My feet were just starting to tell me they were sore and I wondered how I would make it 5+ more miles. Out of no where, a woman came up beside me and commented that we were running a similar pace. I suggested right away that we should stick together for awhile for encouragement.
It turns out it was her first half and she also hadn’t done a full 13.1 miles before coming to the race. We were both having trouble staying motivated and were experiencing pain in areas we hadn’t before (for example, I have never had a blister under my toe!). We stuck together and motivated each other to run when the interval clock beeped and to count down the last ten seconds of some of those minutes that seemed to never end. It felt good to have someone to run with and to keep me going. I felt like if I slowed down I was letting her down and she said she felt the same.
Mile 8 went pretty quickly, and I was feeling motivated. Which is why when I saw the medic tent, I didn’t want to stop and get either foot checked out despite the pain that was increasing.
At this point I will let you in on a secret. I still wanted to quit. I hurt and the idea of another 4 miles made me want to cry. But we kept pushing and pushing and pushing. At mile 10, I was at a 15:30 minute mile… not too shabby! If I kept that up, I would finish at about 3:23. That would be pretty awesome since I had hurt my back pretty badly such a short time before…
Ah yes. The back injury…
So I hit the ten mile mark and my feet and back were dying. I kept trying to remember that it was only a 5k left, but that wasn’t helping. I would have cried but my new running buddy was still with me, although it seemed like the slower I got, the faster she was getting.
At mile 11, I saw the medic. I didn’t want to stop but I needed to make sure I would be able to finish. The previous mile had taken forever and every step was painful. So I waved goodbye to my new running buddy and sidelined myself. Hopefully not for the day…
The medic asked me a number of questions and gave me an ice pack for my back. I was so focused on my back and also subconsciously didn’t want to be sidelined, that I forgot to ask about my foot pain. After sitting for ten minutes, I assured the medic I could indeed finish (in almost a tearful begging sort of way) and she told me I would be on my own as she thought I should probably not be finishing the last 2.1 miles.
She was probably right in hindsight. Those two miles were the most painful period I can remember in a long time. I cried almost the entire distance, continually stopping to stretch for the pain in my left foot, and to take weight off my blistery right food. The ice pack that I had to hold to my back while I walked also made for delicious ice chips to chew on. Walkers were passing me left and right and I felt like I was all alone.
Luckily my friend Zara was at the finish line with her family waiting for me. She had sent me a couple texts while I was with the medic and knowing she had stuck around long after she had finished the race just to be there for me was what kept me going. I couldn’t quit at that point!
At mile 13 as I wiped tears from my eyes, I saw Zara waiting to hug me. She walked with me part of that last .1 until we got to the fenced in finish area where she had to step off the course. With only a couple hundred feet in front of me, I was both embarrassed to be seen hobbling towards the finish and excited to be so close to the end. A woman came up behind me and mentioned she too was hurting and had been behind me the whole last two miles. She said that she knew if I could keep going then so could she. With ten feet left before the finish, I asked if she wanted to jog across the finish line. She agreed and we sprinted to the finish!
When we crossed the finish line we both winced in pain, gave each other props and dragged ourselves to the waiting medic tent. A medic then used saran wrap to attach an ice pack to my back before I headed off to get my medal. I pulled my shirt over the wrap and smiled!
I would go on to set a new PR in Vegas only 8 weeks later that would be my personal best until 2014. I would go on to volunteer at the San Jose Half at the finish line and for two years I made signs to cheer on runners, staying until the last athlete passed my signs. But I would never forget the way I felt during that 2009 San Jose half.
In 2009, my first half marathon ever was the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon. I had committed on New Year’s Day to run it. And, well, I finished it.
When I saw a special for registration for 2014, I knew I had to take this race back. And so I signed up again. And I will get to that race recap in my next post. On July 18 I was still riding a high from my new 5k PR at the SHE 365 5k, which meant that when I saw the ReMix Challenge introduced for San Jose’s Rock and Roll Half, I HAD to sign up! After all, it *only* meant adding a 5k on Saturday, the day before the half.
First, I recognize a total shift in approach to racing from my first races. In 2009, I remember being alone at my first 5k. It was a local trail run and I spent weeks, if not months, obsessing about being prepared. I had signed up for this May 2009 5k in order to help build for the San Jose Half. And I was scared about finishing the 5k. Ultimately I did. It took me around 50 minutes, but I finished. But in 2014, I thought nothing of adding a race the day before a race? But this wasn’t the first time I just signed up for a race without trepedation.
In 2013, I convinced one of my friends to sign up for the Santa Run. There was some random sale on Facebook (I clearly have a problem when it comes to race sales!), and I thought signing up for it might be a great motivation. I had no intention of running for many months, so the plan was to walk it. And we did! It took us about an hour and my feet were killing me by the end! I was about a month into HMR and down about 30 pounds. I was so happy to finish, but determined to do better.
For the San Jose Rock and Roll 5k, I met up with several coworkers who were also running. We hung out before the race, shared stories, and agreed to meet up at the end. We chatted all the way until the starting gun. No obsessing about time at this race, I decided I would push as hard as I felt like since I knew the more important race for me would be the next day. No pressure to be quick, this was just a chance to get some energy out to keep me balanced for the half.
When the gun went off, I felt that surge of adrenaline, and I just let it take me away. The course started near the convention center and went through the streets of downtown San Jose. I had actually run about half of it during training runs without knowing it, so knowing the streets and where the finish was allowed me to figure out how much of the course was left without checking my garmin or the mile signs.
The course support seemed lacking compared to the half course support I have come to expect from Rock and Roll. There was a DJ about a mile in and a band about two miles in. Both were good but lacked crowd energy, and I realize a 5k is a lot shorter than a half, but I guess I anticipated more. There were also several cheer groups who were fabulous, as our local teens are. Overall the spectator level was minimal, especially for being downtown.
One of the reasons for the lack of course spectators may have been how underplayed the 5k was. It wasn’t advertised locally the same way the half was, and the participation was significantly smaller. Official results have only 1867 participants in the 5k!
About a mile into the race, I realized I was running much faster than I had anticipated. 8:13?!? I did a body check – I seemed fine and it didn’t seem too hard – but I slowed myself down a bit as I reminded my body that it had a lot further to go the next day.
I kept a consistent pace in the second and third miles although it was a push during that last quarter mile or so. When my Garmin beeped at the three mile mark, I started to push but didn’t want to go all out because I wasn’t sure if I had added extra distance weaving earlier in the race. I never saw a three mile marker and so even though I knew the finish was close, I never figured out when to get that finishing kick in. I am learning that visual cues are definitely an important part of the mental game for me.
When I saw the finish, I pushed hard. And finished with the official time of 26:51! A new PR! I was 284th overall, 16th in my age division, and 91st in my gender division. Compared to December where my time was 1:00:03!
So I finished part one of the Remix Challenge. Next up? Taking back the half.