1/2 Marathon Training Update: Week 5

Monday, August 22, 2011
As I enter my second month of training, I thought an update on how things were going was in order. I would be onto week six at this point, but I got sick about week two, so I restarted the week that I only made it partially through. That's okay though, as the Space Coast 1/2 Marathon isn't until the end of November, so more than enough time to repeat weeks when necessary.
I hit my longest and hardest long mile day to date this past weekend. Saturday called for 7 miles and up until that point, I hadn't done anything longer than 10k distance wise. I was both excited and a bit nervous heading out the door at just after 7am that morning. The first 5k went easily, as my body is so used to that distance now. By the time I hit mile four, I was feeling a bit lower on energy, but I downed a Gu energy gel and figured I'd be good to go. The fifth mile is when the real mental push began. I not only started to have tired legs, but my bladder was less than thrilled about continuing on. Really took a lot of pushing to make it those last two miles. The last mile had me imagining how great it was going to be to complete the 7 miles and get off my feet. My music always helps me along, but hitting that pavement for long periods of time really does take some mental stamina. I made it through the full 7 miles and couldn't have been happier about it. It really was an accomplishment, the start of many more to come as well. 
I picked up my first foam roller a little over a week ago and have slowly begun to incorporate it into my after workout training routine. I will admit though, I'm not completely comfortable with it as of yet, and I already know I don't stretch nearly enough before or after my training sessions. That of course isn't good, so I'm making sure to remind myself that my time stretching is just as important as the workout itself. Hopefully, I'll get it better ingrained into my brain in the coming weeks so that it will come more as a second nature thing to me.
Over the weekend, I ended up talking with a fellow walker at Track Shack about race walking. He is a race walker and told me that I would get much better results from my walking if I used the race walking technique. The biggest thing that got me is that he said that I would be much faster race walking. So, I'm going to try to start using the technique during this week's walking days. I'd love to see a faster pace for sure. I may never win anything in the races that I do, but while finishing is the most important thing of all, challenging myself to do each mile quicker is always something on my mind.

Fuelbelt products

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

As my fitness goals and adventures have grown, I've begun to explore the plethora of products out there for runners, cyclists and everyone in between. There are so many great products made for us athetes to help make our training just a bit easier. In this particular blog, I'm going to discuss Fuelbelt and my experiences with their products thus far.

My first Fuelbelt purchase was the Slim Pocket Race Number Belt. I was recommended the belt earlier this year when I was about to take on my first race longer than a 5k. I wore it during the Winter Park Road Race 10k and it was great. I was able to store a gel as well as my phone as I completed the route. My race number stayed on without any problem. A much better solution to dealing with those safety pins. I will likely be one I use during future races as it's comfortable and lightweight.

Since I was so impressed with Fuelbelt's race belt, I found myself leaning toward their products during my search for a bento box for my bike back in June. I did a lot of research both online and in the local bike/specialty shops and found the Fuelbelt Bento Fuel Box to not only have great reviews from customers, but it appeared to have the stability I was seeking for a stem storage bag. Upon recieving it, my only complaint is that since I have a smaller bike (13in women's Raleigh Eva), I had to attach one of the lower velco straps differently than expected. But, once I figured out a secure way to keep it in place on my stem, it's held up well and I use it every time I go out on my bike.

In July, with a big goal in mind of completing my first-ever 1/2 Marathon, I found myself again in the market for another running product. This time, it was a hydration belt. At first, I was torn between just picking up a handheld bottle, but the folks at Track Shack were great at educating me as to why a hydration belt would be a better investment. Then, it was up to me which belt I would go with. Spotting Fuelbelt on the product wall, it didn't take long for me to decide to go with one of their hydration belts. I walked out of the running store with a Helium 4 Bottle Belt. My first workout with it was a bit awkward, I'll admit (my family even thought it looked funny), but I always wear it and carry at least two bottles with me now every time I head out the door for my training. The only downside to the product for me is that to keep the water cold in the Florida heat, I freeze the bottles overnight; this causes them to "sweat" all over my shirt and shorts. Folded up paper towels stuck between the bottle and my clothes have helped some, but not completely.

I'd love to check out other Fuelbelt products in the near future. I'm already very interested in getting an extra pocket for my Helium belt to hold my android phone. Some of the other products that interest me are the Crush Belt, Sprint Palm Holder and Insulated Sahara Palm Holder. I'd definitely recommend checking out their products, especially the hydration and race belts.

The Biggest Loser Connection

Saturday, August 6, 2011

For those that know me well, they know that I used to be a fat girl. I used to live my life eating all the wrong things and not being active beyond walking to and from my car to where I was going. The worst part about it all is that I knew I was fat and unhealthy. I knew that I was doing myself no good in living my life in that way. Days, weeks, months and even years went by when I would say I was going to "diet" and drop the weight, but nothing ever really stuck. I would just put the weight right back on again. I hated who I was and would do any and everything that I could to hide behind bigger clothes and put a smile on my face. All that I was doing was grinning and bearing through life.

I was overweight for most of my life, my gain beginning probably around my middle school years. I was never skinny even before that, was merely running around enough to keep things fairly equal so to speak. Memories will always stick with me of being made fun of in school for being overweight. I felt as though others were judging me for anything I put in my mouth, no matter what it was. I even recall one time when my mom searched for a bag of chips to pack with my lunch that didn't say words like, "big" on it. Didn't want to give the mean kids any more leverage in their taunting.

In high school, I did my best to blend in for the most part. I hid behind the lens of a camera, both video and still through those awkward teenage years. I didn't even go to homecoming or prom because I couldn't see beyond that fat girl. I thought, "who wants to see me in a dress?" Besides, it wasn't as though I had a date, never got asked out, so why bother? My college years just continued the struggle with my weight and social life. Sure, I had some close girlfriends, but I always thought that they were so pretty and I was more like the ugly and fat hanger-on of the group.

Life of course had its ups and downs, some days I thought that I was alright and wasn't so bad looking. I even got the nerve to ask a guy friend out at one point (it went sour, but hey, I tried!). I thought that my weight was the center of all of my woes in life. If only I could find a way to lose the weight and look like all those "skinny and hot girls," my life would be oh so much better. Surely, that one thing, was holding me back from ultimate success in all things. Of course, that's not true, but hold on to that line of thinking, as I will come back to it, promise!

In September of 2008, my life would be forever changed. At the time, I was living in Western North Carolina and was planning on driving down to Florida to spend a few vacation days with my parents and family. One of the days that I was visiting, my dad and I went to EPCOT Center. We both spent the day enjoying the park and taking pictures with his DSLRs. My dad gave me a CD with all of the photos taken from both cameras and when I got back home to North Carolina, I popped it into my computer. As I was going through the images, I realized that my father had taken some candid photos of me as I also took photos in the theme park. I sat at my desk in stunned shock at the images that were on the screen. Was that truly me? Was I really that big? Those pictures really hit me hard with a realization I had never had before. I just didn't believe that I was that fat. But, there I was, the photos were proof. It was a real life changing moment for me. I knew at that moment that I had to change, I had to drop the weight.

Now, I was already a fan of the reality television show, The Biggest Loser. I even attended a mall event in Miami a year or so before and met Suzy Hoover and Mark Wyle. I swore back then that I was going to stop making excuses and get healthy. Ironically, the show even interviewed me on camera. But, I had yet to have that "life changing moment" that I so dearly needed. So, in September 2008, everything just clicked for me. I would not have known what to do or how to do it without The Biggest Loser. Having tried dozens of fad weight-loss drugs and so-called solutions in the past, I knew thanks to The Biggest Loser that it would take hard work to really lose the weight and keep it off.

At first, it wasn't easy, not even close. I would do well some days, and then have a day where I would buy that bag of chips and a jar of salsa like the old days and sit in front of my TV just eating. And then, it got even harder that November. I learned that I was going to be laid off from my job at the beginning of December and would no longer have a way to pay my rent or other bills. Not exactly good news for my weight loss journey. The ups and downs continued until I moved back home to Florida on December 5th. Once I was back in Florida and could breath again, those downs began to dwindle. Well, for the most part anyway. I was now an unemployed adult back home with very little money to my name. The good in that was I had plenty of time to workout. I made working out and looking for work my job until I had an actual one. I got lucky with one of The Biggest Loser workout DVDs I had bought and had a 30-day pass to 24Hour Fitness. I couldn't go there everyday since it was about a 30-minute drive, but I went 3-4 days a week of my month long membership in addition to working out on my own at home.

By early February 2009, my life was looking up. I had again joined the workforce and was succeeding in my weight loss journey. I continued my healthy eating through calorie counting and of course working out. At the end of the summer of that year, I had lost 75lbs! Those last five pounds were a struggle, but one I was not willing to give up on. In October, I went vegetarian for health reasons and then by Thanksgiving, going vegan for both health and compassionate reasons. The veg way worked though, those stubborn last pounds fairly quickly came off within a couple of months of giving up meat.

Now, here I am two years after losing and keeping off those 75lbs and I feel great. It was the best decision I have ever made in my life. No regrets in the slightest, in fact I think I will always remember the turning point, that spark that made me want to get healthy. As far as being a thinner girl solving all of my problems? Not even close. Being overweight is not why I was unhappy or why I was insecure with myself and didn't go to prom. I just didn't love myself enough. I could not look in the mirror at myself and see what an amazing human being was looking back at me.

Today, I'm still working on that girl in the mirror. I know that I am beautiful and healthy, but honestly, it's a day by day work in progress. I became fat as a result of something inside of me. I may have made others believe that I was this happy person, but in all truthfulness, I was not. Deep inside, I was hurt and broken. Losing the weight has helped me become a better person and discover how awesome I am. You have to love yourself first and foremost before someone else can love you. It sounds cliche and is often said, but it's true. I'm learning to love myself as well as seeing how much I am capable of doing when I put my mind to it. If you would had told me three years ago that I would love running, I would have laughed. But, I love it and all of my fitness activities as much as I love writing and taking pictures. I can't imagine living my life without my training sessions despite how much I may hurt later on. They make me who I am. And, I never want to go back to that girl who was unhealthy and always feeling down on herself. I wish I could climb into Doc's delorean and tell that younger me that you are so great, that she is capable of such strength and willpower. Alas, there isn't such a thing as time travel, at least not outside of the movies. All that we can do is take it one day at a time and make the best of those hours. For me, that day involves a good workout and getting my sweat on. :)

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