Saturday, May 22, 2010

Girls on the Run

WARNING: This post is longer than the A&E Pride & Prejudice.

Last week, I posted that Mom and I are walking. Training, in fact, to walk a half-marathon in October. My friend, Cheryl, suggested I try to find some intermediate distance races to participate in while I train. I took her suggestion to heart and, after a little searching, discovered a 5K being hosted right here in Hailey! It was called the Girls on the Run Community 5K, and promoted women's fitness. How appropriate.

Could I do it? I wasn't sure. I thought I probably could, especially with all the training we've been doing. But we started training so slowly, and I had never walked a 5K. I did the conversion from metric. Oh. It was only 3.1 miles. My confidence began to build.

But Mom was out of town. Could I do it alone? In a giant crowd of people? I don't do crowds (unless I'm on stage, of course. In that case, bring on the masses. Me plus the audience equals a one-on-one conversation). So before I decided for sure whether or not I would participate, I went to Facebook and asked if anyone in the Wood River Valley would be available to walk it with me.

My friend, Gloria, who got me into this crazy half-marathon adventure in the first place, said she was going for her long run that morning and didn't think she'd be back in time, but maybe she could leave at the crack of dawn for her run and try to show up after. No promises, though.

I pictured myself walking the 5K alone, and I decided the fear of being in close proximity to others paled in comparison to the exhilarating thought that I, Sedentary, Fibro, Sit-Around Becky, am now a walker.

I walk.

I go walking.

If you've never been sedentary, you don't understand what a big deal this is. This is a big deal. Of miraculous proportions. Seriously. I know there are other people in the world who are capable of living healthy, active lifestyles, but I have never been one of them.

I've tried. Oh, how I've tried. I walked a handful of times last spring, and I once spent an entire month playing games on the Wii Fit. You know, the balance games where you just stand there and lean from side to side so the little bubble on the screen doesn't pop on the side of the riverbank. Now that's a workout. Lemme tell ya.

After Dad died, I felt highly motivated to avoid doing things that might bring about my own death. Obesity is the number one cause of death in America. Ergo, I should not be obese. And I am. I thought about how devastated I, as a grown child, feel about losing my father, and how much more devastated my sons would be if they lost their mom to laziness and gluttony while they were still so young. Life is too precious for me to commit slow suicide.

But I felt trapped. Desperate. Like I said, I had tried and tried to eat healthy, exercise, lose weight, etc. I'd succeeded occasionally. Once I lost 50 pounds. Then I went through some trauma and ate my way through recovery, ballooning up above my starting weight in half the time it took me to get the 50 pounds off. I was also beginning to show signs of pre-diabetes. And my kids, graciously, blamed fibromyalgia for my inability to participate in their activities. But I knew it wasn't because of fibro that I couldn't play baseball with my children.

Finally, after all else failed, I said to Abba, "Okay. I give up. I can't be healthy. I can't eat well, I can't exercise. If this is going to happen, You've got to do it. Please make me healthy."

God had been waiting and waiting (and waiting) for me to ask that. I could almost see Him rubbing His hands together with joy and excitement, preparing to unleash the plan He'd had all along.

The next day, my mom asked me if we could start walking together. YES! And away we went. All the way around the block. And that wasn't easy. Later that week, we walked a mile and a half to the post office. I thought I was going to DIE. Our walks sort of petered out after that. Around the big block, around the little block, around the store...

Then Gloria suggested to us that we could walk a half-marathon. I thought she was crazy. I couldn't even make it to the post office and back. But she explained that we could start slowly, and if we found a race happening later in the year, it would give us lots of time to train.

After a week of ruminating on her suggestion, I told her I'd like to try. She came over and made Mom and me a training schedule, which we've been working on ever since. At the beginning, I could only walk one mile. But pretty soon, we worked up to a mile and a half, and after a while, we started to pick up speed. Before I knew it, I had become a walker. A real walker. Me! Sedentary me!

I had promised myself that I would not focus on losing weight because if I didn't lose any, I'd get depressed, and then I'd give up. So I decided to focus on the half-marathon and hope weight loss happened as as side-effect.

It didn't.

After walking for a solid month, I'd gained 3 pounds.

I got depressed anyway, and we started sloughing off on our walks a little. I blamed it on my little sniffly nose. I had a "cold."

Sighing, I resigned myself to the fact that exercise was clearly not enough to get me healthy, and I needed to change my eating habits. And boy, didn't I have an iron-clad excuse to avoid that issue. I'm grieving! Hello! I just lost my dad! Ice cream makes me feel better. I need ice cream. And popcorn! And chocolate chips melted over frozen strawberries!!

Well, ice cream didn't actually make me feel better at all, now, did it? Of course not. I'm allergic to dairy, and ice cream is full of sugar. The truth is ice cream made me sick to my stomach.

But the excuses didn't end there. I was pretty sure I was pre-diabetic, or at the very least, headed like a barreling train in that direction. And everyone I'd ever talked to in the same boat hadn't lost any weight until they went on Metformin. I don't have health coverage, and there was no way I could afford the process of acquiring a prescription for Metformin. So I was doomed, and there was no reason to try. Why try? And that garlic bread smelled so goooooood...

Of course, it also made me sick to my stomach. I'm allergic to garlic and I have a gluten sensitivity.

Suddenly, I recalled something I had said to my sisters just after Dad died. No one could eat anything at all for several days. I'll never forget trying to choke down one bite of broccoli and a cube of chicken a few hours after Dad's body was found. Naturally, I slimmed down a teeny bit. My sisters noticed, and said I looked thinner. I credited it to grief. Then I said, "But I hope this grieving process doesn't make me fatter. I eat my feelings." They just looked at me graciously, eyes slightly wide. I love them so much.

Remembering that statement, I felt disheartened. The grief process was making me fatter. That is to say... I was definitely making bad choices about what I put into my mouth.

Once again, I approached the Creator of the Universe who lets me sit in His lap and call Him my Abba. "You know, Abba," I said, "about my relationship to food. I feel trapped and lost and panicky, and I feel completely out of control. I know I should worship You alone, and I know I should run to You with my feelings, instead of running to the refrigerator. I'm sorry I've been worshiping food. And I guess what I mean to say is that I'm sorry I've been worshiping... me. I want to worship You alone. Please help me to eat for Your glory."

And then... only a few days later, the coolest thing in the world happened. My friend, Heather, wrote a note on Facebook. I'd seen her in a coffee shop a few weeks previously, and she'd looked great to me. Just like I remembered her from high school. I noted to myself wistfully that she looked so great after giving birth to two children. So when I read her Facebook note, I was surprised to discover she hadn't always been Petite Coffee Shop Heather. She'd been like me.

And then she'd done something about it.

I shot a message off to her immediately. "So... are you taking Metformin?"

And guess what? She wasn't! She told me her doctor had suggested it, and she'd refused. She came back to him the following month 19 pounds lighter.

Oh my goodness!!! Pre-diabetic weight loss without drugs!!! HOPE!!! :)

Ever since, Heather has been educating me about proper diet. Each tip she gives me feels like an oasis in my desert of doubt and confusion. She introduced me to thedailyplate.com, which tracks my food intake. There's a nifty pie chart of my nutrition ratios, and a cool bar graph of my calorie intake, and a picture of a glass of water that splashes over and says "Congratulations!" when I've had my 8 glasses.

I'm especially excited about The Daily Plate because it enables me to change my lifestyle instead of going on a diet. I don't want to eat differently for a little while, with weight-loss as a specific goal, and then try to change my lifestyle after that. I want to change my life now. The Daily Plate makes that doable and practical, without my having to spend money on special food or stop eating regular meals.

And then God put into place the final component. Jeff. I showed him The Daily Plate. He signed up immediately, and he's doin' it with me. I cannot express with words how much this thrills me down to the very tips of my little toes. I won't even try.

So you see, the fear of being alone in a big crowd of people definitely paled in comparison to the exhilaration of the fact that I am now a walker. Who eats only 5-10 teaspoons of sugar a day. And lost 3 pounds this week.

I decided to walk in the 5K even if I couldn't find anyone to walk with me. I knew God would take care of me, and I asked Him to help me focus on loving the people around me instead of being claustrogorophobic. (I just made up that word.)

Moving forward in faith, I went to the thrift store to find some exercise-esque clothes that weren't covered with my normal fare of stains and paint spatter. I found the perfect outfit for $8.36 and brought it home, praying silently that God would bring me a walking buddy so my clothing purchase would not be in vain. (Because really. What's the fun of buying a new outfit if no one will see it?)

As soon as I got home from the thrift store and onto Facebook, there was a response! Guess who God brought? Heather! Marking the second time she was the tangible answer to my prayers! I was elated.

The next day, Gloria said she was going early on her run for sure, and she would come a little late to the 5K and catch up with us.

I had thought I'd be alone! But God was gracious to me and provided two lovely friends to come alongside. I love Him.

Even so, I was nervous.

I told Jeff.

"I'm nervous."

He assured me that I would do fine, and I could walk 3.1 miles easily.

I nodded, knowing that was true, and realized, which I blurted out to him, "It's not the walk. It's the people! There will be so many people there!"

It sounded ridiculous when I said it out loud. But God does not make me jump off cliffs without promising to catch me. And He kept His promise. On the way to the race this morning, Heather called. "Are you here?"

"Almost," I replied. "I'm just turning onto Main Street."

"Okay," she chuckled, "I'm by the slide."

By the slide. I would have a destination to focus on through the sea of people when I showed up. Relieved, the last vestiges of my fear finally melted away. Only excitement remaind. A 5K!!

When I arrived, there was Heather, right where she said she would be. She gave me a big hug and walked with me to the registration table. They gave me a bag of treats and a t-shirt. I'd ordered an extra large (of course) but all they had left was medium. I shrugged, "Well, I'll be medium someday!"



Heather and I stood waiting for the race to start, and I was just getting ready to tell her Gloria would be catching up with us partway through, when Gloria popped right up out of nowhere and exclaimed, "I made it!!" She had begun her 10-mile run at 7am, she and her running partner had finished in under two hours, and here she was!

The event coordinator began to blare unintelligibly through the loudspeaker, presumably calling all the racers to the starting line. We merged into the crowd, unsure of where to stand and which direction to face. People kept bumping into me, but as long as I focused on listening to Heather and Gloria, I didn't mind so much.


You have to picture this section crammed with athletes. It was.

Finally, the horn sounded. We were off. The entire horde rushed past us, jogging. I believe we were the only ones who didn't start out running. There may have been one other couple who walked.

"I have two goals," I stated boldly. "My first goal is to finish, and my second goal is to not come in last." (I kept another goal to myself. The pipe dream goal. To finish in under an hour.)

Gloria, glancing at the jogging horde pulling ahead of us, said sympathetically, "I've been last before. It's okay. It'll just feel so good to finish!" But then she reminded me that most of those joggers would tire out quickly, and we'd pass some of them.

She was right. We did. One gal in particular I mentally targeted as the person to beat. We passed her after a little while, bolstering my confidence. Then we started up a hill, Gloria and Heather chatting merrily along, not remotely winded. They asked how I was doing. "I'm going listening speed!" I quipped, gasping.



An event official thrust a string of shiny hot pink beads into Gloria's hand. She passed them along to me. When we reached the one-mile mark, another set of helpers handed us each a string of shiny blue beads. Sparkly and cheerful, we reached the top of the hill. Wahoo!

The next mile went by in a blur. It could have been because of our scintillating conversation. It also could have been because we were being pelted with powdered-sugar snowflakes in gale force winds, and everything really was... a blur.



Nothing we couldn't handle, of course. We are from Idaho, after all.

Amidst our spring blizzard, we worked to pass another couple. They stopped at a drink station and we strutted on by, so that worked out nicely. As I felt the 2-mile mark approach, I began looking for another string of shiny beads. Maybe green this time? I scanned the road for event helpers. Nothin'. Finally, feeling we had gone farther than two miles, I blurted out suddenly in the middle of Gloria's sentence, "Where are the 2-mile beads?!"

There were none. Luckily, Gloria's super-duper, handy-dandy GPS wristwatch confirmed we had indeed walked over two miles. Knowing we'd passed at least three people, I was sure we wouldn't finish last. Both of my stated goals accomplished, I began to wonder if it would be possible to achieve the secret goal. Gloria's watch said we were averaging around a 17-minute mile, so I started to hope. Could I finish in under an hour?

My body began to remind me that this was the farthest I'd walked since we began training. I verbalized that thought.

"Don't think like that," Gloria said. "Think about how much fun you're having."

I mentally argued back, I'm not thinking that. My body is. But redirecting my focus, I said aloud, "I feel warm. And energized. And my muscles aren't really very sore, so that's happy."

But all thoughts of mental and physical stamina vanished when we rounded a corner and found, ahead of us on the loop, the gal I had determined to beat! Why I oughta... I was pretty sure she hadn't passed us. Had she gone a different way? I pressed my lips together and increased my stride. I would beat her.

It took us a couple of blocks to get all the way around her group, and by then, we were pretty close to the end. Gloria said she would run ahead and take a picture of us crossing the finish line. As we rounded the final corner, I spied the giant clock. 54 minutes! I couldn't believe it.



(I took this picture after the race was over.)

Thinking I'd just stroll right on in, I became alarmed when the people behind us began to jog! Goodness! What to do? I hadn't run since Jonathan was a baby, and that in a desperate attempt to snag a free recliner before anyone else could. I swiveled my head around. The crowd was almost upon us. We had no choice. Glancing at Heather, I said, "We better run."

And then we did. It felt weird. Brought back memories. My body really did know how to do it, even after all these years. I felt the group behind me breathing down my neck, literally, so I pushed even harder, right to my limit.



Heather and I hollered to Gloria to hurry up and get to the finish line, 'cause we were comin' in! She sprinted ahead, turned around, and snapped a photo just as the clock hit 55 minutes.



Finished!! Not last!! In under an hour!! Woohoo!! :)



Gloria, Heather and I collapsed into a group hug as I fought back tears, marveling at the notion that I would be going much farther in a few months' time. Not 3.1 miles. 13.1 miles! Goodness.

But I've already come farther than I've ever raced before, thanks to Mom, Gloria, Heather, Jeff, and my very loving Abba. Just as He is perfectly capable of giving me the tools to walk today's 3.1 miles, He will clearly be with me every step of the way for the rest of this adventure.

13.1 miles is nothin' for Him.

Game on.