Monday, July 31, 2006

Cause and Effect

The other day while walking a 3.5 mile loop, (half of which my training schedule outlined for the day but I digress into a guilt too heavy to bear), I noticed at two different points along the route a random and lone sock laying on the side of the road. The first was a thin navy blue cotton sock plastered against the curb. Around the next bend in the road near the base of an old evergreen tree was a filthy heavy-weight white sock looking much like a fuzzy flattened snake, if there were such a creature that is.

This is when the expression "It will knock your socks off" first tickled at the back of my mind and I couldn't help but wonder, are there really circumstances that could literally knock your socks off?

And if that's possible, could something actually "blow your mind?"

I've made what might be a horrifying correlation.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Fantastic in San Francisco

Brandon and Steve fall under the category of super-dudes in my little corner of the world, and today they rocked that world by finishing the San Francisco Marathon, with Brandon gutting out the full-marathon after a series of sprains, pains and a knee with a freakin' attitude, while Steve hoofed in at an a-m-a-z-i-n-g 2:52:45 for the half-marathon. If you don't find 2:52:45 for a half-marathon jaw-dropping then check out Steve's blog and do your research because perspective is everything baby!

These fellas are my inspiration and have been since we first met last spring at Dave McGovern's (no slouch himself!) Racewalking Clinic in Carmel. I went hoping to learn some techniques for walking faster and what I ended up with is a posse of walkers, runners, racers, and just plain good people who are never short on showering support, motivation, and great advice to a fledging walker like phatgirl. These good people include Vickie and Ann who did their own part in burning up the pavement in the city by the Bay!

Brandon and Steve, congratulations on overcoming every adversity that came your way to reach your goal! This middle-aged walking woman is doing the wave in your direction and your accomplishment will be pushing me from behind during my next LSD!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sister Strider

Somehow I managed to convince, cajole or trick my sister into walking with me in the Portland Marathon and because I just so happened to be up in Portland for a few days I went with her on a walker's shopping spree beginning with new running shoes, followed by a Garmin 305 (the finest walkers toy on the planet) and concluding with an Ipod Nano. Some people train, we sisters make purchases.

Two peas in a pod are we.

I'm already in trouble. She walked 8 miles yesterday at 14:00 mpm and had the nerve to feel good. She just started training! I've been at this since January. What the....!

My schedule in Portland has been hectic at best, masochistic at worst and there within lies my feeble but technically plausible excuse for not keeping to my training schedule. I've only mushed in two 3.5 mile walks while in town and I was due for an 8-miler. Ain't gonna happen until I get home which means next week will find me hoofing two long days on the road in addition to a couple EZ days and some cross-training. But the truth is, I miss it. When I finished the 3.5 mile loop this morning I wanted to go around again but the clock and commitments were working against me. I love that I wanted to go around again. I mean, I really wanted it. Wanted it like I use to want just one more piece, slice, bite, bowl, box, bag, carton or spoonful of [ __ fill in the blank ___ ]. I want to get out on the road so much that I just seriously but briefly considered heading out to the 24-hour gym for a sweaty stroll on the dreadmill at 1:00 in the morning. Fortunately it passed in relatively short order.


Friday, July 21, 2006

The Whole Truth

It's understandable you're having a difficult time dealing with this photo. I suspect it's not the actual number on the bathroom scales you find disturbing but rather that anyone weighing in at such a rubenesque amount would actually put it out into the universe.

But here it is. My weight. My actual weight. Not the weight on my driver's license. And believe it or not, seeing those numbers on the scales actually make me smile rather than grimace, which only confirms the truism that perspective is everything.

Eight years when I stepped on the scales the numbers starring back at me were 325. I wasn't smiling then because even though I was living, I didn't have much of a life. There's just a whole lot you don't do, can't do, and won't do with that much excess weight unless you're a sumo wrestler or a quarterback. Now, at 198 pounds I'm smiling and I'm grateful to the bone because even though I'm still heavier than I'd ultimately like to be, I not only have a life now, but I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.

At 325 pounds I would never have considered walking a half-marathon when climbing a single flight of steps left me winded and sweaty and so that's why even today, a week after finishing my first half-marathon, I'm sitting at my computer with my medal from that event in my pocket as a reminder of yet another miracle in my life. Today I have nothing to complain about when I see 198 on the scales because I know where I started and the amazing journey that led me to where I am.

With that said, in the coming two months as I move toward the Portland Marathon in October I'm going to be focusing on losing a few more pounds and so I'll be blogging about that journey and all that means such as exercise, my plan for eating, and how the scales are moving (or not moving). I'm going to be yammering about weight loss, not because losing weight is the most important thing in my life, but because of how it's connected with my new passion in walking.

Here's the thing...there's been a shift in my thinking since walking in my first half-marathon that might seem inconsequencial to anyone else but to me it's a huge shift. See if you can follow entire life losing weight for the sake of losing weight has been my primary goal. It's been the carrot (or carrot cake with cream cheese icing) dangling in front of my face, but now in the afterglow of finishing a half-marathon and looking ahead to completing a full marathon my main focus has shifted from "I'm going to walk so I can lose weight" to "I'm going to lose weight so I can walk." Losing weight is no longer the desired end result but it's the means to the desired end result of walking farther, walking faster, and walking easier. I know for every pound I lose between now and the marathon, I'm going to enjoy the experience that much more. I don't want to just finish the race, I want to have a blast doing it!

We've got some work to do kids. What say we have some fun doing it?

Lessons On The Road, Episode One

I drove over the half-marathon course twice in advance of race day. There was an elevation map online and it looked flat enough but I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I didn't want any surprises. And sure enough, as Dana and I drove over the 13.1 mile course running through the vineyards of Napa Valley on a cool spring day from the comfort of our air conditioned car, it appeared easy enough. The course rambled on and on but there were lovely groves of trees that cast cool shadows over the road and there was an occasional rise and fall in sections of the course but they were hardly noticeable.

As it turned out, on the day of the half-marathon, I noticed. I noticed the long slow rise that stretched over the last half of mile 2 that slowed my pace and quickened my pulse. As
I pressed on through a couple more miles an audible groan escaped my throat as I looked round a bend in the road near mile 5 and saw another steady rise ahead. And the shade? I bobbed and weaved from one side of the road to the other in a futile quest to grab a momentary reprieve from the sun in the sparse shade that had at another time appeared so abundant.

In the days prior to the race I visualized time and again walking over sections of the course and in my mind's eye I was always moving strong, feeling good, and looking fine. How wrong I was. My pace was two, sometimes three minutes slower per mile, my body more weary, and my mental outlook more bleak than I had ever anticipated. There was no way to know how I will respond to the course, how the elevation would impact me, and how the heat and shadeless roads would deplete my energy until I experienced it for myself, until my feet were on the road walking it mile by mile, up and down the rolling rises in the heat of a summer day.

My finishing time was 3:24:50. That's 24 minutes and 50 seconds slower than I had hoped, but as my friends remind me, that's a personal best for me and they're right, it was my personal best in a half-marathon because it was the first time I ever walked in a half-marathon! In the end the time didn't matter anyway because when I crossed the finish line, that was enough. I hadn't give up. I had finished.

And each day, that's all I can do as I live my life. I can never fully prepare for what will be around life's next corner and how I'll move through it; how I'll respond, what I'll feel, what action I'll take, or who I'll even become when I reach the other side. Until my feet are hitting the pavement, or until I'm confronting the next challenge in life, I can't predict what the final result will be of the journey I'm on. All I can do is walk the mile that surrounds me and do my best with all that mile holds for me. Sometimes I'll move through the mile energized, filled with excitement and light on my feet. Other times I'll want to quit so bad it will take every bit of human effort to just take the next step. And the next one. And the one after that.

And when that's all I can do, that's enough. Forget about what lies ahead. Mile 10, mile 11, and mile 12 aren't my concern when I'm stuck in the middle of mile 9, and in the same way I don't need to worry about what difficulties or challenges may or may not come tomorrow because today is the day I'm living in and with God's help I'll live it to the best that I'm able.

There's every reason to believe my finishing time in the next race will be faster because of what I learned in this half-marathon. My personal best will improve as I improve as an athlete. I pray the same would be true in my life...that as I face the challenges that come, I learn from each and in learning I might be changed into a better me, the me that's God's best hope and plan for me to be.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Next Great Event

Do you want to be in a marathon but not do the training?
Would you like to compete without breaking a sweat?
Does the roar of the crowd excite you but blistered toes repel you?
Then this is the marathon for you--->
click here

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mendocino Strolling

A few reasons why I love Mendocino, California more than just about any place on earth...

Groans and Gripes, Installment One

When you meet a good friend for lunch,
or stroll hand in hand with someone you love,
or drive through the countryside with your children,
for crying out loud,
turn off the cell phone
and be fully present for
your good friend,
or the someone you love,
or your children.

Why Do I Walk?

I first walked in 1957. I guess I'd just grown tired of crawling and from all indications I took to it right away and never looked back. Apparently, once you've experienced vertical movement the need for knee to palm, knee to palm, loses it's attraction.

A few months ago I started to walk again. I didn't start walking as a means of transportation or as a form of exercise. I wasn't walking to get somewhere or to get away from somewhere else. I wasn't walking because there was something to gain from walking like good health or something to lose like excess weight.

I walked to walk. I walked because I could walk.

I had just come through a painful time in life (excruciatingly painful but I digress), when all my best efforts were unable to bring any positive change to circumstances unraveling around me. I couldn't make people behave honorably or compassionately. I was powerless to bring truth to the untruth being spoken. I had no ability to move institutions toward justice.

One morning I put on a pair of comfy shoes and walked through my front door into a sunny day. I walked around the neighborhood and then walked back home. The next day I took a different road and walked a little further. Before long walking had become the most important time in my day. I could decide the direction I would walk. I could control how far I would walk, how long I would walk, how fast I would walk. Walking was something I could do, and so I did. I walked.

And as I walked I came to realize that walking is one of the truest metaphors for what it is to understand life as a journey and a life of faith as traveling a spiritual path. Walking is a great teacher and I'm an eager student. That's why I walk. To learn. To grow. To heal.

And if I lose a few pounds along the way, who am I to complain?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Post Race Body Check

The Day of the Half-Marathon:

  • Sore and stiff everywhere. Everywhere.
  • Extremely tight calve muscles.
  • Three blisters on my feet, including one that was quite impressive! What a shame I didn't think to photograph them for your viewing pleasure.
  • Really, really tired and really, really hungry.

The Night of the Half-Marathon:

  • The toe nail on my left foot, next to the big toe fell off. It didn't ask me. Didn't warn me. Gave no indication of its intentions. Just popped right off. Gone. Lost forever on the hotel carpet.

The Day after the Half-Marathon:

  • My calve muscles are still pulled as tight as five-inch long rubber bands being stretched from one end of a ball field to the other. I'm hobbling, not walking. I whine when I walk and somehow that seems to relieve the pain.

Two Days after the Half-Marathon: (Today)

  • The calve muscles are still tight but either the rubber band is getting longer or the ball field is getting shorter. The necessity for whining is diminishing but don't tell Dana. I'm still milking this for everything its worth.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Race Day Photo Diary

Now that the race is over I can tell you two things. I finished the race and I didn't fall apart at mile 10. I fell apart at mile 6 and unraveled through mile 10. But I didn't quit, which makes me an official, bone-fide half-marathoner and dare I say, athlete?

To view my online photo album, complete with running commentary on my half-marathon adventure, just click on the photo below and that will take you to my album. Along with the photos is a graphic image from my Garmin 305 that shows my pace, the elevation and other sundry bits of information that were recorded during the half-marathon.

Racewalker Results from the 2006 Napa to Sonoma Half-Marathon. To find my results will require scrolling to about eight names up from the bottom...but it's there, and since I've never raced before, the time I set in the half-marathon was my personal best time ever!!!

Friday, July 14, 2006

From Fat to Phat

Nine years ago I was forty years old. My weight was 325 pounds. I wore size 30-32 jeans. A normal dinner consisted of two bags of groceries. A flight of stairs left me winded and sweating.

Today I'm five months short of fifty. I weigh just under 200 pounds. I wear size 16 jeans. A normal dinner fits on one plate. And in tomorrow I'll be participating in the
Napa to Sonoma Half-Marathon as I head my way to October and the Portland Marathon.

There's a lot that happened between the space of those two paragraphs that led to so many changes, and in coming entries I'll probably fill out what's in that space but for the time being let's focus on what's at hand...

Tomorrow. Half-marathon. Me. Last night I had a series of dreams, not about the race but weird stuff that all fell under the common theme of failure. My first waking thought was "I can't do this. I'm going to fall apart by mile 10" and that's when a moment of true panic set in. And then I remembered something I read recently in Runner's World Magazine..."for some of us coming to this late in life, the real victory isn't in crossing the finish line, but that we even got up to the starting line." I have to remember, given where I've come from and what it's taken me to get here, crossing the starting line is nothing short of a miracle.

But still, I really hope I don't fall apart at mile 10.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What's In a Blog Name?

Last night I watched a British documentary on LimeTV called "Fat Man Running" that tells the story of a squishy guy who sets out to run the London Marathon with only five months to train and a whole lot of weight and bad habits to lose along the way.

Hey! I'm a squishy woman. I have plenty of weight to lose. I've been training since January 2006 to walk the Portland Marathon (Oregon) in October, yet the odds of anyone setting up a Tivo Season Pass of a walk-umentary highlighting my exploits on pavement is unlikely enough that blogging seems an interesting alternative. Not that I suspect it will draw a larger audience but if given the option I'd rather type into a computer keyboard dressed in my jammies, than be filmed walking and sweating in an unflattering pair of walking shorts.

So why "Phat Girl Walking" rather than the obvious choice of "Fat Girl Walking"?

  • Reason One: Some other fat girl grabbed up the blog address before my inspired idea.
  • Reason Two: Take a moment to browse the varied definitions of the word fat. Now check out the definition of phat. The point being that my self-image, though fragile, is healthy enough to opt for phat over fat as a personal descriptor.

Is this how all great ideas are born?