Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You have to suffer to be beautiful.

It's all my mom's fault really. As I finished my run this evening, IT band screaming, I kept thinking "you have to suffer to be beautiful". That's my mantra when anything gets hard. I don't run just to stay in shape, and the mental benefits I get from running probably outweigh the physical. But in those last moments when it's the hardest, those are the words that go through my head.

Do you remember those soft pink curlers we used to wear in our hair overnight? I HATED those things with a passion. I remember my mom putting them in, and as I'd complain she'd say, "You have to suffer to be beautiful." In fairness to my mom, 1) she's an awesome mom and 2) I think she said it to get me to quit complaining. She's not a vain person at all, but every little girl wants to be beautiful.  So I would shut up and sleep on those uncomfortable little things.

So it turns out you can still buy these things. Who knew?
Fast forward 30ish years, and it's what I say to myself not only when I'm running but when I'm doing other unpleasant tasks in the name of beauty - getting my eyebrows waxed, wearing high heels despite having given myself a bunion on my right foot (hot), or getting through the last few minutes of a Jillian Michaels workout DVD. I thought it yesterday when I found my first gray hairs (insert gasp here) and pulled each one out at the roots. It started with little pink curlers and has instead become a mantra for life.

I am sure there are those reading this who think it's terrible to put so much emphasis on looks. But for me this saying isn't about being "beautiful". It's about pushing through things that are unpleasant and uncomfortable to be who we want to be. It's running that last mile. It's pushing just a bit harder. It's working those extra hours. It is for me, in a lot of ways, about being an overachiever. So I could take out the word beautiful and instead say, "you have to suffer to be who you want to be." Because it takes work to run that extra mile. Just ask my IT band.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are you there Samantha? It's me, your body.

I read a lot of Runner's World, and while we're all on board with pushing ourselves, the regular advice also always says "listen to your body". This is where I could consistently use a reminder. A few months ago I had a friend ask me if I'd ever done a winter half marathon in Michigan and whether I thought it would be too cold in February. This inquiry included a link to the inaugural Portage Winter Blast Half Marathon. I registered on the spot.

I am rabidly anti treadmill, and yet this year the ice/snow situation in Lansing has led to several long runs on the treadmill. I felt utterly unprepared for my 11th half marathon, but that didn't stop me from running it. We left our house at 6:30 in the morning and headed to Portage, Michigan, a Kalamazoo suburb about an hour and 15 minutes from home.

When we arrived in Portage it was 2 degrees. TWO DEGREES. It was frigid. I was rethinking my decision to run this race, but I refused to back down. I jumped into the half without looking back. It took about a mile for me to be able to feel my hands, and my the two mile mark I'd settled into a nice rhythm. 

Pre-race. Freezing.
The race was quiet. We ran through a quiet suburb and then onto the Portage Bikeway, a trail system that serves the community. For such a small race there were a number of spectators, and there were a ton of volunteers. It was extremely well organized. While there isn't really a downtown in Portage, the trail system is very impressive. I've done a number of races on paved trail systems including those in Lansing, Portland, MI and part of the race in Knoxville, Tennessee. Portage may have the best trial system I've seen.

About halfway through I felt a tightness in my IT band. I couldn't tell if it was the cold or actual IT band pain. I slowed down for a few miles and felt a little better, so I kept going. Around mile 11.5 I realized nope, it was actual IT band. All along I knew that it was indeed IT band, and I didn't want to listen to my body. 

Just before the halfway point.
The last few miles were extremely rough. I'd slowed down significantly, and my IT band was screaming. My body was starting to get cold, and if I'm being honest I was pretty much over the whole thing. Usually I have some energy left at the end, and instead of sprinting I was focusing on just finishing.  My goal was 2:15, and I finished in 2:15:32. Not even close to my PR, but considering my training challenges I am not unhappy about that result.

I'm smiling through the pain.
The next day I was sore. Not just a little sore, but the most sore I've ever been after a half. My entire body hurts, but I know I did something big. My IT band...well, it's in a bad way. I knew around mile 7 that it was hurting, and I ignored it. It's laughing at me today. Lesson learned - listen to my body. Maybe I'll do it next time.
Yes, that is my frozen hair.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The seven year itch

I moved to Michigan seven years ago. I don't know what I expected when I got here, but never did I imagine then that I would fall in love and marry an amazing man, be working at a job that I love and believe in, and have the best group of friends imaginable. That being said - I feel restless. I don't know if that will change once we have a child or if we buy a new house. But I'm starting to feel that itch that will only be scratched by a big life change.

I'll be honest - I really miss living in the Ghent neighborhood in Norfolk, Virginia. I miss walking a block to get coffee, have a cocktail, go shopping. It's nearly impossible in Lansing to essentially walk out my front door and onto a vibrant street with stuff to do. It's frustrating, and it's not change that will happen overnight.

Sometimes I want to just pack up and go to Chicago and DC where we can live in a tiny, overpriced condo in a great neighborhood and have public transit and a dynamic neighborhood right outside our door. This question, however keeps me here: "Do I want want to go somewhere that's already done and all of the placemaking work is completed or do I want to be part of the change?" I definitely want to be part of the change. And despite my restlessness, I really want to be part of the revitalization of Michigan. I want to see our communities grow. I want to be part of it. I want to help effectuate change.

That sounds so Pollyanna of me, but it's true. I love cities, and we have been so fortunate to travel and see so many great places. We'll keep doing that, and I'll keep doing my job here that I am confident is making a difference in communities. Much like Richard Sherman in the movie I'll ignore my itch to head somewhere else. I'll just dabble in the occasion DC or Chicago fantasy.

I imagine if Chicago were a city she'd be like Marilyn. Very sexy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Life without cheese or ice cream: worth living?

I love cheese. And ice cream. They are two of the best things in life, and they are two things I've always refused to give up. I've been told dozens of times in the last 15 years to limit or give up dairy. My response is always that I don't eat that much dairy...aside from the cheese and ice cream.

This year I've decided to really challenge myself. I'm giving up dairy for Lent. It will give me the much needed willpower to give it a shot, and now that I'm announcing it publicly there is no turning back. I've already been experimenting with eliminating cream in my coffee. The soy creamer is so disgusting that I'll be forced to either drink coffee black or give it up entirely. Quite the dilemma.

A six week time frame should be enough to notice if there is a real benefit to my Crohn's from giving up dairy, and who knows, maybe it makes no difference. In that case I will gorge myself on cheese and ice cream on Easter Sunday. No ham for me, thanks.

Two of my favorite things: ice cream and vacation.
I realize this is a huge commitment, and I hope I'm ready for it. In the meantime my husband and I will be celebrating Fat Tuesday with ice cream. I don't care that it's in the 30s and snowing. It's ice cream for dinner!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

That's the only way I know

I'm a little obsessed with the song, "The Only Way I Know" by Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. In particular the chorus gets stuck in my head all the time:  

"That’s the only way I know
Don’t stop 'til everything’s gone
Straight ahead, never turn round
Don’t back up, don’t back down
Full throttle, wide open
You get tired and you don’t show it
Dig a little deeper when you think you can’t dig no more
That’s the only way I know"

That feels a lot like my life - pushing forward, pushing hard, never slowing down. The line "dig a little deeper when you think you can't dig no more" is kind of the story of my life. (Granted I think he could be actually referring to farming, but I choose to ignore that part.) It works with running too - those last few miles, digging in, pushing through. That's how I choose to do pretty much everything.

After the stress of the last week I have bags under my eyes and I'm behind on my training program with a half marathon in just over a week, but I'll be pushing through it. Don't back up. Don't back down.