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***UPDATED at 3:25 PM CST***Scroll to bottom for Update***

 

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At some point in this running drama, I began to think that it might make a difference if my muscles actually were stronger.  That this difference might help me move along with more speed and efficiency. This is the kind of the difference between a cheetah and a walrus.  Walrus’s move, they just carry around a lot of extra, well, blubber.  So I figured, the more muscle, the less blubber.  And the more cheetah-like my running would eventually become. 

Nearly every training program recommends some form of strength or resistance training.  Actually, every program I’ve seen recommends this, however, I am still holding out hope that I may one day come across a program that can provide the strengthening results without the nasty resistance training. (This is the same part of me that hopes that money someday will grow on trees and the laundry someday will get up and do itself, mind you.)

Some people love weight training or resistance bands or sit-ups.  I am not one of these people.  But I have yet to find a short cut, and at some point I began to look for exercises that would help me be stronger, thereby making my runs more efficient and enjoyable (and less walrus-ish). 

A short while into my research, my friends Chris and Shelly were talking about this thing called The Plank.  Sounded like it belonged on a pirate ship with damsels in distress and sharks (as in “walk the _____”).  Since I prefer swimming only to drowning, this Plank thing really started out with some bad mental imagery for me. 

As it turns out, The Plank had nothing to do with water or pirates at all.  Chris explained that it was part of Pilates, which sounded like some kind of pastry to me, so I was getting pretty excited about the prospects at this point.  Sadly, Chris sent me an email with a link to a Plank video, and my hopes of abs-of-steel-through-pastry-eating were dashed.

I did try to find the Actual Video that Chris sent to me, but I’m sure that somehow I accidentally-on purpose deleted it.  Oopsie!  In any case, I’ve found another video that can share the joy of Plankdom with you:

Now this was pretty much consistent with the video that Helpful Chris sent to me.  Didn’t look too hard.  Not at all.  Easy-peasy.

What they didn’t show was the New Plankster.  The Plankster whose arms shook, whose sweat dripped of her forehead in buckets, whose stomach and fanny muscles wailed in pain.  And this was all after holding the position for a grand total of about four seconds. 

Now the exercise worked.  It was very fast and effective.  Which of course, explains exactly why I stopped doing it and resigned myself to more of a walrusy kind of running experience.  (Not really, but there’s no legitimate explanation at all, so I just made up a Ridiculous Response instead.) 

But things have changed now, and I’m afraid that I’m going to have to venture back to Plankdom and pick up where I left off. 

Since I’m actually going to Run A Marathon (there, I said it again!), I’m going to need all the cooperation from my body that I can get.  That includes my stomach, back and fanny muscles, which are now officially on notice that it’s time to get with the program. 

I predict The Plank Experiment will be a success.  And, other than unsightly character flaw of wanting to slap the woman in the video who can do the stinking exercise without so much as breaking a sweat, I’m sure that the effects of The Plank will be well worth the effort. 

And everyone will be happy.  Except perhaps for the walrus.  Who, quite frankly, can go plank itself.

[UPDATE:]

This just in.  An Actual Conversation heard in the Smith household today:

Helpful Husband (HH):  Great post, honey.  Are you, um, actually going to, um, start DOING that now?

Me:  (With a just a hint of sarcasm, flavored with my best June Cleaver tone) As opposed to what?  The way I’ve already been cooking up all those tasty recipes that everybody’s sent in? 

(Fact:  Haven’t even been to the grocery store yet.)

HH:  Oh, yeah.  Well, never mind. 

Determined to not have my hypocrisy underscored in my own household, I actually got down on the floor and did The Stupid Plank.  For 10 seconds.  Human seconds–not Violet the Cute Little Exercise Sadist Extra Long Seconds. 

And here’s what I’ve discovered:  when the stinky dog has been laying on your carpeting, right where you choose to do The Plank, it becomes So Much Easier to refrain from collapsing your exhausted body to the floor with your face in the carpet. 

The Moral of the Story:  There is something worse than The Plank.  It’s The-Plank-Over-Stinky-Dog-Carpet. 

The End.

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Well, here it is.  Some of you have figured this out.  Although you probably didn’t realize you’d figured it out.  Unless you did.  Anyway, here is The Big Announcement:

Late last week, I actually registered, registered, for my Very First Marathon. 

YIKES!  I, quite frankly, am freaking out.  Which explains why this is such a Big Announcement.

Yes, I know I’ve said I was training for a marathon here before.  But training for something doesn’t actually mean that you’re going to do it. 

But now, thanks to that Dotty, I’m registered.  I’m definitely going.  The only thing is…I’m definitely NOT ready for this.  Yikes again. 

Truthfully, I doubt many people are fully ready for their first marathon fourteen weeks before the race.  WHAT?!  Only 14 weeks?  I just looked that up in order to type it here and a new wave of panic has set in.  Fourteen weeks?! 

Okay, now this is all going to be Just Fine.  I am following a Very Good Training Program designed for adult-onset runners like myself to be able to complete 26.2 miles (*gulp*) on their feet and hopefully without need for medical attention.

Since I’ve been in my late teens and 20’s running a marathon has been a dream of mine.  Thinking of it now, if I’d spent less time in the recreational activities I selected at the U of I and more time actually pursuing this 26.2 ambition then, it would have been just a TAD bit easier. 

But why look back?  I am certainly wiser now.  And if you look at the fields of marathon/half-marathon/10k/ultra races, you’ll find that the 40-45 female age range (lovingly refered to as Master Female in lots of races; translation: old lady) usually is MORE full than the teens, 20’s and 30’s groups. 

Personally, I think this phenomenon occurs because this is the time of life when many women’s bodies rebel and start doing things that any normal woman wouldn’t imagine.  I mean, we’d heard about all this stuff, but who paid attention?  We were far too busy with the events of the day to worry about that time far, far, far off in the future when we would become a virtual hormonal time bomb.  I’ve got another post planned for the lovely perimenopausal/menopausal bliss that many of us have had the privilege of encountering, so stay tuned for that sometime soon.  For now, though, just know I’ve thought This Matter through carefully and determined that This Matter is exactly why the women in this age range turn to running. 

That being said, I’m sure that there will be many women my age and maybe even in a similar state of health (or lack thereof) who are running this marathon.   That gives me some encouragement.  Not enough, but some.

The race is the 26.2 with Donna The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer, on February 21st.  It’s a race with a great and important cause.  I’m planning on getting some pink ribbon and running with the names of survivors and in memoria of those that died of breast cancer.  I’m hoping to get lots of names and have lots of ribbons!  Please send me names of anyone who you would like me to run for.  I’m a rookie, but then, I’d still like to honor you or your loved one. 

I’m not raising money for this cause, although I might do that at some point in the future.  I’m feeling enough pressure just thinking about finishing the race!  Right now, I just really want to honor people who’ve gone through this disease. 

I’m planning on posting my progress here, for all who are interested.  Thanks in advance for your encouragement.  I’m really going to need it, since I’m still convincing myself that I’m an athlete. 

Here’s a picture of last year’s medal.  Isn’t it awesome?  I’m planning on wearing mine at least through my birthday.  (April 4th)   It’s a really Big Deal to me.  Thanks for sharing the journey. 

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I am training for a marathon (THERE, I said it), so once a week I must go on a looong run.  I figure I’ll post my predictions and results here, so it’s kinda like you’ll get to go running with me.  Minus the sweat.  And the sore muscles.  And the chub rub.  And the blisters.  And the many other delightful running benefits, of course. 

Onward:

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THE PLAN:  8-mile run today. 

THE PREDICTION:  Awesome, of course.

THE REALITY:  To be determined.  I’ll update you all afterwards, assuming I survive.

[UPDATE]:

Beautiful 8.4 mile run.  I felt good most of the way, only got a little tired around mile 7.  Sunshiny and cool.  Great running weather. 

Was able to run the whole way, though it’s frustrating to see my time after following my training schedule which demands that long runs be slow and easy.  Can’t seem to stop looking at my watch.  Kinda like the scale.  I guess I’m a numbers girl.  My pace was a 12.77 minute mile, which wasn’t bad considering it’s the farthest I’ve run since VA Beach on Labor Day weekend. 

My back is still hurting from my injury two weeks ago, which is frustrating, but the soreness does cause me to stretch and stretch and stretch, which I know is good for me.  I’m usually not very good about stretching–too busy and on to the next thing.  For now it’s a have-to, so that’s a silver lining with the back pain thing.  And, thank goodness for my Top Secret Crosstraining Workout, because that’s kept me more limber as well. 

Challenging to figure out what to wear and carry on days like today.  The temp was 41 when I started out and 57 when I got back.  These temperatures ideally call for different kinds of gear, but I stayed with my tried and true (but hideous) compression pants and shorts and a long sleeve T (neon green, so cars will be able to see me to avoid hitting me~a nice touch). 

There.  More running detail than you ever wanted to know about me.  As always, I’m glad I did it and I’ll be swimming along in these endorphins for quite a while yet today!  🙂

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I know I’ve been trying to post these little pieces in some kind of chronological order, in an effort to give you the overall flavor of my running journey.  However, I’ve gotta break into the present here and share something that’s going on Right Now.  And ask for some help.  Now.  Please.

As of today, I have officially run(mostly)/walked 418.2 miles.  And as of today, from the start of my running journey I have lost a total of (drumroll…) ONE pound.  No kidding.  This swings from zero to five pounds depending on red meat, salt and PMS, but basically, all this effort has amounted to NOTHING in the scale department.  One of my Facebook posts was actually:  Does throwing your scale out the window qualify as exercise?  Grrr.

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Not that I’ve stayed the same, mind you.  My lovely daughters have been so kind as to report to me, “Mom your butt used to be THIS BIG (arm gestures–use your imagination) and now it’s only This Big (smaller arm gestures).”  Nice.

I’m in a smaller size and I definitely am cardiovascularly more healthy.  These are great things and I’m delighted about that.  I’m “compacting” as Shelly likes to call it.  Muscle weighs more than fat, I’ve heard; that’s why you can shrink your body somewhat and still weigh the same.  Yadda yadda yadda.

A few days ago, I finally just got sick of it.  I told myself (and my friend Jackie just before she ran quickly ahead of me with a burst of energy that I think came from a secret about her I’ll tell you a little later) that I knew this would be easier and so much more enjoyable minus the 40 pounds I still wanted to shed.  (Truth be told, shedding 40 pounds certainly would not have me runway-model-pageant-ready, but who cares!  I’m concerned with being able to run faster and longer.  This is not a beauty contest, people!)

I thought back to some of the advice that I’d received regarding diet when I started this running journey: 

1.  People warned me when I decided to train for a half-marathon that endurance running was not the way to lose weight.  Yeah, sure, I thought.  What do they know.  Turns out, they were telling the truth.   Endurance athletes need the C-word (That’s carbohydrates.  Or calories.  Actually, I don’t remember which, but both qualify.)  So traditional “diets” don’t work for someone who’s increasing their mileage by 10% every week for 20 weeks. 

This is especially true  for women.  Why?  I don’t know, I just made that up, but I’m pretty sure it’s true and it definitely seems that way, so I threw it in there.  I’m not a researcher, I’m a runner.  Google it! 

2.  Other people said to me, “If you keep running like that, you’ll be able to eat anything you want.”  Sweet.  This sounded like advice I wanted to hear!  Turns out these people were liars.  Oh, I tried it.  Didn’t work.  Liars.

3.  My friend Jackie has done an amazing thing, however.  In a year (maybe it was 18 months, I don’t know~Jackie help!), she lost 98 pounds while running!  The first time I saw her in quite a few years was at a running event in June and I barely recognized her.  She was, quite literally, a shadow of her former self.  I was so excited for her and of course I asked her for her secrets.  She shrugged modestly and replied, “Eat less, move more.”  GREAT!  Like I hadn’t heard that before.  But she was telling the truth.   (This would be the secret to her increased energy, don’tcha think?)

I spent several months after Jackie’s revelation trying to shortcut the “Eat Less” portion of her master plan.  Of course, this didn’t work and I had dozens of reasons, excuses, rationalizations and justifications for my shortcuts, which I certainly won’t bore you with here.  Suffice it to say that the  reasons, excuses, rationalizations and justifications didn’t do anything to lower those numbers on the scale, so they were simply a waste of time.

So now I’ve finally gotten tired of carrying around this extra weight.  Actually, I’ve been tired of it for a long time; I’ve only just now finally gotten tired enough to actually do something about it. 

If I’m going to follow the “Eat Less” rule, I know I’m going to have to keep better tabs on what’s actually going into this body, in addition to how many miles I put in.  I’ve got a LOT of challenges for making these changes.  At last I’ve got the Will, but for all practical purposes, I really need help with the Way.

Here are some of my challenges, including but certainly not limited to: 

1.  I am not exactly what you would call a culinary whiz.  For decades, I avoided the kitchen at all costs.  I can cook, under duress, but I still consider it a hassle.  The changes will need to be easy and convenient.   Imagine your easiest.  Now, easier than that.

2.  I have the palate of a 10 year-old.  I simply don’t like most things that grown-ups like.  I won’t eat them, though I’ve spent years trying and testing and forcing them down.  I could eat pizza and burgers/fries several times a week without getting tired of them.  I don’t like slime (most condiments) or anything with fancy names or anything that looks wierd or still has a face staring at me.  *shudder* 

3.  I have a family that likes to eat.  My kids are athletes and growing children that need to eat sufficient amounts of food in order to have fuel in their bodies and in order for them to develop properly.  They are very fit and lean because they still have a metabolism.  I am 43.  I no longer have a metabolism.  Ah, but that is the subject of another post, and I digress.  Fact:  I either have to make something that we all can consume, or I have to make two meals (not a Real Option, see Challenge Number 1.) 

4.  I must eat carbohydrates.  Not just because I’m a carbophile (I am), but because I’m training for endurance events and I really do need to fuel myself with these things.  Drastically cutting carbs or Atkins options are not viable choices for me. 

5.  The biggest deal for me is that I need to make changes that I can incorporate for the long haul.  I’m hard-headed and strong-willed enough that I can do almost anything for the short run.  I can Atkins and South Beach and Weight Watchers and cleanse and fast and point count and calorie count with the best of them.  I’ve done it (well, some of it) and it’s worked.  In the short run.  The problem is that for me, none of these have been changes that I could make permanently. 

I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can see myself as a physically active person permanently.  I could (and actually want to) run/workout consistently and regularly.  I’m excited about this “Move More” portion of the health formula.  I can do this for life!  But I’ve yet to determine things that I can do for the “Eat Less” portion of my world that I can honestly say I would do over the long run. 

And that’s where I need the help of my friends who read this blog.  (And your friends, and their friends.  This is serious, people!) 

I am looking for 15-30 recipes that are yummy and healthy and easy and would be enjoyed by my family with our highly immature palates.  My thought is that if there are low-cal, healthy foods that we actually would enjoy and would be easy to make, then I could make them, we could eat them and then I would rotate them around and my family would eventually all be healthier for it.  (For you domestic goddesses and Proverbs 31 divas out there, I’m sure this sounds like complete Common Sense, but this kitchen-business is not my strong suit, so bear with me! 🙂 )

Here’s what I’m going to do:  I’m going to hold a contest for these recipes.  I’m going to pick out the ones that I could make without going into kitchen-stress and that my family would eat without my having to listen to any impolite gagging sounds.  From those, I’ll draw a name and that lucky person will win The Prize. 

Start digging through your recipes, the contest will start tomorrow, when I post The Guidelines and tell you more about The Prize.  You’ll get a chance to post your recipes in the comment sections and then lots of people will be able to see them and try them.  Isn’t that a great idea?! 

I may even post my progress here (no, not actual numbers, silly, no one’s getting that SCALE number), so you can see how much you’ve helped me out.  Tell your friends and link away at will, you healthy people, to the posts about our contest.  I desperately need your help.  “Eat Less” won’t work if I can’t stand what I’m eating. 

I’m confident you all have the keys to my success in your recipe boxes, just waiting to be shared!

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When starting something new, I tend to be kind of quiet about it, waiting to make Grand Announcements about my conquests until there seems like there might be some kind of potential for success.  Chris, on the the other hand, is a different kind of gal.  While I would have preferred to start my running program under cover of darkness, hiding my outta-shape self from the perceived criticisms of others, my buddy Chris was one bold cookie.  She posted and chatted and talked about our adventures until now, quite unexpectedly, I was publicly committed to this journey as well.  Back doors were quickly being closed, boats were being burned behind me.  Quitting was quickly becoming a non-option.  So we set out on a course for success.

Now, whether Chris actually knew at the time that by virtue of being her wonderful self, she was shutting down my every excuse to bail out of our running gig, I really don’t know.  But I’m really glad that she is who she is, because I wouldn’t have made it through the early stages of runningville without her.

It was through Chris that I was (re)connected with my friend Shelly and connected with my new friend Jamie.  Shelly had run a half marathon earlier in the year and was training to run a full marathon later in the year.  She was a Serious Athlete who was training for her marathon with Team in Training.  And she saved my bacon many times, with her timely advice and words of wisdom.

Without someone who already knows what they’re doing, how do you know what equipment is important and what is a waste?  How do you know which training programs work and which ones are worthless?  Shelly is one example, but I’m amazed how people in the running world share their information and their tricks of the trade so liberally, how encouraging everyone is.  (Of course, I’m no threat to anybody’s records and I have a looonnnggg way to go, so I may just be really easy to encourage, too!)

So it was that when Shelly suggested we all run a half marathon together in 2010, I said, Sure, without really thinking about it.  We are now the Capital City Half Marathon Babes and will be burning up the course on May 1, 2010! 

Since I’d barely been able to crawl 7.3 miles, I knew I’d need a training program.  Enter Dotty, another new friend and adult-onset endurance athlete.  She was full of great advice regarding midlife training and coaching.  She recommended the book that helped me figure this whole running thing out  (at least so far).  And she talked about a very cool half-marathon in Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach?  Hmmm.  My brother had just moved to Virginia.   Thoughts of visiting with him and trying my first half marathon swarmed through my delusional head.  I mentioned to my brother that I was “just thinking” about coming out and running the race and he surprised me with his response: “as long as you’re just thinking about it, why don’t we run it together?” 

That’s all it took.  The matter was settled.  I was going to see my brother and run in my first Big Race with him.  Never mind that he was already an endurance athlete.  Never mind that his legs are so long that his inseam reaches up to my armpits.  Never mind that I was still hobbling from my first 5K walking and 7.3 mile trail experience.  Never mind that the race was the first Sunday in September, less than four months away.  Never mind that it was absolutely impossible. 

Somehow, after more than a decade of neglect, within weeks of getting my feet back into my running shoes, having never in my life moved my body more than ten miles in a given effort, I had committed myself to TWO half-marathons.

It was official.  I had lost it for real.  And my craziness was evidence that I was truly on my way to becoming an actual Runner.

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