Posted by: grasshopperme | February 9, 2012

Maybe writing it down will help…

Where to start? It was been quite some time since my last update. Two more races in the books, first time for both events, with really encouraging results.

The Whole Foods 10 K on January 22nd was my first run at that distance since Thanksgiving morning. While the usual aches and pains accompanied the cold air temps and threatening rain (the sprinkles started with less than a half mile to go) I managed to finish over 6 minutes faster than I had the same distance two months earlier, even though that course was known for being flat and fast.

Next up was a 5K trail run last Saturday. The Gumby 5K was as laid back and fun and the name implies, complete with the green one himself leading the pack off the line. Despite most of my events being road courses, I have always felt I do better on trails, though I cannot pinpoint why. Maybe it is that the softer ground doesn’t beat up my joints as bad, maybe it is the smaller fields allow me to choose a more comfortable pace, or maybe I just like the scenery. Whatever the reason, this event was my best trail time ever, and my second fastest 5K overall.

So maybe all that treadmill time I’ve been grumbling about was getting me somewhere….like closer to the half marathon I’ve signed on to do March 11th.  Maybe I should’ve just sucked it up and stuck with the cardio intensive training schedule I’d been on since the start of 2012. Maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so enthusiastic when my trainer announced last week that we could start reintroducing an additional day of strength training to the weekly workout plan. Maybe I should have more carefully read my calendar and not run the extra half mile I was scheduled to do NEXT Monday this week instead of on the same night I was going to follow up my run with some weight lifting. And I maybe (definitely) shouldn’t have thought I could pick right back up where I left off more than a month ago when diving into the pool of dumbbells and free weights without a spotter…..

Maybes are fun, right? Strained hamstrings, however, are not.

I am now not only barred from any strength workouts that take place south of my waistline, but under orders not to run, jog, walk, elliptical, stretch, foam roll, or trigger point until next week—at least. Sweet Holy Crap, are you kidding me??

While “normal” people would take this as an opportunity to rest, relax, refocus, I had barely finished hearing the words when I was figuring out whether I could make it from Will’s desk inside the gym to the car before I started crying. Already worried about my ability to complete the distance of a half marathon (when the longest I have gone to date is 6.2 miles) I am now looking at a best-case scenario of losing 4 days of training time with barely a month to go.

Logically, I know this is not a life altering crisis. Nowhere near the end of the world, or even enough to write home about. So my first half marathon will not necessarily be the personal milestone I had hoped. I should be tough and suck it up. Nothing is written in stone and everything may be fine after all. I have heard endless words of comfort tonight from friends with the best of intentions: “Maybe you can still finish and just walk it.” “Maybe you can sell your bib to someone else if you can’t do it.” “Maybe there can be another race instead.” Maybes are fun, right?

So are the clichés– God never closes a door without opening a window, and it’s always darkest before the dawn, and the sun will come out tomorrow because tomorrow is another day…. and lest I forget my personal favorite from this evening’s pep talks “What can I say, Hun? Shit happens.”

Yes, yes it does. But tonight, just for the next little while, I’m going to indulge my not-so-tough chik impulse to cry a bit more and wish it hadn’t happened right now.

Posted by: grasshopperme | January 22, 2012

Free, Untrammeled Womanhood….?

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
Susan B. Anthony

For the first time in too long, I spent last Sunday exercising the very freedom described so eloquently by Ms. Anthony ( it is presumptuous but I do believe were she living in modern times, she’d be using Ms.) in the quote above. Better still, I got to spend it with my Tough Chik sister and fellow emancipeé, Amy McAllaster.

We chose a time (9:00am) and location central enough to both us of that we could meet up already on our bikes and not worry about parking our cars and leaving them unattended with bike racks (or rack- singular- since Amy had determined a while back that her rack was not practical for use on her convertible) and avoid the wasted time I usually take determining what to bring and how best to conceal what I decide I can live without. I have a small bag that attached under my saddle that I long-ago resolved would be my only “gear bag” on rides to avoid my tendency to over pack on road trips and be stuck carrying things I wind up never using. While small, it fits a multi-tool, levers, spare tube, mini first-aid kit, some CLIF blocs, and still has room for personal “essentials” for me: keys, $, ID/HMO card, asthma inhaler, smartphone, and lip balm. With my pump, water bottle and lock already attached to the frame, I was ready to go.

Even though she had further to travel to the meeting place, Amy beat me there by a combination of a fast ride and my having one last, losing, battle with the cyclometer I had installed some time ago and never have gotten to successfully work. While I was frustrated I wouldn’t be able to track cadence (which was my whole reason for purchasing that gadget) I reminded myself this was social, not any sort of race situation, so tracking our mph wasn’t going to affect our fun.

Amy had told me before she had bought her bike because it was pretty, pink, and in her price range. As we started out toward our local bike trail, I suggested Amy take the lead and set a comfortable pace, as I knew her bike was much heavier and likely to be slower than the pace I keep on solo rides I use for training. I must admit that seeing her feminine 7-speed cruiser style bike (named “Lulu”)with a cute pink wire basket and big silver bell mounted on the front handle bars, I envied how retro and curvy her ride looked in comparison to my Scattante W330 road bike. Although, I was lucky enough to get a deal on the final remaining pink one in my local Performance store because they wanted the next years’ model in the showroom ASAP, so I often get comments from more serious female cyclists how hard it is to find bikes that don’t “just look like they are built for short dudes.”

For cyclists unfamiliar with Sacramento, one of the jewels of this urban jungle is the Jedediah Smith Memorial bike trail. It is a 33 mile long paved trail built specifically for biking that follows the route of the American River from Discovery Park at the mouth of the Sacramento River eastward up the foothills to Beal’s Point at Folsom Lake. We were joining the trail at the 10mile marker with plans to stop around the 28 mile marker, in the town of Folsom, for lunch (and our obligatory shopping) before heading back toward where we had met earlier to head home our separate ways.

The first half of our ride toward Folsom was mostly flat, so it was easy to chat back and forth as we rode along. While the weather has been clear, we had been experiencing very cold temps in the mornings, which seemed to be keeping traffic down on the trail, which on weekends is often shared amongst cyclists of all ages and abilities, as well as joggers, dog walkers, and no small amount of wildlife. Jackrabbits, waterfowl, possum, and occasionally coyotes are spotted. This day, Amy and I were treated to a doe and fawn crossing our path about 30 yards ahead of us and disappearing into some brush.

As we pushed on up the south side of the trail, the hills became more frequent and the gaps between us on the trail extended. I tried to keep Amy in sight as we rode along and adjust my speed accordingly. Not having the range of gears, her climbs were harder and slower and I didn’t want to get so far ahead I couldn’t hear her if she rang her bell, which I knew she would do if she needed me to stop and wait. Ever the BadAss, Amy pushed on through the climbs like a trooper and we wound up making it to the point on the trail where we would make our exit and head into the central part of town. Looking at my watch, I could see we had done the roughly 18 miles on the trail in well under 2 hours. Not too bad at all for two chiks who’d never ridden together at all.

We had planned to eat lunch at a café next to a bike store we had visited before during their yearly “Divas Night” promotion, but found out upon arriving they were not open on Sundays for lunch. Hmmm, time to lock up the bikes at the shop and head a couple blocks uphill to Sutter Street, aka the “main” street of old town Folsom and see what fare awaited. Not planning on having to walk further than next door to the bike shop, I made quite a noise clanking along the sidewalks in my shoe cleats, but food awaited and embarrassment is a small price to pay when you’re hungry and in need of carbs :0).

We settled on Chicago Fire and wound up having what I can only describe as the tastiest, crispiest thin crust pizza ever….although in fairness my hunger level may have embellished that opinion just a hint. Thanks to Amy’s basket, I would be able to carry home the leftovers and not have to cook myself dinner later. On the way back to our bikes, we stopped at Snooks, which is a small family shop that makes homemade chocolate candies and ice cream.  Knowing calorie burn was NOT going to be a concern today, I felt no guilt indulging in a piece of chocolate covered honeycomb, while Amy enjoyed a chocolate marshmallow caramel. We each grabbed a wrapped handmade caramel “for the road” (you know, for fuel?) and made a lap through the bike store before heading back out toward home.

From Folsom, we crossed over the bridge and joined the trail that runs along the north side of the river. For the first part of the ride, we were at water’s edge and suddenly became VERY aware that the wind had increased significantly since we left home and was blowing right into our faces. We were certainly going to be in for a slower ride home than we’d had heading uphill that morning….which leads to another important point of clarification. While the ride back home would contain a net drop in elevation, the course we were taking this afternoon was decidedly NOT downhill. In order to reach the point where we would cross back over to “our” side of the river, we would be making a climb up some bluffs to reach the north end of Nimbus Dam.

On the first climb, Amy had to stop when her chain came off, so I stopped and went back to meet her. Thankfully, it was not broken and she got it replaced quickly. After heading back down to the base of the hill to make a fresh start, she got through the climb and the trail leveled for a while.  As we approached the dam, another longer, steeper climb came into view. Still with Amy in sight, I yelled out “HILL” as a form of warning, geared down and started pedaling. A year ago, during my very first cycling event and having no idea how to use my gears, I had two occasions during which I had to get off and walk my bike because I couldn’t maintain the speed to stay upright and make it up the hill. Part of this ride for me was not just to get comfortable with longer distances, but to get more practice climbing as I prep for my training toward a metric century ride next fall.

It was a struggle for my legs, and I did have to stand up and pedal to increase power at one point, but I made it to the top of the dam on the bike. I then happily took the chance to stop for a bit and wait for my partner. The weight of Amy’s bike and limits in her gears were not a match for that climb. The lack of pants with a padded chamois and the cruiser’s stock seat were taking their toll on Amy as well, but after a quick break to shake out the legs, we made our crossing with Amy once again in the lead. I was hoping the trees and residential areas along the southern side of the trail would provide more of a windbreak. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The trail also had more traffic in the afternoon hours, which meant a lot of fluctuation in pace and more opportunities to become separated. At a couple of points I would look behind to where I would expect to see Amy (since I could hear a rider behind me), only to find someone I didn’t recognize. I was stopping more often, but never for more than a few minutes, until shortly past the halfway point when I stopped and saw Amy pushing her bike. At first I thought maybe the chain had given out and we were going to have to call for a ride and I immediately started to wonder (1) if I’d get a cell signal at the base the riverbed and (2) who did I know who’d be home, sober enough to drive (it was a playoff Sunday after all) and have a vehicle big enough to fit both of us with our bikes?

Good news! Amy’s bike was not broken :). Bad news! Amy’s butt may be :(. She was clearly in pain, and we still had a long ride to go. Stubborn as she is strong, she was determined to stick to our plan to bike back to our original meeting place and then home, insisting she just needed a break to stretch. The wind was getting colder and clouds were covering the sun more often than not, which made the trail appear darker than it normally would have at 3pm. After a couple more “stretch breaks” and nearing 4 o’clock, we approached a point in the trail where it occurred to me a change in our plan may make for a comfortable ride for Amy, and get us back to our destination a bit quicker.

It would mean exiting the “protection” of the trail and riding a bit on a busy 4 lane street until we could cut back into a residential neighborhood I knew well enough to navigate the backstreets toward our point of origin. Reluctant at first, I made sure Amy knew the call was hers and I wasn’t going anywhere either way. If she wanted to stay on the trail, we had about 6.5 miles of rolling hills, then a long surface street ride ahead of us to get back to where she’d turn off to head home. If she wanted to take the other option, we needed to make the turn off now before we crossed the bend over the river and didn’t have a way back across if we changed our minds.

After a few minutes of stretching and getting the blood flow back in the glutes, Amy made the call to take the second plan and head off the trail. We stayed within sight of each other as we exited the park and headed down the busy street to the next available traffic signal where we could turn back into a residential neighborhood I knew well, since it’s where my home is. About a quarter mile from my house, Amy got off the bike for the last time, looked at me and said “Maybe I’ll just push my bike back home from here.” Once we were done laughing at the mental picture of Amy jogging (which I know she would have been as determined as she is) alongside Lulu to make her way home, we decided that making our way to my house and driving her and Lulu home was a much more practical option. I mean, we know we’re tough, and Amy admits (proudly) she can be krazy, but we are not stupid!

All in all, we ended the day pretty tired, a little sorer, a little wind-burned, a lot wiser about the benefits of padded pants, and still laughing after yet another adventure that would have those who know us shaking their heads, but not a bit surprised. The 38.84 mile round trip was a PR for both of us….although I think Amy worked much harder for it than I did :0)


Posted by: grasshopperme | January 12, 2012

Two Months out and HOW Many Miles??

Ten days into 2012, my first event in the books, and I can honestly say I have broken none of my resolutions. Granted, I also made none, but my statement is still valid ;0).

As I discussed last week, half-marathon training began in earnest, with mixed results. My day off from running was also a chance to touch base with my longtime trainer, Will–a.k.a. “master” to my “grasshopper” (she says, not at all proud of how old I have just admitted I, and my taste in cheesy TV reruns, are)—for some refocus, reassessment, and reassurance.

In addition to never being a “natural” runner, or even one who has come to love it over time, one of the things I miss most when my attention gets focused more toward cardio conditioning is weight training. A proud gym-rat, I miss my comfort zone of nautilus equipment, dumbbells and free weights, as well as the visible improvements I have come to see in muscle tone. I was glad to be back “home” and actual looked forward to doing some heavy lifting vs. heavy breathing.  As usual, my gym time ended with an evaluation of what (and how) I’d been doing on my days between training sessions, going over the plan for the next week, and Will suffering (almost always patiently) my verbal ranting about how frustrating I find it to be slow, still short of breath, and how running with the extra skin from my weight loss makes me feel like a jelly filled hippo.

In his typical fashion, he was quick to remind me of the day we met, when 5 minutes on the stationary bike had me on the verge of hyperventilation and I didn’t dare to set foot on an elliptical machine for fear of not being able to stick the dismount. WHEW! Doesn’t it feel good to vent so you can be brought back to reality?

Saturday brought my first event since a 5K fun run in mid-December. Total Body Fitness held the New Year Duathlon at Granite Bay recreation area at Folsom Lake. The 2 mile trail run-7 mile road cycle-2mile train run is a fundraiser for Girls on the Run, which is very popular among the girls at the elementary school where I’m employed, so when this event began in January of 2011, I thought it was a great idea to make it my first race on my then-new bike. Note to self: actually learning to shift gears BEFORE you attempt any ride is highly recommended, but doing so before a ride involving many sharp turns and steep climbs can save your life!

My friend, Tough Chik Amy, was on hand this year as a race volunteer for TBF, and it was great to see her during the transitions, cheering and reminding me we had a yummy lunch waiting for us after the finish. It was also the perfect chance for her to sneak pictures of me sweaty, but sometimes sacrifices must be made in the name of good Mexican food.

While I didn’t finish in the 90 minute timeframe I had set as a personal target (1:36.34), I am happy to report I successfully dodged one crash on the bike leg (not my fault) and survived a hard knee-bruising fall over a tree root on the last run segment (totally my fault) to finish almost 17 min faster than 2011.  As my own mental PR, I also completed all the climbs ON TOP of the bike, instead of walking beside it on the steep parts. WOOHOO!

Not too bad for a jelly-filled hippopotamus….

Posted by: grasshopperme | January 3, 2012

I found the PAUSE, where’s the REBOOT??

Chatting with a friend of mine this morning, who had only last night returned to her much-loved Zumba classes following a vacation over the holidays, I caught her use the term “wimpy” to describe how she felt after her first big workout of the year. WOW! I could absolutely relate.

As I mentioned in my first post, my big endeavor for the first part of 2012 is the Shamrock’n Half Marathon in Sacramento this March. My longest run event to date has been a 10K, so beginning this week; the new year brought a new training program.

I have been congested since Saturday. Not enough to lay me down for the count, yet enough to annoy me. Even so, I was trying to suck it up. The stubborn Capricorn control freak voice in me always overrides the many voices of reason outside telling me to “take it easy” and “let the body recover.”

Take it easy? Are you insane? I’m on a schedule for God’s sake! I run like a slug in ankle weights on a good day. How can I take it easier than that? I have a plan. It’s written down! Not doing what is written down is like skipping an assignment on a syllabus. Not ok for this child of a teacher. Is anyone going to move the date of the race out a day for every day I take off? I don’t think so….

January 2, aka Day 1: I did okay at intervals of 2 minutes of a jog, followed by 2 minutes of a brisk walk, and keeping my pace slower than my 4 mph avg (about 15:30/mile). The forty-five minutes I had scheduled was not the easiest time I’ve ever spent on a treadmill, but I survived and felt proud of myself for gutting it out and following my plan.

January 3, aka Day 2: I tried to step it up, as planned IN WRITING, and did 45 min again but at a ratio of walking 1/10 mi then jogging 2/10 mi and averaging a 14:22 min per mile pace. OMG I have never been so thankful for treadmills with a PAUSE button…which I was using every third of a mile or so to “hold my place” while I coughed into my towel and then tried to suck air back in and drink water at the same time.

Unlike yesterday, the pride of a job well done was no reward. Oh, the betrayal of the body when the mind is determined is the cruelest of jokes :(. I was on the verge of breaking out the ugly cry—-which is every bit as unattractive as its moniker suggests–by the time my 45 min was up.

Maybe no one noticed? Aren’t we always our own worst critics? I’m sure it seems worse than it looks, right? Yet, I think when the tiny geriatric Chinese lady missing her front teeth taps the side of your treadmill as she walks on the machine next to you in her slippers and asks “you ok” it is possibly a sign from a higher power that you may have over extended yourself.

I am choosing to take that sign as a chance to press my own inner pause button, then reboot and be grateful that tomorrow is a strength training day.  🙂


Posted by: grasshopperme | January 2, 2012

How did I get here???

Sometimes it seems I can’t remember when I didn’t feel like the biggest (read: fattest) girl in any room I entered. Looking at old photographs with an objective eye, I know it not to be true, but the inner voice always overruled the eyes. Years later, the same voice that had always told me I was bigger than I really was, also distracted me from how big I had actually gotten.

I knew I was overweight.

I knew my health was being affected negatively.

I knew it would take something drastic to help me.


October 2005

Once again, it was photographs that slapped me in the eyes with the truth. The photograph was taken at my orientation meeting for the bariatric surgery program I began in September of 2005. I was handed a picture of an unhappy woman I did not recognize, who had just stepped off a scale that recorded her weight at 379.5lbs. I had not come to my decision lightly, and I wasn’t second guessing myself, but I was not prepared for just how far I was going to have to travel to even get to the point any doctor would be willing to perform the gastric bypass I knew would save my life. I had never lost a significant amount of weight at one time on my own, (despite exhausting every gadget, gimmick, pill or program) nor had I ever been successful in keeping it off.

After spending the next few days searching the internet for options in low impact exercise, and knowing I needed more guidance than any website could provide, I made my way into the 24 Hour Fitness near my home in Rancho Cordova. I cannot say that my first visit was inspiring (no one really made a secret of their disagreement with the decision I had made to pursue surgery), but I was determined to use the equipment and expertise of the professionals on hand to get me to my desired end.

Initially, I was paired with a personal trainer who seemed knowledgeable and courteous. I took the information he provided, and the structure of having a scheduled appointment to keep twice a week, as what was needed to at least keep me in the habit of visiting the gym. This routine continued, and my comfort level slowly increased over several weeks, until this trainer abruptly quit the company without notice. It was at this point that I first came into contact with my current trainer, Will. From that day in January 2006, I knew my time spent inside the club was going to be very different from what I had experienced to that point. I was immediately put at ease by Will’s friendly personality, and very impressed by his knowledge and professionalism. It was such a refreshing change not to be made to feel like I had to repeatedly prove my commitment to the task at hand, or justify the decision I had made to undergo bariatric surgery. My goals were his goals and he was there to help me achieve them the best way he knew how. In a short period of time after beginning bi-weekly sessions with Will, my outlook on why I was there and what I hoped to accomplish (even what I believed I COULD accomplish) were transformed. I went from being someone who was using this experience as a means to an end–that end being to lose enough weight to get a surgeon to operate–to seeing beyond surgery to a life of being not only thinner, but healthier.

My surgery was performed in May of 2006. As soon as I was physically cleared, I resumed training with Will. While the weight came off as expected, what I was more impressed by was the level of fitness I was achieving as a direct result of our training regimen. My own physician, commenting on my improved muscle tone during my 6 month post-op physical made a point of saying “Whoever you’re working with, keep it up. He knows what he’s doing.”

In the years since I began working with Will, I have lost nearly 200lbs, almost 15% body fat, and more than 76 inches. While I have had discouragements and plateaus along the way, and experienced more than my share of crises of confidence, the one indispensable source of support throughout this experience has been Will. He has ably taken on more than just the role of personal trainer and become a coach, confidante, cheerleader and companion. I long ago stopped counting the number of things I would not have given a thought to attempt were it not for Will’s confident assertion “You can do this!”

In 2009 I joined a beginners 5K program through a local running club and began entering local run/walk events. I now average at least one event per month. In 2011, I branched out to include my first multisport events (duathlon and super-sprint triathlon) and, teaming with friend and fellow 24 hr fitness fiend, Amy, rode the 20 mile bike leg of a sprint triathlon relay, a 10K on Thanksgiving morning, and competed in the four person division of the CA International Marathon Relay Challenge. Amy and I have also become inaugural members of Team Tough Chik and I’m excited at the possibility that holds.

If anyone had told me back in October of 2005, when I joined the club, that I would become someone who not only regularly goes to a gym, but looks forward to doing it, I would have told them they were delusional. Now, my goal weight within sight, I look forward to continuing my journey toward being my best, inside and out, beyond just a number on a scale. The New Year brings not only this new blog, but new adventures: more 5&10K races already on the calendar, relays with my teammate, preparation for my first half-marathon in March, and a personal goal of completing a metric century ride at the Princess Promenade in October.

With the limitations of morbid obesity now behind me, I would encourage anyone hesitating about taking even the smallest step to improve their health and well-being in any way they can to believe “You can do this!”

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