I did it, FINALLY. Didn’t think I could possibly freak out a guy who runs 100 mile races, injuring himself halfway and continuing to run on for 60 more miles.  [He's signed up for the Leadville 100 in August, I can't wait to go see and support him, and take him to the hospital afterward in the medivac helo. :-)]

 He’s the same guy who ate a Nathan’s Hot Dog from a NY State Thruway rest area, the day before he decided to run a 50 mile trail race.  (Yeah, that didn’t work out so well for him and his intestines, as you can imagine.) The guy who just ran a mile last week in 4:56, and does 6 X 800 repeats at 2:45, which is a seriously sick pace I can’t even fathom for one 800.

 Last week I actually set a new record for myself with a two-footed, weighted plank. 7.5 pounds (just spread the weight out more evenly), and held it for 7:30.  Yep, blew away my old record of 6:19 that I blogged about last week. Yay!!  One thing I did learn – not to do that again while wearing my racing flats. My feet kept sliding on the mat the entire time, and then my calves were killing me for most of the rest of the week.

When I told my brother this, he said I blew his mind - I DID IT!!  Then, he said that he can only do it for about 2 minutes without shaking and stopping. I was like “really??” Wow! Never thought I’d hear that.

I realized today that “running topless” remains a popular phrase whereby people find my blog and tweeted about it. A male friend of mine, who shall remain nameless out on the West Coast where he lives and whose first name rhymes with “hill,” suggested a few terms I should use in my next post and see if they drive up traffic. I will just put them in bold font throughout this post, and also use them as tags to see if his prediction comes true.  :-)

Wow, are those people going to be sad when they get to my blog…. ha ha ha

I actually had a really good weekend. Went climbing with a new friend I made at the gym.  It’s the first time we’ve hung out, and I felt like I’d already known her for a long time.  So, that was very cool.

That's the climber, toward the top of the red stripe. Notice the tall ladder to the right, for a height perspective. People in foreground are sitting down.

My friend had never top-roped before, so they wouldn’t let her take the test at Metro Rock Gym (we went there because we knew the other place, Boston Rock Gym, was having comps (how they refer to competitions in the climbing world, I am learning), all day long. But, I took the top-rope test (which means I can climb and belay people there) and passed (phew!). We then just decided to boulder for a few hours. By the time we were done, my palms had gotten calloused (a good thing for doing it on a regular basis, going forward), and  my fingers hurt, but luckily the rest of me, other than my fingers, were not really that sore. Guess my body is getting used to the new muscle groups being used.

This guy made it look so easy. Needless to say, there's not an extra ounce of fat on this guy. Insane in so many ways.

The Metro Rock Gym definitely has a much different feel to it. Some of the top-rope routes are much taller than at the other gym (which kinda freaks me out), and it’s a much larger room, rather than a few rooms. The crowd does tend to be a bit younger, because it’s accessible by the T. I even saw a woman who was “climbing topless.” Get your minds out of the gutter, boys. She had on a sports bra like I do when I run topless.  She wasn’t necessarily stacked enough to fill a DD-cup (really, guys, how many do you think actually exist who do?), but I was glad to see that kind of thing was acceptable there too.  (Yeah, it might take me a while to get to that point, however.)  I think I will probably go to both depending on my schedule, but I definitely like the approach the folks take at the Boston Rock Gym, and can understand why a lot of people prefer the atmosphere of it too. 

We were clearly newbies there, as were a lot of other folks. But a really friendly, supportive and experienced boulderer gave me some pointers, which definitely helped every time I tried it afterward. (He was helping out another newbie friend at the same time as he was helping the two of us.) I was crouching up my body too much, and holding all of my weight on my arms, when I should have been resting them, and I also learned that once you commit to take a move, you just have to go for it.  And I just got a book called Training for Climbing (yep, I am a librarian after all), and a good portion of it is about mental training, something I think I can also apply to running.

Guy is just about hanging by fingernails, and the wall also forces him to be leaning back away from it, like an overhang. Cannot imagine the upper body strength it takes to do that!

I went to see a bouldering comp on Saturday night at the Boston Rock Gym. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s climbing that doesn’t involve ropes, and usually you’re not higher than 25 feet in the air (probably even less inside, I’m not a good judge of height), and if you fall, you land on crash pads. It’s great to have a spotter for support, but you can do it alone. Some of the climbers involved in the Finals were professionals, and it showed. I’ve posted a few pictures throughout the blog.  While they really don’t do the climbers justice, since they were taken with the iPhone 3G (which doesn’t have a flash), the strength and control these folks displayed was pretty awesome. Guys had to start one route by jumping and grabbing the handhold with one hand (seriously difficult), and at times, both men and women had to climb upside down to pull $ off of the boulder. (Yes, part of the incentive to do well…)  It got me inspired.

And ladies, yes, the guy is bouldering without a shirt on up above in one of my pictures. For some reason, still unknown to me, a lot of the guys tend to “climb topless.” If I ever figure out why, I’ll let you know. I can just think of so many ways that that could cause pain if you made the wrong move. Or, on the ropes. Can we say “ouch?”

My brother asked what I liked about the rock climbing so far. I told him it’s a new challenge for me, and one that  I think I can get better on given time and lots of practice, and some good mental and physical training. As runners, I think a lot of us are in really good shape, but let’s admit it, we usually have little chicken arms. Rock climbing is definitely a sport where you can easily find out where your muscles are weak. I’m hoping it helps me to improve my running times.  And, honestly, the people in that world seem to be so chill. Concerned about safety, of course, but it’s a nice break from where I spend my working hours. (I like my job but the institution can, at times, be overly concerned with its image, to its own detriment.)

The only bad thing that happened this weekend is that Ruthie’s dad and I will continue talking about and arranging for visits with her, but that will be it. I don’t want to go into details here, other than to say I think it’s for the best, honestly.  It’ll make for more of a clean and final break, and maybe it will help us both move forward more easily. No, I’m not made of stone, I do think it’s sad, but it honestly is probably a good step for both of us to take right now.  And Ruthie remains the one thing we both love, so I’ve included a picture of here too. I’ll continue to take lots of long walks with her and love and hug her to death when she visits.

Ruthie playing with one toy while another one waits to be mauled, lying next to her.

Things that change depending on your viewpoint (just like this photo, it could be from early morning or early evening):

  • Thinking you’re fast or slow, compared to other people (like my bro, who told me his goal is to run Boston with average paces of 6:20/mile)
  • Thinking you’re fast or slow, compared to some of your own racing times
  • Thinking you’re feeling “weak” or “tired” one day because you can only hold a 1-footed plank for 7:26 (knowing your record is much longer), also knowing most people would be happy with half of that
  • Feeling sore from a workout you think is hard (hopefully a month later it will seem easy)
  • Feeling like today is a great day (or not), depending on what happened the day before
  • Feeling in control of  and satisfied with your life
  • Feeling like things in life will get better, or not
  • Feeling like it is better to have diminished expectations of people and things, because it’s easier, has less likelihood of hurting you, or whether that’s taking the easy way out.

Last summer, I really didn’t think things in my life would improve. Someone told me, don’t worry, things will get better. I didn’t believe them at all because I was consumed in sadness and depression. Today, I have a core group of old friends I still rely on (as well as certain members of my family), and many new ones have come into my life. Many of you reading this should know who and what you are to me. Today, I know a bad day is just that – a bad day, one that will pass, and even if the next one isn’t great, there will be better ones, and compared to what I have been through, it’s still better now the way things were.  It goes hand-in-hand with “feeling in control and satisfied with my life.”

Two years ago, I thought I was happy with being a 10 minute miler. Today, I’m running comfortably in the 8 mins range, and am aiming to be within the 7 minute range by the end of this year. I look at the progress of the past years, and especially the last few months, and know I can continue onward. I’m still not as fast as my brother, who wants to run Boston this year in 2:42, but I’m getting faster relative to him. (Sadly, I am not growing any taller in relation to him.) I’ve even run a race where my first mile was under 7, something I would never have thought possible! (And I still kept going, I didn’t fall to the ground with a sign on my head saying “please drag me over the finish line, don’t trample me.”

I held a 1-foot plank position this morning for 7:26. Just didn’t feel like I had it in me, and felt weak. Not too long ago, I would have been psyched with that! Now I know I can do better.

A little while ago, I was afraid to take chances, paralyzed with fear in many ways, and thinking I couldn’t deal with being on my own. Now, I feel comfortable in my own skin, not afraid to meet new people, and try new things. I’m still afraid of heights, but now I can point to the fact that I can scale a 30 foot wall sometimes and not feel afraid.

I sometimes think it would be easier for me to go through life just expecting a lot less of people. Then I wouldn’t be disappointed at times, or feel hurt, which is something I’m trying to avoid right now. But then, I think that that would make life kind of boring, and it’d take me back to that safe cocoon I used to live in, when things were comfortable, even if I didn’t feel completely alive. So when those defeating thoughts come  to mind, I try as hard as I can to push them away. I recognize my mood for being down, and just try to deal with it and move on.

First Totally Unrelated Topic:

Guys, do you tend to work harder when there is a girl on a treadmill next to you? A very nice coworker of mine said he won’t get on one, if there’s a girl next to him, because he knows he’ll work himself harder than he should. (He’s recuperating from knee surgery.) He said to me “Terri, I don’t know what it is you women have, but you can just keep going and going and going…maybe it’s the stress you’re trying to get rid of, maybe you just zone out, maybe you just have more endurance…” and then proceeded to tell me of this amazing woman he saw running at his gym, who was running before he got there, and still was, at a fast pace, after he was done and showered, and ready to go. (You go, girl, whoever you were!!)  Hey, if I ever make a guy on a treadmill next to me work harder than he would otherwise do, I just say “dude, you’re welcome!” :-)

Second Totally Unrelated Topic:

I met the owner and manager of the Boston Rock Gym last night when I was there climbing. Turns out someone had read my earlier blog post that mentioned I’d gotten the climbing bug as well as the name of his establishment. When he realized I was there last night, he wanted to meet me. He was a SUPER NICE GUY! He even offered to belay me some nights if I didn’t have a partner, saying he would love to get the opportunity to have some fun like that!  He even showed me a sneak peak of what they are putting together for their bouldering competition tomorrow night, March 26th. The guy has so many years of experience, I would love to learn or get tips from someone like that!

You never know who your words can affect, and how that person can, in turn, affect you. Just hope that it’s always positive.


Before I get into the actual post, I just have to SHOUT about three things:

  1. My bro (read his blog on Coaching, Training and Motivation) just ran at an indoor track meet last night in the Bronx. He came in 3rd in his 1-mile heat, running the mile in 4:56!!!!!!!!!!  (He told me that at the end of the 3rd lap, he expected the guys behind him to catch up. When they didn’t, he said to himself, “I’m going for it!”) SO PROUD OF HIM! We always call each other right after a race if we’ve done well. We’re each other’s biggest cheerleaders.
  2. All my working out is actually working out! I’ve stayed about the same weight (110) but it’s been turning into muscle (I hope) so on a lark, I tried on a size 0 pair of jeans, thinking I’d never get them above my thighs.  Imagine my surprise when I could, and even close and zip them up, and then like what I saw!! WOOHOO (Needless to say, I bought them, and what a bargain, they were on clearance at the Gap Outlet!! Yes, a store which I should never enter unsupervised.)
  3. I’m a total newborn to the climbing thing, but I already love it. Gonna keep working on it, especially now that I’ve bought my own gear!! Bought myself an REI membership, and already earned enough back in dividends that it pays for my lifetime membership fee of $20. YAYYYYYYYY (Went on my own today, met some new people, and some cool coworkers of mine who also climb.  Even got to work on my belaying skills!)

So, okay….

I would be remiss if I didn’t give props to @Jillwillrun of the Jill Will Run blog, for coming up with the idea for this post. She said it should be titled “how to be a plank goddess” but I think “wanna-be” is more fitting right now. :-)

As you may have realized if you follow me on Twitter, or have read through some of my recent blog posts, you’ll notice I do a lot of abdominal planks while at the gym. Not sure how it happened, I used to do them only once every few months, but I have now come to realize that they’re a regular part of my routine now, and can tell me how good or bad my workout may be that day. A kind of bellweather, if you may.

I like to do a few different types of abdominal planks:

  • the two-footed style, with weights on my back type
  • the one-footed style (albeit with feet changes every few minutes), sans weights type
  • the feet on workout bench, arms on big stability ball type
  • the left/ride side oblique planks, arms-on-hip type
  • the left/ride side oblique planks, arms-extended-in-the-air type
  • the dynamic, feet moving to elongate your body type
  • the arms in a triangle type
  • the arms straight type

Hey, you have to vary it up. Otherwise, like all other exercises, it can get boring and your improvement will eventually plateau.

Here are my records, time-wise:

  • One-footed style: 11 minutes
  • Two-footed style with 7.5 lbs of flat round weights on my back: 6:19
  • The two-feet on workout bench, arms on big stability ball style: 4:45

Some people joked with me on Twitter that I should try to go for the Guinness World Record.  Curious, I looked it up. It’s held by a guy in the UK, set in December 2010.  19 minutes, 58 seconds. Only thing is, on the web it doesn’t say whether it was one-footed, or two-footed??!

Anyway…here are my tips on how to do planks and fight the boredom that can set in. These are in addition to doing a lot of core work, and arm strength work, and leg strength work. (Are  you noticing a pattern? A lot of strength training can go a long way.)

  1. Cannot stress this enough – have rocking tunes on your iPod.  You’ve got to have it blaring in your ears, so it can be one thing you focus on, rather than a body part shaking.  What has worked for me recently (don’t judge): Blow by Ke$ha, Rocketeer by Far East Movement, Hold It Against Me by Britney Spears.
  2. Focus your mind on something pleasant. This can be a really good race you’ve recently run, a race you’re going to run, or an absolutely beautiful piece (or pieces) of scenery at your gym.  Same sex or opposite sex of you, whatever makes you happy. (Hey, I’m not gonna judge!)  If that scenery is close by and won’t move over the course of the next 5-10 minutes, so much the better. :-)  OR see #3 (which can be done in addition to #2 if you so choose.)
  3. Focus on something interesting, whether it be the person working with a trainer near you on a skill you don’t already have, or people doing pushups/arm lifts simultaneously with barbells (true story, saw it the other day.)
  4. Take off your watch and after you press start, turn the face away from you. Trust me, you do not want to see the seconds ticking away. They’ll go slower if you can see them, just like watching water boil
  5. Related to #1 above.  If you like to car-dance, then try to plank-dance. How, you ask?  Well, clearly all you can move is your head. You might get some stares, or look weird, as I do, since I have got no rhythm (or almost none) but you’ll enjoy your time few inches above the floor mat even more.
  6. Have a friend watch you. Or even better, have that friend time you, so you can’t lie to yourself about your true record.  Even better if the friend knows your time record. It’ll motivate you to try to break it often.
  7. Make sure your back is stretched out well before you attempt any of these, but most especially if you are using weights on your back. Be sure to have the weights equally weighted onto your lower back. (Your quads may feel sore afterward, but that’s because they are trying to help absorb the weight so all the stress is not on your lower back.)
  8. Don’t be afraid to occasionally change feet if you are doing the 1-footed style. Trust me, you don’t want your strength to get lopsided after a while! :-)
  9. Keep a towel near your head or underneath you. This is for the safety and hygiene of others around you, who really don’t want to fall and slip in your sweat afterward.
  10. Last, but certainly not least, I have found I can set more personal records for myself if I do my planks first before the rest of my workout. As to why, that should be obvious. I have more energy then!

Oh, and Dude in the UK, just know this, I’m coming for you…..  I’ve done 11 minutes on one foot, I’m coming for your (probably) 2 footed record!!

(That’s right, you gotta have a goal. And you may notice your confidence building in other areas too, as a result, as you get better and better at maintaining planks.)

If anyone tries any of these, please let me know how you do, and don’t be discouraged if you only last for 30 seconds to a minute the first time around. We all have to start somewhere – before you know it, you’ll be hitting 15 minutes! :-)

p.s. If anyone thinks that it’s too soon for me to be looking at “scenery” in the gym, as one of my good friends reminded me, I’m getting divorced, but I’m NOT DEAD! And no, I’m not considering the nunnery either. :-)  I’m working on getting my life to a level of normalcy where I’m happy as often as I can be.

An Ras Mor logo of Somerville Road Runners (go black and yellow!!)

Right now, I know that regular readers of my blog (I know of a few out there, thank you!) are probably falling over from the shock that this is my 3rd post in a week. That hasn’t happened in, oh, I can’t tell you when.  Just like my first mile being done in 6:58 today.  That has been done, oh NEVER BEFORE!! And I kept on going, I didn’t keel over and die!!  (Even more strangely, my mind started playing tricks on me, thinking I could break into the 22 range?? Must have been lack of oxygen to the brain.)

JUMPING UP AND DOWN!! JUMPING UP AND DOWN!! (Yeah, I can be kind of spastic sometimes…) 

My stats: 

  • 17/123 in my division, I am so psyched!!  (Top 13%)
  • 65/408 women (Top 15%)
  • 296/861 overall (Top 34%)
  • Garmin time: 24:30 (started it, stupidly, before I crossed start line, and we only had a timing mat at the end)
  • Official time: 24:34, with official distance of 3.1
  • Garmin distance: 3:19 miles
  • Average paces: officially 7:55 per mile.  Garmin pace: 7:41/mile.
  • Garmin mile splits: 6:58, 8:00, 8:10, and 7:10 (last .19 miles.)

I calculated my actual time for 3.1, and based on that last .19 miles, figured it to actually be more like 23:50, which was totally my goal!!

 I think I am totally cool with only having 231 guys beat me because that means I beat 222 of them!! Woohoo, love the running skirt!! (Yes, I do wear it on purpose, it kind of motivates me to keep passing guys.)  I have to figure out a way to put the words “you’ve been chicked!” on my back at some point, LOL.  (Just kidding, I’m not like that. But it does feel good to pass guys and feel a bit girly while doing it.)  I’ve kind of decided I don’t care anymore if people think it’s silly to wear a running skirt, or wear pink, both make me happy so I’m going to do both!

Things I’ve got to do better:

  • Spend little bit more time warming up, although today I probably did more than usua, just not as much as I do on the treadmill.
  • Keep my asthmatic lungs more in check, I felt like I was coughing at points during the race, and afterward, I definitely had some of the asthmatic cough kicking in. (Yes, I carried and used my inhaler during the race. It’s worth carrying it.)
  • You see the discrepancies in distances and times above?   RUN THE TANGENTS BETTER!!
  •  Um, pacing?? Where have my magical pacing powers gone??

So, as you can see, I went out too fast. I looked down at my watch at one point and saw something in the low 7′s, but I was like, “I feel ok, don’t look at the watch again.” Mile 2 considerably slower. Mile 3 included the water stop, and a tiny walk break later to eat some sports beans, and catch my breath. It was in the 43-44 range, temp wise, so I did feel an impact on my breathing, even afterward.

I can honestly say, I’ve never done a below 7 minute mile. EVER. To give you an idea of the last time I did a time trial (at indoor track about 15 months ago while with MVS), it was 7:29, and yep, I stopped immediately afterward that night.  Today, I kept going!!! I realized that I’m also I’m running about the same pace I did in high school. That’s so awesome!! (Of course, in high school, we had no idea I had asthma, go figure.)

Our race was an out and back course, down Mass Ave into Harvard Square and then back  up to Central Square.  Although I did a bit of weaving in the beginning (ugh), I finally did find my rhythm and stopped doing the giant slalom/super G (as my brother calls it) after about .25-.5 miles, I think.

Because everyone I was hanging out with was faster than me (hello, 7th and 8th girls overall), and my friend Dan did somewhere in the 22:30 range, we were able to bolt out of the race pretty early.  Believe it or not, but there are two races held on the same day, both names starting with An Ras, and being 5Ks, run by clubs with the word “Somerville” in the name. (And no, it’s not a coincidence.  I don’t know all the details but way back when, the other group splintered themselves off from the Somerville Road Runners.)  So, one of the girls’ boyfriends had signed up for the other race. So did a few of my friends, thinking it was the race that my running club organizes.

So, we rushed over there as fast as we could, and I was able to see one of my friends finish in literally the top 2% of his division, and something like the top 1% overall.   How do you round up a percentage that starts with two zeros??  [Yeah...he's fast, you could say. :-)]  So happy for him that he can do that and keep a level head on his shoulders. 

Although I’m disappointed in myself for having walked a bit through the water stop, and then walking about 10 feet later on to take some sports beans, I am not going to let it eat me up. My Garmin still says I ran an average of 7:41 and that was truly my goal when I got up this morning.  As long as I know that my actual 3.10 mile time was under 24, I am happy.  

I texted my trainer and immediately got back a response of  “That is AWESOME!!”  Everything he’s taught me so far has really paid off. He’s worth every penny.

This was my first race of the year, so I know I can improve. Whereas at first I was kind of disappointed to see that 24 as the first part of my time on the clock, I realized, a few years ago that would have been unthinkable to me.  Now I’m disappointed to see it?  Nope, I have come a long way in just a few years, and especially with all the changes in my life over the past several months, I realy have nothing to complain about. Only something to smile about. (And thanks to the two of you on Twitter who thought I should change my Twitter name of middlepackgirl to “frontpackgirl.”  So flattered…would you believe it’s not been taken yet?? LOL)

I now know what my top percentage goal is going to be for the year for my division. If I make it, I’ll let you know.

YAYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today is one of those days in Boston that we wait for all winter, and remind ourselves will eventually return, even as we are in the kung-fu death grip of one storm after another.  It’s  not bathing suit warm outside, but it’s in the high 40s/low 50s, and the sun is shining.  One of my friends texted me earlier while he was hanging out in the city, and I could just see the happiness and huge smile that was very likely on his face, just watching all the people that were out running, etc. (He’s a triathlete, and the only one of all of my ex’s friends that makes a concerted effort to stay in touch with me.)   To me, he is a true friend.

This afternoon, I’ll be volunteering at the number pickup for the 5K I’m running tomorrow, called An Ras Mor, which is run by my running group, the Somerville Road Runners. There are definitely some super fast people in the club (the track coach ran in a Masters race recently, and did the mile in, oh…4 minutes and something like 41 seconds. We all know Masters are over 40, right?  That’s freaking amazing.)

One of my friends emailed me after my post the other day, and said she was learning about anti-depressants and how they work, from my blog. I was glad to hear that, as I do hope that my words can clear up a lot of misconceptions about them, some of which I used to hold.  They are not what people might think are “happy pills.”  It’s not like you immediately feel no pain or sadness in your life just because you are taking them. But they can help on a day like I had Thursday, where I definitely felt more down than normal. 

Whereas last summer (when I was very sad, confused, not knowing which way was up or down), a day like that would have sent me into a tailspin, and I’d not be able to focus on much other than what was making me sad, on Thursday that was not the case.  I knew why I was feeling down, and I also knew it was something I could work through. I knew that I might not be able to get rid of those thoughts that day, but I knew the next day could be better, and Friday definitely was. It helped to just be able to look at the day for what it was, and know it was temporary.

 I also reminded myself of how few and far in between those days have become for me.  Last summer, I never would have thought that was possible.  Back then, my friend and officemate told me of someone she knew who had been through a divorce, and that she’d said she was much happier than even a year before. I remember thinking at the time, “wow, I wish that could be the case for me, but right now, I just don’t see the road to get there. I don’t know which route to take.”

I will also say that it helps to have people to talk to.  Having somone who is paid to talk to you, and be objective, and point out when your thoughts are going down the depressed route, is definitely worth the co-pay I pay every week. Having really good friends who don’t judge you also helps, more than you will ever know. I’ve kept a lot of my old friends and have met many new  ones. Many of them are younger than I am, and at first I felt like they must think I’m immature, or weird, or something like that, but not anymore. I realize that in many ways, I’m in some of the same life stages that they are.  We’re all still trying to figure out our lives. It’s not like you hit a certain age, and a light goes on in your mind and you suddenly have everything figured out. (Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case? Frankly, I think it’d be boring.)

So, one of my new friends has introduced me to the world of indoor climbing, or rather, I should say, planted the seed in my mind.  I went to an Intro class last night, and it was a lot of fun. I definitely realize I have a problem tying knots the correct way (I’m a visual learner, so I had to do it over and over) but today I keep playing it over and over in my mind, so I think I’ve got the idea down. Now if only I had some rope to play with!)  So yeah, my group of 3 didn’t get as many climbs up the wall as others might have, I felt bad about that. They just kept telling me that they didn’t mind, and they wanted to be safe up there anyway, so it was ok to take time and make sure everything was done properly.

Even though I am afraid of heights, I found that as long as I didn’t look all around the room when I was on the top of the wall, and just focused on what was in front of me, it was ok. (Seriously, people, when I’m standing on the 4th floor of a stairwell, I get scared looking down.) But last night was definitely ok, and it was kind of liberating the first time I climbed up. I knew I had someone really qualified standing below me, who was not going to let anything happen to me, and I liked the fact that I seemed able to scale the wall pretty easily.  (Now I know which shoulder muscles I need to work on.)  Some people said “yep, she’ll just spidey up the wall” to refer to me, and that was a nice ego-boost. I think it’s probably because I’m small that it may be easier for me than for others. That and I’d say all the running and more recently, strength work on my arms, that helped a lot. (Hey, people even clapped for me after my first time up the wall, and no one else got applause!) What can I say,we were a bunch of beginner nerds/dorks :-)

I will say one thing I liked about it was that you have to strategize ahead, and in the moment, as to where you are putting your hands and feet, and be able to readjust if a move doesn’t work out the way you planned. I also liked the fact that you work in pairs (usually but not always because this gym has some automatic belays in case you are on your own) and that you need to watch out for each other. I can imagine, being outdoors, the stakes are much higher so you’d definitely have to have a lot of confidence and faith in your partner.  (Read: your face could become “one” with a rock.  So not pretty.)  

I think it can also be an activity that is confidence boosting, and not always just from the climbing standpoint.  They had me belay a guy who was easily 70-80 pounds heavier than me, and she had him intentionally fall a few times, without telling me he was going to, and I caught him with no problem. (Of course I was anchored into the ground.)  And the instructor kept saying “she’s so light!” which definitely felt good to hear.  It was cool to know I could have a partner that much larger than me, and believe me, he was kind of spastic with the falls (not sure if it was on purpose or not), but to have the confidence in myself that I could take care of him.

Oh, and the culture of the people there – they all seemed super chill. The guy in our group was all upset because people were late, and I just wanted to say “dude, RELAX. This is supposed to be a fun thing, not something to get all worked up about!” (What a change in attitude from my law school days. Still blows my mind I was like that at some point in my life.)

Anyway, I considered the day a success, as I think today will be too. Volunteering and meeting a very good friend for Thai food for dinner. Of course, it’s Thai food. That’s my go-to food before a race, even though it’s a short race!

I’ve got my goals for tomorrow, pace-wise, I’ll let you know if I reach them, afterward.  Just want to enjoy myself and see how all the strength training, inner growth, and confidence-building can come together at one time.  If a negative thought comes into my mind, I’ll just remind myself “Girl, you did an ELEVEN minute plank on one foot. You can DO THIS!”

:-)

Sorry to start off a blog post with a cliche, but it’s an accurate way to describe me over the past few weeks, or last couple of months. Anyway, I am happy nowadays. Yes, occasionally I have lapses, where everything is not 100% wonderful. [I think it'd be kinda weird if I were to walk around with a constant smile on my face, don't you?  In Boston, that sort of thing  can get you killed! Especially in the grey days of winter! :-)] But for the most part I’m happy.

A friend recently wrote me on email and observed that twice recently I’d referred to myself as immature, and he wondered why. When I thought about it, I realized it’s because sometimes I don’t feel like I have the right to be happy, or that I was selfish making the decision I did last summer.   Yes, I tend to have an inner voice that can be severe or judgmental sometimes.  But luckily it’s a voice that is getting a lot quieter.

I know that some of you who read my blog also take anti-depressants. I think a lot of people don’t quite understand how they work. I’m still learning about them myself, but this is what I can say about them. Whereas in the past, emotions would sometimes hit me very hard, and I wouldn’t be able to think rationally about them, now I can. Depression can make you think lots of things, you can project ideas of what you think other people are thinking about you, and they seem real, although they are completely not the case. Anti-depressants allow you time to actually think about things, so you’re not just automatically reacting to things. At least where I am concerned, they have allowed me to return to more of the person I used to be.

And I think it’s a good thing. Clearly, it shows, because a female coworker who has been with us for about a year now said to me today “you seem happy. how are things?” When I asked her if she knew I was getting divorced, she said “yes, that’s why I said something. You really do seem happier lately.”  Later on, someone saw me after a long time and said how much they liked my hair. It brought another smile to my face.

Before, I probably would be wondering when the proverbial other shoe would be dropped. Now, I try to not go there mentally and I’m trying to go with the flow of things as much as possible. If something bothers me, I look at it for what it is, and try to think about it a little instead of just reacting.

On the running front, things aer also improving. I’ve met with a personal trainer 3 times now, and still have a couple appointments left to go. I’ve been doing most of what he suggests, with the time I have. The strength work and especially the core work have made a huge difference. Normally I’ve kept my pace on the treadmill to 6.7 mph, and it was starting to feel really easy. The other day I did the “random” (read: HILLY) workout, on level 6, so I was going up to inclines as high as 5, and I found I could keep my pace just about between 6.6 and 6.8.  The incline would very rarely dip down below 1, and even then only for a short period of time.

And my best piece of news, some of you may have already seen on Twitter. I have been focusing on doing a lot of planks lately. Yes, my name is Terri, and I’m a plankaholic. :-)   I used to just do them straight-armed on the floor, with one foot held on top of the other.  My record used to be 8 minutes. Lately, on my trainer’s advice, I’ve been holding planks with my feet on a bench, and my arms on a big stability ball. My record for that is 4:45. (Yep, so close but yet so far from 5 minutes, LOL.)

My record for one-footed planks, on the floor is now ELEVEN MINUTES! Yesterday, I started out with the goal of making it to 9, but I felt pretty strong still at 8-8:30, so I just decided, “ok, let’s see how long I can go.”  I was so happy to see my stopwatch hit 10, and I was like “I can still hold onto this!!”  I am also happy with how my strength, abs, and all around training is affecting my overall health, both physical and mental. My stomach is now flatter than it’s ever been! And I weigh about the same as last year, when I was so stressed, except that now, it’s muscle, or becoming muscle.

Being able to hold that pose for that long inspired me to run faster on the treadmill, so I did 3.1 at 7.0, level 1.0 incline. And it felt EASY/comfy.  And it also inspired me to get the process rolling to get my name changed in as many places as I possibly can, before it gets changed officially. So if you’re on facebook and connected to me, you’ll see my last name has changed. So has my Twitter account.  It’s my way of reclaiming who I am, for me.

Now my goal for this weekend is to run really well in the An Ras Mor 5K, that is run by my running group, the Somerville Road Runners.  I figure, if I start to feel like I’m failing during the race, I will remind myself I just did an 11 minute plank this week, and if I can do that, I can do anything I set my mind to.   Nothing or no one can take that achievement away from me.

Nothing can take away your happiness, either, unless you let it/him/her do so. That is something I am going to try to remind myself of more often, going forward.

Still trying to keep  in line with my blog’s tagline: Moving Forward with Optimism.

My brother recently wrote a really good post about conquering fears.  Even though he was relating it to running, it really could apply to so much in life. Please read it here on the blog: Coaching, Training and Motivation.

One of the things I love about my brother is his willingness to help others, and even though he has an amazing running ability, (one that most of us would pretty much die for), he always seems very low-key about it. When I told him that one of my very fast runner friends thought my brother was ridiculously fast in comparison to him, I could tell I made him blush over the phone.  He said, “you know I spend so much time talking to people about speed, I just seem to take myself out of the equation.”

I love people like that – people who could be all “big about themselves” for a variety of reasons, but they choose not to. People who dig down deep and face their fears. People who follow their heart.  (FYI, clicking on this picture of the elevation chart will blow it up for you.)

Elevation Chart for Leadville 100 course, which is an out-and-back, so what goes up must come down, and vice versa.

My brother has come a long way in a few years. He made a career change that took him from one of constant stress and anxiety attacks (literally) to one that he’s so devoted to that when he comes to visit, he always has his laptop out so he can communicate with his running clients. When he was on a bus enroute to come see me last fall, he asked if I could give a client of his a call, to let them know he’d be sending an email as soon as he got to me, telling them final strategy tips for their marathon race the following morning.  When I contacted his client, he said that my brother was an awesome coach, and so dedicated.  It was no surprise to me, but I think it might have been to my brother.  That’s just how he is.

A few years ago, he barely seemed to have the energy to train for marathons. Now he’s training for the Leadville 100, and signs his emails about it, by using the phrase “Crazy Train.” [At least he knows he's nuts. :-)]   I like the fact that he’s pushing himself to another level (figuratively and literally, as the Leadville Race has some mileage that will be run above the tree line.)

In case you are wondering, yes, a longtime friend of his and I have already volunteered to pilot the Medivac Helicopter for him when the race is over.  We’ve watched him run the marathon at Philadelphia a few times, and always wonder “Why do we drive all this way [from D.C. and Boston] to see him fly by us for just a few seconds during the course of 2-3 hours??” LOL

Brooks ST Racers, image from Amazon.com

I’ll never have my brother’s speed (6 repeat 800s at 2:45, anyone?) but I’ve been thinking of ways to challenge myself too, running and otherwise.  On my brother’s advice, I’ve just bought a pair of racing flats to try out this year: the Brooks ST Racers. (This link takes you to the new model, 5, but I think mine will be the 4, pictured at right.)

I never thought that they were for people like me, before.  By that, I mean  people who tend to run in the middle of the pack. However, Ive seen my times improve over the past few years.  So, now I want to see if having less physical weight on my feet, and the added mental boost of knowing my feet are lighter, will help speed up my times. (Even though they will clash with all of my running clothes, color-wise…)

I’ve been meeting new people and reaching out to others more than I used to. I’ve tended to move away from people or situations that are not right with me, and doing so lifts a heavy load off of me, mentally.  Sticking with them just tends to make you look backward, and I don’t want to do that anymore. (I’m not saying it’s bad to remember everything, I think you need to learn and grow from past experiences, and not always dwell on the past.  It won’t change it.)

I’m also toying with the idea of learning how to rock climb. People who have known me my entire life know how terrified I am of heights.  So, I’m thinking more of learning what they call bouldering, because with that type of climbing, it’s more about the challenge of forging a route to the top of a, say, 30-foot high piece of rock that others might not see.  Or, it’s the challenge of finding handholds or footholds that work, while others might find them impossible. (At least, this is what I have read about it.)  You don’t have to be 100 feet off of the ground, or trying to scale the flat faces of Yosemite or Zion out west.  I’ve always liked reading about people who challenge themselves physically and mentally, such as the mountaineers who climb Everest, or any of the other 8Kers (mountains taller than 8,000 meters).  I’m thinking that maybe I should experience some of it rather than just reading about it! (Although, don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to actually climb an 8,000 meter peak!)

So, who knows? I may go to a class or two and find that “yep, I really do not like heights” or I’m so clutzy as to find the endeavor totally laughable, and feel like a complete and total jackass.  I may end up in a class with a bunch of under-10-year-olds.   But I will never know until I try it.

p.s. A friend suggested I find a half marathon to run this spring, after having run 10.2 miles (walked about .2 of it) on the treadmill yesterday. I am considering it. Some days, you just feel like running long and zoning out, and I’m just trying to go with the flow these days, in so many ways. I’m trying to make a concerted effort of keeping my workouts fun, and even think I’ve found a new good friend to run with now.

Things are coming together, slowly but surely.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.