When You Face Your Fear & Crash

I have this dream of someday completing an IronMan. For more reasons than the needed endurance, it won’t be easy. I am confident in two of the sports, swimming (not fast but comfortable) and running (not bad for my age). The bike ride will be my challenge.

 

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From Ojai, down 10 miles and back up again. The down and up should match…a Garmin issue

Two reasons. First, I have a phobia of riding my bike down hills. Second, I am not very experienced on a road bike and thus not altogether comfortable when I attain any speed. And, although I say I want to ride consistently, I don’t. So that, until Thursday of last week I hadn’t ridden at all in 2018. Like those who find excuses to not exercise, I am good at finding things to do in lieu of getting on the bike.

A couple weeks ago a friend organized a “Wheels and Wine” ride. It started in Ojai (up the hill from where I live) with an out and back…or in this case down and up. I went even though I was nervous. I told one of my friends that I have a phobia of riding down hills, so I was a bit scared.

The hill though is not steep, making it a good place to practice. To face my fear. To get comfortable.

35617970_2102340650088727_262091926742761472_n.jpgWe parked at Topa Mountain Winery, let them know we’d be back for wine after our ride and took off. I told them not to worry if they dropped me, as I would probably be slower. HaHa…most of the group dropped me in the first mile.

Slow and steady I went. Down. Down. Down. Not too fast. With each mile I was a little bit more comfortable. I began to wonder if I should turn around, so as not to be too far behind everyone on the way back up. As I contemplated this, I came upon the group. They had decided that 10 miles down was good and they were waiting for stragglers.

After a drink of water and a Cliff Shot Block, I started back up. I also received a lesson in how to work through the gears while riding up a hill…try to a steady cadence. Ok.

I was immediately behind everyone, with a growing gap…just like coming down. But as I rode I thought, “well, I’m not afraid to ride uphill, so maybe I should try to keep up.” With this thought in mind, I sped up to catch up. Here’s what happened.

I caught up so well that I closed the gap faster than anticipated.
I tried to slow down, but…. 
Suddenly the back tire of my friend Michelle’s bike was right in front of me.
I swerved left to avoid her…
But swerved too hard…
Into the gravel that is alongside the paved path. 
As the bike went out of control…
I yelled “Shit!”
And crashed into the split rail fence that aligns the trail.

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I run this trail and this shot is my favorite part. It is not where I crashed – no gravel – but the same fence that I hit.

A split rail fence. I hit the top rail hard with my left shoulder. I hit the bottom rail hard with my left knee. My right knee hit something that bruised it. My right hamstring somehow got a bit tweaked too.

 

See? This is why I don’t ride fast bikes! I find it quite ironic that I crashed while going up.

Jen and Michelle stopped. Helped me up. Straightened my handle bars and suggested we stop at a restroom up ahead to wash the dirt and blood off my arm. It hurt, so I wasn’t too keen on hitting it with water!

We started moving and that was when I noticed my knee. It hurt. But not so badly that I couldn’t pedal. At the park restroom I went and washed my arm. Thankfully I could walk just fine. But my arm… OUCH! While waiting for me, Jen and Michelle straightened my handlebars a bit more.

Then we were off for the nine+ mile climb back up the hill. Slow and steady I went. I almost kept a steady cadence even, albeit a very slow one! My knee hurt more and more with each mile. I worried about the possibility of a run interrupting injury. I was going to be so-so-so upset if I’d derailed my running.

I eventually made it to the winery. Someone gave me a cleansing wipe to clean my arm some more. Nothing else was coming off. I commented on this and a friend said something like, “That’s not coming off! That’s your injury!”

I went into the winery to buy a glass of wine. They very kindly gave me two bags of ice…one for my shoulder and one for my knee.

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Ouch!

Thursday night was painful. My whole body hurt. I had to cancel a trail run for the next morning. This was a major bummer.

The big bruise showed up on Friday.

By Monday I was ready to try an easy 3-5 mile run. Within a half mile, I felt my left knee, my left shoulder, and my right hamstring. None of them hurt enough to alter my stride. I made it 4 miles. Tuesday, a normal run day, became a rest day.

Wednesday is track day. I went with the plan to warm up and if it hurt to not do the workout. It didn’t hurt! Well, not right away. The workout was hard because my hamstrings were tight and my body was tired.My knee began to hurt when I did my cool down mile. Total mileage for the night was just under 5 miles.

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Halfway point of Thursday’s “Get Back On” ride. If you look close enough you’ll see that I didn’t have my helmet latched correctly 😬

Thursday. One week from my crash. I decided that I should get back on the bike. With a bit of nervousness I drove to Ventura, got on my bike, and started riding. I immediately thought the the wind sure felt nice in my hair…WHAT? Wind in my hair? Dang! I forgot to put on my helmet. Thankfully I was only a block from my car. I rode almost 16 miles…with no crashes. A good day.

 

The best part about Thursday’s ride was in getting back on the bike. It would have been very easy to put it off. I don’t ride too often anyway. But facing that post crash anxiety and riding anyway and not crashing again helped me to remember that it’s important to, “Get Back On” and to face those fears that can hold us back.

I have a goal to become comfortable on the bike. To ride well. To ride without fear. I’ll keep trying because I really do want to do an IronMan someday.

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At the halfway point of Thursday’s “Get Back On” ride. A nice reward view for getting out there.

Coaching to a San Francisco Marathon Finish

IMG_5287I shared my own race recap yesterday for The San Francisco Marathon (The Mental Game – The San Francisco Marathon Race Recap). It wasn’t my best race, but it wasn’t without merit. Personally it was a learning experience and the course was so scenic, even if it was challenging. I ended that post by saying that something pretty awesome did happen at that race. What could be so awesome on such a hard day?

The fact that my husband, son, and daughter were there running also. I am continually grateful that we’ve become a family that runs together.

So what can add to this?

I was able to coach each of my family members for their races. Yes. Coach.

I have been wanting to get into coaching in my spare time. I’ve read numerous books on coaching. I talk to my coach all the time about coaching (and he’s allowing me to assist him with some group training for The Ventura Marathon). I listen to podcasts about coaching. I’ve coached a church member to her first half marathon. And I’ve helped someone to run her first no walk break mile (and we’ve become friends through the process!). I find lots of parallels between coaching and pastoring by the way!

My daughter, Megan, has been getting help from me for about a year…and before that she often piggybacked onto my own program since we run a lot of the same races. Unfortunately she pulled a groin muscle while we were in Boston and was unable to run for a few weeks. In mid-May we decided that the best course for her would be to drop down to the half in San Francisco so as not to re-injure herself. She ran the half and is now training for The Ventura Marathon in October and the Ray Miller 50K in December.

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Scott in blue and Matt in white on their way up to the Golden Gate Bridge

My son, Matt, ran his first marathon in 2016 and vowed that he’d never do another. Over the years, I, as an annoying mom, would ask “when are you gonna run a marathon again?” He always responded with an emphatic “never!” On Christmas Day I asked, “so are you going to do the full in San Francisco?” I expected him to say “no” but he surprised me with a “sure, I’ll do it.” I promptly signed him up for the race. And, coached by his mom, he successfully completed his 2nd marathon at San Francisco.

The most exciting story is that my husband, Scott, was able to complete his first marathon. He came in just behind me, I heard them announce his name, while I was drinking some ice cold chocolate milk!

He was tired, as we all were. His muscles cramped at mile 21 and he was momentarily freaked out by that never before experienced feeling. But he pushed through and finished his first marathon. I am so proud of him! Our wedding anniversary was July 30th and what better way to celebrate 30 years than run a marathon!

I’m grateful that these three loved ones trusted me enough to allow me to be their running coach. It is a bit scary putting together a plan for someone else. It is also gratifying and fun.

 

The Mental Game – The San Francisco Marathon Race Recap

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Pre-dawn, pre-race pic with my husband. We were also celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary

nice-new-trail-shoespero-la-cosa-mas-importante-en-toda-la-escritura-es-la-manera-en-que-tratamos-a-unos-y-a-los-otros-cuando-tenemos-odio-o-cuando-no-tenemos-empatc3ada-estamos-viviendo.jpgTwo years ago our family decided to run the 2nd half of The San Francisco Marathon. Then, to receive a special “half it all” medal, my husband and I returned the next year and run the first half. Of course, we had to follow up that effort with the next challenge – 52 Club – for those who run both halves followed by the full in consecutive years.

We knew it was a tough and hilly course. We also were confidant that our experience in already running both halves would help us. Hmmm. It turns out that previous experience didn’t help me much.

I went into this race feeling pretty confident. The weather was forecast to be perfect for racing, and except for the wind on the bridge it was. My running of the first half the previous year was one of my best races (not fastest – there were hills!). My average pace (on my watch) was 9:01 at this race, so I thought that a targeted pace of 9:20 was doable. (I Can Run Hills! A Recap of the The San Francisco (First) Half Marathon)

2018-san-francisco-marathon.jpegI came nowhere close to 9:20! Instead I ran one of my slowest marathons in a time of 4:39:05. What happened? Lots of things…here are the one’s I’m contemplating.

  1. I had a terrible night’s sleep! According to my Garmin, I got six hours of tossing and turning. It felt like less than that and I remember being concerned while I was trying to go will myself to sleep.

    Pre-race anxiety can cause lack of sleep and for this reason, I think, many advise us runners to make sure they sleep well two nights before the race. My Friday night sleep was just “OK” in that I slept for a bit more than eight hours but most of it was restless sleep.

    For me, this is a problem of menopause and one for which I have yet to find an adequate solution. I continue to try meditation and hopefully it will eventually help.

    In the end, this lack of good sleep didn’t help my mental or physical game on race day.

  2. Bad race strategy. As mentioned earlier I had thought I could average a 9:20 pace. I still think that I could do this but I should have approached it differently. Next time I need to run by effort and ignore the times on my watch. My coach tells me this all the time! I guess I’m a slow learner. Anyway, I think that I was trying so hard to not run too fast up the hills, followed by constantly checking my pace on the downhill, that I wore myself out mentally. Part of my rational for thinking this is that, even with the hills, I had the slowest average heart rate for any race that I have ever run! Would I have had a similarly bad outcome if I’d gone faster? Maybe, but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that I didn’t put it all out there.
  3. I wasn’t as ready for the hills as I’d thought. Over the past few months I’ve been doing lots of my long runs inland, where there are some good hilly courses (I live near the coast in CA). In the two months before the race the inland temperatures had climbed to the point that running would be difficult. So those last runs were along the coast where it is mostly flat. In retrospect I should have just move my runs up to the very early morning and kept hitting those hills.

    I also hadn’t realized that the true downhill portion wouldn’t commence until about mile 20. I have no excuse for this mistake! The course was changed slightly from previous years so it wasn’t exactly as I’d run it before but the final 10K was the same. I remember thinking at one point, “another @$#&^%$ climb!” I think my brain was more tired of slogging up those hills than my legs were.

  4. I didn’t have a contingency plan. I honestly thought I would ace this race and when that wasn’t happening I started to mentally check out. I bailed so thoroughly that I even had a little mimosa and a sip of beer when offered somewhere around mile 23!
  5. I’ve gained some weight since last summer. In fact I was at my lightest when I ran that half marathon last year. Pushing more pounds up those hills is certainly not easy…even if I’ve been having great strength training sessions and awesome runs. (The Never Ending Struggle with Weight is Downright Scary)

As I think about this more, I can see so many analogies to life. Sometimes we are surprised by the difficulties we encounter that we lose momentum and perform badly. At other times we surprise ourselves by how well we can do in the face of adversity. A benefit of endurance sport is that experiences like the San Francisco Marathon teach us about ourselves and thus prepare us to know that we can get through hard times…even if the getting through is not very pretty.

At the end, the race was just a race. One that taught me to better prepare myself mentally and physically.

But there’s more! There was something pretty cool that happened at this race and that story will be my next post. Stay tuned!

The Never Ending Struggle with Weight is Downright Scary

“In further studies, they found that weight loss, both in people who are lean and obese, triggers a powerful suite of biological and psychological responses that work together to restore the lost fat… In effect, substantial weight loss triggers a starvation response, whether a person is lean, overweight, or obese—and this response continues until the fat comes back.”
From “The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts that Make Us Overeat” by Stephan J. Guyenet, Ph.D., page 129

The above quote from “The Hungry Brain” isn’t very encouraging at first look. But on further reflection it’s helpful for anyone who has struggled with the up, down, then up again (sometimes higher) of weight loss and weight gain because it helps us to understand the real struggle.

Most of the people I know who’ve battle obesity don’t struggle because they don’t know what to do. I’d venture to guess that most overweight people are very well versed in the world of diet and weight loss.

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Me in Napa in July, 2009. I was not at my heaviest but probably pretty close to it.
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At the same winery this year. This is a more fit and healthier me…and I plan to stay this way!

I’ve personally tried most commercial as well as fad diets out there. I’ve read countless books. I’ve joined various programs. When I look back at the past 40 years (I’m 55 and remember dieting as a teenager), I’ve probably lost and re-gained hundreds of pounds. It’s probably not a stretch to say that maintaining a weight, any weight, is not something my body has much experience with. My actual experience has been down, then up a bit more than where I started…down again, followed by a bigger increase and so on. This led to my highest weight of at least 250 pounds in 2012. It was probably more than this, but I quit stepping on the scale.

I’ve been at my current weight for two years. Well, I’ve gone up and down within a 10 pound range in that time. It’s been a struggle! A year ago I hit my lowest weight of 163 – an 87 pound weight loss! Maybe it is no coincidence that I also had the best half marathon ever in terms of how I felt. It wasn’t my fastest because it was up lots of hills but it was awesome! (I Can Run Hills! A Recap of the The San Francisco (First) Half Marathon)

But I was unable to maintain that weight, even though my desire had been to get to at least 155 so that I would no longer be identified a “overweight” according to the medical world. Over the past year the pounds have slowly come back so that today, after a wonderful vacation that was fill with activity I weighed in at 174.4. An 11 pound gain in one year! At least I can still say I’ve lost 77 pounds.

I share this because I want to let people know that the struggle is real and I want to help myself and others to find peace with themselves, regardless of weight. Sometimes this peace is elusive, because there is a great deal of shame associated with weight gain. We tend to look at the person who struggles with their weight as someone lacking will-power, restraint, or even self worth. But it is far more complicated than that. Our bodies are far more complicated than that.

In “The Hungry Brain” Stephan Guyenet, shares years of obesity research that is both demoralizing and hopeful at the same time. Demoralizing because he clearly shows just how difficult it is to fight our own brains… in the often futile effort to maintain weight loss. But then it is hopeful for the same reason. If it’s not solely about will power then we can remove the sense of shame, while also making changes that can be helpful.

For Guyenet, the one answer lies in “Restricting Reward.”

High-reward foods tend to increase food intake and adiposity, whole lower-reward foods tend to have the opposite effect. This suggests a weight management ‘secret’ you’ll rarely find in a diet book: eat simple food. The reason you’ll rarely find it in a diet good is that, by definition, lower-reward food is not very motivating. It doesn’t get us excited about a diet, and it doesn’t make books fly off the shelves. We want to hear that we can lose weight while eating the most delicious food of our lives, and the weight-loss industry is happy to indulge us. The truth is that there are many ways to lose weight, but all else being equal, a diet that’s lower in reward value will control appetite and reduce adiposity more effectively than one that’s high in reward value.

I like the use of the word “reward” in this context. We can think of food as a reward and when we do it is usually very tasty calorie dense food. Or sometimes it is that salty-crunchy-sweet snack that we turn to in times of stress – tortilla chips are my particular weakness here.

But we can also think of other rewards. Rewards like feeling good and being able to move can impact us far more than can the immediate gratification of something we eat.

And still it is hard! Personally I will clean up my diet, eliminating those unhealthy foods that have crept back in… and I will continue to run and strength train and maybe even start bicycling once in awhile…I can easily do these things because of the rewards of fitness!

If you would like to share your own struggles, please feel free. There is strength in community and that is another reward that far surpasses any food!

To read past posts on this topic:
That Weight Struggle – Weekends
That Weight Struggle – Environment
The Never-Ending Struggle with Weight
What Happened to Healthy Eating? Boston Marathon Training – Week 1
Body Image – Gratitude 8/10Slow & Steady – Racing Weight Week 4
Really?!?! Racing Weight Week 3
Ummm – Racing Weight Week 2
OOPS – Racing Weight, Week 1
Racing Weight – Getting There