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The Last Bastion of Freedom January 1, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, fitness, Health, running.
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Today was my first official day of my training for the Boston Marathon. I will be running my dream race on April 19th of this year. I had a good run to start off – a 10 mile slip-slide along snow covered roads dodging cars and snow plows. It was splendid! I crank up the long run mileage this weekend. I start cross training (Swimming) on Monday.

I was talking to a good friend today about control. It seems there is very little that people have personal control over these days: finances, careers, relationships. People are making sacrifices for their children. People are forced into financial compromises because of unemployment. People are postponing relationships because of overwhelming responsibilities. I am no different. I don’t have control over much in my life right now. I have made good choices but with poor timing (deciding on a career change right when the economy tanked.) Because of this, I have made several sacrifices for others. I have had to accept compromises for myself. The only thing I have control over these days is my running. I am in charge of my training plan. I make decisions about where to place my runs during the week. I listen to my body and respond to it’s needs for nutrition and rest. I weigh the consequences of skipping a run or the advantage of adding a run. It is all up to me.

My Only Control

People need to have control of something in their life. Even if it is only one thing, it gives them freedom. To be the master of your own creativity, to be the director of your own narrative, to be the manager of your own career, to be a contributor of your own relationship – just one thing to grab onto and say, “this is mine.”

  • I know someone who lives for writing
  • I know someone who breathes for photography
  • I know someone who determines their children’s future
  • I know someone who is a partner in a passionate love affair
  • I know someone who has a successful business

These people have a purpose. These people have control. These people have something to wake up for. These people have something that keeps them alive. These people have freedom.

The Challenge

Training for a marathon will be a challenge in such a harsh environment here in the northeast. I have only trained for half-marathons during the winter, never a marathon. I have already hit challenges in the past few weeks and now that I am on a strict training schedule, I need to be creative in my re-working of training elements.

Cross training – I will have to switch to swimming as my non-impact cross training. In my usual summer-fall marathon training, I used cycling for this. I am hoping to get the same benefits in the pool.

20+ long runs – Always a challenge even when the weather cooperates, I have never run a 20+ training run in the snow. I have also decided that I need to do at least 4 of these to get myself over the Newton hills and still come in at a sub-four hour finish time.

Speed workouts – I have been very successful with step-ladder interval training on a track in the past. Since I won’t have access to a track (shoveled off anyway) I will have to resort to Fartleks exclusively. It is hard to monitor progress with this training technique and I have never relied on them exclusively.

Treadmill alternative – In severe weather, I will have to use a treadmill. I hate training on a treadmill. These machines do not offer the same training return that road training does because they naturally aid in the push-off. I also will miss the psychological and spiritual benefits of running outside.

Night training – Running in snow is one thing. Running in the dark in the snow is just downright dangerous. Most of my training injuries have happened in the winter mainly as a result of the combination of poor visibility and slippery conditions.

Weight – Winter is when people experience weight gain the most. Not only do I have to focus on my training diet, I also need to lose about 8 pounds before race day. This will all be a challenge in itself especially with the stresses of other variables in my life right now.

The Benefits

Ever since I have been running marathons I have always dreamed of qualifying and running the Boston Marathon. The journey to that end has changed my life. On this road I have found new perspectives in my social life, psychological stability, spiritual awareness, and self esteem. I have discovered elements of myself that I never thought existed. My depth of understanding and awareness has increased. My fear of challenge and change has dissipated. My perception of what is important in life is clear.

When I cross that finish line on April 19th it will be the symbolic culmination of my personal freedom because I am in complete control of this one little part of my life. I will determine my fate. I alone will decide my success.

And now for some GOOD news! November 23, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, fitness, Health, Life, running.
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9 comments

I am a runner. In previous posts I have told you how running has been instrumental in shaping my psychological and spiritual life. Now I need to tell you the obvious good news. I have never been fitter in my life. I have never been healthier, had as much energy, looked as good and, yes (on the rare occasion that I do) I have never had such pleasurable sex as I do now. Now that I have your attention (sex will do it every time.) Let me tell you my story.

In 2003 I weighed 210 pounds. I was experiencing lower back and knee problems. I could barely get up and down stairs because of joint pain and just plain cardiovascular weakness. I developed sleep apnea. My blood fats were high (Triglycerides and Cholesterol.) I could not make it through a regular workday without falling asleep. I was quite often sick and my doctor had just written me a prescription for high blood pressure. I was dying.

It was then that I realized that I was not ready to give up on life at such an early age. I guess it was the blood pressure medication that woke me up. I don’t believe much in drugs and medication and believe in the true healing power of the body, but at that time I was lazy and expected that the body could to it without much help from me. I was wrong. The body has amazing powers but you have to keep it in a condition to allow it to do the work.

I started walking first. Then I worked on running a full mile without stopping. Then, I made three without stopping. Then came six. I ran a few races with my buddies and found a wonderful, supportive community that gave me even more inspiration. I dropped down to 190 pounds quickly. I ran my first half marathon. Then I started studying nutrition and found the value in nutrient rich, complex, fat burning foods and the value of eating smaller meals throughout the day.  I dropped another 15 pounds QUICKLY. I ran faster, stronger and longer…

Today I weigh 170 pounds. My triglycerides and cholesterol are way within the limits. I sleep soundly and have tremendous energy throughout the day. I am no longer experiencing back pain, knee pain, or sleep apnea, and I have been off blood pressure medication for over five years now. I have run and finished six consecutive marathons. I have qualified for the Boston marathon (with a 3.30 finish time) and will be running there in April of this year. I am fitter, healthier, stronger, AND SEXIER (had to get your attention again) than EVER before.

Yes, YOU can achieve ANYTHING if you believe in yourself.

Now the proof

I hate to show my fat pictures but here they are, followed by recent pictures.

My fattest in 2003 - 210 pounds

Tired and Indifferent in 2003

Light and Strong in 2006

Light and Strong in 2006

Lean and fast in 2008

Lean and fast in 2008

Boston qualifying in 2009

Boston qualifying in 2009

My Run Today (repost from Oct. 4th) October 16, 2009

Posted by jassnight in fitness, running.
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Mary and I after the race

Mary and I after the race

Today was my 4th running of the Wineglass Marathon and my 6th marathon overall. You can try to predict your run but in all the years I have run this distance, I have found that exercise to be a fruitless endeavor. Every marathon is unique. Every marathon brings with it new lessons to be learned.

Besides the staple worries of hydration, nutrition, correct training, rest, and yes, bowl movements, my main concern this year was that this was going to be my first solo marathon. In previous years, I had a bank of running buddies with me whom I trained with and ran with. In many marathons, a good friend in our group always served me well as my pacer since I tend to go out too fast. I didn’t have my anchor this year. It was just me. I had to focus on taking it easy and conserving energy as long as I could. This is hard for me. I tend to get caught up in the moment and run stupid. By mile 5 I knew I was not doing too well with pacing. I was ending up with 8.30’s when I wanted to start with 9 minute splits. I was off to a bad start. Then out of the blue, there was Mary. Mary and I started chatting like so many do in the early stages of the race and we found that we both had the same goal; sub-4 hour finish with a 3.50 as icing on the cake. We quickly decided to hang with each other as long as possible and work as a team toward that goal. There is nothing better than to have someone to talk to, to pace with, to support, to care, and as we both knew – to share the pain when the pain came. Mary and I talked about several things; from the weather to relationships but our main topic was our love for running. I found out that Mary, 42 years old and a mother of three, was diagnosed with cancer a few years back. It was bad and she went through 6 months of chemotherapy. When she was finished with treatments she told her doctor, “I am going to run a marathon.” He replied, “Why on earth would you do something like that?” She said back to him, “Because I can.” After a moment of silence, I turned to her and said, “You know Mary, I run because of people like you.” The miles melted away. There was more talk and more support. Then Mile 18 came. 18 is the landmark mile in a marathon because this is where problems start cropping up. Both of us checked in with each other. All was a go. Mile 20; still a go. We were elated and at this point banging out 8.30’s like it was a walk in the park. Our teaming up proved to be beneficial for both of us and we were on schedule for an easy sub-4 finish. By mile 24 however, I was feeling the fatigue and told Mary to not allow me to hold her up and I let her go. At Mile 25 I resorted to the “marathon shuffle” and tried to focus on just moving forward. The pain was incendiary but I was elated that it was happening now and not back at mile 18. Mary was about a minute ahead of me by then and I was close enough to the finish to see her cross the line. I was in shortly after way ahead of both my goal and my “icing on the cake.” My finish time was 3 hours, 46 minutes, 11 seconds. I found Mary and we embraced as we thanked each other.

Marathons can be very emotional for many of the runners. Just finishing can bring you to tears and I am no exception. There are always tears. I was holding it together pretty well after the race until a moment when I was finally capable of sitting on a bench with minimal pain. A young woman asked to sit on the bench with me. Of course I said yes. When she sat down she immediately broke down in tears. I put my hand on her shoulder and cried with her. It was cleansing.

Another year. Another marathon. Another lesson learned. Another celebration of life – because I can.

I would like to thank Nicki Conroy who was my support team this year. I could not have done it without her. She was instrumental in keeping the anxiety low by arranging all the logistics before the race and then facilitating my recovery after the race. I owe you big!