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Posts Tagged ‘self-esteem’

Yes, this is a race report. It has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Now that you’ve picked your jaw up off the keyboard… grab your beverage of choice (I’m having Hibiscus tea) and get comfortable because this is going to be a bit of a read. Before I get into the summation of the event I will give a bit of a preamble for those who haven’t followed this journey of mine.

Where to start? Well, I suppose the last races are as good a place as any.

In October 2013 I participated in three events. The first two were on the first weekend of the month. Run for the Toad was a 12.5K leg of a trail relay on a very hilly course at Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area. The next day I completed a 5K Colour Run on the trails in Christie Lake Conservation Area. I felt unwell that weekend. The third race, later in October, was my first and only one that started but didn’t finish. I panicked halfway through the course. I was consciously worried about breaking my ankle but there was also a deeper level of anxiety. Ironically a few weeks later I broke my toes. The deeper anxiety, in hindsight, was that I was a running time bomb with an artery that was almost 80% blocked.

the hospital stay

the hospital stay

As you may have read, I had a procedure to fix that in March of 2014. Luckily I didn’t have a heart attack nor did I cause heart damage. Running had saved my life and I was determined to pick up where I left off in late 2013.

Recovery was tough. I ran but not the way I used to. Physically there was nothing holding me back. I had the all-clear from the doctors to run, train on hills, weight lift and whatever else I wanted to tackle. To be honest, I was terrified. I signed up for races and bailed over and over again. A full marathon, half marathons, 5Ks, 10Ks, all came and went. Race day would arrive and I would lose my nerve. Training suffered over the year and anxiety became the norm. I’d hop off the treadmill every 10 minutes during a run to check my blood pressure. I’d run a handful of times each month but training had gone to the wayside. I could bike 10 to 20K at an all-out pace at the gym but to run for even a few kilometers was stressful. Sure there were a thousand reasons why it was so hard, after all I had lost my base, but the bottom line is that I was scared. It takes a lot for me to admit that the thought of running at a race was so crippling to me. Fear and anxiety took over.

There was a breaking point. A month ago I dropped out of the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. I wasn’t trained but I had agreed to run part of it. My friend Carla had signed up just after I had and I wanted to be there to support her like she has done for me over and over. A family issue arose and I had to cancel. In doing so, I felt that I had really let my friend down and I felt horrible about it. That said, I was relieved that I wasn’t running despite what was going on here. Fear had reared its’ ugly head yet again and regret crept into the mix. Letting myself down is one thing but letting a close friend down was really upsetting. I don’t have words for how bad I felt.

About a week before the Niagara event I signed up for Long Point Eco-Adventures’ Smugglers Run Trail Race near Turkey Point, Ontario. There were three distances but because it was trail run and my running base was shot, I chose the smallest of the three which was 6K. For weeks before the event I wrestled with whether I should run it. What if I had more heart problems? I could injure myself, after all I hadn’t worked on a solid running base. What if I was last? What would people think? What if the cardiologist was wrong and I had a heart attack on the course? What if something happened with the kids while I was out running? What if? What if? I was overthinking everything and being a little dramatic.

I resolved that I was not going to back out of this race. I was going to brave the start line and that even if I had to walk the entire race, I would cross the finish line. It had been 21 months since I had completed an event. 21 months! Time to suck it up and move forward. With the support of a great circle of friends I prepared for race day.

And… finally the race report.

pre-race selfie

pre-race selfie

I arose at 5:20 am and groggily got ready to leave. Bryan and I had an hour drive and wanted to meet our friend Mandi, around 7:30. The morning was gorgeous and the drive out was a little foggy but nice. We drove through the countryside and made our way to Turkey Point arriving at Long Point Eco-Adventures around the time that we had planned. Long Point Eco-Adventures is a wonderful facility. There was an observation tower, zip lining and all sorts of other things. The property was directly across from the Burning Kiln Winery.

We explored for a bit and had a snack. I was in capris but at the last moment decided to change into my running shorts because it was warming up considerably. Mandi was kind enough to share some homemade bug repellant that she had created and then we headed to the start line so we could cheer the 18K and 12K runners as they took off on the trails. In all there was about a hundred runners. I was mentally prepared that the worst case scenario would be a lovely walk in the woods. My mantra was that “forward is a pace”.

the cool race bib

the cool race bib

The race officials sent us out 10 minutes early which was great because I was raring to go. The course wound around and down a bit of an incline. So far so good. Then we got to a boardwalk and there was a right turn in the middle of it. No big deal, right? Well, it was quite a step down into eroded and uneven ground and it faced the steepest hill I’ve ever seen. Yes, steeper and longer than Skeleton Hill at Run for the Toad. Goodness gracious. Mandi and Bryan had run ahead so I was quite happily running on my own. I was dead last but I had the second and third last people in my sights. As I crested the hill and came around the corner into the fields, there was Bryan. He was waiting to run with me and he had picked a wild Brown-eyed Susan which he handed to me when I ran to him. I tucked it into my Bondi Band and off we ran.

© Wilson Photography

© Wilson Photography

He was determined to run the rest of the course with me. We spent quite a bit of time walking as the hills were brutal. Did I mention it was really hilly? Parts of the course had two-way traffic and it was quite narrow so there were pauses to let the runners doing the 18K pass by. Every once in a while he’d swat a mosquito on my back. I suppose I should have worn a light coloured shirt and used bug repellant on my torso. Oops.

Just around the 5K mark Bryan had an epic wipeout. He tripped on a root and his shoe went flying down a steep embankment and his iPod went in the other direction. Bryan landed right in the damp dirt. We were only a few meters from the paramedics when they heard me yell to see if he was all right. Bryan was a bit embarrassed and his toe is very badly bruised. We lost a few minutes while he retrieved his gear but this race wasn’t about time for us and the wee break gave me a little umph for a stronger finish. I was determined to finish even if I was dead last, but my chivalrous husband made me go ahead of him. I crossed the finish line with the flower still in my headband.

The best way I can describe this course is that if you were to take a 12.5K loop from Run for the Toad and condense the elevations there into 6K, you have the Smugglers Run. Holy technical and hilly—the kind of hills that chew you up and spit you out. My lack of training was evident and I had to walk more than I wanted to. The time on my Garmin time read 01:10:34 and my official chip time was 01:12:19.

the casks

the casks

After we crossed the finish line we collected our commemorative glass mugs that were given instead of finishers medals and headed over to Burning Kiln Winery for our complimentary glass of wine. I enjoyed a most delicious Cab-Franc as the awards were given out.

Would I run this again?

You bet, but I’d actually train for it next time. Long Point Eco-Adventures hosted a fabulous event. There was great volunteer support on the trail with water stations every few kilometers. The route was stunningly beautiful.

I am so happy that I went out and braved the start line. Of course, I had the typical post-race high and during that booked to run the same distance in another trail race named Chase the Coyote in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park. The race is at the end of September and that gives me time to get some decent hill training in. I’m running the Oasis ZooRun 10K in Toronto a few weeks before and that course isn’t exactly flat either.

I sure do things the hard way as this wasn’t exactly a moderate course for my first race after such a long sabbatical, but adversity met perseverance on Sunday and it feels great to be back! The crippling fear has been conquered and laid to rest.

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A few nights ago, I was having a chat with a lady named Daphne who is considering becoming a runner. She’s a fellow diabetic who I connected with recently and we ended up on the subject of running. I’m a bit exuberant about running so it was bound to happen. She asked me if runners are the type to be cliquey. We talked about acceptance and how there is a culture in certain fitness circles where judgments happen frequently. With running, as I told Daphne, the only judgment I ever found was self-inflicted and stemmed from my own insecurities. It is as simple as John Bingham says,  “if you run, you are a runner”.

I related to her concern. When I first started running I only ran at home on the treadmill where no one could see me. I was over conscious about how I would be perceived and I felt embarrassed. I expected runners to look down their noses at me and act as if I had no business out there. It took a couple of months before I summoned enough courage to head to the indoor track and run in public. A few weeks later I ran outside. That was liberating but my confidence still waned at times. Then I ran my first race. After that my perspective changed considerably. Running brought me to the realization that I ought to be more accepting of myself and runners proved to be some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met.

I have experienced this kindness time and time again. I’ve had a runner stay by my side when I was having issues. She walked across the finish line with me, sacrificing her own time. I’ve had runners who finished long before me, cheer at the finish line. At the Toronto ZooRun a stranger gave me a high-five as he passed me in the other direction. It got me through what was a pretty wet and miserable run. Other runners have sponsored me by donating to the causes I run for. I try to do the same for them. Another runner, I had only recently met, decided to run my first half with me so I wouldn’t have to run alone. She ran at my pace which for the half was considerably slower than what she is used to. She even sprinted ahead near the end to take my photo as I crossed the finish line.

Speaking of speed, one of the other conversations I was part of quite recently was with my fellow members of the Digital Champions (DC) team for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This chat really illustrated what I was explaining to Daphne about how welcoming the running community is.

Prasheel Gopal, posted about the respect and admiration he has for those of us who are slow runners. He went on to mention how our efforts are not to be considered any less than folks who run faster. Prashell also went on to say that slow runners shouldn’t feel discouraged and how much he is inspired by us. His words showed me another perspective—it was something that hadn’t occurred to me before. He said that slow runners have to run for longer periods of time at events and in training thus enduring more extended periods of discomfort than those who are faster. For the longest time I berated myself for being slow but the reality is that I do spend a lot of time on my feet to cover the same distance. I’m sure that has to have an impact both physically and mentally. Other DCs chimed in and it was interesting to hear a similar point of view from other runners too.

Someone once said that the tortoise and the hare cross the same finish line. So, don’t fret if you are a slow runner because other runners know that you have the same commitment to this as they do. Be proud of every step you take towards being the best running version of yourself you can be. Embrace the fact that you are out there, day after day, giving it all you’ve got.

Daphne (and any of you who may be tossing around the idea of becoming a runner), I hope that you will give running a try and, in doing so, come to know the same camaraderie, growth, and joy that I have experienced through a sport that welcomes all.

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it wasn't a finish line

it wasn’t a finish line after all

With all that was going on in my life I needed to take some time for myself especially after losing my Mom. I tend to retreat a little when grief strikes but life moves forward whether we want it to or not. And it is moving forward around here. With that I figured it was time to return to blogging.

Of course, this time of year always brings about lots of planning. There was a time when the only planning was for wilderness camping trips but now there is so much more. I’ll be doing my usual camping, canoeing and hiking but this year we are venturing out on a 9-day bike-packing adventure in Quebec that will cover almost 460K. There are also lots of running events in my future and three of those cover consecutive weekends. Part of me wonders what I was thinking but I am committed enough to conquer these goals and have fun at the same time.

Here is this year’s race schedule…

Happy 5K (5K Run)
Brantford, Ontario
March 17, 2103
Status: Registered

The Ford Race to End Diabetes (5K Run)
Oakville, Ontario
April 27, 2103
Status: Registered

Mississauga Marathon (Half Marathon)
Mississauga, Ontario
May 5, 2013
Status: Registered

TREAD 6 Hour Trail Run Relay (4.2K per loop)
Mansfield, Ontario
May 12, 2013
Status: Registered

Brantford Grand Trail Run (10K Run)
Brantford, Ontario
July 27, 2013
Status: Leaning towards registration

Oasis ZooRun (10K Run)
Scarborough, Ontario
September 21, 2013
Status: Registered

Run for the Toad 50K Relay (12.5K loop)
Paris, Ontario
October 5, 2013
Status: Registered

Colours of Hope (5K Fun)
Hamilton, Ontario
October 6, 2013
Status: Waiting for Registration to Open

Some of these events are about fun and others are about achieving new milestones.

It’s going to be a year full of adventure… so bring it on!

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the journey continues

Last week I created a page on Facebook to go along with my blog! Sunday I posted a few “before” and “after” photos. A kind lady named Sally, who is a Registered Dietitian, made this comment…

“I’d love to know what other positive changes you’ve noticed as you’ve changed your lifestyle. Weight loss is often what others notice most, but is usually only one of many positive benefits of a change to a healthy lifestyle.”

It’s a great topic so I will share that answer here with all of you. Sally is right about weight loss only being a small part of it, like the cover on a complex book. Let’s look, briefly, at the first chapters of my journey before we talk about where I am now and what some of the other benefits have been.

Emotionally, I was very timid albeit I put on a good front in social situations. I’d get anxiety when we had to go anywhere. I’d actually toss my cookies before we went out and sometimes my husband Bryan would even have to stop the car. I was terrified of rocking the boat. If you said the sky was yellow and I knew that it was blue, I’d agree with you just so you’d like me. I felt like everyone was judging me because of my weight and some people were. I had absolutely no confidence and I felt alone even in a crowded room. When it came to self-image, I hated looking in a mirror and I hated myself. I detested shopping for clothing. I wanted to hide. I quit taking care of myself on the outside and on the inside. I started becoming reclusive and would barely leave the house; instead I would have friends come over to visit. Even then, I’d often cancel at the last moment. I lost all of my passion for the things I enjoyed doing, including artistic endeavors.

Physically, I was prone to extreme bouts of bronchitis and occasionally pneumonia. I’d be down for six to eight weeks at a time and it would take months for my breathing to return to what was normal for me back then. My nails were brittle and my scalp was always dry. My hair would fall out in handfuls. My skin was even affected. I was tired all the time and listless. My posture was awful and I had a hump shape to my back because of excess fat. I had one across the hips too and would often suffer horribly from sciatica. Standing up straight was impossible because of both the weight and years of trying to make my almost 6 foot tall frame appear shorter. I was klutzy because I was so self-conscious and I was always falling.

The transformation started and here’s the answer to Sally’s query.

As Sally mentioned, it wasn’t just the weight that came off. Everything started to heal. My skin and hair were better. My nails became stronger. My posture improved. The sciatica was a thing of the past. I wasn’t horribly hot all the time and I could actually sweat. But what was happening inside was more remarkable. Just over two-thirds of the way through this weight loss I was diagnosed as diabetic and put on insulin, and, as you probably read in earlier postings, I reversed all need for diabetes medications. My enlarged heart started to reverse, my liver enzymes sorted out, my blood pressure went down dramatically. Over a decade of infertility was resolved because my hormones leveled out. Diabetic retinopathy, a serious eye condition, started to heal. My cardiovascular health improved and I can breathe. I can run up the stairs and not have to pull myself up with the banister. Even intimacy is different. Not just with my darling husband but even something simple as hugging a friend. Hugs no longer make me cringe.

Now I’ll tell you about the emotional side of things. This change in me has been as much to do with weight-loss as it has to do with the confidence that came from putting on a backpack for the first time and going into the wilderness. That energized my spirit as well as my body. I wanted more. As the outer transformation started so did the inner changes. I finally decided to become a Mom. In the same year I started pursuing my dream of becoming a published author and freelance writer. I started doing things that I loved again, and picked up a sketchbook for the first time in years. I embraced being daring and did things I thought I could never do. Things that others told me I couldn’t do—canoeing, backpacking, cycling, running, and hiking. I did them despite the naysayers. The more I did, the stronger I became and the more things I wanted to try. I started thinking positive and accepting that I didn’t have to put limitations on myself just because others had—that I can do anything I put my mind to.

I’ve embraced that I am my own person instead of trying desperately to be who others want me to be. I share my opinions even if they differ from my friends. I make the first move to introduce myself to new people and I am strong enough to walk away from negative people who try to sabotage my efforts and hold me back. I even garnered enough courage to teach wilderness cooking workshops and am considering becoming a motivational speaker. Teaching, even though it was my dream, was something that I would have never done when I was obese, because I was just way too self-conscious. I am no longer so ashamed of the obesity and I can share my “before” photos because I’m proud of what I have accomplished—that I have overcome what I once thought was impossible.

So there you have it. Losing weight isn’t just about what others see on the outside, it goes far deeper that. It is a culmination of a healthy body, mind, and spirit. It’s about creating boundaries with how I fuel my body while breaking the boundaries of what I perceive I am capable of doing from a physical standpoint. It’s about becoming whole and being confident, meeting challenges head on and accepting myself and all my idiosyncrasies.

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my little shadow

Funny, I don’t often think of myself as being an inspiration even though my intent of starting this blog was to be just that. I blush profusely when I read comments from strangers such as “I just read your story. Love it! That is so incredibly inspiring.” or “Everyone has the power within themselves to be great and Laurie exemplifies this so beautifully. What a force & exceptional role model for believing in your inner power & strength.” I find it somewhat overwhelming but I also find that it is motivating for me in so many ways.

Going public with my story was profound for me and summoning up a great deal of courage to put it out there has been a gift as well as a learning experience.  Being open about my story has taught me a great deal about how strong I am. To know that I can make a difference to someone who may have similar struggles helps me move forward on my own journey. However, there was something that happened recently that makes me realize how much responsibility comes with the lifestyle choices I make. It was a little closer to home.

The other day I had just come in from stretching after a trail run and as I walked by the full length mirror on my closet door I realized something… I have really great legs. I know that sounds full of vanity but I love how they look and feel. I paused, flexed, and marveled at their definition with a bit of wonder. Hmm… when did that happen? I didn’t remember them being quite that way. I said to my husband, Bryan, “When did I get such defined leg muscles?”  He chuckled and reminded me that I’ve always had strong legs but mentioned that he noticed a while ago that they had become very toned.

A few hours later my almost 2 1/2 year old daughter, Kaia, was in the kitchen with him. She pulled up the hem of her pants to her knee, pointed her toes and flexed her calf just as I had earlier. Then she said “Daddy, I need talk to you. I have muscles.”

Later that day Bryan told me what she did. It isn’t the first time she has mimicked me. Kaia adores stretching when I stretch and playing with her soccer ball like I exercise with the stability ball. However, it was in those few moments, while listening to his story about my baby girl, that I realized there is something bigger at play here. You see, this reminded me that Bryan and I are probably the most influential role models for Kaia and her brother Tobias—a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly.

B(e) positive!

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baby girl and I

I am a Mom. I am in love. I believe in myself. I am a positive thinker. I enjoy being fit. I am devoted. I am inspired by myself and others. I am courageous. I am energetic. I show determination. I am passionate about everything I do. I am fearless. I have tenacity. I am a fighter. I am strong. I have overcome great obstacles. I am open. I focus on being healthy. I am loved. I have fun. I am committed. I am an athlete. I share my motivation. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am full of possibility. I feel happy. I am disciplined. I triumph. I am complex. I believe in others. I am uniquely me. I do what is necessary. I exhibit excellence. I am a good role model. I have fun being active. I am a good neighbor. I am giving. I care. I am ambitious. I can achieve anything I want. I am ferocious. I love to be challenged. I am driven. I can do the impossible. I have empathy. I am the stubborn one. I am loving. I love my family enough to love myself first. I am creative. I reflect on the gifts I have. I am outdoorsy. I am a tomboy. I can be girly when I want to be. I finish what I start. I am cheerful no matter what life throws at me. I can find the silver lining—always. I strive for a healthier me. I see the wonder in the world. I believe in being silly sometimes. I am content. I am beautiful. I have a sense of humor. I am intelligent. I am a spiritual being. I hug trees. I believe in karma. I love life. I am awesome…

and…

I am the me I’ve always wanted to be!

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On Monday, I greeted my Facebook friends with a “Laurie is wishing everyone a Happy Monday”, to which I received messages such as “Good Morning”, “Wazooooo…. coffee please!!”, “Hooray for Monday! Woohoo! Happy Happy Joy Joy!”, and “uuuggh, are you trying to make me puke?”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not expecting my friends to be uber-cheery all the time, but I have to say that the latter comment bothered me a bit. I do not get negativity, I really don’t. Negative energy is like fingernails on a blackboard to me. Why did it bother me? Well, I guess I am just happy to be alive. I also find that if I greet each day, especially if I start off feeling less than exuberant about the start of it, with a positive affirmation, it just makes for a better day. Why dread the day or the week? That just puts us in a negative place and sets a tone for the rest of the day and the week. I’m a cup-half-full type of personality or maybe half-full-to-potentially-overflowing, so I returned the message with a comment saying to cheer up.

So far, I am having a great week and I hope you are too. I refuse to let the stresses of everyday life (and tax time) get me down. Being negative would just put me in a non-productive mindset… and I have too much on my plate to give negativity a place at the table.

So now I leave you with some of my favourite quotes and wish you a Happy Wednesday.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ~ Buddha

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” ~ Author Unknown

“Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss. Nothing is as rich. Nothing is more real.” ~ Deepak Chopra

“Affirmations are like prescriptions for certain aspects of yourself you want to change.” ~ Jerry Frankhauser

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” ~ Brian Tracy

“Optimists enrich the present, enhance the future, challenge the improbable and attain the impossible.” ~ William Arthur Ward

“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” ~ Ralph Marston

“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy, because we will always want to have something else or something more. “ ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

“If you have zest and enthusiasm you attract zest and enthusiasm. Life does give back in kind.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Be grateful for the day… B(e) Positive.

P.S. I thought this one was very fitting…

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” ~ Herm Albright, quoted in Reader’s Digest, June 1995

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