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taking a breath, starting again

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

so, it's been a while.

I've been on and off SP for the last month or so, trying to be consistent with tracking but failing most of the time. I just didn't have the motivation at the end of the day.

one thing I was consistent with was the fitness tracker, since it always boosted my pride a bit to see my mileage go up each week while I stuck to my training schedule.

but mostly, I've slacked. I've been feeling kind of burnt out lately - on SP, on the training (although I stuck with it, I still felt burnt out about it), on most things. my job has been tough lately - unrelenting and mostly unrewarding. and I've been watching my weight creep back up, because I haven't exactly been focusing on the most nutritious foods. and the weight creep has me bummed out, so I've been going into "so what?" mode and reaching for all things peanut butter-flavored.

then two things happened.

first, my husband got diagnosed with testicular cancer. we just got the official diagnosis yesterday, but the doctors have been 99% sure about it for about two weeks. he had his surgery last week, and has been doing very well. his prognosis is excellent, with a nearly 100% recovery rate. I am so grateful for that, it is difficult to put into words. but things have happened so fast, it's been hard to process things. we've dealt with everything one test, one scan, one procedure at a time so far, so I'm not sure if the full weight of it has even hit me. all I know is I got a small look into what life would be like without him, and it made me feel like my legs were going to give out from underneath me.

second - in the middle of everything above - I ran my first marathon on sunday. I picked up a livestrong bracelet at the race expo and wore it throughout the race, and felt grateful for my health and my ability to run the whole time. well, maybe not the whole time - I'll admit it was hard to feel gratitude or anything else those last five miles. seeing my husband at mile 15 brought tears to my eyes, and sent adrenaline through my body. I hit mental and physical hurdles like I've never faced before, and I fought them in a knock-down-drag-out to the finish line. and I won. I finished in 5 hours and 20 minutes - certainly not setting any records. but I crossed that finish line with my dad right next to me, his arm around me, and I felt like such a champion.

taking care of my husband over the past couple of weeks, and running that race on sunday have both given me the most important reminder:

life is so, so precious, and we can do so, so much with it if we are willing to test ourselves.

my husband has some more tests coming up, but things are looking very positive. and running 26 miles has given me a new spark, to keep doing things that are good for me and that challenge me. I've signed up for a beginning ballet class; I'm subscribed to an online yoga, fitness, and healthy living website; I just registered today for a 15k next month.

I don't want to take my health for granted - I want to celebrate it and prolong it. and I want to take care of the dearest people in my life, so that they can be healthy too.

life really is such a sweet gift.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ANIMAL_L0VER 10/15/2012 3:22PM

    Panda, it is good to hear that things are going well for your husband. Although I am sorry to hear about his diagnosis, it sounds like his prognosis is good and he should make a full recovery. Any new news about it? I wish him (and you) the best of health and life, and please let me know if you ever need someone to just vent to.

Congrat on the marathon as well! It sounds like a very emotional and inspiring event in your life, and it's great that you got to experience.

All in all, it sounds like you're focusing on the positive. Sometimes life throws us challenges we don't want when we most need them. I'm not saying you needed for your husband to get cancer, what I'm saying is that these things can often give us a new perspective and make us realize what is important. Wishing you only the best today and always. :o)

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DIET_FRIEND 10/10/2012 12:35AM

    It's true that experiencing cancer and other health crises with family members makes us appreciate the blessing of health. Live strong!

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28-hour days would be just swell.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

so, this is totally me right now:

(note: this is not actually me - that's what Google is for!)

for the next month and half, I will be out of town every weekend. doing fun things like visiting family and going to weddings, but still - not here, not in my regular routine, not able to do things around the house, eating foods that I have prepared, etc.

and I'm. Stressing. Out.

I go to work and feel like I never get enough done there - I am working on a loooooong term project (going no three years on and off), and nearing the end of it, but I never feel like I get enough done with it. it's like every morning I forget how time consuming this project is, so every afternoon I go home disappointed in myself for not getting more done.

usually, getting home means I get away from that stress - I have never believed in taking my work home, so I just don't do it. ever.

but lately, in preparation for all of these out of town trips, and in combination with the million things I'd like to do around the house, there are tasks awaiting me as soon as I walk through the door to the apartment. laundry needs to be done, wedding presents needs to be purchased, the car needs an oil change and tune-up, wedding cards need to be made, transportation plans need to be made with friends, stuff eventually needs to get shoved into a suitcase, etc.

there is just not enough time in the day!

and I'm trying SO HARD to not let this busyness business disrupt my training schedule - I derailed a little bit last week, but squeezed that long run in Sunday evening (just in the nick of time!). I really, really don't want the stress of travel and planning for travel to disrupt my progress, or get in the way of runs, etc. in fact, running is how I de-stress! but it's a vicious cycle, where I go for a run to de-stress, then get home and realize I now have an hour less to do other tasks, and I get stressed all over again!

lately, my only "me time" during the course of the day is spent on public transportation, to and from work, because I'm forced to sit still and read for pleasure. there is truly something wrong with that last sentence.

I so wanted this summer to be jam-packed full of fun things, but now I'm re-thinking that notion...

... but if I could just have four more hours each day...

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ANIMAL_L0VER 7/23/2012 3:00PM

    Hey Panda... I'm just catching up, but wanted to let you know I totally feel your pain. I'm in the same boat right now (it's a big part of why I haven't really been on Spark in over a month) but really try to focus on the fun when I'm having it, and try to enjoy the things that need to be done in order for the fun to occur. :o) It's easier said than done, but I truly hope things are going better for you and that you're able to take some time for you soon. Look forward to hearing about it!

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ANIMAL_L0VER 7/23/2012 3:00PM

    Hey Panda... I'm just catching up, but wanted to let you know I totally feel your pain. I'm in the same boat right now (it's a big part of why I haven't really been on Spark in over a month) but really try to focus on the fun when I'm having it, and try to enjoy the things that need to be done in order for the fun to occur. :o) It's easier said than done, but I truly hope things are going better for you and that you're able to take some time for you soon. Look forward to hearing about it!

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LYNSEY723 6/27/2012 5:36PM

    Something that has helped me in the past when I've felt so overwhelmed with everything is to write out a list (I'm very much a list person) and put the time you think it will take you to get it done next to it. Example:

Sort all laundry - 5 minutes
Start load of laundry - 2 minutes
Pick up wedding present - 1 hour
Move laundry/start new load - 5 minutes

For some reason it helps me to really break it down like this. Then check things off as you go! If you come across something else that needs to be done (say you realize you need to mop the laundry room floor) add it to the bottom of the list! I hope this helps!

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DZDAZR2BGR8T 6/27/2012 5:23PM

    oh, I hear you!!! just breathe-do your yoga & things will get the google image, though!!! emoticon

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The real me (photos!)

Friday, June 15, 2012

A funny thing happened on my way to losing some lbs...

Lately I've been feeling like a "new me," a woman with energy and enthusiasm, excited to make plans with friends and enjoy the summer. A woman with goals and the drive and wherewithal to complete them. A woman who chooses fruit over candy (okay, most days).

This week, I realized this Colleen isn't the "new me" - it's the REAL ME.

The real me was always there, but she was hidden by a layer of fat and excuses. She was silenced by entire pizzas and endless Law & Order re-runs. She was covered up by bulky clothes and camouflaged by a sense of humor.

But, as I followed my mantra of "there is nothing more precious than the self" (thanks, Yogi Tea, for that one!), the real me began to emerge.

She was definitely the one that signed me up for that half marathon. Here she is finishing with style:

She was also the one that got some friends together for a hiking trip to Starved Rock State Park last weekend. Here she is in a cave:

... and appreciating how small a natural landscape can make one feel:

The real me also enjoys time with friends, so earlier this week she organized a picnic on the lawn of a concert venue downtown with some lovely friends.

And the real me was DEFINITELY the one who signed up for and participated in trapeze school two days ago. Here she is doing a knee hang on the trapeze:

... and here are the bruised knees that she is brandishing with pride today:

At first, I think I was a bit afraid of the real me. She can be pretty gung ho about things, and that can take some getting used to. But accepting her has meant living the life that I always wished I was living, but was too chicken to strive for.

Next up, the real me is planning on hitting the beach, having a few picnics in various parks around the city, going kayaking, heading back to trapeze school for a few more flying lessons, and taking a much-needed vacation (once my husband and I can decide on a destination, that is).

And she is pumped!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KATD13 6/16/2012 12:54AM


Love reading about the real you! And all the plans for future adventures...very inspirational!

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BABY_GIRL69 6/15/2012 5:47PM

    emoticonGod bless & enjoy! Dee

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KRISZTA11 6/15/2012 2:00PM

    emoticon to finding the new, real, energetic and enthusiastic you!

I also feel running makes me a super hero : )
When I put on my running clothes and shoes, I feel power and neither rain nor snow or ice can stop me from running and enjoying it!
In my normal life I'm quite a wimp ; )

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ANIMAL_L0VER 6/15/2012 1:51PM

    I love this!!! I love hearing about transformations being made by Sparkfriends, and this is so wonderful to hear!!! You are doing amazing and it's great to hear all about it! Keep sharing, keep sparking, keep it up! You go, girl!

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NWLIFESRC 6/15/2012 1:38PM

    Cool emoticon

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What running can do (with pictures!)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Technically, I've been running since I was eleven years old.

(I guess even more technically, I've been running since I was a little, little kid, as most kids are pretty prone to running.)

But I've been running as a sport since I was eleven, when I joined my middle school's cross country team. My dad was a runner, he always told me I should be one too, so I signed up. And talked my best friend since kindergarten into joining with me. She turned out to be a magnificent runner.

Me? Not so much.

The thing is, I hated it most of the time. HATED it. Don't get me wrong - I loved the camaraderie of being a part of a team, I loved goofing around with my team mates, I loved the feeling you get after you've finished a run. All of that.

I just hated the actual running part.

And this love/hate (but mostly hate) relationship I had with running continued through middle school and high school, as I signed up for the cross country team every year. I was typically one of the last if not the last girl to finish every race. I just didn't really care how I did. It was more about being a part of a team, something bigger, and the fun bus rides home from meets.

Here is a picture of some CC-style fun, for those of you not familiar:

(I'm all the way on the right. I've blacked out faces for privacy.)

Then I went to college. No more team sports, and way less time for exercise. I ran pretty sporadically, but mostly gave it up.

After college, I would go on spurts of running for a few days a week for two or three weeks (if that), then would remember that I hated running and quit.

Fast forward to November, 2010. I ran a 15k with some friends (and by "with," I mean we started the race together, and then I waved to them as they sped forward), and it was terrible. I didn't really train, and I had to walk half of it. I cursed myself for the last five or six miles, and decided at the finish that I would never run another race.

Then, last spring, I was fed up. Fed up with being unhealthy and too sedentary and insecure. I started eating better, and joined my neighborhood gym. One day, I ran to that gym (about .9 miles), and felt pretty okay. I did it again a few days later. It was on and off - I didn't have a consistent weekly mileage or anything - but something was different.

I no longer hated running.

That summer, the family (my dad, mom, sister and I) decided to run a Labor Day 10k together. Here we are at the start line:

(I'm in orange. Once again blacked out for privacy, although I'm sure my family wouldn't care, I still always feel weird about photos on the Internet).

Once again though, I under-trained, and once again, I did poorly. But I kind of had fun - my mom was kind enough to hang back with me, and we enjoyed the time together.

At the end of that race - which I finished knowing I could've done better - I decided that not only would I run another race, but that I would run the 15k that I failed miserably at the year before, only this time, I would kick its a$$. I would stick to a proper training schedule, and I would rock it.

And, I did! I totally blew my time away from 2010, and felt amazing afterward.

From that point on, it was like I caught a contagious running disease, and the only cure was more running. I decided to sign up a half-marathon, and then to sign up for the Chicago Marathon in October 2012. I planned a training schedule for the half, and stuck to it. And even the long runs and the sucky runs that I really didn't want to do, I finished knowing that it was all for a greater good - to make it to that finish line, preferably in one piece.

Last Saturday, May 5, I ran the half-marathon. Remember that best friend since kindergarten that I convinced to run cross country with me? Well, I convinced her to run the Kenosha Half-Marathon with me, too :) Here we are at the start line:

Looking a little nervous, and also a little sleepy. But we finished, and both of us blew our goal times out of the water. This is me nearing the finish line, just after they've called my name over the loud speaker:

It was the most amazing feeling to hear my name at the finish - like it made the whole experience more real. I really just ran 13.1 miles, and now all these people know my name.

My friend and I felt like superheroes, so naturally, we took this picture:

And I still feel like a superhero, a few days later. That is what running can do - it can make you feel like a superhero every once in a while, even when the rest of your life is pretty ordinary.

Running consistently has equaled weight loss for me, sure. And that's terrific. But it's become about so much more. I'm happier. I sleep better. I eat better, knowing that jelly beans don't really make a great pre-run snack. I'm more confident. I have built-in me time every time I go for a run. I also get to catch up with one of my best friends once a week on long runs.

And after I finish a race, I feel like my life is just a little more extraordinary than it was before.

Running has done so much for me, I feel bad hating it for as long as I did!

And now... on to the marathon!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BABY_GIRL69 5/8/2012 10:26PM

    That is wonderful!! God bless & continued success!! Dee

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SCOTTPILGRIM 5/8/2012 8:31PM

    Way to go!!

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OPTIMIST1948 5/8/2012 8:27PM

    1) Everyone knows that little kids only have 2 speeds: off and RUN!
2) I love the Superhero picture.
3) I generally love the tone of this blog. Its hopeful optimism and the message that "Yes you can do it!"

Thank you so much for sharing.

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VEGFAERY 5/8/2012 5:39PM

    Great job! I love that you have been friends for so long! :D

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ERICADAWN1986 5/8/2012 5:15PM

    Amazing. Love the pics!

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ANIMAL_L0VER 5/8/2012 5:00PM

    This is great to hear! I'm glad that you found something you liked, even if it took you a long time to actually like it. :o)

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A running superhero

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

This morning, NPR featured the following short article on their website:

To paraphrase, they featured this photo:

and talked a bit about that historic Boston Marathon 45 years ago, when Katherine Switzer entered the race without revealing her gender, and completed it in 4 hours, 20 minutes, despite being nearly dragged off the course by the race's organizer.

Every time I look at that photo, I get goose bumps. I am so inspired by her drive and bravery, knowing that she would likely encounter obstacles but entering the race anyway. And I am so grateful for the path that she forged for the rest of us female runners, up to the challenge of races and eager to prove it.

Yesterday, my husband - seeing me geared up to go for a run - said "You look like a superhero." I have a flair for the dramatic, so I replied - while putting on my sunglasses in a dramatic fashion, of course - "I AM a superhero. I am... RUNNING GIRL!"

And I kind of felt like a superhero, running five miles faster than I have in several years. But I think the ORIGINAL running superhero is Switzer - running a race she wasn't supposed to run, and proving to the skeptics that it could be done.

All she needed was a cape!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ANIMAL_L0VER 4/3/2012 2:50PM

    Oh my goodness! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this!!! It's an amazing story that needs to be spread far and wide. Keep running, Running Girl. :o)

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