Monday, September 22, 2014

My fifth and final act (hopefully)

It has been a very very long time since I've posted to this blog - this is only my third post since the beginning of March - but I've decided that it's time for me to come back and finish this thing that I started four years ago.

As you know, in fall 2010 I decided to get my ass into gear and get healthy.  I've come a long way, but I still have a ways to go before I hit my final goal.  As I sit here, I weigh 230 pounds.  I'm 80 pounds lighter than when I started, but yet I'm 30 pounds away from my ultimate goal of 200.  At my lightest, I got down to 215, but it was never sustained for more than a week.

Here are how my last four years have gone:

2010 - 2011: lost 65 pounds
2011 - 2012: sustained loss until summer 2012 when I regained 10 pounds
2012 - 2013: Lost that 10 pounds, plus an additional 25 for a total loss of 90 pounds.
2013 - Fall 2014: Sustained my 90 pound loss until the summer when I regained 10 pounds.

As you can see, I've maintained the majority of my weight loss, with just a few minor set backs.  Considering how many people who have lost large amounts of weight gain it all back and then some, I'm quite proud of my accomplishments.  However, these last couple of months I am just not happy with where I am at currently.  I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and have allowed myself to get into my own head.

Unfortunately the last couple of months my work required a lot more of my time than normal and finding time to exercise was pretty much impossible.  Now I feel as though I'm starting from scratch physically, which just frustrates me to no end.

I am still registered for the Avengers Half Marathon in November and I'm still debating whether or not to do it.  I feel as though if I can get myself back up to be able to run 10 miles before the race, then I will do it.  If not, then I won't.  I will work hard to get to that goal, however if I don't reach it, I won't beat myself up about it.  Health and my goal weight are the ultimate finish line, not the one in Disneyland.

In order for me to reach my goal of 200 pounds, I'm going to go back to basics.  No more DietBets, no more low-carb quick fixes.  I'm going back to what worked for me in the beginning: eating right, counting calories and exercise.  I haven't been doing all three of these for the past 2-3 months and I feel it.

So starting tomorrow, I'm entering the fifth and final act of this weight loss journey.  I don't care how long it takes me, but I won't finish until I see at least 200 on the scale.

I can do it.  Now, I just need to get my ass in gear.  I know that it's going to suck for the first couple of weeks, and I'm going to get very frustrated with myself, but I need to just keep moving onward so the scale can move downward.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Edinburgh Half Marathon 2014 Recap - Or How I Became a Half Marathoner the Hard Way

Hello all!  I thought I would end my blogging hiatus for a moment to post a not-so-quick recap of my half marathon experience.  I kind of got a bit long winded, for that I apologize...  Or, maybe I don't.  Either way, here you go!!

Back in September 2010, when I started my path to live a healthier lifestyle, I never (in a million years!) would have ever thought that I would run a half marathon.  I mean, it wasn’t even a pipe dream.  I simply had never even contemplated running any sort of long distance.  Ever.  I think I can contribute this mostly to the fact that I couldn’t even run for 30 seconds, let alone hours at a time!

Then, once I caught the running bug after about 4 months, the idea of running longer distances crept into my head.  These were still merely dreams, but I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to run a half marathon?  Hell, maybe even one day a marathon?”  After a few months of running, I bit the bullet and signed up for my “first” half marathon – the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  Now, when I signed up for the race, I was unemployed and had all the time in the world that I could devote to training.  Then a great thing happened, although not for my running…  I got a job - A job that would take up a LOT of my time in the first few months.  My training began to fall to the wayside and after a particularly bad 10k race, I gave up on any notion of running the Brooklyn Half that year and also gave up on running for an entire year.

After my weight loss stalled and I realized that the only exercise I had found to be successful (for me…) was running, I decided to give it another try.  The journey back to building up my stamina was a long and tedious one, however after only 4 months of running again the idea of finishing a half marathon crept back into my head.  I jumped the gun prematurely and signed up for my “second” half marathon, the Walt Disney World Princess Half Marathon.  It was going to be in February 2013.  After only a couple of weeks of training I quickly realized that I was in no way prepared for any long distance running, and so instead I focused on frequency instead of distance.  From the Fall of 2012 – Summer 2013 I ran 4-6 times a week and once again proved my theory that running was the most effective exercise for me to continue to lose weight.  I lost 30+ pounds that year.   By the end of that year I was still struggling with longer distances and with the idea of a half marathon still in the back of my head, I decided to sign up for a 10K race and recruited the help of my friend Abby.  She had completed numerous half marathons and was going to run the NYC marathon that fall and did so by using Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk method.  I decided to ask Abby to run with me for the race and my eyes were opened!  I had always thought that I needed to run straight without any walk breaks to be considered a “runner” and boy was I wrong.  By running and walking in a set ratio, you were actually utilizing two different muscle groups, instead of just the one that you use for running.  By doing so, you tire out your muscles more slowly and therefore enable yourself to run longer.  Once I discovered how much better I felt after runs by doing this, I was hooked!  Now all I had to do was find my next half marathon to sign up for!

I knew that this year of the tour had two breaks in its schedule – a three week break over Christmas and New Years (not gonna happen, plus not really running season) and then a week off right before Memorial Day.  I had already made tentative plans to travel to London during that week and so thought “what the hell?” and began looking to see if there were any races during the week I was there.  I was thinking I would be lucky to find a 5K, or maybe even a 10K but low and behold, the Edinburgh Marathon and Half Marathon was the Sunday of my week off.  I immediately contacted my friend Jamie, who is a running guru and had always said that he wanted to run my first half with me (and who also happens to live in London!).  He decided to cancel his plans to run the London Marathon and instead signed up for the Edinburgh Marathon.  With a friend by my side I decided, once and for all, that I would FINALLY complete a Half Marathon.

Starting just a few weeks after returning to tour from the Christmas break, I began my training schedule.  It was a bit grueling at times, considering for the first six weeks back we were playing anywhere from 3-5 cities every week.  I was at the mercy of the hotel gyms and the quality of their treadmills.  Slowly but surely I added mileage and I was feeling good.  I even managed to finally break my distance record.  Then, because it’s just my luck, I got injured.  I fell off a curb outside of our theater’s stage door and did something (still don’t know what!) to my left ankle.  Thankfully it wasn’t the ankle that has the metal plate and five screws in it as that would have probably been a tad bit more problematic, however it did set me back enough as it was.  I wasn’t able to put weight on my foot for 48 hours and didn’t run for a full two weeks.  Feeling a bit deflated, I got back into my training routine as best I could.  Slowly but surely I was feeling more and more like normal.  Then the tour headed to Florida for about six weeks.  Since all of my training had been inside on treadmills at this point, I knew that I needed to make the best of the warmer weather and immediately began running outside as much as I could.  Ugh, that was an interesting transition!  Going from climate controlled (for the most part…) hotel gyms to running outside in the hot and humid Florida air?  It took a bit to get used to it, but finally I felt like I could attempt a long run.  Week after week I was adding mileage and breaking my distance record.  I was feeling great – so strong and confident.  Every run felt even better than the last.  Then came my scheduled 13 miler.  That confidence was going to be shattered, never to truly be regained.

My 13 mile run was spent in the wee morning hours my final Sunday in Jacksonville, FL.  By the time I left at 6:30 it was already over 70 degrees and probably around 80% humidity.  I had to fight for every mile that morning.  I told myself that I needed a bad run to be able to truly recognize the good ones.  But, inside my confidence was shot.  If my training run was that bad, how was the actual race going to go?  I still had two weeks before I was to head to London, and while I did continue to run during those weeks, I never did anything more than 6.5 miles.  I just couldn’t bring myself to attempt anything longer for fear that it would be another bad run and would wipe out what little confidence I had left.

My days in London before I headed up to Edinburgh were amazing.  I crammed as much as I could into those three days, and still couldn’t even scratch the surface.  I fell in love with the city, just like I knew I would.  Then on Friday I began my long journey up to Edinburgh.  It was a long train ride, but a beautiful one.  I’m glad I decided to go by train, so I could at least catch a glimpse of the Scottish and English countryside.  After my arrival into town I told myself that I was going to take it easy and just casually sightsee, but believe me… once you start looking at the sights in Edinburgh, it’s hard to stop!  What a beautiful, old city.  The architecture in both the Old and New Town was just amazing.  So much history and just beautifully picturesque.

Saturday I knew that I needed to give my legs as much rest as I could, but I still wanted to sightsee.   Unfortunately, this meant that I had to cut out a couple of things I had wanted to do, like climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat, but the whole reason for my being in Edinburgh was the Half Marathon and that needed to be my top priority.  After meeting up with Jamie and his boyfriend Dan for some  
untraditional carb loading (Chinese food, it’s works too!) I headed back to my hotel room to stretch, rest and evidently have a panic attack.

I began to worry that because it had been over three weeks since my 13-mile run, that I wasn’t actually prepared.  And that run was atrocious!  How could I trust my body could actually do it?  People kept telling me that I could do it, and that I had it “in the bag” but I just couldn’t bring myself to believe them.  I didn’t believe in myself, how could they?

I frantically started texting my friend Corey back home and asked him to calm me down.  He gave me the best bit of advice, and something that no one had actually said to me – “remember to breathe.”  I went to sleep that evening feeling better, although still not 100% convinced I could do it.

I woke up at the bright and early hour of 5 ready to tackle this race, and quite honestly?  To just get it over with!  I was so ready to be on the other side of this race.  I was ready to say that I had done it, rather than say that I was preparing for it.  I was ready to call myself a Half-Marathoner. 

Unfortunately the weather was not the kindest it could have been – it was chilly and rainy as the time for the race drew closer and closer.  Jamie and Dan came to see me off at the beginning of the race, and wish me luck.  And then, before I knew it – it started!

I knew that I would be okay for the first half of the race, since I had managed to run at least 6.5 miles a couple of times since my 13 miler.  After that though, I wasn’t sure…  As I ran through the streets of Edinburgh, I was easily distracted by the sights as I ran past them.  Holyrood Palace, the Scottish palace of the Queen.  Arthur’s Seat.  Just the houses that lined the streets!  It was all very picturesque!  I was so distracted by the sights that I didn’t even realize that I was (for me, anyway…) flying.  During my training, I was pretty consistently at around a 13:15 mile.  I was content with this.  I have hopes of one day being faster, but for my first half marathon, I was just hoping to finish under 3 hours.  For the first 3 or 4 miles, I was running at 11:30-11:50.  That was SPEEDY!  At around the 5 mile marker, I caught my first glimpse of the sea.  We ran along the coast for probably the next four miles or so and even though it was windy, I loved it.  Just so beautiful and calm to watch the waves crashing as I ran past.  Miles 9 and 10 were really rough. We turned off the coast and actually were hitting a part of the course where the runners ahead of me had turned around and were near the finish line.  So, as I saw the mile 9 marker, they were looking at the mile 13 marker.  It was a bit rough knowing that I had two miles to go before I was able to turn around, but I trudged on.  My pace had slowed considerably and I was starting to need more frequent, or longer walking breaks.  My left foot was becoming numb and my right pinky toe was throbbing.  But… I had made it this far.  Barring a serious injury, I was going to finish.  That was just my goal – to finish.  At this point, and actually at several earlier points in the race, I remembered the advice to “just breathe.”  Each time, it helped.  I would focus on each breath in and each breath out, then I would run.

At about the Mile 11 marker, I started to see the front runners for the full marathon because they had started after us and were on the same course as us for the first ten miles or so.  It was so inspiring to see these people who looked like they were practically flying on their feet.  Then, I saw what was the highlight of my run – Jamie!  I was around Mile 12 when I saw Jamie near the front of the full marathon runners.  He slowed down enough to give me an amazing hug and ask me how I was.  It was enough to get me through the last mile of the race and feel strong while doing it.   I finished the race with an unofficial time of 2 hours and 53 minutes (as of when I posted this, the official results have not been released by the Edinburgh Marathon officials).  That's 7 minutes less than the 3 hour goal I had set for myself.  I'll take it.

I thought when I finally crossed the finish line I was going to burst into tears, or some other extreme show of emotion.  What did I do?  I kept walking.  I was kind of numb, both physically and emotionally.  It didn’t really hit me that I had actually done it.  To be quite honest, I still don’t know if it’s hit me.  I got my medal placed around my neck, fought to find a t-shirt in my size, and caught my bus back to my hotel. I guess I thought that I would feel like a completely different person when I finished, I don't know... 

As I sit here and reflect upon this event that was almost four years in the making, I realize that there are so many people that helped to get me here at some point along the way.  People that pushed and encouraged me.  People that make me feel a winner almost every day of my life.  And so I’ve decided that I’m going to dedicate each mile of the race to them.  In no particular order, they are:

  •  Mile One: My family.  No real explanation needed. 
  • Mile Two: Abby and Beth – these two lovely ladies are two of the most wonderful people I know.  Beth has been by my side through the darkest of days and Abby taught me that I could actually do this.
  • Mile Three: Jason, Trisha & EJ – who tried to teach me that I was beautiful at any size.  And who didn’t say I told you so when I finally figured it out for myself.
  • Mile Four:  Matt Sherr – my running buddy for the past year and a half who wouldn’t take my excuses.
  • Mile Five – Kelly, Susan, Andy, Ben and the rest of my MDQ family - For putting up with me talking of very little else for the past six months and constantly telling me how proud I make them and that I inspire them.  You inspire me too!!!
  • Mile Six – Emily Ho Sandford – for being my inspiration to get healthy in the first place.
  • Mile Seven – Liz Mahan – For being there for me anytime of the day or night. 
  • Mile Eight – Meredith Clark – One day we will run a half marathon together.  Amazon women unite.
  • Mile Nine – Jamie – For always giving me such wonderful advice and being a cheerleader.  You telling me you wanted to run my first half with me pushed me to do this.  Truly.
  • Mile Ten: Corey – for keeping me sane these last couple of months.  And for the best advice.  You are the human Quaalude.
  • Mile Eleven: Brian Kallaher – For the constant encouragement, expertise and inappropriate comments.
  • Mile Twelve: Jeremy Barger & Jeremy Striffler – For the two Jeremys that I reunited with over facebook and who I couldn’t go another day without them in my life.  Constant streams of support. 
  • Mile Thirteen (and 1/10th) – Myself.  Because I have learned that I need to love myself and be my own best friend.  At the end of the day, I did this for myself.  To prove I am officially no longer the old Maia.  I love myself.  I am proud of myself.  I can do this, and I can do anything I set my mind to.  I am stronger than I give myself credit for. 

I think the reason I don't feel really any different following the race is because I realize now that I was always this kick ass and this awesome.  I didn't need that medal around my neck to make me a strong person - I am a strong person!

I am Maia, and I am fierce. 

Oh... and I'm also running the Disneyland Avengers Half Marathon in November.  Because evidently, one half marathon isn't enough for this girl!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

My name is Maia and I'm addicted to carbs and sugar

Hi there friends!  Long time no see!

I said that I would come back and write another blog entry eventually and here I am!

The first couple of months of 2014 have been interesting ones.  As everyone is well aware, it's been a brutal winter, and I don't just mean with the weather.

My January and February started off with six weeks of an insane tour schedule.  My tour was playing at least three cities a week, and usually four or five.  I was on a bus almost everyday, and when you are on the road, what's to eat?  If you said, CRAP, you'd be correct.  I was not eating great, and only exercising when I could squeeze it in.  Needless to say, I did not feel great towards the end of February.

But we finally hit a couple of longer sit down engagements (a week in Omaha and two weeks in Denver, I felt like I was on vacation!) where I could restart things a bit.  It just so happened that our week in Omaha coincided with my boss needing to go on a restricted carb diet ten days prior to some medicals tests he needed to have done.  As a show of support, and also to kind of force myself into "reset mode" I decided to follow the diet along with him.  Basically, it was Atkins.  He had to try and stay between 40-50 net carbs per day.  If you google how to calculate net carbs you will get a slew of different answers and honestly it made our heads spin, so the easiest formula we could find was this:  Take the total number of carbohydrates per serving and subtract the dietary fiber and half of the sugar.  That will roughly give you the net carbs.  I know it's supposed to be the sugar alcohols, but the only foods that list sugar alcohols are official Atkins food and we refused to only eat that for ten days.

Let me tell you, it's not easy!  I LOVE oatmeal in the mornings.  That pretty much went by the wayside!  Cutting out the bread and pasta wasn't really that difficult, but there were definitely times I had a hankering for even a lean cuisine pizza.

The diet did earn some impressive results (ten pounds in ten days...) and I learned a lot about myself.  One, I feel so much better when I'm eating better.  Two, I cannot live on a low carb lifestyle completely.  Three, I snacked way too much before.  Four, I have an unhealthy attitude towards carb and sugar.

As I continue in my half marathon training, I know that I need carbs to fuel my body properly, especially as I am now getting into weekly record distances for me.  Last week I ran my longest ever at 6.5 miles and this week I need to top it at 7.5 miles.  My body will need the energy that complex carbs can provide, and since my training is my number one priority, this is a no brainer.

However, this is the decision I have made that I want to try and stick to as best I can.  I am giving up refined sugar.  Up until this point in my journey, I still ate what I wanted, I just ate it in moderation and counted calories.  Well, I think it's time that I acknowledge that sugar is not good for me and that I don't actually need it in my life.  I'm not saying I'll never eat sugar again, because that's unrealistic, but I'm saying it's going to be a rare occasion, like a slice of pie on my birthday or something.

The other thing I'm doing is that I'm going to be restrictive on my carbs on my non-running days (going back to the 40-50 net carb idea) but on my running days, I will not track my carb intake.  I'm not going to go overboard and eat like an entire loaf of bread or anything, but I will eat oatmeal with my egg whites in the morning, or I will have a sandwich on whole grain bread or something like that.

I know that this will not be easy.  As I sit here and type thing my stomach is telling my mind that it wants to eat everything in the entire world.  I'm craving crackers and peanut butter.  I'm trying to convince myself that I don't actually need to make a trip down to the hotel gift shop and buy Cheez-Its.  I just need to adjust to this new way of thinking.  I want to make it a lifestyle change, just like I did when I started this whole thing in the first place.  I need to reteach myself new habits.

I can do it.  I know that I can.  I've proven to myself time and time again that I'm able to accomplish so much more then I ever thought I would.

The real challenge will be over the next four weeks when we get back into the split weeks and one-nighters again.  My boss (who has also decided to continue with limiting his carb intake) and I have made a pact that we are going to try and stock up on a low-carb non-perishable food items when we arrive in Iowa on Monday.  We need to prepare ourself for "battle" better then we did in January and February.

This is one battle for which we WILL be the victors!!