Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Long and Winding Road

Lexipro 10 mg - take once daily for depression.

That's it. That tiny little pill. Just 10 milligrams. So small I don't even need a drink to get it down. That tiny little thing has made such a difference in my life in so many ways - kind of amazing for something so small.

To understand why that little pill has had such an impact on me, it helps to understand why I need it, both physiologically and personally.

Depression is an interesting disorder.  Unlike a lot of other illnesses or diseases, there are no real outward signs or symptoms.  You don't get a rash or a lump or some physical indication.  You don't walk into work and have your coworkers see your glassy eyes and red, snotty nose and hear your congested voice and tell you you should go home and get better.  It's not something that needs a bandage or leaves a scar.  No, it's just you, living your life and looking completely normal to everyone around you, all the while on the inside you're a complete disaster.

Depression is difficult for a lot of people who don't struggle with it to understand.  I think this is because everyone has bad days.  I can't relate to someone who has cancer or AIDS because I have never experienced anything like their pain and suffering and feeling of mortality.  But everyone has days where they just feel blah - maybe a bad day at work or bad news about a friend or family member.  Everyone has those days where they're just down in the dumps.  But for a lot of people, they wake up the next day and everything is back to normal.  Or at least, they know why they're having a bad day, and they know it is going to get better.

It isn't like that for people like me.  For people like me, it goes a lot deeper.  There is still a lot that isn't understood about clinical depression, the disorder.  The super dumbed down explanation is that we have a chemical imbalance in our brains that causes us to feel the symptoms of depression.  This is an oversimplification and probably not the most accurate explanation based on more recent research, but regardless, it comes down to something in our brains not working the same as in normal people.

And what are those symptoms?  Here's a list of a few, from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders...
Major depression significantly affects a person's family and personal relationships, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health.  Its impact on functioning and well-being has been compared to that of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes.
A person having a major depressive episode usually exhibits a very low mood, which pervades all aspects of life, and an inability to experience pleasure in activities that were formerly enjoyed. Depressed people may be preoccupied with, or ruminate over, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred.  In severe cases, depressed people may have symptoms of psychosis. These symptoms include delusions or, less commonly,hallucinations, usually unpleasant. Other symptoms of depression include poor concentration and memory (especially in those with melancholic or psychotic features), withdrawal from social situations and activities, reduced sex drive, and thoughts of death or suicide. Insomnia is common among the depressed.
I can go down that list and check most of those off.  Inability to experience pleasure in things that I normally like?  Yup, all the time.  Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness?  Oh yeah.  Withdrawal from social situations and activities?  If you are reading this, you're probably a close friend of mine - think back to a time where we were supposed to do something fun with a group of friends, and then all of the sudden I just didn't show up, didn't answer the phone, didn't respond to texts.  This is why.

That is the crux of the problem for a lot of people today.  There is no outward indication of the illness, and the symptoms are very similar to things that everybody experiences at some point in their lives.  This leads to a lot of "stop being so weak, everybody has bad days - just suck it up and move on."  If only it were that easy.  See, some people deal with these things because something went wrong at work or they got a call that their grandma is sick.  They stay in, eat way too much ice cream, maybe get drunk, and then they come to grips with whatever is causing it and get back in the saddle.  Me, I get these symptoms for no goddamn reason at all.  I'll just be cruising along and then all of the sudden it hits me like a Mack truck.  I'll even have times when I had a really good day at work and I get home and like that I'm just done.  And then it just becomes a destructive cycle.  I feel like shit so I just mope around the house, and usually eat a lot of shitty food.  Then I feel even worse for just laying around and eating like shit, so I just spiral deeper and deeper down, all the while ignoring my friends and family.  This will go on for days, sometimes even weeks, and then all of the sudden, I wake up one morning and it's gone and I'm back to normal.  I've been dealing with cycles like this for most of my adult life.  Sometimes it isn't too bad, and I can feel it coming on and head it off before it becomes so bad that I can't overpower the feelings of malaise.  Other times it's bad and I pretty much stop being a functioning member of society.  Oh, I'll usually get on with my required obligations, although I have skipped classes and called in to work because of it, but I'll be getting by at a bare minimum.

But things all came to a head one day in January 2012.  I was living in Dallas and working as an airline pilot and I had to start a trip this particular day.  I had been feeling pretty shitty for a while, but I woke up this morning and it was the worst it had ever been.  I didn't have to go into work until pretty late, so I was planning on getting up and doing other stuff before I had to leave for the airport.  And I woke up early.  But getting out of bed was impossible.  And it wasn't just being lazy.  I literally could not make myself get out of bed to do anything.  I was hungry.  I was thirsty.  I had to go to the bathroom.  I had a whole list of things I wanted to accomplish that morning.  None of it was enough to make me get out of bed.  All I wanted was to just lay there and be.  Just be the bare minimum you had to be to still be considered a living human being.  I couldn't force myself to move the muscles needed to throw off the cover and get out of bed, because I knew that once my feet hit the floor, I would have to go on existing and contributing to society.  And it wasn't that I wanted to kill myself or be dead or anything like that.  I just did not want to do anything.  I couldn't do anything.  I had to have my girlfriend call in sick to work for me.  And that's when I decided that I needed help.  But in January 2012 I was 32 years old, and I had been dealing with depression for most of my adult life.  Why did it take so long?  To answer that we have to go back a bit, all the way to the summer of 2001.

I was going into my senior year of college. Things were going well, I was successful, and I was having a good time. I hadn't really had any problems with depression, yet I was still aware of it and knew it could be lurking in my life, as it is something that both my parents deal with. But I had two distinct and big groups of friends in college - the pilots and the frat brothers. And I was only a 25 minute drive from home and my mom and a free meal and laundry. All in all, things were going along pretty well. But I wasn't feeling totally fulfilled with things. I studied aviation in college. I've always loved airplanes and I wanted to be a pilot for as long as I could remember. I've always been a good student as well, and I also enjoyed learning everything I could about things that interest me, so by the time I got to college, I already knew a ton about aviation. Now, I did learn quite a bit in college, but without sounding like a braggart, it really wasn't all that challenging. I wanted to do something that really worked my brain. I had a bunch of extra credits that I earned in high school, so I had a bunch of open space on my schedule, but the way my senior aviation science classes were laid out I couldn't graduate early. So I decided to pick up a minor in political science, something that also interested me. 

Then a bunch of crazies flew airplanes into buildings and the entire industry I was about to go into went to absolute shit. Layoffs were everywhere, entry level jobs were all gobbled up by the experienced workers who had gotten laid off, and prospects for people about to graduate looked bleak to say the least. So I did some soul searching and decided to take the LSAT and apply to law school. I'd been interested in politics and public policy and the law for quite some time, and I I wanted a challenge, law school would definitely provide one. Plus, as someone who went to college in the city where he grew up, it would give me a chance to experience living in another part of the country. So, in the fall of 2002, I started as a 1L at George Washington University Law School in Washington DC. It was shortly after that that my life started going to shit. 

Things started off pretty well. It was exciting to live in a new city, especially one with as much to offer as DC. Law school was great - I made some new friends and was really interested in the course materials. But somewhere along the way, things started heading south. I'm not sure if it was just one thing or a combination of things, but almost without realizing it, things had fallen into a pretty big mess. I was away from home for the first time in my life, so I didn't have my support group of friends and family. And I was doing something that was hard - harder than anything I had done before. That nasty thing that was lurking in my brain started to rear it's ugly head. I started getting those days where I just didn't want to do anything and where nothing was enjoyable. And try reading 100 pages of court opinions from the 19th century when you feel like that and see how that turns out for you. 

This just started a downward spiral. I was feelingike shit so I didn't do any studying. I wasn't studying so I felt stupid in class and had a sense of impending doom for finals. And because I felt stupid because I wasn't studying, I got even more depressed and wanted to study even less. Isn't it wonderful how that works?!?  Before I knew it I was so far behind in all my classes it was going to take a massive effort to get caught up. And I stared that mountain that I would need to climb to pass my finals in the face and I couldn't do it. I was too depressed and too miserable and I didn't have the strength to pick myself up and climb that mountain. So right around thanksgiving that fall, I dropped out and moved back home. 

At this point you may be asking why I didn't get professional and/or pharmaceutical help as soon as things started going down the toilet. Well this is where my life becomes a perfect storm of shitshow. See, the FAA doesn't allow pilots to take antidepressants or have a diagnosis of any sort of mental disorder. And while I wasn't working towards being a pilot for a living at this point, I hadn't ruled it out and regardless I wanted to still keep my medical certificate so I could fly as a hobby. So while deep down there was a part of me that realize that I needed help, my desire to keep flying outweighed that, at least at this point. So I just tried to power through it on my own. In hindsight probably not the smartest decision I've made in my life. 

So here I was, back in St. Louis, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was still feeling pretty shitty, and now I had a sense of failure from dropping out of law school piled on top of that. I was thinking about getting back to flying, but at this point I needed to get my instructor ratings in order to advance my career, which take a lot of work. And that just wasn't something that I couldn't make myself do. I thought about it. I talked about it. But I was so down in the dumps that I just couldn't do it. So I lived at home and mooched off my mom. I worked at the Home Depot for a few weeks but hated that and quit. I did a lot of self medication with booze and cigarettes. Basically I was just a big blob of blah. 

It took a long time, but I finally started coming out of it. I started eating healthier. I quit drinking and tried my hardest to cut back on the smoking. I joined a gym and started workin out. And as I spent many restless hours, I decided I wanted to go back to law school and finish what I started. I was still really drawn to the field and I wanted to prove that I could do it. So I applied for readmission and got accepted. I got a job at the gym to last until it was time to go back. I got healthy and I felt great about things. 

My second attempt at law school went better than the first. I graduated, so that in itself is an improvement. But it wasn't nearly as good as it could have been. I didn't have one massive, dropout inducing depressive episode like I did the first time. Instead, it was three years of ups and downs, good days and bad. Some just so so days and some really bad days. I had a lot of really good times too, and lot of incredible friends. But unfortunately the bad days took their toll in ways that were much more damning for my future. The bad days make challenging tasks nearly insurmountable. So my grades suffered because my study habits were awful, and I ended up with an average GPA instead of the above average one I know I was capable of.  And I didn't get involved in as many activities as I should have, which I regret. 

While I had some really good times in law school part II, I had enough bad days that I decided to get some help. But I still had my FAA medical hanging over my head, so I didn't get the help I really needed. I saw a therapist, but I paid in cash and kept my insurance out of it. We both knew that I had depression, but we never wrote it down and I was never officially diagnosed with it. And I never got any medication. It helped, but there were still plenty of bad days. And in my third and final year of law school, those bad days conspired to really change my path for the next few years and beyond. 

My third year should have been all about finding a job after graduation. Most of my friends already had jobs lined up, because most of them had gotten offers from the firms that they worked at the previous summer. They got those jobs because they worked hard and had good grades and put a ton of effort into applying for summer jobs at the kind of firms that typically extend offers to summer clerks who do well.  I put almost no effort into applying for summer jobs and lucked into a position at a small aviation law boutique that didn't have any openings for full time work after graduation.  So here I was going into year three, needing a job by the time I graduate, and needing to figure out where that job was going to be so I knew what bar exam to take.  But, like a broken record, when you feel miserable, you don't want to put the effort into figuring your life out, so you coast.  And, you rationalize.  Rationalization became one of my best tools for dealing with depression.  Instead of working hard and accomplishing what I need to get done, I would just come up with excuses for taking the easy way out.  And so instead of finding a job, and despite the fact that there were a lot of subjects in school that I really liked, I started rationalizing in my mind that I didn't like this whole law thing and I didn't really want to be a lawyer after all.  In my depressed mind, it was easier to just fall back on what was comfortable as opposed to forging ahead into the unknown.  So by the middle of my last semester, I had convinced myself that I was done with the legal field and I was going back to my true love of flying airplanes.  And, even better, if I wasn't going to be a lawyer then I didn't have to take the bar.  So great - I was all set to coast out the rest of the semester and head on back to St. Louis and get back into my nice, comfortable airplane.

Except even that didn't go quite as planned.  See, while defaulting back to airplanes was easier than pursuing a legal career, there was still the fact that I needed more training before I could get a flying job.  I needed to get my flight instructor certifications, which is quite a daunting task that requires a lot of work - it's probably the most time consuming and workload intense of all the pilot certifications.  And while I had done a fairly good job of convincing miserable me that this is what I wanted to do, on the good days, deep down inside, there was still a part of me that longed to be back in DC with all my friends, prepping for the bar and getting ready for a career as a lawyer.  And when I thought about that, I was flooded with feelings of failure and uncertainty about my decision which, guess what, just exacerbated my depression.  So I spent the better part of the summer trying to figure out how to clear the hurdle that was my flight instructor training, and it was a toss up from one day to the next whether my lack of progress was because I felt like shit and didn't want to do the work, or if I was unsure whether I had even made the right decision about what to do with myself.  This went on for months, until I finally sucked it up and enrolled in an accelerated training course that pretty much forced me to buckle down and get my instructor training finished.  Shortly after that I got hired on at St. Louis U as an instructor at my alma mater.

I was at SLU for a little over 3 years and it was all in all a pretty successful time.  My students were succeeding, I was offered chances to take on more responsibility and new tasks, and I got a promotion fairly soon after I started working there.  And most importantly of my time at SLU, I met Sara.  Having her around really made an impact on me because she made me a lot happier a lot of the time.  I still had my ups and downs, but living with her I had a lot more ups, and the downs weren't so low.  I used my success and my general happiness to rationalize my decision - that this is what I wanted to do and I would have hated being a lawyer.  And every time I talked to one of my law school friends and they had a complaint about their job, I used that as a rationalization too - I would tell myself that I made the right decision because all my friends hated their law jobs.  But my mind still drifted back that way, and sometimes I still questioned my decision.  As time went on, I decided that I wanted to take the bar exam.  It would be closure, I told myself, or a fallback plan.  And while it was a ton of work, I managed to have more good days than bad and passed the exam.

So now, here I was - freshly minted attorney in the state of Missouri.  Except now I had to do something about it - I had to find a job.  What a daunting task, that I made even more so by the fact that I was really concerned about having to explain the 3 year break between graduation and when I was looking for legal jobs.  In a very convenient turn of events for depressed me, it was right about this time that the airlines started hiring pilots like crazy.  Screw all that effort I put into taking the bar, I told myself, I'll just apply for an airline job.  I got hired on at the first airline that I interviewed at and subsequently made a really shortsighted decision - in order to save some money, I decided to not pay my bar dues and let my membership lapse.  In the world of literature, I believe they call this foreshadowing.  Less than a year later and were at that scene from above where I'm curled up in the fetal position in bed and Sara is calling in sick from work for me.  Yeah, a year into my career as an airline pilot, my depression got to the point where I needed to do something about it.  I knew what that decision meant - that based on the FAA's stance on pilots on antidepressants, it would mean the end of my career as an airline pilot, at least for the foreseeable future.  But it had gotten that bad.  It had gotten bad enough that I realized that no job was worth living the way I was living and struggling with sometimes debilitating depression like I was.  I saw a doctor and got my prescription filled and swallowed that little white pill that put me on a medical leave of absence that would eventually become permanent.  But the medication started working shockingly fast.  In a matter of days I already felt better.  Granted, I now had to decide what I was going to do with my life, and this time I didn't have my aviation safety net like I'd had in the past, but at least facing this challenge didn't send me spiraling to the depths of despair.

So now I was in a position where I needed a job, I couldn't fly airplanes anymore, and my bar membership was suspended for not paying dues or taking my continuing education credits.  Basically, I had 7 years of higher education, 2 degrees, and nearly $150,000 of student loan debt, and I couldn't work in either field.  You almost have to stop and admire that - it takes a special kind of talent to work yourself into that kind of hole.  And the cherry on top was that by this point Sara and I had decided that we were moving to Seattle when our lease was up, so I was applying for jobs 1,000 miles away.  But I could tell the medication was working, because in the mean time I got a job at a movie theatre to help pay the bills, working for minimum wage and surrounded by a bunch of high schoolers, with a law degree from a top 20 school in my back pocket and I wasn't miserable when I got home every night.  Those are some powerful drugs.

We got to Seattle a little over a year ago, and about a month after that I got my current job at Enterprise.  Renting cars wasn't something I dreamed about doing when I was a kid, but it was a stable job that paid the bills.  Granted there were times when I absolutely hated it and almost quit, but I managed to stick with it for a little over a year now.  But I guess things are going pretty well in my life - I've been on my medication regularly for a while, I've been eating better and I've been exercising.  I'm happy and healthy and not having too many down days.  And its really making me want more.  I go to my job everyday, selling upgrades and the extra insurance, and it doesn't make me depressed or miserable.  No, it makes me angry and hungry.  I have so much more potential, and I can do so much more than this job.  I'm a smart guy with a ton of education and there's no reason I can't be doing something awesome.  I just have to go get it, and I'm finally ready.  I've had years of riding the depression roller coaster.  This past year, while not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, has been comfortable.  But now, I don't want comfortable.  I'm climbing up that ladder to the high dive platform, and I'm just about ready to dive in.  I don't know for sure where I'll end up, but I do know that I've had enough of taking the easy way and enough rationalization.  Now I want the challenge, and I'm finally ready to take it head on.

I've let this post sit here for a few weeks while I've ruminated on it. In that time I've taken steps to get my bar membership back in good standing and look for new jobs. I think the feelings that I've felt the most in that time are frustration, impatience and excitement. Frustration that I let my depression have such an impact on me for so long for such a silly reason. Frustration that it's taken me this long to come to terms with everything. Frustration that the excuses I made for not working hard and being as successful as I should have been in law school also came around to keep me from getting back in the legal field when I lost my flying job. And impatience because now that I've realized all of this, I want things to be different immediately, if not sooner. But mainly excitement for what the future holds. Who knows what will happen, but I'm excited to find out. 

And if any of you know of anyone looking to hire a relatively inexperienced attorney in Seattle, give them my info. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Long Half Marathon Update

Figured it's about time for a half marathon training update since were about two weeks out and I haven't posted an update in quite a while. And I would love to be able to that things are going really well and I'm filled with confidence and I feel great. I would love to tell you that, but I can't. 

In fact, as I sit here writing this, I'm fairly confident that I can already tell you what my official time will be - DNS. 

For you non-runners out there, that stands for "Did Not Start." Yes, the white flag is out, and I'm about to run it up the flagpole. And I couldn't feel better about it. 

Here's something a lot of you may not know about me - I have a big time tendency to discover something new that I like and then immediately go all out. And that's exactly what I did with running. I started doing it and enjoying it and then I started reading the magazines and the blogs and I wanted to be just like all those runners. That's another thing I do - measure myself against other people who are really an apples to oranges comparison to me. Mix in the desire for instant gratification that we all have today, and it's a recipe for disaster. 

I read all the blogs and I wanted to be just like them, immediately. Just like the girl who ran her 50th marathon a few months ago in my city. Or the guy who ran a half and a full marathon in two different cities on the same day last weekend. Or all the Ironmen. I'm envious of them and I want to be like them now, so I set goals to do what they do. What I don't stop to think about is that all those people probably struggled through 3 mile runs for years before they got to the point they are at today. They've put in a ton of work to accomplish those things. I've only been doing this for a couple of years on and off. 

I decided to do a half marathon because I wanted to be a guy who can run 13 miles. I felt I had to be able to do that to fit in to some club - that I would be a real runner if I did that. And I thought it would be a way for me to work up my mileage. On paper that was a good plan. I found a training program that started from about where I was and slowly worked up to 13.1. And I could get it done by December 1. 

But like they say in sports, the games aren't played on paper. In real life, I should have known better. I was starting from a point where yes, I could in fact run 3 miles, but it was a struggle. And I haven't been on a scale recently, and although I'm definitely smaller than when I started this all a few years ago, I'm sure I'm still north of 200 lbs, and not just by a couple pounds. In short, there's no way I was ready to try this. But I wanted to be in that club. I wanted to feel like a "real runner" and to be able to dazzle the world with the first of many 13 mile race reports. 

I know now that's not going to happen, at least any time soon. What happened was that my training started out ok. Went pretty well for a while, actually. I was running 3 times a week and cross training. The strength training wasn't as regular but everything else was good. And the mileage was increasing. And then increasing beyond what is pleasant or enjoyable for me. Then the cross training stopped. And the runs got less regular. 

On top of all of that, it started getting colder and darker. I knew that was coming of course, but I didn't know how much it would affect me. The cold I didn't mind, but I definitely learned that I really don't like running in the dark. And with the short Seattle days and my work schedule, daylight runs became almost impossible. My runs got to be fewer and more infrequent. And I wasn't even close to making the mileage gains I needed to make. But still I told myself that I was going to do it. I threw out any notion of a goal time, and convinced myself that I was ok with a fair amount of walking. But I was going to finish that race. 

Then I went on vacation. Twelve days in Europe with Sara and her family. I told myself I was going to run over there. I took my shoes and running clothes with me. I even managed to run/walk for 4 miles through the Tiergarden in Berlin. But being a tourist and food and bier (lots of bier) took precedence and that one run was all I did. 

So I found myself back in the states with three weeks left to the race, and maybe 5 runs under my belt in the past month. I told myself if I just buckled down I could still do it, and I wrote out a plan. It was aggressive, but I told myself it was just for three weeks. And then every time I went to run, I couldn't make myself do it. I told myself I was exhausted from my new schedule at work, or that I had to get sleep for an early morning, or that I hadn't taken my medicine that day. But none of those were valid reasons why I couldn't get out there. 

The real reason was it just wasn't fun anymore. I just didn't want to go. 

Don't get me wrong - I still really enjoy running and I still want to get healthy. But I was so far behind in my half marathon training plan that I felt like I had to go out and run 8-10 miles every day to get back on track. It had become so overwhelming of a task that it felt like a huge, daunting burden. I managed to struggle through 4 miles one day and was sore for two days later. It was just awful. All for some artificial measuring stick. 

So I talked to Sara about it and thought about just getting through it. I mean, the course is open for 7 hours - even if I walk a lot I can still get done in that amount of time. And I didn't want to waste the entry fee. Then I thought more about it last night and I thought about how I felt after a 4 mile run and I realized just how I would feel after 13 miles. And that isn't worth it. 

So I'm not going to run it. In hindsight, I shouldn't have signed up for it. I learned a lot about myself though. Like that I have a ways to go if I ever want to run a half marathon, and that's fine. And that I got into running to be healthy and I should make that my motivation. And it doesn't matter how many miles I can run compared to someone else. 

And now I'm going to go to bed and not worry about this anymore. Tomorrow I'll get up, and I have the morning free, so I may even go run. Or maybe not. And if I do, only as much as I want to. And just for me. I'm already looking forward to it. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I may not have been going all that fast this morning...

...but I was going faster than the people taking a smoke break outside the bar during the football games.  At 10:30 am.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Accidental Long Run

Had another running first the other day - my first "long run."  I wasn't even trying to do my long run - I was only scheduled for 3 miles and my long run was scheduled for Sunday.  But, since I'm a newbie in week 1 of a newbie half marathon training program, my long run coming up on Sunday was only a mile longer than my normal run on Thursday.  And, I ended up a little farther away from home than I planned on my run, so I was going to have to cover 4 miles to get home anyway.  Plus, I was feeling good and had a lot of downhill in front of me.  So...

It was the longest I've run pretty much ever.  And while my ass was dragging the last little bit, it felt absolutely amazing - the sense of satisfaction waaaaaay out weighed the fatigue.  My shirt was so drenched in sweat I could almost wring it out, and it was awesome.  

This is my "awesome" face.

Then I made a nice, healthy dinner to top it all off.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Half Marathon Training is Officially Underway!

Well, after a really shitty weekend where I was down in the dumps and a Monday that didn't start out too hot, I managed to pull myself out of my slump just in time to officially get my half marathon training underway this week. Thankfully, Monday only called for strength training and stretching, so there wasn't a ton I had to do. That was good, considering by the time I got around to it I was already running out of juice from some much needed apartment cleaning cross training. I haven't done strength training in well over a year so I wanted to ease back into it. I'm doing the 100 push-ups program and knocked out week 1 day 1 on Monday. I also found a 15 minute running focused stretching routine that I busted out as well. Not a ton of effort but at the same time I don't want to kill myself by diving too deep back into strength training.  And I'm glad too - I'm sore in places I haven't been sore in a while. 

And then on Tuesday shit got real serious. I knew Sara was going to be home right after work and we were going to go out, but I also had to get 3 miles in so...

That's right, I got up at 4:30 to go on a run. And it actually wasn't awful. It was cool and quiet and there weren't a ton of cars out. Plus I had a ton of energy for the rest of the day. And running past all the local bakeries at 5 am smells divine. 

So my training has officially begun. Today is either cross training or a short run, and based on the fact that I jacked up my bike like a dumbass over the weekend it will likely be either a long walk or a short run. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

OK, It's Time to Get Serious

So, I've been in a little bit of a half-assed rut recently.  My running has been half-assed, my healthy eating has been half-assed, my doing-anything-except-laying-around-and-reading-Star-Wars-books has been half assed.  It's time to light a fire under myself and start doing things whole-assed.  Next week is officially week 1 of my half marathon training, but I'm designating this upcoming week as week 0 and getting after it starting right now (well, technically after free burger day at 'Lil Woody's in Ballard,'s a holiday).  One of the main reasons I signed up for this race is to have a goal to work towards.  But this is not just any goal, this is a goal that is going to take everything I have to achieve, so it's going to force me to be super dedicated or I'll fail miserably.

The other times I've signed up for 5Ks as training motivators, it has helped, but I always knew that I could get through the race even if I wasn't religious about my training.  Not this time - I have a huge way to go to get from 3.1 to 13.1, so I really need to stick to my training plan.  That's not to say I'm going to be inflexible and not adapt if I feel sick or hurt or have one of those life gets in the way days.  But for the most part, barring exceptional circumstances, I'm going to try to make my workouts as concrete in my calendar as going to work.

And, as I know from just common knowledge and my past experience, I'm not going to have as much success if I just focus on exercise and still have Jack in the Box three times a week.  So the next 12 weeks are going to be about healthy eating and clean living too.  Which is not to say I'm not going to eat a cheeseburger or drink a beer between now and December 1.  I'm just going to try to tighten everything up, be more cognizant of portions, have fewer cheat meals, and cut back on the booze.  I'm going to be doing a lot of meal planning and not necessarily calorie counting per se but keeping track of what I eat to make sure what I think I'm eating closely resembles what I'm actually eating.

It's going to be a lot of work.  I still default to bad habits - so far this weekend I've had Jack in the Box twice, pizza twice, fried wings and tater tots, and a bunch of beer.  And I've ran a whopping 0 miles.  Another goal that I really hope to achieve is by being dedicated and sticking to this for the next 12 weeks I can start to really change some of those habits.  I know it's a lot to ask to change 33 years of bad habits in 3 months, but any inroads I can make will be a step in the right direction.

So now the rest of the day is going to be meal planning, grocery shopping and apartment cleaning...but not until I go out with a blaze of glory with my free 'Lil Wood

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Oh God, What Have I Done?!?

So I did something crazy on Sunday...

In case you can't tell, that's my registration for the Seattle half marathon. 

Yes, I am officially signed up to run my first half! On December 1st, I'll hopefully be knocking out 13.1 miles in and around downtown Seattle. I've been thinking about pulling the trigger on this for a while now, mainly as motivation for getting back into a steady workout routine. After my last race I've been sorta lazy. Seems like it's not quite a strong enough habit yet if I don't have a goal race on the horizon. Even just thinking about doing this race hasn't quite been enough, apparently, so I bit the bullet and pulled the trigger. 

Then I looked at the course on Google maps, not just the cute little map they draw up on the race website, so I could really get a good idea of the scale of this thing. Holy crap that's a long way.

And naturally last night on my first run in a week or two I got a pain in my left Achilles that got so bad I had to shut it down after a mile and a half. Perfect timing. But after ice and massage it's def feeling better already, so hopefully I'll be good to go again soon. 

So I have quite the task ahead of me the next few months. I'll be running a lot more and hopefully I'll be blogging a lot more about it too. 

Wish me luck!!!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Next Race

So I have another 5k coming up in a little under a month.  But before I tell you about that, let me share with you why I have spare time to write a blog post at 7:45 on a Saturday morning.

The reasons are twofold, but its pretty much because I'm an idiot.  First, I made a tactical error last night.  I was going to have a nice relaxing evening, enjoying some mojitos with the abundance of fresh mint we have exploding all over our balcony garden.  Instead, right after I got home and ate dinner, I laid down in bed to talk to Sara on the phone and never got back up again. In fact, I passed out so hard that I didn't even close the curtains on my bedroom window.  Which faces east.  And today is the day after the summer solstice and we live relatively far north.  So the sun was streaming in my bedroom window at about 5 this morning.  I felt like a farmer.

And then, for some reason, despite working at Enterprise for almost 10 months now and every Saturday shift starting at 9, I woke up this morning thinking I had to be there a few minutes before 8 for some reason.  In fact, it wasn't until I had already showered and dressed and was getting breakfast on my way to work that I realized I was about to be over an hour early.  And then I had to sit there for 5 minutes because by that point I wasn't even sure anymore when we opened.  So now I'm back home with an hour to kill, just hanging out with kitty in my suit and tie.  Typical Saturday morning.

But anyway, for my next race...

This should be a fun one.  When they say at Safeco Field, they don't mean you start outside the stadium and run around the area down there.  No, we're literally running all through the stadium.  Here's the course description...

  • Start line on the plaza next to the Safeco Field parking garage
  • One lap around the outside of Safeco Field
  • Enter the ballpark via the right field entrance
  • One lap around main concourse
  • Up ramps to the club level
  • ½ lap of club level
  • Lower level sky bridge over Edgar Martinez Drive to parking garage
  • Lap around club level and top level of parking garage
  • Upper level sky bridge over Edgar Martinez Drive into suite level of ballpark
  • ½ lap of suite level
  • Up ramps to view deck/top level of Safeco Field
  • Run/walk almost full length of view deck
  • Down ramps to the tunnel below Safeco Field
  • Run/walk ¾ of the length of the tunnel
  • Come out on the warning track in center field
  • Run/walk the warning track
  • Finish line on the warning track down the 3rd base line
  • Stroll through the bullpen and into the finishers area
I'm particularly excited for the part where we finish on the field.  I am decidedly less excited about the part where we run up the ramps between the levels.  Last time I was at a game, I scouted the ramps just to see how steep they were.  Not too bad, but a little bit steeper than I was expecting.  Which means I'm going to have to break down and start doing hill training.  Which is inevitable if you're running in Seattle, but doesn't make it any more fun.  Thankfully, there are some moderate sized hills in our neighborhood that I can start out on.  

Other than that, it's been a pretty uneventful week in terms of running, due to the fact that it has been a pretty eventful week in terms of other stuff.  Wednesday was an after hours work dinner that I got to go to this month because I finally figured out how to sell stuff.  Thursday, Sara's grandparents were in town on their way up to Alaska, so the family all got together for dinner and dessert.  It was fun to see all of them and have a nice, leisurely dinner.  

Today looks beautiful outside.  I'm somewhat disappointed that I have to work and I can't go watch the Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, but my co-worker is running the half so I had to take his shift today.   But I'm for sure going to take advantage of this weather today and go for a run after work today.  We'll see if I have another 3 miles in me!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

5K - NBD

I think this picture looks so blurry because I had my sweaty paws all over my phone.

That is the exhausted, sweaty face of someone who just hit a pretty big milestone.

Tonight on my run I pushed it a little bit and ran for 35 minutes and 38 seconds, for a total distance of 3.1 miles with no walk breaks.  For those of you scoring at home, 3.1 miles equals 5k.  So I just ran a 5k with no walking.  May not be huge for a lot of people, but for me, that's kind of a big deal.

That's pretty much the best run I've ever done - and the longest.  I'm doing a Couch to 5K program, so I guess you could say that even though I technically still have a week of workouts left in that program, I've hit my goal - I've literally gone from being someone who laid around on the couch doing no physical activity to running 5k non-stop.  Let me tell you, as someone who has had a lot of ups and downs in terms of being healthy and my weight, that feels pretty damn awesome.

I was actually feeling a little upset with myself regarding my recent runs.  I had a bad weekend where I was lazy and didn't do much of anything much less run.  Then last night I was torn - part of me wanted to run but part of me was exhausted from work and just wanted so bad to be a bum again.  And then I made the mistake of laying down to just check Twitter for 5 minutes.  Game over.  An hour later I was on my way to the pizza place down the street.  So tonight, I guess I was feeling like making up for that, so I decided to push myself to see how far I could go.  When I was about done, I looked at my GPS and I was 2.75 miles and I told myself that's just one more lap around a track, you can do it.  And I did.

I'm exhausted, my legs are sore (and Sticked - I'm liking that thing), and I may regret it in the morning, but I feel pretty damn good right now.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Wrapping Up The Week

Workouts This Week:

Tuesday - Ran 2.56 miles in 35 minutes

Wednesday - Rode 12.2 miles in 1 hour 10 minutes (approx)

Thursday - Ran 2.91 miles in 36:07 minutes

Sunday - Ran 3.35 miles in 40 minutes

This week had some ups and downs.  On Tuesday I was supposed to run 25 minutes with no walk breaks.  Instead, I had my first day where once I started running, I could tell my body just wasn't feeling it.  I don't know if I was still fatigued from the race on Sunday or if I hadn't ate or slept well or what, but as soon as I started running my legs felt like sandbags and I could tell it wasn't going to happen that day.  But I was ok with that - it happens to everyone.  I ran for a while and decided it wasn't worth it to try to power through it so I ran/walked for the rest of the time.  I still got two and a half miles in and I still went farther and faster than everyone on the couch.

Wednesday Sara was home and I got off early and the weather was awesome so we went on our first real workout bike ride together.  I had done some workout rides on my own and we had done some casual rides together, but we hadn't really gone out and gotten after it on the bikes together. We hit up the Burke Gilman Trail and went from Ballard to past UW (about 12 miles or so for you non-Seattlites), with stops at Gas Works Park and Fred Meyer's on the way home.  We both dropped the gears down on the way home so we could feel it in our quads.

Thursday I got back on track with my running.  I was scheduled to run 25 minutes with no walk breaks again.  I managed to go for a little bit over 26 minutes and felt great.  For whatever reason, I decided to go running without music on Thursday.  I figured I'd try it out just to see how it was, since this go around with running I've been taking music with me all the time.  I didn't like it.  At least for now while my runs are still an effort, I like having music to distract me.  Thursday without it all I could think about was how tired I was and I kept looking at my watch, and the OCD person in me can't help but count my steps.  With my music going, it takes my mind off what I'm doing, and it keeps me from constantly looking at the time.  With music I have an easier time breaking my run up into smaller chunks - just three more songs sounds a lot better than just 15 more minutes.

Saturday I had a bit of an oopsie.  I've been wanting to get a Stick to workout some of my sore muscles.  So I went to a running store and got a Stick...and a new pair of shoes.  I was just going to chit chat with the guy about shoes, and make sure I had ones that were good for me since I didn't get fitted for the ones I've been using.  He said that they were good shoes for me but looked like they were starting to break down.  He had me take them off and compare them to a new pair of the same shoe and I could tell a noticeable difference.  So I decided to try on some new shoes.  He had me try on a few pair - the new version of the Nikes that I have and a pair of Asics, but I ended up going with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13.  As soon as I put them on I knew they were the ones - it felt like I hadn't actually put a shoe on they fit so well.  After taking them out for a test run, they felt like little happy pillows on my feet.  So I got some new shoes.

And the new shoes must be winners, because on Sunday I wore them for the longest run I've done.  My goal was 27 minutes running.  Instead, I went for 30.

That's right, I ran for 30 minutes straight!!!

I basically met my Couch to 5K goal two weeks early.  I could tell early on that I felt good today and could probably push it to a half hour.  I started getting tired late, but when I got to 27, I felt good enough to say screw it - go 3 more minutes.

Let me tell you, I felt awesome afterwards.  It was a wonderful combination of physical exhaustion and mental satisfaction.  I can remember when I started C25K the first time back in Texas when the thought of running 30 minutes straight seemed so far off - 1 minute was a challenge.  Now I did it.

I still have two weeks of runs - three of at least 28 minutes and three of 30 minutes - before I'm going to consider myself finished with the Couch to 5K program.  But at this point my plan is for 30 minute runs to become my new baseline.  I'm going to just work on building up my endurance so that 30 minutes is normal, not a max effort.  So for the time being, that's my plan - 30 minute runs.  Oh, and I have another race on my calendar - I'll tell you more about it later, but it's going to force me to do hills!!!  Eeep!!!