Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Black Hole That Swallows Road Race Pictures

Anyone who has every participated in a road race knows that there are dozens of photographers placed throughout the course.  At the major mile markers you are encouraged to pretend you're not in pain and smile for the cameras.  For runners like me who go into a bit of a trance when they run and are oblivious to other runners and people on the sideline this is especially important.  I have had too many sad/angry/pained looking faces memorialized forever in pictures.  

My husband on the other hand has hundreds of fantastic shots from races. He loves hamming it up for the camera and the camera definitely loves him.  He has even been known to upstage someone else's photo op because he started posing for his moment early and photobombed their shot.  Since I met my husband I have prided myself on paying attention to where the photographers are on the course and posing for pictures.

In the past, I would receive an e-mail encouraging me to check out my pictures on the race website and order my favorite shots.  Or a local running club or newspaper would post hundreds of pictures that anyone could download for free.  But lately I don't know where the pictures have gone.  There are still dozens of photographers along the course but I never see those pictures.  It's frustrating because I love creating scrapbooks of all of our races but without the photos there really isn't much to commemorate the day.  

I see people running with cameras and holding up the course taking pictures of themselves and their friends.  I don't want to be one of those people but it seems like I might have to if I want a memory from the day.  It would be different if I didn't see any photographers along the course but there seem to be more than ever now. My $20-100 registration fee per race should at least guarantee me access to photos of myself participating in the event.  I have e-mailed the local running club that sponsors the races and never received a response.  

Is this like the left socks that disappear into some black hole in the back of the dryer?  Is there some random cache of pictures of average runners just waiting to be discovered.  Should I stop and ask each photographer on the course where I can find their pictures after the race?  It may seem like a petty issue but when you get used to having pictures of yourself being an athlete, it's a disappointment to have those pictures taken away.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lessons from a Girl

I am an insecure person.  I have a lot of anxiety.  I create stress where there isn't any.  If I could learn to relax and not worry about what other people think, I wouldn't have to go the chiropractor once a week, I would sleep better and my general health would improve.  That being said, the more time I spend around women, the clearer it is that I am a rock star compared to them.

The honeymoon with Kellie, my running partner, is definitely over.  I am not writing her off by any means.  But, now that she has gotten comfortable with me, her occasional girly slips have become constant. The insecurity.  The mindless prattle.  The questions that should be hypothetical, about race day conditions, other runners, etc. that she expects me to provide an answer for.  The constant need for reassurance.  It's exhausting. 

The day before my weekly run with Kellie, I went to a potluck dinner with a group of women I met through meetup.  What was supposed to be a night of giggles and good food turned into a group therapy session with me as the therapist.  Two girly days in a row definitely put me more on edge and made me even less tolerant than I normally am (which is saying something).

Most of my unmarried friends are older than me.  At first I thought it was strange that there were so many women in their late 30's and early 40's that were single (and not by choice) but the more time I spend with them, the less shocking it is.  These women want to find "the one" and can't figure out why they keep getting duds.  But they are so insecure that they won't go to the gym until they lose weight, can't be seen in the food court eating alone, and so on.  The weak crap that they are putting out is only going to give them people who are going to live on that.  A jerk who is also insecure is dying to find a weak woman that he can put down when he's not feeling great.  Someone who won't leave him no matter what he does because they think they deserve it. 

No, I'm not the skinny chick who hangs out with a bunch of fat chicks to make herself feel better.  Well, I guess I sort of am, but I didn't go out looking for fat chicks.  Somehow I can go to a meetup and meet 30 people but the weakest 5 will become people that I hang out with regularly.  Maybe because the rest of them have a life already.  Who knows.  I have always had the ability to attract weakness to me.  Regardless, if their going to depend on me to reassure them and guide them through life then I'm going to use them to better myself.

No, I would never skip the gym or a run because of my fear of what people thought of me.  But I have moments where I worry that people are wondering how someone who looks like me can be a runner/fitness instructor.  In my head I know that I am accomplished at both and I need to remind myself of that and not let my insecurities get the best of me.

So every time they do something that is a 10 on the stupid weak girl scale and I want to shake some sense into them, I will remind myself that I have the same problem (at a 3 on the scale).  That as stupid and annoying as they are, I am equally as annoying to someone who is at a 1 on the scale.  I have to love and accept myself as much as I expect them to or risk having someone blog about my insecure ass!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Problem with Women

I have always been the wife who was friends with the husbands/boyfriends.  I am rarely comfortable when I'm stuck with a group of women.  It's rare for me to have anything in common with them and highly likely that they will have some annoying girl habits or personality traits that I can't stand.  I blogged about my surprise in meeting a dependable female friend this morning but my brain is telling me it's only been a few months, she still has time to disappoint, like the others.  During one of my last turns as a bridesmaid I blogged about how a previously tolerable female friend turned out to be annoying in the end.  

A few recent examples:
  • I can't go out to the movies with you like we scheduled 3 weeks ago because my mother isn't available to babysit my 3 year old daughter.  
This woman's mother lived 4 hours away in another city but came to visit often.  She never looked for a babysitter for her daughter.  Her daughter didn't have any medical problems or behavioral problems that would make her a special case.  Prior to the birth of her child, my husband and I spent a lot of time with her and her husband.  She is one of many woman who lost themselves after the birth of their child.  They put all of their life and energy into the child and forget that they existed as anything other than a mom.  This woman and her husband recently divorced because they stopped focusing on their relationship and only did or talked about things as they related to their child. 

  • I can't meet you to run/walk the dogs in 5 minutes like we had planned because it's raining.  
I'm not talking about torrential down pours.  Just a little drizzle.  Here in Syracuse there is a precipitation event every few days.  A week without rain or snow would be unlikely.  Sadly this women did this to me 3 times before I wrote her off for good.  Cancelling at the last minute is generally a sign of a lame excuse, not a legitimate conflict.  And cancelling once it's too late for me not to leave my house is inexcusable.  

  • I know we sat down and picked a date for that get together at your house that was convenient for me a few weeks ago but I'm going to have to back out because we're refinishing our bathroom, my son has a soccer game, it was the only day my in-laws could come over, etc.
This is the most prevalent one these days.  Especially with Facebook and Meetup where everyone wants to look social and RSVP for everything.  When I schedule a date to do something with someone that day is blocked out in my calendar.  If someone else asks me to do something on that day I won't book anything because I already have a commitment.  I don't commit to things that I don't intend to show up for and I don't   cancel at the last minute if something better comes along.  I can't tell you how many afternoons/nights/weekends I have wasted on these very same people doing something I didn't want to do but had committed too but these people never seem to be able to return the courtesy.  They are self centered, selfish and unreliable.  These people are not my friends.  They are my acquaintances and they remind me why they will never be anything more than that.  

Head Injuries and Professional Sports

Over the past couple years a number of current/former football players, boxers and wrestlers have taken their own lives.  As more and more information comes out about the long term brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head, it is clear that this problem is much bigger than anyone wants to admit.  

I listen to Mike and Mike in the Morning religiously.  I love sports radio and their chemistry together is great. But every time one of these tragedies happen Mike Golic, the former professional football player, gives his speech about getting hurt being part of football.  He talks about hurting his shoulder and despite the pain or risk of long term damage, going back in game after game without thinking of his health because he loved football that much.  Herm Edward's knees.  Mike Ditka's hips.  There are always dozens of former professional athletes that come out of the woodwork to say their sport is a dangerous sport and they knew the consequences when they signed on.  This is true, to a point, but these former athletes are in denial because they don't want to admit that the sport they play has the potential to cause much more than sore joints. 

A decade or so Phillip Morris, the tobacco mega-power,  lost a lawsuit because it misinformed the public about the long term dangers of smoking.  Millions of dollars in settlement fees later and the image of smoking in this country is much different than it used to be.  Yes there are still way too many people who smoke but they definitely know the consequences of smoking.  These people are bombarded with public service announcements made by people with holes in their throat, parts of their jaw missing, severe emphysema, or worse, shown the charred organs of people who died painfully from complications of diseases caused by smoking.  There are published studies that have demonstrated that smoking is more addictive and harmful than alcohol and marijuana.  A generation ago you would never see these commercials or know this information.  The number of people who smoke now compared to during my parents' childhood is dramatically different.   Scenes from period shows like Mad Men where everyone smokes, even on airplanes and in hospitals, is the clearest indication of how far we have come as a nation. 

Eventually there will be public service announcements that present sobering facts about the long term effects of repeated blows to the head.  There will be a photo montage of famous athletes who have died tragically as facts about the possible risks flash across the screen.  Professional athletes will sign a waiver listing the risks and will promise not to sue the league if any of those problems arise during or after their career.  That waiver will read something like this:  Multiple blows to the head can cause brain damage.  Even blows to the head that are not dealt with excessive force and/or do not result in a concussion can lead to these problems.  Repeated blows to the body can also result in brain damage because the head is jarred during those blows.  The result of this brain damage can lead to memory loss, paralysis, mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts and actions.     

Until this kind of information is presented, no one can fault the families of deceased athletes for suing their respective leagues.  When parents sign their kids up for youth football they will sign a similar waiver on their child's behalf.  The equipment used during youth sports will be more protective than that used by college and professional athletes.  Until a person is 18 years old and able to fully understand the risks associated with their sport of choice their parents must face these facts and decide that their child accepts those risks.  I cringe every time the parent of a child paralyzed during youth sports sues their league because my instinct is similar to Mike Golic's: this kid signed up for a violent sport.  He knew the risk and he got hurt.  But in reality I don't know what those parents were told.  If they were told that their child might suffer from a broken leg or get arthritis as an adult and their son ended up a quadriplegic then they are well within their rights to sue the league.  If someone told Mike Golic that one of his two football playing sons were at a great risk for committing suicide at a young age if the proper precautions were not taken I doubt he would be as emphatic in his defense of the lack of disclosure.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Running with Pride

My struggle to be a faster and more consistent runner is nothing new.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I have been a runner for 25 years and am in no way a beginner.  I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to win races (even though occasionally at less popular races I have placed in my age group).  No one is going to mistake me for a runner when they just see me walking down the street.  On a day when I'm wearing shorts they might notice my muscular legs and think that I workout but my 40 inch waist and big boobs make me look more like a burlesque dancer than a runner.  

In the fall I took a leap of faith and responded to a post about women in my area looking for running partners.  My closest friends have always been men.  I have struggled to make a connection with women for my entire life.  Most women I meet aren't interested in the same things that I am and I tire of their company pretty quickly.  When I first moved to Syracuse I joined a few groups in meetup and through them developed a social life.  I now know a lot of women but I would consider very few of them friends and, outside of meetup activities, don't spend time with them.  

I was very nervous the first day I went to meet my new running partner.  Was she going to be skinny?  Fast? Was she going to be shocked that someone that looked like me responded to her post?  What were we going to talk about for three miles?  Was she going to talk about her kids the whole time?  Would I be able to run and talk? Would I feel okay running without my Ipod?

Kellie and I hit it off right away.  She looked as nervous as I was.  We had a great run and easy conversation.  There are definitely girly things about her that I don't enjoy but I don't let those things get to me.  Having a running partner is worth overlooking a few personality differences.  I know I'm not perfect and that there are plenty of things about me that people don't like but put up with.  I need to extend that same courtesy to other people instead of writing them off so quickly. 

I have run with Kellie once a week since Halloween.  We have not done a race together but we plan to next month.  My running pace has increased to a 10:45 mile for a 5K and stayed there.  I have not run at this pace since 2006.  A few years ago I blogged about my excitement about getting down to an 11:04 pace and my hope that I could get back under 11 minutes.  Now here I am and it happened fairly easily.

I make sure I run three days a week consistently now.  When I travel for work I use the hotel gym.  When the weather is bad I bundle up and brave the cold, snowy weather.  I used to drive pass those people running in arctic temperatures and think how great it must be to be so dedicated.  Now I have become one of those people.  I know that if I don't run during the week, my weekly run with Kellie on the weekend will not go well.  I don't want to hold her back.  

I am still struggling to lose weight but I am getting faster even though my weight hasn't changed.  Imagine how much easier running will be when I can finally get rid of the 20 lbs that I've gained over the past few years.  My joints won't ache.  My thighs won't rub together.  My biggest fear is that I'm going to develop a serious injury because of the stress my weight is putting on my joints.  But that's a different battle. Right now I'm basking in the glow of feeling like a runner again.

I have attended more running events in the past few months than I have in several years.  I have consistently run on my own and participated in road races but I never went to group runs or events at local athletic stores.  I always felt like people would judge me.  That a bunch of elite skinny runners would be in a room talking about their running experiences and I would sit in a corner by myself, left out.  Kellie and I have joined the local running club and attended these meetings together.  And even when Kellie went on vacation I attended these meetings by myself and I survived.  Yes, I felt uncomfortable and isolated at times but I also felt like I belonged.  

My confidence has increased as a result of this newly rekindled running passion.  I talk about running with elite runners without make self deprecating comments about my pace/size.  I accept that I will never be as fast as them but I have been running for just as long, if not longer, than they have and have a  lot to contribute to the conversation.  People recognized my face because I had been coming to events for months.  They accepted me as a runner and I guess, finally, so did I.        

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Procrastinator

When I first became a Zumba instructor 2.5 years ago, I prepared my choreography for weeks.  I practiced over and over again so I would perfect my routines and know my songs inside and out.  I was so paranoid that I would mess up and I wanted to make a great impression so people would keep coming back to my classes.  As I became a better instructor and my classes grew, I got lazy with the choreography.  My time management skills slipped and I struggled to juggle a full time job (though flex time) and my family while still being a great Zumba instructor. 

At first it was only a song or two that I had to prepare the morning before a class.  Despite all my nervousness of presented a song I hadn't prepared, things went surprisingly well.  People praised my class as usual and sometimes said my energy was better than normal.  Then it turned into a couple songs.  The more I procrastinated and the greater my anxiety was before going to class.  But each time everything turned out okay so I had no real incentive to get my act together. 

The problem has become much worse over the past year or so as my popularity as an instructor has increased and, in turn, my class load.  I have been so unprepared for class that I almost had a panic attack when I got in front of the group.  There have been times when I know students have noticed that I'm not prepared.  There have been days when I feel like I have not given a class worthy of my reputation. 

Every week I tell myself it's the last time and before I know it I'm in that situation again.  So here I am again, 40 minutes before my Aqua Zumba class, with a playlist that I prepared 2 hours ago.  I am nervous but I know I will make it through because I have been less prepared than I am today and come out okay.  

I only teach Aqua Zumba one day a week vs. 5 days of Zumba and Zumba Gold so I procrastinate the most with that choreography the most.  It always seems like I have so long between classes but that week just flies by.  I want to make a good impression on all the New Year's Resolution people so they will stick around for more than a couple weeks.  I want to live up to my own expectations of myself.  

I have to get my act together with time management and stop creating stress in my life where it shouldn't be.  Zumba feeds my soul like nothing else. I am privileged enough to teach it and I feel amazing after a great class.  I need to tell myself that when I'm sitting on the couch instead of practicing choreography.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Life Resolutions

There used to be this annoying TV commercial about advertising that had the tag line " Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity" or something like that.  I think it was to encourage people to stop advertising in the yellow pages and start advertising on the Internet.  When I am struggling at different points in my life I often think of this quote. 

Why is my 5K time not getting faster?  Because I'm not training any differently. 

Why am I not losing weight?  Because I'm not eating any differently.

Why aren't my pets behavioral problems getting better?  Because I'm not doing anything differently.

I could go on and on.  My professional life.  My personal life.  There are a number of things that I wish were better but if I'm just sitting here wishing and whining I'm not going to make any progress.  It seems like every January people are filled with promise that they are going to turn their lives around.  They gyms are packed.  Everyone is going to run a marathon, lose 10 lbs, spend more time with their families, etc.  And then 6 weeks later their lives return back to normal and they join the majority of the world who fail on their New Year's Resolutions.  

What would it take to be in the minority?  To be one of those people who sets a goal, has discipline and then actually achieves those goals.  You've seen those people- the one's who lose 100 lbs, run a marathon, quit their soul crushing jobs and start their own business.  These people exist.  

So I'm not going to say these are my New Year's Resolutions because these are life changes that I need to make.  To be a happier, healthier, more productive human being and someone that I am proud to be.  I have made improvements in a lot of areas of my life over the past few years and I am proud of those improvements.  I am a much better person than I used to be but there are a still lot of things that I need to change. 

I could go on for pages about every area of my life that I want to change.  I'm just going to focus on one at a time.  I'm going to try to ask myself, when making decisions: "Is this a decision that will help me meet my goal?  I am going to feel better or worse about myself at the end of the day?"

My first resolution is to write more.  I have been keeping a journal since I was three years old.  I feel better when I write.  I find that I am less combative (and less of a conversation hog) when I write.  I have become pretty good about writing in my journal at the end of the day to clear my head before I try to sleep.  I would like to start blogging in the morning.  I wake up at least an hour before my husband.  That needs to be my zen time.  And so it begins.