Friday, August 19, 2011

I Had No Choice But To Finish: Part 2

I did not fall. Everyone assumes that I fell. Again, I did not fall. I owe it to all the core-strengthening exercises I had been doing during the spring! I hobbled a bit, in shock from the INTENSE pain that followed the very loud popping sound. "Wow, I heard that" said the man that I had passed about two tenths of a mile back. I sat down on the rocky slope, wincing and cursing pretty loudly. F**************K! He looked at the ankle, said that he didn't see anything sticking out, so I should be good.  He then continued on. This too was my plan.

I got up. This was a long and laborious process, though. The ankle HURT. This is a bad, bad sprain I thought. Other times when I have slipped, I have generally found it relatively easy to get back up and limp a little-eventually the pain would subside. This time was different. I had to roll over onto my knees, grab a tree trunk and then hop onto my right leg without putting any pressure on the left foot. The first step was excruciatingly painful, the next a little less so, and the third was I-can-get-to-the-next-aid-station-if-I-limp-really-fast painful. I hobbled for a little over a mile, still mostly downhill, until I reached the aid station. The guy who had *tear* passed me had alerted them to my condition.

On my way to that aid station, I toyed with the idea of DNFing (not finishing, in runners' argot). This is how the conversation went in my head: should I stop at the aid station and wait for the medics to take me back to the start?  Should I try to finish this even if it takes me four hours? Should I sit down and cry? Should I stand here and click my heels three times? (Well, no, that would incur more pain-so that was out of the question) Should I try to finish? Should I try to finish? SHOULD I TRY TO FINISH?

And then I imagined the potential scene back at the finish area: me being helped out of the medic's ATV. Fat girl limping.


I had to do this for fat people. I had to do this for me. And I had to finish because I didn't want anybody thinking that the fat girl couldn't do it.

I arrived at the aid station. The volunteers were ready for me. Do you want us to get the medics out here? HELL NO! I would like some Advil if you have any. I took 3, re-tied my shoelaces and went about my way. A few minutes, I was able to limp-run-walk-hop, wincing less and less as the miles went by slowly. I tried not to think of the throbbing coming from the ankle and tried to focus instead on staying ahead of this woman who I had passed a long time ago gaining on me.

At one point, she passed me as I was taking a break. Then I passed her. Then she passed me, and then INTENTIONALLY BLOCKED MY WAY on the single-track on the way back to the finish for about 3 miles. Okay, missy. I got this. I stay right on her tail until we reach a wider part of the trail. And then she stops to take a break. I pass her, without even glancing back. I won't publish the string of expletives I was calling her in my head.

Mile 10 comes along and the pain is returning somewhat, but that woman is still about a half mile behind me, so I slow down a bit until I arrive at the first/last aid station and guzzle tepid Gatorade. There's still about 1.7 miles to go so I walk until I hear the people at the last aid station start to cheer. I look back only to see that woman trying to gain on me.

And then as if in a made-for-TV drama, I scream NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I hobble-run-walk-hop-skip-limp as fast as I can to the end, this time because I was MAD and certainly wasn't going to let this woman get ahead of me and gloat that she wasn't last. She was last, and the fat girl wasn't.

I gathered enough energy-adrenaline is AMAZING-to run through the finishing chute raising the roof.

Now I could visit the medics on my own terms.

I Had No Choice But To Finish: Part 1

During June and most of July this year, I was a fairly unpleasant person to be around. This was due 100% to my first big injury. 

There are several races that I look forward to all year. One of them is The North Face Endurance Challenge which has several different locations throughout the year.

This year I signed up for the Endurance Challenge trail half-marathon outside of Washington DC, whose route boasted mostly flat, mostly single-track on the Potomac Heritage Trail. I felt pretty good about my prospects of finishing well (relatively speaking) since I had done a brutal (I thought) and pretty technical trail half marathon a few weeks earlier. 

At the starting line, there were lots of excited people! There was also a good share of nervous boasting in the form of I-just-did-such-and-such-marathon-at-altitude, blank stares, and a very long line for the port-a-potties. And there was me, anxiously looking for any Clydesdale/Athena types who might also be taking the plunge with me. Nope-just some taller, big-boned people who could probably run like gazelles and do like, 7 minute miles in a trail race.

I do this at every race, look for the fat people. I always wonder what their journey is, and how it has been for them. I wonder what running means to them? Is it a means to lose weight? Are they intent on changing their physical and ultimately emotional lives? Did someone drag them here? And most importantly, will I be able to PASS them and leave them in my fat dust?

I line up near the back of the pack, not kidding myself about my expected pace. I'm hoping to try to maintain at least a 14 minute per mile pace, given that it's, you know,  a TRAIL race. The announcer counts down and we're off across the parking lot, down a hill, and onto the Potomac Heritage Trail. The first 1.5 miles are a breeze; I run a little faster than normal, because apparently that's what you do in a race, but it still feels good. I was pretty far in the back, but not dead last and pretty confident that I would be able to pass some of the more smug runners. You know, the ones that go out entirely too fast and burn out by mile 3! Still feeling pretty comfy, I run through mildly technical sections on the trail, along with some absolutely gorgeous and peaceful single-track. 

I'm used to being in the back and running alone-this way I don't have to pretend like I have enough breath-control and cardio-conditioning to hold a conversation with anyone. I run, and enjoy being in nature while simultaneously listening to Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, Cat Stevens, and The Indigo Girls on my iPod. They help me pass a few struggling skinny runners. AHA! I catch myself thinking mean thoughts-which I won't share...Anyway, at around mile 3.5 a steep incline COMES OUT OF NOWHERE, complete with switchbacks. UGH. Ok, I still got this, right? I had already passed about 4 people, so I was feeling a little smug myself. I had done a lot of hill work with my cross-country girls in the spring, so although the hills were still difficult, I didn't feel as though I was dying. I kept a steady power-hiking pace and got to the top of the mountain-hill. And then I started the series of steep descending switchbacks. It felt awesome to power-run down the descent, leaving yet another runner in my fat dust!
And then, somehow without falling, I rolled the outside of my left ankle a good 90 degrees.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This Is Not A Weight Loss Blog

Although I will talk about it from time to time.

This time around, I did start running again in order to lose weight. However, this is not the primary focus of my blog. It is really about the intersection of trying to live an active life and being a larger person, challenging people's assumptions about you, trying to model the active lifestyle for both my immediate and extended family, and my journey to prevent totally preventable diseases from entering and subsequently wreaking havoc on my life.

When people see a larger person such as myself say, at a restaurant, or say, at the gym-what are they thinking when they stare in disbelief at the fact that I'm 1. publicly engaging myself in the act of eating and perhaps immensely enjoying a meal, or 2. publicly engaging myself in the act of EXERCISING?

I have even caught myself on several occasions thinking really disparaging things about fat people, classic internalized oppression--"What the hell is he thinking?" or "Wow, maybe instead of that steak, how about just eating the veggies or nothing at all?" or "Instead of bringing up the rear [me] in this 10K, how about getting out of the squad car and running with me?" I know it's wrong, I also know that this is when that mean voice of self-hatred creeps into my mind. So of course, this is what people are saying or thinking about me when I go about living my life, right?

For the most part, I have never really been super self-conscious about my body type throughout the years, except for maybe in middle school--when I did get called a "fat bitch" on "National Butt Day" by this a very short, popular kid in eighth grade. In hindsight, I should have said something insultingly witty, but alas, witty I was not.

I've been mentally and emotionally comfortable in my body, even at my highest weight (which was one pound away from 300.) This is not to say that OTHER people have been comfortable with my weight. I can assure you that this is true, since the disparaging projection of self-hatred comes from things I've heard people say to me directly, or that I've overheard.

I am still in the process of losing weight-but certainly not so that I can feel good about the way others may view me. I really don't care about that. Rather, I have continued on this journey precisely because it is healthful--and frankly I feel awesome being active. Even better, I'm a BIGGER active person. So go ahead and let go of all of those assumptions that you may have about fat people not being able to do this or that, be encouraging and positive about anyone trying to make the right choices for themselves and their families, and if you need to, get on board yourself!