Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year In Review

I think I might be the only person who is sad to see 2008 go. It was definitely a “lucky” year for me. I’ve been moved over to strategic planning in my job, something I feel I will enjoy and fit well in, the Celtics won, (the Pats came so close!), the Olympics were incredible, and we elected the first Black president of the U.S. My family and I have come through the year happy, healthy, employed, and looking toward the future.

Personally, this has been a great year for me. When I look back, I am so pleased with the progress that I have made – physically and emotionally.

This year I completed my first triathlon. I still feel the glow and the overwhelming feeling of success in completing it. I was so glad that my brother was there to experience it with me.

My relationship with my best friend has continued to grow, even with her man back from the War. I’m so pleased that we’ve stayed true to our commitments to ourselves and each other.

I also combated the bike/car incident and insane temperatures during the Chances for Children event, and finished dead last. I’ll never be more proud of a finish than that.

I overcame my ruffles and oreo addiction. I’ve lost 20 lbs since I stopped eating them.

I completed the Summer Series this year, and finished a respectable 20th place in my age-group, even after several frustrating races in the heat. By working through each race – the good and the bad – I was able to finish in the top 20% of my age group, and the top 22% of women overall!

I stayed healthy and injury free all year.

The first 10K of my career was done for a great cause (Women for Women) and reminded me of the blessings that I have in everyday life. I wrote 6 things that I was grateful for on my hand and remembered them through each mile – even after I got completely lost on the course.

I logged 38 miles of swimming, 1,076 miles of biking, and 332 miles of running from May to December. I consistently trained throughout the year!

Maybe the most important race for me was the Wondergirl, because it cemented my desires to be part of the Girls on the Run organization. By participating in that race, a whole world of mentoring, giving, and receiving has been shown to me, and I am so grateful for the experiences and for the people I’ve met.

In the next year, I’m looking forward to additional progress – mentally, emotionally, and physically. I’ll be running the P.F. Chang’s ½ Marathon, and focusing on building my training to maybe complete an Olympic distance triathlon towards the end of the season.

My new year’s resolution is to develop additional strategic thinking in work and life. Part of that is patience. Part of that is future thinking. Part of that is perspective. I believe that it is the next step in my personal evolution.

Happy New Year all – I hope that your goals, dreams, and desires lead you to a wonderful 2009!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Today is Winter Solstice. Throughout the history of the southwest, today was a “power” day. The dreamers, shamans, and sunwatchers had their biggest challenge today – to make Father Sun decided to not give up on humans and turn back to the south to start the beginning of the seasons again. The people would wear their ceremonial outfits and dance their hearts out all day and all night in celebration of LIFE and the hopes of being pronounced worthy. Somehow it always worked out. :)

This morning, when I went for my run, it seemed that some of that power was still resonating… there was feeling of being blissfully alive in the air.

Maybe it was the crisp and cool air in my lungs, the frost in the grass, running through falling leaves, the peaceful quiet of the park I was running in – normally full of shouts of little leaguers and metal bats striking balls - but it was serene out there.

This morning’s weather is not what I would consider “winter” weather. In Massachusetts, today’s weather would have happened in early September, and it would be “Fall” weather, but it was as close as I want to get to cold and snow. If I squinted, I could see the glimmer of the frost and dream that it was snow. I could feel the cold on my face, but it didn’t sting. It was beautiful. Fall was always my favorite running weather – when it feels better to run than to walk, because it keeps you warm – and today was exactly what I was looking for.

I got outside, I ran just under 4 miles, and I felt great doing it. I have to admit that through all of my training, I never thought that I would ever “feel good” while running. Even when I had successful runs, or embraced the running high after a run, I never felt good. Since I decided to modify my training plan and do the P.F. Chang’s ½ Marathon, I have never felt so great! When I start to run I actually feel strong and tall and powerful. It may not last the full ½, but my shorter runs feel almost natural! It’s an added bonus that I didn’t expect to happen, but I am even more grateful that I have stuck with it all this time.

Several years ago, I found the perfect Christmas cards. They were a deep and beautiful blue, with a bright and excessively sparkly snowflake on them. The message said “Once a year, everything becomes magical. Wishing you a season of wonder.” I hope that you all get to experience the magic of the season, and the joy of family time and peace!

P.S. Shout out to the Sole Sports folks who spent 30 minutes with me yesterday diagnosing my second toe numbness as Morton’s Neuroma, and gave me several easy and cheap solutions – tying my shoelaces differently, and a medical pad to put underneath the “metatarsal arch” to prevent pressure in that spot. I tried the shoelace thing first, and I can feel the difference already. No numbness. They really really rock at Sole Sports.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Out of Retirement

The last few months have been tough for me mentally. Not the workouts themselves, but I went back to weighing myself regularly as I slowly re-improved my diet (the ruffles and oreo kick really hurt me more than I realized). I’ve always hated the scale, especially since my body tends to “get stuck” at certain numbers. I start thinking about nothing but the Number, and forgot about how I feel, how I’ve improved in my workouts and races, and how my clothes fit. All I can get out of my mind is that I’ve lost minimal if any weight from week to week. It stinks. I also have to admit that working with four “perfect” athletes at GOTR did negatively impact my self-image, which is so stupid, because the whole point of GOTR is to get out of the girl box. Still, I’m glad that I was able to show the girls that you can be healthy and active, even if you are slow and fat.

Does the looming Wednesday weigh-in make me reconsider that second handful of peanut M&M’s, yes. Is it worth defining myself by a number? I’m not sure that it is. I’ve been so focused on the number, that I really haven’t noticed the changes that are happening to my body. How do I know that there are changes, even if the scale isn’t reflecting them? Funny you ask…

This year I haven’t had to do nearly the traveling, which means I’ve been basically living in my pj’s. I love pj’s. They are fun, comfortable, and colorful – and very forgiving to the waist line. Since I don’t get out a lot, whenever I do – it’s always a struggle to determine which set of clothing I’m going to fit into. You ladies know what I’m talking about – I have my “skinny” clothes, my “normal” clothes, and my “fat” clothes. Generally I start with the fat clothes, and only if they are really too big do I work my way down. Saves the heartache.

So the week before last, I had to go into the office on a Friday. It was pretty cold out, yet I didn’t want to get dressed up because I was traveling for the next two weeks, and would spend plenty of time in uncomfortable slacks. However, my staple skirts were really too big – falling off big - and it was too cold to expose my legs. Since I was just looking around the closet, I said what the heck? I’m going to try on those old jeans. The old jeans that were officially retired over a year ago… because I was about to split the rear-end.

Up and zip, no struggle. I couldn’t believe it! They were actually comfortable!! I called everyone I knew to tell them my retired jeans were working for me! I was so excited that I even tried on the “skinny” jeans (not to be confused with “skinny jeans” which are ugly) and they fit too! Rather than try everything on that I owned, I decided to leave myself glowing that something was coming out of retirement.

Well I packed for my trip, and honestly didn’t even think about trying any of my retired slacks on. I just grabbed my current pants, some tops, and threw them in the suitcase. It was when I got to Greenville that I realized my pants were way too big. Oh well, at least I was comfortable, right?

Well last night, even though I’m suffering through my bi-annual time, I decided to try on some of my other clothes. This was not because I thought any of them fit – it was more because I don’t have 4 outfits to wear into the office this week without repeating from last week.

Guess who is wearing her favorite pair of retired chocolate slacks? With a retired brown patterned blouse? Guess who will be wearing three pairs of completely retired outfits this week??!!

I guess sometimes the scale really doesn’t matter… because my closet is coming out of retirement, and this time I don’t think I’ll be going back to the fat clothes. A slow steady decrease done without serious dieting means that my lifestyle is successfully healthy as it is!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Volunteering - The Greatest Gift

Today was the Iron Girl race. This race means a lot to me, as I ran it with Mom , Lilac, and her mom last year. It’s a great race because it’s all about supporting women of all ages and abilities, and nurturing their desire to be active, healthy, and have strong relationships with other women.
This year, the race had a different, yet equally special meaning, because all of the Girls on the Run schools from Maricopa County were running in it as their big end of season race. It was a beautiful day, if a little chilly, and I just want to share some of the moments.

I arrived (first of course, damn my time issues) to a very dark, but quiet and peaceful Tempe Town Lake. All of the signage and staging that we had set up the previous day were still in tact, which we were nervous about, and so I had an opportunity to stand on our little hill, and serenely breathe in the early morning crispness.

Yeah, that serenity didn’t last long, but it was all the more precious because of it. Our first girl showed up 45 minutes early (and I thought I had time issues).

All of our girls came to the race, which I would have bet money against.

One of my Hannah’s (we have 4) mom came up to me before the race, and told me that her daughter just loves me, and that she appreciates the time and positive messages that I’ve taught her daughter. Her eyes welled up with feeling, and my heart rejoiced that I’ve been able to make a difference with even one girl.

I was in charge of GOTR tattoo application, which means I had the coldest fingers in the park – those freezing cold wet face cloths (and my hands) made the girls shriek and wince, but every single one of them told me it “wasn’t that cold” and I knew that they weren’t going to let the goon get to them today! Even the running buddies joined in on the fun.

Lilac came, and ran with a girl from Clarendon – someone who wasn’t a barnacle, which I think was good, and will build her confidence as a running buddy after what we’ll call the “Laveen Fiasco”.

The girls warmed up, did their favorite cheer (Dynamite), responded to a rousing speech from our head coach, and lined up to start the race. I went up to the Mill Ave bridge where I could cheer the girls on, let them know it was all downhill from there, and count off to make sure we got all of the girls.

First one in, Jamie – no surprise there. She ran a 27 min 5K. Only about 15 minutes faster that I can run one….Then came Megan, and I’m so glad she was smiling, because she had really put a lot of pressure on herself to do well. 33 minutes. Then came … Zora??!! No way! Then Maurissa - I was shocked out of my sneakers! Then Kiley came charging through, with Madison right behind her. Then Abby, Vivica, Hannah, Hannah, Hannah, Hannah, Lauren running her heart out on an injured leg, Sofia, Sedona, Ariana, Landry and Kayla, Alissa, Lissett, Noha way before I expected her, Marissa with her mom, Natalee looking proud, Breannon hanging in there while not feeling well, Gabby looking strong, Aly working it, Erin with her pink boa and crown (her running buddy was similarly attired), Lynsey looking for the finish line, Alondra – I’m so glad for her, she worked so hard! I had lost my voice halfway through, and still kept screaming and cheering. It was, as the girls like to say “Magical.”

“The love we give away is the only love we keep.” Elbert Hubbard

Every single one of those girls was smiling, and radiating vibrantly with a tremendous feeling of success and of accomplishment. It’s something that will stick with me and that I’ll keep in my back pocket when the goon is after me, and I need something to lift my spirits. Their smiles are etched in my memory.

And then there was Tiazhe… last on my list… and never crossed the finish line. Never. After about 90 minutes we started to panic, and had the race announcer calling for her. We checked with the computer guys, and we hadn’t missed her, she hadn’t crossed. Did she get lost in the 10 mile group? Did she and her cousin take off and go to breakfast? I still don’t know what happened.

One of the Bustoz coaches came up to me afterward, and said that she was glad that I was part of the program, and that I made a big difference. I have no idea what I did to deserve that, but it felt great to hear it.

Lilac and I went to breakfast, and there we saw the Hannah that most reminds me of shy, awkward, pre- ‘beautiful butterfly’ Lilac. Her mom mentioned as they were leaving that Hannah had come home right before Thanksgiving and said “Coach Eileen said her Dad puts different kinds of apples in his apple pies, and I want to try that with my pie this year”. The pie apparently came out great, and they’ll be doing it again that way. You can make a difference with even the smallest statements!

This program has taught me so much this season. I’ve learned:

- How to be an Indian, and hold back my inner-Chief, a struggle, let me tell you.
- That I’ve gotten back more than I gave, and that it came in ways I hadn’t expected.
- The ‘I feel, when you, because, I would like for you to’ statements. They really do work.
- There is more to life than whether or not my projects get implemented perfectly, and as much as it feels like it, the fire at my desk is actually not going to consume my life unless I allow it.
- That you can make a difference with every girl - maybe not in the same way, or with the same amount of impact - but every moment with these girls provides an opportunity to give them something meaningful.

“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” - Maya Angelou

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Travel Time

Well just to make up for this fabulous year of not too much travel, we’re going to pack it all in during the last few weeks of the year. This might have caused a previous Eileen to panic because her training plan for PF Chang’s was getting interfered with (6 weeks!), but not this Eileen. This Eileen can roll with the punches, and will!

How will I compensate for the fact that I’ll be spending a week in Greenville, SC, and another in Chandler, but with all of my peeps here, requiring that I actually beautify myself for long days in the office (which definitely cuts into my gym time)? Simple. I’m going to do my long runs on Mondays, instead of Tuesdays. I’m going to give myself flexibility to do whatever I can while I’m in Greenville, and I’m not going to beat myself up about it – even if that means doing sprints in the parking lot , jogging around the hotel building, stair climbing, or getting that extra hour of sleep I so desperately need. There’s always plank and down facing dog. (Where is my Runnersworld magazine…it’s 12/3, it should be here by now!)

What about the 15 hour days I’m scheduled to work? Well I’m still going to work them. I’m also still going to take care of business after hours even though my work computer can’t connect to anything. I’m still going to go out to dinner with my team, and whatever else I have to do. And I’m not going to be freaking out about it. At the end of the day, it’s better for my body to get more rest if needed, and I’m not going to get upset about maybe not getting in that 110 minute bike ride I had planned. Really, it’s ok. I’ll survive.

Never do anything today that will keep you from running tomorrow… or six weeks from now. As long as I get my long runs in – which will not be a problem – I’m going to be fine. I have confidence in myself, and my ability to think clearly, and not do stupid things just so I can put it in my log.

I’ll use those 15 hour days as practice for my first Ironman challenge – staying awake that long!