Saturday, December 31, 2011

What a year...

2011 truly was an amazing year!

As each year comes to a close, I like to take a look back to see the adventure that has been.

In January, I set a bunch of goals (see below) to help me accomplish some of the things I was looking for in my life. I spent several days at Disney. I ran a couple of 5K's and discovered that running was more than just something to do - it quickly became a hobby, a passion, and a way of life. I continued on my grad school adventure, graduating in May.

I packed up everything and crammed it into my Pontiac G6, and set off for a new adventure in Denver, Colorado. I finally broke the 30 minute 5K. I started a new job. I played A LOT of volleyball. I played in the mountains. I lost a bunch of weight. I ran my first 10K. I took some great trips.

And I met some of the most amazing people in the world.

Not a bad way to spend a year...

Here's a check in for how my goals for 2011 went:

1. Accomplish (as much as I can of) the Florida List - Made some great memories on the way out
2. Earn another 4.0 spring semester - It was easy, but it still felt good :)
3. Become a Master (graduate from grad school) - You're looking at Jeff Parker, M.Ed.
4. GET A JOB - Sweet home Colorado
5. Read 50 Books - I was on pace through June, but then moved to CO and started my new life there. That whole reading thing didn't keep up. But in 2011 I read 30 1/2 (mostly) amazing books
6. Run a race every month (mostly 5K, some 5K w/ obstacles, & hopefully a 10K+) - I ended up running 13 5Ks and 2 10Ks
7. More running goals- Run 211 miles, run for 10 miles, sub-7:00 mile - 162, 6.2, 8:30 - nope, but on my way!
8. Complete P90X (I was 0/4 in 2010) - Not even close
9. Lose 50+ lbs. - I've lost 50 total, but only 35 in 2011. I'm ok with that.
10. Visit 5 new states/countries - Oregon & Colorado, but lots of new experiences in states I've already been to. A great year for travel
11. Smile and laugh. A lot. Always

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1,000 Words

While at home in Minneapolis, I was sent yet another email wanting me to order pictures from a race that was... 9 months ago. I looked at it again, and just laughed.

I asked my brother, "Is it possible to have a picture taken during a race that looks good?"

Clearly the answer is no.

Here's a look at a few of the images that were captured for all of eternity.

Maybe my goal for 2012 will be to learn how to run more attractively.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why I Run

I've been reflecting on why I run, why it matters to me, and why I've missed it while I've been out of commission for the past month and a half.

When it came time to explain it as part of a Christmas present, here is what came out:

Running has been a big part of my life (off and on). The very first time I chose to go running was in high school when I weighed 275 pounds and was suffering from depression. I needed to get my life together, so I took a step. Then another. And slowly, it became my way of life. When I felt lost, frustrated, angry, or scared, I would lace up my shoes and head to the road. The paved trails became the place where I would clear my head and reflect on my life. The wooded trails became my solace. At this point in my life, running was my way of finding myself.

Then, over the years, I lost touch with it. I was so inconsistent – two months on, six months off. Five months on, a year off. So on and so forth. My weight fluctuated, and although I lost a ton of weight in high school, I gained it all back. Until in grad school, I stood on a scale and the number that stared back at me scared me. 284. I went home and cried. And for the second time in my life, I turned to running to get my life back on track. One step at a time, I trudged my way to ½ mile, to ¾, to a mile, to 3, to 5+. Running has served two purposes during this phase of my life over the past year. First, to drop weight and become healthier. I have lost over 50 pounds, and still have a ways to go before I’m totally happy. I remember walking up a flight of stairs in Florida and being completely out of breath by the time I hit the top. I couldn’t live like that anymore. So I pushed myself to make that change. The second purpose came when I ran my first race last December. It struck something in me, and ended up changing my life. It hit my competitive spirit like few things ever have, and it became almost an addiction. Something that I will continue to do for a long time. The funny thing is, I don’t even call myself a runner... I just do it for two reasons: to find myself and push myself. The challenge of pushing yourself to run farther and faster is amazing, and with every race, I feel an incredible sense of accomplishment every time I cross the finish line.

Like nothing or nobody can stop me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stepping it up in 2012

This year (and the end of 2010) has been an amazing chance to rediscover my love for running.

I went from not being able to run a mile to running a 5K every month to running 10K's. I went from huffing and puffing and feeling like I want to die after a half mile to feeling energized after 6 miles. I went from 284 to 233 as I write this. Tears of agony and defeat turned into feeling inspired and motivated.

2011 was about running for fitness, for weight loss, and to get my life back on track. I ran a 5K every month (with a few 10K's sprinkled in toward the end) so I could have consistency and accountability in my life. Even when I would have a crappy month, I would still push myself, if even for a day.

2012 will take this momentum to the next level. It will be about running to push myself to my limits. For the love of running. To see what I am capable of. And not to run races just to run races - to find ones that I will remember for the rest of my life.

My race schedule for 2012 is already filling up. Here's what I've committed to so far.

January - Once my credit card turns over to next month, I am booking a flight to Florida and doing the Warrior Dash
March - I will be running the Canyonlands 5 Mile race in Moab, UT surrounded by the beauty of Arches National Park
May - Today, I just signed up for my first half marathon. Colorado Half Marathon in Fort Collins - named the most scenic and fastest race in America. Training starts in February.
June - I will be doing the Tough Mudder - a 10+ mile race up the side of a mountain with crazy obstacles.

2012 is going to be a big year for my running. Hopefully my body got the memo and can keep up. I'm looking forward to the adventures... mile at a time

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Listen to your Body

Disclosure: I am the type of person who never listens to his body. When I hurt myself, I usually hurt for a while, because I continue to do the things that I did to get to that point without letting myself heal entirely.

Here's just a few quick examples:
-I hurt my tricep playing volleyball in the spring of 2010. I can still feel it when I tweak it just right a year and a half later.
-My shoulder has hurt for about 3 months now from playing volleyball. Too much. Do I let it heal? Unless playing 5 hours of volleyball per day a few times a week counts as healing...
-About 2-3 months ago, I jammed my toe playing volleyball. It hurt a lot. This constant pain, but not enough to get in the way of anything I was doing. So I kept running. I kept playing volleyball. It kept hurting a little. Turns out it was broken the whole time. (See below)

In case you can't tell yet, I am smart.

On November 6, I ran a 10K. Aside from the butt kicking I took as a result of the course, my body felt fine. My legs felt fine. November 6th was good.

November 7, not so much. My right foot started throbbing. Like, difficulty walking throbbing.
November 8, more of the same. Something is seriously wrong. I'm going to go get it checked out if i don't feel any better tomorrow.
Each day after, things got progressively better. So naturally, things were ok in my book. I played a basketball game. Fine.

I went running. Foot hurt for 3 days. Uh Oh. Time to listen.

So, for the first time in a decade, I went to a chiropractor. Aside from the "used-car salesman" vibe I got from him, I got some pretty good information. But after 2 trips, I decided to try going to someone else.

My new doctor is freaking amazing. 1. He knows his stuff. 2. He is blunt, sarcastic, and we spend our sessions joking around. Done!

Then came the x-ray consultation.

Wake up call.

Some of my vertebrae have lost the separation that is normal.
I have a bow in my spine. Both my lower back and upper back curve to one side.
My hips are misaligned. One is a little crooked and .82mm higher than the other.
And that toe injury I've had for 2-3 months was fractured. Officially.

All of those things combined, it has thrown off my neck, back, hips, knee, ankle, and foot. Hence the throbbing foot.

They both suggested 2 visits a week for 6 months to a year.

A few quotes from the chiropractor:
"This is what I call an LLC - Looks Like Crap"
"This didn't happen overnight, this is at least 10 years in the making"
"You're 26, you shouldn't look like this..."

But 2 of the best quotes I received when I went yesterday:
"This is mostly fixable"
"I need you to start running again, so I can see how your knee reacts"

So I've been listening to my body, taking it easy, and getting it checked out. And although it's not the greatest, there's plenty of optimism.

Now, it's up to me to do the little things to help my body make this turnaround:
-Work on my posture
-Wear a lighter backpack
-Ice and stretch after workouts
-Start taking yoga classes
-Wear an insole to lift my foot

So many things that lead to living a healthier life.

Ok, body... I finally hear you calling.

Sorry it took me so long to listen.