Thursday, December 30, 2010

Operation Jack

On Sunday, December 26, the day after Christmas, I had one of my best running experiences of the year, and I didn't even run.  I volunteered at the Operation Jack Marathon.  I heard about Operation Jack through Twitter, (oh the joys of social networking!) and first thought, man, this guy is nuts!  Then I read more about why he was running so darn much (61 marathons in a year!) and I realized that it was really incredible.  I saw that there was going to be an Operation Jack Marathon here in LA.  I planned on running the 1/2, but due to an injury I couldn't.  I was really disappointed that I wouldn't be able to participate.  Then, through Twitter, I found out that volunteers were needed for the race.  Bingo!  I was in.

It was darker than this
when I arrived
So, the day after Christmas, I woke up at 5 am, got a VERY large cup of coffee and headed down to the location of the aid station I would be working in Playa Del Rey - at mile 4.5, on the bike path on the beach (about a quarter mile up from where I lived in Playa for 7 years).  It was dark and cold when I got there.  But, as the sun came up and we (myself and three others - another runner; and a mother and her son who needed volunteer hours) got our aid station set up.  It was a looped course, 6.5 miles out and back, so we would see the half marathoners twice and the full marathoners 4 times.  I've run seven races this year (2 full marathons and 5 1/2's), and I know that aid stations can be very important as you're putting in those long miles so we got prepared (see my post on the Malibu 1/2).

our aid station - ready to go!
Throughout the morning we poured cups of water and Gatorade, passed out Sport Beans and met some really amazing runners on the course.  Everyone was so appreciative of us being out there, I think almost every single person who came by said thank you.  I try to always thank the volunteers at races, but now I realize how much it really means.  Its great to know that you're being appreciated for giving up your time to help someone else through an event.

This wasn't a huge race, only about 150 participants, most doing the half, but they all needed the aid stations as much as participants in huge races do.  It was really special to be a part of such an amazing race, because everyone was out there for the same reason, to do something bigger - whether they were there for themselves or to support the cause, they were there, and they were supporting the cause and Sam (and of course Jack).

Ready for approaching
I can't really fully explain it.  But, it felt really special to be a part of this day. It was great to go out and volunteer for the morning and help others, even in a small way.  It felt like I was banking some good running karma, which I feel like I need right about now (I would like my knee to get back to fully functioning activity soon!).

After the race we packed up and went to a post-race celebration lunch at a great little restaurant in Manhattan Beach - Four Daughters.  The entire day was great.  During the race and after at Four Daughters I got to meet some of the most amazing and special people.  They helped me remember how much I love running and how I can't wait to get back out there again. They were all inspirational in their own ways.  They were enthusiastic and joyful about running and life.  It was special.  Every person I met that day was so friendly and memorable.  This day rejuvenated me in ways I can't explain or describe.  I don't know if it was the volunteering or the actual event, or a combination, but it was one of the best running experiences I've had all year long.

I highly recommend that you get out there an volunteer at an event.  It really made me remember what I love about running and why I started doing it in the first place.  If this event takes place next year I will either participate in it or volunteer again.  Operation Jack wound up being so much more than I ever thought it could be.  And I'm ready to get out there and enjoy running again.  I haven't been enjoying running mostly due to injury, and its frustrating, but I now realize that I've been injured for a reason, to meet these people and volunteer at this event.  So, thank you for everything I got from each of you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Other Birthday

This is kind of a long one, but its important to me, it is part of what got me to where I am today.

Every person has a birthday, the day they entered the world.  My birthday is May 15, 1979, I celebrate in some way every year on this day.  Some of us have more than one birthday.  Let me explain.  There is another day that I celebrate, quietly, but still spend time paying attention and reverence to, and that is my other birthday.  My other birthday is today, December 17.  It is the day that, in many ways, I was reborn.  December 17 is the day I got sober, four years ago.  The last time I had a drink was December 16, 2007.  So, for me, December 17 is a very important day, in some ways more important than my actual birthday.

Before I got sober I wasn't an everyday drinker.  I wasn't waking up in the morning needing a drink.  I didn't need alcohol on a daily basis.  I didn't feel withdrawal symptoms when I didn't drink.  I didn't drink a fifth of scotch or endless bottles of wine or a case of beer on a daily basis.  I wasn't what many people consider an alcoholic.  But, being an alcoholic isn't that black and white.  There are a lot of shades of gray with alcoholism.  What makes one person an alcoholic might not be the same thing for another person.  My drinking problem is very specific to me.

A little history... the best I can remember it...

I had my first drink when I was 14.  That might seem young to some people (or a lot of people), but in the beginning I only drank occasionally with friends, at a party.  When I was about 16 (I can't exactly remember) I started drinking more often with my friends.  By our senior year of high school there were parties many weekends at which there would be alcohol.  We would drink and have a good time.  We were a responsible group, we didn't drink and drive, we didn't do anything bad.  I never blacked out.  We were good kids.  I was a good kid.

I got to college and my drinking increased.  At the beginning of college I was struggling with some severe anxiety issues (and in turn depression).  Sometimes drinking would make me forget about or settle my anxiety, other times it would make it much worse.  My drinking habits were not regular.  I steadily drank more and more.  I played drinking games, I went to parties, I went to bars, I did what college students did, I drank and enjoyed myself.  I had my first blackout in college.  It's a scary thing not being able to remember what you did or where you were.  Having a blank spot in your memory is not fun and does not always mean you had a good time.  It's really never okay to blackout, at least not for me.

After college I my drinking escapades continued.  I was in my early twenties, it was what we did.  We would go out to bars, have drinks with dinner, go to parties, and of course get crazy drunk sometimes.  It was all "normal."  I had a couple of times where I blacked out from drinking too much (no, that's not normal, and it could be more than a couple times, I just can't remember, no pun intended).  I had fun with my friends when I would drink.  I would also do stupid things when I was drunk.  Things that I don't like remembering because they are not good memories.  (Remembering those things now is part of what keeps me from having a drink, but the memories can still be embarrassing and/or painful.)

I don't know when exactly things got out of control for me.  I don't remember a specific event that was a turning point or a specific time in my life that was a turning point.  I just remember that it seemed like it was suddenly a problem.  I got to a point where I couldn't go out and have just one drink.  If I had one I'd have three or four or more.  I couldn't stop myself, even when I said I was only going to have one or two, I'd almost always have more and get drunk.  And, I had started drinking by myself, not a ton, but enough to get a good buzz going, a couple of times a week.  I actually don't know how much I was drinking at a time, because I wasn't keeping track.  By this point my bipolar had gotten bad, I hadn't been diagnosed yet, and I was going through stages of deep depression followed by manic episodes.  I didn't know what was going on with me, and the alcohol was a good mask (at least it masked it for me, even if others could see there was a problem).

I remember quite clearly the night I last went out really big, well the beginning of the night at least.  It was for Halloween and I got drunk, blackout drunk.  I woke up in the morning and didn't know exactly where I was, I was with friends so I was safe, but that is still totally unacceptable behavior.  I just didn't seem to know when to say when.  I don't like thinking about that night, because it was a bad time in my life.  I realized during my insanely bad hangover (I know it was truly an awful hangover that lasted a couple of days, but I only have a vague recollection of it, weird) that I had a real problem, and I didn't really think it was with alcohol, I just knew I was severely depressed and needed to go back to the psychiatrist.

I went to the doctor and was put on anti-depressants.  He told me not to drink.  So, I didn't.  Most of the time I'm really good at taking directions and following instructions.  But, in December of that year I went to a Christmas party and figured I could have one or two drinks and it wouldn't be a problem, even on the anti-depressants, even though I knew better.  I hadn't had anything to drink since the blackout night of two months before.  I figured it was no big deal, one drink couldn't hurt.  But, again, I can't ever have just one drink.  I had about 5.  And then I did the one thing I swore I would never do, I drove after drinking.  Thankfully I got home safely and fell asleep.  In the morning I realized I had a problem and I had to stop drinking, for good.

That morning was December 17.  I haven't had a drink since that party.  About two months later I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on even more medication.  Now, if I chose to drink it could cause more problems because of all of the medication I take, just more incentive not to drink.

I didn't have to go to rehab or detox.  I just quit drinking.  I have never been to an AA meeting.  I just did it on my own.  I never asked for help, I just stopped.  I will say this, quitting drinking right before the holidays was insanely difficult and AA or something similar might've been helpful.  I wanted to be able to have wine with dinner at Christmas.  It really really sucked to go out on New Year's Eve and not drink.  We went to a bar.  Ugh.  That was a mistake.  All I wanted to do that night was say screw it, give me a drink.  But I didn't.  I made it through the new year and beyond.  I won't lie, it has been incredibly difficult at times, and it still can be.  But, I'm so glad that I've stuck with sobriety.

The good things about being sober:
1. It has made me more clear-headed, happier, more relaxed, a better friend and a better person.
2. I have had some mean hangovers in my life, and it is amazing to never wake up with a hangover.  Now if I wake up and feel like crap I know that I didn't cause it myself.  (Okay, maybe I've woken up after a marathon and felt a bit yucky, but that pain is so worth it.)
3. My bank account thanks me.  It's nice not to spend all that money on alcohol.
4. I always know where I am when I wake up (yes, not knowing where I was happened a couple of times when I drank, not safe or acceptable).
5. I can always get myself home and not have to spend money on a cab.  I don't ever have to depend on someone else to give me a ride.
6. I don't mind going to be early on a Friday night to do a long run on a Saturday morning, I'm not missing out on a night of drinking (if you're not a runner this might seem weird, but for me its nice).
7. I always remember what I did the night before.
8. I can take care of you when you need it.
9. I can get you out of jail or keep you out of jail for the crazy things you might do.
10. I am better.
I could go on and on and on... but you get the idea.

There are also things that suck about being sober, but the list is much shorter.
1. I can't have a glass of champagne to celebrate a friend's wedding or New Year's or something special.
2. I can't have a beer after a marathon or half to celebrate finishing.
3. Hmmm, I can't really think of anything else.

So, clearly the positives far outweigh the negatives.

It is still difficult to stay sober, even after four years.  But, it gets easier.  It's not difficult every day.  But there are days when it takes a lot for me not to have a drink.  But, I know I've made the right choice every time I don't have one.  I have moments where I think that I could probably drink now and it wouldn't be a problem.  But, its those thoughts that make me realize that it would be a problem, and fast; its that same part of my brain that tells me that I feel fine and don't need my medication anymore, clearly that part of my brain sometimes gets a little confused.  I can't EVER drink again.

So, to you, my friends, please understand that when I say I don't want a drink, it always means I can't have a drink.  Please try to remember this.  Don't encourage me to have just one beer with you.  Just one would be my demise.  And good friends wouldn't want this for me.  I don't expect you to always remember that I'm sober, you have your own stuff to worry about.  But, please, occasionally try to remember and not offer me alcohol. 

Please, my friends, understand that for me, going to a bar or a club where everyone is clearly drinking is not going to be fun for me a lot of time.  It just makes me want to have a drink.  I don't mind sometimes going to bars/clubs, I don't mind when I'm at dinner and people are drinking (but don't expect to split the bill evenly, I didn't drink and alcohol is expensive, I don't mind if you drink but I'm not going to pay for your drinks).  I don't always like being around people who are trying to get wasted.  It makes me uncomfortable, in a way that makes me want to have a drink.  But, don't think that this means I don't want to be invited to your nights out on the town, I may not always accept, but understand that this is not because of you, its usually because I'm having a difficult day with sobriety.

I don't mind driving you around when you've been drinking, I'm sober, its fine.  But, please appreciate it, pay for gas (I drive a beast of a car, it devours gas) or parking or valet, or say thank you, and mean it.  And don't expect it.

Please understand that watching you get drunk is only fun sometimes. 

Please don't get judgmental with me because I'm not drinking, I'm not judging you for choosing to drink.

Please don't say things like, "It would be so fun to see you drunk."  No, it wouldn't.  That isn't supportive or kind.  Please try to remember that this is difficult for me and when people try to encourage me to drink it just sucks.  I know many of you met me after I got sober.  Understand, that we probably wouldn't have met if I hadn't stopped drinking, I wouldn't have done the things I've done if I hadn't gotten sober (i.e. - run a marathon or two).

When I drank I didn't know when to say when. I couldn't have just one or two drinks, I would drink as many drinks as I could.  I would drink til I got drunk almost every single time that I drank (in the end).  And now I have found the best solution for me, no drinking at all.

My name is Elisabeth, and I'm an alcoholic.

Please help me celebrate my other birthday by making a donation:  (maybe we can get me halfway to my goal!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Magic Button

Nearly four years ago I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  When I heard the doctor tell me that diagnosis I just went with it.  I hoped that knowing what was really going on in my head would help me be able to function more normally.  I went with it and started taking the medication religiously.  I did what the doctor said, went to my appointments and carried on with my life.  But, I carried on in a way that was more manageable.  We tried different medications until we found the right combination and then I was set. I've taken the same combination of medications for about 3.5 years.  I just switched out one of my anti-depressants, and I'm still trying to decide if I like it.  But, luckily, medication wise, it's been fairly smooth sailing.  Like I said, my doctor handed me a diagnosis and I went with it.

After I was told I was bipolar I did crazy amounts of research (it's what I do, both of my parents are journalists, I can't help myself, I have to know everything I can).  I read articles online, books, blogs, everything I could to find out the best was of dealing with this diagnosis.  I knew it was the right diagnosis from the start.  I had been up and down for years.  My temper was beyond short, I snapped easier than a twig.  I could sleep for what seemed like days, and feel nothing.  I could spend money I didn't have on things I didn't need without a thought (I know lots of non-bipolar people do this too, but mine was a bit more out of control/excessive).  I had all of these classic bipolar symptoms, and even more.  I did everything I could to try to deal with being bipolar and live a successful, happy life.

More than once I have asked myself who I would be without this diagnosis, who I would be if I didn't have bipolar disorder.  Would I be the same person?  I don't know, probably not.  What I do know is that I am intense, intelligent, incredibly creative, passionate, loving, compassionate, empathetic, and much much more, and I do think that part of it is influenced by the bipolar.  My emotions and feelings tend to be more intense than most people, or at least they feel that way.  I think my levels of emotions are probably the same, but the intensity factor behind them, and the lack of control on my part with respect to these emotions really is the main difference.  When I am un-medicated and not trying to control myself my emotions are wildly out of control.

So, I've always thought to myself, if there was a "magic button" I could push and make this illness, yes illness, go away, would I?  If there was a cure would I take it?  Who am I if I do not have bipolar disorder?  I've thought about this a lot, many, many times, and I don't think I would change it.  If I could completely rid myself of the bipolar I don't think I would.  Of course, there's part of me that would love for all of this to go away.  I hate taking all of the medication, most days its the last thing I want to do, but I do it, because I know I have to (I hate the medication and side effects more than anything else to do with this stupid illness).   I hate when I lose control of my emotions, which happens more often for me than most people.  I hate that my medication determines things I can and can't do (i.e.- running in hot weather, can't do it, I completely fall apart and overheat, I was never like that before).  There are a million reasons I hate having bipolar disorder.

But, I still wouldn't change it if I could.  It is part of me.  It has made me who I am today, a strong, confident, intelligent, creative woman.  Yes, I have a mental illness, or if you prefer, a brain disease.  But, that doesn't make me diseased or bad.  It scares some people.  Sometimes I go on a date and the guy finds out I have bipolar and it clearly changes his opinion of me, and not usually in a good way.  That's usually the last date.  I know it scares some of my former friends, and probably even some of my current friends.  Sometimes it scares me.  I'm scared that if (and when) I have kids, that I'll pass it along to them.  I'm scared that one day I will stop taking my medication and get out of control.  I'm scared that my medication will stop working for me and I won't know how to deal with it. 

But, I know that I'm strong and I'll figure it out and letting myself be scared isn't doing me, or anyone else any good.  I can't let my fears define me.  And, I know everything will be okay, mostly because I have the most amazing family anyone could ever ask for, and friends (the good ones, the ones who will stick by me through anything and already have) who will help pick me back up if I fall.  Without my family and friends I would not be where I am today or who I am today.  They are the most important part of my life.

So, the short of it, after all that is no, I would not push a magic button and be cured.  This is who I am and it makes me, well, ME.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

bad credit... bad employee?

I clicked on my internet explorer at work the other day (as I do everyday) and noticed the following article on the default home page (which I have never changed for some unkown reason).  So, I saw the headline, "How Bad Credit Can Hurt You at Work" and I was curious.  I've heard people say this before, but I've never really given it much thought.  I decided to look at the article and see what it had to say.

Basically the idea of the article is if you have bad credit you'll make a bad employee.  Apparently in these tough economic times, when people are having their homes foreclosed, or are having difficulty making credit card payments - because they are unemployed, or short on cash - we should start looking at their credit to determine if they will be a good employee.  What I don't understand is how does having a bad credit score, or a bad mark on your credit, determine if you will be a good office manager, writer, assistant, chef, doctor, nurse or whatever it is you're trying to be.

I could understand needing to have your credit checked if you're doing something with say MONEY.  And even then, I'm not 100% sure that it's necessary.  If you're applying for a job and they want to check your credit history, and you deal with money and social security numbers, does that mean they think you're goin to steal said money or social security number?  That's a big leap from bad credit to identity theft.

In all honesty, if someone were to check my credit, and it needed to be good to get a job, I'd be screwed.  My credit is terrible, and I know it.  I've been fixing it, a little bit at a time, making payments on things when I can.  But, I don't make much money, so getting everything fixed is difficult.  I have no credit cards right now, no car payment.  But, still my credit is bad.  There's a reason its bad, its my own fault, but there is an explanation for the whole thing.  I won't go into it right now, because that's not the point of this post.  But, there is a reason, as there is for everyone.  To judge someone based on their credit (for a job, not a loan or credit card, cause that makes sense) isn't right or fair.

Having bad credit does not make one a bad prospective employee.  It just makes you bad with money, and that's not even always the case.  If someone can please explain to me why a credit score is important for determining if you need a job, something that makes sense, then I'm all ears.  Because right now it seems wrong and I agree with the lawmakers who are trying to ban employment-related credit checks.

One final thought - how are you supposed to fix your bad credit when potential employers are judging you on that bad credit?  It doesn't make any sense.  You need a job to fix your credit, but someone might want you to have good credit to get a job.  It's that age old problem - we would give you the job if you had the experience, but you can't get the experience if no one gives you a job.

Done rambling.  If you want to check out this article here's the link.  I'm hoping that lawmakers can institute a ban on this nonsense.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Malibu 1/2 Marathon

A year ago I was supposed to run my first half marathon, Malibu, with my sister. For various reasons (including how sick I was with flu/bronchitis) we didn't participate. I have to say, now, a year later, I'm really glad that wasn't my first race, because it might have been my last. So, now this year I've run 5 1/2 marathons (Surf City, San Diego Rock 'n Roll, San Francisco first 1/2, Disneyland 1/2 and now Malibu 1/2) and 2 full marathons (LA Marathon in March and Nike Women's in Oct).  I'm addicted, obviously.  This race was difficult for me, for a number of reasons. Some were my fault, some were the fault of the marathon organizers, some were no one's fault at all. So, here's my recap of Malibu 1/2, which I will say was one of the hardest races of the year for me.  (Sorry if this is long, first race recap I've ever done.)

itty bitty expo
I registered for Malibu and was ready to conquer it, I was going to run hard and do my best. I was apprehensive as the day rapidly approached as I had injured myself at the Nike Women's marathon in October (I ran/limped the last 4 miles of that race), but I was determined to do it, no matter what, even if I had to crawl across the finish line. Clearly, I'm a little bit stubborn.
Good morning Malibu
The day before Malibu we drove out to the expo to pick up our packets and got a preview of the next day's beautiful view...  and REALLY small expo...  but, it did make for a quick afternoon at packet pickup (although it would've been nice if we could've done race day pickup and avoided the long drive out to Malibu).

Ever hear of spell check?
The next morning, when the alarm went off, and it was still dark, I found myself thinking the thought I have pondered before many races, "why do i do this to myself?"  I realized on the way out to Malibu...  For this race, it was for the amazing view.
So, we got there, got loaded on the buses up to the start line at Point Mugu and waited around for like an hour... entertaining ourselves.  And that's when someone in our little group realized that there was an error on the race bib.  "Internatinal" really?  Have they never heard of spell check?  This should have been a sign.... Or the fact that the start sign was only facing out and not toward the racers as well.... 

At least it was a beautiful view...  and I was loving that it was an 8:30am start, got a little extra sleep time (even if it was still dark when I got up) and a little extra stretch/pre-race time.  (This later start was something I would soon realize was not such a good thing.)

Finally, time to start.  I was excited, feeling good and ready to run hard!  But, unfortunately this day had something different in store for me. 
People taking advantage of photo ops

Can't beat this view!
As we started I realized that this was most definitely going to be the MOST BEAUTIFUL course I had run all year long.  I was ready to enjoy myself.  And, then Malibu came out and kicked my ass.  Besides being the most beautiful course I had run, it was also one of the hardest.  I started taking pictures along the course when I realized that this was going to be a tougher race than I thought and my time goal would probably not be met.  I decided to still run hard, but enjoy it as well.  So, I pulled out my blackberry and got to snapping (taking pictures would be much easier with a real camera).

When I got to the first water station I realized that we were all in for an interesting morning...
A little disorganized... I wasn't at the back of the pack, and there were still full marathoners out there.  There were only a few cups filled, mostly just full jugs of water and there was a 1/2 sleeve of cups that people were frantically grabbing for.  I was grateful to be wearing my fuel belt at this point.  The next water station wasn't even set up, there was a bag of volunteer t-shirts, a folded up table, and boxed up jugs of water, wtf?
the girl in the tye-dye was trying to hand out water to runners, but no one else was...
it was sort of a free for all at the table (the VERY little table)
The view stayed amazing... as you can see. So I focused on where we were... and not the fact that it was rapidly warming up.  I drank my Gatorade that I brought in my fuel belt (cause I knew they were going to be using coconut water for electrolytes and I wasn't sure how I'd feel about that while I was running, more on that in a bit), I took pictures and I tried to enjoy the course. 
Kappa Alpha Thetas

Throughout the course the water stations were hit and miss.  There were a couple of stations being manned by sororities, not sure if they were from Pepperdine or another school, but they seemed to be more together than the others.  They had cups already filled with water and were passing them out to passing runners, so that was better than the ones where it was just grab what you can off a shoddy table.  I appreciated the effort by all of the volunteers, but these girls really tried hard to make it easier for the runners, so thank you.  
Delta Gammas

After a few miles I realized that I was in for a more difficult race than I imagined.  It was rapidly warming up (and I do not do well in the heat) and the course was harder than I realized it would be.  My knee on the other hand was feeling good.  I did have to stop at one point and sit on the guard rail and take off my right shoe and get the pebble out of it that felt like the size of a boulder.

As the miles wore on, and water stations continued to be sloppy, and I started to get warmer and warmer I realized that there was no medical aid along the course.  I started to worry at about mile 8, as I realized that I had stopped sweating, and I was out of Gatorade.  This was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me in a race.  I do tend to overheat easily, but I ALWAYS sweat a ridiculous amount and I know how to recognize the signs of overheating and stop myself.  I had done everything right in preparation, I had hydrated before, and I brought my own liquids.  Unfortunately I still got very hot very fast.  I had noticed earlier on that I hadn't seen any medical aid on the course, but I figured that I would see something, right? Wrong.  I slowed my pace and waited for the next water station, hoping there would be a medical station there too.  I got to the next station and refilled my bottles with water and picked up a Zico coconut water.  They weren't handing out cups of coconut water, they were handing out full bottles.  Who wants to run with that? (I had noticed that at an earlier water station as well, but I thought, wrongly, that they would have it more organized at the next one.)  So annoying.  I took one anyone because I knew I needed it.  But, it was kind of warm.  I drank about 1/2 of it and then put it down on the side of the road. 

This is what I saw earlier on in the course (at the first station with coconut water).... lots of discarded Zicos on the side of the road (they lined the whole guard rail), clearly still partially full because it was windy enough that empties would have knocked over...  I don't think this is a bad electrolyte choice, although I'm sure most people would have preferred Gatorade or Powerade, but since the coconut water was kind of warm it didn't taste great.  Cold coconut water is the only way to go.  Also, I know that it's a "greener" choice, but I don't think that when its discarded up and down the side of the road like this it actually counts as being a "green" choice.  The best suggestions I have for this choice of electrolyte in a race: keep it cold and put it in cups!
1st Medical support I witnessed all day.

So, as I was saying I had stopped sweating, and I hadn't seen any medical aid along the course.  I kept going, albeit slower.  I knew that my friends were in front of me and behind me on the course, so I wasn't too worried, I knew that I'd be okay (plus I had my phone on me, so I could call someone if I really needed to).  But, I did find it concerning that I hadn't seen any medical support along the course.  The first medical support I did see wasn't until I reached 11.5 miles (I know this because I looked down at my Garmin when I spotted it).  And, it wasn't an aid station, it was this an ambulance picking up someone (don't know if it was for a runner or for someone in a house along the course - I know its kinda far away in the photo, but you get the idea.)

Anyway, I kept going.  I've been telling myself that if there had been medical support along the course I would've stopped myself and not finished the race.  I really was that worried.  But, I also know myself, and I more than likely would've kept going.  SO not the point though.  There should have been medical support on the course.  This wasn't some easy little race, this was a half AND full marathon, that was hilly and warm. (Even if it wasn't warm there should have been medical support!)

So, I finally finished, in my slowest 1/2 marathon time of the year.  It was slow, but I finished it, and was rewarded with a medal and beach towel.  I like the beach towel instead of finisher's t-shirt.  I have lots of the t-shirts and it was nice to get something different for a change, plus with the finish right at the ocean it was great for people who wanted to cool off.  It was hot and hard and I'm so glad it wasn't the first half marathon I ever did.  But, as fate would have it, it was my last race of this year instead.  And regardless of the problems, my own and with course support, I am really glad I finally got to do this race.

A few more pics I took along the way (this would be WAY easier with a real camera, but all I had was my blackberry, so I improvised).

Now entering LA County... Beautiful views continue ahead.

We're just entering Malibu?  I thought this was the Malibu Marathon? :)  Oh, and that guy in the blue kept trying to stay in front of me... He finished after me.  Not that it matters, but it was annoying that he kept sprinting past me.

More ridiculous water stations... I thought this was supposed to be a "green" marathon... that's a lot of trash and plastic bottles.  Seriously, water stations at this race were kind of a disaster. 

This sign made me laugh... "Stay hydrated"  It would be easier to stay hydrated if the water stations were better organized, oh and if you didn't hand out bottles of coconut water as opposed to cups of it.

Oh, and when I saw this sign I thought to myself, thank god I only have a 5k to go!

Both of these signs made me thankful I didn't have that far to still run.

The end is near! I think... I hope... (I could actually see crowds of people in the distance in the water, and I knew the finish line was near, but it still felt a million miles away.)
The finish line, the water set up at the end... kinda pathetic for the finish of a marathon.  Really, jugs of water? Kinda disastrous.

Can't beat the view at the end... and the medal was pretty big (its actually a little bigger/heavier than my LA Marathon medal), bonus!  (Yes, the medal that I earn makes me happy/excited, don't judge me!)
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post there were things about this race and my issues with it that were my fault (just getting over an injury and not running much in the previous month), things that were the organizers fault (poor water stations, no medical support along the course, the 8:30am start - I seriously appreciate a 7am start now) and things that were no one's fault (the heat).  All of these things would determine if I would do this race again.

So, taking all of that into account.... It was hard and hot.  Malibu like my own personal Everest.  I'd love to be able to do it and finish strong.  But, with the problems I mentioned above, I doubt I'd do this race again.  It doesn't seem worth it.  Unless I knew that the water/medical was improved, and an earlier start time was in place, I really doubt I'd do it again.

Final thoughts...

If you are looking for a challenging course I definitely recommend this one.  It is a challenge.  It was also, as I said before, absolutely the most beautiful course I've run all year, right along the ocean the whole way.  I thought nothing would top San Francisco 1/2, running across the Golden Gate was amazing, but this was spectacular views the ENTIRE way.  But, I recommend that you bring your own hydration!  And be prepared for possibly warm weather.  Its a great challenge if that's what you're looking for, but know that it's still not perfect (not that any race is) and definitely has some kinks that need to be worked out - room for improvement.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Are marathoners/runners athletes?

This entry is in honor of this weekend's New York Marathon.  There's a lot of news about there surrounding NYC and who will win and what celebrities are going to run.   One blog that I read yesterday discussed whether or not runners (specifically marathoners) are athletes.  It's an interesting question... Are runners/marathoners athletes?

Here's Merriam-Webster's definiton of an athlete:
Athlete: a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.

And, here's the definition of runner:
Runner: one that runs.

Lastly, the definition of a marathoner:
Marathoner: one (as a runner) who takes part in a marathon.

But, are runner and athlete the same?
By these definitions the answer is yes.  Marathons take stamina and training (at least for most people).  So they're the same thing, right?  Maybe, maybe not.

I've heard arguments both ways.  Everyone seems to agree on one thing, the elite marathoners and runners are athletes.  They push their bodies to the limit and achieve new things (shorter times, longer distances).  They do what most people can not (such as running a marathon in just over 2 hours!).

But, what about everyone else?  The still fast Boston qualifying runners.  The middle of the pack runners.  The slower runners who finish toward the back.  The very last person to cross that finish line.  Would you qualify all of those people as athletes?  Does finishing a marathon qualify you as an "athlete." 

No they aren't professional athletes, but not many people are.  No, they aren't winning, but they are finishing.  They are doing something that only a VERY small percentage (approx 1-2%) people ever do, even professional athletes might view the marathon as a daunting task.

It is HUGELY impressive to finish a marathon at all, whether you finish in under 3 hours, or it takes you 8+.  You are still putting your body through an incredible struggle.  Some people say its just a form of self-torture.  Others say its an accomplishment and you are an athlete.

I have thought about this a lot.  I am a runner/marathoner.  I, oddly enough, enjoy these ridiculously long road races.  I know that I'm NEVER going to win a marathon, or even 1/2 marathon, or probably even a shorter race (5k or 10k).  I am always happy just to finish.  And, at this point, I win when I set my own personal goals for the race and I meet or exceed them. 

A year ago I had completed just 2 10ks, very slowly (at the second one someone dressed as a 6ft+ tall Cookie Monster beat me, I won't lie, that was pretty embarassing).  Just 12 short months later, I have completed two full marathons (LA and Nike Women's) and four 1/2 marathons (Surf City, San Diego Rock 'n' Roll, San Francisco - 1st half, and Disneyland) and I have one more 1/2 that I'm set to run in just over a week (Malibu).  To me, just doing one of each is pretty damn impressive.  But, I've done 2 and 4. 

I feel like an athlete.  No, I'm not fast.  But, I am getting faster.  I am meeting and exceeding the goals that I've set for myself.  My first goal when I signed up for this "insanity" was to finish a marathon.  So, I finished a marathon.  Then I wanted to finish my next marathon faster, and I did, with an injury.  I was sorta hobbling along the final four miles, in some fairly serious pain, in my ankle, and every step hurt, I thought I was going to throw up when I crossed the finish line - I didn't, but I did cry b/c of the pain.  Lots of people would have just quite, but I didn't and finished my second marathon 22 minutes faster than my first, almost 1 minute/mile faster, with a stupid ankle that wouldn't cooperate for the final 4 miles.  Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself, and I do.

As for the 1/2's I wanted to get through the first one, I was nervous about the whole experience.  Surf City 1/2 was the first long distance race I did, and I did it alone.  So, I knew I could do at least 13.1, and I was injured there too (IT band - no this is not a trend, I stepped off a curb funny at Nike, which is how I hurt my ankle).  I had two goals after this one for my 1/2s, to run faster and run the whole thing straight through before then end of the year. 

I trained for LA and Surf City using interval training, run for x minutes, walk for 1 minute, this worked well for me at the time and helped me tackle these massive miles one little bit at a time.  So, while the intervals worked for me I wanted to get rid of them, at least for the 1/2 before the end of the year.

I figured I'd get faster and then ditch the intervals.  Problem was, I wasn't getting faster, I was slowing down, and the idea that I'd be able to run 13.1 without an interval started to seem like it was getting further and further away.  My 1/2 times were getting longer, San Diego was about 4 minutes longer than Surf City, and I wasn't injured.  Then San Francisco was like 12 minutes longer than San Diego, still not injured.  I was starting to wonder if my full marathon time was going to get faster. 

Then came Disneyland.  At Disneyland I found myself back on track, meeting my goals, and feeling like an athlete again.  I killed the Disneyland 1/2, I finished it four minutes faster than Surf City (20 minutes faster than my most recent half, SF!) and I ran the whole thing straight, no intervals (I did walk through the water stations, they were pretty crowded).  And, I finally PR'd in the half!

I still have one goal for the 1/2 that I haven't met this year, that I'm hoping to meet at Malibu next weekend.  Then I have a whole NEW set of goals for the full.  First, I want to run the full straight, no intervals.  Second, I want to improve my time.  And third, I eventually want to beat Oprah's time.  (Silly? Maybe.  But, it annoys me that she ran a marathon faster than me.)  So, hopefully I'll get to these goals this year, maybe even beat Oprah.  But, I know no matter what, I am an athlete.  Even if not everyone agrees.

To the people who think marathoners aren't athletes because they don't win the race, and more than 90% aren't trying to win the race, I have this to say to you, you try running a marathon and then tell me that marathoners aren't athletes.  We might not be professional, or super speedy, or make any money doing it (in fact, we spend money to put ourselves through this).  But, we do, for the most part, train for months, wake up early on weekend mornings for long runs, punish our bodies, work hard and celebrate the accomplishment of finishing.

To be an athlete does not mean that you have to win, or that you are even trying to win, it means you have to try, you have to get up and go for it, every single day, you have to lace up your shoes at 4am, pin on your race bib, and join thousands of other people in the cold and dark to run miles and miles and miles.  Running a marathon makes you an athlete, even if you are the last person to cross that finish line.  You are an athlete.  I am an athlete.

My final point in proving that marathoners are athletes is this: We tell children "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game."  So, our version of playing the game is getting out there and participating.  It's not about winning (unless you're an elite runner), it's about "how you play the game," and in marathoning that means having the courage to go out there and try.

What do you think?  Are all marathoners athletes?  Or are some just crazy people out there for seemingly endless hours torturing themselves?

To everyone running the New York City Marathon: Good luck!  Have fun!  Enjoy the day!  Hopefully I'll be running NYC next year (if I get in!)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Little Miss Fix It

Old shower head
Yep, that's me.  Little Miss Fix It.  If things break at home and I can fix it I will, instead of calling the handyman.  Just seems easier to do these things myself.  This week I faced a challenge, fixing the leaky shower.  It took a few days to actually repair.  I was very close to just throwing in the towel and calling the handyman.  But, I didn't.  I fixed the it!  So, here is the saga of the shower head.

Elisabeth vs. the Shower.
Round 1-  Three days ago as I turned on the shower the head came off.  This was a problem.  I had to take a shower, I had just finished a workout.  It was 9pm.  Clearly couldn't call the handyman at that hour even if I wanted to.  So, I decided to just try to fix it myself.  The only problem was, this wasn't a standard shower head.  The shower head didn't just screw back on, instead there was a ball on the end and the head was in two pieces and had a rubber washer to go with it.  I spent approx 25 mins trying to get the damn thing back on properly without spraying everywhere.  I finally got it into a semi-functional state (it was still leaky, but much more controlled, although the water pressure was very low). 

End of round 1 - we'll call it a draw, it wasn't completely fixed, but it was capable of being used.

The culprit of the leak - a crack on the
collar holding the head on the arm.

Round 2 - I attempted to call the maintenance man in hopes that he would be able to fix it quickly.  I couldn't find his number, anywhere.  I seriously tried.  I tried calling the landlord, who wasn't in (and left him a message).  I tried going to my neighbors, they either weren't home or didn't have the number.  So, I figured since I had to go to Target anyway, I would just get a new shower head there.  Epic failure.  This is when I realized that we had a crazy old shower head (clearly time for a new one).  Target does not carry that style of shower head.  So, I moved on to OSH.  No luck, they didn't even know what I was talking about.  At this point I was completely frustrated.  I was afraid I had no choice but to track down the handyman and get it repaired by him. This is not something I wanted to do because it meant that I couldn't do it myself, and I am my mother's daughter and figure that if I can fix its easier than calling someone in. 

End of round 2 - Shower -1; Elisabeth - 0.  I was not going to let this damn shower beat me.
Old shower arm with ball on end - not normal
Round 3 - Beginning of day 3 of the shower saga.  At this point I had left yet another message for the landlord about needing the maintenance man's phone number.  (Just in case I couldn't solve the problem on my own, the landlord had called me the previous night, while I was in Target, but I didn't hear the phone ring, and he didn't leave a message and when I called back no answer.)  Then I started doing some research online and I realized that I was not going to be able to find the part anywhere (not easily anyway) and this was going to be harder than I originally thought (as the collar was cracked and finding just that piece wasn't going to be happening anytime soon, and the whole damn piece was so old that I needed to start all over).  So, I called up the hardware store that we went to when I was a kid, Virgil's in Glendale.  I figured that this would be my best shot at finding the parts that I needed to repair this busted thing.  Jackpot!  They not only knew what I was talking about, but they had the parts I would need to repair the blasted thing.  I knew at this point I had the upper hand.  All I needed to do was get to the hardware store and we would have a functioning shower once again.

Really BIG pipe wrench
I headed to Virgil's with my dad on our way to the Dodger game and when we got there I had a moment where I thought I couldn't do it.  But, the guy simply explained everything to me and I bought the pieces I would need (including a new pipe, special tape for the pipe, and a new shower head - a regular one).  All I needed now was a pipe wrench, which my dad had.  After the game I got home and prepared to defeat the shower one final time.  Less than 20 minutes later.... success!  I had finally gotten the old pieces out and the new ones installed and there were no more leaks.  End of round 3 - Shower -0; Elisabeth -1.  (I took away the shower's points from Round 2 as I clearly defeated it, beacuse it is now in pieces in the trash.)

I'm not afraid to get my hands
a little dirty to get the job done.
It might've been faster and it definitely would've been cheaper to just call the handyman.  But, I'm stubborn like that and I was determined to do this and I knew I could.  And I did.  (The new one might not match, as it's white, but I still did it.  Could you?)
The new fully functional shower head.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Going it alone

This is a short one...
There are people who think doing things alone is odd, or uncomfortable.  I am not one of those people.  I enjoy doing LOTS of things alone.   A few are...

Shopping alone (although I prefer going with Alexis because she is great at finding deals and tells me what actually does and doesn't look good).  

I go to bookstores alone (probably to everyone in my life's benefit as I could spend hours browsing in a book store).  

I sometimes go to movies alone (this is one of my favorite alone things).  

I occasionally eat at restaurants alone (this was weird at first, but now seems like no big deal).  
Flying alone (when traveling I much prefer flying by myself as opposed to traveling with someone, its easier and much more peaceful, you don't have to worry about anyone else and you can just enjoy yourself).

Last night I went to a Dodger game alone (not the first time I've gone by myself).  

All of these things can be enjoyable with other people, but I also sometimes like doing these things alone.  Weird?  Maybe.  But, I don't think so.  Sometimes being alone is the best thing in the world.  Sometimes it sucks, but when I choose to be alone I savor it and enjoy it.  Knowing I can do things alone makes me happy.  Alone time can be a great thing.  You should really try it sometime.  It'll do you some good.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Smart cars... Not so smart

Smart cars are inappropriate.  They are undersized and ridiculous.  The look like they should have a big key on the back and be wound up to go.  (Cearly I'm not the only one that thinks this, that photos was not difficult to find.)  Blech.  They irritate me.  So, stupid, I know, but I can’t help it, well, I could, I just choose not to. J  (Hey, at least I’m honest!) 

Whenever I see a smart car I want to run it over.  I don’t think it would be that difficult, I drive a 4Runner, so I think I could squish one easily.  This is not an acceptable car to be sharing the road with.  It just seems unsafe.  If this car got into an accident with a large SUV it would be crunched.  How is this road-worthy?  Also, I’m pretty sure a smart car is small enough to fit into the back of my vehicle.  Definitely not safe.

I can see how these cars are appropriate in Europe, where the streets are tiny.  There big SUVs are the ridiculous looking vehicles.  But, here, especially in LA, on major freeways these little bitty things need to go.  Have you ever seen one driving next to a big rig?  Yikes.   I mean really, are these cars necessary on the streets of LA?  I say no.  Go get a real car!

The thing that really actually irritates me about these cars, besides their ugliness (and let’s admit it, this is not a sexy car), is the fact that it can fit into the tiniest of parking places.  My car could never imagine fitting into one of those teensy spots, I mean I have put it into a “compact” space in a parking lot, but it’s a tight fit, to say the least.  I park on the street at my apartment and there is a smart car that I see that fits into little itty bitty spots all the time.  These are not spots that I could EVER think about putting my car into and it irritates me.  I realize this is a stupid thing to be irritated about, but I am.  (If you don’t like it, don’t read this, it’s my blog and I’ll rant and rave if I want to!)

Okay, I’m done with my rant and I will stop complaining about these idiotic vehicles.  At least for a little while.

Thirty things I learned when I was 30

Thirty things I learned when I was 30 (some I already knew, but were reinforced this year)

1. I can do anything I set my mind to.
2. Bungee jumping is fun.  I’m scared of roller coasters, so jumping off a bridge and bouncing back up again was a very big deal for me.
3. I can run pretty far. (26.2 miles to be exact)
4. I can run a half marathon.  Ran Surf City ½ in 2:37 in February.
5. I can run a full marathon.  Ran the LA Marathon in 6:19 in March.
6. Living at home with your parents when you’ve lived away for a long time is not fun, but sometimes necessary.
7. I can put up with a lot more than I ever thought I could.
8. Getting a call at 5am to get someone out of jail is never good.
9. Your family might be crazy but they are the ones that see you through the good times and bad.
10. I actually enjoy working out.
11. Money is far less important than friends and family.
12. My dog will let me dress him up in pretty much anything as long as there isn’t a hat involved.
13. Being bipolar doesn’t define me, but it is a part of who I am.
14. If given the option I wouldn’t change the fact that I have bipolar disorder, it’s made me who I am today.
15. I am still terrified of roller coasters.
16. My friends are amazing and capable of so much more than most of them realize.
17. I love my dog more than I love some of my family members (not immediate family).
18. I can get by on very little money.
19. My body is capable of far more than I ever realized.
20. My mind is capable of far more than I ever realized.
21. Not drinking has made me a stronger person.
22. I actually think I would like to have kids someday.  (If I don’t have them it’s not the end of the world, but this whole idea of actually wanting to have kids at all is a new concept for me.)
23. I’m not scared of commitment; I just know what I don’t want.
24. Coloring my hair black is not the best idea… way too hard to change.
25. I am willing to try almost anything at least once.
26. I’m not a bad driver, but I am easily distracted.
27. There are people who will judge you on a first impression and never think twice about it, even if they are wrong.
28. People are who they are.  Trying to change them is never going to get you anywhere, except frustrated.
29. Things in life will be difficult, but it’s how you deal with those things that make you who you are.
30. I love life.