Despite the fact that I lead an active lifestyle – I have held jobs which require movement, never allow me to sit down. I rarely hang on the couch, eat chips and watch television. I am always moving, traveling, going somewhere, full of energy. I have always had at least a mediocre fitness program in my pocket and have run more than a dozen 10k’s in my lifetime, I have never been trim, athletic or what I would call “fit.” I buy the magazines and fitness books and keep them by the toilet in my bathroom. They make me feel like I can run ten miles tomorrow and leap like a gazelle, even though I know better, the mirror across the bathroom doesn’t lie.
My sister Lauri, ten years younger, is a pretty redhead like me. She is lovely, taller, leaner and was labeled by my mom as “the skinny one.” Not sure where that left me, I never asked. Lauri was the ballerina with long legs and graceful neck who wore size eight jeans and danced on point. I was only allowed to take modern dance. Mom said I was suited more to that type of dance, even though I hated it. I translated this as “modern dance is for ballet rejects.” I thought it was ugly and after one class, I declined to pursue dance at all. If I couldn’t be the lovely ballerina, I didn’t want any part of it.
But I have always wanted to run and by the time I took it on, nobody was around to tell me that I couldn’t hack it. I am old enough that I remember when running became cool, back in the late seventies. By the eighties, everybody was running or doing aerobics, which, to me, is just another form of modern dance. Yuck. I went for the running shoes. I ran my first 10k in Austin, Texas, the Austin-American Statesman 10k on Easter Sunday, 1987. I trained for it simply by running around Lake Austin every day after work. I didn’t make a great time, but I ran the whole way. Good enough for me! I was an athlete, at least for a day. I went home and soaked myself in a tub of hot water, satisfied with my performance. The highlight of the day was the fellow who ran next to me in a pickle suit. He was running an ad (literally) for Congressman Jake Pickle, and he didn’t know it, but he spurred me on to the finish. I wasn’t about to be beaten by a pickle!
I have run, off and on, since Austin. Since then, I lived in the land of the supremely fit, Boulder, Colorado. This has been especially hard, since I have acquired ten pounds for every child I gave birth to and ten more for the ex-husband. When I was in Boulder, I taught elementary school, then earned my massage therapy certification and license at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. I worked as a massage therapist in the office of a physical therapist, the quintessential Boulder running man who placed in ultra-marathons. (www.radiantrunning.com) I was swimming in a sea of fitness, drowning, and never felt like part of the club.
I was no slacker. But, mind you, Boulder sports the elite of super- fit. They are everywhere, on the roads, the trails, the mountains, up cliffs, down ravines, in your back yard… You can’t swing a cat on a street corner in Boulder without hitting an athlete in the ass.
In Boulder, when you tell someone with pride that you just finished a marathon, the response is which one and how many does this make? Then they regale you with stories about their multitude of marathons and other athletic adventures. Here in South Carolina, most people would look at you like you are nuts, pat your shoulder and say, “That’s nice, honey. Here. Have another piece of fried chicken.” I tried to keep up; I am not to be undone. I completed eleven Bolder Boulder 10k runs and even one Cooper River Bridge Run, in which I sported my best time, just over an hour! Training at altitude and running at sea level does make a difference!
So, here I am at sea level again, living amongst fried chicken and pork chops, French fries and apple pies. I fit in again. The people here look so…..normal! While I love that part and I love fried chicken, too, I still want to run. And I want to do it well.
My sister Lauri has taken up a fitness program, too. In an effort to battle stress and depression, she joined a gym. She immediately lost fifteen pounds (I hate that she can do that!) and toned it all up. It is, of course, somewhat easier when we are younger. The body is more responsive. By the time you get to middle age, forty eight like me, your body starts fighting back, rebelling against change. I mean, it didn’t used to be that I groaned and made noise every time I got into and out of a chair. When did that happen?! It’s my old body. I hates change.
Lauri is the Executive Director of the Bishop Gravatt Camp and Conference Center in Aiken, South Carolina. I recently moved to South Carolina to be closer to her as she is enduring a separation and to my father, who has been ill. I left Boulder behind me, opened a massage studio in the center of Aiken (My Aiken Body Restorative Massage – www.myaikenbody.com). I sold everything but my home in Boulder, which is still on the market, moved my stuff and my two kitties, Bubba, the big-assed twenty pound black cat and Cali, his calico companion, and bought a small house on ten acres just outside of Gravatt and only a mile down the road from my sister. I adopted another kitty, SpanXX, a very naughty little thing, as a tip from a client who adopted a stray pregnant cat and wanted good homes for her progeny. My black Lab, Daisy Mae, joined our family here at Gravatt last May. I have three children: Ben, 22, recent Sewanee graduate who lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut. Meri, 19, an aspiring animator who is pursuing her dream to work at Pixar by obtaining her degree in animation from Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach, California. And Sam, 15, who is a freshman at Boulder High School and lives with his father in Boulder most of the time, with me, the other part of the time. I was excited to have all of my children out here for Christmas holiday this year! A complete set! That is rare these days, with three scattered from sea to shining sea and areas in between.
I was grateful for lots of new business. My business has been taking off! Several months back, I was referred to a fitness trainer, Lori Comshaw, and I gave her a demo-massage in the hope that we could do some trade referrals. In return, she invited me to join her in her “Boot Camp Class” which meets at 6 p.m. on Monday-Wednesday-Friday at Odell Weeks. I planned to go and never made it because, well, I’d like to say I was busy every night at 6:00 and, in truth, that is often the case. But I never made time to go. I never really planned to go. I have discovered, more so than ever in my life, that there is no “finding time,” only “making time.” I hadn’t made the time. I started running with my dog Daisy during the fall months, off and on, and that was good because, I’m telling you, if I don’t take her out for a run, she reminds me. The path the fitness is likely best found by following a Labrador puppy through the woods. But I never truly made time to exercise.
By December, I’d forgotten about boot camp all together. One day, Lori called and said she wanted to buy gift certificates for massage for her clients. I was happy to serve her in this and grateful to meet new clients. During holiday break, right after Christmas, one of her clients came to see me. He was a nice looking, trim, fit older man who told me about his work with Lori. He’d lost over four pants sizes since he’s been working out with her. He felt energetic, younger, happier and healthier than he ever had. His picture is on her website, www.loricomshaw.com, and he has written glowing testimonials about his experiences in finding fitness. And he told me all about a feat he never thought he’d accomplish: The USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run. He and his team, which included trainer Lori, completed the October USMC mud run. By his testimony, it was an incredible experience, he felt he’d really accomplished something when he’d completed it and he’d had more fun than he could imagine doing it. It was a milestone in his path to fitness.
And I could do it, too! He and Lori were planning to run it again on April 21st of this year and one of their teammates, after doing three mud runs, decided she was done, three was enough. They needed another team member. Maybe I’d be interested? I told him during our session that I was making some changes in my life, it was time, the new year was upon me, I was making resolutions. When I got his invitation, I realized it was time to put up or shut up. Either I was planning to do something or I was really doing it.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll consider it.” He graciously sent me the web link to the mud run and pictures of him and his team, before and after. The team members in the first were smiling, happy, ready for a big day. In the “after” picture, they were slimed with slick mud, head to toe, sweaty, disheveled, scraped up … and smiling, happy, reveling in their success. I showed the pictures to my sister and daughter over supper that night and told them how I’d been invited to join the team. I was fairly choking on my dessert, but Lauri and Meri were intrigued, enough to review the website. Lauri had been considering putting together a sports event at Gravatt. Maybe she should complete a mud run and see what that was like, get ideas? My daughter was inspired.
Meri spent the evening reviewing the mud run course, reading about it, looking at the photos. There are pictures of participants swimming like dolphins in a sea of mud, coming up for air and covered with mud all over. Mud coated bodies climbing over a slimy high wall. Mud caked people swinging from wet ropes across a thick pool of mud. You have to understand, my daughter has always sought out the mud puddles. She is the one who I’d find, as a child, standing knee deep in rainy pools of water, splashing about. She is a dolphin at heart, I’m sure, a true water girl. Meri had been talking about getting in shape, working towards fitness, eating better. Here was her opportunity to do that and play in the mud!
That evening, I reviewed the mud run site, posted something about the mud run on my facebook page. I seriously considered joining, not just because it would help my fitness goals, but because it is for a good cause. The USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run is hosted by the Greater Columbia Marine Foundation. The run has grown to attract participants from all across the United States. In 2010, the USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run reached capacity with 3,600 teams and over 14,000 participants, making it the largest Mud Run in North America. The mud run was created to raise money, awareness and support for Marines and their families around Columbia, South Carolina, and across the nation who have been wounded or killed while serving on active duty. Profits from the run are also used to support several local college scholarships which have been named in memory of Marines killed serving their country as well as local events which promote the Marine Corps in the community. This is a cause I could run for.
The next morning, I caught a post from Meri that said she thought it would be totally cool if I did the mud run. I could be the bad A mom, at last! She said if Lauri and I did it, she’d do it, too (provided I flew her back for the event). That was all Lauri needed to hear. She signed us up that day. We were in. Case closed.
All we needed was a fourth.
In order to recruit our fourth, Lauri and I put together an application on facebook. These are the questions posed to potential team members:
1. Males: Are you single? Females: Will you look cuter than me or Kristen in a muddy t-shirt?
2. Can you run?
3. Can you carry me on your back? I'm not telling you how much I weigh, but it's more than a breadbox and less than a car.
4. Are you willing to train? http://www.usmcmudrun.org/training.html
5. Can you do this without getting pissed off at me because I've never done anything like this before and though I plan to train and take it seriously, my goal is to finish it without dying and nothing more?
6. What do you think our team name should be? (Once you list your team name idea, we reserve the right to use it even if you don't end up on our team.)
7. What color team t-shirt would you like?
8. Do you have $40 for the entry fee?
9. Do you mind the My Aiken Body logo on our t-shirt? http://myaikenbody.com/
10. What kind of beer will you bring for our post-training reflection time?
All supremely important questions.
Ben, friend, engineer and karaoke deejay (www.twoguysandajukebox.com), offered to join us and we gratefully accepted, glad to have a man who could both run and perhaps pick us up and carry us across the finish line. Yes, that is one of the requirements. We have to carry each other over the finish line. I am going to do my teammates a favor and lose weight, if only so I don’t kill them.
But, after some research, Ben chickened out. He said someone who ran the mud run told him that many people were injured, several went to the hospital, he wanted no part of that. When I asked Lori, she said that the people who hurt themselves were mostly those who had not trained properly. If I trained properly with running and boot camp, then I would do fine. Nothing gave me the impetus to “train properly” more than hearing those words. That and having her take my BMI (Body Mass Index). If you really want inspiration to become physically fit, have your skinny fit trainer take your BMI.
Nothing spells inspiration more than a deadline and a threat. I am not merely involved in this project: I am committed. It is rare that anything lands in your lap unless you have a plan and a commitment. I have been attending Lori’s boot camps faithfully since the beginning of the year. I have been running 2-3 miles in the woods of Gravatt with my Daisy at least three times a week, planning for more and longer. I have been tracking the food I eat daily and keeping the total under 2000 calories. I have been reshaping the way I think about food, about fitness, about goals and discipline and turning 50. I have never been one to go down without a fight. I have decided that my body has been way underutilized; it holds an untapped power within. It’s time to mine it.
We now have a potential fourth, Tim, from Colorado Springs. He is a long time friend, another engineer, fit and disciplined, experienced in races and he always comes with beer. He is training at altitude, a plus! And he has never seen Aiken, so I have bribed him by telling him it is the promised land of beer and money, he will love it here.
This blog will chronicle the ups, downs and sideways of the path towards my goal: Being a total Hot Bod Bad Ass Fit and Fifty Mom. At last, at last!! Free at last! I am on my way!