A Recent Lesson About Control

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Life has been busy and fulfilling the past couple months… which often leads to a prolonged absence from blogging.  I love to write, I love to share my thoughts and feelings, but mostly I love to enjoy downtime with my husband, kids, and friends – so sometimes the writing time gets squeezed out.

Once I write my book and can make my living as a writer – I’ll be much more consistent blogger. 🙂

While life was humming along peacefully and happily, I began to notice that I was hyper-focusing on my diet.  As a person living with Type 1 Diabetes (or “T1D” as it’s recently been dubbed), I have all sorts of mental and emotional issues around food.  As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the ultimate virtue in diabetes is being under “control”.  While training for a marathon and not seeing the weight loss that I’d anticipated, I decided to take it up a notch and start planning my meals more precisely.

untitledSo here’s the thing, I eat healthfully.  No refine grains or sugars, lots of vegetables, fruit, eggs, chicken, fish, nuts… you get the idea.  So, it’s not like my diet needed an overhaul.  But, I was frustrated my a recurring circumstance… I would often tell myself during the day, “You’re not going to eat ____ this evening.”  That blank could be popcorn, chocolate, an apple with natural peanut butter, etc.  Then, when I caved and had something to eat after dinner, I felt like a failure.  This cycle was causing me to spend way too much mental energy on my food choices, and it was exhausting.

In an effort to “fix” this problem, I revamped a weekly meal plan that mapped out each meal and snack within the day – Monday through Sunday.  This exercise helped me to feel in “control” of my diet, but I often felt like it wasn’t very useful as things would change as the week progressed (i.e. extra leftovers were made for dinner, we decided to grab lunch somewhere, etc.).  When I started to be honest with myself, the only value I was getting out of doing these meal plans was the sense of control over my diet.

Last week, I finally realized that I’d fallen into a cycle: fear of feeling bad about my lack of self-control….therefore, striving to control my diet…. thus, thinking and planning my meals excessively…. which just served to intensify the fear and need for control.  Spot the vicious cycle??  Once I recognized this, it was clearly the same cycle that I’d experienced when I feared sleeping issues and feeling anxious.

A simple realization occurred to me: If I’m thinking about something a lot, that’s a strong indicator that there’s something I’m striving to control.

So, since that breakthrough, I decided to let go. I still decided on a few meals to prep for the week and grocery shopped for them.  I still did a big food prep session on Sunday.  But, I stopped planning what I’d eat for each meal within a given day.  I stopped telling myself what I wasn’t going to allow myself to eat.  Instead, I decided what to eat based on what I felt like eating at the time.  Just as it is futile to imagine or anticipate how running mile 5 is going to feel, when I am on mile 2, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to plan what I’m eating for lunch on Thursday when it’s Monday morning.  Right??

What do you think the result of this change was…?  I’m actually eating less! Imagine that. I think that’s because meals are more fulfilling when I eat what sounds good (within the healthy options I prepped) instead of forcing myself to stick to a predetermined plan.   Taking away the internal struggle of what I should eat, shouldn’t eat, etc. has been a big relief and removed the sense of deprivation.

And, best of all, it turns out that the opposite phenomenon is also true – when I’m not striving to control a situation, I think about it a whole lot less.

My First Marathon.

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This past Sunday, I accomplished a goal that I’d been working toward for several months… I ran a marathon! I’m sitting here on Tuesday afternoon with slightly sore legs, trying to assess how I feel about achieving this goal.  I suppose I feel proud and contented, but it honestly feels a little anticlimactic.  The race itself was harder than I anticipated.  After some really strong training runs, I may have built up a little overconfidence!  I ran into some challenges during the race, which made me feel proud for not giving up and pushing to the end.

Mostly though, though my training I realized how much I love to run. The goal of running a marathon wasn’t just something that I wanted to do so I could cross it off my “bucket list.”  It may have started out that way, but the training process sparked something in me.  This phenomenon is pretty common – the running group I recently joined even joked about it last week.  The main coach asked for a show of hands from the first time marathon runners. Then he said, “You probably think that this will be your only marathon. Yeah, we all thought that too.” Then everyone laughed.

The thing is I’ve wanted to train for a marathon for years. Between having babies and adjusting to motherhood, buying a house and raising kids, the timing just never seemed right.  Then, after going through my awakening and learning to live in the moment, I didn’t trust myself to start training so intensely.  I feared that the planning, training, and working toward this goal would take over my life; that I would prioritize training runs over what really mattered to me.  My newfound joy in being present and connected to my family was too precious to risk, so I put off the marathon dream for another year or two.

prerunThen I prayed. I prayed for God to guide the timing of making this goal.  I prayed for insight and wisdom in how I prioritized competing activities and ultimately how I spent my time.  Then, I set the goal at the end of the year with my sights on the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon in early June.  One of the first blessings I discovered during training was how running helped me practice being in the moment.  It was pretty amazing!  This realization made me feel that long distance running was something that could enrich my life, if I kept proper perspective.

When my mom came to visit last March, I was already doing long runs on Saturdays to prepare for the marathon in June. One of our favorite activities is taking long walks, especially around Miramar Lake, which is a 5 mile loop.  When she first arrived, mid-week, I was mentally in “training mode” and thought perhaps we’d go to the lake on Saturday morning and I’d run while she walked.  Then I prayed.  The answer was clear – here was a chance to prioritize what really mattered most to me.  Connecting with the people I love should trump my others plans.  A goal to run 10 miles that Saturday was infinitely less important that spending that 90 minutes connecting with my mom.  We went for a long walk.

While finishing our loop around the lake, I told my mom how I felt about that decision. In giving it voice, I realized that marathon training would enrich my life best if I prioritized relationships and connection with others over getting in the training miles. This focus on relationships played out beautifully over the next two months.

Around the end of March, I was out for a weekday morning run when I passed one of the partners at my firm. Mike and I passed one another and did a little double take.  Later that week, back in the office, we started chatting about training.  I knew Mike and his wife had run several marathons and were involved in a local running club.  I balked when Mike suggested I come out for a group run with the club.  “Oh, I can’t keep up with you,” was my response.  He explained that there are several different pace groups, so I could run with others at my speed.

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Honestly, I spent an embarrassingly long time agonizing about whether or not to join the club for a run that Saturday morning out at Moonlight Beach. I’d been doing so much of my training alone and I didn’t know these people.  What if I couldn’t keep up?  What if I my blood sugar got low?  What if…?  But, there was also a part of me that was super excited at the prospect of showing up and running with this group.  I remembered how much I loved running with my friend Leslie recently.  Also, I reminded myself of one of my awakening lessons – I’m an extrovert through and through.  I totally get my energy from people and this would be a good way to pass the miles while meeting new people.

I went. It was awesome!  The coaches and other runners in the club were super welcoming.  I met up with Heather, an ex-auditor at my firm who’d left to attend law school.  We ran with the Catalina Group which included paces between 10:00 and 12:00 minute miles.  For the first 10 miles, the pace was quite a bit slower than I’d been running on my own, around 10:40/miles.  I so enjoyed my time chatting with Heather and running along the beautiful coastline!  After 10 miles, however, Heather insisted that I go ahead without her so I picked up the pace.

When I talked to Mike later about the run and explained that I’d run the last 6 miles at closer to a 9:30 pace, he suggested I move up to the next pace group – Marine Corps. I figured it was more comfortable to be doing well in the slower pace group then pushing myself perhaps past my ability level.  I missed a couple weeks of running with the club due to my trip to Humboldt and then running with Dennis one week…

At the end of April, my mom was visiting again, so Dennis and I took the opportunity to go for a long run together. I so looked forward to our running date!  Dennis and I used to run together all the time, back when we were dating and then once we were married but didn’t have kids yet.  It’s a great way to reconnect and enjoy one another’s company.  We did 12 miles on a drizzly Saturday morning and it was wonderful!  I’ve felt more connected to Dennis and he’s been more engaged in my marathon training ever since our long run together; such joy.

My next long run with the club was around Lake Hodges on the first Saturday morning in May. I’d intended to run with the Catalina Group at 6:15 a.m., but I couldn’t find the meet-up spot!  Since I knew that the faster groups, including Marine Corps, weren’t starting until 6:45 a.m., I drove around aimlessly for a while until Mike emailed me the correct address.  It was fate, rather than ambition, that forced me to run with the faster group!

It turned out to be a fortunate twist of fate; the 15 mile trail run around the lake was so much fun! I kept up with the group well and felt challenged too.  While we stretched after the run, Mike asked me whether it was a good fit.  I agreed that it was and felt proud when John, one of the coaches, said, “Oh yeah, she’s fast.  She belongs with us.”

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Running with the club really helped prepare me for the marathon. The “train run” we did in mid-May involved taking the train up to Oceanside and running down the coastline, back to Solana Beach.  We added a loop around Oceanside to get the total miles up to 21!  It was my longest training run and I was super excited to accomplish it at an average pace of 9:32/miles! Running with these faster runners pushed me and being with people made the time go by quickly and the effort feel less strenuous.

Looking back, I realized that I’d never have joined a running club, had I not gone through my awakening and learned to be present in the moment. I would have felt too awkward.  Also, learning to feel different emotions over the past few years taught me that connecting with people makes me happier.  So, even though I was still nervous about putting myself out there, I knew that pushing through that feeling of awkwardness would be worth it when I connected with these like-minded people and enjoyed running together.

There was another way that this marathon journey kept me focused on relationships and connection with others. My almost 96-year-old Nana has been in declining health for a while.  She broke her hip in late April and has had two surgeries to repair it and ease her pain.  Things were not looking very good a couple weeks before the marathon, and I had to consider that I may have to travel up to Humboldt for my Nana’s funeral and it could potentially conflict with the marathon.  There was not a moment’s pause in deciding what to do.  My relationship with my Nana, mom, and extended family was way more important than racing that particular day.  There would be other marathons.  My prayer has been that Nana makes it at least to her 96th birthday in July and we could see her one more time a few days later.  She’s very strong and is thankfully still with us.

It’s amazing what God can do, when we put our faith and trust in him. My fear that marathon training would take over my life and undo all the growth I’d gone through in being present and focusing on connecting with my family and the moment, turned out to be unfounded.  In fact, I feel more present and a deeper connection with my husband, children, family and close friends through this marathon journey.  Praying for proper perspective and reminding myself on a daily basis to be present, thankful, and balanced in my approach to running turned out to be a wonderful recipe for success.

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 For those of you who are interested – my official time for the marathon was 4:40:40.  After running a few miles with my wonderful friend Christina (who ran the half marathon), I ran the next 23.2 miles alone.  Being that it was a Rock & Roll Marathon, I decided not to bring my headphones and listen to the bands instead.  However, there were long stretches without any bands.  So, after running so many long runs with people, or at least with music, the miles passed slowly!  I had some cramping around miles 17, 18 and 19.  I bent at the hip to stretch my hamstrings at one point and got a terrible abdominal cramp. Ouch!  I had to breathe through it and start jogging again for it to pass.  I learned that I need to hydrate differently because I’m sure I had a sodium deficiency that caused me to cramp early.  At mile 20, my insulin pump decided it was out of insulin (even though it wasn’t out of insulin!).  I had to perform the cartridge load process while running.  Other than those challenges, my blood sugar management plan worked out well.