Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Beginning of the Beginning

There have been a lot of changes in my life over the last 6 months.  The major change is that I relocated to Atlanta, Georgia.  One of the wonderful things about this move is that I've become a member of the outstanding Atlanta Women's Chorus.  62 of the most amazing women, with incredible stories and beautiful journeys of courage, determination, and love.

I have recently learned of one of these journeys that has become such an inspiration to me; a two year (and beyond) health and fitness journey...a successful one!  Over the last 2 years, she has lost 115 pounds not from fad diets or pills or crazy routines - from consistently making good eating choices, educating herself on which foods and nutrients her body responds to, and with exercise.

It's one thing to hear the story, but seeing the pictures...it gave me hope.  It spoke courage to my heart.  I remember a time when I was so active.  I was a martial artist, an avid, competitive disc golf player, and cyclist.  Over the last several years, my activity level has significantly declined.  Since having moved, my body has started to rebel.  I was out of work for 3 months because I could barely walk.  Activity was not an option.

I am on the mend, and am able to get back to biking...the hard part? Actually doing it.  Then I think about my friend, who, when she started was like me, well over 300lbs.  It is possible!  I am not hopeless.

My first goal is to reduce the consumption of my sugary, coffee drinks that I adore, and increasing the amount of water.  It cannot be about going from 300+ pounds to 180 in 6 months, or even a year.  It's about making the right choices to ensure a long lasting lifestyle of health.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Birthday Bike Ride

Imagine for me, if you will, a little wagon.  We are going to fill that wagon with 5 pound bags of sugar…40 of them.  Do the math; that’s 200 pounds.  Now we are going to pull that little wagon for a mile or two.  Easy?  Sure if you’re a body builder, or a regular gym attender.  But for the average person…not so much. 

This same concept applies for me as I bike; the only difference is that I weigh a bit more. 

I have struggled with being overweight all my life.  One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with is that while the process of gaining weight takes no time at all – the process of losing weight is slow…very slow.  It takes patience and perseverance.  It requires commitment.  It helps to set smaller goals to use as mile markers along the journey to the finish line.  And it helps to have a clear picture of where that finish line is, how to get there, and who will make that journey with you. 

In mid-May, I made a decision to register for a late-September breast cancer ride.  The very next day I began ‘training.’  My first ride was 5.87 miles on a Wednesday. I rode a couple more times that week and then on that Sunday for 18 mile.  I thought I was going to die.  During June, I logged 10 rides totaling 84 miles.  July held only 3 rides totaling about 40 miles due to the horrible heat and humidity.  Last month in August, my rides became longer.  I logged 5 rides totaling 102 miles. My longest ride had been 24.23 miles on August 8.  Until my birthday…

On September 5th, I turned 32.  I had a goal…I wanted to ride 32 miles in celebration of my life.  This ride was not about speed or terrain.  It was solely about distance.  I donned my bike shorts, and my favorite neon green t-shirt; my helmet, hydration pack and sunglasses and off I went. 

Where I live, the city has created an amazing place to ride with all paved pathways enveloped in canopies of trees, and dotted with a variety of wildlife.  One of the trails opens up onto a main highway that has great bike paths along the beach.  This is where I peddled. 

The journey was fairly flat, and the rhythm of my legs was consistent.  When that happens, my mind becomes steady and pensive.  I was thinking about the why of what I was doing.  It is not very often that I do something just for me.  But this ride was just that...it was just for me. 

But, then I thought about what led up to this ride: my best friend Jean.  She is a breast cancer survivor.  During some of her darkest months, she was strong and courageous.  Through fear, she remained positive and loving.  Because of her journey, I wanted to support the organization that had been such a beacon of hope for Jean – the Young Survivor’s Coalition (YSC).  So, in honor of Jean, I registered for the YSC Tour de Pink bike ride in Atlanta, GA. 

I since then, I’ve been biking regularly.  I’ve been lugging my heavy, little wagon across many miles.  When I started, 5 miles was hard.  Now, 25 miles is hard.  Soon, 50 miles will be the breaking point, and then 75 and 100 miles.  When I started, I would often find myself frustrated when other (more experienced and fit) bikers would pass me because no matter how hard I peddled or what gear I was in…I simply couldn’t keep up.  And I still get frustrated that I cannot go uphill without pain, and I’ve yet to conquer the Bay Point Bridge that links Orange Beach, Alabama to Florida. 

Then I think about my heavy, little wagon piled high with bags of sugar.  There are physical reasons why going fast or going uphill is near impossible for me.  It is certainly not for lack of wanting or trying.  But remember, for the average, everyday person, pulling that wagon is tough.  So then, what’s the solution…

Lighten the load of the wagon, of course.  That has become the focus of my riding; biking longer and burning the calories to make the load lighter.  Eventually, I’ll be able to take the hills.  I’ll be able to ride faster.  But until that day comes, I’ll just keep peddling. 

And on my 32nd birthday, I biked 32 miles, plus 1 to grow on.  And one day that 1 will become 100.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

To Quit or Not to Quit

This past Sunday I did my longest bike ride today; 23.5 miles over a period of 2 hours and 18 minutes.  I can say this now with a smile, and a feeling of accomplishment.  However, during those 138 minutes a war raged in my head. 

While we here on the coast of Alabama did not feel the brunt of Tropical Storm Debbie, we did feel the outer bands of wind…a lot of wind.  My desired trip took me from my house, down highway 20 to the Orange Beach Expressway where I turned onto the south-bound lane heading toward the beaches.  Once I got to the toll booth, I turned around and headed north toward highway 98.  Here is where it got tough.

To be safe, I left my car key at the house just in case I’d gotten hurt and needed to be collected somewhere along my journey.  It was a wise decision, but it haunted me.  During my northern ascent, I desperately wanted to call someone to get in my car, and come get me.  Each time that I would stop and rest, the temptation grew stronger.  Thoughts flooded my mind:  “What if I fail?  This is ridiculous, what was I thinking coming out here on a day like today?  I can’t do this.  This is too painful, too tiring, too…hard.”

Then I thought about all those who’d donated to the Young Survivors Coalition on my behalf.  I thought about the kind words and encouragement I’ve received from so many about this race.  And I thought about my friend Jean.  I could hear them cheering me on, supporting me, telling me not to quit.  So I just kept going.  I road for 7 miles in a 14mph headwind all the way to highway 98. 

I turned onto Hwy 98 and headed for downtown, where I stop and took a break to rehydrate at a beautiful park we are privileged to have.  I saw two older women walking; pumping their arms – working up a sweat.  It made me smile.  It’s great to have someone to workout with who pulls you along when you are stubborn and jus’ don’t wanna go anymore. 

About 20 yards behind them was another woman pumping her arms, working up a sweat – but she was lone.  As she passed me she smiled, asked how I was doing, keep right not trucking along.  It’s really hard to find the drive sometimes to just keep going…alone.

Those 7, headwind-filled miles felt very lonely at times.  The journey is tough.  If it wasn’t tough, everyone would do it.  It’s the tough that makes it great!  

After all was said and done; after my bike was in the garage and I had showered the grime off of me; after the aches had subsided – I was grateful.  Having been injured pretty badly a year ago, I was very grateful that my legs still worked enough to bike.  I was grateful for those who believed in me, and who cheered me on.  I was grateful that I didn’t quit. 

To Quit or Not to Quit is not the question.  Anything I try, I will try 100 times – QUITTING IS NOT AN OPTION!!!

I love you Jean and this ride is for YOU!!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In HONOR of...

I am a Martial Arts instructor.  I do my very best to inspire my students to not only train to be the best TaeKwonDo artists and competitors they can but to also be the best people they can be.  I desire for each of them that they become amazing additions to their surrounding community.  We have ten tenants that are the focal point of our artistic journey.  Each training cycle we bring special attention to one of those tenants, and talk about what it means, how we (as artists) have demonstrated it and how we have seen it demonstrated in others.  I also require them to submit these points in writing.

This cycle’s tenant is HONOR.  I have been collecting their responses over the past few weeks, and I love taking a moment to read them.  Most of my students, regardless of age, equate HONOR with RESPECT – which is absolutely true, in every sense.  However, a few of my students made me take stock of some things. To HONOR someone is to acknowledge and appreciate their VALUE. To HONOR someone expresses LOVE.  To DO something in HONOR of someone, it is to express our gratitude for who they are, and what their life means to us. 

Four years ago (Come this September) , two ladies began their martial arts journey in two different training academies; knowing each other only by sight at first, then first names.  Our artistic journeys were intertwined from the start.  Slowly we became acquaintances, and then casual friends.  In October 2010, she began a fight for her life – and I moved to begin a new page of mine.  We have spoken every day since then. 

During 2011, I journeyed with her through her battle with Breast Cancer; through fear, doubt, tests, surgeries, and lowered self-image.  Through all of this though, I witnessed an incredible strength and depth of character.  And even during her darkest valleys, she remained a friend to me, and allowed me to be a friend to her. 

I want to HONOR her.  I want to acknowledge just how VALUABLE she is to me, and how much I appreciate and look up to her.  I want to express a love that goes deeper than circumstances and bad hair days.  I want to DO something in HONOR of a woman who does until she cannot do anymore; who gives until she can no longer give.  I want to put first, someone who always puts herself last so that others can be first.  I want to say THANK YOU to someone who never seeks out praise, and who puts off mountains of laundry to enjoy a cup of Mickey Mouse coffee with a friend.

The Tour de Pink Atlanta is my way of doing all this.  I am training now, and riding in September in HONOR of her.  Jean, this ride IS for YOU!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Getting Easier...It's Time for a Change

Over the last 16 days, I have biked 76.61 miles. O.o Wha? And I have loved about 75 of those miles. J  I’m sure that along the way, there was a mile that I wasn’t really fond of. 

Today’s ride was an eye opening one.  I started out going the same way I normally do when starting out from my home.  When I came to the first intersection, I was deciding which direction I wanted to go this morning.  Then I said to myself, “Courtney, you can go anywhere.”  I can go…ANYWHERE!!!  So, I did!  I rode down 3.25 miles to the ball fields where my friend’s daughter plays softball.  From there, I treated myself to a path that took me alongside the elementary, intermediate, and high school where the majority of my TaeKwonDo students attend. 

Then I stopped at a little park to ‘refuel’ – snacking on an apple and water.  It was at the little rest stop that something different happened.  It was not an event, it was a feeling.  I had been maintaining an average pace of about 9.5 miles an hour (6m 16s mile), I was slightly winded, but not out of breath.  And NOTHING hurt.  I felt like it was a casual ride.  It felt GREAT!

After my break, I rode past the local YMCA where I would normally turn right to go home.  But I can go ANYWHERE today, so instead, I went straight – talking the ‘long way home.’ The latter part of my ride was met with a steady headwind, but even that felt different. 

My normal morning bike route of usually 6-7 miles had turned into 9 miles.  As I was peddling through my neighborhood I couldn’t help but think that I might be getting a little better because my biking was getting a little easier.  Easier can mean only one thing – it’s time for a change.  My changes will most likely be A) longer rides, B) a higher gear setting, C) faster peddling – or D) ALL OF THE ABOVE!

Even though I’m a martial arts instructor, I’ve never really been a ‘gym rat.’  I’ve never ‘fallen in love’ with exercising (for the sake of exercising.)  But having a goal staring at me makes all the difference.  I do struggle sometimes with simply getting out the door in the mornings, but once I’m on the bike – I LOVE IT! 

I can go ANYWHERE I want!  I want to go biking.  I want to go to Atlanta in 121 days. 

Jean, this ride’s for YOU!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

I am Competitive!!

If you had asked me if I had a competitive nature, I would smile shyly and reply, "No, not really." But I think I am, but not in the societal sense.  Society says "Gotta be 1st; Gotta be #1; Gotta be the best."  I am not like this, but I am competitive. 

I work harder when I have a goal; a goal that is seemingly unattainable with out weeks or months of hardwork.  I love having that one goal that most think I'm crazy for setting: a half marathon or a 40mile bike ride.  There were a couple of people who, when I told them that I'd just registered for a 40 mile bike ride for late September...their eyes got wide, and they shook their heads.  "Courtney, don't you think that's too long.  Not sure you'll be able to finish."

I entertained their criticism for a moment, and then thought back to September of 2010.  The weekend of my 30th birthday, I flew up to Virginia Beach, VA...alone.  And on September 5, just a half hour or so after my official birth time (which is 11:58a), I jogged across the finish line of my first (and probably last) half marathon (13.1 miles.)  What was my wacked out reason for wanting to do it?  I was going to turn 30 anyway - might as well do something I've never done before, and that I would remember for a lifetime. 

This Tour de Pink Bike Ride is not about me!  There are things that I must do in order to be successful, and I do get some benefits - but I am not reason.  My best friend, Jean, is the main inspiration.  Breast Cancer awareness has always been near to my heart, but having it touch so close to home - it's a much different feeling. 

Jean would talk to me a little about the Young Survivor's Coalition (YSC); what they did, how they were helping her - providing a forum for survivors to bond, and share experiences, fears, and victories.  When someone is kind and caring to someone I love - that touches my heart and I want to repay the kindness.  That is the other main reason for this specific ride!

In September, I don't expect to break any sound barriers or records.  I just want to finish.  I am competitive...with myself, and doing what others think I'm a little crazy for trying.  40 miles o.O
I'm competitive with others expectations, and with the finish line - which I will see in 131 days.

Jean - This Ride's for YOU!

Friday, May 18, 2012

On the Third Day

There are times when training for something sucks!  It's difficult, sweaty, and dirty.  By the end I'm exhausted.  But there are times when training for something is...fun?  That's right, I said it.  Today's training was fun.  There wasn't anything special about today's route.  It was the same as I'd taken just two days before: a short 5 3/4 mile ride. 

The weather was cool. The smell of damp earth still lingered in the air.  I was taken back to a mission trip I went on to Honduras.  The mornings were the same; the smells were the same.  The purposes were similar: something bigger than myself.

Yes my legs burned, my heart raced and sweat dripped its way down my face.  But I didn't care.  For a moment, sweet memories of old friends flooded my mind and I breathed them in deeply. 

I wonder if when I cross the finish line in September, memories of my training moments will flood back to me - sweetly reminding me of something much bigger than me.  If they do, I'll breathe them in deeply, just like the smell of damp earth in the morning.

Tomorrow morning, I'll go for my morning ride in a state park; my sense keenly aware of the beauty of the morning.  With each pedal's rotation, I will remember the reason why in hope to bring it back to my memory in September. 

My dearest Jean, This Ride's for YOU!

Today's ride:
#1 Goal 30-40 min
     Actual Ride 35min/5.78m
#2 Goal: None
     Road 15min/2.56m