Emotional Rollercoaster

I’ve been rather quiet the past few weeks, and if you know me beyond this blog, or follow me on social media, you know why: last weekend, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly. What started out as a fun and healthy family weekend has turned into a seemingly never ending collection of the longest, saddest days I’ve ever known. I could go on forever about my grandpa, the memories I have, the events of the past week…but frankly, I need a break. This is my first real brush with death, and I can say that in no way was I prepared for the overwhelming exhaustion, sadness, and complete lack of focus I’m experiencing.

My grandpa would absolutely not want me making a fuss over him, so instead, let me share with you all the highlights from last weekend…

Originally, I had plans to travel up the road a bit to St. Cloud (where the majority of my extended family lives) to run the Graniteman Race with my cousins. Friday night, I met up with one of said cousins to grab dinner and drinks at an adorable new(er) restaurant in town.

20130906_19435620130906_194348IMG_20130906_20554020130906_185957We chatted for hours while scarfing down some delish salmon and sweet potato fries, along with a couple cold beverages.
20130906_19165120130906_19123820130906_183639On the drive home, we stopped for froyo (obviously) and rocked out to Nsync—just like when we were younger 🙂 It was a perfect night.
20130906_200511However, I went to bed extremely anxious about the Saturday’s race. After some research, I began to realize that the Graniteman was more like a race for serious runners. Which I am so not. So, the nerves had kicked in big time.

When my alarm went off at 5am Saturday morning, I was horribly apprehensive, and doubting my decision to participate. I didn’t doubt that I could and would finish. No way. But I was absolutely terrified of being the very last person to finish. I mean, it has to be someone, right?
IMG_20130907_061317IMG_3582IMG_3584Well, we showed up, tried not to pass out from the ridiculous heat and humidity, got our race packets, extensively discussed how the field looked quite experienced (i.e. fast, i.e. Amanda, what are you doing?!), lined up for the 5K portion of the race and took off along the Mississippi.

As usual, I ignored my fellow racers and focused on myself. After the first mile or so, though, I looked up to see my cousin (who runs about a nine-minute mile) two people in front of me. I typically run a 14-15 minute mile, so this wasn’t good. I knew I couldn’t keep up that pace. I was already cramping and feeling nauseous.

Reluctantly, I slowed my pace and fell to the back half or so of the pack. But that didn’t ease the nausea or the cramping. I was feeling awful and seriously contemplating stopping, finding a medic, sitting in someone’s lawn sprinkler…something. About a mile and a half in, I threw up. I probably should have stopped at that point, but nope. I figured for as much anxiety and pressure as I put on myself, I was going to finish this damn race. I’m no quitter! 🙂

So that’s just what I did.
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The entire week before this race was an off week. I had been on vacation, I didn’t run, I only did yoga, and I didn’t make the best food choices. But in the back of my mind, I still wanted to PR.

I hustled my butt to the finish line best I could—the last few hundred feet were pure torture and I honestly thought I was going to have stop and walk across the finish line. With the announcer calling out my name and all those people, including my family, standing around cheering? That would have been complete embarrassment.IMG_20130907_235205I ran through the finish line and immediately started gagging. A boy about eight years old came up to me and asked if he could cut my timing chip from my shoe, and as he bent down to do so, I literally thought I was going to throw up on him. Good. Grief!

Thankfully, I held it for a few more seconds and made it to a trash can before I threw up for the second time. Yuck!

When I had finished being a total disaster, I grabbed some water and a banana, and sought out some shade. I immediately felt fine, and spent the rest of the morning proudly celebrating my PR (I cut three minutes!), cheering out my family and friends that did the 10K and half marathon, and watching my cousin and another friend win their age divisions for the 5K and 10K. And for the record? I was definitely not the only one with heat stroke-like symptoms.
IMG_3596IMG_3608IMG_3595Another race in the books! After all the festivities, we beelined it over to Starbucks for a caffeine boost before heading out to my grandparents to join the rest of the family for a cookout. As usual we spent the afternoon eating (healthy, mostly!) and really enjoying each other’s company.

The good, the bad, the success, and the failure…this past week has shown me the invincible strength, love, and power of family. With them, you can truly get through anything.
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Loathsome

The first thing I did when I started this blog was attempt to run. I wanted to be a runner. I’ve always envied those teeny girls just gracefully loping down the street in their cute outfits and colorful Nikes.

But running at 300+ pounds? Ah, yeah. No. More like shuffling my feet while wheezing, huffing and puffing, and generally jiggling about. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least.
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And as I’ve lost weight, it hasn’t become any easier. Sometimes it just plain hurts my body, or I can’t get my mind to stop focusing on how hard it is to breath. But mostly, running for me is difficult (probably) because I don’t do it consistently. For a few weeks, I’ll be determined to tackle it and breakthrough that barrier…but then I don’t make progress. I can’t jog more than eight minutes at a time. And so I move on. I go to Boot Camp, I take up cycling. I don’t run.  This summer, I’ve been focusing on just moving my body more consistently and trying new things, like my Yoga Challenge.

But then I go and I sign up for not one but three 5K races. THREE! I had a goal to run five races this year, and apparently, I’m actually going to accomplish that goal. Imagine that.
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The first race is in three weeks (holy geeze) and the second is the day after my birthday (wahoo!) in September. Thankfully the third is in January, so I have time, but…you guys! This sucks! I want to know: a) why can’t I just freakin’ run already? Plenty of heavier people do! Why can’t I? I used to be an athlete, I used to run all the time, and b) What was I thinking?!

I’ve done 5K’s before, this is true (see above). But I’m sick of being slow. I’m sick of watching my friends and family finish in, like, 26 minutes and then they have to wait around for my dragging butt to cross at least a good ten minutes later. It’s so obnoxious.

And I hate the pressure a race puts on you—or, really, the pressure you put on yourself because of a race. For me, the pressure cycle progresses as such:

  • I am determined to be a runner! I can do this!
  • I sign up for a race.
  • Said race starts to approach, so I start running.
  • I nearly pass out after a pathetic 3 minutes of “running” (I swear I walk faster than I run…is that possible?).
  • I get mad at myself for sucking so bad. Worst case scenario: I go on a classic two-week food binge and don’t move from in front of the TV.
  • Unconditioned, I hobble through the finish line: proud, but determined to do better next time.
  • I try to “do better,” fail, get frustrated…and the cycle repeats.

Seriously, I’m getting agitated and angry with myself just writing this…

I have nothing else to say on the topic other than I truly loathe running, I want to love it, and I’m going to keep trying to do just that. I’ll probably again get stuck in the above cycle at some point, but if it hasn’t defeated me over the past 18 months, it’s not gonna now. Eff that noise. I’ll beat it.

Crazy Person

This summer has been one of the best of my life. I’ve been conquering fears left and right and, for the first time since I can remember, I’ve actually been able to enjoy all this fleetingly short time of year brings: sleeveless tops and dresses, swimsuits and beach time, running, biking, swimming, moving (and being comfortable doing so) outdoors.
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IMG_2824Now that all this amazingness is slowly coming to a close, I want to go out with a bit of a bang, and bite off something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. There’s a high-end chain boutique-type yoga studio around here called CorePower Yoga that offers a free week of classes to new students. I’ve wanted to try this place for years, especially once they built a studio literally two blocks from my house.
IMG_20130804_160359So since I’ve fallen in love with yoga this summer (see above), and I feel more comfortable exposing my body in that way, I’m finally going to give it a go.

Enter The Yoga Challenge.

I somehow convinced my good friend to attempt this feat with me, so at the very least I’ll have someone to giggle with as we attempt to turn out bodies into pretzels.  Starting next week, we’ll be trying a new class every day. There’s a spin-yoga combo class, sculpting weight-based classes…and for our final class, we’ll be attempting the infamous hot yoga, where studio temps are 105°. Side note: I may very well be crazy. And in case you need further proof of that, I’m also planning to continue my 5K training for my upcoming race on September 7.

Nutso.

As always, I urge you to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for what will inevitably be a good chuckle at my expense (you’re welcome, dear readers). I’m MandaKayMakesIt on both. I will be posting (hopefully daily) on here, but there will undoubtedly be some extra goodies popping up on social media.

I’m really excited to see how I handle this. I’ve really been digging yoga lately, but I feel like this is a whole other ballgame. Should be an interesting week, to say the least…

Hooray for new challenges! 

Proud

There are certain experiences in life where the phrase ‘once is enough’ is more than apt. You know, like having your wisdom teeth pulled. Or high school. The marathon-length bike race I participated in on Saturday? That’s another.

Don’t get me wrong—I loved the experience. I’m so proud of myself for doing it (alone), and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But after I finished, the first thing I said to my friend was, “I never thought I’d say this, but I’d rather run than bike.” So, there’s that 🙂

The day started at 4:15am. Woof. I fumbled sleepily into my gear—including the size XL spandex, tapered-waist legit cycling jersey. Which, I mean, fitting into that was accomplishment enough for me!
IMG_20130802_163914After struggling in the pitch black dark for a good 20 minutes trying to secure my bike to the rack on my car, I stopped at Starbucks (naturally), then proceeded to a nearby gas station to top off the air in my front tire, which had seemed a little low the night before.

The second I tried to fill the tire, the entire thing went flat. There I was, mere hours away from a more-than-daunting bike ride, alone, in the dark, with a flat bike tire. The option to forget the race and go back to bed was extremely appealing.

Instead, I sucked it up and headed out to Minnetonka, where the race was happening. Thankfully, the Universe was on my side, and the rather handsome gentleman who parked next to me offered me his bike pump. Tire filled with air, I solved crisis
#1.20130803_074155IMG_20130803_064250I met up with some of my co-workers before the race (which was a fundraiser for our organization), and then headed to my corral. The nerves were working overtime.
IMG_054820130803_072253 20130803_070825And then, just like that, me and 3,000 other riders were off! The first five miles wove around Lake Minnetonka—a gorgeous spot. At the mile 5 rest stop, I stopped to grab a drink of water and kept right on pedaling. This wasn’t so bad!

IMG_20130803_071836And then the hills started. Followed by my mental and out loud swearing.

Those hills didn’t stop, either, my friends. They were literally non-stop for the next 11 freaking miles. Up and up we climbed, with very little downhill relief. Plain and simple, it sucked. I made it up most of them, though, only partially walking up four total. Yes, I counted. Thank you, spin class!

Right at the base of one of those giant mothers, right around mile 8, my handlebars decided it was a good time to go ahead and give up. Normally, when holding your handlebars, you fingernails are parallel to the ground, right? Well, because of the way the handlebars shifted, mine were literally pointed towards the sky. The pressure on my palms was ridiculous—in fact, my palms are the only part of me that really aches now, two days later.

After much frustration, and a few futile attempts by me to fix the problem with my limited tool kit and even more limited bike knowledge, I finally made it to the mile 16 rest stop. I had the option to quit here. But no. Forget that. I grabbed an apple and filled my water bottle, listened to the polka band playing the Beer Barrel Polka, then pulled up to the service station they had set-up. I tell you, this was the most organized race, filled with the most helpful, kind people. Not two minutes later, my handlebars were fixed, I felt the sugar from my snack kick-in, and I set out to conquer the last ten miles.
20130803_095132Thankfully, the majority of those last few miles were on a beautiful dirt trail. I was singing to myself (yes, aloud), doing a little dance, and then I suddenly felt myself just completely overcome. And I was crying. Typical. But I was suddenly just so proud of myself. I was completely alone, attempting this crazy ride with no prior experience, no idea where I was going, still weighing over 300 lbs, still struggling with all the baggage of all that. But there I was. Still pedaling.

The tears were replaced by pure exhaustion and anger, though, as I reached the final two miles and saw the crazy bastard of an ascent that was in front of me: three giant hills up to the finish line. I now understand what athletes mean when they say they hit a wall. I stopped to catch my breath and collect myself, wondering how in the world I was going to finish this. My legs felt like they couldn’t go another foot, let alone two miles uphill.
IMG_20130803_094543When moments like that happen, you have to shut off your mind and just go. Just do it.

Those last miles were the worst. But I literally and consciously turned off all my negative internal chatter and just focused on getting my body through it. Up the hills, across the finish line.

Three hours, 2,600 calories, and 26 miles later…I was done. I finished!
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In situations like this, I’m always looking for the lessons. What did this experience teach me about myself and the world around me? Here are my takeaways from this race:

1. First and foremost, I don’t push myself hard enough. 26 miles on a bike with little conditioning? I can accomplish so much if I just go out and do it.

2. People are, in their heart of hearts, truly kind and good. Everyone involved with this race—before, during, and after—was so helpful, so encouraging, so supportive. I was continually blown away by this. I returned the sentiment, as well, cheering on individuals I saw struggling on the route, saying ‘thank you’ to every volunteer I passed.

3. No matter where you are in life, what struggles you face, what you’ve yet to accomplish…take time to appreciate and be proud of you: where you are, who you are, right now. Driving home post-race, with the sun pouring in my windows, sweaty hair blowing in the wind, my favorite song on the radio…I’ve never smiled so big. I was so proud, so in the moment, so insanely, big-time in love with me and what I had just achieved.

4. Keep going. Always keep going. You are stronger than you think.

Thank you all for your love, support, and encouragement throughout this whole ordeal. It was quite the adventure and, frankly, quite fun!

#MandaKayBikesIt

Hi y’all! Just popping in to remind you that I have my first ever bike…cycling…whatever race tomorrow! 26 miles, baby! Let’s do it!

The alarm is set:

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The tapered spandex size XL jersey actually fits:

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And I am ready! Don’t forget: I’ll be live tweeting and Instgramming this thang, so follow me at both spots if you’re…interested/super bored/needing cheap amusement/hungover. @MandaKayMakesIt. And, of course, I’ll be back around these parts later this weekend for a full recap!

Thanks for the support, guys! I’m excited and nervous–it’s going to be great!

It’s Literally A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Welp, I’m terrified.Capture

Remember that cycling race I signed up for awhile back? The one on my summer bucket list? Well, if you need me this Saturday, I’ll be somewhere along the above 26 mile route. I mean, I hope I stay on course. I don’t want to end up in Wisconsin. Or (shudder) Iowa!

I’m nervous, I’m anxious, I have no idea what to expect. And I’m doing it all alone since my planned buddy couldn’t make it and the crew I roll with would be more inclined to participate if the ride looked like this:
pedal pub 2Since this is a ride vs. a race, I plan to share the whole butt-numbing adventure on Instagram and Twitter–so be sure to follow me! And if you’re really bored, you can watch my little dot move LIVE! on Map My Ride. You know, to make sure I don’t actually end up in Iowa. I’m MandaKayMakesIt on all three platforms.

As I mentioned before, this whole thing is a fundraiser for an autism organization I’m involved with. I have done zero fundraising, thanks to a busy, busy schedule, but if you’re so inclined, you can click here to make a donation. And I thank you in advance for your kind generosity 🙂

Finally, be sure to pop back over here Sundayish for a full recap of what I’m sure will be a day full of teary breakthroughs (drama queen) and more embarrassing little moments than I can imagine. Yay!

Summer Bucket List Update: Up North

Slowly but surely, I’m attacking this year’s summer bucket list! This past weekend, I spent a few days Up North (as we say here in Minnesota) on the lake with my aunts and cousins. It’s a yearly little tradition, this girls’ weekend, and it’s always a fun time.
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While up there last year, I attempted paddle boarding for the first time. Last summer, I was heavier, less toned, and definitely had issues with my core and lack of stability. I felt so awkward and exposed on that paddle board. But this year? Piece of cake! I had no problem getting–and staying–up. My aunt and I spent about three hours on the water one morning, paddling from one horribly windy and wavy side of the lake to the other.
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A few things of note:

1. Please note that I’m the only one in my swimsuit. No shame, so proud.
2. My thighs have officially replaced my arms as my least favorite part of my body. Ugh.
3. I contemplated photoshopping out the cellulite on said thighs in the above photos, but that wouldn’t be right. I want to always be honest with you guys, and more importantly, with myself. I have ample cellulite. It sucks, but that’s me.

On to the real reason for this post: my attempt at waterskiing!

I haven’t even attempted to ski since I was in 7th grade–the peak of my thinner days. I couldn’t get up then, and despite great effort, I can’t get up now.
2013-07-20 14.04.582013-07-20 14.17.592013-07-20 14.14.482013-07-20 14.12.192013-07-20 14.11.10I tried three times. It almost happened. And even though it didn’t, I was glad I tried. Old Manda Kay, even the Manda Kay of last year, wouldn’t have tried. And please take notice of the pissed off look on my face in the last photo. Yeah. Being dragged behind a speed boat because you forgot to let go of the rope even though your skis already fell off and you got about a gallon of lake water up your nose, in your lungs, etc…that’ll do it.

After the literal failed but psychologically victorious waterskiing attempt, I treated myself to a giant plate of my new favorite food: zucchini noodles! I think I actually like them more than pasta (blasphemous!)
2013-07-21 18.28.21So there you have it! Two bucket list tasks down, only eight more to go…I better get cracking! Up next: I’ve got a 26 mile bike race to dominate next Saturday. Start praying, friends!

Color Me…Happy!

20130714_101237This weekend, a giant group of my loud, crazy, fun extended family descended on my town to join me in The Color Run. If you haven’t heard of this run, the self-proclaimed “happiest 5K on the planet”, do yourself a favor and sign up for a race. You will love it!

I truly believe that in order for any sort of long-term exercise plan to be effective, you need to: 1. find fun ways to be active, and 2. find fun people to have that active fun with. This Color Run was exactly that.

So, to extend all that happy and fun, the night before the race, the whole gang met up at Sea Salt–an amazing restaurant at Minnehaha Falls. We enjoyed some libations, delish sea food, and a beautiful Minnesota summer night.

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Broasted salmon with dill yogurt sauce, fennel orange salad, and melon

Instagramming while drinking. It should be a punishable offense.

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During the actual race, I kept pace with my brother. He was so great about pushing me to go further, go faster. I ended up actually running the majority of the course (which surprised me), and I finished strong by joining my cousin and her friends (who are much speedier than I) to cross the finish line. It’s safe to say my love-hate relationship with running is officially back on the “love” side of things.
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And then post-race…obviously more drinking and eating must happen. Obviously. And it should probably be on a patio somewhere where you can enjoy the sunshine and really bake that color powder into your pores.
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Oh, and blowing my nose more than 24 hours later? Like a rainbow 🙂 Thanks for a fantastic weekend, Family and Color Run!

Blissed In

Today was the day I reconnected with something that used to be such a huge part of my life. Something I’ve missed terribly. Today was the day I did something I haven’t done since I was maybe 12 years old. No, I did not bleach my blonde locks with Sun-In. Or crush on Jim Smith…but, true story. Call me, Jim.

No, today I went to a public beach in a swimsuit. A swimsuit that showed my cellulite-ridden thighs. And then I shared a few laughs with a friend, worked on my tan, listened to some good tunes, ate lunch, and splashed in the water…all while wearing my swimsuit.

And it was glorious. I teared up while laying alone on the beach, waiting for my friend. I was so proud of myself. My confidence, while it wavered a few, small moments, was sky high. And after tackling the beach today (one of my biggest fears), I made plans to go back tomorrow to do some paddle boarding. Looks like I’m going to be a beach babe once again! 🙂

Summer Bucket List

1. Run 2 miles
2. Attempt to water ski
3. Put myself out there physically
4. Complete a bike race
5. Go hiking in a state park
6. Lose 20 pounds
7. Purchase a pair of pants from a “normal” size store
8. Move everyday
9. Go to a beach in a swimsuit
10. Save enough money for a trainer

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