Monday, December 31, 2012

The beginning of the end

I think my period is dying.

Unfortunately, it's making a final exit like this:

It could be worse; it could have ended up mimicking the death of Carl Showalter, Lennie Taylor or any number of people in a Tarantino flick. Instead, it's a constipated crawl to its last breath. Like Janet Overton whose husband slowly poisoned her with cyanide and selenium, my period is sputtering and gradually losing its life, oozing tiny drops of blood instead of going out in a glorious gush of gore, Kill Bill style. I was going to avoid the M word, even though it's obvious what's happening. Now that it's out in the open, I will add that I'm probably the only one to ever go through puberty at 35 and hit menopause 10 years later. Some articles suggest that this perimenopause state can last a long time, so this bumpy ride might not be over any time soon. Who knows?

Being cold all the time, I was anxiously waiting for a fucking hot flash, but that's the one symptom lacking. Meanwhile, it's 10 degrees outside and I'm afraid to even crack open the door. On the other hand, this might be better than..uh...riding the cotton pony (wow, euphemisms for getting a period suck) every two weeks, even though I'm lingering in a constant state of something like PMS and getting what looks like the essence of a period every 12 days. OK, maybe better isn't quite the right word. At least it's different? Once the blood flow ceases entirely, I assume the anemia I used to encounter so often will be easier to manage. That's one plus.

I've sort of hit a low with my running, but I managed to struggle through a few good bike sessions last week. I might blow today off, even though I didn't do anything yesterday. Oddly, my legs are wicked tired. I'm also a bit feverish. Hopefully things will be improving in the new year. I'm looking forward to my appointment with my podiatrist at the end of January. There's got to be something he can do to keep me out of this uncomfortable situation. Lately, I get stabbing and burning pains in my foot, and the inflamed muscle is at its worst, pulling my big toe to the left in its angry spasm. Yeah, yeah, I'm glad I can run at all, but I was happier when it didn't hurt as much and wasn't so limiting. The limping isn't good for the rest of my body.

Speaking of the new year, I hope everyone has a happy one. Stay safe and good luck with the running goals in 2013!

I'm off to do some writing or napping, probably some of each, but first some chocolate ice cream. I need a little comfort food today.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My love-hate relationship with running

Blog posts from happy runners encouraging everyone to "just do it" annoy me. I get where the authors are coming from to some extent, and it's nice that they think they are offering some cheerful inspiration. On the other hand, these people don't understand anything about going over the edge. Most elites don't need to be told to just do it; they need to be told to relax a little. Of course it's fun to run when there's no extra burden; the body is sound and the main goal is to get out the door. That's sort of where I am now, only I'm haunted. Running is a great sport when you have never gotten close to touching the dark side or hit that line that, when crossed, makes a runner feel there's no other option but to jump off a bridge, swallow some pills or slit some wrists. Most happy joggers also haven't experienced being in a crippled body that hurts just walking, so of course running is still fun. In Andre Agassi's book, Open, he discusses his tortured relationship with his sport, tennis, at times feeling like he had no choice but to do it, and at other times feeling great contentment in his achievements. What do you do when your calling breaks you?

Jack Bacheler, founding (and probably the tallest) member of the Florida Track Club and a two-time Olympic qualifier, states, "A real top-notch distance runner needs to be obsessive-compulsive."   This isn't exactly true, but most runners know it takes a certain amount of dedication to the sport in order to succeed. The problem with being an obsessive-compulsive athlete is that being too stuck in a routine doesn't allow for real growth. It's impossible to make it to the top if the main goal is accomplishing compulsive acts instead of doing sensible training. If an illness is the driving force, chances are feeding the sickness will become more important than success. Just ask any addict who chooses to drink over anything else in life or anyone who is focused on not missing a day of running over quality training.

There was a time in my life when running excited me. I loved to race. I didn't always enjoy every moment of training, but once I got into the middle of a race, I felt at home. Eventually, getting to the race became a challenge with increasing anxiety as pressure, both internal and external, mounted. About the time I started wishing I would get hit by a truck, I read an article about Kathy Ormsby running off the track in the middle of the 10,000 at nationals and jumping off a bridge. Man, how I could relate. For me, it all came down to choices; I felt like I had none. I was stuck in routine of doing more and going harder but never straying from the basic day to day monotony. People wonder how anyone could throw away a successful career and have the desire to end it all, but those of us who have been there know exactly why Kathy jumped or at least have some idea of what it's like to want out. Back then, I would wake up in the mornings, drag myself out of bed and step into my own personal hell, completely unable to do things differently. And nobody knew what anguish I faced each day.

My first year in high school. Already the pressure was too much. 
For some of us, the drive to do well is so immense it becomes unbearable. It can take years and years to unlearn compulsive habits and be OK living any kind of normal life. Extreme pressure to succeed distorts rational thought, and some of us are left with a war in our heads, one part wanting to let it all go and the other determined to continue at all costs. Most of us stay in the nightmare until we are faced with some catastrophic event: an injury, illness or mental breakdown.

One of my coaches used to tell me, and I'm sure he's not the only one who noticed this, that more often than not those who are caught up in the stress will blame themselves when they don't do as well as they wanted in a race. Others who are not as burdened by internal obligation will often blame outside factors for not doing well: the weather, getting boxed in or improper coaching. The ones who blame themselves tend to have a difficult time letting it go. They are experts at beating themselves up over past events.

I want to make it very clear that going over the edge in the first place or breaking after falling over the cliff has absolutely nothing to do with women not being able to handle the sport. This isn't at all a women's issue. I've known plenty of men who have gone down similar dark roads, and I've known even more females who have been at the top without struggling with any of these internal demons. I recently read an article about marathoners with drinking problems, and not a single woman was mentioned. Yes, they exist, but the focus was on men in this particular article. When I think about it though, women in distance running is a relatively new concept. The Olympic marathon wasn't introduced until 1984. That's not that long ago. It's not surprising that some of us put more pressure on ourselves to run well. There's no doubt that I was running at a time when women were just starting to prove themselves. Some will say it's the sport itself that draws in people who tend to live on the edge or those who are attracted to extremes. There is something about running that is addicting, and it's not just the change in brain chemistry that keeps a person hooked. Male or female, people who run are different than the average person.

Most of my issues were only partly related to the running, though I was clearly dong too much given my propensity to restrict my food intake and my inability to go easy. Somehow I felt an enormous weight on my shoulders once I entered high school. It didn't help to have a coach who talked about girls getting fat and quitting once they became seniors. For whatever reason, I was determined to prove the guy wrong, and I would risk my life doing so. I suddenly feel the need to insert this quote by Rebecca West (first part by Clare boothe Luce): "Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes." ~Clare Boothe Luce. I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute." All this said, my real issue was my illness. That's what made both my existence and my running unbearable. Between the OCD and the eating disorder, my life was a wreck. 

Though I'm in a much different place now, I still have memories of those terrible days. There are sometimes have nights on which my past worries manifest in some odd and intense dream about missing the start of a race or missing a run after eating something extravagant like chocolate cake. One of those struck out of the blue the other day. These are likely just unconscious memories of past traumas, but I will wake up feeling uncomfortable and shaken when they occur. I also sometimes experience sadness and a sense of being overwhelmed before or while running. It is not easy for me to get out the door most days, and anyone who tells me to just do it has no idea what I put myself through with the sport. I don't want to hear it. If I get out there and bail after 10 minutes, that's now my right. If I don't even get out the door, that's fine too. With my heart valve leak, the cold weather is scary and uncomfortable for me. I have backed WAY off my running with the deep freeze that dropped into the area, and I'm not fighting it. Oddly, I'm sort of fine with it.

I guess there's a part of me that wishes I had a different relationship with running. The anorexia aside, there were moments running that brought me great joy. If I could learn to get my head out of the way, I think I would be less resentful, fatigued and angry about my past. I assume I would also be less afraid. It's not easy to live in the moment, but it's a goal for the upcoming new year.

Well, that was an unexpected little rant there.

Happy running everyone! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Gift idea

Need a last minute gift? Use this coupon code and get 25% off my e-book, Training on Empty at Coupon code: VE35D Expires on Dec 26th.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Holidaze again

This is my holiday wish list, minus all the obvious ones like world peace or a date with Thom Yorke:

1. An all-expenses-paid trip to the dentist to repair the chipped tooth I have. Kids, when your mom says, "Don't do that with you teeth!" listen to her.

2. A new pair of running shoes.

3. New clothes and underwear. Weird how this kind of gift wasn't as valued when I was little, but now it makes my top 10 list.

4. One of those ultra-fancy ice cream makers.

5. A car that doesn't crap out on me every three months.

6. One of those functioning feet that everyone seems to have that can be used while running or walking, preferably a left one, though I wouldn't mind one of each.

7. Four more months of sunshine and warm temperatures this winter, though it's OK if it snows in the high mountains.

8. A visit from the bill-paying fairy.

9. Magically delivered spare time that I can use for writing.

10. Happiness, love and unicorns for everyone.

If any of the above can't be handed over, I'm OK with chocolate.

This year's favorite holiday songs are the following:

Nice and quiet

Best cover of this song ever!!
Awesome, the EELS!

I still love this one, so I will add it again this year, even though I add it every year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thank FSM for editors

I almost feel like I should repeat part of the first paragraph of my previous post here, but I think I'm just going to ignore the mole hill people have made into Everest. It's not like many are actually reading my posts, despite the record number of hits on my blog yesterday, thanks to my article on Suzy Favor Hamilton that came out months ago at I'm in shock, more over the childish behaviors people have displayed than anything that was dragged into the spotlight. The only things I will say are the following: I have known Suzy since high school. She is a friend and has been nothing but kind and supportive ever since we met. I know some of her struggles, and she knows mine. It's not my place to pass judgement, and I wouldn't over something like this anyway. Her recent actions do not diminish her outstanding achievements as a runner, nor do they erase all her kind and charitable actions throughout her life. She's human, and I wish people wouldn't forget that as the snarky and degrading comments fly. I wish her nothing but the best. Considering all that goes on in the world, it's absurd the amount of energy and attention the nameless have put into creating nasty comments about something that should be private. I really hope things die down soon.

Moving on ...

I discovered that writing is rewriting, rewriting with a critical eye, rewriting a third time with a creative eye and then hiring a good editor to fix it.

Someone once told me that anyone who continues to write will naturally get better. That's not entirely true. Work has to be thrown in the mix. Simply writing without critique doesn't automatically lead to improvement. I will admit that I'm not a great writer. Sometimes I'm not even all that competent. Still, I keep aiming for good. By reading the work of others, listening to critiques of my writing and working at it, I believe I have made improvements. What's frustrating is knowing I will never be at that genius level, and may not even break into the great category. It's a little bit like running though. I know I don't have to be great in order to enjoy it and touch others in some way. Just like I used to dream of being something outstanding in running (with far more talent than I will ever have in writing) I dream of being able to toss words together in the crazy and unique ways that some of my literary heroes do.

What I lack:

1. Confidence. I constantly get in my own way.
2. A large vocabulary. I'm working on it.
3. A powerful command of the English language. I'm working on that too.

Other stumbling blocks:

1. Lack of time and/or motivation. Sometimes having to work, do laundry, focus on health or survive takes precedence over writing. Often just getting to the end of the day leaves me too drained to write.
2. Dyslexia. Yes, it's a bitch to write having dyslexia. It also explains why I need a good editor, though my blog posts are unedited. Hopefully it doesn't show too mcuh.  ;)

Things that help me along in my writing:

1. Even though I'm not as creative as some, there's creativity brewing somewhere in me.
2. I have a reasonable understanding of grammar and sentence structure, though I often feel the need to double and even triple check myself, and even then I sometimes get it wrong.
3. Having the desire to express myself through writing is a definite asset.

Blogging can be a little bit like doing the scales in music or putting in those slow miles as part of training. Right now I'm working on a few writing projects including some fiction pieces, and my blog posts keep me in the writing mode. I found out that I'm not very good at writing horror, but I'm struggling through it, freaking myself out in the process and realizing that even when it doesn't come naturally or easily, good material can be produced.

My brain is in a bit of a fog at the moment, so I'm going to cut this short. I'm struggling with foot issues and winter depression. Because of this, I'm giving myself credit for making it through each day without imploding too terribly lately. Despite longing to spend a month or three doing nothing but eat chocolate ice cream with peanut butter on top and nap, I'm forcing myself to be in the world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Biggest Loser

I can't bring myself to write about the shooting tragedy. Sometimes I wish people would just stop and take a moment to acknowledge a heartbreaking event instead of using it as an opportunity to push an agenda, judge people or get into fights on social networking sites, as if that helps anything. Facebook is weird, because people act like their posts are as effective as writing a letter to a representative in congress or joining an interest group. The worst are those who sit in an armchair with a belly full of beer and insist that this or that person in the disaster should have been more heroic, pretending that they have any fucking clue about how they would act in a chaotic and terrifying situation. It's just sad the way people behave after something like this. It reminded me of the critics who got on Jon Krakauer's case after the 1996 Everest nightmare. People suggested he should have gone back out into a blinding blizzard in order to attempt to save people after he had collapsed in his tent, barely making it to safety himself. I guess I understand the need to vent, so I will shut up about it and go into my own rant.

Recently, I read a few blurbs about how an episode of Glee botched the job in their attempt to cover the topic of eating disorders, trivializing it on the one hand but going into specific health harming techniques a little too explicitly on the other. When have eating disorders ever been handled well on television though? It's unfortunate, but it's to be expected. All shows attempting to cover eating disorders as a topic follow the same pattern and are resolved in one to three episodes: A girl wants to lose weight and doesn't eat, takes laxatives or pills and/or throws up; she passes out; someone has a talk with her, and Boom! the problem is solved. The writers of Glee have dealt with the issue in a careless way. It's important to note that the program is not a reality show, but even productions not based in reality can affect viewers. In this case, I have heard some people explain that show is triggering for anyone with a tendency toward disordered eating.

I just read that The Biggest Loser is going to be casting children on their show. First let me say that I stopped watching the show in 2004 after I saw two episodes way back before it was popular. Second, I refuse to watch it after dealing with the sour taste it left in my mouth while watching those first episodes. As far along in my recovery as I was at the time, I found the show to be hugely discomforting in all kinds of ways. Now the producers want to bring children into the fiasco.

Not an effective training method.

Here's a petition to sign if you agree that children should be spared the trauma of being immersed in an atmosphere of extreme dieting and ridicule: Keep Kids off the Biggest Loser.

Kai suffered from an eating disorder brought on after being on the Biggest Loser. 

Former Biggest Loser contestant Kai Hibbard, who suffered from an eating disorder after filming the show, claims that the show stretches the truth and promotes unhealthy diet methods. That much was obvious at a glance, but what's even more troubling is that so many people defend the series, claiming it inspires others to lose weight. Does it? I never responded well to yelling, so watching others get yelled at has never been inspiring to me. I think I have mentioned before my experience with one riding instructor who yelled at me the entire 45 minutes I was on the horse. I refused to go back, because I got so stressed out anticipating the woman's shouts. I respond better to positive reinforcement. It's less dehumanizing and less demoralizing.

Please keep this away from children.
Scanning the statistics for the show, it looks like many of the contestants gain back a significant amount of the weight lost. Some gain back all the weight plus more, which is typical after dieting in a way that doesn't address permanent lifestyle changes. Gradual diet and exercise tweaking tends to lead to better results, but sensible doesn't usually generate ratings on T.V.

The biggest Loser is a contest designed to get viewers. It's not a weight-loss camp where health is encouraged. Supposedly the children won't be weighed or part of the actual competition, so I'm not sure what their role will be. I wonder why anyone would put kids in that questionable setting anyway, but I'm sure it has to do with an attempt to increase viewership.

It's a myth that yelling gets results in training.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Triggering content

I joined a few facebook groups that promote awareness around eating disorders thinking it might be a good way to promote my book. Now that I am involved, I realize that, book or no book, my goal is more about reaching out to and helping others than selling anything, though I do hope people read what I worked so hard to put together. When I first started writing years ago, this idea that numbers and other bits of information could be "triggering" wasn't prominent or well accepted. It seems these days authors often avoid talking numbers for fear of influencing or indirectly encouraging someone else's illness. I can definitely see that mentioning specifics could be risky, but, at the same time, it's almost impossible to convey how sick I was by only mentioning my symptoms. As extreme as these problems were, stating my weight really drives the point home.

I once watched a movie about Ellen Hart Pena called Dying to be Perfect. It stars Crystal Bernard who doesn't exactly look like an emaciated runner. Crystal is thin, just not sickly so. As a result, the viewer is supposed to imagine her being more unhealthy than she looks. I felt that leaving numbers out of my book would cause people to imagine me either healthier or sicker than I was, and wondering what my weight really was might be distracting for the reader. I guess I was aiming for accuracy and honesty. It was important to let people know where I had been, so that they could better understand what I overcame.

In the end, I chose to mention my weight in my book knowing that what the scale says is not the only measure of the illness. Numbers do create an image, however, how sick a person is isn't entirely determined by how little or how much he or she weighs. In 2003, a young woman died in single binge purge episode when her electrolytes were badly thrown off kilter. At the time, she was not at a weight that would normally cause alarm. Sometimes people who appear normal in terms of weight are still in the throes of the disorder emotionally and mentally, and for those who are bulimic, weight doesn't usually determine how sick a person is. I should explain further that there have been women who have died before their weight got as low as mine did, and, surprisingly,  there are women who weighed less that I did who lived. When I was in an eating disorder treatment facility, I met a lady who weighed probably 20 pounds less that I did at my worst. It's hard to comprehend and unbelievable that she endured; it's pretty much a miracle. She was in very bad shape even two months into her recovery and one month out of the regular hospital, still having to wear stockings for the terrible edema and circulation issues she was experiencing and still struggling to handle the food she was eating. I'm not suggesting that death is arbitrary when it comes to eating disorders, more that the illness affects people in different ways and each body responds differently to extreme conditions.

The thing to keep in mind is that eating disorders kill more people than all other mental illnesses combined, and there's no magic number that determines whether or not a person will survive. Obviously the more malnourished the body is, the less likely it is that a person will live. I was lucky, extremely lucky.

My point in bringing this up is to make sure that people understand that eating disorders are not entirely about food, meal plans and weight, just like alcoholism isn't completely about drinking. Because my dad was a brilliant thinker and he drank, I made the incorrect assumption that most addicts are troubled and tortured geniuses. But, as Stephen King noted, look at how many janitors, parents, musicians, food servers, street people and toll booth collectors are alcoholics or addicts of some sort. There are approximately 15 million people struggling with alcohol dependency and eight million people diagnosed with eating disorders in the United States alone. Why is addiction so prevalent?

It seems the more chaotic the world becomes, the more people are trying to feel a sense of control. We are not often taught coping mechanisms as children, so when we are faced with uncomfortable emotions, we become overwhelmed. The media tell us that life is supposed to be grand and pain free. Any discomfort is supposed to be stopped immediately with a pill or liquid elixir. Instead of learning to weather our emotions, we are taught to stuff them. With no coping skills, addiction becomes a common solution.

I'm reading a book called Eating in the Light of the Moon. It's a beautiful little piece of non-fiction that discusses the relationship women have with food. In it, the author offers a wonderful analogy about addiction. I will give the gist of it here: She describes a scene in which a person is struggling in river, being swept downstream. She is overwhelmed and can't swim to shore. In a frantic effort to survive, she grabs on to a log. This log keeps her afloat, but it is also pulling her further down the river. Meanwhile, people on the banks of the river see the simple solution: Swim to land. The people shout to her to let go and swim, but she's too afraid to let go. She has convinced herself that she needs the log. It did save her, after all. The problem is that it is now carrying her away and may eventually take her into waters that will drown her. 

Obviously the log in the story represents the addiction or disorder we choose in order to cope. It can be addiction, eating issues, bad relationships or any coping method that ultimately isn't healthy. It serves us in the sense that it offers us a way to survive in a chaotic situation, but it's not a comfortable way to live. In fact, it may kill us in the end. For anyone struggling with these issues, it's important to ask how the illness or addiction has served us. What does having the disorder keep us from experiencing? Why are we drawn to the disorder? It's impossible to swim to shore without strength. Coping takes courage. Often in recovery, relapses occur, because the core issues are being ignored. Every time we feel overwhelmed, it becomes too tempting to grab the log again. In order to get past the urge to revert, we must discover who we are. In doing so, we begin to recognize our own strength.

One of several flaws that I saw when I was in various treatment facilities for my eating issues was an abnormal fixation on meal plans and food in general. These plans we are supposed to stick to when our body might need more nutrients one day and less another don't allow our inner wisdom to be expressed. I'm not saying that plans can't be used as guidelines, but I found that they are relied on too much. It's odd to suggest that eating disorders aren't really about food, but they are just like any other addiction and about more than that. If the focus remains on the food, deeper issues won't be addressed.

An example is a woman who is facing a date with relatives that she knows will be emotionally hard for her. She has put her attention on trying to avoid binging during this time instead of addressing the deeper feelings. If she could prepare for and deal with the sadness that she is attempting to avoid, she might realize that the urge to binge would be less. Instead, she is asking for ways to avoid binging. Suggestions have included drinking water, chewing gum and eating a small portion of what is served. Nobody has suggested that she talk to someone at the event about her feelings, write about why she feels the urge to binge or focus on her physical body in order to feel more comfortable. The more she focuses on the food or the act of binging, the less she will address why she feels like she wants to binge in the first place. Those emotions will continue to get stuffed until she can use different ways to cope. As scary as it can be to allow emotions to come to the surface, it's the only way to get through them, and even though it can feel like we will get lost in them, like the weather, they will eventually pass.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The mountain runner in me

First some exciting news: Lauren Fleshman announced on her blog that she is expecting. I'm of the opinion that those of us who can transition in life are happier and more successful. When I say those of us, I don't actually put myself in that category. I don't tend to deal with change all that well. In fact, my resistance to bending has held me back in many areas of my life. I have definitely gotten better, but I often dig my heels in deep when I should be letting the winds lead me in new directions. A big congratulations to Lauren for stepping into a new role.

The Footlocker Cross Country Championships race was Saturday morning. I watched the coverage of the girl's 5k. It was great to see Jordyn Colter run well. I hope that whatever plagued her earlier in the season is behind her. Of course I worry, but it would be nice to see her have a long, successful and HEALTHY career.

Wow, things have changed since I ran it and not just the name! It's like watching a mini Olympics. There are interviews, events and the whole thing is filmed and broadcast live online. It makes me realize that runners are definitely under the microscope more these days. I'm glad things like LetsRun wasn't around in the '80s. I don't think I would have handled the commentary well given how sensitive I was back then. The Footlocker race seems so BIG now. When I ran and it was still the Kinney Cross Country Championships, I didn't realize what I was getting into, partly because I was the first girl from Colorado to ever qualify for the event. I knew it was a national race, but I didn't get just how good some of the other runners were. Quite a few of the girls I ran with both my junior and senior year went on to have very successful careers; some even made it to the Olympics. Suzy Favor Hamilton was one of those girls.

In my book, I mention how Suzy and I met at the Kinney regional meet and kept in touch throughout high school and after. We are still in touch today.

Lize after winning the regional cross-country race. Suzy Favor (Hamilton) was injured that year. .
Going into my first of two Kinney races, I was coming off the Pikes Peak Ascent win and an undefeated cross-country season. Fatigue was setting in, but I was too compulsive to rest much at that time. I remember starting the race in last place. Speed was not one of my assets. Over the 5k course, I inched my way up to 15th place, which wasn't bad considering I thought of myself as a mountain runner, not a cross-country racer. The course I ran in San Diego is the same as the one the boys and girls ran Saturday. It has a big hill that the racers go up twice. Unfortunately, the hill is too steep and short for someone like me to use as an advantage. It's more for runners with explosive speed, not for those of us who like long, gruelling uphill segments. My finish left me hoping I could do better the following year. Little did I know I would first have to face what could have been a career-ending injury and a flock of internal demons before I could get to the start line of Nationals the following year.
Jogging to the start line of Nationals

My next attempt to run fast on the course at Balboa Park landed me in 7th place. It was an improvement, but I was slightly disappointed since I had set a course record on nearly every cross-country course, road and mountain race I had run leading into nationals and was coming off an impressive 35:15 10K a few weeks earlier. What people didn't know was that my real accomplishment that day was not running related; it was my success in avoiding any purging before the race, something I had done before winning the regional race. Though I was diagnosed with anorexia, I did have bouts of bulimia my senior year of high school and in college when I was struggling with the eating disorder. Crossing the line further back than I wanted left me with mixed emotions. Despite knowing my sport was really mountain running, I had dreams of being in the top three at the Kinney race. It just didn't happen. I didn't have the turnover and leg speed that the other girls did.

As much as I liked cross country, road racing and even the track, mountain running was more my thing. I'm not sure why mountain runners are always called crazy. Really, is running up a mountain any less sane than sprinting 400s on the track or pounding out repeat intervals on the roads? Is running on the dirt any more bizarre than spending three hours painting or practicing the piano? Crazy or not, I have always felt more at home trotting on the trails. Mostly I love hill climbs, anything with a super long grind to the top. Even though I've got that tight butt thing going on these days that limits my stride, I'm still all about the hills. In fact, now that my gait is wobbly and uneven, going up in the hills is better for me. There's less pounding on my aching body. I suppose I'm a mountain runner at heart, even when I can no longer go the distance and have slowed down tremendously.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

No shoes

I haven't bought a new pair of shoes in ages. I don't count running shoes as getting new shoes, because those are a necessity, part of my running equipment. My running keeps me sane, so running shoes are an investment in my mental health, not a luxury buy. The last pair of regular shoes I bought was purchased a few months before my first foot surgery. I didn't know that I would never wear them again. They are too narrow for my foot after all the work and the heel is probably a bit too high. Even though they are far from flat, I'm saving my adorable little Bandolinos that I acquired about a year before the surgery, just in case I can ever stuff my wrecked foot into a nice-looking pair again.

Shortly after the surgery, mostly just for fun, I signed up for a free JustFab account. The idea with their website is that you fill out a questionnaire about the kinds of shoes you find appealing, and they create a very special grouping of shoes just for you. My responses clearly indicated that I can't stand those little oddly colored ballerina slippers, and I'm physically incapable of wearing high heels at this time. I selected the category for comfortable, low-heeled shoes and deselected the other categories thinking that I would be shown some elegant but sensible shoes, maybe some Clarks or Danskos. Instead, this is what was suggested, specifically for me:

I don't think I could walk in these, even without the foot issues. 

I wouldn't be caught dead in these. In fact, if I'm dead and anyone sees these shoes on my feet, please promise me you will take them off and offer them to the nearest dog as a chew toy. 

Sexy, yes. Me limping around in them? Not so sexy. 

Ouch again. 

Does this heel look low to you? They at least hit the nail on the head when it comes to cute, but missed the mark on the comfortable part. 

Obviously I will not be buying anything from this justFab selection. Eventually, I will have to buy some new shoes; I just don't know where to go for affordable ones that won't damage my foot. After the bills I got in the mail today, I won't be making purchases at all any time soon.

The cyst on the top of my foot is back. I can't see my doctor until January. This means I would probably have to wait on any shopping sprees in the footwear department anyway.

Somebody please reassure me that I can find a sensible and comfortable shoe like this in the future:

or even this:

so I don't have to wear something like this:

All this talk about shoes makes me wish my finances were better. :/

Monday, December 3, 2012

More about objectification

I'd like to think things are shifting when it comes to the portrayal of women in the media. While this blurb (below) about a study regarding articles about athletes in Sports Illustrated looks somewhat promising, it's clear that advertising and other aspects of the media are still missing the boat. I can't find the actual study anywhere, so it's hard to take the following completely seriously. Besides, a quick glance at recent Sports Illustrated covers tells me that women are definitely still portrayed as sexual objects in that magazine, and it's not just Sports Illustrated who's guilty. Still, I hope that the findings in the study are true. It would be nice if anything written on athletes focused on their abilities instead of their looks. 

Improvements in 2010? 

Analysis of Sports Illustrated yields interesting data on portrayals of women athletes

A new study indicates that representation of women athletes is improving, but there’s a caveat to that point.

The University of Buffalo’s Kiera Duckworth analyzed Sports Illustrated issues during Olympic years and found that the majority of articles portrayed women athletes as “strong, competent athletes.” Her research was presented Thursday at the annual conference for the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in New Orleans.

This is a positive signal for women’s sports because it is imperative that women athletes are recognized for their athletic prowess and not being sexualized.

However in her analysis of advertisements in the same issues, Duckworth found that there were differences in representation based on race. White women were portrayed as “the girl next door”, black females were shown predominately in a sporting context and Asian women were sexualized.

Taken together, Duckworth’s research indicates that the focus needs to be placed not just on journalists, but on advertising companies who also create societal representations of women athletes.

Still a LONG way to go. 

In addition to the short write-up above, I read an article in Psychology Today about the possible benefits of women being objectified. The topic was whether or not women want to be objectified. A foolish quote by Cameron Diaz was offered as some kind of evidence that there are women who think it's OK to objectify women. Cameron takes it one step further and seems to believe that EVERY women secretly wants it. I can guarantee there's at least one women who does not. I'm sure I'm not alone. She states, "I think every woman does want to be objectified," as if she has any kind of qualifications to determine this. 

Here's the thing...

Who the fuck cares what Camreon Diaz says? She's is a mediocre actress with nothing of substance to say who, despite her claims of being a mother but not actually having any children, knows zero minus about creating a healthy environment for youngsters. She's fine with objectifying women, because that's how she got famous and probably how she became quite full of herself, though her insecurity screams through her fits of bravado. Cameron's first movie (not Mask) was probably only available behind the secret curtains in the back of your local video store, so it's not surprising that she associates being objectified with something good following -- in her case, lots of money. Considering the damage she has done to herself with plastic surgery, I have to wonder how this objectification she claims to like is going to work out for her in the end. Hollywood isn't kind to the ageing. 

She continues, "If a woman who's a successful actress weighs 300 pounds and has warts, nobody ever asks her, 'Do you think you made it because you're ugly?' So why should there be prejudice against someone who's had some success in films and looks a little better than average. It's all in my genes, so don't hold it against me." 
Cameron Diaz

Yes, there are just so many actresses who weigh 300 pounds and have warts hanging around to answer these questions. 

I don't think Cameron Diaz understands the difference between the desire to feel sexy and comfortable in one's skin and being sexually objectified. In the case of the former, I might agree that most people don't mind having a good body image and being admired, but, unfortunately, stating it the way she did makes it seem like objectification is a positive thing. The Psychology Today article pointed out that getting attention based on outer appearance for those who already self-objectify and are already feeling good about themselves can cause a temporary boost in mood, but it also cautioned:

"..for people who base their self-worth on appearance (aka most of us, to some extent), self-objectification may be a double-edged sword. It feels great when you're getting positive attention, but it can easily turn sour when attention is negative or lacking, and these ups and downs can wreak havoc on mental and physical health.
Even when objectification feels good, it can have negative effects, taking precious time and attention away from potentially more important tasks or goals. For example, let's say you are a female attending an academic conference. Your central goals are presumably along the lines of learning something, networking, engaging in meaningful conversations, and presenting your best work."

Let me make one thing really clear: Women are not on this planet to look good for anyone. This article describes the warped thinking even highly educated individuals can have when it comes to women. The constant pressure women face to look good takes them away from achieving other goals in life. Objectification de-emphasizes individuality and often reduces whole beings into parts, dehumanizing and devaluing them in the process. When women are not seen as whole, they are no longer taken seriously. Notice that despite the obvious intellectual capabilities of the women at the conference, Dario Maestripieri is more concerned with a woman's outer beauty than her worth overall. He wrote, "My impression of the Conference of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans. There are thousands of people at the conference and an unusually high concentration of unattractive women. The supermodel types are completely absent. What is going on? Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? No offense to anyone.''  I'm not sure where he was going with that first fragment, but, incomplete sentences aside, this guy is part of a big problem for women. In stating this, he reduces women to nothing more than items to be viewed, and if viewing them doesn't bring him pleasure, he insists they are ugly. Guess what? Not everyone is going to find you attractive, no matter how high up on the scale of hotness you think are. But, as idiotic as Maestripieri's comments are, they are still damaging and shouldn't be brushed aside. I have already gone into how objectification of women leads to self-objectification, which leads to lower-self esteem and can spiral into decreased cognitive ability, eating disorders and increased incidents of abuse against women. 

I wonder what the women at the conference had to say about the appearance of the men there. 

This shit makes me so angry. I feel like screaming out, "Fuuuuuuuccckkkk Youuuuuu!!!" to this messed up society sometimes. We need to call people like this out more often. Things like this that reinforce an unhealthy climate for women should not be happening. 

At some point, I will get back to writing about other things. For now I'm on a roll and feel the need to make an effort to raise awareness about how harmful objectification can be. Things need to change.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The mediuggh

Here we go with round II

"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." - Pat Robertson. 1992 Iowa fundraising letter opposing a state equal-rights amendment.

One step forward

Two steps sideways?

I want to start by saying these are not entirely my ideas. I'm just trying to put them down coherently on my computer screen. What follow are the ideas of a small group of progressive thinkers comprised of both men and women trying to raise awareness. I am so moved by the people who are making an effort to change the dangerous and disturbing trends of how females are portrayed in broadcasting and publications. When it comes to how the media portray women, there is a definite model that the vast majority of directors and people in charge follow. Women have been facing the damaging environment the media create for many years. We are constantly told that things are getting better, which might have been true when the feminist movement was becoming more recognized in the 1960's and 1970's, but isn't the case anymore. It seems there was a backlash to the women's movement that occurred in the 1980's, and that adverse response has continued today, especially from the ultra conservative Christian voice. These negative trends are not what the public wants, though we are told this is the case. What's really happening is that images and ideas that impact our thinking and development as a society are being thrown in our faces by an industry dominated almost entirely by men. As much as we want to pretend more women are empowered these days, we can't deny the huge media bias. The results are a continuation of women being defined by men and a resistance to change the patriarchy.

There are six corporations that control at least 90 percent of the media in the United States. Thanks in part to the Telecommunications Act of 1966, a small number of corporations were able to expand their power and gain tighter control of information offered to the publicWomen are not well represented in these companies. This means what we see in magazines, on TV, in films and in video games comes primarily from a male perspective. There's no doubt that content bias exists with women not being fairly represented. Over the last twenty years, there have been less restrictions on explicit and uncensored content, and facts have become blurred with opinions. The government is reluctant to change policies, because that could create a conflict of interest. Most of the major media companies make large contributions to both political parties, after all. In return, these companies are paid large sums to run political ads. Who wants to rock that boat? The result is that nobody has a sense of obligation for public interest.

“We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.”
– 1981 internal memo from Michael Eisner, former CEO of the Walt Disney Company

The big companies that control the media are not philanthropic enterprises. Their goal is to make money, and they will do whatever it takes to get noticed. The more explicit and uncensored content in the media is presented the more directors, writers and producers try to shock in order to get noticed. One of many problems with having less standards is potentially exposing youngsters to adult material. Kids don't have the same cognitive ability as adults and don't filter and process information in the same way. Unfortunately, the atmosphere that is created with fewer limits and restrictions is one that leads to more violence, especially against women. Violence seems to be a natural by-product whenever dehumanizing is occurring, and when we objectify women, it can end up being a justification for violence against them. As long as somebody is making money, these kinds of consequences are not considered.

Aside from the very obvious message being sent that women are lesser beings, the media sends some more subtle ones when women are degraded, objectified, sexualized and portrayed as ditzy, a bitch or crazy. There are very few positive female role models represented in the media. There are also less air time and coverage provided for women in sports or politics. When women do get noticed, there is an abnormal focus on appearance, no matter what their achievements have been, and this discounts their success. Personality isn't a factor, but a hairstyle certainly is. Content is lost when the focus is on appearance. The media aren't concerned with what Hillary Clinton does; they are concerned with what she wears, how much she weighs and how tired she looked on a given day. These kinds of messages reach everyone and shape the minds of young boys and girls. They set a cultural standard that few are willing to challenge. The messages become so embedded in our society that hardly anyone reacts when women are continually and incorrectly portrayed as subordinates. When women are two times as likely to be described as emotional, a stereotype is enforced. In one shot, boys have been given the warning that it's not OK to be sensitive beings, and girls have been told that they can't strive for higher positions unless they look and act a certain way. And boy, we all better keep those emotions in check.

Women are hyper-sexualized, even when delivering the news. Few women are on the Fox News board of directors. Last time I checked, there was one. 

"Women accounted for 5% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2011, a decrease of 2 percentage points from 2010 and approximately half the percentage of women directors working in 1998." - Celluloid Ceiling 

The handful of women protagonists in film and on TV are almost always objectified. 

It's not all that shocking that the "APA reported that sexualization of women has a negative influence on young girls, and that images portraying women as sexual objects can affect a young girl's self-esteem and confidence." What's concerning is that the objectification of women leads young girls to objectify themselves. The result is an increase in depression among young girls followed by an increase in eating disorders. It is estimated that 65% of women and girls are reported to have an eating disorder. I suspect many don't admit to it, so those number might be higher. What's interesting to note is that the more women self-objectify, the more their cognitive abilities decline. Objectification also leads to decreased political efficacy, which might explain why so few women are properly represented in higher political offices in this country.

Women are scrutinized much more than men. Obviously television is a visual medium, but the standards for men are very different. There is less pressure for them to look a certain way, though they have pressures as well. In May 2009, the Global Status of Women reported that nearly three-quarters of all female characters in television sitcoms are underweight. No matter what a woman does, her looks will be the main topic, and she can't win. If she's successful and doesn't look like a typical model -- who is also typically underweight-- she will probably be referred to as a bitch or a witch. If she becomes a product of our society and focuses on her looks, she will likely be called a skank or a slut. Both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin have been under the microscope in recent years, but neither could come out ahead. Comments about how hot or how ugly a person is discount her achievements and put the focus on her body instead of on her actions. The goal is to take women down a notch, especially if they threaten to be powerful. This reinforces unhealthy thinking patters, especially for young girls who possibly start to believe that their looks are more important than what they do or what's inside. This kind of thinking distracts girls from reaching higher goals. Directing attention to a woman's body perpetuates a toxic idea that girls must put an abnormal emphasis on how they look in order to be recognized or successful. Think about that next time you rank the top 10 hottest female marathon runners. What message are you sending our young athletes?

“How good does a female athlete have to be before we just call her an athlete?” – Author Unknown

Men's Health 2012:


"Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, 'She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes." Clare Booth Luce

This is not an Olympic swimmer; she plays soccer. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I was planning to write a post about the media, but it will have to wait until next week. First I want to backtrack a little, because I may not have been as clear as I could have been with my Ed post. Again, I have no problem with people describing what methods worked for them in recovery, especially if the information given can help others. In the case of giving a separate identity called Ed to eating disorders, my concern is that this may not resolve deeper issues. I agree that this technique might make identifying disordered thinking easier, but it misses the mark in terms of getting into WHY WE CREATE these thoughts and sometimes follow through with unhealthy actions. It is my opinion that not addressing the underlying issues makes it difficult to truly move forward. If I hear a voice in my head that tells me I'm fat, and I tell myself, "Oh that's Ed," like it's some foreign entity, does this really get to the bottom of why those thoughts are coming up for me? If, instead, I ask myself why I am creating these thoughts, it's easier to stop them by getting to the bottom of it. Am I stressed out; recalling old situations that no longer apply; feeling out of control, unhappy, lonely, tired or angry? Once I identify the emotion or feeling behind the thought or thought patterns, it's more likely that the unhealthy self judgement will dissipate or stop all together. I hope this makes sense, because a gimmick can only go so far.

Getting well takes work. There's no way around it. I wish it were easier, but I truly believe that the best way to get to the other side of an eating disorder is to first understand the illness, and then find as many tools as you can to help create your own path to recovery. This means taking what works for you and tossing the rest. In a sense there is no real right or wrong in recovery, but there are certain approaches that, throughout history, seem to get better results. I tend to follow Diane Israel's suggestions when it comes to getting healthy. There are four key components that seem to work well for most people who are struggling with addiction. The first step is to reclaim or identify the self. Healing or addressing past trauma and family issues is the next step. Finding community support locally or online follows, and finally giving back through charity or service to others is the last step. Of course, these steps don't have to be taken in any particular order. One need not be completely well in order to give back, but it's important to be in a healthy place in order to have the energy to do so.

As always, take what anyone says with a fist full of salt. Be open minded when it comes to taking in information, but use only what resonates and makes sense.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey day race

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. My day was filled with fun activities, visits with friends and family and loads of turkey day food. Racing made me extra hungry, so I hope whoever goes back for that last piece of pumpkin pie doesn't mind that most of the outer crust is missing. I had a late night craving, and I have a thing for pie crust. It's the best part of the pie. Mmmmmm.

In the past, Thanksgiving was always a nightmare for me. I still instinctively get a little uptight on the holiday, but I keep reminding myself to put my recovery first. Fortunately, I'm not as preoccupied with food and weight, so it makes eating with others more enjoyable. Years ago, I simply avoided the holiday. Sometimes I would spend time with a friend who had eating issues too, and we would get sushi and rent movies, a safe way to spend the day. I'm happy to report that my family is very understanding about where I am and where I have been. Nobody comments about my food intake or fusses about the way I eat. After the race, I felt like I needed a snack, so I ate shortly before our big meal. As a result, my Thanksgiving lunch wasn't Supersized, but I was glad I could still join everyone at the table. That wouldn't have happened when I was sick. These days, I need smaller, more frequent meals. For me, yesterday was more about spending time with people than cramming large globs of food in my mouth in one sitting, though I did have quite an appetite later that evening. Overall, it ended up being a lovely day.

The turkey trot I ran was fun. I haven't raced since the shootout, and I sort of forgot how to push it again. Unfortunately, I went back to my old pattern of falling asleep in the middle of the race, not sure if my pace was fast or slow. It was slow. No wonder I felt so good during those middle miles! My confidence needs a boost, because I don't seem to have the courage to up the pace, even when I can feel I have the energy. I think it has something to do with not being sure how much I can handle. I know I ran hard, but I recovered a little too quickly at the finish line. It ended up feeling more like a tempo run than a race. Plus, there were moments after I would surge in which I settled back down to a more comfortable pace, not really racing like I did on the cross country course in September. I need to get past that and start to believe that I can keep the faster pace until the end. I guess I'm afraid of bonking. I am not a good judge of pace or distance right now. A 5K seems both waaaayyy long and far too short!

For my next race, I should probably rest a little bit more before I toe the start line. With all that has gone on with my foot recently, I wasn't sure if I was going to race until yesterday morning, so I didn't plan my week accordingly. I did some solid workouts early in the week. In the end, it was just a so-so race. I was glad to catch up with old friends after and super stoked that I won a prize, even though I only got 4th in my age group. In Boulder, a turkey trot brings out all kinds of stellar running talent, so 4th in any age group is not too bad. Still, there's plenty of room to improve on my time, obviously. I'm a little embarrassed to say that I ran 22:47. I'm going to blame the big huge headwind all of us had to face several times during the two-loop course, even though I don't think that's the main reason I didn't run faster. I'm just glad the lady in the Vibrams didn't pass me and relieved that nobody in a turkey costume was ahead of me either. In more good news, my foot held up OK. It was sore but manageable.

I would give about anything to have this amazing warm and sunny weather continue through the winter. let it snow in the high country. I'm happy with the sunshine down here. Can I get an AMEN?


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Credo sucks

I keep getting suckered into continuing my horrible phone plan with Credo, mostly because I'm too busy or too lazy to switch to a different program. I also don't want to pay the huge fine for breaking my contract and finding a new company. It's not that I'm fighting against the more intelligent phone movement or that I love my flip phone; it's that I keep incorrectly thinking things will get better. Instead, I end up paying too much for extremely limited phone activity. My main complaint with the company is that nobody who works there is precise. For example, the last time I spoke to a representative, he offered me 10 percent off my entire bill if I signed on for another two years. That sounded OK. It's maybe $6.00 off, but I am desperate. Any amount off sounded good to me. What the guy didn't say was that the offer was not for the two years or even one of those years. It was a one-time deal. So I reluctantly signed on thinking I was getting $6.00 off every bill when it was only a savings of $6.00 for the entire two years. It's ridiculous. I suppose I should have asked, but what sane person would think that an offer like that was restricted to only one bill? He didn't say I would get 10% off my NEXT bill; he said the deal was 10% off my bill. This is just one example of MANY that I have had the displeasure of experiencing with this company. All it takes is a little precision to clear up any uncertainty, but this company never offers it. They boast about how much they donate to good causes, but I would rather have a normal phone bill and continue donating to the charities of my choice.

My first phone bill, back when the company was called Working Assets, was $400, because nobody said anything about the restrictions with the plan: no internet, charges for texts, additional charges for going over a certain number of minutes when talking etc., all things that any plan should specify, right? I was used to Cricket, which has a very straight-forward contract with unlimited talking and texts. The person who signed me up made it sound like everything was unlimited. I talked someone at Credo into decreasing the outrageous bill by calling their bluff. When some lady said she wouldn't reduce the bill, she mentioned that she had a recording of each phone conversation and was sure that the person with whom I spoke had mentioned the restrictions, I said, "Awesome. I want to hear exactly what the rep told me about any of this the day I agreed to the contract, so pull it up and let's hear it." I was put on hold. Shortly after, the representative offered me a big discount on the bill without further comment. It was still way more than I should have paid though. I vowed to get everything in writing the next time. Nothing was ever mentioned about limited talking, texts and internet activity, some very important pieces of information. But the 10% thing was both in writing and over the phone. Nowhere did it say for one bill only, but because of my assumption, I now cringe every time I see my phone bill, which is way too high given all the restrictions. Hell, I feel like I can't even talk to people unless it's at some obscure hour! In short, Credo sucks. I would never recommend it.

Enough complaining.

I hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving tomorrow. Good luck to all the runners who jump in those turkey trots!