Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon Race Report

For as much excitement as I'd had leading up to this event, it was ultimately sadly anti-climatic in the end.

I'd been dreading the hot weather this event usually has, with North Texas Septembers typically still in the 90s and the Sunday a week prior at a blistering 106°F for Grapevine's Grapefest. But when I checked the forecast that day, I nearly cried: race day would be in the mid-70s.

By Wednesday, though, the forecast showed a 95 percent chance of thunderstorms at race time. It's a rain or shine event, but because the course had been plotted through shady areas in anticipation of dangerous sun and heat, that meant much of it was also on flood plains. And if there was lightning, it would have to be canceled.

By Friday, though, the forecast showed a dry race except for maybe the last mile or so.

I set out my BAWG kit, runderwear, ENELL, and Vibram Five Fingers a few days before the event so I could get up and go quickly.

I met up briefly with a friend at the event, exchanged hugs, and then we trudged to our appropriate pace groups.

The hills on Los Rios that had me nearly in tears on my bike for last year's Blackland Triathlon was a piece of cake. I hopped onto the grassy curb and power hiked up the hills before stepping back onto the road to run down them.

I felt really good for the first 6 miles. I even met a woman running in bright turquoise Medieval Moccasins. She said she'd done several long races in them and highly recommends them for fans of minimalist running. She'd been inspired to put them to that purpose after reading the book Born to Run.

But at about 6.5, I felt my feet begin to blister, though I'd not had that problem before with these shoes. I sat down to pull them off and lube up with some Chamois Butter before continuing. A the 8-mile marker, I was just exhausted and pulled out my phone to say as much on Facebook. Not a minute after I put it back in its zipper-lock baggy, the sky opened up and flooded down on us. Farewell, iPod. (It had stopped working by then anyway.)

Before the mile was out, I was in absolute agony and bit back tears for the next two. I've been running for over 6 years and completed three prior half marathons and a15-mile Spartan Beast, but I had never run on so much concrete. The PBF course was entirely concrete with no break. I'd read that asphalt is softer but never really thought about it, since both seem like hard pavement to me.

My femur heads, where the leg bone connects to the hip bone, were screaming. I was walking way more than I wanted to. My tummy was yucky and I couldn't take the fuel I'd planned on.

After the 10-mile marker, we saw volunteers at the next aid station waving a red flag and they shouted that the course was closed and we had to quit. We were less than three miles from done, but they funneled us onto a trail leading straight back to the festival area. I was a little disappointed but in too much pain to be really upset by it.

As I came through the trees, I heard an announcer on a loudspeaker saying the festival itself was officially canceled. Everyone was ordered to take shelter. The volunteers had all complied, so I wandered toward the finish line and plucked a medal from a pile of open boxes left unattended there. I gathered my things and slowly, gingerly limped up the big-ass hill separating me from my car.

I took a few minutes to stretch every aching thing and stood a few minutes longer kind of lost and unsure what to do with myself. It was 10 a.m. on a Sunday, so I couldn't even go grab a beer, because Texas. I drove home through the deluge, drew a hot bath, dozed off in it twice, and dragged myself to bed.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Body Acceptance? Get Real.

“It may sound simplistic, but a 2009 study compared people of similar age, gender, education, and rates of diabetes and hypertension and found that body image had a much bigger impact on health than body size.
In other words, two equally fat women would have very different health outcomes, depending on how they felt about their bodies. Likewise, two women with similar body insecurities would have similar health outcomes, even if one was fat and the other thin.

body acceptance: approving of and loving your body despite real or perceived imperfections

It's a nice idea, but often easier said than done. How can one practice body positivity if they don’t like what they see in the mirror?
  1. Start small: Start with appreciation for what your body does if liking how it looks is out of reach for now. Maybe we worry about flabby arms, but think about how they allow to embrace the people you love. Maybe we worry about “thunder thighs,” but think about everything your legs have carried you through in this life. Recognize what your body can do and what you can work toward.
    “More specifically, work out because you love your body and not because you hate it should be considered an achievable goal, not something to add to today’s to-do list that you can check off with ease. It’s a tedious process for many, not a simple mindset change.” —Nia Shanks
  2. Be mindful:
    Pay attention when negative thoughts show up. Don't beat yourself up for it. Acknowledge the thought without assigning value to it, and let it float away as if trickling downstream.
  3. Affirmations: a declaration of something that is true and used to practice positive thinking One of my favorites: Im not messed up; the world is.
    I acknowledge my own self worth.
    “I release myself from outside expectations.
  4. Fake it ’til you make it:
    You don't have to believe your affirmations, but with practice and repetition, they'll take root for you. The longer you act confident and practice positivity, the likelier you are to really feel and believe those things.
  5. Set boundaries: With the holiday season coming up, many are dreading critical comments from their families. Depending on your family's unique dynamics and how many spoons you have on a given day, you can absolutely say, "That is inappropriate and offensive. Do not comment on my food choices." Stand up for yourself. Ragen at Dances With Fat has a lot of excellent resources and scripts for dealing with friends and family who comment on your body and food.
  6. Recruit “Team YOU”: Team You consists of friends, family, coworkers, community members, and health care practitioners who are kind and supportive in helping you live the most positive and beneficial life you can in the ways that you choose to. It's difficult to learn body acceptance when everyone around you thwarts your efforts, so work on cultivating positive relationships in your life.
    If people who claim to care about you can't get on board with what you need to take care of yourself, then they don't really need to spend time around you.
  7. Practice compassion: We're human, and success doesn't happen overnight. Remind yourself that it's a journey, that it's okay to trip, fall, and backslide. It's what you choose to do next—get up and keep going—that matters most.
It's not just new-age, self-help, woo-y, feel-good advice. Science supports body acceptance as a key part of overall well being:

“By learning to value their bodies as they are right now, even when this differs from a desired weight or shape or generates ambivalent feelings, people strengthen their ability to take care of themselves and sustain improvements in health behaviors.” (source)

What actions have helped you on your journey?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Looks Like I Made It?

Last week was interesting.

Facebook's "On This Day" feature showed me that two years ago I was seven months out of a relationship and still having nightmares about my ex at least weekly. I would continue to have regular nightmares for nearly a year and a half.

And now I'm here and I can hardly believe it. I finally FINALLY feel not broken. I feel whole and secure and free and happy.

One year ago, my depression meds suddenly stopped working, and I delayed speaking to my doctor for a few weeks because I didn't realize at first what the problem was, and then I didn't want it to be true so I waited a few weeks more hoping it would just go away, and then it took more than a week extra to actually see my doctor because he was all booked up.

I wanted to cry all the time for no reason at all. Life was okay; I was just miserable. We doubled my dose of Wellbutrin, and I've been good since then.

I've been aware of how consistently happy and upbeat and productive and active and frequently joyful I am for a couple of months now. That's not to say that I don't ever feel down, but I bounce back very quickly instead of spiraling for days and weeks. I do not recognize this Moniqa, and it's kind of weird.

And as wonderful as life is right now, everyday I'm scared. I'm afraid of the depression coming back, like it's waiting behind a bush somewhere to jump out and hit me over the head. That's the joy of chronic mental health issues: you may find remission but never a cure.

So I plan and go and do ALL the things, which then leaves me likely to burn out. It's hard to find balance, and I don't know right now if I'm doing it right or just waiting for everything to come crashing down.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Biphobia in Practice

On September 1, I was getting groceries with my best friend in Omaha, Nebraska.

So no shit there we are, standing in the checkout line, and a lady behind us sees two plushies I'm about to purchase.
L: Oh! It's so cute! Where did you find it?
M: Over there; they have lots of them!
L: Wow! It's Wonder Woman, right?
M: Yes. And this is a rainbow hedgehog.
L: Adorable.
M: It was on sale!
L: Oh, and what is that tattoo behind your ear?
M: Oh, that's a rainbow. I got it last summer when the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality.
L: *face changes, very slowly, from affable interest to slight horror, to slightly off-put might-have-gas-ness and she suddenly becomes very interested in her groceries and completely mute*

As we're exiting the store:
Bff: . . . So did she just straight up stop talking as soon as you explained your tattoo?
M: Yep. That's exactly what happened.
Bff: Woooooow.

(Credit to best friend for the retelling)

Way to live down to my expectations of the Midwest, Omaha. This exchange make me even happier to miss the family reunion in the area that weekend. I'd originally booked the trip to spend a few days with best friend and go to the extended family reunion, but as more of my immediate family canceled and it looked like I'd be visiting a bunch of strangers (about whom I know nothing except that they're Christian white people from the Midwest, and my only interaction with them was when one found his way to my Facebook page to make transphobic comments about Caitlyn Jenner), I decided to spend the whole trip with best friend instead.


This week a friend invited me to an event hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, but I see there's no B in "GALA." Bisexual people face negativity and exclusion not only from heterosexuals but also from homosexuals as well. 

Yesterday an article made its way around Facebook discussing a recent survey that found half of Americans would not date a bisexual person. The comments section, unsurprisingly, is a hot mess of biphobia masquerading as Logic™.

Close friends have even said they would never date/trust a bisexual because a bisexual person in their past was untrustworthy. Seriously, though, how many millions of relationships between different-gender people have ended the same way? If I let the fact that people in my past relationships were often dishonest and hurtful influence my decisions that same way, I would never date a straight man again.

September 23 is Bisexual Visibility Day. Be aware that bisexuals face some of the highest rates of poverty, mental illness, drug use, suicide, self-harm, assault, and rape compared to both their straight AND gay peers.
  • In a 2009 survey, bisexuals were tolerated only slightly more than intravenous drug users in a survey of self-identifying heterosexuals.
  • Data from Australia shows that both men and women who are bisexual have the highest percentages of suicide attempts.
  • Most bisexuals won’t tell someone about their sexual orientation until the age of 20.
  • Nearly half of all bisexual households have a total family income that is less than $30k.
  • Research shows that bisexual people are six times more likely than gay men and lesbians to hide their sexual orientation.
"While 20% of bisexuals report experiencing a negative employment decision based on their sexuality, almost 60% of bisexual people report hearing anti-bisexual jokes and comments on the job.
"Bisexual people experience higher rates of sexual and intimate partner violence than gay, lesbian, and straight people. Bisexual women experience significantly higher rates of violence both overall and by significant others, compared to lesbian and straight women: 46% of bisexual women have experienced rape, compared to 13% and 17% of lesbian and straight women, respectively. Sixty-one percent of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 43% and 35% of lesbian and straight women respectively. More than half of bisexual women who experienced violence by an intimate partner reported that they had missed a day of work or school, feared for their safety, or experience another negative impact. Bisexual men also report higher rates of sexual violence; nearly half of bisexual men (47%) report experiencing sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime."

Understand that erasure is not privilege.
Erasure is not privilege.

"It means coming out over and over and over and over again…sometimes to the same person. It means I get dragged back into the closet every damn day. It hurts every time, but today in light of this already bleeding wound, biphobia and erasure is excruciating.

My best friend (at the time) recoiled in horror when I came out to her.
So I didn't come out for another 10 years.

Bisexuals aren't confused. They aren't more likely to cheat. Not "everybody's a little bit gay." It isn't it a joke.

For us, it's literally life and death.
"According to the American Journal of Public Health, among women, bisexual women report the highest prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (of PTSD) (26.6% versus 6.6% of straight women), with high prevalence of PTSD setting the stage for poorer health throughout adulthood. Bisexuals have higher suicidality rates: one study found bisexuals were four times more likely and lesbian and gay adults two times more likely to report attempted suicide than straight adults."
September 23 is Celebrate Bisexuality Day.