Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bridal Gowns, Weddings and Body Image Revisited

It’s a good thing that I had such a good long run this weekend, because there were definitely some big confidence hits as well. We've discussed body image and wedding gowns before. I guess this is the scary side...

Friday began at 3:30 am after a fairly sleepless night. Does anyone else get nervous and have trouble sleeping before travelling? I do. Especially before flying. I had no problem making my 6:00 am flight to Chicago, where I got whammied with an epic delay. Normally, I’m pretty good at rolling with the punches, but I had optimistically scheduled my bridal gown fitting for less than 2 hours after I was originally scheduled to land and then packed the rest of the day with back-to-back appointments for makeup and hair trials. I made it, but missed my opportunity to go home and pull myself together.

Before I continue, just let me say that what I described above is a horrible idea. One should never put that many aspects of their personal appearance up to scrutiny in one day, and certainly not right after a 3:30 am wakeup call and eight hours of airports and airplanes. It’s a miserable experience and no one should do it. Ever. I’m serious. Also, never fly through O’Hare if you can avoid it. The place is death to your schedule.
So I got off the plane and hopped in the car for 45 minutes with my Mom, who was chipper and brought food, which helped. We arrived about 30 minutes early for the fitting, and I promptly showed my lack of sleep by making back-to-back bad decisions
Oh, Oberon... Why did I let your crisp beckon derail me?
       1.       I stupidly suggested we wait next door at a restaurant and grab a beer
2.       When we returned and the bride ahead of me was running late, I agreed to have my fitting in the un-air-conditioned, stuffy back room with only one mirror.
What followed can only be described as emotionally overwrought and hellacious. I stood there dripping sweat becoming increasingly horrified at how hot, heavy, tight, too-short and overwhelmingly uncomfortable and unflattering the dress was and tried desperately to keep it together while my mom wept over how beautiful I looked and snapped photos with my phone’s camera.
I’m not exactly a boss at standing up for myself, and I completely let this experience get away from me. So please, learn from my mistakes. I went along with everything the seamstress told me, and allowed the major concerns I was having to either go unmentioned or be brushed aside by the seamstress and consultant (both of whom were really nice, just not picking up on my nearly un-detectable clues that I was not happy). I now have a great deal of respect for the ladies on Say Yes to the Dress who cry and stomp and holler in the fitting rooms of Kleinfeld’s until their dresses look exactly the way they want them. Watch them. Learn from them. You don’t have to be rude, but you do have to be pointed. This is your wedding dress. And Double E, meek and mild, has been crying herself to sleep for a week and banned bread and cheese in her home. Don’t do what I’m doing. Say something. Loudly. And if they tell you it can’t be let out in the hips, tell them to try harder, because you’re not going to make it to the alter without bourbon and pepper jack cheese. Those guys are practically your bridesmaids. Repeat after me: change your dress, not your body.
Photo: Kleinfeld's Website
Also, this lucky bitch doesn't look like she needs to change her dress OR her body. Oh media, why must you TAUNT me??
I’m sure you can now imagine the state I was in – exhausted, disappointed, filled with self-loathing that only the combination of sticky sweat and skin-tight chiffon can elicit – and there I was telling everyone how much I loved it and how happy I was and hopping in the car for my makeup appointment….
Here, zero makeup
Makeup is wonderful stuff. I don’t wear a lot of it normally, because I never really thought I needed to. I have never been self-conscious about my face. And yes, I know how lucky I am to feel that way.  However, the (again, VERY NICE, just kind of clueless) woman who did my makeup found more wrong with me in 10 minutes than I’ve been able to detect in my whole life. I told her very specifically that I don’t wear much makeup and just wanted to look “fresh” on my wedding day. I thought she would slap some blush and a pretty eye shadow on me and call it good. Oh, how wrong I was. 45 minutes later, I looked fantastic. However, I also had a list of the gazillion things that were “wrong” with my looks running through my head to join the cacophony of shame leftover from the dress fitting: “bushy eyebrows, no cheekbones, circles so dark they actually need two colors to be successfully hidden…” on and on the list went.
So here - "lots" of makeup (for me). See a difference from the pic above? I don't....
To my great credit, I kept it totally together until we were half way to the hairdresser’s house before I tested just how water-proof the mascara actually was. It’s safe to say that I’ll survive my wedding day without any mascara running, but I will need to blend in the tear-tracks through my blush.
The hair trial was definitely the least brutal of the appointments. My stylist has been doing my hair since I could walk and has created every gorgeous up-do I’ve ever worn for me. She is a genius, and a storyteller, and always makes you feel good. So I can state with 100% confidence that this is not her fault…. As we’re fiddling with a way to balance my hair and long face with my grandmother’s beautiful lace pillbox hat that I’ll be sporting for the wedding, she announces “girlfriend, we’re going to have to get you some more hair”. And she’s right. My hair is thin, and to pull of that hat, I’m going to need more of it. So she told me to buy a 10” ponytail and bring it in to add to my locks. It will look fantastic.
So now I am spending my lunch hour avoiding food, so that I can feel good in that stupid dress and searching for 10 inches of someone else’s hair with the dark circles under my eyes clearly exposed because I could not afford two colors of concealer on top of all the other corrective paint I had to buy. And I am the girl who went into this thing totally accepting that I would not look “the best I’ve ever looked” at my wedding, and that I just wanted to look and feel like myself while I said vows of forever to the Grige. That tight, heavy, beautiful dress, 10 pounds of makeup and someone else’s hair are making me feel more detached from the person I am when I’m running, or reading, or curled up in bed next to the Grige than I ever have before. I wish we had eloped. But maybe this is why we have weddings? To force me to confront expectations and figure out what makes me who I am and how to show it? Well, it’s hard, anyhow. Hopefully I’ll be able to answer that question better on August 11.

Swimmin' Seven

So! The first long run of my marathon training: seven sweet miles in my hometown on the west coast of Michigan

Glen Lake seen from the Dunes Trail.
Rosy Mound Trail
This lovely view posted above was the half way point on my run. Needless to say, I decided the extra half mile was worth it and ran down to the water for a little halfway swim. I think the secret to pain-free long runs may be immersing your legs in the chilly but clear waters of Lake Michigan for a little while in the middle of your run. The 2 miles surrounding this gorgeous halfway point were really hilly, but fun and the rest of the run was super flat.

Since I’m running more for time on my feet than speed work, 7.6 miles took me about an hour and forty minutes (including the swim!) I didn’t wear a watch because I wanted to enjoy the run and not play mind games with myself. I took about five walking breaks of about two minutes each to drink water plus the swimming break, which probably took up about 10 minutes if not 15. It takes a long time to get sand off of your feet, especially if you don’t want blisters on the 4 miles home.
I re-filled my bottle twice on this run and fueled on dried cherries while I was floating in the water. Lots of people say that you don’t need to fuel on runs shorter than 10 miles. They are probably right. I didn’t feel like I needed the cherries, but they definitely gave me a boost of energy that was welcome as I plowed back up the sand dunes. I’m going to try a goo packet or sports drink mix on my next long run (9 miles, WOOT!) and see how that goes.
I'm running with one of these guys now.... So far, so great! I really like having a place besides my shorts to stow my keys, snacks and bandaids
So, it was a fantastic run and I definitely finished strong with a huge grin on my face. I’m looking forward to my next mileage jump this weekend. It was great to start out so well, because it really made me feel like 26.2 is attainable by October and might even be fun!
Sadly, my buzz was killed this morning on a really crappy and painful 3 mile run. I ran my usual Rock Creek Park 5K loop and was just in awful pain the whole time. I can usually kill that course in 27 or 28 minutes, but today I did a sluggish 36:34. Then I limped upstairs and cried in the kitchen while I made my smoothie and grabbed an ice pack. Slow morning runs are the worst, because they make me late all day long.
This is what I see at the half way point of my 5K loop. I do not run through the tunnel, but I always want to...
photo by tomfs on Flickr
 I did a 4 mile tempo run yesterday on the treadmill, and I must have broken down some new muscles. The pain this morning was concentrated in my calves, shins and hips, so I’ve decided to add a weekly treadmill tempo run to try to stabilize whatever is causing the problem. I will report back, but tomorrow may well be an un-planned yoga/rest day while I push my long run back to Sunday. I definitely could not do another three miles like this morning any time soon.
Another potential culprit is the fact that I did my run at noon yesterday (since my flight got in well after midnight and I wanted SLEEP in the AM) and then ran again at 6:00 am this morning. It's just possible that I didn't have enough recovery time, but I'm doubtful that fatigue is the full explaination.
It’s been a rough week for training in general since I’ve been traveling and have lots of evening events with friends and am hosting my friend Jess all weekend. I think we are definitely getting into the pre-wedding/move busy stretch where finding time for yoga and a run every day won’t be happening. I’m going to try to fit yoga in over lunch starting next week. I hate showering twice a day, but I think it’s going to be necessary.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Because I Wasn't Busy Enough

On Monday, Mighty Girl wrote about dithering over decisions. To be fair, she wrote about it because O Magazine wrote about it, but I like the passage from The Bell Jar that Maggie quoted best:

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
I feel quite a bit like this right now, not that it isn’t typical of folks my age. To be fair to myself, I have made some decisions. When I met the Grige, three years ago, I pulled the plug on my Peace Corps application. I knew when I looked at him that I wanted to marry him and that was the fig I was going to focus on. Hopefully the others would follow. So here we are, planning a wedding and a life together, and some of the other figs are within reach – We’re moving west, not quite far enough for my taste, but it’s progress; It’s likely that we’ll spend a semester abroad next year; He supports my ambitions to run my own business and constantly challenges me intellectually. I don’t regret my choice to pursue the Grige fig first.
I chose this path
However, it’s a little challenging to do everything on his schedule. I feel a bit more like a piece of complaining luggage than an equal partner given the way his career plans are driving every bit of our lives right now. We’re having the wedding on a tight schedule and skipping the honeymoon to accommodate his grad school start date, we’re moving to a city that was last on my wish list because a great architecture school is there, where and when we live abroad will be determined by his school requirements – I’m constantly molding my life and expectations to accommodate his and frankly, I’m fed up. Even if it is fairly in line with my goals as well, I’m sick and tired of not having any control (and doing all the dishes).
There it is....
Which brings me to a decision I may soon regret: I’m going to run a marathon. Let me correct that – I’m going to try to run a marathon. I’ve chosen the Grand Rapids Marathon ( on Sunday, October 21. The timing coincides perfectly with my plans to leave my job and move, while giving me 18 weeks to train. I’ll be attending a memorial for my Grandfather in MI the weekend before and was then planning to officially take up residence in St. Louis. I’ll spend the week after the memorial with my parents, run the race, and then hop on the train with a few bags of ice to begin my new life as a marathoner.
So, I’m sure you’re thinking that I’m nuts and wondering how on earth I ever convinced myself that this was even do-able, let alone a good idea. I’ll walk you through it:

1.       You have your own wedding, a move and another wedding that you are a bridesmaid in during training. You will have no time for this:
Fair points. However, I specifically set up my “step back” weeks to fall on big events. I’ll be stepping back during my bachelorette party, my wedding week, and moving week as well as several big work weekends. I’ll be tapering by the time Jess’ wedding rolls around. My longer runs will be a great way to say goodbye to DC and get to know St. Louis during the move.

2.       The whole reason you are staying in DC is to work through the busy season. Won’t you be too busy for marathon training?
Possibly, but I don’t think so. My weekday runs are definitely short enough to fit in before work, and will probably even ease my commute by getting me out the door early. We have a nice gym in the basement of my office building, so it will be possible to fit my runs in at other times as well. I won’t have the Grige to run home to, and it will be nice to have something else to look forward to. Also, I find that having physical goals to focus on helps me deal with mental stress. Zoning out on a 15 mile long run is a great way to leave work stress behind.

3.       Wait – Aren’t you always talking about how you don’t really like running and how you aren’t very good at it?
Yes! The thing is, I’ve always dreamed of doing a marathon, precisely because it seems so impossible. It’s the ultimate way to boost my self-confidence and break down my mental barriers. Also, marathon training isn’t about speed. The marathon I signed up for doesn’t have a time-limit, and even offers an early start for anyone who is worried about needing more than 6 hours. Training will be all about “time on my feet”, and running slowly, but steadily. Walking breaks will be part of the deal on all my long runs, and my overall goal is to finish the marathon on my own two legs with a smile on my face.

4.       How is training for a marathon going to help you feel more in control of your life?
First of all, running a marathon is on my life list, so it signifies progress for me personally. Second of all, it’s something that is only about me, nobody else. Meeting that weekly physical goal should keep me motivated and confident, since every single week of training will be a personal distance record (PDR) for me, so it will be hard to get down on myself if I have a bad run – I won’t have anything to compare to. Finally, The marathon I’ve chosen is pretty laid back about dropping down to the ½ marathon if I change my mind. Even a ½ would still be a huge accomplishment for me, but since I have time I’m going to go for the full.

So I’ll be sure to keep you updated as training goes along. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Warp Speed!

So the end of May and beginning of June has been a WHILRWIND! I'll take you for a quick run through.

First, we had a great long weekend with my parents. They haven't been to visit in DC too many times since I moved here, so it was great to have them. They stayed in a lovely little B&B about a block and a half from our apartment. *Pro-tip: When visiting a big city, B&B's can be a great way to not only stay in a BEAUTIFUL home in a convenient location, but are also often a great deal cheaper than conventional hotels. Not by a ton, but this place was about half the cost of the Hilton that sits 2 blocks away from it. And I doubt the Hilton had a claw-footed bath tub or private veranda with french doors (I kind of wanted to move into this place...) If you're planning a visit to the DC area, we can't recommend the Taft Bridge Inn highly enough.

We had a great weekend including kayaking on the Potomac from Jack's Boathouse, checking out the new outdoor installation film at the Hirshorn museum and, of course, meeting the Grige's parents. The highlight of the weekend was our Couple's Shower, thrown by my amazing Aunts and hosted by my cousin Abbie.
Jeanine, the Grige, me and Jennifer
Jeanine and Jennifer are my beloved cousins and wedding "day-of coordinators"
Jeanine also took our amazing engagement photos, check her out at

I thought that the whole "opening presents in front of people" part of showers would be really awkward. I don't really lik events that are focused on me. The Grige, however, loves to be the center of attention, so we balanced this event really well. I had a great time seeing our families mingle for the first time.

Memorial weekend was the Grige's big chance to memorialize his bachelor-hood. He headed off to a secluded cabin in the Shenandoah Valley with 10 smelly dudes for 3 long, hot, humid nights.

A Very Manly Grige
It sounded like a pretty awful weekend from the perspective of any normal person, but I'm pretty sure it was the bachelor party of my little mountain nerd's dreams. They dropped him on a trail with 4 hours to finish 6 miles with a mind task or feat of strength at every mile marker. He came back with an ankle the size of a grapefruit and the color of a plum and a grin as wide as the grand canyon. I guess if he couldn't complete a task, he had to drink some 4 loco... and 4 loco plus running in the woods = broken grige. It didn't stop him though. not for a minute.

I, on the other hand, used my long weekend freedom to bike all over DC in a bathing suit (it was HOT), check out the community pool in Potomac Park (I hesitate to publish this, because it was so refreshing and un-crowded....), and give stand-up paddle-boarding a try with my friend Dawn. The Grige had also captured her manfriend Tom for the weekend, so we were flying solo.

I have to say, paddle boarding is fun, and easy and about five minutes after I got on the board, I got inspired to try this:

Paddleboard Yoga a New Way to Exercise
Photo: Yogaqua

Not sure if it's safe, but I couldn't stop thinking about trying some yoga moves while we were out on the water. I was even more surprised to see that it's becoming a bit of a fad! I hope the trend moves east quickly and that I can take a class this summer. It seems like the ultimate balance and strength training.
Photo: Lounging and paddleboarding for the troops. Like we do.
Dawn, our California beach babe

We followed our strenuous workout with some sun and secret champagne on the dock. The view was also killer:
The View from Jack's Boathouse

I suppose DC summers can be okay after all. You just have to beat the heat. This was definitely more fun than draping myself over an air conditioner for whole weekend.

We took June by storm by opening with a busy week at work and a the Northface Endurance Challenge 10k. The course was a little wimpy to be called an endurance challenge, but there was enough mud to keep us busy and the course was fun, fast and flat. I ran with my friend Marissa.

Photo: 10k in an hour...more or less :)
Post Race. Wooooooot!
We finished in just over 1 hour, which blew my goal of finishing in under 1:30 min out of the water. I've never run more than 3 miles without a walking break before, but running with Marissa really encouraged me to keep moving and stay on pace. I've previously been against running with a buddy, but this race proved me all kinds of wrong. I suppose I will start finding some friends to train with. Just not the Grige. We all know how that ends.....

Photo: 10K Trail Run! It was a tad muddy...
Strong Finish, Muddy shoes.

On the wedding front, we sent out our invitations! I'm working on turning the extra's into a little art surprise for the Grige, so I'll do a big reveal of that later on. For now, let me say that they are gorgeous and definitely my current favorite part of the wedding. I just love the way they came out, and they proved that it was definitely worth the extra $$ to get letterpressing done. It also means so much that the design is all the Grige's! I keep badgering him to open an Etsy shop. Someday....

So things are showing no sign of slowing down. I'll hopefully be back soon with some more introspection on wedding planning since we are (GASP!) 2 months away now!!!! I can definitely feel the "f*ck it" train rolling into the station. I hope I can finish my lone craft project before it arrives.