Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Academic Goals

So, I know that the bulk of this blog is about "rebuilding" me, but I think that my academic life is part of that building process. Besides, I'm finally feeling as if my burn out from 6 straight years of full time school and often times, full time work is over and can now really focus on my research with a clearer head. I'm also a firm believer that if I write it down then I'm obligated to do it. So here are my goals for my academic life:
-Defend my dissertation proposal by the end of February
-Complete and defend my IRB application by the end of April
-Submit an abstract to RSA, ISSS, ISTSS, CSWE, ASC, ISSTD
-Get at least two manuscripts published
-Complete and submit my grant application for my dissertation
-Complete my data collection by the end of the year

My end goal is to have a CV that is Research I University-worthy so that means I need to amp things up a notch and start to learn and embrace more difficult types of data analysis and methods. I know that I can do it and I know that I can get my dream job at a Tier I school. Like I said in my athletic post, 2012 will be my year of big accomplishments!!!

Running Resolutions

I have been horrible about keeping up with my blog posts and I will work hard over the next few weeks to catch up on those. I have three races to post a reflection and other updates on my life events.

Anyway, I recently received an email from Runner's World about running resolutions and if I have set my resolutions for 2012. It really got me thinking about my goals and resolutions for 2012. Should I just continue with what I am doing with my running for the new year (i.e. one 5K race a month, shaving one minute off my time at each race, training for the one half marathon)? I've PR'd in almost every race I've done this year and I'm pretty pleased with myself. But now that I know that I can run and that I can run for longer and longer distances, I'm wondering if I should strive for more. I've already made 'more' and 'better' my goal words for my academic life so why not do the same for my athletic life? So, 'more' and 'better' it is for my running goals for 2012. So, I'm going big! I'm gonna exceed even my expectations in 2012. I'm not saying that I'm going to push myself into an injury, I know to listen to my body when it's telling me it needs rest but I am going to amp things up a notch. I am not going to rest on my laurels for 2012. This is going to be my year of major achievements. So, with that in mind here are my athletic goals for 2012 (academic goals will be in a different post):

-Run 2 5K races each month, attempting to PR at each
-Master hill work to really increase my speed
-Run at least 2 10K's
-Complete the Buffalo Half Marathon
-complete one more half
-train and complete my first Full Marathon (most likely the Niagara Falls International Full Marathon in October)
-get my Zumba Toning license
-Hit and maintain my goal weight!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Things I am thankful for...

As Thanksgiving approaches I can’t help but reflect on the many things in my life that I am thankful for and while I would like to take a cue from my cousin and post daily on Facebook the things that I am thankful for, I am concerned that there are not enough days or space to write everything (and I got a pretty late start). Given that, I felt a blog post containing everything that I am thankful for would be more appropriate. So here we go!

Things I thankful for (they are in no particular order):

·       My amazing husband-he is my rock and has always been the most supportive person in my life consistently believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. His unwavering support has aided in my quest to be the best I can be. He is my forever life partner and our journey is looking brighter every day!

·       My family-the ones who will always comfort me and guide me through every twist and turn of life. My dad constantly reminds me to strive for the top and to never give up. My mom is my cheerleader, always at the finish line encouraging me to push just a little harder toward that prize. My sister, my first best friend in life and although we’ve had our normal sisterly ups and downs, we will always be there for each other. My nephew, Dylan, always makes me laugh and although he’s only 3 and a half, reminds me about the important things in life. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins...always willing to lend a helping hand or send an encouraging thought.

·       My wonderful friends-There are way too many to list individually (and yes, I am thankful for that as well) but one person will always get an honorable mention, my bestest friend, Jenn. Since 8th grade, she has stood by my side and has always listened to me when I needed her. She is like an older sister to me and I would do anything and give anything for her. Like the rest of my family, she has been my cheerleader and eternal supporter reminding me of my strengths when I need to hear them.

·       My health-even though I will always live with IgA Nephropathy and it will never go away, I am thankful that at this point it is in a nonaggressive state and I have full kidney functioning. Some are not so lucky.

·       That I can RUN!!! I am so excited about this and even more excited that I’m getting faster and increasing my mileage every week. Despite the fact that I have two previous knee injuries (one in high school cross country in which I tore my medial meniscus and ended my season early and I wasn’t able to run track that spring and the other due to a car accident where I suffered nerve damage and was told I would never be able to run) I am getting stronger each and every day. I am also appreciative that I have a life long running partner, my amazing husband, who is so supportive and encouraging. Running with him is a true blessing because it’s something we can always share together.

·       That I’m losing weight and kicking ass at it!! To date, I have lost 59.5 pounds! Better yet, I feel amazing and like I could conquer the world. I have so much more energy during the day that I am much more productive at school, which leads into my next point...

·       That I have 2 degrees and am nearing the end of a third. How many people can say that? I am very lucky to be where I am and this third degree is going to open so many doors for me and my family.

·       That I have the determination and intelligence to be working on a PhD. I have always said that I feel like I was blessed with those two things and even though at times I feel completely stupid (which is apparently normal in a PhD program), I know that in the end I will prevail and Mark and I will have everything we’ve dreamed about and worked hard to achieve.

·       My sense of humor-I always appreciate that I can laugh at myself and make others laugh. Laughter is truly the best medicine!

·       Beautiful November Buffalo weather-makes for amazing fall runs. We have had some gorgeous 60+ degree days lately and running in the warm sunshine, admiring the beautiful fall foliage, while you crunch the leaves under your feet is just perfect. I wish it could be this way year round!

·       Facebook, yes, I’m going to put it on here because it has allowed me to reconnect with dear friends from high school that I thought I would never speak to again. Also, I am able to chat with family members who don’t live close by. I just hope FB will be around in a few years (I’m pretty sure it will since it’s a billion dollar company now) for when we move out of state so I can keep in touch with all my Buffalo friends and family.

·       A roof over my head and food in my cupboards-while we are certainly not the richest people in the world and my checking account often leaves much to be desired, I am thankful that I have money, food, clothing, and shelter. See my previous post about the garbage dumps in Mozambique.

·       My car-while it may not be the flashiest thing in the world and I often complain about how I wish I could have the brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee and then I wouldn’t have to deal with a radio that works when it wants to, I am lucky to have a reliable vehicle with fairly low mileage for being 6 years old.

·       That I have 3 jobs! Yes, they are all part time (well, one is full time right now but will be going back down to part time in December) but I have 3 jobs. There are millions of Americans that don’t even have one part time job.

·       That I am a Zumba Instructor!!! How awesome is that?! I love helping the amazing people in my class achieve their goals and inspiring them to reach for the top all while partying! Zumba is amazing and has truly changed my life.

·       That I can afford to eat healthy food. With how expensive it is in this country to eat wholesome and nutritious foods, I am thankful that I have the option to do so.

·       That I am outgoing and can make friends easily. I have always been thankful for this and love that I can talk to people so easily. This makes it much easier to speak in front of a group of people, which I am also thankful for. Yes, I get nervous but I have always felt comfortable on stage or at a podium. Maybe that’s why I am aspiring to be a professor and why I am such a kick ass Zumba instructor (wink).

·       That I am finally confident with my body and myself. This has been such a long and challenging process. My biggest issue with self-confidence, other than the fact that I didn’t have any, was that I was so concerned with others perceiving me as being conceded if I accepted compliments or said positive things about myself. In the process, I hated myself and thought I was fat and stupid each and every day. Through my weight loss journey and progression through the PhD program, I have worked incredibly hard to lose the weight and complete certain academic requirements. The result of that hard work is still perplexing to me sometimes and I often do a double take in the mirror. I am learning to accept compliments without adding a “but” (see my previous blog post about this topic) and learning that it’s okay to say and believe positive things about yourself. I’m pretty sure I won’t develop an ego either.

·       The coricopia of gluten free restaurants and grocery options...wasn’t always this way and I am so grateful that Buffalo has so many. It’s always fun to discover a new place to eat or try a new snack.

·       My cat, Dini-he’s the best lap cat and snuggler around! He has his days when he can be super grumpy and that usually is due to a food restriction (we are trying to put him on a diet). But when he wants to cuddle he is persistent! I love it when he gives me kitty hugs!

·       My ferret, Tia-she always makes me laugh at her little ferret antics. We love you so much our beautiful silver mitt Princess!

·       That I can live in a free country and I’m just going to leave it at that so as to not get into personal views on topics.

·       The running community-Other than my Zumba family, I never have a met a group of strangers who are so welcoming and warm. I love that other runners say hi to me on my runs. I love that I can chat with a stranger on her blog or Facebook page about running. Somehow, they don’t seem like strangers anymore.

·       That I can read and write-how many times have I taken that for granted?!

·       Finally, that I’m surrounded by love each and every day. For that reason, I am truly thankful!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Forgiving myself

I am taking a page out of a friend's blog that discusses her weight loss journey. She talks about making amends for gaining the weight. After reading her post, I realized that I needed to forgive myself too. From the beginning of my journey I would constantly beat myself up about taking so long to make the decision to lose the weight or for regaining the 30 pounds I had lost for my wedding and putting on 25 additional pounds or for gaining weight at all after high school. I would also beat myself up about not staying active after high school when I loved to work out. More importantly, I felt that I deserved to get diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy because I had "let myself go" even though I know that the research points to no definitive cause.

My friend's blog post really hit home with me and I noticed that I constantly beat myself up about gaining the weight and add in a side order of guilt. This only makes me feel worse about myself and distracts me from my goal. Today, I am forgiving myself for gaining the weight. I am forgetting about all those times when I verbally and emotionally beat myself up for letting my butt widen. Continuing to stay stuck in that maladaptive mindset only shields my view of the new and exciting journey I am on and distracts me from seeing all the amazing progress I am making on a daily basis. No more looking at past mistakes. I am going to enjoy the new path that has been laid out in front of me. Thank you, Melissa, for making me realize that I needed to forgive myself!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My 5th 5K-Niagara Falls International Marathon 5K

My 5th 5K. Let me say that again, my 5th 5K! I never thought during my days in cross country in high school when I would consistently come in last that I would one day be running 5K’s for fun and LOVING IT!! I never thought I would beat those demons and bad memories of my family watching their loved one always coming in last, feeling that I have constantly disappointed them. Well no more. Not today. On my 5th 5K, the Niagara Falls International, I beat those demons and I came in with a strong 39:32 time, running an average 12:45 minute mile. I did not come in last by any means. I PR’d and I was exhilarated!! Now, that time may not seem like something to brag about for some people but for me it’s a huge accomplishment. I began running in February using a Couch to 5K program and have gone from near a 17 minute mile down to below a 13 minute mile. I think that speaks volumes in terms of my progress.
It was a magical day, disregarding my usual pre-race anxiety that was only intensified by the added stress of crossing the border. We got to the race early, which gave me time to stretch and take my energy gel. The route was fairly scenic and was an out and back course so I got to run along the mighty Niagara twice while listening to the roaring of the water crashing over the brink of the falls. As is typical of any race, the first few hundred meters or so are spent slowly jogging or walking as the crowd disperses. However, this time a group of walkers chose to start at the beginning of the start line only to block off and bottleneck the runners out of the gate. Once I got free from the group it was clear sailing until I noticed a hill. Ugh! That was the only thought that crossed my mind at first until I remembered that this was an out and back course and that hill would help me at the finish line. So, I remembered what I had read in Tom Holland’s book “The Marathon Method”. He says to use hills to your advantage. On the uphill, use more of your upper body, pumping your arms to get you up the hill. On the downhill, let gravity take you and don’t use too much steam. Remembering that tip really helped and I made up the hill with no problem. Up until the turn around, I noticed many of the 10K racers coming in (they started an hour ahead of us). At the first hydration station, I gratefully took a cup of the Canadian version of Gatorade. It wasn’t too bad and gave me something else to focus on. I did have my watch on and finally remembered to hit the start button as I crossed the start line, however, it wasn’t giving me my heart rate. I usually rely on this to let me know if I’m going too fast. Oh well, I was feeling great and wasn’t going to stop. Typically, I repeat a word or phrase in my mind to keep me going. On this day, my words were “determination” and “push”. I knew I was doing well because my target person had not passed me yet. As I got closer to the turn around I noticed my husband passing me. I was so excited for him and I cheered, clapped, and yelled “Go honey, go. I’m so proud of you”. He says to me “You’re almost at the turn around. You’re halfway there”. That gave me the push I needed. I made the turn around and the next hydration station. I grabbed a cup of water took a sip and started choking on it! What the hell?! How many races have I done and I can’t drink a cup of water? I slowed down to a walk to regain my composure. Thankfully, I only needed 20 second or so and I was back in the game. One thing I loved was that this race was marked with both kilometers and mile markers. The kilometer markers were much more helpful because they counted down much faster than the miles. This gave me a boost of confidence. After the 3K mark I noticed this man who was also sporting KT tape. As soon as I caught up to him, he started running again. He would repeat this pattern until the 4K mark. At first I was upset that someone was pacing themselves against me but then I realized that I was helping him. So feel free to use me as your pacer!!! At the 4K mark I looked at my watch…32:01! What?! I have less than a mile to go and I’m only at 32 minutes? How is this possible?? That gave me the motivation to push forward and that downhill really helped. I could see the large monitor that showed the crowd the runners coming in and there I was. I ran faster, turned the corner and there was the finish line…39:45. Holy crap! I was going to break 40 minutes! I’ve never done that before! I pushed ahead and crossed the finish line at 39:49 clock time. I was elated and I raised my arms in triumph! I had done it. I was not last and I shaved 4 minutes off my race time from the Linda Yalem Run, only one month earlier. As I crossed all three timing mats I felt like I was treated as if I had won the race. Each person is given a bottle of water, a mylar blanket, a bag of goodies which consisted of an apple (yummy), a banana (double yummy), a small bag of chips (the salt really helped), and a granola bar (it was chocolate covered but contained gluten, boo!), and the best part was that EVERY person that crossed the finish line received a finisher’s medal!!! That’s the one thing that I loved about this event. Everyone is treated like a winner. The finisher’s medal is so nice. Here’s a quick pic of it:

Cool, huh?! I wore that medal proudly. I found Mark after I crossed and told him that I couldn’t believe my time. He gave me a hug and told me what his time was. We both did great!! We walked back to our car and switched out our sweaty clothing and I snacked on the apple and banana. I needed that! Once we were slightly refreshed we headed back over to near the finish line as we were hearing that the announcer was saying that some of the half marathon people were starting to cross the finish line. My good friend who encouraged me to get m Zumba license was running in her first half and had been training so hard for this day. I wanted to see her cross that finish line and cheer her on at the end. We found a spot near the curve toward the finish line and saw so many amazing people coming in from the half. Some looked beat, one girl threw up in front of us, and others made it look easy. I started cheering for everyone. These people earned it and everyone deserved someone cheering and clapping for them. It was also exciting to watch the pacers go by cheering on their group behind them. I saw my friend in the distance and I held up my sign I quickly made for her at the Brooks booth, and I cheered and yelled. “Go Kathy go! I am so proud of you. Go, go, go”! At first she just looked at me not realizing who I was and then once it registered she cheered too and yelled “Woo hoo”!! She was doing great. Mark and I quickly went to the finish line to find her and it took some time to find her amongst the sea of people. Once I caught up to her we gave each other a big hug, both crying at our accomplishments. She is an amazing person and always inspires me. She has always believed in me and celebrates all of my weight loss wins! I am so honored to call her a friend.
After a few photos and some impromptu dancing with my girls, Mark and I headed out. We wanted to do some touristy things since we had spent $18 to park and we don’t spend too much time on the opposite side of the Falls. We headed to the Journey Behind The Falls and the Visitor’s Center, snapping some pictures of the Horseshoe and American Falls from the Canadian side. What an amazing vantage point. The Journey was so amazing and it was a gorgeous sunny day so we headed out to the lower level viewing area giving us an amazing view of the Horseshoe Falls, which were cascading right above our heads. Although we were wearing a cheap throw away raincoat that they hand you as you pay your fee, we still were soaked. However, I didn’t care. I was awestruck by the beauty of the Falls in front of me. I’ve lived near Niagara Falls my entire life and every time I visit I am in awe of its beauty. I love waterfalls and could spend hours just staring at them. The sun and the mist coming off the Falls were producing beautiful rainbows…what a perfect end to a perfect day. Mark and I ended our day by treating ourselves to dinner. This was an amazing event and will certainly be on our list for next year. Who knows, maybe we will do the half marathon next year?!

Here's some more pics from the day:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm taking the plunge...the Buffalo Half Marathon

So, I've committed to do the Buffalo Half Marathon on Sunday, May 27th. I have never in my life thought that I could even run a 5K let alone 13.1 miles. But here I am, beginning my training for a half. I have already begun working on increasing my mileage. I also have to worry about my training for the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. That race is an 8K and I'm one mile away from reaching that race mileage. My goal for the first part of my training is to just get the mileage in, I will worry about speed later.

So, this post will contain my runs and training for the Half. Run Happy!!

Thursday, Oct. 6th - 2 mile run on the treadmill...did a few fartleks and worked on GFR a little
Saturday, Oct. 8th - 5K, felt groggy and didn't have too much fun. This was most likely due to poor eating.
Monday, Oct. 10th- 4.51 mile run!! Woo hoo!! I felt awesome and wanted to keep going.
Friday, Oct. 14th - attempted a 5K but had to turn back - I've been dealing with a horrible pain in my right calf muscle that doesn't let up when I run. Also, my right knee has been acting up a lot lately and I'm hoping it's because of the weather and not the increased mileage.
Sunday, Oct. 16th - got in a 5K run in the wind and rain although I didn't mind the rain too much!!
Monday, Oct. 17th - attempted a 5K but had to turn back due to the pain in my right calf
Tuesday, Oct. 18th - 2.25 mile run on the treadmill...testing out the KT tape on my knee, felt good and calf wasn't bothering me too much. My massage therapist thinks it may be due to changing my runners recently.
Sunday, Oct. 23rd-Niagara Falls International 5K, I PR'd!!! Stay tuned for a specific post about this event.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Why the blog name change?

I felt that I was at a point where my blog needed some sprucing up and I was concerned that "Rebecca's Blog" wasn't going to get the traffic I desired. So I posted on Facebook that I needed help with coming up with a new name for my blog. The two options that I liked the best out of the suggestions were "Rebecca Rebuilt" and "Becky Brings It". I was most drawn to "Rebecca Rebuilt" but I commented that I am not done with my weight loss journey so I am not completely "rebuilt". The final suggestion was "Rebuilding Rebecca" and there was the new name of my blog.

I felt that this name was absolutely perfect not just because of my weight loss journey. I began my journey because of medical conditions. I wouldn't say that I was necessarily "broken" but I was in need of "fixing". In November 2008, I was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy (IgAN), a rare autoimmune-like disease in which immunoglobin A is deposited in the kidneys and eventually damages the glomeruli or the filters in the kidneys. I had no symptoms for years up until that previous March when I was racked with horrible flank pain on my right side and constant and persistent nausea (we later discovered that this last symptom was due to a gluten sensitivity and have been gluten free now for 16 months). It took my doctors 8 months to figure it out after seeing numerous specialists and enduring multiple tests including CAT scans, urological tests, and finally a renal biopsy. Some individuals with IgAN have a more aggressive form of the disease and progress through the stages of chronic kidney disease to end stage renal disease requiring dialysis and/or transplant. Others, like me, have a nonaggressive form that may never progress to chronic kidney disease.  However, my nephrologist (a kidney specialist that I now see on a regular basis) has warned me that my disease could turn aggressive at any point and often times without warning. I am determined to keep it nonaggressive.

I remember being very angry when I was first diagnosed. How could this be happening to me and more importantly why was it happening now. I had just begun my first semester of my first year in the PhD program. I was on the road to becoming the future academic at a Tier I university and I was scared about how this new "development" was going to interfere with our plans.

My nephrologist began my treatment with ACE inhibitors, medication that lowers blood pressure and has been shown to slow the progression of damage to the kidneys. However, I wasn't reacting to this medication very well and even on the lowest dose possible I was constantly dizzy and couldn't think clearly which didn't help with school or work. She subsequently took me off this medication. The pain, however, never subsided and with the constant stress of the PhD program, it only made things worse.

For two years while I was busy completing my coursework I endured the constant pain, nausea, muscle weakness, exhaustion, confusion, and inability to concentrate. This was not like me, I was not one to let something control me or my future path. The final straw came after the second round of prednisone treatment I was prescribed to deal with the pain. The first time I was prescribed prednisone, I didn't have many bad reactions. My appetite was increased but that was about it. The second time, however, was dramatically different. Instead of gradually stepping up the doses as in the first time, the second time I was given the pack where you start out with the highest dose on the first day and gradually decrease the doses. This time the side effects were ridiculous. I was constantly hungry, restless, and angry. I was a bitch on this medication!! I also couldn't sleep at all. Normally, I would have been excited about insomnia so that I could get some work done, especially at the end of my coursework. This insomnia was unproductive. I couldn't concentrate at all and my mind was racing. I had enough. I made the decision at this point that I was done with letting this disease control me. I was going to control it. I was in charge of my destiny and my future and I wasn't going to let this disease take away all that I had worked so hard to accomplish.

So, that following month after my courses were complete and I had time to decompress from the semester, I went on a gluten free diet and joined the BAC with a friend. It took time, but the weight started coming off and gradually I felt better. The pain subsided as did the nausea and I was beginning to transform before my very eyes.

Now, I am 53 pounds lighter, running again (Yay!), completed 4 5K races, and am a Zumba instructor at the Eastern Hills BAC. I never thought when I joined the gym that I would be employee of the gym. I am so much healthier now and I eat better than I ever have before. I concentrate on getting at least 8 glasses of water in a day and 6 servings of fruits and vegetables. I rarely eat fried foods since I need to be concerned about cross contamination and also because fried foods contain acrylamide, something I do not want in my body. I work out 5-6 days a week doing various activities such as strength training, TRX, boxing, running, spinning, and Zumba. Sometimes I'm at the gym for hours or make multiple trips. I have found a new passion with health and fitness and I want to learn everything I can about living a healthy lifestyle and am working to incorporate more of that into my future plans. I am constantly thinking about and searching for our next 5K and considering additional fitness certifications. Three years ago, when I was extremely overweight and unhealthy I never thought I would be thinking about training for a 10K or half marathon.

So I am on my way to being "rebuilt". I may never be whole again because of my disease but I can at least make myself 99% rebuilt. The point is that I feel like I am in control and I know the warning signs of a flare up. And even if that 1% is missing, I still feel stronger than I ever have before.