Tuesday, November 4, 2014

While I’m still sore from smiling and running…

I did it! I had the wildest and most amazing marathon retirement party ever! But first, let me start with this…

I didn’t make my goal time. I aimed for a 4:40 finish. I trained for it, even left some cushioning in my training for a 4:45 minute finish. I ran in temperatures over 100 degrees. I ran in wind. I ran in rain. I trained in the Texas summer heat. I cross trained through Camp Gladiator and followed Coach Sara’s plan each week. I tapered like I was supposed to. I sought chiropractic relief. I altered my hydration and diet, too. In my training, I gained back the confidence to run a 10mm pace for a half marathon. I had the confidence to run a 10:30-11mm pace WITH HILLS. I lost weight and shook off a large chunk of depression.

I didn’t make my goal time. My finish was 5:10:51, a full 11 minutes slower than 7 years ago for my other time of running this.

BUT…

I did it! This race was EVERYTHING I needed from a final race. It was brutal! Why? The conditions were low 40s with 20-30 mph winds. The winds were so high that they didn’t even allow the handcycles to start in Staten Island, cutting off the Verrazano Bridge entirely for them. I opted to walk that bridge, braving the masses, but staying on the side out of harms way, or so I thought. I was pelted with discarded gloves, water bottles, makeshift windbreakers from garbage bags, a race bib (!), a fuel belt, and sweat shirts. I fought against the wind to get this image:

See those white caps. See those clouds? Brrr…(my lungs started wheezing moments after snapping this. Inside I cursed them and said, Not today!)

And we fought through that wind, running against it for about 20 of those miles, and then we were faced with uphill, no sun, tired legs. Before that, though…

I caught those unicorns I’d been chasing for a while!

I sat in that huddle of people to stay warm before the race. Robin Hood, you guys continue to touch my soul!

I stood in my corral waiting for that BOOM of the cannon and Frank Sinatra to belt out “New York, New York” while we ran past.

I nervously chatted with a local gal, a gal from Atlanta, and 3 women from Argyle, Texas! Wow!

I humbly wore the discarded Dunkin Donuts fleece hat that I had to cut a hole out of the top so my hair would fit.

At mile 13 I took a selfie in the sun!

At mile 15.5 I knew I was still plenty strong.

At mile 19.5 I took another selfie in the sun.

My face hurt from smiling so much! I ran strong! I ran my race. I ran with so many strangers cheering me along the way. I ran while my loved ones cheered me on both in person and through social media. I ran for all of them and for myself. The race was what I needed. It was a metaphor, a true test of determination, strength, endurance, and will. I didn’t really hit a wall. My lungs did feel like they wanted to collapse at one point. I lost feeling of my 3rd toe on my left foot around mile 8. At mile 9-10, I ran alongside my Teej! I saw her and nearly knocked her down because I was so happy to see her. I cried and cried, and squeezed so tightly. She ran in the crowd next to me, and when she hit her street, she hollered “Go!” and I went. At mile 11, I saw my Beloved!! He’d landed and made it to me. At mile 13 I messaged my beautiful friend on bedrest, who was cheering me on, texting me messages of support along the way! I hopped on social media at mile 15-16. I saw a few more familiar faces and beautiful souls at mile 17-19! At mile 20, Robin Hood’s block party erupted in cheers when they saw my shirt! I felt like such a celebrity! I had a pinched nerve in my right shoulder starting at mile 21. But I kept right on pushing. I ran to the Asian drummers beat. I high fived one of the rappers who was performing. I high fived as many kids as I could along the way. I held hands with a gal who was running to honor her mother at mile 23---she’d died on October 28th from cancer. I hugged a Swiss guy whose legs were giving out. I was going so fast, I missed My Michael at mile 24, but I saw my Beloved again at mile 24.5.  I put my phone away after that and focused on finishing. I happily ran under the foliage of My park, Central Park. We emerged out of park a bit after 25 and I saw the GM building…Maverick! I’ve walked MANY times to Columbus Circle, time to pick up the pace! (Screw you, lungs, stop sucking air, we have a race to finish!) I spotted people to try to reach and pass and I did. When I hit mile 26, I shouted BRING IT! and took off at an accelerated pace for that last quarter mile. I passed so many people and felt so light. When I crossed, I didn’t cry in my photos. I just beamed with the biggest smile. That was it.

I did it! 5 hours, 10 minutes, and 51 seconds of happy…happy that isn’t artificial, genuine happiness from achievement and support from more than 200 people! All 200+ of you that know me directly who reached out….

THANK YOU, MERCI, GRACIAS, DOMO ARI GATO, DANKE, GAMSAHBNIDA, GRAZIE!!!

The lady who handed me my medal, she was an older woman, and I just stared at her, and asked her for a hug. And she hugged me tightly like my abuela, and told me that she was so proud of me! Thank you strange lady! Thank you for being proud of me and giving me such a hug! And then I sobbed. Big, fat, joyful tears of happiness and sense of accomplishment.

The trek to my room was a journey all by itself. But I got to see my Beloved again before he headed out to the airport. I was able to laugh and recover with My Michael and Gen at a tea place. I was able to talk about the journey with my running friends and hosts after they returned themselves. The next day, I was tight, but I walked around my park for a while capturing engagement photos (yes, I had an engagement photo shoot and it was amazing!!). I had some amazing food, I had a blowout, and then I came home.

I’m tight, but not overly sore. Only my toe is really hurting, but I feel fine. It was a great retirement and the perfect way to say goodbye to my final endurance run. And now, I pass on the torch to everyone else who is able to do so! I will cheer them on!

Coach Sara…you helped me earn every single bit of this race! THANK YOU! Coach Mark, our time so far has been brief, but you helped me, too! Running friends, thank you for pushing me, even when you didn’t know you were. Mom, thank you for throwing me in the deep end and telling me to swim. Daddy, thank you for never slowing down when we raced! Thank you NYC for showing up, like you always do. I know I can make it anywhere!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 TCS NYC Marathon Miles Dedication

religion: a particular system of faith and worship

To me, running is a type of religion. Not because I’m worshipping the god of running, but because rather it is a system of faith and worship. I am wholly present in my mind, my acts intentional, my faith LOUD—within me.
So while I run, it should come as no surprise that I often find myself meditating, holding tightly onto mantras I chant to myself, I’ll pray the rosary, but where I find the absolute BEST peace is when I consider and pray for others. With that in mind, these are my miles dedications.

1. My mother – The first mile is the most exciting mile. It requires the highest climb, with the freshest legs, and the most enthusiasm that you will have to control to make it through the rest of the race. Wings to fly, legs to run…Mom, I remember all of the times you were in my peripheral vision, cheering me, championing me, willing me to strive to be the best I could possibly be. Hurt back, push through. Fall down, pick yourself and keep moving forward. Crying, wipe your tears and smile. This is a race of endurance and motherhood is such a race.

2. Sister – For all of my childhood, I chased you. Literally and figuratively, I chased you to become more like you. When you pushed me away, it hurt, but it taught me that I needed to be my own person—and whomever that was, you would be there to support me, regardless of my choice. This mile, is an easy mile, through a Brooklyn neighborhood that I know you would enjoy visiting.

3. Brother – Because there was a time not long ago that you didn’t think you could run a 5K, and just a short while ago, I turned around to find you, insisting that I NEEDED to cross that line with you. Not because I didn’t think you could do it, but because I wanted to grin from ear to ear and witness you crossing! All of those times you cheered for me and watched me succeed, I needed to be there for a big moment for you. This mile, we run together, not racing, just running on a cool morning while the sun kisses our cheeks. Turn up that Milky Chance Stolen Dance and let’s find our groove.

4.  Tesla – You will be 4 next year, even though you want to say you are 4 this year. You were the 4th member of my family. Your tiny spirit brings so much joy to everyone who meets you. You are so unabashedly stubborn and are so completely focused on your goals , it is something that I try to remember for myself.Baby, Mommy loves you and can’t wait for you to see the new medal to add to the collection!

5. My Brooklyn Beauties – Gen, Mali, Teej, I’ll be looking for you. Each of you inspire me in so very many different ways. All of you are so very strong, both emotionally and physically, I’m running your burough’s streets!

6.  Marisabelle – For you I learned what it meant to be a mother. Because of you, I try my hardest to be the very best mother you need me to be. You show me grace, you show me patience, you have given the the opportunity of wonder…and when I feel like my legs are heavy, I’ll remember your little voice, goading me: “Let’s race, Mommy! I can be fast like you!” Yes, baby, you compliment me by saying you are fast like me. You are already faster than me—and I love it!

7. Internet Friends – I was afforded in real life friendships with you and am able to maintain our friendship online. This means you Camille from Twitter, who shares a similar humor as I do. This also means you Makita, who has a beautiful and vulnerable strength I’ve not seen before—because of you, I am stronger in my actions and more purposeful.

8. For Diego, Kittens, & Unicorns – Diego went on a few of my early training runs with me, fumbling through each step until we figured it out. Your time with us was brief, but your tender spirit lives on. Kittens because well, I’m not allergic to them yet and they are so soft and adorable, and just want to curl up to be loved. Unicorns because they are fabulous and awesome!

9. For my Primo, Simon – Nine rhymes with wine and well, I know you love it! Simon, your wit, your but gusting laughter, and the wine….oh so much wine! I know if you were in town, you’d be cheering for me, throwing water balloons filled with some kind of libation at me, singing Fuego fuego…

10. My Min-Min – You’ve not questioned my sanity for wanting to do this. Instead, you’ve reached out to me to be sure we remain connected in spite of me running all of the miles all of the time. Whether you are there waiting for me at the end of the race with jello shots ready to share a hearty carb-load meal, you are there for me. Even now, I know you will be shouting from where ever you are enjoying Sunday Funday.

11. Margie – Adelante y orgullo: I only barely understood the definition of those words when I first chewed on them. Now, I understand them more. I can’t hardly get the words out to write more because the emotion just flows straight from my heart and out of my eyes. Happy tears of joy and gratitude. I’m so, so, so grateful for you!! I give thanks for your life, for your willingness to fight and continue to fight, every day.

12. Shannon – What a pleasure it was to find you at mile 12 during the Plano Balloon Festival Half. I was struggling, but with you, I was able to push through that final mile. Your exercise posts keep me accountable and remind me to not lazy around.

13. My Happy Half Marathoners – Each of you, declaring publicly which races you would run and peer pressure would kick in and I’d sign up. Mostly to ensure I’d hit my training run milestones, but even more so to be with you all. I didn’t and don’t want to miss any time I get with y’all. For the laughs, the grunts, the aches, the tears, the hugs, the encouraging words, the hilarity of so many things…thank you Dina, Meighan, Alison, Gail, Bonnie, and Danika. A great big heartfelt and SHOUTING dedication to Coach Sara, who has pushed me all along the way, encouraged me, and come up with creative solutions for any obstacle I threw at her!

14. Dan – I had no idea how much my life would change just by meeting you. My heart is more open, my eyes more open, my spirit willing to experience almost anything, entering the adventure with joy and enthusiasm. Just the way you live is a great example of how I want to live. I’m so glad you are not only my friend, but a mentor as well.

15. My extended family – I’m grateful for all of the strong aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, in-laws. Each of you have sent me words of encouragement! They mean so much to me. I consider the women in my life and how life will throw them a curve, and they just shrug their shoulders and deal. it’s how they are. When my Uncle Mutt gave me the biggest hug after a run and how he looked at me, I felt his pride and I was humbled. He reminded me of my previous life as an athlete in college and I remembered that she was still inside of me. My Aunt Frances cheering me on, giving me support, too! Thank you!

16. My Primo Phillip – Because this was the number of miles we walked that day in August while we cheered Don on. If I could have that much fun walking 16 miles in one of my most favorite cities, then I know I could run another 10 as long as I remembered the adventure we shared. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing that day with me!

17. Carol – Your presence helped my training become possible. Otherwise, it would’ve been a greater challenge attempting to push the girls and log my miles. Your life changed dramatically at 17 and since then, you’ve persevered and thrived. I hope you see it that way because so many admire you, as I do. Thank you for all you did and all you do!

18. My Einstein’s Crew – Especially the Saturday morning gals! Renee for the distractions and laughter and Marisa for that last quarter mile sprint to finish strong! Fist bump!

19. My Inner Circle – You all know who you are. We may not see one another often. Sometimes it is in the parking log of a Dry Cleaner, on the phone on my way to the doctor office, for a quick bite to eat, when our kiddos play dress up, when I watch your daughter play volleyball, when we paint together, when we go camping, when we go cruising, when we meet for wine night, when we celebrate our kid’s birthdays…regardless, you are my family. For the big moments, you all are there! This one is for you!

20. Nina Dani – You never let a little thing like sleep or asthma or money get in the way of a good time. You are so giving and humble, for those traits and so many others, we chose you to be our daughter’s godmother. For believing in me, and telling me to shake off the haters.

21. My Beloved – You arrive at noon and will race to find me at some point along the way. Each training race, you have helped me recover by allowing for some quiet rest. During our training runs. you run ahead of me, letting me chase you, forcing me to be better. You believe in my dreams and champion me. You push me to find amazing and are there right by my side when I discover it. Thank you for this adventure!

22. My Michael – New York!! You are there now and it is near this mile you will find me. I love you and I can’t wait to see your face and laugh. I know there will be a great many more trips out to see you in the future, too! I already love the memories we’ve created there, so far.

23. Ada – Because Bianca Fight Never Dies, because running is stupid and why would any one want to do something like that outside when you can be crushing balls in the air conditioning, because people are idiot drivers who merge in the fast lane only to go slower than the speed limit, because of Whataburger taquitos, because of acorns on the ground, because “I’m like a bird,” because of cherries, because of tears of joy and tears of ache, because I am whole all over again when you hug me. This one is for you!

24. Lindsey – My Bish, my friend, even though you think I’ve lost my mind in doing this, you know that it was gone a longer time before that! I may be doing a type of zombie-like run at this point. I will endeavor to champion my inner zombie, made evident by your crew.

25. My Mavericks – Their financial and emotional support has been overwhelming and, as always, humbling. I have raised nearly $7,000 (and counting) for Robin Hood, largely because of their support. Amazing! When I turn the corner by the NY office, I will smile proudly and fondly knowing so many of my colleagues are cheering me on!

26. Daddy – The race is won by running. I will not give up. In the thundering echoes of the roaring crowd, I will hear your voice. I will keep going and know that THIS race…Life, I don’t give up. Even when I feel down, I am a VALENCIANO, I lift my chin, I look it square in the eye and say, “Bring it!”

.2. Me…that last quarter mile is for me. A celebration of what I’ve achieved and a moment of definition, of closure, and gleeful gratitude to my body. Thank you self, for this. You had many doubts if you could do it, but still you managed to get there.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Music Review: Neil Diamond’s Melody Road #MelodyRoad #O2O

Neil Diamond has sold over 125 MILLION albums worldwide and he’s been inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame AND the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You know him, you love him, and now Neil Diamond has a new album, Melody Road, which arrived in stores October 21. The album, marks his first original studio release in six years and first since signing with Capitol Records.

I am quite a bit Neil Diamond fan. I’ve been listening to his voice for about as long as I can remember falling in love with music. I was so jealous of my friend Caroline growing up because he sang a song about Caroline! And who doesn’t have a good time when they listen to Cracklin’ Rosie get on board” even though, I learned that it was a song about alcohol, but whatever.

In any case, I had the chance to listen to his new album and wanted to share what I thought. Here’s the thing, Neil Diamond is a no-frills, no auto-tune singer, with a guitar, maybe some backing instruments, and really strong lyrics. Throw in a bit of country twang and well, there you go, you have some Neil Diamond music. I’ve listened to the album a few times and it hasn’t gripped me—the album as a whole. The lyrics, though, the lyrics are beautiful and wonderfully put together and just give you the smiles. Wholesome and good music that I can share with my kiddos. “Melody Road” the title track with the finger pickings on the guitar and add the whistling tune in the middle, is just fun. There is one song, “Ooo Do I Wanna Be Yours” that is a surprise and a punch in the throat. It has so much emotion filled with desire from a loved one to another. It is filled with the kind of love that we all desire to have. It is worth a listen, but if you aren’t a Neil Diamond fan, then you probably aren’t going to really understand what you are listening to. If you are, and are interested in listening to music familiar from your childhood or from different times, then yeah, check out his album. I’ve included the details of where you can find his stuff below. Also, he’s going on tour!! (Why are tickets so expensive??)

 

* iTunes: http://bit.ly/NDMelody

* Amazon: http://bit.ly/MelodyRdND

* Official Neil Diamond Website – www.neildiamond.com
* Twitter – @NeilDiamond
* Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/neildiamond
* YouTube – http://bit.ly/NDMelody

**I participated in the Neil Diamond Melody Road album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Music Review: Mary Lambert’s “Heart On My Sleeve” #HeartOnMySleeve #O2O

Who was that girl who sang on Macklemore’s “Same Love” song? She had that great and powerful voice and I does she have her own album? As a matter of fact, yes, she does! It is called “Heart On My Sleeve” and it is filled with many unapologetic honesty, it is real, so real.

Her opening song, “Secrets” pours out some of the insecurities some of us face. I know what this is like: to be afraid of the world knowing my dirty secrets. When they are exposed, you feel raw, exposed, and completely vulnerable, but there is so much beauty in that vulnerability---if you can only overcome that initial burn. She says of the song:

“I felt like there were a lot of songs coming out about self-empowerment and challenging beauty standards, and I wanted to write a song along those same lines, but in my voice,” she explains. “It's easy to paint a pretty picture and tell everyone to love themselves, but it's way more complicated than that. There is so much shame and guilt in our society, and I think it has deprived a lot of people from living fully. We're all facing battles. We've all had someone who has hurt us, so let's talk about it. I believe vulnerability is what will save the world. I wanted to point the lens at myself in hopes of inspiring others to do the same. This song is my dirty laundry, and that's actually really freeing. Now I can walk around with accidental pieces of bagel in my bra and eat it anyway.”

But she doesn’t stop there. “I’m a better person when I have you here” resonates to my soul simply because you can be surrounded by so many people who love you and yet you feel incredibly alone. If you have your “person” then you can battle anything that you face. Moving on to “Rib Cage” you get this sensual feel of a song, but the lyrics punch you right in the gut.  And along she goes, sounding familiar of the easy listening music reminiscent of Sarah Mclachlan with a sprinkle of Amy Grant from the 90s. Until you get to Wounded Animal and well, if that doesn’t give you some kind of feels then you have died inside.  You should invest some of your time and give the album a listen.

Her lyrics will touch you, but then that was her thinking when she wrote this album over the course of the past year: “I wanted the songs to be poignant and raw, but I want to hear them on the radio. I like to describe Heart On My Sleeve as a pop album with a conscience.”


For more information on Mary, please visit her official site at www.marylambertsings.com

* Official Mary Lambert Website – www.marylambertsings.com
* Twitter – @marylambertsing
* YouTube –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqqqV50zaAc
* Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/marylambertsings

I participated in the Mary Lambert Heart On My Sleeve album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Swan Song: When you listen to the “shouldn’t”

I’ve always had issues with my spine.

When I was about 4, I wanted to roller skate so badly at a birthday party of one of my sister’s friends. I’d been scooting along the side, holding onto the rail, and at times, holding my mother’s hand. I felt brave enough to try it out on my own, and insisted I was ready. She cautioned me that it would be different, and that I needed to be certain, because I might fall. I told her I was prepared to fall. Off I went. I was doing well, until I wasn’t. I fell on my ass, and broke it---Literally. I felt something crack and it HURRRRRT, but I refused to cry. Why? Because my mother had warned me I wasn’t ready and even then, I had too much pride to admit I was wrong. So I didn’t speak up with she asked if I was ok. I just said that it was a little sore. But it wasn’t just a little sore. I was sore for a long time.

Fast forward to high school and I started to have chronic lower back pain. I was in the throes of hours-long volleyball playing and running each day. We thought it was typical. We thought it was over-exertion. My trainer had me on a strict program of stretching, heat before, and ice after. He strongly encouraged me to consider holding back some. He suggested I shouldn’t attempt a career beyond high school for fear of my future self. I aimed to prove him otherwise. It was just a little bit of back pain. After all, I survived the ligament tears in my ankle and my thumb. They were sore, but I could tolerate it.

I went on to play in college and at a university. I ran even more, lifted harder, jumped, landed, flew, and had more bang-ups than before. I accumulated another 2 concussions, and felt weak because I couldn’t breathe. But I pressed on through the pain, doing my very best to breathe and keep up. I would pop a couple of pink power pills (powerful anti-inflammatory pain blockers) with a 32-oz Dr. Pepper and I was good to go for games.

By the time I graduated, my mother had undergone her first back surgery and had a Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis.

I continued to have the back pain, and when I had my first job post-graduation, I visited a chiropractor for the first time. She took x-rays and noticed that my spine was a full inch off of alignment from the lower part of my body. So we came up with a treatment plan that helped me get through the every day, and also got me through my first pregnancy and first marathon.

It wasn’t until after that marathon that I saw an allergist. I was tired of sneezing all of the time, even though that was basically my life for, well, all of my life. It was there that I had a full diagnosis of asthma. I remember the look on her face when she told me, because she wondered how I was able to cope all of those years being as physically active as I was. I chalked it off as to something that maybe got worse with age. Because really, I’m not a super human. It made sense that times were more difficult based on the seasons and my outdoor activity level.

Then there was last year. That fracture, the conversation with the doctors, my chiropractor, processing the diagnosis. The Neuro said I shouldn’t run as much as I do, because of the impact it has on the body. But when I ran the Santa 5K with my 5 year old daughter for her first-ever 5K, when I ran the Cowtown Half with my friend, when I ran the Fairview Half with my family cheering me on, when I’ve had my training runs (in spite of them getting longer and longer)…I’m happier. I’ve found a way to redirect my stress. This is a big deal and quite noticeable because my normal nervous tick of yanking on my hair, well I don’t do it. My bangs have grown out to the longest they’ve been since before I got married. I still had the migraines. I still battle depression feelings. But I kept running.  I pushed through the pain, willing my back to deal. I breathed purposefully, willing my lungs to cooperate.

After the Sprint triathlon (about a month ago), I felt some discomfort in my knee. My current chiropractor, whom I hadn’t seen since March (maybe?), isn’t a sports chiro. I reached out to my running friends for referrals and each of them couldn’t say enough positive things about theirs, so I went in for a visit. I have tendonitis in my knee and my neck bones are reverse of what they should be (this is the BIGGEST reason for my migraines—my bones have been pinching the nerves right there by my brain), but therapy will help to fix that. However, what else he had to say echoed what I’ve heard before—only, this time, I HEARD it and begrudgingly accepted it. In the photo below, you can see how I am not aligned and you can see the limited space between the vertebrae (moderate degeneration—only a matter of time for severe degeneration, which is bone-on-bone).

His words, not to tell me to stop running, but to reconsider the longer distances. He acknowledges what running means to those who run. He suggested I SHOULDN’T run. And this time I listened because I have two smaller ones to consider. One day I would like to run with them, even if it is just a few miles. I expect to have late night dance parties with them. I expect to be upright, cheering them on in anything they are a part of.

So…

NYC will be my last marathon—he said it was ok to finish this training. New York City, my home away from home, the city full of promise, the city who gave me confidence in my body, the city filled with such positive, electric energy…that beautiful city. 7 years ago, the tagline was “Whatever it takes…” and this year, it is “Get your New York On, ” my favorite sign so far is “Get Your Invincible On.” I GET to have my final (yes, I realize it was just my second, but this was the gateway to ultras, to trail running, to others) marathon in one of the greatest cities in the world. New York turns out for a race and it is one glorious celebration! I GET to have closure. I GET to smile and soak in each “Go Bianca!!” one last time. I GET to feel Invincible for 5 grueling and glorious hours. My lungs, my back, my ankles, my knee, my brain, will be pulled by my heart, which has steadily grown because of all of the marvelous well wishes I have received from all of you! I literally hold them close to me, and remember them whenever I feel like I may hit a wall. Physically, I feel stronger than I did the last time I did this.

I will still run, just not for as long of a distance. I will still have an active lifestyle, only, I will consider long-term health more than before. I don’t regret going hard all of those years before. Also, I’m grateful that I didn’t know about any of my ailments, because I continued on as if I didn’t know any better and still achieved---without limits or impositions, treated just like everyone else. That suits my personality just fine.

I wanted to say thanks to everyone who has given me their words of encouragement and those who I’ve been able to lean on and cry. Y’all have lifted me up and inspired me. I’m truly grateful!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Where did you go?

I need a break is all. I’m ok. If you know me in real life, shoot me an email or a text. We can meet for some coffee or go for a run/walk. If you don’t know me in real life, you can still send me an email. Until then, I hope you are all well!

 

a-vacation_time-1498306

Friday, September 5, 2014

Music Review: Train’s Bulletproof Picasso

 

 

Three-time Grammy winning San Francisco band Train’s upcoming new album,Bulletproof Picasso, is available for pre-order at iTunes & Amazon, giving fans the early jump aboard Train’s much anticipated 7th studio album in advance of its September 16th release date.

When I was contacted by the One2One Network with an exclusive opportunity to review their new album, I jumped on it. You see, Train’s Drops of Jupiter pulled at me in a way that is difficult for me to describe. It is melancholy, hope, loss…walking away with the remains of your heart in your hand, knowing that life dealt you a major lesson. A lesson you wouldn’t forget, and the memories you coveted would happily resonate with you forever, even if it was laced with tears. How I didn’t know they were from San Francisco until recently is beyond me, but I understand it. There’s something to the city that very much makes me relate to their music more. I first connected with them with their Meet Virginia back in 1998. I wondered if anyone would ever see me the way Pat Monahan described this Virginia. Fast forward many more years, and Save Me San Francisco was released. When I first heard Hey, Soul Sister I thought they’d had new life breathed into them. They sounded different, happier, I suppose, not that they were all broody-moody, but yes, this tune was catchy, easy to listen to, and fun to sing along while with friends.

So what of Bulletproof Picasso? I know there are definitive hits on it. It is as easy listening as their previous albums. Their first single, Angel in Blue Jeans has already seen success. On their site, they have Danny Trejo quoted, “This song is gonna be a hit, I’m telling you. Everybody’s heard it. Low riders are all bumping it pretty loud!” It is fun! When you start up the album from the beginning to end, you will want to move, to dance, and try to learn the words to sing along. This album is going to be very FUN to see on tour. I’ve seen them on tour before and they put on a good show. I can’t wait until they come to town so I can see these songs performed live because they make me want to dance.

Give it All & Baby, Happy Birthday really pulled at my heartstrings. His voice just resonates in a way that people will be able to connect to. “I’ve always wanted to emotionally connect with people through the songs,” says Monahan. “But I also want to get into people’s lives with this album. We’re very excited about Bulletproof Picasso and we’re looking forward to performing some of the new songs for all our fans.”

I intend to purchase the vinyl version of this album. Go on out and enjoy some Train!

Tracklisting for Bulletproof Picasso:

1. Cadillac, Cadillac

2. Bulletproof Picasso

3. Angel In Blue Jeans

4. Give It All

5. Wonder What You're Doing For The Rest Of Your Life

6. Son Of A Prison Guard

7. Just A Memory

8. I'm Drinkin' Tonight

9. I Will Remember

10. The Bridge

11. Baby, Happy Birthday

12. Don't Grow Up So Fast

 

  * iTunes: http://smarturl.it/bulletproofpicasso
  * Amazon: http://smarturl.it/bulletproofpicassoAM

 

I participated in the Train Bulletproof Picasso album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Healthy body, Healthy Mind...30 Days Challenge to Get Back to Basics

 

I've long wanted to affect positive changes in life. if you know me personally, I would hope you already know this. I give optimism, lend a listening ear, and encourage when I feel someone may need encouragement. By doing this,  I hoped that I could positively impact others to be the very best version of themselves—per their own definitions of what that mean.

When I started the Bianca Birthday 5K last year, I was overwhelmed by the response and even further humbled by the participation this year. It's only been a few short months since that time, but why wait a year for another push? I don’t know about you, but September is always hectic! Between the start of school, tailgate parties, and cooler Autumn weather, it is easy to become complacent with an exercise routine. Yes, I said routine. Some of you have specific routines at your Crossfit boxes, others hit the pavement with a running plan, and others may do heavy lifting every day, sculpting their muscles perfectly to expose the strong sinew under the skin. You know what else is a routine? Coming home from a long day, sitting on the couch and zoning out, while munching away on food that you picked up in the drive-thru line. This also may mean getting up late, missing your alarm, and the inevitable irritable rush to ready the day, desperately counting the moments to your coffee drink to do it all over again. I know, this well. This is easy to get into and SO, SO, SO tough to break!

Change begins when you are willing to break your routine. Here's some truth: Recently, I talked with my doctor about a prescription weight loss pill* recently I was obsessed with not losing weight in spite of marathon training. Upon telling her this, and hearing myself say it, I stopped speaking, internally acknowledged my fear, and changed course. I needed something to help me breathe easier so I could train harder. I needed something to combat my low energy levels. Blood work and an x-ray gave clues to what I needed. I now take Vitamin D pill for my energy and focus on eating dark leafy vegetables to increase my iron levels. I also take Symbicort and Albuterol for my lungs. Instead of tempting boredom with only running, I opted for a bonafide cross-training option. Camp Gladiator had a $6 unlimited boot camps special for September. Add that to my marathon training plan, and I have a built-in workout schedule for the next month. At least 1 hour a day is focused dedication for my body. (Endorphins will make the brain happy.)  I am determined to get back to basics, commit to 30 days of healthy living (clean eating and exercise) to get me back on track with my goals. Yes, MY goals to be the best version of myself as defined by me. Yours will be different and that's ok, wonderful and all together necessary for YOUR success!

But here's where I need your help. Join the Facebook Group I’ve created for September. You can opt in to pay the $25 to be sure you are committed. if you pay, you will receive an Exercise Shirt after the end of the month and your name will be entered to win the grand prize. What is the grand prize? If you win, you get to take the remainder of the money after the t-shirts to donate to YOUR favorite charity! If you aren’t financially able to participate, that’s ok, I still want you to join! Join the group, participate in the check-ins, be publicly accountable, and work hard to reach your goals!

Set realistic goals. If you can't even run for two minutes, I don't expect you to set your goal to run a half marathon in a month. But you WILL be able to at least walk one a year later, but that starts today. if you are able to do 200 pushups and crank out 6+ miles, then reach higher. Maybe aim for a faster 10K or do more than what your comfort level is. We all have goals and I want to cheer you on. I want you to cheer me on. Let’s do it together so we can train for life! #tfl

You have two days until we start. Think about your goals, and come join us!

 

__________________

*It should be noted that I’m not hating on anyone who uses diet pills. I haven’t exhausted every option before going down that path, meaning, I don’t feel like I gave a solid strength and conditioning plan, nor did I exercise portion control or counted calories. Prescription medication can be quite effective, especially when closely monitored by a doctor. Do whatever you have to do, but know that there is no magic pill that replaces a good diet and proper exercise.

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Romantic Dragon Slayer

Last August, I felt like I’d been through an emotional spin-cycle and somehow came out of it feeling like someone had shoved me through two tight rollers: leveled, sore, shattered but still alive. I’d been made aware to face my demons head-on and I’d felt so emotionally violated as a result of it that, well, I shut the world out. It was revisiting a familiar place, that I seem to cycle through, only this time…this time I was armed. This actually surprised me quite a bit. Mainly, I think it is because I was open to accepting grace and through the cracks, love shined through. The other times I had been in this state of depression, I’d felt so low, I allowed shame and grief to consume me. I didn’t reach out. I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone, largely in part because I was ashamed and mostly because I didn’t want to seem weak and burden someone else with my baggage. So I held tightly onto dark experiences, never openly admitting them to anyone. I had no idea how each of those experiences had left an invisible fingerprint onto how I viewed the world…how I reacted to people. It must be state-the-obvious day, but think about it some…Have you ever reflected on those miniscule moments in time that altered/shaped you? Look at a scar on your body and remember how fast the injury happened, but that everlasting scar, undeniable, and at times, blends in with the rest, but it is there.

When I graduated from college, I was able to share some time with my grandparents. My grandfather had motioned me to him, and let me know that the secret to a long life was to have a shot of tequila every day. If I felt sick, then tequila would cure me. If I was thirsty, the tequila would help. If I was cold, the tequila would warm me. And if I was melancholy, the tequila would medicate my soul. He even presented me with a clay pot that my grandmother told me he kept cool water in, but he whispered he kept some tequila in it, too. ha! I grew up believing my grandfather was this stern, proud stereotypical Latino who loved dancing, did not at all fear hard work, and had a passion for life. I was petrified to ever talk with him as a child. I really don’t know why. I remember his large, weathered hands…hands that had known hard labor for years. The smile creases around his eyes, that I liked to attribute to the many smiles he always gave me. I remember the feel of his stubble on my face and how, coupled with is aftershave, would make my face itch and burn. I remember the blessings he’d pray over our family before we would travel back home, especially in the later years, when he was in his maroon plaid robe, pajama pants, and black leather slippers. The mess of a curl atop his head transitioned from peppered to all white the last time I saw him. When he spoke, I listened.

My first experiences with tequila were quite typical: really bad hangovers—CRUDA. When my uncle passed away, the evening after his funeral, I splurged and bought a bottle of Don Julio 1942 tequila. It was the first sipping tequila I tried and what a completely different experience! I was uncertain if the experience was altered simply because I sat around with my aunt and cousins, sipping this tequila, remembering my uncle, hearing incredible tales of his life’s adventures. My favorite, was of him joining the Navy in spite of not knowing how to swim. The one of him jumping off the ship into the ocean could’ve been horrible, but instead, it was an incredulous moment of strength of spirit and my family’s tenacity. I smell that tequila and I remember my uncle fondly. I remember that evening, and I am connected to my family all over again.

After that evening, I wanted to explore tequila with new eyes. I tried infusing it differently and making fancier cocktails based on classic recipes. I was introduced to Casa Dragones through a local store that had a free tasting. Truthfully, it was on Mama Oprah’s list of favorite things and I wanted the chance to taste a bit of what true luxury felt like.  It was winter and I went with my work buddy. He and I held onto the Riedel tequila drinking glasses and sampled the very best tequila I had ever tasted. Fruity with a peppery-spice back end, the flavors were different, yet very much complimentary. At the price point, however, I was unable to dive into a full bottle.

I kept it in my mind and left it there locked away until last August. I needed comfort. I needed reassurance. I needed something larger than myself. When faced with irrational demons larger than dragons, I needed a dragon slayer. Emotional ache…I splurged on a bottle, that has lasted us very nearly a year. The emotions poured out of me as fluidly as this nectar. But I refused to associate that taste with pain. When given the chance, we would open the bottle and pour a little out to share with friends and family.

You can imagine my excitement when I was invited to another tasting! I’d already tasted it, but this time around, Bertha Gonz├ílez Nieves, the first ever female Maestra Tequilera and the maker of Casa Dragones would be presenting the tasting. Additionally, Katherine Clapner, the chocolatier behind Dude, Sweet Chocolate would be there to pair her tasty morsels with the tequila. (chocolate + tequila=outstanding) It became an instant date, further made even more meaningful when one of my running heroes would be joining us along with his wife. I had no idea the tequila lesson we would gain that evening, nor was I prepared to witness the levels of romanticism of my beloved.

As the evening progressed, it felt like we were taking a special tour through San Miguel de Allende around Tequila through the region of Jalisco, Mexico. The breathtaking landscapes, full of rich nutrients ripe for the agave plant to produce the tequila. We were taught the three levels of the glass and what each section would yield in terms of flavor and scent. The objective of attending the tasting was just to learn more and share some quality time. When it came time to make a decision as to whether or not we would make the purchase, I humbly declined, simply because we had some larger upcoming expenses. I was grateful for the experience. I leaned over to Don, asking him if he would grab a photo of me with Bertha and Katherine. If given the opportunity to meet captains of industry, I always jump on it. If faced with the chance to meet females who are captains in the industry, I MUST meet them, grab a photo, and tell their story to my daughters to inspire them of the whole world that exists before them.


I tried to not be too much of a fangirl. I was so excited and I treasure this photo photo so much!

Then Don did something…he flagged down the order taker and grabbed a box. But not only did he grab a box, he struck up a conversation with Bertha Gonz├ílez Nieves, encouraging me to tell her my grandfather’s advice. As I told her the story, her brown eyes penetrated my soul as she listened to the story from my heart. I was overcome with pride, my voice shaky, tears streaming from my face. The conversation was brief, but all of the memories flooded the forefront of my thought.  We told her of our daughters and how we try to not only share stories of inspiration of the strong women in our family and of those we met, but also how my culture is very much a part of their lives. We told her of the dreams we had for our daughters. We shared with her the story of my uncle passing. We shared with her how Casa Dragones has been there for us, already, in times of melancholy and in times of celebration. Yes, it is a bottle of tequila, but to us, there is so very much more rooted within the beautiful package.

And so, he handed the bottle to her and asked her to personalize it (when you purchased the bottle at this tasting, a master calligrapher would inscribe your words). She’d taken some notes during our conversation, she signed the box and we told her where we wanted the calligrapher to write words. A few short weeks later, we received this memento, honoring my grandfather:



That was my husband’s gift to me. A reminder that family is important, that tradition matters, that with patience (it takes at least 8 years for the plant to grow—sometimes 12, then the tequila ages for 5 years!) all hurts can heal. Scars, whether invisible or invisible, can hurt, but with time…

Sit. Wait. Sip.  {a hug from the inside, from deep within the soul}

I adore these gestures of my beloved. I adore his romanticism. I appreciate his patience. I appreciate his ability to still surprise me. I treasure the amazing---my romantic dragon slayer.

Friday, August 15, 2014

I have asthma. I am an athlete.

Hello, I’m Bianca. Some of you know me already. Many others don’t.
Right now I’m training for my second marathon, slated to happen on November 2, 2014. I live in Texas and it gets incredibly hot. This summer, we’ve been lucky and it hasn’t been as bad as it typically is. That isn’t to say that it hasn’t had hot days. Those hot days really affect me. I have had fits of frustration and anger in the middle of my runs. I don’t like having to stop mid-run.

I have asthma.

What does that mean? What is it like? Well, for me, it is like not being able to get a breath. Imagine having a coffee stirrer straw in your mouth, then go out and sprint, breathing only through that straw, not using your nose. Sometimes, attempting a deep breath isn’t possible. Sometimes, you get the deep breath, but then the coughs start. Always, the next day the lungs are sore. I have a love/hate relationship with my inhaler. My inhaler lets me run. It opens the pathways and makes me feel strong. But the next day, my lungs feel like they’ve taken a beating from the inside by a gaggle of angry parasites throwing tiny stones. I arch my back several times, trying to pop it and open the chest cavity. I lace my shoes, and hit the pavement again.

I am a runner.

I have the same questions as many other people when running. We run around like hormonal teenagers, shifting moods in an instant. Why am I doing this? What is the point? It is so hot. It is so early. It is so cold. No, it is really early! Look, people are just getting home from their nights of revelry. My feet hurt. My feet are covered with blisters. My feet are covered with thick callouses. My knees hurt. I love these tiny bags of ice. Oooooh…a sale on running gear. This sports bra is fancy. I love the way these purple leggings feel. This unicorn tank top really allows great air flow to stay cool. I LOVE my purple spibelt. Oh wow, deodorant DOES work when you don’t have Glide. These socks are so fun. These socks suck, they give me blisters. No, these shoes give me blisters. Puff…I love my inhaler. My spibelt really does fit my inhaler, phone, chapstick, travel glide, and bloks wonderfully. Ahhh…my body hurts. It’s so early. Meh, it’s only 6 miles. Gahhh….4 miles again? I hate hills, they suck. Oooh, yaaay hills, they make me stronger. Fartleks? giggle Speed work…noooooo!!! Oh goody, speedwork day! Is it raining outside? I will wear my trail shoes. Where are my yurbuds? I need my yurbuds! Dangit, I don’t have connectivity to Spotify. Download your running mix from Spotify. Oooh, a running skirt? Is it in purple? I will never forget my glide again. Those shorts suck. I chafed so hard. Oooh, are those shorts in purple?  I wish my inhaler came in purple.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, you get the calm. You get the clarity. For me, it is like the world hits pause and all I hear are the cadence of my steps, tick-tick-ticking against the ground below me. My mind’s eye joins my seeing eyes, and I can pay witness to all of the splendor my maker has created before me. My lungs work. My legs are strong. My demon-voices leave my brain, replaced with the memories of cheers from my loves. My heart is happy. I give gratitude for I am able to run when others cannot. For them, I offer up my run. For them, I consider so much. Then I see my babies, my two daughters who look to me for guidance. I run for them. I see my Beloved. I run towards him, chasing him. He never gets so far ahead that I can’t see him. He somehow knows the wheeze and will slow. Quietly. Slowly. He waits for me, patiently, gives me an encouraging look. At the end of the training run, I get the high five reward. During races, each high five I get reminds me of that reward high five. I keep going. Each “Go Bianca” I think of my mother, my best friends, my sister and brother, my father, my daughters, my family, my friends. I keep going. My lungs hurt, my legs hurt. I keep going. Sweat stings my eyes, tears will stream down my face. I keep going. “Bianca fight never dies” is what I tell myself…even when I have to stop and walk. I keep going. “Hills are made for conquering” is what I tell myself…even when I have to pause at the top to catch my breath. I keep going.

I keep going. I keep going. I keep going. I am an athlete. I keep going.

(me on top of my favorite rock-hill in Central Park in Manhattan)

******************
This runner has an amazing write-up for running with asthma: http://www.lifesawheeze.com/p/running-with-asthma-101.html
I’m raising money for Robin Hood again! As of today, I’m $15 shy of $2000!!! I’m so humbled. Feeling generous? https://www.crowdrise.com/RobinHoodNYC2014/fundraiser/biancasias
Leave me a comment with a word of encouragement. I will carry your words with me in my heart when I run. And may literally carry them with me in a printed out piece of paper to keep going.

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