Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Do YOU See?

Race pic from last summer's Hottest Half.
One of my favorites ever.
I love to race. Mostly because I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of different and inspiring people across FW-D and usually have a chance to see one or more of them while I'm out & about at different races. The other reason I love to race is because I am kind of a bling ho. We've talked about that. It's an addiction, I know. Admitting it is the first step, right?

Cheering on my buddies at the Hobble Gobble, November 2010

If you've run or raced with me, you know I always insist, nay DEMAND, that we get a pic before, or preferably, after a run or race. It feeds my ego to know that hey, not only do these people know me, but they aren't ashamed to take a picture with me and have proof of it!!  (SIDEBAR: I have a very fragile ego that requires constant stroking.)  So I always have tons of pics of me with other friends and runners. And in those pics, I always try to turn my head just so, and suck in my gut, or turn sideways so that if it is a whole body shot that I look somewhat athletic.  But the thing about races is that they often have photographers out on course. And sometimes you know where they are so you can make sure you're actually running when they take the shot, or you can be certain you're not blowing a snot rocket at that point in time, or you can try to look as cool and effortlessly smooth as possible. But sometimes, you don't know that they are there, or you are so focused on the task at hand that you don't notice them as you run by. So they tend to capture you at your most bare & honest moments during a race. And very often, when I see my race photos, I cringe.

Tyler Rose Marathon, 10-10-10
I cringe, because I still don't look like an athlete.  When I see my race photos, I often focus not on the fact that I'm at mile 25 of a marathon, but damn, look at those thighs. There is a reason I mostly wear running skirts for races - they hide my thighs better than tights or god forbid shorts. When I look at race pictures, I often am drawn straight to my midsection, where I see a roll of fat squishing out over the waist of my skirt, beltpack or spibelt. I see my arms, not toned and strong like I want them to be, but soft and flabby, so that I often wear short-sleeved shirts instead of tanks even in the heat of Texas summers. I am doing things to correct these flaws of mine, the pushups and the situps and the attention on my diet. But still, when I see myself in action shots, where I haven't had time to pose, I am very often horrified.

Gorgeous scenery at Banderawesome...
becomes this, to better hide my body.
And I hate that. I hate cropping my pictures so that just my upper body and my face are showing.  I hate that after weeks of 40+ miles I weigh the same and look the same as I did a year ago, five years after I started running marathons. I hate that despite all of the accomplishments and achievements that I have been able to do with this body, with this soft squishy body, that I am still so very focused on the negative. It bothers me, first that my body is so resistant to change that it takes more than what I am doing (HOW MUCH MORE WILL IT TAKE?!) to see tangible results, and secondly that I still give a damn about it.  I am an ultramarathoner. I have finished 10 marathons, countless half marathons and a ridiculous number of 5 & 10Ks. I am a freaking athlete. I am. I just still don't see it. And I know others don't see it either. And that is maddening in so many ways. And frustrating. And painful.

Wearing my beltpack in front distracts from my mid-section.
Kinda. Sorta. Not really... 
My biggest (ha!!) complaint about my body is my stomach. I have a lot of excess skin and yes, stretch marks, from my two pregnancies with 9+ pound boys. Even at my lowest post-pregnancy weight 6 years ago (the result of a nasty bout w Meniere's disease, not any particular fitness regimen) I still had the stomach flab and the stretch marks that are not just discolored but textured. Hawt, I know. And then, then I read this post. Yvonne of Joy Unexpected, a blog I have been reading for years now, wrote very eloquently about her stretch marks. About how the marks on her belly reminded her of carrying her three children in her womb. About how when she sees them she thinks of a mother's love. I was in tears reading that. Instead of hating them as flaws on a body that wasn't anywhere close to perfect before the pregnancies, I should be embracing them as trophies of my accomplishment as a mother. Trophies... like medals, like bling! Now we're talking my language!!

And Yvonne's post made me think long and hard about my acceptance of my body, flaws and all. I don't know how many situps and pushups and more miles it will take to get me to look on the outside like the athlete I feel like on the inside. I don't know that it will ever happen. I do know that I am going to continue to work out and run and later this summer, cycle and swim, and embrace the athlete inside me, even if she is wearing a body that doesn't quite fit. And the next time I see a race photographer out on course, I will smile and hook 'horns, and worry less about the outer image captured and instead celebrate the spirit of the athlete inside.


JenZen said...

I think you look AMAZING and look at everything your body has allowed you to do. You are a beautiful, strong amazing athlete that always inspires me with your eagerness to tackle another race and another distance. You sooooo ROCK Mama C!!! LOVED this post. A great reminder to us all.

~ Jen Z (@JenZenator)

Jennifer Simpson Black said...

As a woman we are thrown these images of what is "ideal" Ideal to who? them? When I started P90x I was in a chat room with Tony Horton and he said why do u do p90x? To get skinny? To look better in a bathing suit? To look better in clothes? You should be doing it to be healthy not for vanity. I know it is difficult to digest that but he is right. Who cares what someone that means nothing to you thinks about you? After all the only thing that matter is what you think about yourself. There is a song out by Pink.. She says.. "Change the voices in your head and make them love you instead because you are Fing Perfect!"

Now my short story long.. I am hypothyroid.. Before P90x I was working out..running.. weights everything.. Nothing changed how I looked except p90x. I can show you my before after pics.

Brittany Zale said...

Great post. I understand completely, and I'm sure many, many people feel the same way. So many women go into marathon training hoping to lose weight, and then find that they gain weight and don't resemble the athlete they now feel like. I still have problems with this, and it's so hard for us to get rid of body image issues. Believe it or not, decked out in your athletic gear, and running with a smile on your race--you DO look like an athlete.

Anonymous said...

hey babe
i never knew what you looked like til recently. i didnt care. i spoke to you and connected with the runner in you. there is a sexiness in running that shines from within. the confidence, the poise and the sassyness. beyond that is a toughness that's been forged through the challenges you've CHOSEN to push yourself farther than you or anyone thought you could get to.

the preconceived notion of a runner's body is outdated and full of crap. a runner's body is strong and at the mercy of our will. its your spirit that drew me to you. your heart that is generous and accepting. accepting yourself is the hardest thing even when you have all the medals.

i'm struggling with it all the time. i joked with a spin instructor that was pushing us so hard the other day because she said make those legs work.get rid of the flab- she didn't have any. but she told me, in her mind, she still weighs 200 lbs and can feel it. she still fights it and can't see past it.

i could go on (and sometimes i do) about the world that puts this on us, but in the end, those closest to us, love us. i struggle with loving myself. but like any tough race, it starts with a single step. strange, but to everyone that adores you, and there are many, we only see the beauty inside and out.

i can't wait to meet you and run with you and have a full on pic with you. the smiles on our faces will be the best thing ever. you give me smiles and support many days and i'll gladly give them back. love all of you. every bit. wouldnt change it. love yourself beautiful. bc you are.

Libby Jones said...

I'm glad you are working on this. It should be on most runners' goal list for the year. I haven't worn makeup except for special occasions since I was a teenager. I don't obsess with how I look as long as it reflects how I feel, and as long as I feel good. I had a big moment in 2009 when I raced a half marathon in a sports bra. It was a huge experience of just "going with it" when I needed to race and not focus on what other racers or spectators would be seeing.

This is a great post, Corina. I'm blessed to know you!

sugarmagnolia70 said...

I think most of us can relate it this. I myself wrote about it a few months ago on my own blog. You ARE an athlete. In my book, if you get out there and do SOMETHING, you're an athlete. And YOU are an ULTRAMARATHONER. You're a machine the way you run those races. I could never do that. You've impresed me greatly over the months since I "met" you.

Sherry @ Life from my persective said...

Great post!!!

Lesley @ said...

This is the post I have written in my head so many times... minus the last part... need to keep reading that. :-) You're an amazing athlete, Corina!

Marci said...

When I look at you I see Corina, a mother, a wife, a very good friend, and one bad ass athlete. You have two beautiful boys and I would trade places with you in a heartbeat. We all look at race photos and pictures of ourselves and pick out the imperfections, but when I see yours, I see that gorgeous smile that tells me that you caveman screamed, you SQUEEEED a lot, and you had an amazing time no matter what the circumstances. You inspire us all, you help us achieve our goals and you do it so selflessly. When we look at you, we see love, and we all love our Mama C.

Blanda Amania said...

What a refreshingly honest post, and you have put what goes through my mind into words so eloquently. Any race pic of mine my eyes to go directly to my 'not so hot' spots, hehe.

What do I see in your pictures? A strong, determined woman that I have a lot of respect for.

Awesome post.

Erica Rodriguez Maier said...

I can relate to this on many levels. I've looked at plenty-a-race photo & have hated how I looked. I thought when I started running, I would transform into a lean machine. Solid muscle. Nope. Still have a belly, still have PLENTY of "wobbly bits" (a la Bridget Jones), but you know what? My legs are strong. I can run. I can go long distances. And tons of people simply can't.

Also, I think, sometimes, my body type has helped me coach runners with similar bodies. They see me and think, "If she can do it, I can do it." I think it has helped put some new runners at ease. And that's plain awesome.

I probably will always wish I looked athletic, but I probably never will. And that's alright.

YOU, my friend, are A CONSTANT INSPIRATION! You inspire me all the freakin' time. ALL. THE. FREAKIN'. TIME!

hokgardner said...

What a great post. Thank you for putting it all out there. I don't know of a single runner, no matter her body type, who doesn't struggle with this, myself included.

And you look like an amazing athlete to me!

Kim said...

Great post. I've been where you are.
But I have been posting pics of myself, at my weight, over the last few years. That was "me". I didn't hide it. It is what it is.
I went back to Weight Watchers and have lost 30 lbs over 2010. It's amazing how much faster it has made my running-and now I am training for the hardest 100 miler in the East (Massanutten) and I'm pretty confident I can finish it. Rock on!

Robeena said...

Hey, I think you're healthier about this than I am, so I will keep looking up to you. You'll notice that my avatar is a pic of me when I was 4 or so. You're enjoying life & purposely taking pictures. That's great!

I love seeing runners who aren't skinny, because I don't feel like such a fraud then, like I'm not doing it enough or right.

Pamela Hutchins said...

Your bandera posts on daily mile inspired me (and yes made me jealous). I've followed you on twitter for awhile, but I think those posts are the ones where I first really took notice of you. :)
Have you done the rocky raccoon?
That's down my way, north of Houston.
It rocks, but Bandera is on my all time wanna list.