Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Never Quit Fighting

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time.....

No, I can't.

Three times now, I have tried to start this blog post. The idea..the concept...the rough outline...was to make it fairy-tale-ish about a boy with a smidgen of talent and a ton of hard work who trained for 15 years and is now one of those "where did he come from?" overnight successes.

But I can't tell that story. I don't know enough of the details. I know enough of the background to be able to appreciate the now, but I don't know enough to weave a story that will delight and pull you in.

What I do know is that 15 months ago I met a young man who was, quite possibly, at one of the lowest points he'd visited in quite awhile.

He had, literally, left all family and friends and moved to a new town to live and train with a group of professional runners - all with the idea of working with some of the best, and in doing so, making himself better.

Through no fault of the program or the people in it, things didn't pan out quite like he had hoped. It simply wasn't a good fit for him.

On top of that, he'd suffered an injury less than a month after arriving. It was the first time he'd really had to deal with an injury that affected his performance, and it plagued him the rest of his time here.

He regressed in his rise to the top of his sport. His times were off. His finishes were less than expected. He pulled up and was DNF in a race for the first time in his life.

And yet, he never wavered. He still trained. He ate what he was supposed to eat, he ran when he was supposed to run, he worked out when he was supposed to work out, he did physical therapy for the injury religiously.

And he went back home - back to the coaches and the trainers and the support network that had worked for him in the past. That was last July.

Still, it has not been an easy year. The running coach has emailed workout routines to him from two time zones away. The strength coach accepted a new job and moved to a different state just a handful of months after this guy returned home.

He is not sponsored fully by an athletic company the way most elite runners are. (He is sponsored partially by Brooks - we must give props where props are due.) He has a full-time job as an elementary teacher for disadvantaged kids. His training must be done before and after school - often starting at 6 a.m. and not finishing until nearly bedtime. And yet, he has persevered.

Because of his dedication...even determination...even stubborn doggedness...his return to form has been measurable this year. Winning races. Setting new personal best times. Turning in the fastest mile ever run on Tennessee soil. 

4th Place Finish at USA Outdoor Nationals
(Always look for the bright yellow)
Des Moines, June 22

And ultimately placing 4th at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Nationals this past weekend in his chosen event, the 1500m. Watch the video of the finals - at no time EVER during the entire race was his name mentioned. At the bell for the last lap, he was tied for last place in a field of 12. In the last 400 meters, he passed 8 of the fastest men in the country. He ran with former US champions and world competitors and Olympians, and he placed 4th.

There is a chance that he'll actually get to travel to Moscow in August to compete at the World Championships. It's similar to figuring out which football teams get into the playoffs - there are a lot of "if this happens, then that will happen" scenarios that need to play out among the top four finishers and be settled by July 20th. In the meantime, he's still fighting - fighting to get that qualifying time that will make him ready to grab that chance, depending on what the Top 3 do in the next 4 weeks. And to fight for that time, he's going to have to travel to Europe, where he has never been before, and run races over there with the best of the best.

So...how does this fit in with MY journey? I mean, that's what this blog is about, right?

Well, this 15-years-in-the-making overnight sensation is my coach, Matt Elliott. He's the one who gives me tips on how to get better as a runner, or how to get in better shape. (Although I'm not nearly as good as he is at following directions, I'll confess.) He's the one who answers my technical questions. He's usually the 1st or 2nd to hear about any milestones that I hit.

And he is one hell of an example to try to follow. With him as my guide, I have no room for excuses. As long as he never quits fighting to be his personal best, I can never quit fighting to be my personal best.

I will be forever grateful that our paths not only crossed, but crossed when they did. Our relationship grew out of the timing and what we each needed at that moment, in a way that I don't think would've happened if either of us had been at a different point in life.

Keep fighting, Matt! (As if you could do anything else.) ;)

American Milers Club Series, Indianapolis, June 15
New PR in the 800m - 1:49.47
If you want more info on this pretty amazing guy (yes, I'm biased):
Google Search "Matthew Elliott Runner" for previous videos and articles
Check out FloTrack's interview video from this weekend - 25,000 hits and counting
Follow Matt on Twitter - @MattElliott1500
Friend or follow him on Facebook 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I'm Still Here

Well, that didn't last long, did it? LOL!

Since I finished the 500 Festival Mini Marathon and wrapped up the blog, there have been several times I've thought, "Gee, I should write about that." And that would be followed almost immediately by, "Oh yeah. I ended the blog."

Well, pooh on that. It's my blog. I can continue it if I want to. And following my sister's suggestion, I'm changing the name of it because, well, I made it to 50 - in very fine shape, thank you very much. NOW the story is about how to keep it going.

But, how?

Here's where we are.

I lost 40 pounds just in time for my birthday. I've put back on about 5, but it is staying steady at that level, just below 170.

I walked the 500 Festival Mini Marathon in 3 hours 10 minutes and a handful of seconds (thanks to Sandi dragging me along). I lost a toenail from it, and am waiting for it to grow back in. I had an issue with my shoes just before and during the event, tweaked my knee, and still wear my knee brace when I go out - probably as much as a security blanket as anything, but I still do it.

I've found a fabulous Facebook group of people who each do their own thing to keep themselves in shape, and encourage each other in whatever we're doing.

Where do we go? How do I keep myself challenged?

First of all, I'm trying to transform from a walker into a runner.

I'll pause a moment for the hysterical laughter to subside.

This alone is huge for me. For one thing, I've had arthritic knees since I was in my 20s. According to the predictions I was given back then, I should've had knee replacements by now. There's no cartilage worth mentioning in either of them, so it's a constant balancing act between being kind and conserving what I have or pushing myself for more overall good.

When I started all of this last summer, I kept saying, "I. Can't. Run."

Well, I couldn't. But now I can. A little bit.

Lately, I've been doing intervals - running 1/10 mile, then walking 1/10 mile. Sometimes the sprints are a bit longer, sometimes I have to walk longer in between to catch my breath. The idea is to build up the running time and cut down on the walking time.

At least, that's the idea.

In order to give myself a reason to do this, I've signed up for a 5K at the end of August, with a goal time of 40 minutes. Ideally, I'd love to run 2 miles of it and walk the other 1.1 miles. 

My most recent time was 42:38, and I ran about half of it. So it's doable.

I'm facing some challenges, though. 

First, I just can't seem to get back to eating with as much discipline as I did at first. I know that if I did it, even just for a  month, I'd probably knock off those last few pounds and get to goal weight - and maybe below. But ever since I allowed myself to celebrate my birthday - a celebration that lasted for a few weeks, for various reasons - I just haven't been able to climb back on that wagon.

And second, my schedule is not the same that it was last summer. I can't dictate as much of it as I did then. Last summer, I started this during a stretch when work was slow, Kim was working a job that she didn't start until later in the morning, and she could take Ethan to daycare, which was available all day.

This year, work is (blessedly) busy, Kim has a full-time job 8:30-5:00 every day, and Ethan's childcare is only available from 12:00-6:00 each day, so he spends mornings with me (unless I'm working - then we figure out something other option). I can't just get up and hit the trails at 8:00 every morning - that's Ethan time. Ideally, I could be hitting the trails just after I drop him off at noon, but by then I've usually had an early lunch with him, and lately the weather has been hot and humid, and hot'n'humid doesn't mix well with a full tummy.

Beyond that, I now have to use my afternoons to do my work typing. So if I run in the afternoons, that cuts into work time, or pushed it to evening hours, which means I then don't get to spend the evening with Jim.

On a good note, Ethan has decided that it's fun to take his bike and ride it while I run. But he typically is finished after 1/2 or 3/4 mile, and he kind of goes his own pace, and I just have to stay with him. So that's a mixed bag of "good" and "frustrating."

Mind you, I'm not complaining. I'm just putting it out there - this schedule juggling is a challenge for me right now. This summer isn't as easy to make "all about me" as last summer was. So I'm doing what I can, as I can, while knowing that it'll change again in just 8 short weeks, when school starts again.

So that's where we are. If you're willing, we'll jump back on this train together. I don't know how often the blog will be updated. It'll happen when I think I have something interesting to say. But you're welcome to check in and see how it's going, maybe to be inspired, and certainly to know that none of this is easy.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Finish Line - Metaphorically

This was never meant to be a neverending blog.

When I began this blog last summer, it was meant as a way to chronicle my journey into fitness as I headed toward my 50th birthday.

When I began, I weighed 203 pounds. Or 200. It depended on which scale I used.
March 2012 - with Anna, backstage at "The Choice"

When I began, I couldn't even climb from one floor of my house to another without huffing and puffing. Walking was painful because of the arthritis in my knees.

When I began, I was hitting McDonald's 4-5 times a week, usually for a crispy chicken classic sandwich, large fries, and large Diet Coke. (Because diet drinks help wash away the other calories, dontcha know.)

Along the way, I started walking. Four miles a day, five times a week. Sometimes with temperatures in the 80s and the humidity almost that high.

I nearly passed out on one of those first walks. I was dizzy and short of breath, and I think I clocked a mile at close to 20 minutes because of it. I know Matt was seriously trying to figure out on that day how they would get the ambulance back in on the trail to get me when I collapsed. 

But I never collapsed. There were other times I slowed down, but I never collapsed.

I cried the first time I clocked a mile at less than 15 minutes. And 15 minutes is still a goal, with my average "comfortable for me" pace being closer to 15:30. But it's also not unusual for me to crack 15 occasionally.

Along the way, four miles stretched to five, then six. Then one time I did 10. 

Along the way, Sandi became my rock - the one who would drag, encourage, cajole, annoy, cheerlead...whatever it took to get me out of the house, out on the trail, and moving. I know that from Day 1 she has held back to stay with me, and I'll always be grateful that she has been by my side. (Well, slightly ahead of me, usually. Just about 3 steps.)

Along the way, I learned to eat better - more lean protein and fresh fruits and veggies, less carbs and sugars. More chicken and fish and pork and veggie trays for snacking, less pasta and breads and desserts. Durnit.

Along the way, I dropped 40 pounds. 

Along the way, I decided I could do a 5K Walk. It would be easy, because I did more than that every time I went out. So I did Hoosiers Outrun Cancer last September. And I cried a little when I finished - cried because it was something I thought I'd never do...cried because Sandi was supposed to walk it with me and instead she spent the morning in the ER.
Fab @ 50 - taken Jan. 31, 2013
Along the way, I hit 50. And I was in so much better shape on my 50th birthday than I had been on my 49th, that it didn't scare or depress me like I thought it would. Instead, I was able to embrace and enjoy it...and look forward to the next 50.

But then, I needed something else. I had reached 50. I had lost the weight. I had gotten in better shape. Now what?

So, along the way, I had a moment of insanity and signed up for the 500 Festival Mini Marathon. (Or, as one of my favorite sayings goes, "13.1 - because I'm only HALF crazy!")

Along the way, my distances stretched from 5 and 6 to 8 and 10 on a regular basis. Then I did 11.5 one day...and didn't move for two days after that. But I had done it.

Along the way - back in December - Sandi was sidelined for a month with medical issues, and I had to learn to stand on my own. I had to get out and do my own walking.

But then, she got better and decided she wanted to do the Mini, too. For her, it's a return to something that she used to do all the time. For me, it was assurance that I would be able to finish, as long as I had her by my side.

So now, I'm done.

I've put back on a few pounds, but I've stabilized at a 35-pound weight loss. I suspect I'll drop a few more as we move into summer and it's easier to eat the cold fresh veggies and fruits rather than craving the hot pastas.

I've gone from not being able to climb my stairs to walking a half marathon. Regular walking hasn't become an issue of distance as much as time - it's not how far can I go, but how much time can I spend doing it on any given day because of the other commitments I have.

The knees don't hurt like they did, and the stomach issues improved greatly with the change in diet. I don't cry coming down the stairs in the morning and I don't remember the last time I had to take a "stomach acid reducer" pill to keep my stomach from eating itself.

I've changed wardrobes and eating styles. I've realized that I can do anything if I just set my mind to it. I'm more positive about myself and about life in general.

So for now, the blog is finished, unless or until I decide to do something else big and crazy and life-changing. Or until I find another topic that I think people might want to read about. 

Thank you - whoever is still with me - for sticking around for this crazy journey. Your encouragement has meant the world to me. And hopefully I've been able to give something to you in return.

And remember...no goal is too big, if you just take it one step at a time.

God bless.
After the Mini - May 4, 2013

The Finish Line - Literally


Yeah, those are words I never thought I'd say.

It was a perfect day for distance walking - slightly overcast, slightly cool, slightly breezy. But not hot, not humid. The predicted rain held off until it was over.

I was super nervous heading into the weekend. My bum left knee had destabilized so that walking downhill was becoming bothersome. I torqued it kind of badly last Monday, and that REALLY made me doubt whether I'd be able to do this weekend's event.

But the weekend arrived. And passed. And I did it. 

So many thoughts jumble together in my head, so let me just ramble for a moment:

Sandi was with me. Without her, I would've finished, but it would've been a much tougher job doing so. If nothing else, my frustration at how EASY it all seemed for her helped keep me energized so I could put the next foot forward. (Dancing at Mile 11? REALLY?!?!?!)

Jim was with me, calming my nerves beforehand and taking care of me afterward...just as he has all along.

The encouragement groups along the route were fantastic! My favorites, though, were the Wizard of Oz group and the Star Wars group. They had a poster with Yoda's face and it said, "Keep running you must." I loved it!

My other favorite sign along the route was the one that said, "Go, Complete Stranger!"

It really is an experience to be able to say you've walked the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What a wonderful, unique feature to have as part of the course. I would've enjoyed it more if I hadn't just tweaked my knee again running in the tunnel to get into the infield and if I wasn't having to scurry to keep up with Sandi, but I suspect it's one of those things that I will appreciate more as time goes on and I forget the pain of the moment.

It was fun listening to the bands and music groups along the route - although we'd hear each for such a short time that it reminded me of station-surfing with the radio. I hate station-surfers.

I loved some of the shirts I saw people wearing...although right now I can't remember any in particular. There were several in support of Boston, and several that supported various charities. I saw a few that said, "If you can read this, I'm not last."

There was a lady who linked up with us for quite awhile because she realized Sandi was pacing extremely well. But since I was at the back of our trio, I never did see her bib to figure out her name or number, so I have no way of finding her again or knowing how she finally did.

On the other hand, I made a new friend standing in our corral waiting to start the race - only to find out that she lives less than 5 minutes from me in Bloomington, and when she goes bike riding, she has ridden right past my & Sandi's houses. 

Sandi could have finished in less than 3 hours, but wouldn't leave me to go ahead at her own pace. In fact, she doubled back for me toward the end. (That's when we separated from the lady who was letting Sandi pace her.) I wanted to both kiss & kick Sandi for doing that. I still haven't decided which would win out.

Volunteers passing out water and Gatorade are angels. End of story.

Also, wax-coated water cups get slick when you throw a bunch of them on the road and then they get wet.

I started crying about 2/10 mile out from the finish line. I cried like crazy when I crossed the finish line. I was still crying when we got through the food'n'water area and I found Jim again. The whole thing was more than a bit overwhelming.

There's a lot to be said for the weight of a finisher's medal hanging around your neck when you walk away from something like this. There's also a lot of be said for having a friendly face to walk toward when you finally get to meet up with your friends and family again. Seeing Jim standing at the front of the crowd waiting for us to enter the meet'n'greet area was such a welcome sight.

And I'm very grateful that hotels have a limitless supply of hot water for showers.

Will I do it again?

Give me a week to let the knee settle down and the blister on the bottom of my foot to heal. Then ask me.

But the answer will probably be "yes."

Friday, May 3, 2013

Countdown....Nerves....What Have I Done???

As I start writing this, it is 10:53 a.m., Friday, May 3rd. 

24 hours from now, I should be somewhere around the Mile 11 marker on the route of the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon.

For the past three days, I've been fighting a growing case of nerves and "what have I done-itis."

I haven't completed a full 13.1-mile walk since nearly three weeks ago. And I did the last two miles of that with tears in my eyes because I hurt so badly.

The new shoes I got a month ago - which felt GREAT in the store - have become a bit problematic as I've broken them in because they let my feet and ankles roll to the inside. I didn't really figure that out until this week, though. So even though I got inserts for them for arch support and to help counteract the roll, it's too late now to be experimenting with new things. So I'm going back to the old shoes for tomorrow....which seems appropriate, considering that they are the shoes that got me to this point in the first place.

I managed 11.5 miles this past Monday before it got cut short by a family semi-emergency. But even at that distance, my knees were hurting in a way they haven't hurt since last summer and fall when I first started walking. Again, I think the new shoes have thrown off my balance and destabilized my already-shaky knees. Now the question is, will they hold up?

Will the ankles hold up?

The weather is supposed to be icky tomorrow. Cooler and overcast, if not rainy. Ugh. Rainy. I don't mind cooler and overcast, though. Even if it's in the 50s, I'll work up a sweat quickly enough.

I was watching the news from Indianapolis yesterday, trying to get the latest weather forecast. They had a report from the Convention Center where they're holding the Runners' Expo and where you pick up your race packets. I saw it, and there was a prolonged moment of "AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!" It's really happening, that's where I'll be later today, picking up packets for myself & Sandi. "AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!"

I don't see how people are supposed to "carb up" the day before a race. I'm so nervous today I can barely eat at all. 

My head is swimming. My stomach is fluttering. I really just want to get there and get down to business. Better yet, I want to be back in my hotel room, getting a hot shower AFTER it's over.

It's 11:25 now. 24 hours from now I should be in the final mile, if not across the Finish Line yet.

See ya on the flip side!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Test Run: Successful

I've always been the person who needed to do things on my own.

Okay. That's not fair. Because "on my own" negates the fact that there's no way this past 9 months could have happened without the love and support...and encouragement...and butt-kicking of a handful of people whose praises I have sung repeatedly through this blog.

What I mean is, I don't do things because other people want or tell me to do them. As a matter of fact, the fastest way for me to NOT want to do something is for someone to tell me it should be done.

The other reason I am a person who wants to do things "on my own" is because I don't want anyone to know if I fail. If I fall off the wagon...if I don't succeed...I'm the only one who knows I was even trying. Shoot, the fact that I've blogged my journey is VERY out of character for me, because it has made me somewhat accountable to those who have read my blogs and cheered me on.

All of that, simply to explain why - even though I have a terrific walking partner who never complains and never fusses at me - I had to do my Maiden Mini Voyage on my own. And since Sandi had one of her countless doctor appointments yesterday, that was my target day. I had to go ahead and try a distance of 13.1 miles, just to make sure I can do it when the critical time comes in a few weeks.

For those interested in stats: Yes, I made it. 

I use a wrist Garmin to track where I am and how fast I go. According to that, I completed the distance in 3:41:51 (if you count all the stops and slowdowns for traffic intersections) / 3:28:52 (if you just count my time walking).

The weather was PERFECT. Low 60s. Overcast. Light breeze. Not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, not too sunny. 

I did pretty well for the first 8 miles or so. But then the knees (which have no cartilage) started letting me know they'd had enough. 

Somewhere around the 10-mile point, my thighs and calves started telling me the same thing. And my glutes. (You can't get around this town without doing some hills.) And my hips. And my back.

And by Mile #11, I'd pretty much had enough. Thankfully, I still had to get back home, so I couldn't just quit. But that was the point when I quit noticing the little animals, or the people, or whatever else was going on around me and just started counting out the rhythm of the steps, knowing that each 20 steps was 1/100 more of a mile. 

Just over 1/2 mile from the end, I had to cross one last, busy road. I tried to do as I'd done at all the other intersections and jog across so traffic wouldn't have to worry about me. So even with traffic coming (because it's always coming on that road), I started to jog across.

I think I managed three steps and the legs said NO. I apologize to the ethos that heard me quite colorfully telling those (censored) drivers they were just going to have to (censored) slow down and let me cross, even though they had no idea WHY I was being so (censored) pokey, but there was no (censored) way I could run across and get out of their way.

I kept reminding myself that if I could get through THIS, then the 500 Festival Mini shouldn't be as bad, because it's primarily flat.

I have never been so glad to come around a corner and see my house in all my life.

And for those who are local....it's amazing how much of our town you can see up-close-and-personal in 13.1 miles. LOL!

REFERENCE POINTS for my local friends (as I made the loop): my house, Jackson Creek Middle School, Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, College Mall, Tenth & the Bypass, in on 10th St to the IU Main Library, north on Jordan Ave (Greek Row), east on 17th St past Assembly Hall and the Football Stadium, back down Walnut St, detoured over to Lincoln because of construction, east on Hillside to Templeton Elementary, then south on Henderson past Bloomington HS South, then cut in and went down through Winslow Ridge, through Sherwood Oaks, then winding back home.

Monday, April 1, 2013

5-Week Countdown

Okay, y'all. The lull is over.

I'm now 2 days under the 5-week mark until the *fanfare* 500 Festival Half-Marathon!

(insert horror-movie scream here)

Last week I had one of those days. You know - several days stuck inside, weather was finally nice again, I had just finished a huge typing job and sent it in, didn't have anyplace else I needed to go for the rest of the day. Sandi was down with her back again. :(

So I went walking. With no plan, other than to rack up some miles and see how far I could go.

At first I thought, "Hey! I'll walk to the north end of town and back! Maybe time it so I have a lunch stop at the north McDonald's before turning around."

So I headed out. Went north. Past the street to Kim's. Past the high school. Got to Ethan's school and saw kids outside for recess, so took a detour around the school so I could check the playground and see if I could find my curly-haired Little Dude. (I didn't.)

And then....I got to the south edge of campus. And I decided McDonald's didn't sound nearly as good for lunch as Fazoli's did. So I turned and headed east, out toward the mall. The temps were getting warmer than I'd expected, but remember that snow I mentioned? Yeah, there was still plenty of that laying around, so I found some that hadn't been touched, grabbed a handful and ate it to both cool off a bit and to get a drink.

I got to Fazoli's and had lunch. By that point, I'd covered 5.78 miles.

And then......

I actually was able to stand again! And walk some more! And head home!!!!

Strangely, what I thought was a straighter route (not counting a trail that I just had to explore, but it actually doubled back and put me pretty close to where I'd already been) ended up being another 5.53 miles. So it wasn't so different.

But that was 11.31 miles! Less than 2 miles off the mark for the *fanfare* 500 Festival Half-Marathon!!

I would've done a happy dance if I could've still stood. So it turned out to be more like a Happy Sit-down Wiggle.

But then...I did nothing the rest of the week. Meh.

The first couple days it was because my legs hurt. But even after that, my feet hurt. So I didn't get out again.

*deep breath*

So now that we are past the springtime indulgence of Easter Dinner, and I'm now inside of 5 weeks and have to Get Serious (with the capital letters), let's see what we can do. This week, rather than use all my oomph in one or two shots, I'm planning to do more, shorter treks.

When I woke up this morning and saw that the temps outside were 38 and 39 degrees, I thought, "Hey! It's in the high 30s...it'll only warm up from here...I'll just put on a hat and mittens and we'll walk outside!" Then I walked out my front door and found SNOW FLURRIES. By the time Sandi & I had dropped off her daughter at school, it looked like a snow globe out there and the big, fluffy flakes were starting to stick.

So today was 4.4 miles at 15:34 per mile.
Doing laps.
Somehow, I don't think my bright pink
Breast Cancer Awareness shoelaces
are going to go with the neon orange.
At the Y.
Where it was warm.

Sandi was sweet and after we were finished walking, she took me to get my belated birthday gift - a new pair of running shoes. (I don't think I have EVER gotten two pairs of brand new shoes just 9 months apart!) So now I have NO EXCUSES. Plus I have a good month to get these broken in before the *fanfare* 500 Festival Half Marathon!

So here we go. I have my usual entourage of face-to-face encouragers. I have found a new group of complete strangers (who are quickly becoming compatriots) online whom I'm getting to know and who are going through the same journey I am, so they offer both inspiration and encouragement. I have Sandi back in action. I have new shoes. So I have No Excuses.

33 days and counting.......

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Round and Round We Go

I don't blog as much as I used to - mostly because I don't want to be saying the same things repeatedly, so I really write only if there's something new going on.

So, this week there was a new something.

The Y.

(Cue the Village People's "YMCA.") (Spell it out with your arms.) (You know you know how.) (Or get really fancy and spell it with your arms while rollerskating around the rink.) (With the mirror ball throwing crazy light patterns around the floor.)

Our local Y is less than 5 minutes from my house. Sandi has a membership. So with the wind blowing and the snow falling and ice still hiding in shadowed patches of our trails, we headed to the Y this week to walk laps.

I like laps.

I like them a lot better than I thought I would.

I'm pretty sure I like them better than Sandi does. :)

But I like them, because, unlike the trails where you walk and walk and walk, but then you have to get BACK, when you're doing laps you can pretty much quit whenever you need or want to.

At our Y, there's a walking lane, a jogging lane, and a running lane, inside-to-outside, in that order. 7 laps in the walking lane per mile, 6.8 laps in the jogging lane, 6.6 in the running lane. I stayed in the walking lane - both because I was mostly walking  and because the math was easier to calculate.

Find my spot. Mark my time on my watch every time I cross "the spot" and complete another lap. Don't even count laps until I get home and review how many marks I had. (It ended up being about 4.5 miles.)

But the really cool thing about doing the laps was that I could do one or two at my normal target speed, but then really push myself for a lap. And since I was doing each lap in just over two minutes, I knew that I could manage two minutes of pushing - or less, really, since pushing meant I would finish the lap more quickly. I actually had one lap at 1:50 and another at 1:47 - for a pace of roughly 12:50 per mile and 12:30 per mile - and those were near the end of our walking time! I know I couldn't have sustained that for a whole mile, but...WOW! And that was walking, not running. One foot on the ground at all times.

Now I just need to get to where I can do that for more than two minutes.


Even before the Y, I had another "circular" first this past week. For the first time, rather than walking the trails in town, I went street walking. (I'll give you a minute to make your jokes.) I hit the sidewalks and walked the roads, cutting through neighborhoods, finding a new trail I'd never used before, and finally making one large circle - about 5 miles - back to the house last Sunday afternoon when the weather was so amazing. 

I honestly didn't go as far as I'd planned. My wrist GPS was acting up and I was getting frustrated, thinking it wasn't even going to track my distance for me. So I cut off a corner than I'd planned on taking, only to have it beep at me as it marked a one-mile section. So I thought, dang, if it's going to work, then maybe I will go farther. But then I hit a section of sidewalk that was just outside a privacy fence where it was in shade most of the time, so the snow and ice hadn't melted so well yet, and it was on a downhill slope, so I was having to be v e r y careful of where I was stepping. I lost speed and, again, got frustrated. :/  At the bottom of that hill was when I found the new trail, which promised to cut off another significant chunk for me, so I took it.

If I'd done the full route I intended to do, it probably would've been somewhere between six and seven miles instead of five. But five was enough for a Sunday afternoon on a full stomach. And I got to see new territory that I'd never covered before, and I found new places that I want to show to Ethan when the weather gets warmer (a playground, and a stream that you can play in at the back of a park). 

I have to start extending my distance. As I do so, I can't wait to see what other gem locations my town has for me to discover.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What a Weekend!

(Apologies in advance: I'm brain-fried. Even as I read back through this installment, it seems disjointed. Just chalk that up to it being a good representation of my state of mind right now. Just go with it.)

First, I am sooooo blessed.

Second, I am sooooo tired. 

Third, I am soooooo happy.

My throat is rough from talking so much to so many people. I've barely been coherent today. And I've had this warm, quiet afterglow in my soul and a smile on my face. All day.

With so much taking place on Facebook these days, I have a tendency to make a list of all the FB greetings I get on my birthday (not what, but from whom) because after a week or so, it will be next to impossible to find them again, and I like to remember things like that. So today I've worked on my Birthday List for this year. 

Currently it stands at 285 people who, in some way, had a part in making my 50th birthday one to remember - and I'm told there will be more yet, because there are some cards (and at least one present) still en route.

I received text messages from both coasts (two from South Carolina, one from Washington state) and a phone call from England. And a package from Finland. I'm chuffed. :)

I can't believe the distances some people traveled - one couple from Lafayette (2 hrs away), one girl from Louisville (2 hrs away), my brother and his family from Evansville-ish (2 hrs away), one couple from Columbus, Ohio (4 hrs away), another family of 5 from Columbus, Ohio, one friend from Michigan (5 hrs) and one who - while admitting he was in town for other reasons, too - was here from Atlanta. (I have no idea how many hours it takes to drive there, but it's a long trip.)

Other than the out-of-towners, probably the biggest surprises were one couple that Jim & I have known since before any of us had kids (their oldest is 9 months older than Kim - the kids grew up together), and my high school boyfriend with his wife and their grandson. 

I have a hand-drawn card from my 7-year-old neighbor with very good representations of my happy pets - my cat chasing a laser light and my hamster running on her wheel. My high school best friend / maid of honor pulled together some memories (and the pictures to go with them) to create a personal email/story/card. One of my college kids came up with a Top 10 Reason I Love You list that made me cry.

Going back to last Tuesday, when Jim & I went out for an early Valentine's dinner (to avoid the chaos of Thursday evening), this has been a glorious week - definitely one I'll remember for the rest of my life. (Of course I will! I'm going to scrapbook all about it!)

Typically, I need to be the one in charge. So having someone else so completely plan something FOR me is both unusual and uncomfortable. However, that makes me even more thankful for those who did so much of it:

My sweet Jim, who cooked up the idea to start with.
And Kim, his accomplice and - from what I can gather - the main person in charge of raiding my FB friends list to let people know about it. 
Janene, who also helped spread the word, as well as helping with the details of the day, even though she'd been down with the flu pretty much this whole past week.
Her hubby Tom, who also helped with set-up/tear-down for the day, as well as serving as Chief Photographer.

Then those who traveled and sent cards and sent gifts and called and texted and came to the open house and posted on Facebook. Every one of you had some part if making it a fantabulous day.

To those who try to reassure me that my 50s will be a terrific decade of life, I say, "Of COURSE it will!" I'm in so much better shape at 50 than I was at 49, and that, in turn, has given me a much better mental attitude about it all. I'm not afraid of my 50s. I'm ready to embrace them and make the most of them. (Besides, I have some terrific friends who are just a bit further down that road than I am, and I see how marvelously they're handling it.)

Now it's back to reality and back to work. REAL work, like the kind I do for my paycheck. But also the work of getting back to the shape I was in 8 weeks ago (or maybe 10). It's time to get my walking legs back. The "Fit BEFORE 50" journey has ended, but the "Fit AT 50" experience has just begun! I have a mini-marathon to walk in 10 weeks! I hope you'll stick with me for that.

PS: Since I had one person specifically ask, I'll share that my goal was to have my weight down to 160 by my birthday. Saturday morning, I weighed in at 163.8. That's after starting at 203. So while I didn't reach the goal weight, the general goal of 40 pounds was met.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Maybe it's silly for "someone my age" to get excited about a birthday.

If so, then I'm silly.

This is the day that has been my target for the last seven months. Marked on the calendar. Circled in red.

So yes, today I will be silly.

I will be silly. And giddy. And excited. And nervous. And elated.

I will let people spoil me. And if they don't, I'll spoil myself.

Tomorrow starts my second half-century, and I'm ready to take it on.

I still have a little bit of work to do. There's still that dogged five pounds that I still need to lose. I've lost some of my conditioning over the winter, and I need to get it back. I need to get my distance up to half-marathon standards at a pace that won't get me picked up by the train for stragglers.

But I can start on that tomorrow.

Today, I turn 50...and I love it!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Final Week of 40-Some

An odd sensation hit me today.

I've spent the last several months getting my thinking turned around so that I'm excited about my upcoming birthday.

But then this morning, the early "happy birthday" messages started popping up on Facebook. And I thought, "No! Not yet!"

Ahhhh....what a fickle woman I am. LOL!

Then I started asking myself, "Why is this such a big deal?" I normally keep birthdays low key...maybe take the day off from work so I can have a "me" day and do things I enjoy doing...spend it with some of my favorite people.

And when I asked the question, I came up with three answers.

First, when a person reaches 50, they can be pretty certain they're at the halfway point of their lives...or beyond. There may be many awesome years ahead, but the larger quantity of years has already been lived. For me, this creates a sense of urgency. If there are things that I haven't done yet, I need to get busy working on them.

Second, I've worked hard to make sure that #50 sees me in a better place than #49 did. You all have been with me for that part. :) I've been working toward this one point in time, and while there's plenty more to do afterward, I've accomplished enough that I'm ready to celebrate a bit. 

But I think the third reason is really the most important, just because it's the most deep-seated. Probably even the most irrational, but still there.

My mother was perfectly healthy when she turned 50. I remember taking Kim (still a preschooler), buying 50 yellow roses, and driving to meet my mother and go with her for lunch during her lunch period. (She was a school teacher.) Even though it was another 18 months before her cancer diagnosis, this is still one of the last "normal" memories I have of her.

She was perfectly fine at 50. She never saw 60. 

And until I hit 52 and am still healthy, there's always going to be this little fear deep inside that I'll follow that same path.

So, just in case, I'm going to make the most of 50.

And if I make it to 60, I'm going to have a big blow-out then, too. :) 

So for now....let's have a fantastic week! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

She's Baaa-aaaack!


Sandi got the OK yesterday to be able to get out and run again. And last night she was texting me and setting up a time to get out this morning - even though it was supposed to rain all night last night.

"Let's do 12 miles!" said she.
"You've not done anything for TWO months!" said I.
"It'll be FUN!" said she. (That's one of her favorite things to say when I start whining.)
"We'll see" said I. (That's what I usually say when she says it'll be fun.)

We ended up doing 6.25 miles, and she KICKED MY BUTT!!!!!

I don't know what she was doing those two months that she was sick and sidelined. I think she must've been doing some kind of super-secret at-home training or something. ;) But the Drill Instructor must've kicked in this morning or something, because I was having to hustle to keep up with her. I was breathing hard, and now - 12 hours after getting home - my legs hurt.

Ahhhh, it's good to have my Sandi back. :D  Now I know I'll be ready for the mini in 3 months.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Entering the Home Stretch

Oh. My. Gosh.



When did that happen??

I had to date something today, so I looked at the calendar.

January 16th.

One month until my birthday. Or 4 weeks and 3 days, if you want to think of it that way.

But Oh. My. Gosh.

When I started this journey...this weight loss...this fitness...this blog, it was the middle of July. I had 7 long months stretching ahead of me. It seemed like it was soooo far away.

And now it's just One. More. Month.

Eh, I still have 6 pounds to lose before reaching goal. Or 5. Some days it's 4. Then it'll pop back up to 6 again. :)  And beyond my birthday, I still have to get in shape to do a mini-marathon at the beginning of May. So the journey is far from over.

But really, I've already accomplished the Big Thing. I wanted to be a different, better version of me by the time I turned 50, and I've already managed that. I didn't want to reach 50 still being the same out-of-shape, out-of-breath me that hated the way she looked in the mirror, hated trying to find clothes that looked decent, hated feeling tired all the time. I wanted 50 to not feel like the end of being young. 

(There are those who will argue that age is an attitude more than a number. But the way I was feeling, I was feeling old.)

I don't know what post-50 will hold. Jim is 56 - his hair is grayer, his vision is slowly deteriorating again, he's already had surgery for a torn rotator cuff just because of general wear and tear. My mom was 51 when her cancer was diagnosed and 56 when she died. So the next 10 years may change me quite a bit.

But when I hit 50, I'll be in the best shape I've been in in Y E A R S. I'm still not on any long-term medications. I can still see (with reading glasses) and hear (unless you mumble). My arthritis is better in my knees (that's been one of THE best effects of the weight loss) and my fingers are still agile enough to type and play the piano. 

I used to dread 50. It had a big black shroud hanging over it. It was the beginning of the end.

Now I can't wait to get there. 50 is going to be AWESOME!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ruminations on an Empty Closet

A couple months ago, I went through my closet on a spree one night and pulled out a bunch of stuff that didn't fit anymore.

For the first time in my life, they didn't fit because they were too BIG.

They hung on me. Made me look like a waif. (Well, relatively speaking.) (Also, I just wanted to use the word "waif.") Or someone who had been sick for a really long time.

That was a couple months ago.

Last night, I went through my closet properly and pulled out everything Size 16 or XL and larger. Everything.


The pile covered my bed. Literally. There wasn't an open square foot on my queen size bed that wasn't covered with clothes at least 6" deep.

With the exception of a few sentimental items (the gown & robe I got for Christmas just after my mom passed away which she had chosen; a few shirts that had been hers; t-shirts from special events), nothing remains except Size 12 or 14 and size Medium or Large. I am determined to not allow myself the safety net of having clothes to grow back into. So everything has to go. In addition, I need new clothes that do fit, so I'm trying to sell what I can no longer wear and make a bit of cash to start the new wardrobe. (Well, it was already started with Christmas money, but it could still be expanded.)

Today I have spent the day photographing clothes so I can post them for sale. And many thoughts have been meandering through my mind.......

* I am blessed. I had enough clothes to be able to outfit a small family (of XL-sized women). So many people in the world are happy to have one regular outfit and one dressy outfit - or even just something clean to change into. I am obscenely blessed.

* I was XL for a looooooong time. There's a shirt that I wore to help chaperone a field trip to the skating rink when Kim was in grade school. There's the Hawaiian shirt and white slacks I bought specifically for a trip to NYC to see "The Boy from Oz" (which ran from 2003-04). There are the Cheer Mom t-shirts I wore when Kim was cheering with Midwest All-Stars, and the t-shirt from when I was the Chief Duncan Flagwaver. (It's a fannish thing, but it dates back to 1998 and "Highlander: The Series.")  There are my scrubs from when I worked at the hospital.

* I'm having to say good-bye to a lot of "favorites." The black drawstring linen pants that were sooooo comfortable. The pink/gray long knit dress that made me feel like an earth mother. The royal blue & black pantsuit that always got compliments. MY DENIM DRESS! *wail* I bet at least a half-dozen times today, as I went through clothes, I would think, "But that's my favorite!"

* I like being comfortable. Most of my clothes have been comfort-oriented rather than looks-oriented. If I looked good in something, that was just a bonus, but it had to feel good on me. And considering that I have football player shoulders for a woman, "comfortable" was always a challenge. Maybe that explains the smattering of men's shirts that I would wear - at least they were proportioned better for me.

* I have a cheeky side that oozes out once in awhile. How else do you explain the Tinkerbell blouse, the Tweety "Cool Chick" shirt or the Maxine "Don't Worry, Be Crabby" shirt? Then there's what Kim calls my hippie side - just look at all the broomstick skirts! (Thankfully, most of those are one-size-fits-all, so a lot of them are staying.) And somewhere in this person is a little girl who still wants to play dress-up and go to fancy dinners, as evidenced by the velvet bits in dark jewel tones.

* I am somewhat stuck in the time of my upbringing. I like pants that actually come up to my waist instead of low-riders (or hip-huggers, we would call them), and I do like the granny dresses and skirts - long and flowing free. Eh, maybe I am a flower child at heart.

In a way, this has been cathartic. It's both a realization that I'm saying good-bye to an old me and a determination to do everything I can to not let myself get back to being that version of me.

It has also been kind of sad. Sad because of the memories connected with certain outfits. Sad because...well, that's a LOT of clothes I won't have in reach anymore to pull out and wear. 

:deep breath:

Ah well. I've never been one to dwell in the past, and this will be no different. Time to post these things and try to sell them so I can have money to go shopping again.

Shopping. Trying on NEW clothes. Clothes that LOOK good on me (AND are comfortable!).  Clothes that are a little sassy, a little bright, maybe a little flashy, because I don't mind now if people notice me or what I'm wearing. Yeah...this is a good thing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! Happy New Me!

Happy New Year!

And with that, I've officially survived The Holidays!

It's a good thing they're over. I didn't go into the holidays planning to lose any more weight. I had mostly hoped to maintain where I was. And "where I was" was at 170 pounds on November 14th.

This morning, I was at 168. Of course, the week before Christmas I hit a flu-induced low of 164. ;)  But I'm happy having dropped a couple of pounds through the most food-filled month of the year.

That was also considering that my exercise has become basically nothing the last couple of weeks. It got cold. Sandi is still sidelined. There was a month-long stretch where the work load was nuts. (YAY!) And Ethan has been out of school, so he's been staying with Mee-Mow and Num-Num while Mommy works. Between all of those (blizzard, anyone?), the walking has come to a standstill. (No pun intended.)

The eating patterns did a slow descent into old habits, too. Big dinners, lots of food, cold weather making me want comfort foods (pasta!)...it all worked against me. Or, more accurately, I *let* it work against me. (It's like Ethan getting mad when someone *makes* him laugh.)

So here we are. January 1st. And it's time to get serious again.

Throw out the leftover cookies. Restock the fridge with a veggie tray and apple slices. Plan my meals for a few days so there won't be the last-minute throw-togethers. Start logging my food intake again. If the weather won't let me get out and walk, I need to get to Kim's and hit the elliptical. (But that may wait until Ethan's back in school next week.)

I have 8 pounds to go and 6 weeks to get there. I don't know that I'll make the deadline, but it'll be close. The important thing is to keep heading in that direction.


In case anyone missed it on Facebook, two major things have happened in the last 48 hours that involves this journey.

First, I have registered for the Festival 500 Mini-Marathon on the first Saturday of May. It's supposed to be a fairly easy (flat) course, with a typical registration of 35,000 participants. Actually, I'm more worried about the 7:30 a.m. start time than I am about the 13.1-mile distance or the required pace of 18 minutes per mile. But it gives me something to work toward through the spring.

Second, I went shopping today with some of my Christmas money. I love Kohl's - between the After Christmas Blitz and Clearance, and a 20% coupon, I scored 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of slacks, 6 sweaters and 2 summer tops for just under $200. And the really cool part?? The pants were all SIZE 12!! And while most of the tops and sweaters were a size large, one judiciously chosen sweater was a size MEDIUM. When I first tried on the size 12 jeans and they fit, I just stood in the dressing room and cried. And trembled. Literally trembled.

And then I came home and made Jim take a picture of me in the size 12 jeans and the medium sweater...just because. :)