Friday, December 9, 2016

A Blaze of Apathy

It's been nearly a month since I posted a blog, and that seems just about right. The joke is that I'm going out in a blaze of apathy. Not cool. And not funny.

I've shared elsewhere that I'm taking some new medications, and although they are great for my mental health, they have not been as kind in other ways. One, the side effects are increased appetite and weight gain. Two, without my edge, I've been feeling somewhat "blah" and not really motivated to do anything.

It's a bit of a trade-off, actually. It's good that I am not experiencing manic or depressed stages. It's really good. Because those tend to get me into trouble. But I am also having to learn to work a little harder to stay motivated and focused on my physical goals. It's just so easy to be "okay" and let it go at that.

But physically, I'm not okay. I'm behind on my running schedule, I'm out of my workout routine, and I'm way off with my eating habits.

Sure, I'm having some good days.

But two days aren't a very strong pattern, are they?

In fact, the only pattern I see is that this is YET another blog from me talking about how poorly I have been doing and about how much I need to get my act together.

So that's a bit discouraging.

I don't know what it's going to take for me to turn this around long-term. But there has to be something, because I'm not happy where I am right now. But apparently, I'm not unhappy enough to take any real action.

Like I said, a blaze of apathy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Some Days Just Suck.

Went to Vegas with the From Fat To Finish Line tribe. Had a lot of fun hanging out with the team. Then I ran/walked a cough-filled 5k.

And the good went to bad.

Woke up Sunday morning coughing and congested. Never felt better despite resting all morning, so opted to not run the half-marathon. And that sucked, watching everyone else run and not being able to join them. I was proud of all of them for crossing the finish line, but I'll admit it felt crappy to not be out there with them.

Got home on Monday, saw a doctor on Tuesday, and I'm now assigned to bedrest until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Apparently, running a full marathon, two half marathons, and a 200-mile relay race in just over a month is considered "pushing the limits" of what my body can handle. And now I'm paying the price.

Cue the blues.

I feel like crap. Instead of basking in the glow of a wonderful weekend with amazing people, I'm wallowing in a terrible mood of failure and sickness.

So, yeah, some days just suck. But at least I'm honest. I trust tomorrow will be better, but my expectations for today are going to stay right here at the bottom rung.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lose Some, Win Some.

If I've learned anything about running, it's that it is always a little unpredictable. And that keeps it interesting.

But every now and then, "unpredictable" means that I'm going to have a crappy run. Maybe it's the weather, or my feet, or my legs, or the road, or any of a dozen other things. But it's a crappy run, for sure.

That was my Friday.

Not sure why, but when I started running, my legs felt awkward and clunky. I tried to run, then to jog, and ultimately to walk, but nothing felt smooth and comfortable. I just couldn't get into a groove.

Fortunately, I was running at the gym on the treadmill, so I had other options. I slogged through a mile, then I moved to the bike for four miles and the elliptical for another single mile. I was happy that I didn't give up, though, and that I stuck with the workout.

Contrast that with today. I started out with the same awkward feeling, but soon enough I found my rhythm. The run felt so good that I decided to keep going at the 5K mark and ran a total of 5 miles, instead.

Running. It doesn't always work like you think it should. But that's no reason to quit. Because when it's good, it's really good.

5 miles and lots of sweat later

Friday, October 21, 2016

From Fat To Finish Line - The Facebook Group

If you know me at all, you know that I am very proud of my involvement with the documentary film, "From Fat To Finish Line." It's the story of a dozen people who each lost weight through running and then took on the challenge of the Ragnar Relay Race in the Florida Keys. We battled the heat, the humidity, and the miles, and *spoiler alert* we ultimately crossed the finish line as a team. It was one of proudest moments as a runner.

The film is available now for purchase on iTunes and Amazon or you can watch it on NetFlix.

Believe it or not, the documentary isn't what I'm most proud of, though. It's amazing to be part of it, absolutely. But even more important to me is the community that has sprung up as a result of the film. Let me introduce you to From Fat To Finish Line - The Facebook Group.

Our little group of twelve has become a tribe of more than 7,000 people.

Yes. I said 7,000.

And we're still growing every single day. Because people want to be part of a running community that celebrates who they are right now AND who they want to become. We are fat and thin, tall and short, male and female, young and old. We are every color and religion and nationality. We strive to be the very best at welcoming all walkers/runners/joggers.

We celebrate miles. We cheer finish lines. We applaud non-scale victories. And most importantly, we recognize and support each other when those miles and finish lines and victories feel unattainable and out of reach.

We ARE the reason that people are pushing themselves to try more, to do more, and to be more. We are running buddies and shoulders-to-lean-on and a global support network unlike any other I have ever known.

Thanks to all of you in the group for becoming my running family. And to the rest of you, what are you waiting for? Come join us!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What's Next for Runner 12?

There's a lot of racing up ahead for me.

Three Ragnar Relay Races.
Three half marathons.
Four full marathons.
And a ten mile virtual race.

Maybe you'll join me for a few miles?

Sunday, October 16th - Road Runner Sports Craft Classic Half Marathon Phoenix

Friday and Saturday, November 4th and 5th - Ragnar Napa Relay

Thursday, November 10th - Tun Tavern Ten Virtual Race

Sunday, December 18th - San Diego Holiday Half Marathon

Saturday, January 7th - Citrus Heritage Run

Sunday, February 5th - Surf City Half Marathon

Saturday, February 25th - Phoenix Marathon

Friday and Saturday, March 10th and 11th - Ragnar Del Sol Relay

Sunday, March 19th - LA Marathon

Friday and Saturday, April 7th and 8th - Ragnar SoCal

Sunday, May 7th - OC Marathon

The Long Road to Long Beach (Marathon Recap)

After nearly three months of preparation and training, the Long Beach Marathon - my Marathon Number Eight - is now just a memory. My training was not great but it was definitely better than my training for the San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon, so I consider the whole experience an improvement.

Hello, Dexter

The event was in Long Beach, which is at least a ninety-minute drive from my home in San Diego. With such an early start time, I decided it made sense to stay overnight before the race. Hotels in that area are costly and often unavailable the night before a major event, so I opted for AirBnb, instead. Good call. For $80, I found a private room in a beautiful home only a few miles from the start/finish line and two blocks away from the 12-mile mark on the course. That meant a good night sleep before the race instead of having to drive all the way up from San Diego.

The house was also featured throughout Season 8 of Dexter, which is kind of cool. The host was super friendly, too, which reinforces the idea of AirBnb instead of hotels whenever possible.

Pack Carefully

The night before a race is always a little stressful. I have more gear than I can possibly carry or use, but I do like to have options. I opted to carry a few things with me at the start and pick up extras (like my water bottle and sunscreen) from my husband when I saw him at Mile 11/12. 

The Start Line

It's always emotional for me at the start line. I was alone with my own thoughts this time, so it was an opportunity to really think about all the choices I had made that led me to that moment. From a guy sitting on the couch to a man about to run a marathon, it has been quite a journey. 

After crying my way through the National Anthem, we were off.

What A View

The Long Beach course was overall not the prettiest, but parts of it were spectacular. I really enjoyed the sunrise shining down on the water and the Queen Mary. It was so gorgeous, I stopped for several pictures and didn't care one bit about how much time it was taking me. Always notice the scenery, folks.

On Pace

After running a seven-hour marathon in San Diego, I set a goal for myself of 6:30 for Long Beach. I knew that sub-15:00 miles were easy enough to maintain and that would bring me in right around my goal time. My second 5K was actually faster than my first and I still felt strong after hitting ten miles. But me being me, that was all about to change.

Don't Talk To Strangers

Maybe I need to add Rick Springfield's song to my running playlist, because talking to strangers seems to be impacting my finish times. (I tease, I tease. I will always talk to people on the course. That's half the fun of entering a race.) 

I met a man named Rich while we were still finishing our run along the water's edge. He was a friendly guy, running by himself, and we struck up an easy conversation as we ran/walked. Turns out he is normally a sub-four hour marathoner, but he was not prepared with his training for Long Beach and he was paying the price. I opted to slow down a bit to stay with him, since he seemed to be struggling and hadn't yet fully committed to sticking with it and finishing. What can I say? I'm a sucker for helping other people.

Meeting Ric

This race was unusual in that my husband had come along. I expected he would be meeting me near Mile 11/12, and that's right where he was. Seeing him gave me such a boost of energy and momentum just when I needed it the most. I introduced him to Rich and explained that we were going to run the rest together, and he wished us well and sent us back out on our way.

The Long Miles

If you have never run a marathon, let me tell you about the "back miles." They are the ones that you have to run after the half-marathoners have peeled off for their own course. They are miles 14-19, where you have been running for a long time but still have so, so much to still run.

I felt pretty good on these miles, but candidly, Rich was really having a tough time. His body did not want to be out there, and he was physically sick a few times. But he dug deep and refused to quit, so I just kept pulling him along. And by the time we cleared the Cal State University Long Beach campus and hit Mile 20, he was finally convinced that he was going to finish.

No Regrets

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 7:20:XX. It was much slower than I thought I would be, but I am absolutely proud of the race I ran. I could have left Rich and stuck with my original race plan, but that wasn't the point of being out there. I was supposed to catch up to Rich and make sure he finished, and that's what I did. There will be other marathons for me to improve on my last time.

Fun Fact: When we took off at the start line, a Jet Blue Airlines (the marathon sponsor) jet was taking off from Long Beach to La Guardia. The challenge to each runner was, "beat the jet." The scheduled time was 6:20:00, so most people felt confident they would finish before the plane landed. But the unexpected twist was the phrase, "if you can't beat the jet, join it." Several of us that finished AFTER the jet landed were rewarded with a free, round-trip ticket anywhere Jet Blue flies non-stop from Long Beach. Yep, I won a ticket to New York just because I chose to stick with a slower runner.

Who's awesome now? This guy. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

6,000 Members. Seriously. 6,000.

Before the day is over, I expect we are going to hit 6,000 members in our From Fat To Finish Line Facebook group.

Six thousand people in one group. That's a lot of folks, to be sure. But thanks to my teammate, Linda, we have a way to visualize just how many people that is.

This is our team of twelve people featured in the documentary From Fat To Finish Line, captured at the finish line of the Ragnar Florida Keys:

From the original twelve, our group began to grow as fans became friends, friends became teammates, and we all became a tribe.

This represents what our group looked like when we were sixty people:

And then six hundred:

And now, in the next few hours, we'll be at six thousand members. And it will look like this:

Thank you to everyone who has made our original group and our passion project become a movement that continues to grow every single day. We are all so grateful to be part of the ever-expanding tribe of people going From Fat To Finish Line.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
~ Margaret Mead

Saturday, October 1, 2016

To Full or Not To Full?

In less than eight days, I will be standing at the start line for the Long Beach Marathon. And honestly, right this moment, I can't say if I will be running the full or the half marathon.

A Little History

In 2012, I started a marathon training program that I called Project One Five. Over one hundred days, five tasks each day, I trained to run the Pasadena Marathon. And I was successful. I ran my fastest marathon ever - 4:40 - even taking twenty minutes off of my previous PR. It was a good program and a great performance.

By comparison, I didn't train at all for the 2016 Rock 'n Roll San Diego Marathon. I had an amazing race day experience because of my race companions, but it wasn't a very impressive running performance. The course limit was seven hours and I used nearly every minute of that.

I've run seven marathons so far: 2011 Marine Corps, 2012 Pasadena, 2012 Hercules, 2013 Carlsbad, 2013 Marine Corps, and 2016 Rock 'n Roll San Diego. I know what it takes to finish them. More importantly, I know what it takes to be ready to even start them.

Run The Half Marathon

There are so many good reasons to run the half. I have trained, yes, but not as consistently as I could have. My longest run was seventeen miles, which is enough to know I can finish the full distance but not enough to make me feel comfortable that I'm ready. If I switch to the half marathon, I know I can deliver a solid performance and finish strong.

I also have more events ahead. One week after Long Beach, I am running the Road Runner Sports Craft Classic Phoenix Half Marathon. That is an event with my From Fat To Finish Line team, and it's important to me that I am ready to run another distance event right after. Run the half in Long Beach and I'm more likely to run strong in Phoenix.

There have been some crazy life distractions that have sidelined my training. They aren't excuses, just real-world things that have demanded more of my attention. My husband's fall and concussion meant trips to the hospital/doctor and watching over him, of course, but that took time away from long runs. Starting a job nearly thirty miles from my home took time away. And my own personal drama with depression and anxiety didn't exactly make me want to leave my home, let alone go for a double-digit run.

Most importantly, I have nothing to prove with this marathon. I'm not running it with anyone. I'm not running it for a personal record. And while it is the first in a series of three events in the Beach Cities Challenge, a half marathon qualifies just as well as a marathon. Running either is considered completing the event.

Obviously, running the half marathon is the only choice that makes sense.

Run The Marathon

And yet, there are so many good reasons to run the full marathon. Even with no training, I finished the San Diego marathon in June. I'm more trained now, which means there is no chance I don't finish Long Beach. I signed up for it, I've (kind of) trained for it, and I should run it.

I also owe it to my running coach to give this my very best effort. Dropping down to the half sends a message to him that perhaps I am not the runner he thinks I am. Or worse, maybe I just don't have the commitment that I claim to have.

Why else should I run the full distance? Because maybe... just maybe... I am looking at the half because I'm being lazy. Why go 26.2 when I can run 13.1 and people will still write nice things on my Instagram and Facebook posts? Have I really been taking all the compliments ("Wow, you are running a full marathon?! That's amazing!") without really intending to run it all?

The answer seems obvious. If I can run the full marathon - and we all know I can - then I have an obligation to myself, my coach, and everyone who has ever cheered me on to get out there, suck it up, and do all 26.2.

The Verdict

I'm not a quitter. I'm not sandbagging. And I will push myself as far as I can as long as I can until I can't go any further.

I'm running the full marathon. Let's do this.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Let's Talk About Last Week (08/15/16 - 08/21/16)

or How It Feels To Make Good Choices

It's Monday, and once again I'm reviewing my workouts, runs, and food choices over the last week. Overall, I'm happy with my actions and my results. So let's get to the details.

I was scheduled to run four times and I got them all done. I completed one 4-miler, one 3-mile speed run, one 5k all-go, no-walk run, and a grueling ten-mile long run. I was going to be out of town on Saturday, so I switched my long run to Friday. Life conspired to keep me from getting to the gym, so I took my run outdoors. It was hot and humid and I was out without sunglasses or water, so my pace fell off quite a bit. But I stuck with it and was super happy to get the miles completed.

Strength Training
The weight training was great, but my Friday/Sunday switch meant I missed one of my four scheduled weight workouts. I compensated with additional miles, but I need to make strength training as much a priority. I'll get them done this week.

This was a bit week for yoga. I took my Wednesday morning class at my local gym again, but I took advantage of my out of town trip to take a Saturday glass in Santa Barbara. It was nearly 90 minutes long and definitely NOT an easy class, but I did the best I could and really enjoyed it. I know I will get better, and it's just a matter of committing to the classes and allowing myself the time to improve.

FitBit Steps
I am finding that hitting my ten thousand steps each day is pretty easy. I even hit 10k+ today, Sunday, which is supposed to be a complete rest day. When it comes to this part of my goal, I am killin' it.

Nutrition and Fuel
This was a little tougher for me this week. I indulged a bit more and I was away from home for more meals. That made healthy, low-calorie eating more difficult... but not impossible. I also enjoyed a few beers while I was out over the weekend, and that meant a lot of empty calories added to my totals.

The good news? I tracked every single thing I ate, stayed under my possible calories, and made enough good choices that my few splurges didn't wreck my training.

I have also discovered just how much I love a homemade smoothie. And that is even more delicious when it tastes like a shake. Here's what I do:
  • I have precut, pre-weighed frozen bananas and strawberries. They were measured before freezing and each plastic bag holds about 5oz of each fruit. I add one bag of strawberries and one or two of the bananas, depending on how hungry I am.
  • I also add two cups of the Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk. Each cup has only 30 calories, so it is a great way to add volume without heavy calories. (No, this is not a sponsored post. I really do love this stuff.)
  • Add all of this into a blender and whip it up. The frozen fruit means that this is more of a shake than a smoothie.
The overall calorie count is 330, give or take, and well worth every single one of them. I had to eat mine with a spoon since it was so thick.

Delicious. Healthy. And totally in my calorie range. It's become my post-run meal of choice and I have not even started experimenting with other fruits in the mix. I'll let you know if anything tops this basic recipe, though. It's easy enough that even I can make it.

Overall, it's been another really good week. And I'm feeling good about myself and about the results I am seeing. Today is Monday and I am already starting off with good choices. Let's see where another seven days of healthy eating and increased physical activity take me.

Who says a guy has to use a boring straw?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Let's Talk About Last Week (08/08/16 - 08/14/16)

or How I Learned To Stick With A Training and Nutrition Plan

It's Sunday, and I'm resting comfortably while reviewing my workouts, runs, and food choices over the last week. Overall, I'm happy with my actions and my results. So let's get to the details.

I was scheduled to run four times and I got them all done. I completed two 4-milers, one 3-mile hill run, and an 8-mile long run. I have been running intervals and they really seem to be working for me. I run .40 miles, then walk for .10. Then another .40 running, another .10 walking. I also increase the speed throughout the run so I finish with negative splits. I know this sort of pacing isn't for everyone, but I'm finding that I feel strong when I run and I recover quickly when I walk. And my overall per mile pace continues to speed up run after run, so I'm going to stick with this.
My 8.0 mile summary from Saturday

Strength Training
I have finally started strength training and I successfully completed all four scheduled workouts. I'm starting easy, working chest and triceps twice a week and back, biceps, and shoulders twice a week. My weights were fairly light this first week, but I plan to add on slowly every week going forward. (Don't worry, folks. Proper form and technique are more important to me than heavy weights. I don't need any injury to sidetrack my marathon training.)

This is new for me, but I am adding yoga into my training routine so I can strengthen my core and help stretch out my back. I have two yoga classes on my schedule each week, but work interfered and I was only able to make one. Instead, after missing the second yoga class, I opted to take a leisurely three-mile walk, instead. Not the same thing, I know, but I felt good about still getting some physical activity and not just blowing it off.

FitBit Steps
This is the hard one for me, but I have to make good decisions that will help me with my overall training plan. I am choosing to let my 10kEveryDay streak end today. I am purposely NOT going to get in 10,000 steps today. I could do it, sure, but I am supposed to have one complete day of rest each week. And as my Saturday long runs get longer and longer, the rest day will become more and more important.

So, I choose to let the streak end. I will likely get 4000-5000 steps in, and that's plenty. It's been a good week and I'll take an overall 100k and consider it a win.
It's been a good week for FitBit steps.

Nutrition and Fuel
I am most excited about this recap of the week. Hitting my fitness goals are important, sure, but it's the calorie intake that most impacts my overall health and weight loss. As they say, healthy bodies are made in the kitchen.

Having all the extra activity really increased my number of available calories, but I didn't use that as an excuse to go crazy. I ate very well, making conscious and healthy choices nearly every time. I've rediscovered how much I love eating fresh fruit (watermelon, grapes, pineapple, strawberries). I've worked up a few go-to quick meals that I can make easily. And I've been able to walk away from the less-healthy choices.  I stayed within my calorie counts all week long, even when I indulged a bit and when I went to a potluck party with snacks and treats in every direction.

Overall, it's been a very good week. I'm proud of myself for sticking with my plans and I'm very happy with the results. The extra pounds continue to come off and my energy levels are through the roof. It feels good to be me right now, and I'll take that as a win.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Fueling The Machine

I'm nearing the end of my second week of my full commitment to training and nutrition, and I'm feeling pretty good. I've hit all my scheduled workouts and I'm still enjoying them. That's a good thing.

And the nutrition? That's really made a difference for me. I've made some pretty drastic changes and I don't know that I'll continue them long-term, but they are helping me as I train for my marathon, definitely.

I know that I need to track my food consistently if I want to lose weight. This training evolution, I'm relying completely on my FitBit and logging every single thing I eat. It was a bit cumbersome at first, but I tend to repeat meals often and it gets faster to log things as I build up my own list of "recent foods."

Overall, I'm not having any problems staying within my allotted amount of calories. That's because FitBit calculations automatically adjust all day to reflect the extra calories I've earned through exercise and motion. Of course, I realize that these numbers are all estimated, so I want to make sure I am burning more calories through each day than I am taking in.

Here's what the last two weeks look like. It doesn't appear that I am taking in nearly enough each day, and that is also a concern for me. Starving and depriving myself isn't a healthy way to lose weight, because the body needs fuel to perform. So I need to eat more, which is kind of cool to discover.

Notice that there are two days when I splurged a bit on the calories. In week one, I indulged with a bacon cheeseburger and bacon cheese fries. Week two, I ate a ham & pineapple pizza and sweet potato french fries.

Neither of those meals put me over my calories allotment for those days, because I had plenty of extra activity to cover them. They were little rewards and I earned them. So I don't feel bad at all about them.

I am (once again) discovering that if I choose the right foods, I can eat a lot more of them. For example, I was craving a salad yesterday afternoon, so I decided to make one myself instead of buying one out somewhere.

And that matters. Not only did I save a lot of money, I also was able to control exactly what went into my salad. There were no hidden calories and I was able to track it exactly.

I started with the basics - yellow pepper, carrots, and a cucumber. I used a huge bowl and a big pile of spinach leaves, and the salad looked big enough to feed a family of four. But no, it was all mine.

I added seasoned croutons and an incredible, low-calorie pear gorgonzola dressing, and my lunch was complete.

And here's the calorie count. Considering how much food was in the bowl, I'm super happy that the whole meal was under 400 calories. 

I also discovered yesterday that I can make my own fruit smoothie at home using Silk soymilk, frozen bananas, and fresh strawberries. Talk about a winner! I absolutely loved it. I made one for breakfast with vanilla soymilk and a smaller one for dessert with the chocolate soymilk. Both were right around 200 calories and worth every bit of that.

And I'll end with a positive note. I blogged earlier about how easy it is to drop into a slump. One bad choice leads to another, and another, and before you know it, your entire workout and healthy eating routines have fallen off.

But the reverse is true, too. One good choice can be the inspiration for the next, and after a few good choices, you're back on the right track and ready for more. That's where I am right now. I am wrapping up week two of my #LongRoadtoLongBeach training and nutrition plan, and I already feel better.

It's not about the pounds. It's not about the number on a scale. It's about feeling stronger, healthier, and more in control of my life and my actions. That's how I feel right now, and I want that feeling to continue. So the good choices I've made over the last twelve days are now motivation for me to keep making those choices today... and tomorrow... and on and on.

I'm feeling more like me each day. And that makes me very happy, indeed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Long Road to Long Beach

After the emotional experience that was my San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, I really struggled to find any motivation. And as has happened before, I fell further and further into a spiral of bad moods and bad choices.

You know how that works, right? You don't feel like working out or going for a run, so you don't. And since you already feel bad, you give in to the food cravings. And since you overate junk food, you don't feel like running. And since you skipped your workout, you eat more crappy food. And on and on it goes, a spiral of poor choices and worse results.

That's been the last couple of months for me. There's more to the story, of course, but that's for another blog. I'll just say that these have been very dark days. But they haven't been the end of me. Nope, that's not happening.

So I had to find a way to get myself back on track. An unexpected invitation to run the Marine Corps Marathon was just the push I needed. And though I am not going to be able to get to Washington, DC, this October, I found another local event happening about the same time and signed up for it.

My next big race will be the Long Beach Marathon on October 9th. I'm not looking to set a PR at the event, but I do want to cross that starting line feeling confident that I am ready for the full 26.2 miles. That means I need to be focused and committed for the full nine weeks available for training.

Good news. I'm off to a fantastic start. Turns out, that spiral can work the other way, too. One good choice can lead to another. I went for a run and completed a simple 5k. That made me want to make better food choices afterwards. And eating a healthier dinner made it easier to wake up the next morning and go for another run. And there it was again, the "one thing leads to another" effect, but this time it was a positive chain that has had an immediate impact on my mood.

After gaining way more weight than I ever imagined I would, I have turned it all around with a few healthier choices. I have:

  1. Engaged Rik Akey as my running coach
  2. Begun tracking every single thing I eat on my FitBit
  3. Committed to four runs each week
  4. Added strength training
  5. Started Yoga (for stretching and relaxation) 

But this, friends, is perhaps the single more important thing I have done. I made a promise to myself that I would write this blog, honestly and openly, and that I would post it before I had the chance to over-think it or worry too much.

And here it is, the whole ugly truth. I'm featured in a documentary about weight loss yet I've gained the weight back. I'm cited as an inspiration for others but I've been feeling like a complete fraud. And I'm trying to encourage others while I've been completely falling apart myself.

Sometimes, the truth sucks. But if I've learned anything over the course of nearly fifty years, it's that there is a big difference between being down and staying down. I've been down for a very long time, but I'm finally seeing the way back.

So here's the good news. After only one week of healthy eating and consistent workouts/runs, I am already feeling better. The numbers on the scale are better. And most importantly, I am looking ahead to what's coming instead of dwelling on what has happened behind me.

In one week... seriously, one week... I have lost 5.4 pounds. It's not something I was actually trying to do, and it is not a weight loss I expect to repeat week after week, but it's a nice affirmation that the basics are still the way to go.

I'm not starving myself. I'm not overdoing it at the gym. I'm just making good choices. And I'm seeing positive things happen because of them.

Eat healthy. Be active. Repeat consistently.

I have a lot of work ahead of me. I know that. But it all starts with a decision to change the things that are making me unhappy. So I am.

And that's how I am going to successfully complete the #LongRoadToLongBeach.

This is me on Monday, Aug 8th. And that
might actually be a smile on my face.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lucky No. 7, or "Long Miles, Many Tears"

It's been three days now since the end of my Rock 'n' Roll Marathon weekend, and I'm still walking around on sore legs and blistered feet. There's much to tell, so here goes...

Friday afternoon, I headed down to the Expo to pick up my race packages. It felt a bit odd, honestly, being at such a big event by myself. It was yet another reminder that I need to make more of an effort to find local running buddies. But that's a post for another day. This is all about this past weekend.

After finally getting to sleep after midnight, I woke at 4am and headed out for my 5K. I found parking right at the start line and settled in for a quick nap before the race. Soon enough, I was at the start line ready to go. Weather conditions were overcast and cool and perfect for the run.

The run was nice, a little time in my own head as I enjoyed the scenery. But it got way better towards the end when I ran into a new friend that I had just met earlier at a screening of our documentary, From Fat To Finish. I ran into the finish line with her and her friend, and then we took the mandatory finish line photo sporting our new bling.

After that, it was a lazy day of napping, snacking, and counting down the hours until the full marathon.

And then, it was Sunday morning. I parked in the same place as the day before, took the same nap, and was ready to go again. I got a text from a high school friend who was running the relay with her husband, so I hurried to the start line to get a picture together. It was great to see her (Hi, Brenda!) and I'm proud of her for running the relay.

While I was waiting for the start, I found myself standing behind this guy in the bathroom line. I have no idea what his story was or where his journey started, but these words written on his back were an inspiration for me and, I'm sure, so many others on the course later.

(If you have never run in a large event, make it happen. There are so many amazing people with inspiring stories and smart, clever, funny, powerful messages. It's incredible.)

I started in Corral 14, so it took me about 30 minutes to actually get started on the course. I wasn't sure how I was going to hold up over the 26.2 miles, so in the back of my mind I was already considering making a course-change to the half marathon. But that wasn't until mile 8.1, anyway, so I had time to decide.

The first few miles were fun. I saw this sign on the course by mile 1 and I tried to remember this as I ran. This marathon wasn't going to be a PR and it was going to be tough, so I knew I needed to find something all along the way to motivate me. Celebrating every moment kept my mind busy and my heart happy.

For me, running a full marathon in San Diego was a bit like an episode of "This Is Your Life." It started in Balboa Park, where so many of my training runs have been done. I ran by the old 6th and Penn Theater, were a play I wrote with a director friend was produced. I ran all through Hillcrest, past many local watering holes where I have enjoyed countless laughs and good times.

For those who don't know, Hillcrest is the "gayborhood" of San Diego. The folks here are truly amazing. And on race day, they did not disappoint. I even stopped to make sure I got a picture with my tribe.

Later, crossing the 5K mark, I started the run into my own neighborhood. I know every mile of these roads, since they are the same roads I run on all the time. I didn't even need to look at my GPS watch, as I knew the distances from corner to corner and street to street. It felt a bit odd running here with 30,000 running buddies out on the road with me. Fortunately, the North Park and Normal Heights communities were out in force, cheering and encouraging all of the runners along. My neighbors made sure that everyone felt welcome, and that made me even more proud to be one of them.

Past mile 5, though, I came across something that I wasn't expecting. It's known as the Blue Mile, and it's a section of the course dedicated to the memories of our fallen military men and women. Placed alongside the road are individual signs that each feature a photo along with the name, age, and date that the hero was lost to us. I first saw this memorial when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2013, but I had no idea it was going to be part of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

I made it a point to walk through this part of the course, choosing to slow down and see each and every one of these servicemen and women. I wanted to read their names, look at their faces, and truly see them. They deserved at least that. Afterwards, past the signs, there was a long line of American Flags, all held high and waved proudly by the Wear Blue: Run To Remember organization members.

By this point, tears were steady streaming down my face. I made no attempt to hide them, and I was hardly the only person on the course reacting the same way. It was a solemn moment for all of us, and I believe we all felt grateful to be part of such a beautiful tribute. It was truly an honor. Little did I know that the Blue Mile wasn't quite done with me, yet.

Me on Adams Ave, mile 6.5
After passing the relay exchange area, I made my way towards mile 7.71. It was my favorite spot on the whole course... my own home. My husband was there cheering on the other runners in front of our house, and seeing him really lifted my spirits. I dashed in to use the bathroom, change running shoes, and meet up with my friend, Tammy, who had agreed to pace me for several miles along the course.

Tammy wasn't running the event, and she made it a point to NOT take any of the water or other runner support along the course. She was there to keep me company and I was so glad to have her with me. She was such a highlight of the day. The next six miles went by so much faster with the company, and before I knew it we were crossing the halfway point up in Presidio Park.

On the way down the hill from the park, we struck up a conversation with another runner. Her name was Sheri, and we found out that she was running the marathon in honor her son, the late Corporal Adrien Vaughn Lenk, USMC. She had never run any event... ever... but she felt called to this marathon and just decided that she was going to do it.

Me, Sheri, and Tammy at Mile 15
The three of us continued to chat as we made our way through the next couple of miles, and then Tammy was done and left Sheri and I to finish the marathon. We paused for one last moment to capture a photo of all of us together.

(Thanks again, Tammy, for being my running buddy for those important miles. Being out there alone would have really, really sucked. You made it that much easier for me to actually finish this thing.)

As Sheri and I ran on, we had a lot of time to talk. I had noticed that her son's name was on the back of her shirt, and I let her know that I recognized that name from one of the signs on the Blue Mile. She knew I was telling the truth when I described the picture of him on the sign.

Cpl Adrien Lenk, USMC
Cpl Lenk's sign on the course

The conversations we had were private, but she has given me permission to share that her son was not killed in combat. He took his own life in January 2015. His war wounds weren't physical, they were emotional, and he was every bit a casualty of war as if he had died in combat. Sheri is currently working on developing a non-profit dedicated to helping save other military servicemen and women from the pain that took her son away from her.

The next miles were difficult, but running with Sheri was a constant reminder that others have endured far more than sore legs and blistered feet. She and I laughed (a lot), bitched (a little), and helped each other keep putting one foot in front of the other. By mile 22, the blisters had completely taken over my feet and each step was so painful. But I was too far in to stop, and we just kept going.

The long, slow trek up Highway 163 towards Hillcrest was the worst of the course, and we were both so happy to top that hill and finally get to the downhill stretch. We walked - ambled, more accurately - but we kept moving.

Soon enough, we were into downtown. As we turned north onto 5th Street for the very last two blocks of uphill, we were met by several members of Sheri's Wear Blue: Run To Remember family. After a brief chat as we walked, one of the ladies told me that they wanted to send me a Wear Blue shirt of my own, with Adrien's name on the back, in appreciation for my doing so much to help Sheri through her marathon. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was fighting back tears as I gratefully accepted that offer.

Funny thing, though. Sheri later referred to me as her Marathon Mentor. She really has no idea how much she helped me. Had I been alone, I would have likely quit any of the several times I felt beat down. But with her by my side, I knew that there was no way I would quit. If she could do 26.2 miles for her son, I could certainly stand by her and be her Marine in his absence.

At the finish line, I got a chance to meet her other son, Julian. I didn't know it at the time, but I had already run right by him earlier on the course. He was a flag bearer back on the course at the Blue Mile.

Adrien wasn't there with us physically as we ran those miles, but he was there in spirit. And I know that he would have been so proud of his mother and her determination to finish this marathon. She said that he was her inspiration, but really, she and the other Wear Blue family and friends were all inspirations to the rest of us.

Corporal Adrien Vaughn Lenk, U.S. Marine Corps

Dedicated to preventing soldier/veteran suicide, homelessness and providing information for successful transition from military to civilian life.

I finished my seventh marathon on Sunday, but I feel like I gained more than miles and medals. I was given the opportunity to honor a fellow Marine. I had the privilege of escorting her through thirteen miles of heat, sweat, and pain, all so she could stand up at the end and say, "This was for you, Adrien."

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Running continues to bring so much to my life. And just when I'm down and thinking that I've had enough, it allows me to cross paths with an amazing woman on a powerfully important mission.

Sheri, thank you. Thank you for the company. Thank you for the motivation. And mostly, thank you for sharing your son with me out on that course. And whatever I can do to assist you as you take the next steps to honor Adrien, know that I will be there.

Running makes things happen. Trust me, I know.