April 30, 2012

Photoshoot with 'that loud redhead'

What a weekend! Normally, my weekends are totally uneventful. Friday night was really fun--I went out with a bunch of runner friends for dinner to celebrate Jessica's and my 20-mile run that morning. (Yes, it was worth celebrating--we were THRILLED to get it done with!)

We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Dolce Vita. I ordered an "Almond Joy martini". It sounds much better than it tasted, however ;)  I ordered gnocchi for dinner and ate almost all of it. I really wanted dessert, too, even though nobody else did--so I ordered a "peanut butter cheesecake". Sounds amazing, right? Well, when I got it, I took one small bite and it was gross--it tasted like pure whipped butter--not even a hint of peanut butter.

I was really disappointed, so I politely told the server that I didn't like it. I assumed she would take it off the bill, since I only had one small bite and I sent it back. But she said the manager told her that she couldn't take it off, because it was a matter of "personal preference". I was really blown away by that! I don't send food back very often in restaurants, but when I don't like something, I will send it back and the manager never has a problem taking it off the bill.

So I asked to talk to the manager, and the manager told me that other people ordered it and didn't complain; and since there was nothing wrong with it, she couldn't take it off the bill. I was so shocked I didn't even know what to say! I could completely understand that if I had eaten the whole dessert, but I literally had one bite. So I told her that I wouldn't be going back there, and it was a shame to lose a customer over a $5 dessert, especially when my friends and I all ordered drinks and dinner and spent quite a bit of money there. She finally agreed to take it off the bill. But I still won't go back there. Am I out-of-line on this? Is this typical at a restaurant? Just curious. When I worked at Lonestar steakhouse, I had customers would eat their entire steak and then complain, and we STILL took it off the bill--because "the customer is always right".

But despite that little scenario, I loved going out with everyone and I hope we do it again soon. Maybe after the actual marathon?

Yesterday, I had a date with my friend Stephanie to take some "after photos" for a project I will share soon. Stephanie is a photographer by hobby, and her photos from our Winers meetings always look great, so I asked her to take some pictures for me. I paid her with a bottle of Chardonnay ;)

We went to the Metropark where Jessica and I run, because it's gorgeous there. I needed a good head shot, and I'm really impressed with how they turned out--I actually look pretty good! Here are a few of my favorites:

A couple of running photos:

And a couple of photos with my old jeans:

I actually look like I have nice biceps in those last two pics... not sure where that came from! It's so strange to wear a tank top, let alone allow someone to take pictures of me in one. My very first time wearing a tank top was exactly two years ago, and I was SO self-conscious.

Stephanie was awesome and I didn't feel self-conscious around her at all. She actually just celebrated hitting her goal weight at Weight Watchers! She writes a blog called That Loud Redhead, so be sure to check it out if you'd like :)

I had five easy miles on the schedule today. It was raining this morning, so Jessica and I agreed to do it on our own sometime during the day. Knowing that I didn't have to meet her for a run just made me procrastinate all day long, until I finally decided at about 1:30 that procrastinating wasn't going to make it go away.

I forgot to set my Garmin up for the 9:1 intervals we've been doing, and I realized it right after I started running. Instead of stopping and setting the interval workout, I decided to just run the whole five miles straight through and see how my knee was doing. I was running at a slightly-faster-than-easy pace, and I guessed it was about a 10:00/mi pace.

After a mile, I saw that I actually ran it in 9:35, so I decided to just go with it as long as it was comfortable. My knee felt 100% normal until about mile 4, and even then I barely felt a couple of twinges. No pain though. So I finished out the run in 47:34, a 9:30/mi pace. I felt good knowing that I haven't somehow lost the ability to run straight through rather than do the 9:1 run/walk.

My splits:
I felt really good after that run. It was overcast and on the verge of raining, which is my favorite running weather. Tomorrow I have eight miles scheduled, then Wednesday I'll do four. Rest Thursday. I leave for Indy on Friday, and the half-marathon is on Saturday.

I'm really excited about the half-marathon this year. The first two years, I was really worried I wasn't going to finish in time (they have a 4-hr time limit); the third year, I wanted to finish faster than 3:30; and last year, it was my first half-marathon that I actually RAN. I always thought it would be really cool to do it without a time goal and bring my camera along, taking pics along the way to show off what a fun course it is. So that is my plan for Saturday. Run, walk, stop for pictures, chat with people, totally ENJOY the race without a care in the world what my time is. (So if you're there and you see me with my sparkle skirt--I think I'm wearing the blue one--make sure you say hi!)

After I finish, I am going to stand at the finish line and cheer until the very last person crosses--my Ragnar teammate John inspired me to do this. Then I'll have my finish line beer and enjoy the rest of the afternoon with more beer. Can't wait!

April 29, 2012

Reader Questions & Answers #11

On Sundays, I will answer some readers' questions in a post. If you have a question that you would like me to answer here on the blog, just send me an e-mail with the subject "Q&A", and I may include them in a future Q&A post. They don't have to be about weight loss or running--anything is game!  (Remember, I'm not a doctor or dietician, or any sort of medical professional--I can only answer questions from my own experience).

Q. I would love to do more races each season but at $65/$75 and more for the "bigger/better" races, the $$ adds up to quite a bit.  And so I find myself only doing the super local races that I can drive to that morning and only if I manage to register to get an early-bird discount.  You refer to your "debt" quite a lot on your blog, you talk about how you don't eat out and that you mostly shop at resale stores.  How, then, do you justify spending so much $ on all the races that you do throughout the year especially when quite a few of them require travel and overnight stay?

A. This is why I always feel a little uncomfortable talking about my debt on my blog--if someone doesn't know the whole story, they will think I am spending outside my means. I think that everybody has his/her own "thing" that they splurge on--some people may get manicures every couple of weeks, some people go out to lunch every day, etc.

My "thing" is running. I don't spend money on myself in any other instance--I cut my own hair (haven't paid for a haircut in probably four years, and I also cut Jerry's and my kids' hair); I use 88 cent shampoo and conditioner; I don't buy make-up--I wear it so rarely that one bottle of foundation will last me three years; I buy all of my clothes (except underwear and some running gear) at resale shops and garage sales; I only eat out VERY occasionally; I drink tap water rather than bottled water or soda; I don't buy books or movies (I use the library); and the list goes on and on. 

I've only traveled to a couple of races--I go to Indy each year for the half-marathon in May; and in 2010, I went to Minnesota for the Ragnar Relay, and Illinois for the Warrior Dash. When I go to Indy, the total for the entire Fri-Sun weekend is about $250. We share hotel rooms, eat the free breakfast at the hotel, and have dinner out. With hotel, gas, food, race fee, etc, the total is about $250. Not bad at all!
On my way to MN for Ragnar Great River 2010

I'm lucky to have a brother who is a pilot, also. When I went to Minnesota for the Ragnar, I used a buddy pass, which was $100 round-trip. The race costs were about $150. So for a three-night stay with airfare and food, that trip cost me about $300. This August, I'll be going to MN for another race; and again, using a buddy pass. I'll stay at my brother's house, so the trip will cost me about $200 total.

Our Indy group from last year--2 hotel rooms, 8 people (Jerry is unpictured)

Until recently, I didn't do many local races because of the costs. But I discovered that Jerry's work will pay for local races, so that is the only reason I've been doing them lately. They've only cost me a couple of bucks in gas money to drive there. So as you can see, racing really doesn't cost me much--pennies compared to eating lunch out every day ($10/day=$3650 per year), or buying a Starbucks coffee every morning ($4/day=$1460 per year). And besides, before I lost the weight, I was spending $20+ on a single binge! The money is much more useful going to a race fee.

(ETA: I don't think the person who wrote me this question was trying to be rude.. just curious. And I'm happy to answer!)

Q. I am wanting to get started running and I have been down this road before.  My question is about Sports Bras! As a larger-breasted gal, it is SO hard to find a bra that is supportive when I want to run. I can't find anything that holds the girls in place during that kind of exercise.  Do you have any suggestions?  Recommendations?

A. I've been asked this question a few times, and unfortunately, I haven't been much help. My "girls" are teeny tiny since losing the weight, and I do just fine with cheap sports bras from Target. But I decided to go to the "expert" on this one, and ask my sister. She has some *lovely* girls--everything I am lacking in that department, she more than makes up for.

She said that the best ones to get are from Essential Bodywear. Apparently they were one of Oprah's recommendations. You can actually host or attend a "bra party" where a consult will come fit you for a good bra. My sister swears by these bras. So hopefully that will help you out! ;)

Q. When just starting out with jogging/walking, what is more important...the distance or the amount of time you walk/jog for? For instance, should my goal be to walk/run 3 miles every time, whether it takes me 30 OR 45 minutes (right now its 45...but eventually I'd like it to be 30).....or is it better to just make sure I'm getting a 30-minute workout in and worry about distance later.

A. I think this is just a matter of what you prefer and what your goals are. When I first started, I looked at time. I would run as far as I could, and then walk until I reached 30 minutes. Once I was able to run for 30 minutes straight (I was running slowly, so I hadn't yet reached 3 miles), I started running for distance. I would keep building up distance of non-stop running until I was running for 5K (3.1 miles) without any walking. At that time, it took me about 40+ minutes to run 5K. After that, I continued to run 5K three times per week, trying to get a little faster each time. And since then, I focus only on distance rather than time.

Running for time rather than distance has its advantages, though. If you are an experienced runner and you find yourself having a hard time slowing down on your easy runs (which can lead to injury), you can set a time goal rather than distance--which means you'll be running for 30 minutes (or whatever you choose) whether you run fast or run slow. Sometimes when I know I'm running 3 miles, for example, I will want to get it over with as quickly as possible so I run too fast. But if I knew I was going to run for 30 minutes regardless, I would be more inclined to run slowly.

But really, it's totally up to you how you want to handle it. The most important thing is being consistent! 

April 28, 2012

Linda's story

I would like to introduce you to another member of the Ragnar Relay team. Some of you may recognize her as "Frickin' Fabulous at 40"--she has been a long-time reader of my blog and she always takes time to comment. I really felt like she was my friend before I even asked her to join our team. She truly is "frickin' fabulous" ;)  Here is her story...

My name is Linda and I have been overweight/fat/obese, whatever you want to call it, ALL my life. I think the only time I was considered a "normal" weight was at birth! I have lost weight, only to stop working out (for some reason or other) and therefore stop caring about my nutrition, which led me to gain it all back and then some. (For me, exercise keeps my diet on track.) This time was different.

I went to the doctor for my annual physical and there were a couple issues. One concern was my blood pressure. That can't come as a surprise to anyone. I was 37 going on 38 years old, weighing 229 pounds at 5' tall. My mother had a quadruple bypass in at the age of 61. It was only a matter of time for me. The thought of leaving my children too soon terrified me. I was tired of feeling exhausted and looking terrible. I was disappointed in missing all of the things I kept myself from participating in because of my size, like parasailing in FL back in July 2009. I no longer wanted to be an observer in life.

On August 17, 2009, I put my mind to it and just did it. I ate less and I moved more. I didn't cut out complete food groups, (read: JUNK!), I just ate less of it. I tried not to eat anything after dinner. I did a lot of exercising at home to my Leslie Sansone DVDs and walking outside with the kids I babysit in  the double stroller.

Well, considering I hadn't even been thinking about losing weight at THAT time, I was no where near running a marathon, but the IDEA of running a marathon always sounded intriguing, an awesome item to cross off the bucket list. My husband said if I ever did it, he would do it with me.

When I started taking care of myself, that conversation kept playing over and over in my mind. So, after losing about 40 pounds, I started going to the track in March 2010. My husband would come with me to encourage me to keep going, even when I couldn't run 1/2 a lap. (I'll never forget when I finally ran an entire mile, I turned to my husband and asked him if he was proud of me and he said he was proud of me just for starting.)

I would just keep trying to add distance every time I went out there. On June 5, 2010, I ran/walked my 1st 5k in 42:42. After that I picked up the Couch to 5k program midway and continued to train at the track. On September 10, 2010, I ran an entire 5k with a time of 34:39. I was in love with running!

My weight loss had stalled a bit, so I signed up with My Fitness Pal on April 1, 2011. I have since lost 35 more pounds, for a total weight-loss of 75 pounds. I have run five 5ks, including the Damon Runyon 5k at Yankee Stadium, (a dream come true to run on the warning track at Yankee Stadium!!), a 10k in September, and now I am training for my first half-marathon, the Diva Half-marathon on 10/7/12!

Then it's on to the Ragnar Relay in Key West in January with 11 other runners who have amazing, inspiring weight-loss success stories. While in Key West, I plan to finally parasail without my weight getting in my way. My husband's and my dream of running a marathon together is starting to look like it will become a reality, if I can get my husband to train for it! If I'm going to dream, I'm going to dream big--I have my sights set on the NYC Marathon!

Wearing her "skinny husband's" jeans ;)

You can read Linda's blog at Frickin' Fabulous at 40.

One more thing (on a related note): Remember how I mentioned that our adventure may turn into a documentary? Well, it looks like that is now more of a reality! Media Meld Studios is going to turn our weight loss stories and our Ragnar adventure into a film to hopefully inspire other people like us "before" to start moving. The website for the film isn't up yet, but you can check out the Facebook page if you'd like. They've already interviewed a few team members, and they will be coming to Michigan soon to interview me. I will post all about it when it happens.

Update: During the filming of From Fat to Finish Line (the documentary), Linda received a makeover because she was commonly mistaken for her kids' grandmother instead of their mother!

April 27, 2012

The one where we ran 20 miles... voluntarily.

I've had the most exhausting day!! That is why this post is late. Normally I write in the afternoon and publish it at 5 pm, but this is the first chance I've had to sit down.

Our 20-miler almost didn't happen today. Thankfully, I have an AMAZING mom who changed her schedule around to help me out. But let me back up...

I got up at 5:30 this morning to eat breakfast and get dressed, and just feel "ready" to go run 20 miles. Jerry (bless his amazing heart!) packed the boys' lunches and laid out their school clothes and all that so I could have an "easy" morning. I got Noah ready for school, and then woke Eli up at 7:15. He tried to get out of bed, and discovered that he couldn't walk. Again. Remember when this happened a few months ago? Turns out he had the flu which did something to the muscles in his legs, and he had to spend 2 weeks home from school recovering.

Jerry was working, and I couldn't send Eli to school when he couldn't even walk! I called my mom, and started crying on the phone--I had been planning this 20-miler for months, and we had plans to celebrate it tonight. Despite the fact that she was going to go into the office (she works as a contingent employee since retiring), she dropped everything to come over and take care of Eli so that I could do my run as planned. She even called the doctor's office when they opened and set up and appointment for 2:45 today.

I was really upset about leaving, but my mom kept reassuring me it was fine. So I met Jessica as usual and we headed to our favorite trail for our run. We took a video before we started (I have a few videos from various runs, and I'm hoping to put them all together after the marathon). And then we were off. We started with a loop around the park where we had parked the car. I forgot to put on sunscreen, so we didn't get very far before I looped back to the car to put on the sunscreen.

We headed out for 4.25 miles and then turned around to go back to the car. I ate a chocolate Gu at 5 miles, and felt pretty good until mile 7 when my knee started bothering me. We went over the overpass, which I always think is fun to see all the cars go by underneath us...

We even saw some cows right after that...

We got back to the car to refill our water at mile 8, and then we circled the park again (which we weren't supposed to do, according to our route!) and we headed out for the next out-and-back route through the Metropark.

We went through that dirt path for a mile and a half, which I think is when my knee really started acting up. I think maybe the uneven ground did something. Running on these wooden bridges actually felt really good underfoot...

With the exception of my knee, I felt AWESOME for the first 13-14 miles or so. I've learned that the 13-14 mile mark is when things get TOUGH while training. I was really nervous for mile 16 because that is where I hit the wall last time. I had a peanut butter Gu at mile 10, and we refilled our water bottles at a water fountain at mile 13 ish.

We turned around a little before we were supposed to because we realized that we had circled the park and added about 1/2 mile to our run. We refilled our water one more time before heading out of the park for the last 4 miles. I didn't want to risk running out of water like last time!

I never did hit the wall this time; I kept well-hydrated and slowed down when I felt I needed to. My heart rate stayed really consistent throughout the run (last time, when I hit the wall, my heart rate got up to 170! Normally, it's about 145 on a long run). Jessica was really feeling the exhaustion this time. It's interesting, when I feel good, she feels bad, and vice versa. We're good running partners! When I saw we just had 2 miles left, I knew we would do it. We didn't have a choice, really, because we had to get back to the car ;)

When we finally hit mile 20, we were a good half mile from the car still.
This is the 20-mile mark. The car wasn't even in sight!
20 miles, run and done
 We were both limping and hobbling that last half mile, and SO relieved to be done. We very slowly sat in the grass and made another video and took a few pictures.
Our pace was actually pretty good. We usually have a pace of about 11:20-11:30/mi for our long runs, and today our pace ended up being 11:01/mi.
And our splits:

When I got home, it was already 1:30. I jumped (well, limped) into the shower and once I was done and dressed, I had to take Eli to the doctor. I spent about 30 seconds wolfing down a bowl of cereal for lunch, and I drove him to the doctor for his 2:45 appointment. The squeezed us in, so we had to wait a long time--45 minutes! The doctor doesn't think this is at all related to the first time this happened; he thinks it's an injury from playing, like jumping on the trampoline.

I wasn't too sure about that, but since he has no other symptoms, I don't know. The doctor said just to be on the safe side, he was going to order a bunch of tests. Blood work, x-rays, and urinalysis. He said that with all of that, if something is wrong, we will know it.

So from the office, I headed over to the hospital for all that work-up he needed. We had to register, then go to the lab to have his blood drawn, then go to radiology for x-rays. Basically it took a long time of mostly waiting. Finally left at 4:45, and I just got home and started typing this out. I'm hoping the doctor will call with the results tonight.

Now I have half an hour to get ready to go out for dinner and martinis with friends. Jeesh! I'm going to sleep well tonight ;)

April 26, 2012

Annual appointment

Until last night, I had forgotten about the fact that I had an OB/GYN appointment today. It had been about 2 years since my last pap smear. I've always been meticulous about going once a year, but after breaking my jaw in November 2010, I saw a bazillion doctors and had hundreds of tests, and it just totally slipped my mind to go have my annual.

I actually don't mind the gynecologist. I much prefer going there than to the dentist! Also, I was kind of excited to see the receptionists there, because that is where I used to work. I always see the nurse practitioner for my regular annual exams, and I really like her. She'd seen me a couple of times since I lost the weight, but she was still shocked at the change.

I always think it's funny when I'm in the exam room and I lie down for the exam--there is a random panel on one of the lights right above the exam table that has some sort of scenery on it to look at while you're being prodded. Today, this was my view:
It's actually much brighter in the room, but you'll have to use your imagination since it showed up dark because of my awesome photography skills. Like looking at that scene is supposed to make us feel more relaxed while someone is putting instruments where you really don't want them? ;)

She said everything seemed normal, but she felt my thyroid (I have a history of a nodule on my thyroid) and said it felt enlarged. Awesome. So she ordered blood work for that, for which I should get the results on Monday.

This morning, while I was making breakfast, Jerry whispered to me, "Hey, look at Paolo". I looked around, and spotted Paolo in the hallway--he was sitting there, just staring at the wall. Not even staring like he saw something interesting; just staring like he was bored out of his mind. Jerry grabbed the camera and took a picture:
He must have sat like that for five minutes! We thought it was hilarious. Paolo is a very high-maintenance cat, and he always acts like he's too good for everything and everybody. I don't know why he was staring at the wall, but maybe he that was his way of telling me that he's bored? lol

By this time tomorrow, I will hopefully be getting ready to go out to a celebratory dinner with friends for completing a 20-mile run. I'm so nervous! I think I'm just as nervous about this as I am about the actual marathon.

I planned out our route; we're going to do our favorite path, the same one that we did for the 18-miler. Only this time, I'm planning ahead for where we can refill our water bottles. When Jerry and I went for a walk yesterday, I discovered a (working) drinking fountain on the path, just yards from where I felt like I was going to die of dehydration last time. So I mapped out our route to include that fountain, and I used Garmin Connect to send the map to my watch. I love that feature! I just started doing that a couple of months ago, but it's helpful to plan out a route and then send it to the watch.

We're going to park the car and then run a 9-mile out-and-back. Refill our water/Powerade at the car. Head out for an 11-mile out and back, with a water stop at mile 16 at the drinking fountain. I think one bottle plus two refills will be good for the 20 miles. I'm going to bring Gu for fuel, and eat one at miles 5, 10, and 15. We're going to do a 9:1 run/walk ratio the entire way, and I'd like to keep our pace slower than we have been for our short runs. I'd like to aim for an 11:00-11:20/mi pace, but if it's slower than that, I won't complain ;) I just really want to make it through this run feeling good and strong! And without knee pain, preferably.

And tomorrow night, I can celebrate the start of 3 weeks of tapering!!

April 25, 2012

A walk in the park

I had a rough evening yesterday, and I ended up bingeing. I was doing so well for two weeks, and yesterday was hard for me. I thought Eli was kind of faking being sick, so I wasn't worried about him. But he developed a fever, and then last night at around 8:00, he started hyperventilating. It was weird, because that had never happened before! He was panting and when I asked him to take a deep breath, he couldn't do it--it made him cough.

He was kind of panicky about the breathing, which of course made it even worse, but I almost called 911--that's how scary it was. Jerry ended up driving him to the ER while I stayed home with Noah. I was a nervous wreck, and just started eating--Biscoff cookies, Teddy Grahams, and salt water taffy (all things that I had in the house for a while without issue). I probably ate 1,000 calories, and then I dumped what was left of everything in the trash.

Jerry called from the hospital to say that they tested Eli for the flu, for strep, and took a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia--all were negative. They said it was just a virus. I hate paying a fuckload of money to hear those words: "It's just a virus". But I'm glad everything is fine. Better safe than sorry.

Today I had 5 miles on the schedule, but with the knee trouble I had yesterday, I figured it would be best not to run for the next two days so that I'm doing well for the 20-miler on Friday. But I was feeling guilty about my binge yesterday, and I wanted to exercise, so I suggested to Jerry that we go for a walk at the Metropark.

My mom asked Eli if he wanted to go rest at her house for a little while, and of course he did. So while he was over there, Jerry and I went to the park. Even though I planned on walking just for leisure (not a "real" workout), I wore my Garmin just to see how far we went. I didn't wear the heart rate strap, though.

In 2009, Jerry and I went on this same trail and we took a bunch of pictures. Some of them I now use as my "before" pictures, because I was 253 pounds at the time. So while we walked, we recreated the photos, which was kind of fun!

253 pounds vs. 138 pounds

It's so fun to see the difference when you see the same poses side-by-side like that! I remember those 2009 pictures like it was yesterday. I wore the scarf so that I could hide my fat neck and double chin. I didn't have a coat that fit me, so I just wore a sweatshirt, but I was cold. The jeans were a size 24W. And I felt like I looked "cute"--but was SHOCKED when I saw the pictures.

A couple more fun pictures... In May of 1999, Jerry and I went on our first date to the Metropark, and we had our first kiss on a bridge overlooking Lake Erie. So today, we tried to take a picture of us kissing on the bridge. I'll spare you the one that is actually centered, but I'll show you a glimpse of a bad one ;)

Spot where we had our first kiss
We found a tree that looked perfect for climbing, so we took a couple of pics there.

And when I told Jerry to pose in the tree, he told me it was lame and looked like cheesy senior photos. So he did his own take on it, naturally. Bahahaha! I found this pose hilarious:

A couple more "cheesy senior photos" pictures:

The "stare into your future" pose

The token "hold your head up with your fist" pose

Anyway, as you can see it was a GORGEOUS day, and we definitely made the most of it!

April 24, 2012


I'm getting kind of sick of the routine of waking up, getting the kids ready for school, and then heading out the door to go run. I found myself thinking about it on the way to the state park this morning--why do I do this when I dislike it so much? But then I thought about how we all have things to do that we don't really enjoy, but are necessary for one reason or another: work, paying bills, doing household chores, etc.

Over the past couple of years, exercise (specifically running) has become one of those things. And I think that's good! I do it because it's good for my body, it makes me feel proud and accomplished, it gives me goals to work toward, and it helps me maintain my weight loss. It actually makes me feel good that I've gotten to the point where exercise isn't really an option anymore. I do it because I know I have to, just like the other things I mentioned.

So anyway, I had 5 miles on the schedule today. Jessica and I met at the state park, and we decided to do the 9:1 run/walk again. We both are really enjoying the 9:1 runs, and I think it's helping my knee a lot. It's amazing how fast 5 miles flies by when you get used to doing 10+ mile runs! I felt like we just started when the run was already halfway over. Love that!
That's a 10:05/mi pace including our walk breaks. I'm convinced I could even hit my sub-2:00 half-marathon doing the 9:1 thing, if I train for it!

My knee was hurting a little from miles 3-5, but I think that's because of our faster pace. We'll have to slow it down, especially on our 20-mile run Friday. On Friday, my only goal is to make it through 20 miles without dying. I'm nervous about it, especially after our 18-miler last week. But it marks the beginning of three weeks of tapering--which I'm definitely looking forward to!

I have a new food obsession. Okay, since you're all dying to hear it, I'm sure, I'll tell you ;)  For my nighttime treat, I've been making a carb-bowl (for lack of a better term!)  Basically, I've been combining 15 grams each of all sorts of different things: pretzels, goldfish, Chocolate Rice Chex cereal, Cinnabon cereal, Peanut Butter Puffins cereal, animal crackers, Teddy Grahams, etc.

Fifteen grams equals approximately 50-60 calories of each of these, so if I want to have about 300 calories for a snack, I'll pick 6 things and combine them all in a bowl. I don't use nuts or dried fruit (because the calories from those add up fast, and you don't get much). I love the variety, the sweet and salty combo, the crunch factor, all of it. It's been a perfect snack lately. And yes, I realize it's all simple carbs, but I love my carbs! Usually I choose some sort of dessert for my nighttime treat, but I've really been into this carb bowl lately.

That Cinnabon cereal is actually really good--it reminds me of those cinnamon twist things that you can buy at Taco Bell (if they still have them, I haven't been to Taco Bell in years).

Well, Eli is being very needy right now, so I'd better go take care of him. The school called right after I finished my run and asked me to go pick him up, because he said he was feeling sick--stomachache and headache. I know he's fine, because he's already whining about being bored!

April 23, 2012

A weekend of temptation

I haven't been talking much about diet and weight since I started marathon training, but I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had gained some weight since I started training. So Jessica and I both decided to stop going out to eat after our long runs, and we've reined in the excessive snacking. I started tracking food again for the first time in a really long time, and have been doing really well with it.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I actually saw 147 on the scale one day, and it made me totally panic. That weight is actually 10 pounds OVER my "panic weight"! My jeans were tight, and some of them didn't even button anymore. So over the past couple of weeks, I've dropped back down to 138. My jeans all fit nicely again, and I can actually see a pretty big difference in how I look in the mirror. I know 9 pounds in two weeks seems extreme, but that's the way my body works--when I start tracking food, I drop a lot of water weight quickly. I've been eating a base of 1,600 calories a day; more if it's a run day.

When I really set my mind to a particular goal, I am very determined to reach it. That determination was much needed this past weekend, because I faced a lot of temptations. And I made it through the weekend on-track. I had set a goal to be 135 by the time I go to Indy for the half-marathon, and I kept focusing on that.

So, the weekend of temptation started on Friday night. Noah had to go to a birthday party, so Jerry and I took both the boys out, and I dropped off Jerry and Noah at the bowling alley for the birthday party. Then I wanted to do "something special" with Eli. When I asked him what he wanted to do, he said he wanted to go to the dollar store to pick out a toy. We did that, and there was so much candy there--I so badly wanted to buy a big bag of candy and go to town on it.

I even sent Jessica a text, telling her I was tempted, and she talked me out of it. (I love that she "gets" me, and knows the right things to say when I most need it). I wasn't hungry, I just felt that old habit gnawing at me. I associate certain stores with junk food, and the dollar store is one of them.

He ordered cotton candy ice cream with Reese's
peanut butter cups--that wasn't tempting at all!
We still had an hour to kill, and Eli wanted to go out for ice cream. There is a Tim Horton's with a Cold Stone Creamery inside, so we went there. That was HARD for me. I love ice cream! And they had this concoction that looked insanely good: a warm chocolate chip cookie, topped with a scoop of cookie dough, topped with ice cream!! But I ordered a decaf coffee and drank that while Eli ate his ice cream. When I got home, I had my planned treat of Cadbury mini eggs (210 calories for a small bag).

I want to be clear that Cold Stone is not "off limits" to me, nor is candy. But there is a time and place for it, and I've indulged way too much lately; so it's time I practice saying "no" once in a while ;)

Saturday wasn't too bad. I went garage saleing in the morning with my parents and the kids. I bought some clothes--they are in the washer right now, otherwise I'd take pics to show you what I got. I even got an Under Armour running shirt for 75 cents!

On Sunday, I went to church. I said I would go this week, and I did :)  Jerry, me, the boys, and my parents all went together. After church, I had a baby shower to go to. I can't believe I still haven't mentioned this on the blog... at first, she asked me to keep it quiet, and then when she made the announcement, I forgot to write about it! Remember my friend Sarah? I went to Arizona in October to be the matron of honor in her wedding. Anyway, in December, she discovered she was pregnant (planned--she wanted to get pregnant right away). So she's having a boy, and she's due in August.

I brought along a photo of Sarah and I that was taken at MY baby shower in 2004. Of course, we had to recreate the photo this time around!
Left: 2004  Right: 2012
I ate lunch before I went to the shower. I wasn't sure what kind of food would be there, and I like to eat lunch early (at 11) and the shower wasn't until 1:00. It was easy to pass up lunch at the shower, but the dessert? There were lots of desserts that tempted me! Luckily, Sarah asked me to come sit next to her while she opened her gifts, and everyone was eating dessert while she did that. I don't know if I could have resisted otherwise ;)

So, I've stuck to my calorie budget every day and it's paying off. I'm going to try and continue to track calories through my marathon taper weeks (starting next week, my mileage will decrease significantly until the marathon). With the decreased mileage, I won't need as many calories, so I want to be careful about my indulgences!

Today marked the start of my "big mileage" week. We have a 20-miler scheduled!! We've switched our long run to Friday. So our week looks like this:
M-10 miles
Tu-5 miles
W-5 miles
F-20 miles!

Today's 10-mile run went really well. My knee felt totally fine--a couple of times, I felt a tiny twinge, but it never turned into anything. We did the 9:1 run/walk thing again--and like last time, our pace was faster than it was before we did the 9:1.
Again, not sure why it didn't say 10 instead of "9.99"...? 10:49/mi pace
I'm nervous but excited about the 20-miler on Friday. We've made plans to celebrate with dinner and martinis on Friday night with some running friends. I can't wait!

April 22, 2012

Reader Questions & Answers #10

On Sundays, I will answer some readers' questions in a post. If you have a question that you would like me to answer here on the blog, just send me an e-mail with the subject "Q&A", and I may include them in a future Q&A post. They don't have to be about weight loss or running--anything is game!  (Remember, I'm not a doctor or dietician, or any sort of medical professional--I can only answer questions from my own experience).

Q. I run frequently for short distances on the treadmills at the gym, but I am horrible at running outside. I feel like it is a HUGE difference running on a treadmill compared to outside, and outside is SOOO much harder for me. I run about 3 miles on the treadmill, but I can barely do 1.5 miles outside. I don't know if this is because of the technique I am using or if I can't keep a steady pace outside, but have you experienced this problem or know what i am referring to? Any tips would be great because I would love to start training outside and increase my pace/distance so I can do some races!

A. This is actually a really common experience. You know I have a sub-26:00 5K goal; well, I met that goal on a treadmill, but I'm having a hell of a time trying to meet it outside. I find it much easier to run faster on a treadmill than outside.

Running on a treadmill is generally easier because the belt on the treadmill is moving (obviously) and you don't have to propel yourself forward. Imagine jumping straight up outside--when you land, you would be in the same spot. But on a treadmill, if you jumped, you would land "ahead" of where you were when you jumped. On a treadmill, you also don't have any wind resistance--as minimal as the wind may be outside, there is still some resistance there.

To better mimic an outdoor run on a treadmill, you can up the incline to 1-2%. Your legs will feel heavier that way and it will require more effort. But the best way to get faster outside is to run outside. You can also try running more slowly outside, which will allow you build up more distance. It's best not to compare the two--let your treadmill runs be separate from your outdoor runs, so you don't get discouraged. Keep at it, you'll be running 3 miles outside soon!

Q. How did you start your blog? (quick refresher) and how did you start earning money from the blog? I read your blog and know the general info: "start writing and place ads," but how did you make it happen? What sources gave you the best advice that worked for you? Do you have a strategic plan for growing that income in the future?

A. Starting the blog was actually the easy part for me, because I'd been "blogging" for 11 years. I wrote on a site called Open Diary, and I actually paid to use it (you can use it for free, but if you pay for it, then there aren't any visible ads). I had NO IDEA that people could earn money from blogging! Once I hit my goal weight, I kind of wanted to start a fresh chapter of my life; and I decided I wanted to make a new blog. I removed my old blog from Open Diary, and started this one with Blogger. I just picked up where I left off, but with a new agenda: to write about maintenance and running instead of losing weight. 

Where I spend waaay too much time ;)
At that point, I still didn't know anything about ads or earning money, so I just blogged because I love it. I have no idea how my blog grew so large so quickly; on Open Diary, I had a handful of readers--maybe 15? after 11 years of writing. I was surprised and humbled by the large following I got so quickly. Once I decided to go ahead with skin removal surgery, I knew I needed to earn some money. Getting a new job wasn't practical for me because I would have to take so much time off from the surgery itself. Some of my readers suggested earning money from ads, which I hadn't even considered.

I assumed that ads would earn me just pennies a month, so I wasn't expecting much, but I started with Google Adsense. That didn't work out--they canceled my account without telling me why, and I never got paid for the ads that were on the blog for two months. I tried a few other ad companies that I had Googled, but they weren't working out either--trashy ads or literally a penny a day. 

I became an Amazon affiliate, which means if people click through to Amazon from the links on my page and purchase something, I will earn a small percentage as a referral. I also applied for (and was accepted into) the BlogHer ad network, which I love. The ads aren't trashy, I get paid per pageview (rather than per click on each ad), and I really like the BlogHer network in general.

I had no sources to figure all this out--I just did a lot of online research, read tons of reviews of ad networks, and did some trial and error. Right now, I'm happy with how it's going. I don't make a ton of money, but I make enough that I can pay a little extra on my debt each month, which was my goal. If the blog grows, my income will grow, but I honestly love blogging so much that I would continue to do it even if I couldn't get paid for it. But earning some cash is a big bonus for me :)

Q. Why do you love your Brooks running shoes? Also, did you get fitted for them or did you try different pairs?  I really want to get some good running shoes but for some reason dread going to the running store to get fitted.  I have looked online and did multiple running shoes test, I did the one on runner's world and it only gave me one shoe to choose from.  Do you mind sharing your thoughts on this.

A.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to go to a running store to get fitted for shoes--whether you plan on walking or running, they can help you pick the best shoe for YOU. I love my Brooks because they've never given me any trouble--I've never gotten a blister, I've never lost a toenail, and I've never had problems with my feet.

My Adrenalines aren't pretty, but they get the job done
I know how hard it is to go into a running store (especially if you are overweight). I went to the store when I was 253 pounds, and I felt like and elephant in a china shop running store. I worried that the man who was doing my fitting was judging me, and I just kept telling myself it would be over soon. (Now I realize that I was just very insecure--and there is no reason to feel that way!) 

I told him my goals (I said I wanted to walk a half marathon) and he gave me a few pairs to try on, and watched me walk around in them. Then I bought the shoes that he recommended. It's important to get the best fit rather than the prettiest or cutest shoe you can find ;)  I know it's tempting to pick the one that looks the most appealing, but it's more important to get a good fit.

I wouldn't do the online tests--I would definitely go to a running store and go through the fitting. Just be honest with the employee about your goals, and listen to their advice. If you are in the process of losing weight, you will need to get refitted when it's time for new shoes (400ish miles on your shoes). Your feet may get smaller, and/or you may walk/run differently as you lose weight.

Now a question for all of you...

What is your very favorite way to spend roughly 200 calories? (healthy or not... just your favorite!)

Mine would have to be something with chocolate and peanut butter, of course ;)  A graham cracker spread with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter and topped with 1/2 Tbsp. mini chocolate chips always hits the spot.

April 21, 2012

Meet Mary

I would like to introduce you to another member of the Ragnar Relay team (*still* unnamed, but we're working on our team name. Thanks for ALL the suggestions!). Meet Mary--I just love her! The title of her blog is ironic--"a small loss", but she's lost 155 pounds. Doesn't she look amazing?!

Mary "before"
My name is Mary, I blog about my weight loss journey at www.asmallloss.com.

In July 2010, I was 23 years old and weighed 345 pounds. I realized that I needed to make some major lifestyle changes - I had just finished grad school, and decided that I needed to nourish my body the way I had with my mind.

So, I started eating better, eating less, and moving more - it started with walks around my neighborhood because it was all I could do, and my first weightloss goal was to lose enough weight to be able to use Wii Fit. I walked a few 5/8K races, and after losing 50 pounds, I started C25K. Since running my first 5K in January 2011, I have ran several other 5Ks, a few 8 and 10Ks, and completed my first half marathon in January 2012.

I lost 150 pounds in exactly 1 year, and maintained the loss for several months while transitioning from life as a city girl in Chicago into my new life in California's San Joaquin Valley, teaching French at one of the branches of the University of California.
Mary now
I'm currently down about 155 pounds, with another 35 or so that I'd like to lose - this semester I'm focusing on actively losing weight again, doing what I can before voluntary maintenance this summer while I train for my first full marathon, which will be in Chicago in October.

I pulled a random winner for "The Swing!" book giveaway, and it was #207--Bridie! I will send you an e-mail for your mailing address, so I can pass it along to TLC Book Tours. Thanks for entering everyone--there were 323 entries in all!

April 20, 2012

Gone fishin'

Yesterday, Jerry and I picked the kids up from school and went right to the Metropark to meet my dad for dip-netting. I used to dip-net all the time as a kid, and it was so much fun. Dip-netting is a type of fishing. Basically, you drop a big net off of a bridge, and pull it up with a rope every once in a while and (hopefully) catch fish. The exciting part is when you're pulling up the rope, you have no idea what you're going to find!

My dad actually made some sort of pulley system to hook up to the bridge so that it would be easier for Noah and Eli to pull the rope by themselves. We also had a couple of fishing poles. I had no interest in fishing, so I just spent the entire time watching, and enjoying the nice weather!
Eli was excited about his "double" catch, two sunfish (bluegill)

Jerry dropping the net from the bridge
We caught about 5 fish in the net, and probably about 8 on the fishing poles. We didn't keep anything though. We actually almost caught a muskrat in the dip net! It was swimming straight toward the bridge, and it would go under for a minute, then pop back up. We just missed pulling it up in the net. Probably better that way ;)
Notice how my boys are standing... Jerry always teases ME for standing
like that! He says it's "Forrest Gump" style. They take after me, apparently ;)
Noah caught a bullhead
And I spent the whole afternoon enjoying the sunshine and quiet...

I loved how the sun looked through the clouds
I had picked up Subway for us to eat at the park for dinner. I wish I could say it was good, but it wasn't. The bread tasted stale. I got a veggie sub on whole wheat, which is my "usual" at Subway. But it was a fun afternoon!

Today I had 5 miles on the schedule. I met Jessica at the state park, and we did our 9:1 run/walk ratio again. I think doing this is helping my knee, and that makes me so happy! My knee didn't start hurting until about mile 4 today, but as soon as we walked, it felt fine again. And after we were done with the run at 5 miles, my knee wasn't hurting at all. Normally, it hurts so badly that I have to go home and ice it and take a Motrin.

So I'll continue to do the 9:1 thing until my knee is healed. After that, I will go back to running the entire mileage, unless I am doing an uber long run (12+ miles or so), when I might do the walk breaks again. The walk breaks are still kind of hard for me (mentally), but I know I am doing what is best for my body right now. And my pace hasn't suffered from it at all:
Our average pace today, with the walk breaks figured in, was 10:42/mi. Something else I found interesting is that I burned more calories during this run than I did doing 5 miles by myself on Wednesday (at a faster pace of solid running). Here is a comparison--on the left is today's 9:1 run/walk. On the right is Wednesday's run by myself, with NO walking:

I was in terrible (knee) pain on Wednesday's run from miles 3-5, but almost no pain today with the walking breaks. Okay, I promise to quit talking about the knee pain and the whole run/walk thing. I'm just still in awe by the whole thing! And SO grateful that my knee is feeling better.

These are our splits from today:
I'm a faster walker than I thought! The last time I tried to do a fast walk was at the Indy half-marathon in 2010. I was 165 pounds then, so I imagine the extra weight loss plus conditioning from running for two years probably helped my walking pace. I don't think I'll ever be as speedy as Jessica, though!

Mid-way through our run today, I saw something splash on the ground in front of me, and I felt a drip on my leg. It felt like rain falling off of leaves from the wind or something, but there weren't any trees at that spot. We kept running, and then after our run, I noticed that it was just what I suspected... a bird pooped on me!!
It's hard to see, but it's there!

If I had been just a split second faster, it would have been on my head. So I am grateful in that sense!

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