December 31, 2013

Top 13 of 2013

Last year on December 31st, I wrote a post that highlighted my favorite events of 2012. I like looking back at that post and reminiscing, so I decided to do another for 2013. Here are some of my most memorable moments of the year, in chronological order:

1. When I'm an old woman, this first event of 2013 will probably still be on my list of top 5 favorite events of my entire life: meeting up with my Ragnar Relay team in Miami and running to Key West! There is no way to write about this entire thing in a nutshell, but the whole story can be found here, with links to the posts about it. Here is the gist, captured by the Today Show:

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2. The first Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K on my birthday! I couldn't believe how many people participated. I absolutely loved reading the race reports, seeing the photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and being completely inspired by all who participated from around the world. (I realize I still haven't posted the sign-up for the second annual Virtual 5K, but I promise to get that done within the next week! Just mark your calendar for January 25.)

3. Getting to host an Oscars party at my house. My girlfriends came over, dressed in black tie attire (well, except for Jessica--I told her she was welcome to wear pajamas, because she'd had a long day!). We had some yummy food and wine, and watched the Oscars together. It was so much fun!

4. I got my RRCA certification as a running coach! I drove down to Dayton for the class, and stayed at Carly's while I was there. It was a very long couple of days of learning about running, but I loved it! And it was fun to be able to see Carly.

5. I went on my first (and only, so far) blogging trip--to St. Louis! It was my first time in St. Louis, and I was only there for a mere 24 hours, but I loved every minute of it. I was there to learn about one of my favorite topics--cats. And what better place to learn about cats than the Purina ONE headquarters in St. Louis?!

6. Running (completely by accident) a sub-50:00 10K! I went into the race hoping for a PR of 55:04 or better, and I assumed I'd finish in about 53:00, maybe 52:00 if I really pushed myself. I never, ever could have even imagined that I'd run a 7:57/mi pace for a 10K race! It blew my mind, and that race made me a believer that anything can happen. It's funny, the pace of my current 10K personal record (this particular race) is faster than my current 5K personal record!

7. I finally got my long-sought-after sub-2:00 half-marathon finish time! I ran the Martian Half-Marathon in April, and felt fantastic as I ran an 8:34/mi pace to finish in 1:52:07!

I would love this picture if only my eyes
weren't closed!

8. Surprising my sister by showing up at her house in Illinois to run her first half-marathon with her! My brother-in-law, Shawn, and I schemed about this, and he generously paid for my trip out there to surprise Jeanie. I threw her off track, so she had no idea I was coming. It was a super fun surprise! She ran a fantastic first half-marathon, and I was so excited that I got to be there with her.

9. Doing a "goal weight" photoshoot with my friend Stephanie! I wanted some nice pictures of myself at my goal weight, so that I could always be reminded of how happy I was to be there, and, if I'm being honest, how good I look while I'm still young enough to enjoy it ;)  Stephanie did an awesome job, and I love the photos. She got some of our family, too, which turned out better than any "professional" photographer would have captured.

10. Going on an overnight trip to Cedar Point with Jerry and the kids. It ended up pouring rain at the amusement park, and the entire park was flooded up to our ankles, and even our calves in a lot of spots. It was like a scene from an apocalyptic movie! The rain ended up being the most fun we had all day--we ran (well, waded) through the park, and were completely drenched. We went back to the hotel and had some delicious pizza and watched a movie. It was a great family time!

11. Jerry and I reached 10 years of marriage in August! I simply cannot believe that we've been married that long. We've had good days and bad days, but he's still my very best friend.

12. Traveling to Chicago and running the Chicago Marathon! Despite everything about this trip falling through, I still decided to go and make the best of it. I'm SO glad I went, because I got to meet Caitlin and Cat from my Ragnar SoCal team (the rest of whom I'll meet in April). I had a blast meeting up with and getting to know them, and on top of that, I had an AMAZING race. The Hansons' Marathon Method really pulled through, and I felt better than ever during the marathon. My legs never quit, and the only issue that held me back (only slightly) toward the end was a stomach upset from eating too much Gu. But I finished in 4:16:38, a 35-minute PR!

13. Last, but not least, I've loved seeing the overwhelming response to my request for Mark. He's gotten about 400 cards (maybe more, and they're still coming!), and he's loved every single one of them. I'm so used to seeing on the news all of the bad things that people do, but seeing how kind everyone has been in supporting Mark (a complete stranger to all of you), through his terminal lung cancer diagnosis, has made me see so much good. Nobody should ever have to die alone, or with very little support, and I love showing Mark each time I visit just how many people care for him. He loves to tell all the nurses and doctors he meets, "I got SO MANY people that care about me! Hundreds of people!" They just kind of nod and smile, until they see all of his cards--then their eyes get huge as they realize he's not exaggerating. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for every single card, picture, letter, and gift you've sent him!!

Some fun stats about 2013:

  • I ran 1,558.5 miles (up from 1,186.5 miles in 2012)--a total of 236 hours, 1 minutes, and 5 seconds. 
  • My longest run was 26.6 miles (the Chicago Marathon).
  • The month that I had the highest mileage was September, with 205.1 miles.
  • My average pace for the whole year was 9:06/mi (down from 10:08/mi in 2012).
  • I burned 133,639 calories from running... that's equivalent to over 38 pounds of fat (or 2,265 chocolate chip cookies)!
  • The food I consumed the most of was probably ice cream; followed closely by eggs (I was never an egg person, but I've eaten them nearly every day all year).
  • My most memorable meal was Mahi Mahi Matecumbe at a restaurant called The Fish House in Key Largo, Florida. Words can't even describe it. I've tried to replicate, but it doesn't even compare.
  • My current favorite breakfast is two eggs, scrambled, with cheese, and an orange or English muffin.
  • My current favorite lunch is a tuna salad sandwich and fruit.
  • My current favorite evening snack is a glass of red wine and popcorn.
  • The thing I am most looking forward to in 2014? Meeting my Ragnar Relay SoCal team in San Diego on April 4th!

As evidenced above, 2013 has been one AMAZING year!! I'm so grateful for this blog, all who read it, the opportunities I've gotten from it, and having a place to write about these things as they happen in my life. I can't imagine that 2014 can even compare, but I'm willing to try! :)

December 30, 2013

Everyday Runners

I completely dropped the ball on Motivational Monday this week! I didn't get any submissions to post today, likely because I forgot to post a reminder yesterday. I know this time of year is super busy for everyone anyway, so I'm going to skip today's MM post. But I did post on Facebook, so you can read about everyone's accomplishments there (and share your own)!

Today, I went to weigh in at Weight Watchers in Toledo (it's kind of far, but they had morning hours, and my regular WW center did not). Thankfully, my weight was still under goal, even though I haven't been tracking. I've really enjoyed letting go of the planning and tracking, and I've stayed binge-free. My weight has been staying pretty steady--not gaining or losing--and I'm good with that :)

Tonight I have some of my childhood friends coming over for drinks, games, and just chatting about the good old days. I'm trying to get my house cleaned and ready, so I'm going to have to keep this short. But, if you're interested, Matt from the Runner Academy podcast has started an additional podcast called Everyday Runners. The Runner Academy podcasts tend to focus on elite runners, coaches, runners that do, say 365 marathons in a year, etc. Everyday Runners is a new podcast to focus on people like most of us... just normal, "everyday" runners.

I met Matt a couple of times: first, the day before the Detroit Marathon last year, when Rik and I had lunch with him; and then again when I discovered he was in my RRCA coaching class. A couple of weeks ago, Matt interviewed me for the podcast, and the episode with my interview went live on the second episode of Everyday Runners today. I haven't listened to it, because I was kicking myself after the interview for sounding so flustered! Maybe (hopefully) it doesn't sound as bad as I am imagining in my head ;)  Regardless, you're welcome to listen to it, and it can be found here.

I'm really excited about the Everyday Runners podcast! I love to listen to stories of how people got into the sport, and hear how far they've come since they started running. It's fun to hear on the Runner Academy podcast about the elite runners, and runners who do things I would never imagine doing, but I think most people can really relate to Everyday Runners.

I'm assuming most of you won't be sitting down to read my post tomorrow evening (being New Year's Eve and all--hope you have fun plans!), so I want to wish you a safe and happy New Year!

December 29, 2013

A fartlek run

Sunday = speed work. Speed work is always torturous while I do it, but I always feel fantastic when I'm done, and it really does work in getting faster. But just the thought of it today was filling me with dread.

Mark's illness has really made me think about everything I do, and my attitude toward it. I've shifted my running goals for 2014 to reflect this (which I'll write about later), but I've really tried to make everything that I do enjoyable. Mark is always so positive and so happy, even though he has terminal cancer. If he can maintain such a positive attitude, I'm certainly capable of it, too. I even feel ashamed for feeling down about petty things (like speed work!).

So today, I decided that I was going to enjoy my speed work. I chose not to do intervals, and instead, I went for my first-ever fartlek run. A fartlek run is similar to intervals, but there isn't any structure to the length or duration of each interval. You might run hard to that fire hydrant, jog to the corner, run hard to the telephone pole, etc. I've been running for nearly four years, and I've never done a fartlek run!

The temp has been pretty warm here the past couple of days--today it was 34 when I headed out, which felt really nice. I wore my Garmin, just because I thought it would be fun to look at the graphs later, but I didn't set it for any sort of intervals (that would defeat the purpose of a fartlek run). I just started running one of my three-mile routes, and then started picking out small landmarks to run hard to, and then do a recovery jog to. I did some really short, really hard sprints, some at a semi-hard pace, and recovery at an easy jog. None of it was thought out ahead of time, and it wasn't at all structured.

The time went by so quickly, and I knew I'd gotten a good, tough workout. I even burned over 100 calories per mile, which hardly EVER happens! And sure enough, it was fun to see the graphs :)

The blue chart is my pace, and the red chart is my heart rate. There were a couple of super short sprints where my pace got into the 5:00's! I really enjoyed my speed work today, and I definitely plan to do fartleks more often.

I hit a big milestone halfway through my run today, too. In January, I set a goal to run 100+ miles per month, every single month this year. I did it! There were a few months where I just barely made it, but there were also a couple of months where I ran over 200 miles.

The chart shows my totals for each month. I'm running tomorrow and Tuesday, so I'm not done with December yet, but I did reach 100+ miles today, so I hit my goal.

This afternoon, I went to the nursing home to visit Mark. I stopped at KFC to get him some chicken (he requested Popeye's, but there wasn't one anywhere near there). He also asked for 7Up, so I got him that as well. Parking at the nursing home is definitely easier than at the hospital. There's only one floor, so I didn't get to run up 10 flights of stairs--darn ;)

When I walked in, Mark was sleeping, but he woke up when I set down his food. He seemed like he was doing really well--he didn't seem like he was in pain at all, and he was pretty talkative for a little while. He started physical therapy today, to hopefully gain the use of his hand (his left hand is now completely numb--he can't use it at all). He said he's going to be there for nine weeks, but I'm not sure where he got that information or how accurate it is.

Ultimately, we're hoping that he can go "home" to my parents' house under hospice care once he's done with radiation, but because we aren't family, it's not up to us. His only living relative is his nephew, who has to make all the decisions, and it doesn't sound like he wants to do that. But for now, it sounds like Mark will be at the nursing home for several weeks at least, so we'll see what happens when the time comes.

Anyway, Mark was super tired today, and after about 15 minutes of chatting, he kept dozing off. I read him some cards, but he kept falling asleep, so I kept the visit short. I got out his CD player for him so that he could listen to music while he napped (the call lights make the most annoying beeping noise throughout the entire building; I don't know how they can stand it!).

One thing that really melted my heart during our visit today was when I asked him how he wanted to spend his (what he calls) "pocket money". He got a little bit of money in a few cards, and I told him that he could tell me what he wants to spend it on, and I'll go buy it for him. He thought about it for a minute, and then he said he wanted to buy pizza, cake, and ice cream for all the people that live in his group home (where he lived for so long, before going into the hospital). Isn't that so sweet?!

I was going through some pictures yesterday, and I found a really nice one of Mark from a couple of years ago. This was at my parents' house for his birthday:

Cancer just sucks. It always seems to affect the most kind, caring people.

December 28, 2013

Skin Removal Surgery Questions and Answers (2 years post-op)

I get a lot of emails with questions about my lower body lift, and recently, a woman named Andrea sent me a list of questions that she asked me to post about. I had nothing to write about today (it was a very nice rest day!), so I figured I'd answer those questions. Hopefully other people will find this helpful, too!

(For further reference, I have a TON of details on my Skin Removal Surgery page)

Q. How long was it until the swelling was completely gone from your abdomen? Did you  "know" when the swelling was completely gone?

A. Before my surgery, I read a lot about the swelling, and I was expecting the worst. I thought I would going to look like a giant water balloon. But I actually didn't notice it much on a day-to-day basis. I could definitely see that I looked swollen when I compared pictures from one day to the next, but I really just felt a little puffy in my abdomen. There was never a day where I woke up and thought, "Ahhh, relief! The swelling is gone!" I noticed in pictures of my stomach that I looked less puffy. I think the worst of the swelling was on Day 12, and looking at it now, I don't think it was all that bad!

Q. Was it difficult to maintain eating healthy/not gaining weight without the exercise (in that burning calories from running allows one to add calories back into his/her diet)?

A. I actually dropped about 10 pounds after the surgery, which I think is due to the fact that I took my doctor's dietary instructions very seriously. She told me to eat a TON of protein to help my body heal, so I focused on nothing but protein after surgery. I wasn't counting calories or Points, or anything; I just tried to eat as much protein as possible. I didn't limit my carbs at all, but because I was eating so much protein, I probably didn't eat as many carbs as I was used to.

From my experience, I believe that weight loss comes mainly from diet, and very little from exercise. I can train for a marathon and gain 20 pounds (as evidenced while training for my first 26.2!). I wasn't worried about gaining weight due to lack of exercise after surgery, and I focused my diet on healing my body rather than losing weight, so it worked out well :)

Q. Was it easier to notice weight loss (i.e. the last 15 lbs or so you lost post-surgery) after the surgery, because of the lack of excess skin, or did it not really make a difference in that respect?

A. I think the surgery made a huge difference in the last bit of weight loss. My doctor only removed about two and a half pounds of tissue, but after surgery, I think the decrease in size around my abdomen was very noticeable. Even now, when I gain a couple of pounds, I find it very noticeable! I get love handles if my weight gets to 138-ish, but below that, they're gone. It's so weird! Before the surgery, I never would have noticed a weight gain there, because there was so much skin hiding my form.

Q. Did you wear a compression garment and a binder, or was it a single item?

A. It was just a single item, like a huge (very tight) pair of granny panties. There were hooks along the side (like the hooks on a bra) as well as the crotch, so it didn't have to be removed to go to the bathroom. It was actually very comfortable, and I felt weird when I took the compression garment off to shower. Here is a link to the exact one that I had. It was the one my doctor told me to get; different doctors prefer different garments, though.

Q. Do you think that the surgery produced a visible change for people who just see you every day in regular clothes (i.e., should I expect that people who I have not told about the surgery may notice it)?

A. I don't think the change was hugely visible in my clothing, but I always tried to hide the excess skin before my surgery. I didn't wear tight jeans and form-fitting shirts; I could wear tight jeans and a loose sweatshirt, or jeans that would hide my skin and a more form-fitting shirt. After the surgery, I didn't want ANY baggy clothing! I wore tight jeans and fitted shirts, and I still do a lot of the time. But I don't think that people who I saw from time to time would've noticed that I had skin removal surgery. Here is a photo from before surgery and after surgery in the same clothes:

You can see a difference if you're looking for it, but I don't think anyone would have noticed if they hadn't known about my surgery. Without clothes, however, is a completely different story! ;)

Q. How long after the surgery did you start training for your marathon? Did you have any time after you started running when you were just running "for fun," or did you go right into it? 

A. I had the surgery on November 14, 2011, and I "officially" started training for my first marathon on January 16, 2012. I started running again just shy of four weeks after surgery, and I took it very easy for a couple of weeks while I continued to heal from surgery. My doctor actually cleared me to run on Day 8 post-op! But I wasn't much in the mood to run, which I'm sure she expected ;)  By the time I started marathon training, I felt 100% back to my normal self. I still continued to wear my compression garment when I ran, just because I felt more secure, but it wasn't necessary.

Q. About how many post-op appointments did you have in total?

A. I spent one night in the hospital, and my doctor came to see me before I left. Then there was the embarrassing trip to the emergency room about five days post-op. My first "real" post-op appointment was on Day 8, when I had three of my drains removed. My second post-op appointment was on Day 17, when I had the last drain removed (my doctor told me to come in when my drain was producing less than 30 cc's a day).

I had one more post-op visit after six weeks. There was a tiny spot on my incision that needed a minor revision (the skin had folded over slightly as it healed). I went in for an appointment where my doctor fixed that in the office, which only took about 10-15 minutes. I made another appointment for her to check out that spot later, but it healed really well, so I just called her and she said there was no need to come in. That was the last appointment.

Q. Do you remember about how long it was until you stopped feeling any real ab pain, and only felt some soreness, or felt nothing at all?

A. The ab pain was terrible for the first couple of days, but it got much better as the days went on. I can't remember exactly when there was NO muscular soreness, because it continued to get better and better each day, but I think I was pretty much pain-free after a couple of weeks. The worst of it was over after a couple of days post-op, though.

Q. How long was your longest drain in for?

A. I had four drains, two in front (left and right) and two over each hip. I had three of the drains removed on Day 8 post-op, but the last one was in for 17 days! My doctor didn't want to remove it until it was producing less than 30 cc's of drainage per day. I couldn't wait to get that thing out! Even though my body was feeling much better, and I was wanting to try on new clothes and all that, the stupid drain was in the way. I felt much more like myself after the last drain was pulled. And I could sleep on my stomach again! :)

I'm now a little over two years post-op, and I am still SO SO SO glad that I had the surgery! My scar isn't nearly as bad as I imagined it would be, and across my butt, it's practically invisible. Clothing is much more comfortable, without having to push and poke my skin around to fit into my pants.

Running is more comfortable, because I don't have to worry about the skin bouncing (that used to hurt!). And even though the outward change, while I'm wearing clothing, isn't drastically huge, I feel a million times more confident in how I look. I used to be so self-conscious of my saggy skin, and I hated always trying to hide it. I would do the surgery again in a heartbeat!

December 27, 2013


I woke up sometime in the night last night, and thought, "Oh, yay, tomorrow is a rest day!" and then I realized that it was actually my long run--12 miles. With the kids being home from school, I knew I was going to have to do it on the treadmill, and I was totally dreading that.

I did find a new show on Netflix to keep me occupied for a while, though--Medium. I never, ever would have thought that I'd like that show, because I don't believe in paranormal stuff. But it's another crime-drama, like CSI or Law & Order, only the main character is a suburban-mom-medium (she can communicate with the dead). I watched one episode and was hooked!

This morning, however, I just wanted to relax. I decided I'd just use today as a rest day, and run my 12-miler tomorrow. I took a shower and got dressed to go visit Mark at the hospital. I've been going every other day, which seems to work out well; my parents go on the days that I don't, so that he has someone there every day.

My mom watched the kids for me today so that I could go up without them. I stopped to pick up Mark's cards from the post office (about a hundred more!) and bought him a strawberry milkshake from McDonald's before heading to the hospital. Mark was still at his radiation therapy downstairs, but he came in about 10 minutes after I got there. He was in a really good mood, and very happy to see me (especially when he saw that I brought him a milkshake, of course).

I brought a map of the United States this time, something I'd been meaning to do for a while, so that I could show him where his cards were coming from. I brought some star-shaped stickers to stick on each state as we read a card from that state. I sat and read him all of his cards, and by the time I was done, there were very few states that weren't covered! There were a few cards from other countries, too: Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and England.

As I got toward the end of the bunch, Mark was fighting to stay awake. They usually give him morphine right after his treatment, which makes him really drowsy. So I got his CD player set up for him to listen to, and I went home. He didn't seem to be in a lot of pain today, so it was a nice visit!

I left the hospital at around 1:30, and I found out later than at 4:30, they moved Mark to a nursing home. Nobody had any idea they were discharging him today! He'll be staying at a nursing home near the hospital, so that an ambulance can transport him to and from the hospital for his radiation treatments. He has six more treatments, and then hopefully the doctors will know more about where to go from there--likely hospice care, but his nephew may choose to go with chemotherapy. I just really hope that he's treated well at the nursing home. My parents are going to visit him tomorrow, so they'll see how he's doing.

On the way home, I was thinking about how I should just do my long run today, so that I could relax all day tomorrow. After I picked up the kids from my mom's house and came home, it was 3:00; I hardly ever run in the afternoons, but I wanted to watch Medium, so I figured I might as well get my run done while I watched.

I set the speed and 6.5 mph and didn't touch it until I hit 12 miles. It felt like forever! I kept thinking, "Maybe I'll just quit at 8 miles..." but I knew I'd be mad at myself if I cut it short for no "real" reason. I got through two and a half episodes of Medium, and as soon as I hit 12 miles, I stopped the treadmill. I was so happy to be done!

Running for nearly two hours just seems kind of crazy, doesn't it? When I think of 12 miles, it really doesn't seem terribly long; but when I think of it in time, it feels like an eternity. I felt really good when I was done, though, and I'm happy I did it today. I really hope I'm able to run outside next Friday, but the kids are off school all week, so I'm not sure if it'll work out.

When I got off the treadmill, I was starving. I had eaten breakfast, but I was at the hospital during lunch time, and all I had was a couple of pieces of candy from Mark. I heated up some leftover lasagna for dinner, because I wasn't in the mood to cook. It was only 5:00, but I changed into my most comfy pajamas and plopped on the couch.

No plans tomorrow, so I'm hoping to have a pretty low-key day!

December 26, 2013

Letting it go

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! We had a pretty casual (although kind of busy) day. When we woke up, my parents came over to watch the kids open presents. The boys were thrilled with their gifts, and after they opened presents, we had homemade caramel sticky rolls. I prepped them the night before, so all I had to do was throw them in the oven. They were delicious!

After breakfast, Jerry and I wanted to go to the hospital to see Mark, so my parents watched the kids (the kids both have coughs, and I didn't want them to get Mark sick, so we didn't bring them with us). It was SO eerie to be driving on the expressway without any other cars around! We drove probably 10 miles before there was another car going north.

Mark had asked for another strawberry milkshake, so I was hoping that McDonald's would be open, but no such luck. We drove to a couple of gas stations looking for coffee, so I got him a coffee instead. We hiked up 10 flights of stairs to Mark's room, and he was really happy to see us. We gave him a couple of gifts: headphones (he was having a really hard time using earbuds, because his hands are numb, so I got him the old school headphones), some gospel music, and a tin of popcorn.

Jerry and I sat and read some cards to him. While I was reading, Mark cut me off and said that he wants Jerry to read, because Jerry has a nice voice. Hahaha! So I sat and listened. Mark was really tired, and kept falling asleep for a second or two before popping his eyes open again. I asked if he wanted to nap, but he kept saying he wasn't tired. I think he just didn't want us to leave.

His doctor came in, and I spoke with him for a few minutes. He said the numbness in Mark's hands is likely from the tumors on his brain (I was hoping it was just from the morphine). Mark gets really frustrated when he tries to pick things up, and the past couple of times I've visited, he's asked me to help feed him, because it's hard to grasp his utensils. He's been doing radiation treatments on his brain to shrink the tumors and relieve those symptoms, so I hope that it works. We know it's not a cure, but we are hoping it will preserve some quality of life.

When the food service worker came around to see what Mark wanted for lunch, she heard me tell Mark that I was sorry that I couldn't get him a strawberry shake today, and she offered to make a special one for him. That was SO kind of her! So when his lunch came, he had a strawberry shake that she'd made especially for him.

After his lunch, he was really drowsy, so I set up his CD player with his new headphones and got him settled in with those, and then Jerry and I left. We picked up the kids from my parents house, and then we decided to go out for dinner. My brother was supposed to come over, and I was going to make lasagna, but he was in Indiana later than planned, so he canceled. There is a Chinese restaurant about 30 minutes away that is pretty much the only restaurant open on Christmas, so we went there. We ordered two meals and shared it between the four of us, and it was the perfect amount of food. The kids loved it, and asked if we could go back there again soon.

After dinner, we stopped by Jerry's parents' house to exchange gifts with them. We'd been planning to do that today, but since our plans with my brother changed, it worked out that we could do it yesterday. We stayed there for a couple of hours, and by then I was really tired. I just wanted to go home and put my pajamas on. Jerry and I started to watch a show on Netflix, but I fell asleep less than 10 minutes in. It was a nice, but tiring, Christmas!

For the past week or so (ever since my first hospital visit with Mark), I've had such a different outlook on everything. It started with eating dinner at my Aunt Mickey's house, even though it wasn't "on plan". I feel really grateful to be healthy and active, and I started thinking about how I put way too much energy into worrying about a particular number on the scale. I don't want to do that anymore!

This past week, it's like my entire mindset did a 180. I haven't counted Weight Watchers PointsPlus, or eaten only specific foods. I've been eating "normally", or what I perceive "normal" to be like. I haven't binged at all, and I just keep doing what will make me happy. This is all kind of hard to explain, and I'm not sure I understand it myself, but I have just been trying to stop wasting so much energy and thought about my diet. I've been eating pretty healthy for most meals, but I've also indulged a little (like the sticky buns, and going out to dinner). The key is, I didn't OVERindulge. It's always been so hard for me to find that middle area, where I'm not overindulging, but I'm not restricting... and I think I finally found that sweet spot.

I wouldn't call it "intuitive eating", because when I've tried that in the past, I put WAY too much thought into it. I would always wonder, "Am I hungry now? How about now? Do I feel satisfied yet?" and it would make me crazy. My ultimate goal is to not put much thought into it at all; just to eat "normally". I'm not even focused on getting back to my "goal weight". I was 140 yesterday, which means I didn't gain anything all week, even though I wasn't counting anything, and I was fine with that number.

I feel this huge sense of relief since I let go of that "must stay on track, must get back to goal" mindset. I'm not swearing off counting PointsPlus or calories forever... if I start to overindulge regularly, then that's just something I might have to do again. But for now, I think as long as my BMI is normal, I am active, healthy, and happy, then there is no reason to worry so much about the details :)

December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

I can't believe it's Christmas Eve already! I feel totally unprepared for Christmas, but I *think* that we're ready. I did some last minute shopping today (I didn't even have wrapping paper), because I've been focusing so much on Mark this week that I haven't really given much thought to getting prepared for Christmas.

Our Christmas is going to be pretty low-key, for which I am grateful. Jerry is off work for the first time in about 10 Christmases, so I'm looking forward to spending the day with him and the boys. We're going to open presents in the morning, of course, and shortly after that, we'll head up to the hospital to visit Mark for a couple of hours. Then tomorrow evening, my little brother, Nathan, is supposed to come over for a little bit.

I went up to the hospital yesterday. First, I stopped and picked up Mark's cards from the box, then I got a gift card to Starbucks for the nursing assistant who hung up the cards. Mark had requested that I bring him Cheetos and a strawberry McDonald's milkshake, so I stopped to get those, also. I was carrying a bunch of stuff, but when I got to the hospital, I decided to take the stairs again (Mark's room is on the tenth floor). I took a different stairway than last time, and halfway up, the stairway ended. So I went all the way back down to the first floor, found the correct stairway, and then hiked up 10 flights of stairs while carrying a ton of stuff. Fun!

I got there at around 11:00, and Mark had just been taken down to radiation. The treatment only takes a few minutes, but by 1:00, he still wasn't in his room. I asked about him at the nurse's station, and they said that he'd been ready for a long time, but they were waiting for transportation to bring him back to his room. Good grief! I know that they are busy, but that's a long time for him to be waiting in a hallway, with nothing to do (while his milkshake was melting in his room).

Finally, at around 1:15, they brought him to his room. Things got a little hectic then, because his nephew, Dan, showed up, along with Dan's six-year old son, Daniel. A few minutes later, my dad showed up. Mark was thrilled to see everyone, of course, particularly Daniel. We chatted for a little while, and then a couple of more people showed up: Santa and Mrs. Claus ;)  They sang some Christmas songs, did a couple of magic tricks, and read a Christmas story.

Santa gave Mark some sort of "Christmas cheer" on his lungs--he pressed his thumb to Mark's chest, and his thumb lit up red.

Later, after Santa had left, we were just sitting around talking. Any time there is a lapse in conversation, Mark says, "Keep talking, keep talking!" My dad told him, "Mark, it's your turn--you talk to us." And Mark's choice of conversation made me burst out laughing. He thought for a second, and then exclaimed (while looking at me): "Remember when you broke down and cried?!" like it was this big event, as if I'd gotten married. And then he told Dan and my dad, "She broke down and cried. I cried too, because I was in a lot of pain, and I just want to go home." We all laughed at his honesty :)

Anyway, it was a good visit, and Mark was really tired when we left. I told him I'd be back on Christmas. I bought him a couple of gifts while I was out today. I just hope that he's feeling good tomorrow!

This morning, I wasn't feeling great, probably because I didn't get any sleep last night. I have no idea why, but I had the hardest time falling asleep, and then I got up way too early (much thanks to Paolo). I had three miles at tempo pace on the schedule, but I put it off until the afternoon. I took the boys shopping with me this morning, and then came home and wrapped presents for a couple of hours. Finally, I decided to get it done.

The roads are solid ice right now, so I had to run on the treadmill. I set the pace at 7.8 mph, up just a touch from the last tempo run, and just left it there while I ran the whole three miles. I wanted to slow down, but I knew I was perfectly capable of finishing, so I just kept going. I always feel so good after a hard run!

My spring goal for a 5K is 23:59, so that would be a 7:43/mi pace. Now I just have to practice running this pace outdoors, which is definitely harder!

So... it's hard to admit this, but after reading that one book on Noah's Kindle, I find that I definitely prefer the Kindle to an actual book now. I was so resistant to go electronic when it comes to books, but it really is so convenient! I am reading a book right now (an actual book, not on the Kindle) and I find myself not even wanting to pick it up to read.

I like to read while I eat breakfast or lunch, but holding the book open is really difficult, and I miss the ease of the Kindle. I think once I'm done reading this book ("The Survivor's Club" by Lisa Gardner), I'll just start looking at the electronic resource library. My library has a ton of books that are available for download, and a lot of older books are only available electronically. I never thought I'd convert to electronic!

I wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas tomorrow! If I have some time, I'll write a post, but I may take a break from the computer altogether tomorrow.

December 23, 2013

Motivational Monday #46

I have a short but sweet Motivational Monday today, which I hope just means that everyone is having too much fun during the holiday season to send in some pictures ;)  I've had a completely draining week, and as long as Mark is fighting this cancer, I'm sure it's going to be hard on me emotionally. I visited him again today, and he was doing better than Saturday as far as pain management. There were 100 more cards in the P.O. box for him this morning! I know I keep saying this, but I am SO grateful to everyone who has shown support for him. There are so many good people in this world, and I thank you all for reminding me of that :)

Anyway, I've had an emotional week, but I have NOT used food to make me feel better, and for that, I'm very proud of myself. I'll write more about this on Wednesday, but food has been put on the back burner in my mind this week, which has been helpful. I also managed to get through an 11-mile run on the treadmill Friday, which is definitely something to be proud of ;)

Here are a few motivational stories just in time for Christmas...

Stacey and her girlfriend, Kaitlin, started counting calories early this year and have now lost a combined 70 pounds! Stacey has also gotten Kaitlin interested in running, and Kaitlin ran her first half-marathon in October, finishing in 2:06. Stacey didn't even start running herself until joining the Air Force, and then she realized she was a natural-born runner. She ran her first half-marathon in 1:57, and has since PR'ed with a 1:43 finish; she ran her first marathon in 3:56, and has even run a 50K! 

Forty days ago, Shelley joined a fitness challenge at her gym that had a big incentive: lose 20 pounds in 40 days by going to the gym 5-6 days a week and eating clean, and get your money back! At her Day 40 weigh-in, she'd dropped 21.6 pounds, several inches (two dress sizes), gained muscle, and made some great friends. She received her money back--$359! Now her goal is to run and set some new PR's.

About five years ago, Emily started doing the Couch to 5K program, and lost some weight during that; however, she injured her knee so badly that her doctor told her she should never run again. In August, she moved out of state for school, and there wasn't a local dog park for her beagle, so she started to take him on walks instead. She started with just a mile, and then two, and then four... building her way up. One day, she jogged up one of the hills out of impatience. And then she started jogging up all of the hills, and she hasn't felt a single twinge in her knee. She started out with 22-23 minute miles, and today she ran a mile in 11:54! She's thrilled with her progress, and she said that she heard Santa was going to bring her a Garmin to track her runs ;)  (Emily's blog)

Don't forget to check out some more motivating stories (and share your own) on the Motivational Monday Facebook post!

December 22, 2013

Mousie and Ella

I woke up today feeling completely drained. I thought about Mark all night long, and even though I spoke to him via FaceTime yesterday, I just kept hearing him saying that he wants to go home. I knew my parents were going to visit him after church today, so I hoped that they would tell me good news, that Mark was feeling better.

I had intervals on the schedule today (7 x 400), and I planned to do them on the treadmill. I got dressed to run, and the treadmill all set up. I ran a short warm-up, and then set the treadmill at 9.0 mph for the first 400-meter interval (the same setting as last time). However, as soon as I started running, something just felt "off".

It was only the first interval, but I was having a hard time getting my legs to move quickly, and I felt clumsy and awkward. I only ran about a tenth of a mile before I decided to forget the intervals, and just run a tempo run, so I dropped the speed to 7.5 mph. After about a half-mile of that, I dropped it down to steady-state pace, about 8:30/mi. And finally, I dropped it to easy pace, 9:30-ish.

I think that yesterday just drained all of my energy. Right now, I feel like I do when I'm going through bad bout of depression; I just don't have much energy at all, and I have a pit in my stomach. I finished out three miles on the treadmill, but it was hard, even at an easy pace.

When I was done with my run, I turned on the Wii Fit U to go through my strength training routine. After the first time I did it, I was super sore! It actually hurt to run the next day, because my shoulders and chest were sore. But I am committed to doing it twice a week, and hopefully I won't get so sore this time.

I can't really say that today felt much easier, but it felt like it went by faster. I still like doing the games the best, but the yoga is definitely the hardest for me! My muscles shake so badly when I try to hold each position.

While I was finishing the strength routine, I got a text from my mom, who was at the hospital with Mark. She said that one of the nurse's aids went way above and beyond her job to display a whole bunch of Mark's cards. I was speechless when I saw the picture:

That was SO nice of her. She stapled as many cards as she could fit to a bed sheet, and then hung the sheet on the divider curtain. I'd been trying to think of a way to display his cards, so he can look at them more easily, and this is awesome. I'd like to bring her a small thank you gift or something tomorrow when I go visit. My mom said that all of the nurses were coming in to check it out, because they'd never seen someone get so many cards!

Speaking of gifts, Jerry and I decided to give the boys their gerbils yesterday, instead of waiting until Christmas. We tried to get creative in how we were going to present them, and first, we asked the kids to take out the recycling. There were lots of boxes in there from the gerbil supplies we bought, and we thought it would interesting to see if they noticed it, and discussed among themselves why there were gerbil items in the recycling bin. They took the recycling out, but didn't even notice all the gerbil stuff! So then we went with Plan B.

We put one of the gerbils in the clear plastic ball to let it roam around the house. The boys were in their bedroom, so I put the gerbil in the living room, and it was running around on the floor (inside of its ball). Then Eli came out, and it took him a while to notice, but then he started giggling and sneaking glances at me to see if I was going to say anything. I just acted like I had no idea that there was a gerbil on the floor. He called Noah in to see, and then they got really excited and gave us hugs. Jerry brought out the cage with the other gerbil, and the kids spent some time getting to know them (the cats were locked in my bedroom to avoid disaster).

Noah named his gerbil Mousie

Eli named his gerbil Ella
Jerry and I voted to name the gerbils "Duck" and "Chick" but the boys didn't go for it ;)

I thought Estelle would go NUTS for the gerbils, but she hasn't shown much interest at all. She's terrified of the gerbils when they are in the ball, wandering around the house, so she runs and hides--haha! Chandler, believe it or not, has shown more interest than any of the cats. We had the cage set up in Jerry's and my bathroom until we gave the gerbils to the kids, and Chandler squeezed himself onto the counter and just sat there, terrifying the poor gerbils watching.

Thankfully, none of the cats has even tried to mess with the top of the cage. Paolo has no interest in the gerbils at all, Estelle is scared of them, and Chandler and Phoebe just like to look at them. The gerbils are actually really interesting to watch!

Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday! I hope to see some great stories to boost my mood :)  If you have a photo you want to share about a health/fitness accomplishment, you can email it to me at SlimKatie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com, subject "Motivational Monday", with a short description, and I may include it on tomorrow's post!

December 21, 2013

An emotionally draining day

Jerry and I ended up having so much fun on our little date night last night. My mom had told us about a Mexican restaurant in Wyandotte that she and my dad really liked, so we decided to go there for dinner. I like downtown Wyandotte, because there are a lot of little shops along the street, so it's entertaining to walk around and window shop.

We went to Angelina's for dinner, and I ordered flautas--my favorite thing to order at a Mexican restaurant. They were really good, but my favorite thing was actually the side of refried beans. They were amazing! We were feeling kind of Christmas-y and just very happy, so we ended up leaving a 100% tip for the server... that was fun :)

When we left the restaurant, we walked down the street to a candy shop, that had "nostalgic candy" printed on the sign. I knew there had to be some cool finds in there, so we browsed around the shop and bought some stocking stuffers for the kids. They had a lot of really interesting candy!

Jerry and I had a pretty relaxing morning, and then at around 10:00, I remembered that the post office would close at 11:00, and I wanted to go pick up Mark's mail. So Jerry and I hurried and got ready to go to the hospital, and then we stopped at the post office on the way.

You guys. I am SO SO SO appreciative of all of the support you've sent Mark in the form of cards. The P.O. Box was packed full today with 109 cards for him!! I was speechless, and my jaw dropped when I opened the box. I was so excited to bring the cards to the hospital. Thank you so much!

We stopped at Long John Silver's on the way, because Mark had requested fish and hush puppies from there. When we got to the hospital, we decided to take the stairs to Mark's room, instead of the elevator--he's on the 10th floor, so it wasn't just a flight or two! I wanted to get some "altitude" for my Wii Fit U Challenge. I've run three marathons in the past couple of years, but I was huffing and puffing by the time we got to the tenth floor!

Mark was REALLY happy to see us, and thrilled that we brought him Long John Silver's. He ate his lunch while Jerry and I took turns reading his cards to him. We went through all 109 cards, and Mark loved every single one. Every time a nurse or someone would come into the room, he would say, "I have SO MANY people that care about me! So many people!"

After we read the cards, the pain in his legs became really bothersome to him. He has tumors in his legs, brain, lungs, and spine, so all those spots hurt. I asked the nurse if he could have more pain meds, but the nurses were taking SO long to respond, and they said that he couldn't have more for another hour at least, which was frustrating. A doctor came to check on him, so I asked if they could give him something else, and the doctor put in a request for morphine, but he said it would take a while on the pharmacy's end.

Mark kept talking about how much he wanted to go home, and this time, he wasn't talking about Heaven. He said he wanted to back to his group home. It was heartbreaking.

My mom called and asked about Mark, so I stepped outside the room, because I'd been on the verge of tears the whole time I was there. I told her what was happening with his pain, and then I pulled myself together to go back in. When I walked back in, Mark was talking to Jerry, and crying. He was really upset, saying he wanted to go home, and he kept apologizing for crying. It was awful. We told him not to be sorry, that it's perfectly normal to cry and get sad or angry about all this, but he just kept apologizing and telling us, "Thanks for coming!".

We'd been there for nearly four hours, but I didn't want to leave until after they'd given him the pain meds. The nurse finally brought in his morphine, and gave that to him, so I knew he'd be feeling better soon. We chatted a little longer, and I showed him again what buttons to push to turn on the TV and his CD player. I could tell that the morphine kicked in, because he got a little loopy, so I told him he should get some rest, and we said good-bye. He was so grateful that we'd come, and just kept thanking us. I felt awful leaving, but my parents had had the kids for nearly 24 hours, so we had to go pick them up.

We walked to the elevator, and when it opened, Kim (a friend of our family) stepped out, on her way to visit Mark. I was so grateful to see that she was there to visit him, because it was so hard for us to leave! I couldn't even talk to her without crying. Jerry and I went to my parents' to pick up the kids, and while we were there, Kim FaceTime'd my mom's iPhone, so that I could see that Mark was doing really well. I chatted with Mark via FaceTime for a minute, and he seemed MUCH happier, which was a relief.

This whole thing has been so much harder than I ever could have imagined. Mark is just so innocent, and has always been so happy; seeing him break down today broke my heart. But I just want to let you all know how excited he was to get the cards, and how loved it made him feel to know there are so many people pulling for him. (A few people have asked me if it was too late to send a card; of course not! I would love to see him get cards for as long as he's battling this cancer. The address is on this post.)

My parents are going to visit him tomorrow, so I think I'll go on Monday, and then again on Christmas. Today, he mentioned a bunch of old TV shows that he liked to watch, so Jerry and I are going to look for some on DVD that we can bring him for Christmas. I wish we knew how long he would be in the hospital, but there really isn't a plan for what happens next, so we'll see.

December 20, 2013

Dreary day

Today was the dreariest day ever. It rained all day long, melting the snow so that the snow got all gray and slushy, and it was really foggy outside. Naturally, it would happen to be my long run day, giving me the torturous decision of whether to run outside or on the treadmill.

After I got the boys off to school, I procrastinated for a bit, and then finally decided I needed to get it done. I went outside just long enough to throw the cat litter in the trash, and decided that it was definitely a treadmill day. Running through slush is more difficult than running on ice or snow! So I picked a new show on Hulu to watch for the next hour and forty minutes or so. It was a show called Twisted, a teen murder-mystery that I hoped would keep me interested through 11 miles.

I used my foot pod, since the Garmin was so inaccurate when I used it on the treadmill. My sister sent me a link to an article that explains about the issue--the Garmin 620 and 220 are NOT meant to be used indoor without a foot pod after all. Garmin didn't make that very clear in their description of the watch, and a lot of people (including me) have been disappointed/confused by it. The purpose of the accelerometer inside of the chest strap is just to measure cadence (steps per minute), oscillation (bounce), and ground contact time. It does NOT give you pace or distance, which is why the foot pod is required. Here is a link to the article.

I set the treadmill at 6.4 mph and tried to forget I was running (haha). At first, the time was just crawling by, especially because I wasn't that interested in the show I was watching. I felt just fine physically, though, so I knew I'd be mad at myself if I quit just because I couldn't handle the mental part of treadmill running.

I ran at 6.4 until the last mile, when I bumped up the speed by 0.1 mph every minute until I was done. The second episode of Twisted finished right as I was finishing my run, so it was perfect timing.

After my run, I had to go get a couple of groceries, and while I was at the store, I picked out a long run treat: ice cream! I got a tiny container of Haagen Dazs dulce de leche. I used to love this ice cream; I forgot just how good it is! The container is pathetically small, though--3.6 fluid ounces--for 240 calories.

Today was the boys' last day of school before Christmas break. They're off school now for two weeks! For the past couple of years, I took them to a day camp at an ice arena during their break, but they aren't doing the camp this year. The kids are so disappointed. We'll have to come up with some creative things to do for the next couple of weeks.

My mom went to visit Mark today, and she sent me this picture of him:

She said that he was having a blast while handing out candy to all the nurses :)  I'm hoping that Jerry and I will be able to go visit him tomorrow. As long as Mark doesn't have any testing or anything going on, we'll go see him in the afternoon, and I'll bring him some more cards.

It REALLY does not feel like a Friday night... maybe because I don't have my pajamas on before 6 pm? Hahaha, I think Jerry and I are going to have a date night tonight, because the boys are at my parents' house!

December 19, 2013

A visit with Mark

I've had a super busy day today! It's 7:00 pm, and I'm just now sitting down at home. This morning, my dad asked if I wanted to go visit Mark, and I was feeling a lot better, so I said sure. He told me he'd pick me up at 8:45 (which was in an hour). He came over to walk the kids to the bus stop, and the second they left, I headed out for a four-mile run.

I knew it was going to be a busy day, so I wanted to get it done before heading to the hospital. I ran four miles and then hopped in the shower to get ready. I scarfed down some oatmeal for breakfast just in time for my dad to pick me up.

We stopped at the post office on the way to the hospital so that I could check the P.O. Box. I was delighted to see that there were a ton of cards in there for Mark. On the way to the hospital, I counted them, and there were 52! I was really excited to give them to him.

When we went up to his room, Mark was really happy to see us. I showed him the cards, and explained that they were ALL for him. I opened each card and read it out loud to him, then passed it to him to see. He kept saying, "Oh, that's a nice card!" to all of them, like it was the best card he's ever received.

And they were all so nice... I honestly can't thank you enough for all of the thought that went into those cards! Mark kept saying, "So many people care about me, I have all these people that care about me." I didn't want to cry or get upset in front of him, because he's just so HAPPY, so reading the cards was really hard for me. I get emotional while watching Hallmark commercials, for goodness sake!

Every once in a while, out of nowhere, he would tell me just how excited he was to go "home". I felt bad about that, because I know that he's not going back to the home that he's known for nearly his entire life. When I mentioned something about "home", he said, "NO, not 'home'... I mean 'HOME home'." When I asked further, he explained that he is excited to go to his real home, to Heaven, to see his family.

He talked about "HOME home" a lot while I was there, and I have to say, it was really comforting to hear him be at peace about it. It would be so hard to hear him talk about fear of dying or something like that, but Mark will be happy whether he miraculously beats this cancer or he goes "home". I learned today that Mark's brother died of lung cancer a few years ago, their father died of lung cancer, and their grandfather died of lung cancer.

After I read all the cards to him, his nephew showed up. His nephew is his only living relative. My dad chatted with his nephew, so I talked to Mark some more. I asked him if I could bring him anything next time I go visit, and he said his usual response, "Oh, any old thing." But I pressed him harder, and said, "Mark, is there something you REALLY love that you would like me to bring you? Anything at all?" and he started to come up with a few ideas. He loves junk food--so much so that we are probably soul mates ;)  He said he wants hush puppies and fish from Long John Silvers; Cheetos; cheese popcorn; candy bars, or any kind of chocolate; and a milkshake. So I'm going to bring him some goodies the next time I go, probably on Saturday.

My dad and I stayed for a couple of hours, and then we had to head out because I had to go to the school for the kids' Christmas party. I'm so glad that I got to go visit Mark! He's positive and happy, and it just radiates off of him. He kept thanking the nurses for everything--even after they gave him an injection, he'd say "Thank you!" I was feeling so sad about his situation last night, during a long talk with Jerry about it; but today, I feel a million times better after seeing how happy he is.

(Here is the P.O. Box address again, just in case you missed it, if you'd like to send Mark a card:
Mark P.
c/o Katie Foster
P.O. Box 405
South Rockwood, MI 48179

He REALLY loved seeing a couple of post cards. He's never been outside of Michigan, so a post card or photo of where you live is interesting to him. He also really loved a card that played music when you opened it.)

When I got home, I had about 30 minutes to eat lunch and then head out to the school. The kids had their Christmas parties, so I was there to help, although it really wasn't needed (lots of parents there!). Right after school, we went to my Aunt Mickey's house so the kids could decorate Christmas cookies with her grandkids. It's something that we do every year, and the kids really look forward to it.

My Aunt Mickey always cooks dinner for everyone, and every year, I don't eat there because I'm trying to "stay on track". After visiting Mark today, I was just thinking about how dumb it is to skip out on things like that. My aunt makes really great food! So I took a plate, and ate what she made, and I enjoyed every bite. I even had a couple of cookies that the kids made for me. Tomorrow, I'll be more careful, but I'm glad that I ate dinner there today. Mark having cancer has made me stop and think (more than a few times) about what is really important!

Eli showed me his plate of cookies when he was done, and they were totally unappetizing...

The one on the left even has a huge bite out of it, haha. Despite being a super busy day, it's been a very good one!

December 18, 2013

Wii Fit U 30-Day Challenge

In a nutshell, my first week of Weight Watchers' Simply Filling plan was a success! I got on the scale this morning for my Wednesday Weigh-in, and saw that my weight was definitely down from last week:

My last "official" weigh-in was Thursday, so it was actually the day after I started Simply Filling, and I was 142.5. So today, at 140 even, I am down 2.5 pounds from 6 days ago. I'm very happy with that!

I was a little nervous about using all of my weekly and activity PointsPlus (on top of all of the Simply Filling foods), but I know that if I want to be successful with this plan, then I need to make it work for me. Using those PointsPlus on foods that I really wanted, but weren't SF-friendly, made it much easier to stick to the plan.

The hardest part was coming up with snack ideas, especially for the afternoon. At night, I've been eating popcorn, but afternoon snacks are tough. I had to think outside the box of what I normally ate, and had oatmeal or cottage cheese with peaches. I missed having a Clif Bar, though! Today, I made some of those banana oatmeal cookies to have in the afternoon; those are Simply Filling (without any add-ins), and they're similar to a bar. Perfect with a cup of tea!

I started a 30-day challenge today. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a woman named Justine, who works with a firm that does marketing for certain brands. She asked me if I'd like to do a 30-day Wii Fit U challenge with some other bloggers. I love the Wii Fit, and this was right around the time I was thinking of starting strength training, so it was perfect timing.

The only video games I use are Wii Fit Plus and Wii Active, so I didn't really know what the difference was between Wii Fit and Wii Fit U. I thought that the Wii U was a game or plug-in for the Wii, but it turns out that it's a new console (as explained to me by my 9-year old, hahaha). After a chat on Skype (my first time using Skype--I know, I'm very technologically advanced), Justine sent me the stuff I'd need for the challenge: the console and two Fit Meters.

The Fit Meters look like this:

I was really excited to use the Fit Meter! It clips to your waistband and tracks your movement (similar to the Weight Watchers ActiveLink). It tracks distance, altitude, and intensity. Then you sync it with the Wii Fit U game, and you can see on a map how far you've walked/run. I chose to follow the Chicago route first, so it shows a map of the Chicago running route, and then your Mii moves along the map to show the distance you've gone. It adds to your distance each time you sync the Fit Meter.

Jerry and I have been having a little friendly competition to see who can finish the routes first. I thought, being a runner, that I would beat him quickly; but Jerry gets in a LOT of walking at work, so we've been neck and neck whole way.

The 30-day challenge that I started today is going to be on the Hawaii course:

And I'll also be tracking vertical distance with the Grand Canyon:

The vertical one is going to take a LONG time for me, because we don't have stairs at our house, and everywhere I run is totally flat. So I'll be on the lookout for anywhere that I can add a little bit of a climb.

Justine asked me what my goals were, and I said that I wanted to start a strength training program to help me stay injury-free while running, and help me get stronger/faster. I was surprised that they wrote out a personalized workout for me!

I have to admit, in the entire time I've used the Wii Fit Plus, I've never done the yoga or strength training stuff... I only use the games. But today, I did this routine on the Wii Fit U. It didn't take long, and I didn't get bored with it, because each exercise goes pretty quickly. I certainly wasn't expecting it to be as hard as it was! My muscles were really shaky by the end, especially from the yoga. I think I'm going to like this!

So anyway, for the next 30 days, I'm going to be tracking my distance walked/run, and my altitude climbed for this challenge. I'm also committing to doing the strength routine at least twice a week. Ideally, I would do it three times, but I don't want to commit to that. My main goal is to make strength training a habit, so I'm starting small. I noted all my starting scores for the exercises I did, so I'm hoping to improve them at the end of the challenge!

(Disclosure: Nintendo supplied me with the equipment for the 30-Day Challenge, but I was not paid for this post, or even asked to write a post. All opinions are honest, as always.)

I got a call from the post office today about the PO Box I just rented. She said that they made a mistake, and gave me one of the small boxes, when I paid for a larger box. She told me that the number should be 405, not 194.

I panicked. I've had the address up since Saturday, and lots of people have sent cards to Mark! She said that there were several cards that arrived today, which is when they noticed the mistake. She said it was no problem, that they would just forward the cards from that box to the new one, but that I should make sure to change the address on anything else from here on out.

So, if you've already sent a card, he'll still get it. If you haven't sent a card yet, but would like to, the new box number is:

Mark P.
c/o Katie Foster
P.O. Box 405
South Rockwood, MI 48179

I'm going to go pick up the mail tomorrow, and I'm hoping that I'll be well enough to go visit Mark by Friday, so I can bring the cards to him then!

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