February 28, 2014

Coconut Almond Butter

Despite the wind chill advisory this morning, the kids still had school. I'm so glad the school isn't being canceled due to the cold temps anymore! Here it is, the last day of February, and it's still ridiculously cold. When I think of March, I think of spring; but we're nowhere near spring right now!

While I was digging through the fridge this morning, trying to figure out what I wanted for breakfast, I found a jar of nut butter that I'd bought a long time and completely forgot about (I know! How could I forget about nut butter?!)

I really wanted to try it, so I made oat bran (35 grams of oat bran cooked in 2/3 cup skim milk), and then topped it with 32 grams of the MaraNatha Coconut Almond Butter. It was absolutely fantastic! I forgot how much I like oat bran, too; it's been a long time since I've had it. The breakfast was 9 PointsPlus, and totally worth it.

I also dug out another oldie but goodie this morning--Ceylon Star tea from David's Tea. The tin was way in the back of the cupboard, and I had completely forgotten about that flavor. I made some after breakfast, and kept thinking, "How did I forget about this tea? It's so good!" I only have enough for 1-2 more cups, so I checked the David's website to see if they still had it. It was on special for 40% off, because they're getting rid of that flavor. It had to be bought in 250 gram increments. To qualify for free shipping, I may have ordered 750 grams... Hopefully I don't get sick of it, because I won't run out until at least 2020!

Today was my long run day, and on this new plan I'm doing, this is what was on the schedule:

-50 minutes at 70-75% maximum heart rate
-8 repeats of the following:
     -1 minute at 5K race pace (90-95% maximum heart rate)
     -1 minute easy jog
-10 minutes at 70-75% maximum heart rate

I was surprised at how much I had to keep slowing down during the first 50 minutes to keep my heart rate under 141. My pace for that part ended up being 10:35/mi. (I had to stop for a minute 15 minutes in, because there was a little pebble inside my shoe). I did the fast intervals at 8.0 mph, and then the jog at 5.0 mph. Next time, I'll have to do the fast intervals even faster, because my heart rate didn't get up high enough.

The whole run was only 7.3 miles, which doesn't really feel like a "long run". But next week, the schedule lists 11, which will be the longest I've done in at least a couple of months.

Today was the final day of my 10,000+ steps per day challenge! I'm proud to say that I actually did it, getting in 10,000+ steps every single day this month.

Whenever I would read about how it's recommended to get 10,000 steps per day, I never really thought about just how much walking that is. I just assumed that since I'm a runner, I get in plenty of steps; and surely I was getting in at least 10,000 steps a day! But once I started tracking my steps, I couldn't believe how difficult it was to hit that number, even on the days I ran.

The days that I didn't run this month (Wednesdays and Saturdays) were especially hard. A lot of times, I'd end up walking slowly on the treadmill for an hour in addition to the regular movement I got during the day. There were a few days this month that I forgot to check my steps until it was time to sit down and relax before bed, and I was a few thousand short. I walked around my living room and kitchen, and paced up and down the hallway to reach that magic number. I was determined to hit the goal every day!

Overall, though, I'm really glad that I did this challenge. It made me realize that I'm not as active as I thought I was, and now I've gotten used to doing things the long way in order to get in some extra steps. I'd like to continue to aim for 10,000 a day, but I'm not going to do whatever it takes to make it happen, like I did this month! I'm looking forward to my rest day tomorrow, and NOT doing lots of extra walks to get in the steps ;)

Now, for March... I'd like to challenge myself again, to give me something to focus on. My goal for March is to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I stocked up on veggies today, so now I just have to get creative on how to use them all up!

February 27, 2014

My pear tree

I can't believe just how much better I feel after yesterday's Weight Watchers meeting. It's a like a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders, and it's so nice! Weighing in at WW on Monday has helped me tremendously to stay on track this week. So many times, I thought, "Screw tracking! It's just one snack..." but knowing that I have to weigh in once a week at WW has made me track everything and not go overboard.

Today was another ridiculously cold day. The windchill temp this morning was -15, and I was dreading getting the call from the kids' school saying that school was canceled. But it never came, so they actually had school today. Usually, I walk them to the bus stop in the mornings, but I couldn't bear the thought of going out in the wind like that, so I ended up driving the kids to school.

When I got home, I made breakfast, and I talked to my sister on the phone. She's running her longest-ever run tomorrow! The most she's ever run was a half-marathon, and she's marathon training right now, so she has 15 miles on the schedule tomorrow. I remember my first 15-miler very well, which I ran with Jessica, and it was a fantastic run! Anyway, Jeanie was wondering how she should fuel for the run, so I chatted with her about that for a little while this morning. I'm really curious to see how it goes tomorrow.

Today, on the new running schedule, was a 30-35 minute easy run with strides at the end. Written out, it ended up looking like this:

-Run at 70-75% maximum heart rate for 27 minutes.
-Repeat the following six times:
     -Run 20 seconds at 1-mile race pace
     -Jog 60 seconds recovery

There was no way I was running outside today, so I did it on the treadmill. I wasn't sure what speed I'd need to do to achieve 70-75% max heart rate, so I started with 6.5 mph. My heart rate was too low even after a couple of minutes, so I had to bump it up to 6.7-6.8 mph, and then it was right in the zone. One of the things I like about this heart rate training is that I don't have to maintain a steady pace. If my heart rate gets too high, I lower the speed, and if my heart rate is too low, I increase the speed. It's not as boring that way ;)

Once I reached 27 minutes, I did a 20-second sprint at 9.0 mph, and then recovered at 6.0 (for the first sprint; after that, I recovered at 5.0). I always like seeing the pace and heart rate graphs after a run like today's:

I liked doing the strides at the end; it made the first 27 minutes go by really quickly, because they felt like a prelude to the strides.

A few people have asked me what my heart rate was like when I first started exercising. The earliest heart rate data I can find is from April/May 2011, which was after I'd been running for a year, so it doesn't offer much insight. But my average heart rate then was 160, and currently, it's 145. So as I got in better shape, my heart naturally became more efficient.

I remember my first time using the heart rate monitor with my Garmin, and I was shocked at just how slow I had to go to keep my heart rate in the correct zone. It kept skyrocketing, so I stopped wearing the HR monitor for nearly a year, and then I tried again (which was April 2011). It's hard to get my heart rate to 160 now--I just tried that a couple of days ago, and I had to run a 7:40-8:10 pace to keep my heart rate that high. But I was running a 10:00-11:00/mi pace in 2011 with the same heart rate.

It's kind of frustrating for someone just starting out exercising, when they see really high heart rate numbers. Sometimes a very slow walk will get your heart rate in the right aerobic zone. But as you get in better shape, and your heart gets more conditioned, you'll have to work harder and harder to reach that zone.

I will be so glad to get in my 10,000 steps tomorrow and cross this February goal of my list. Getting in 10,000 steps a day, every day, this month has been really hard! I'd like to come up with another goal for March--something easily defined and measurable, like the 10,000 steps per day goal. I was thinking of making it a point to get in my Good Health Guidelines for Weight Watchers every day, but that would be another really tough goal, and I'm not sure I want to commit to that ;)

Maybe I'll just aim for one of the Good Health Guidelines, like getting five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I've been getting in a lot more vegetables lately, and I actually used up all that I bought before they went bad. I was really surprised that Eli loved zucchini and summer squash (I just sautéed it in a little olive oil). My kids usually complain about eating vegetables, but Eli really loved the squash.

I "treated" myself to a couple of Asian pears when I went grocery shopping a couple of days ago. They're really expensive, so I don't buy them often, but I absolutely love Asian pears! It's kind of funny that I consider them a treat ;)  Speaking of Asian pears, I forgot to post a picture of the Asian pear tree that my mom bought for me to plant. I've been trying to grow a fruit tree in my yard ever since we moved here 10 years ago, and it's been one problem after another. But I'm hoping this will work out!

I laughed so hard when I saw the "tree", because it looks like it's just a stick pushed into the ground...

I'm not even joking; that's my Asian pear tree. It had roots, so let's hope they held up through this awful winter!

February 26, 2014

New Weight Watchers meeting

I am SO glad that I went to the new Weight Watchers meeting today! I was super nervous to go, because of the issues I've had with my local center. Whenever I would have to go weigh in there, I'd get bad anxiety. Today, I decided to try a different center, so I was still nervous, but only because I didn't know what to expect.

The meeting started at 9:30, and I got there a little after 9:00. I handed the receptionist my weigh-in booklet, and told her that I'd already weighed in this week, but I wanted to attend the meeting. She was very friendly, and I explained the situation to her--that I felt very uncomfortable and unwelcome at the other center, and that I would like to switch my WW "home base". She had me fill out a form, and then took care of everything to make the switch, so now I don't ever have to go back to my previous center!

I sat down for the meeting, and was surprised how many people showed up, especially for a meeting at 9:30 on a Wednesday morning. At my previous center's meetings, I only ever saw about 6-10 people show up. Today, there were about 25.

I had assumed I would have to go to a few different meeting times, with different leaders, to find a leader that I clicked with, but I'm sure I found her today. One of the things that drove me crazy about the WW center that I had been going to was that the leaders seemed to make up their own rules to the WW plan. For example, one of the leaders told everyone that if you eat more than two servings of fruit in a day, you have to count each additional serving as 1 PP. That's not a WW rule! Fruit is 0 PP, whether you have 2 or 10 servings. But when I mentioned that I liked to snack on grapes, eating several servings a day, she told me that I need to count those servings, which I knew wasn't true. And I lost weight just fine, thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, at today's meeting, someone brought up eating too much fruit, and I LOVED the leader's response: she said that it's entirely up to each individual person and what their body can handle. Some people can eat tons of fruit and lose weight without problem (like me); others can only eat a couple of servings before it makes weight loss difficult; etc. We just have to experiment to see what is best for our bodies. As soon as I heard her response to that question, I was sold on her.

One of the things that I really liked was that she is doing a challenge for March. We are supposed to take a picture of a clothing item that we hope to be able to fit into by the end of March, and hang the picture on her bulletin board. Then, at the end of March, if we wear that item into the meeting, she'll enter our names into a drawing for some WW stuff. I thought that was a creative idea! I can still fit into all of my clothes (at least I think so!), but a couple of pairs of jeans have gotten uncomfortably tight. So I chose a pair of (non-stretchy) jeans for my goal item. I want them to be comfortable enough to wear to the meeting by the end of March.

After the meeting was over, I went up to thank her and to introduce myself. I explained my situation about switching WW centers, and she was excited to learn how much weight I'd lost. She asked if I minded if she shared that with everyone, and I said of course not. I didn't think she meant right then! She called for everyones' attention as people were getting ready to leave, and made a big ta-da about my weight loss. My face was beet red, and I was embarrassed, but at the same time, it felt good that she was excited for me.

I left the meeting feeling fantastic, and very excited about going back next week. I really wish I had switched centers ages ago; but regardless, I'm glad I went today and gave it a try, because it worked out very well.

After I left the meeting, I stopped at the mall because I had a coupon for free Victoria's Secret panties. I browsed around a little, hoping to find a cute nightie or something, but nothing really sparked my interest, so I didn't end up buying anything.

I headed to the nursing home to see Mark, and stopped at Starbucks to get him a latte. It was 11:00, so at the last minute, I figured I should get him lunch, too. Usually, I pick up McD's for him, but I was hungry, too, and I really didn't want McD's, so I stopped at Subway. I had no idea what kind of sandwich to get Mark, but he's not at all picky, so I just chose the best I could. I got him a soda and chips, also.

Once I got to the nursing home, Mark wasn't in his room. I walked up and down the halls looking for him without luck. Finally, I stopped and asked at the nurses station, and they said he had an appointment with the doctor today, and he'd just left at 11:00. I was disappointed, because I had the food and drinks for him, but I asked the nurse if they could keep it and give it to him when he got back.

So, I didn't get to see him today, but I'll plan on going again Friday. I have to remember to call first, and make sure he's going to be there!

February 25, 2014

Heart rate training

As I mentioned yesterday, I weighed in at Weight Watchers, even though I was sure I was going to be over my WW goal weight. I was really nervous about going, and admitting a gain is never fun. But I hoped that going in, talking to the leader, and getting on the scale would make me feel some sort of relief.

There weren't any meetings yesterday, but they had open hours from 1-4 to just go weigh-in. There is only one person in there during that time, but I got there right at 1:00 so that I could hopefully talk to her alone. Unfortunately, she seemed to be having a really bad day, and I left there feeling kind of down.

I talked to my sister in the afternoon, and she suggested I switch WW locations, which I think is a good idea. The next closest center is about 30 minutes away. They have a meeting at 9:30 on Wednesday mornings, which would work well for me, so I'm going to give that one a try. It's a long drive for a 30 minute meeting, but I would really like to find a meeting and leader that I feel comfortable going to when I'm having a tough time.

Anyway, I am happy that I went to weigh in yesterday, and it feels good to be recommitted to tracking and getting back to goal. I had a great day tracking today and yesterday, and it's nice to feel in control :)

Yesterday, I was browsing around online to find something new and different to try as far as my running schedule goes (I'm getting bored with Hal's plan again!), and I came across "Ryan Hall's Half-Marathon Training Plan". Rather than focusing on pace and distance, the plan mainly focuses on heart rate and time... which I find refreshing! It's still five days a week, and not much different than what I've been doing, but with a different focus.

Some of the training runs are a given distance, but most of them are listed in time. Yesterday, for example, was a 30-35 minute recovery run (I switched the runs to different days of the week, to better fit my schedule). The recommended heart rate zone for the recovery run is listed as 65-75% of maximum heart rate. It was kind of fun to forget about pace and distance, and just focus on time and heart rate. I ran 31 minutes with my average heart rate at 72% of my maximum--it ended up being a 10:04 pace for a little over 3 miles.

This is the chart for recommended HR on this plan:

Today was a Steady Pace-Tempo Run: 15-20 min warm-up (65-70% max heart rate), 3 miles @ Tempo pace (85-90% max heart rate), 15 min cool down (65-70%). I wasn't sure what pace to start with in order to keep my heart rate in the "warm up" category. I started at 6.0 mph, but had to keep lowering the speed to keep my heart rate that low, and when I reached the 15 minute mark, I was actually at 5.0.

After the 15 minute warm-up, I bumped up the speed to get my heart rate to 85-90% of my max--which, for me, is 160-169 beats per minute. That was hard to do! I started out at 7.8 mph to get my HR up to the 160's, and then as it got to the high 160's, I lowered the pace as needed. It was a tough three miles, but not all-out effort. The cool down was impossible to get my heart rate low enough, though, unless I walked. I just lowered the speed to 5.0 and jogged at that speed for the whole 15 minutes, even though my heart rate was a little higher than the warm-up.

Anyway, I think it's fun, and definitely something different, to focus on time and heart rate. I'm going to try this plan for a while and see how it goes! That's the fun part about not training for anything in particular--I can try out a bunch of different plans, based on what interests me at the moment.

Tomorrow is a rest day, so I'm going to go to the new Weight Watchers meeting in the morning, and then go visit Mark, because the nursing home is just another 15 minutes from there. My dad saw him yesterday, and said he was doing great!

February 24, 2014

Motivational Monday #53

Happy Motivational Monday! I hope everyone is off to a great start this week. I'm so happy that I was able to run outside yesterday, and again today. Today was colder, and a lot windier, but it really did feel good to be outside for a little bit.

After having a very snack-y February, I made the decision this week to start tracking my food again. It's been hard getting back to it, and I was starting to feel out of control; so today, I went to weigh in at Weight Watchers, even though I was sure I was over my WW goal weight. (I was borderline at the beginning of February, and even though I haven't been weighing myself, I could feel that I'd gained).

It was so hard to swallow my pride and go in there, but I'm glad I did. I'll write more about that tomorrow, but I'm happy that the worst is over (the "worst" being weighing in, even though I knew my weight was up), and now I feel good about going forward. Because I was over my goal weight, I had to pay the weekly fee. I'll have to weigh in once a week, and continue to pay each week until I'm back under goal. I'm hoping that will only take a week or two! But I think that having to pay will help me to stay on track and log my food again.

So I guess I can say that I'm proud of myself for weighing in today, even though I knew it wasn't going to be a good weigh in. ;)  Let's see what you've been proud of this week...

John (co-captain of my Ragnar SoCal team) ran 19.7 miles during Ragnar Del Sol this weekend! He ran with a team called Kilty Pleasures, and had a blast. (John's blog)

Audrey ran her first timed 5K race on Saturday! She was very nervous about being able to finish, but once the race started, she got excited. At the second mile marker, she just knew she would cross that finish line. She finished in 40:06!  (Audrey's race report)

Katie was recently going through some old photos on her phone, and she came across one of herself that was taken exactly one year ago, after her first long walk. Knowing she looked quite different, her husband took another one so they could compare the two, side-by-side. She's lost nearly 78 pounds over the past year! Her husband treated her to a run clinic for her birthday in December, and she's been loving it. She done some 5K's, and is preparing for an 8K in May! (Katie's blog)

Shelley just completed the 2nd Annual Freezin' for a Reason 5K! This was her first race this year, and only her second since May of last year, when she broke her ankle. She was nervous about training for and running the race, because she feared she'd hurt her ankle again, but she did great! She even finished in the same time that she finished last year.

Amy, along with her mom, just completed their first 10K! They traveled to Disney World to run the Enchanted Princess 10K. During training, Amy hurt her knee, which set her back; rather than not doing the race, she set a goal of 1:45 to allow herself to walk the entire race, if needed. She ended up being able to run about 75% of the race and finish 15 minutes before her goal! She's lost 80 pounds, and is very proud that she has been able to stick to a training plan and to accomplish a large goal like this one. Up next? Training for a half-marathon!

Congrats, everyone! Don't forget to check out the Motivational Monday Facebook post for some more stories :)

February 23, 2014

An outdoor run!!

I went for a run outside today!! This was my first outdoor run in well over a month. Between the kids being home from school, the snow storms, the ice-covered roads, and the -30 temps over the last couple of months, my treadmill has become pretty much routine. I've still been running five days a week, but they've all been on the treadmill.

This morning, I saw that the roads were mostly clear, the temp was in the 20's, and I had 4.5 miles at an easy pace on the schedule... no reason not to run outside. I was so excited to get some fresh air and see if my legs could hold up when there isn't a belt spinning beneath my feet ;)

I had absolutely no expectations as far as my pace was concerned, because I really have no idea where my fitness is at right now. I hadn't run outside in so long, it was hard to tell! But I just figured I'd run at whatever pace felt comfortable in the moment.

It felt so nice to be outside! It was colder than I expected it to feel, probably because I'm so used to running inside right now, but it felt really good. There were a few patches of black ice, but other than that, I didn't have any issues with snow/ice/water/slush. I did an out-and-back route, my trusty favorite, and had a headwind on the way out; which meant a nice tailwind on the way back :)

The first mile or so, I felt a little clumsy and awkward, but the farther I ran, the more my legs loosened up. When I finished, I saw that I actually ran negative splits (getting faster each mile).

I felt SO GOOD when I was done with my run today. I really miss that feeling after running outside. The kids are going back to school tomorrow after their week of winter break, and I am really hoping that I can get back into my regular routine. This winter has sucked so badly, and I'm just ready to get back to normal.

When I got home, I'm not sure what gave me the idea to drive the cats crazy, but I looked up a video on YouTube of cats meowing. Phoebe likes to watch TV, and when I played the video, she was SO into it. Jerry and I were cracking up watching her swat at the TV, so we were playing videos of cats, birds, squirrels, goats, and some other animals. Chandler, Estelle, and Phoebe loved it!

When we came across a video compilation of "screaming goats", I nearly peed myself from laughing so hard. If you haven't seen/heard them, you've got to watch a couple of the YouTube videos. They were so funny! I had no idea how human-like goats can sound.

This afternoon, Jerry had the idea to go to the Gibraltar Trade Center. If you're from southeast Michigan, then you probably know what that is; if not, it's basically like a big indoor flea market. We never, ever go there, because a lot of the people there are, well, how do I put it? The perfect example: right when we walked in today, this guy in his 20's was walking with his girlfriend/wife, and said, "It's so much easier coming here without the kids. Easy as tits!" So classy ;)

Anyway, we walked around there for a little bit, which ended up being pretty pointless. The place was exactly like I remembered. There was one thing that the boys did that they thought was so fun, though. There was a large shallow pool filled with water, and enormous beach balls with a zipper on the side. They climbed in through the zipper, and then it was filled with air and zipped up, and they got to "run" around the pool like hamsters in balls.

The kids stayed completely dry, and had a blast running into each other.

The Trade Center was pretty close to the nursing home where Mark is staying, so we decided to stop by and see him. We got him a coffee on the way, and there were some girls selling Girl Scout cookies. Mark mentioned that he likes the Samoas, so I bought a box of those for him, too.

When we were walking down the hall toward his room at the nursing home, I saw that he was out in the hallway, pushing himself in his wheelchair. I was so happy to see him doing that, and getting out of his room! He was really excited to see us. We stayed for about an hour to chat with him, and then we headed home.

It's been a busy day, but fun. I'm still flying high from my outdoor run this morning :)

February 22, 2014

Stair climbing

I'm so glad that my 10,000 steps per day challenge for February is almost over! It's not so bad on the days that I run, but on my rest days, I find it such a struggle to get in 10,000 steps. Even if I feel like I'm moving all day--cleaning the house, grocery shopping, running errands, even going for walks--I have a hard time getting in all 10,000 steps. I haven't missed any days, though!

I have an app called "Streaks: Motivational Calendar" on my iPhone to keep track of my progress. It's motivating to check them off every day that I hit 10,000! I also use it to track binge-free days and a couple of other things.

Anyway, today was a rest day, so instead of struggling all day to come up with ways to get in steps, I decided this morning to take the kids to the rec center for some activity. I planned to just walk leisurely around the indoor track while the kids swam, but once we got there, I changed my mind to try something new.

It's no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with running. I love everything about it, except actually doing it. I've been asked numerous times why I don't find an activity that I love to do, rather than running, for exercise. But honestly, I've tried lots of other activities, and running is my favorite, by far. I'm not a very active person by nature, and I just don't enjoy bike riding, or swimming, or sports. Running has become my go-to exercise, and even though I complain about doing it, I think deep down I actually love it ;)

Anyway, all of this is leading up to the fact that I did something different today that I really, truly, enjoyed! I went into the pool area while the kids were getting dressed into their bathing suits, and while I waited, I started walking up the steps of the bleachers, crossing to the next set of stairs, walking down, and returning to the start.

Once the kids came out to swim, I realized that what I was doing was much more interesting than walking around the track, so I kept doing it. I sprinted up the steps, turned left at the top of the bleachers, walked to the next set of steps, walked down, turned left, and returned to the start--and then repeated that, over and over again. It was so completely simple, just walking in a square--11 steps up, 12 forward steps, 11 steps down, and 12 forward steps. It took about 20 seconds to complete each "square" when I was going slowly, or 12 seconds when I did the whole thing quickly.

The kids swam from 9:15-10:00, and I was doing that the entire time. The sweat was pouring when I was done, but I'm pretty sure that's because it was like 900 degrees* in the pool area!

*Or maybe 75.

I was curious how many steps UP I did, so I timed how many "cycles" I was able to do in five minutes, and I did 14. Since I did it for 45 minutes, that would be 126 times around the square. There were 11 steps up for each square, so that would be 126 x 11 = 1,386 stairs going up. I knew I'd be sure to crush Jerry on our Wii Fit U altitude challenge today!

When I synced my Wii U Fit Meter, I was really excited to see the number. You know what number popped up?

Twenty-nine feet. It said I only climbed 29 feet! If each of the stairs was, say, 6 inches high, then I *should* have climbed 693 feet. Meanwhile, Jerry walked a couple of flights of stairs at work today, and earned 6,287 feet of altitude*.

*I may have exaggerated that number a little, out of bitterness.

I absolutely LOVE the idea of the Wii U Fit Meters, and it has certainly gotten my family to move a lot more than we would have otherwise, but I hope they change it to be a little more accurate. My step count is usually very accurate, but the distance is not (because you can't input your stride length). I always get shorted on my distance, especially when I run. I know I could buy a more accurate gadget, like a FitBit or the new Garmin version of an activity tracker, but I really like the "game" part of the Fit Meters. It's fun to see the map of how far I walked each day, and get awarded with a new outfit for my Mii when I complete a course.

I completed Berlin today, which leaves only one more course... the Tour of Italy!

All the others have ranged from 13 miles (New York) to 133 miles (Hawaii). The Tour of Italy is 653 miles, so it'll take me probably six months to finish that one. That's why I saved it for last. Jerry is only about 10 miles behind me. That kind of blows my mind, because I run five days a week--you'd think I'd have left him in the dust! But he gets in a LOT of walking at work.

I went to visit Mark at the nursing home today. I called him before I left, to see if he wanted me to bring him anything, and he said he would love a burger, fries, and Coke from McDonald's. I made a sandwich and packed that for myself, but stopped at McD's to get Mark's lunch. Mark seemed to be doing really well today--he was a little quieter than usual, but he definitely had an appetite. He ate the whole quarter-pounder and half the order of fries I brought him.

I'm so glad that the chemo hasn't had a negative effect on him at all. He hasn't gotten sick from it, hasn't lost his appetite, or felt unusually tired, or anything. He has two weeks off of chemo treatments, and then he'll do three more weeks of it (just once a week). After that, I'm assuming the doctors will do tests to see how the tumors are--whether they've grown, or if the treatments have shrunk them. I know I shouldn't get my hopes up, but I just keep thinking about how miraculous it would be if somehow Mark's cancer went into remission.

When we found out about his diagnosis, the prognosis was terrible. Without treatment, the doctor estimated he'd live three months. When I think back to our visits in the hospital just a couple of months ago, Mark wasn't doing well at all. He was in a LOT of pain, and his hands were pretty much useless (he couldn't pick things up or grasp things) because of the tumors in his brain and on his spine. He couldn't shift his weight in the bed without crying out in pain, and he certainly couldn't walk.

After 10 radiation treatments, 3 chemo treatments, and a ton of physical and occupational therapy, he can now walk (it's not easy, but he can do it), he can move around in his wheelchair by himself, and use his hands to do anything he needs to. I'm stunned by how much better he's doing in just a couple of months' time. He has so many people thinking about him and praying for him, and it just makes me believe that a miracle is possible. I can't wait until he gets some updated tests!

February 21, 2014


The wind today was crazy! I honestly felt like I was going to blow over a couple of times while out and about.

With the "spring like" temps the past couple of days, I had a minuscule bit of hope that I might be able to do my long run outside today. The wind was scary enough, but there is no way I'd running on these roads! Check this out:

It's basically just rain on top of slush on top of ice. I love that the snow is melting, but it's going to be a big old mess for a while. Needless to say, I chose to do the treadmill for my long run today.

I got on the treadmill as soon as I woke up, so I could get the run out of the way before breakfast. While I ran, I watched a couple of episodes of Private Practice (I never watched this show when it was on the air; I'm not a big Grey's Anatomy fan, so I didn't think I'd like it, but I like it much better than Grey's!). I set the treadmill at a 6.0 mph for the first 7 miles, and then I increased it every quarter mile for the last 2 miles, just to get it done.

My heart rate stayed at the very bottom of Zone 3 for the majority of the run, and I felt great the whole time. The miles actually went by pretty quickly today! I always love how good I feel after my long run each week.

After my run, and breakfast (cheese grits with a poached egg), I asked the kids if they wanted to go see a movie today. Eli was invited to a birthday party at Splash Universe, a small indoor water park about 40 minutes away, and I had planned on taking him; but when I checked out the prices of admission (for Noah and I), there was no way I wanted to pay that much. It's $32 per person to get in! Eli's admission would have been covered by the birthday party, but parents' admission was not. I didn't feel comfortable just dropping him off for the party, especially considering I don't know the parents of the birthday boy. Since I had to bring Noah with me, it would have cost $64 for me to chaperone Eli at a two-hour birthday party.

I felt bad telling him no, but he was really excited to go to the movies, so it worked out well. We went to see The Lego Movie (the things you do for your kids!! ha) which was just about as good as I expected it to be ;)  The kids liked it though, so that's all that matters.

After debating with myself the other day, I've gone back to counting points. Usually, on my long run day, I like to use my activity points on some sort of treat--almost always on dessert. Today, however, I decided to use them on dinner. I've always loved Reuben sandwiches, and this time of year, corned beef is always on sale. So I bought a corned beef and the ingredients for Reubens--pumpernickel bread, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing.

I know they're traditionally made with rye bread, but when I was a kid, my friend Shannon's dad made the BEST Reubens on pumpernickel, so that's how I make them. I put the corned beef in the slow cooker, which made the whole thing so easy (and my house smelled so good while it was cooking!). The sandwich ended up being 16 PointsPlus, which is quite a bit more than I would normally spend on dinner, but it was the perfect non-dessert treat for a long run day!

February 20, 2014

A humbling track run

Lately, my cats have been like magnets to me. Even if I just plan to sit down for a minute or two on the couch, it's like they can sense it, and they come running to sit with me. It used to be just one of the cats (either Estelle or Phoebe). Lately, Paolo has been glued to my side for some reason. And then this morning, all three of them fought for space.

(Chandler was hiding under my bed, because we had a thunderstorm--not that there was room for him next to me!) Paolo looks terrible right now, because I shaved him a couple of weeks ago. His fur was still getting matted (even with the "Fur-minator", which I ended up returning, because it didn't work any better than the regular brush I use). I really need to go get him a proper hair cut, so he doesn't look so homely. My dad came over and said, "What you'd do, put your cat in the dryer?" hahaha

Since the kids are home this week from school, and we didn't have anything going on today, I decided to take them to the rec center this morning. They could swim in the pool while I ran on the track upstairs. It took forever to get everything ready to head out the door (bathing suits, towels, swim masks, extra clothes, etc). Once we got in the car, Noah realized he forgot his gym shoes at my parents' house (he was wearing boots), so after a stop there for his shoes, we finally made it to the rec center.

The boys went into the boys' locker room to change, and after I changed into my running clothes, I met them in the pool area. Just after I saw Eli jump into the pool, Noah told me that he forgot his bathing suit. He had taken it out of the bag and forgot to put it back in. *sigh* Thankfully, I have really awesome parents that live very close, because I called them and my dad brought Noah's suit to the rec center. While I waited for my dad, I ran up and down the steps of the bleachers--might as well get in some altitude on my Wii Fit U challenge ;)

The lifeguard said it was no problem if I went upstairs to run while the boys swam, so after they were happily playing in the pool, I went up to the track. I had four miles at half-marathon pace (8:20-ish) on the schedule, but after the last HM-pace run I had at the indoor track, my plan was to just run in heart rate Zone 4, regardless of the pace.

I noticed that there were some kids (maybe early high school-age) there with a coach, who was holding a stop watch. I started my run, and almost immediately, he had them start running. Holy crap, they were fast! Usually when I run at the indoor track, I'm the one passing people. I'm not uber-fast or anything, but most of the people there are walkers, and when I do come across someone running, it's usually at a pretty slow pace.

When I saw the kids with the coach, I started thinking that it would be fun to keep up--me, at 32 years old, with them, at 15/16? Ha! These kids were flying past me, and LAPPING ME every quarter mile or so. The first couple of laps, I tried to keep up with the first girl to pass me, but I just couldn't, especially when I had four miles to run.

The inside lane is reserved for runners, so that's what I always run on, but once it was clear that I was going to be eating these kids' dust, I moved on over to the middle lane, so I didn't hinder their speed ;) It was humbling, to say the least!

The only moment that saved my dignity was when one of the kids stopped to walk about a mile and a half in, and she stopped running completely after that. Then at two miles in, another girl stopped. Once they were done, I still ran, getting lapped by the remaining boy every so often. He was flying. Finally, I was the only one still running, and I finished out my four miles. My heart rate showed that I was working much harder than reflected by my pace (with the foot pod), but who knows.

Yeah, looking at those splits, and considering my heart rate was about 160 the entire time, I really don't know how accurate the foot pod is on the indoor track. Usually, that would translate to about an 8:15 pace for me. Unless all this treadmill running has just really slowed my pace this winter! ;) I guess I'll find out when I finally run outside again.

It's kind of strange--I used to despise the treadmill, but all the running I've done on it this winter has actually made me appreciate and kind of like it! I definitely miss the outdoor runs, but I don't dread the treadmill anymore. Tomorrow is my long run, so I'll be running nine miles--likely on the 'mill!

February 19, 2014

Greetings from Mars

Wow, thanks for all the great insight yesterday about whether to count or not to count in maintenance--I'm glad I asked! In my mind, it seemed like all the people I know who are maintaining their weight do it effortlessly, and don't have to count calories/points anymore. After reading the comments on yesterday's post, I realize that a lot of people still count and even struggle in maintenance. I love NOT counting, because it's so freeing, but I feel so much more in control when I do keep a food log and track my calories/points. So today, I counted calories and logged my food for the first time since early December.

It was really difficult going back to the measuring and writing things down today. I definitely made healthier food choices! I was kind of hungry in the afternoon, which is when I've been snacking way too much lately, and it was hard not to just say "one more day" of not counting. But I felt much better at dinnertime, because I was actually hungry for dinner, instead of already feeling kind of full and then eating dinner anyway.

I went to visit Mark today. He got a VERY unique card! He's gotten quite a few unique cards since his diagnosis, but this one just blew my mind. It was handmade out of brown paper lunch bags, which were glued together into a book in a way that made each page into a "pocket". And inside of each pocket was a card (or two or three). It was obvious that someone spent a LOT of time working on it, and I just thought it was the coolest thing. It was from a group at a marketing agency called MARS.

The pictures don't even really do it justice. I was just in awe at how much time someone spent on it. Even the individual cards that were inside of the pages were so cute and unique! Mark really enjoyed it, especially when I explained that it was from MARS ;)

The snow has been melting all day today! It's been in the high-30's and even low-40's, which truly feels like summer, after the winter we've had here in Michigan. My kids were complaining that they were too hot in their coats today, so when we went out to visit Mark and to Sam's Club, we all went jacket-less. It was wonderful!

When we were at Sam's Club, we walked by some flooring for sale, and Noah came up with an analogy that made me burst out laughing...

Noah: "Mama, we need to get REAL hardwood floors."
Me: "Noah, it would be nice to have hardwood floors, but we don't NEED them. There's nothing wrong with the floors we have."
Noah: "Our floors are like using fondant on a cake! You shouldn't put fake frosting on a cake, and putting fake wood on our floors is just as bad."

Bahaha, I even wrote down his exact sentence immediately afterward, so I wouldn't forget. He's been watching Cake Boss quite a bit lately, so maybe that's where he came up with that analogy ;)

The whole way home from Sam's Club, I just kept marveling at how the snow was melting. There was water everywhere, so this is going to be pretty messy as the snow melts. As I was typing this, I noticed water leaking from the ceiling in my bedroom--yay. When all the snow builds up on the roof, and then starts to melt, it can pool and form a leak. Awesome. I will be SO happy when all this snow is gone. I might even be able to run my long run outside on Friday :)

The kids wanted to play in the snow when we got home, and the snow in the yard is still pretty deep. I went out to take their picture, and stepped in up to my thighs! The kids made a snowman, complete with a giant carrot nose and potatoes for eyes.

The snow was way too wet and heavy to work with. I had to help them get the eyes and nose on the snowman, because the snow was more like slush. But it's nice that the boys were out there playing in it! I'm not even going to look at the forecast beyond today, because if this is supposed to freeze over, I don't want to know ;)

February 18, 2014


My kids are on winter break all this week (not that they needed it, because they've been off SO much from all the snow days). If they weren't on winter break, though, today would have been yet another snow day for them. We ended up getting another six inches of snow last night! Jerry said the roads were terrible on his way to work this morning.

Yesterday, I had a 40-minute tempo run on the schedule. Hal Higdon's tempo runs are completely different from what I've always considered a tempo run and from what I learned in my RRCA certification class. His version of a tempo run is what I would call a "pyramid" run--gradually getting faster and faster until peak speed (he suggests 10K pace), and then reducing speed. To me, a tempo run is done at a steady "comfortably hard" pace--generally, the pace you can hold for about an hour.

I don't like Higdon's version, so even though I'm loosely following his training schedule right now, I decided to just do whatever felt right yesterday. I ran slowly for 10 minutes, to warm-up, and then increased the speed to my tempo pace (8:13/mi). I'd planned to run that for 20 minutes, then cool down for for the last 10. But after about a mile at tempo pace, my shoulders were killing me! I was really sore from doing push-ups the day before, and swinging my arms while running made them ache really badly.

I slowed the pace for a half mile, and then picked it up again for another mile, but I was still in pain. So what my run up being was actually "tempo intervals"--longer intervals at tempo pace, with a short break in between. Not exactly what I was aiming for, but more effective than an easy run.

I've been struggling a lot with trying to figure out what I want to do as far as a training plan. I've changed my mind so many times since I ran the Chicago Marathon! I've started plans only to switch to something else a few weeks later. With all the ice and snow, I haven't been able to train outside at all this winter, so I feel like I'm just kind of "in limbo" as far as a training schedule. Some days, I think I want to go back to doing six days a week, like for the Hansons' Method, but other times, I think I want to cut back to three days week, just for fitness. I can never make up my mind ;)

I've been going through the same issue with whether to count or not to count--calories/points, whatever. I was doing really well without counting for a couple of months, but lately, I've been snacking more and more. It's easy to eat too much, because there aren't any numbers telling me that I should stop eating now (like when I would reach my calorie/point target for the day, if counting). Especially since I'm not weighing in all month, I'm afraid it could get out of control... so I've been tempted to start counting again. My sister was wondering if I wanted to text our food logs again, and that kind of made me want to go back to counting points. But another part of me just wants to be "normal", and not count.

Question: For those of you that have lost the weight via counting calories or points, do you continue to count in maintenance? Is it something you think you'll always have to do?

In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to count, and I wouldn't overeat or binge; but it's not a perfect world ;) I'm completely fine with my weight being a few pounds over goal--Mark's cancer diagnosis and outlook on life made me realize that the number on the scale really isn't important, as long as I'm healthy and active. I guess my fear is just that I'll gain even more, and feel just as comfortable; and gain a little more, etc.

You would think that after being in maintenance for three years, I'd have this all figured out by now! Hahaha, I'm always learning new things, always changing my goals, and always changing my mind about what I find important. So I guess it's natural that I have to change up the way I do things! Wouldn't it be nice if we could just get to maintenance, and that was it? We'd never have to worry about weight/food/etc again? ;)

I pre-ordered the Hansons' Half Marathon Method book on Amazon, and it's supposed to be released in April. I think once I read that, I'm sure I'll get the itch to work on training for another half-marathon. The only one that I have planned for this year is the Detroit Free Press Half in October, but maybe I'll find one sooner. Summer isn't ideal for running a half, but at least I'll have more focused training.

Right now, I just wish that the streets would be clear so that I could run outside! I spent a couple of hours today chipping away at the thick layer of ice that was our driveway. I cleared about 90 percent of the ice from the driveway (and got a killer upper body workout). It's kind of funny--it was 34 degrees today, but it felt SO much warmer (the "feels like" temp was 43). My kids were outside without coats, and I was shoveling snow (ice) in just a t-shirt and yoga pants! I hope this means that spring is around the corner...!

February 17, 2014

Motivational Monday #52

I was getting so hopeful that this snow was finally going to melt--but right now, we're getting dumped on with a ton more. This winter feels like it's never going to end!

This last week, I've tried to do some extra strength training, but it hasn't been going well. My knees hurt when I do lunges (or similar exercises), and with the trouble I've had with my knees previously, I am afraid of messing something up. My shoulders were very sore today from doing push-ups yesterday, and it made my run really unpleasant this morning. I think I'm going to go back to doing my Wii Fit U exercises, because I really enjoy those--they aren't so intense that I feel like I might get injured, but I feel like I'm getting a good workout.

Today, I bought a ton of vegetables, and I'm going to make it a goal to use them all up this week. I'm always struggling to get in enough vegetables, because I just don't like them very much. I'm going to try to make it a point to eat a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal and snack. I like the idea of taking the focus off of not eating junk, and focusing instead on eating something healthy.

Anyway, what have you all done this week to make you feel proud? I'm proud of myself for not taking home the leftover cake from Mark's party! I enjoyed a piece at the party, and then sent the rest of it to the nursing home for the staff there. I love cake, so that was hard to do, but I knew if I brought any home, it would nag at me until it was gone.

I have a short, but sweet, Motivational Monday post today... congrats, ladies, on your accomplishments!

Ally ran her farthest run to date--seven miles! She's training for the Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon in April, a race benefiting the Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research. She lost her dad 12 years ago due to morbid obesity, and now her mother has breast cancer. Ally knows her mom will beat the cancer, and she wants to make her dad proud when she runs that half-marathon!

After coming across my blog last summer, Kaitlyn decided to start running. She ran the Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K last month, and finished in 46 minutes. Two weeks later, she ran the Ross Heart Hospital 5K, and finished in 39:48! She feels much healthier since she started running, and can see a difference in her body. The first photo is from August 2012, and the race photo is from the Ross 5K.

After a bad snow/ice storm, Rachel's 4-mile race was rescheduled a week later than planned. She hadn't done a race in about two years, but she completed the soggy, partially-flooded Truffle Shuffle regardless! The finishers were rewarded with a delicious truffle at the finish line. Rachel is also very excited that she got over a plateau on the scale this week!

Don't forget to check out the Motivational Monday Facebook post for some more stories!

February 16, 2014

Dean's story

Less than seven weeks until Ragnar SoCal! Today, I'd like to introduce another member of my team (Strangers to Sole Mates). I've already posted stories from Caitlin (Runner #1), John (Runner #3), Thomas (Runner #6), and Paige (Runner #8). You may recognize this next runner from a few Motivational Monday posts...

Runner #7 is Dean. Dean shared with us his first 5K, his first 10K, his first half-marathon, and when he dropped 100 pounds. You could definitely see his body shrinking as he posted those milestones, and it was really fun to watch him become a better runner and lose the weight. He's come a very long way!

I could see just how dedicated he was to his running, and constantly trying to improve, so I thought he'd be a great person to invite to join the team. Even since joining the team, he's improved so much--his pace has literally gone from an 11:00+ minute/mile pace last summer to 9:00-something pace! And regarding his weight loss, Dean definitely has the commitment and determination it takes to reach his goal.

Anyway, his transformation has been amazing... enjoy his story!

Hello Everyone,
My name is Dean, and I am runner #7 on Katie and John's Ragnar SoCal team. I am 35 years old, and have been married for almost 10 years to my lovely and supportive wife, Mandy. We don't have any human children, but we have two chihuahuas and a big old kitty cat. I am the Parts Department Manager for a Harley-Davidson Dealer in North West Ohio and have been with H-D for 12 years. When I am not working or running, my wife and I love to go for rides on our motorcycle (a Harley of course). I recently got into reading novels, I love hockey and football, and getting tattooed. My story isn't a page turner or filled with personal tragedy that could be considered an acceptable reason for why my weight became such a problem. I AM LAZY pure and simple and this is my story...

Over my entire childhood I was always considered "the chubby one", a little bigger than most; but it never really got out of hand, mostly because I was riding my bicycle all over town to get around. When I hit 16, and traded the bicycle for car keys, my weight started to rise. 

By the time I met and married my wife, I was probably hovering around 250-260 pounds, and that is when the proverbial s#%t hit the fan. Before I new it, I was tipping the scales at 317, which was my heaviest weight. The years from 2005-2012 were a weight roller coster for me. I tried every fad diet in the book--from protein shakes for breakfast and lunch, to Atkins, to the HGC plan. The lowest weight I ever got down to was 247 pounds while on HGC; but the minute I stopped, and had one cheat day (which snowballed back into my old ways of candy, fast-food, fried food, late night eating and donuts) I ballooned back to 293 by the second half of 2012.

What was my "aha" moment? Well, there wasn't one. Not even after I went to see my doctor for a routine check up and he did some blood work, which came back with some red flags. He ordered more tests, and by the time all the tests were done, my pocket was $1200 lighter, and I was standing on the edge of the diabetes cliff and the need for medication. 

My doc gave me two months to try and change my diet and start exercising to reverse the damage, or he would recommend medication. So after the first month of not doing anything I did what most would do and got a gym membership. I spent the next month going 2-3 days a week to the gym, which was a huge accomplishment for me, but I wasn't really putting in a ton of effort while using the weight and elliptical machines. The gym has an indoor track and I thought that had to be better than the elliptical, so I gave jogging a try. Even though I couldn't even make it anywhere close to a mile, I enjoyed it, and for the first time felt like I had a quality workout. So, two days later, I did it again--and continued every other day.

As I start to get really interested in a topic I tend to research it to death, which is what I did with running. I came across an awesome podcast called Runner Academy, and found the host Matt to be very informative and helpful. The episode I have listened to the most and I think really kicked me into high gear is Episode #8, which was all about two of Katie's From Fat to Finish Line teammates. That episode gave me the inspiration and the confidence to lose the weight, and to do it with running. My plan was simple: to run for exercise, and reduce my caloric intake to around 2,000 calories per day. 

I track everything I put in my mouth with the My Net Diary App on my phone. I set my first goal to break 247 pounds, and to run a 5K. When I did that, I set my next goal to hit 225 pounds, and run a 10K. As I write this today, I have completed multiple 5Ks, a 10K and two half-marathons at a current weight of 205 (down 112 pounds from my heaviest weight). I have gone from a snug 46-inch waist to a comfortable 36. My shirt has gone down to an XL from a size 3X. 

My original goal was to stop losing weight when I reached 193 pounds, but I think that is still a little too heavy, so I decided that my finish line is my freshman-year wrestling weight of 173. I know I still have a long way to go, but my confidence seems to grow every day with the knowledge that if I put in the effort, and have the desire, I can accomplish anything. 

I now live with the mantra “only the committed will survive” and for me to succeed I must stay committed. Matt, from Runner Academy, always says "you never know where running will take you" and he is right! Without running, I would not be writing this, and wouldn't have been offered the invitation to participate in this great opportunity to experience running a Ragnar Relay in Southern California!! Thanks, Katie, for all you do for your readers, and I can't wait to spend time with my 11 new friends in SoCal!

Unfortunately, Dean doesn't have a blog for me to link to, but I'll continue to share his milestones as they come :)

Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday! If you have a photo of a health/fitness accomplishment that you'd like to share, you can email it to me at SlimKatie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com, with the subject "Motivational Monday", and a brief description. I may include it in tomorrow's post!

February 15, 2014

Mark's big day!

Today was the day that Mark had been looking forward to for several weeks... his pizza/cake party! The whole thing came about when he got a little bit of money in some of his cards, and I asked him what he'd like to buy with it. After thinking about it for a while, he said that he wanted to have a party for the residents of his group home, complete with pizza and cake.

He's been working really hard with his physical and occupational therapists in order to get strong enough to be able to walk. The group home isn't wheelchair accessible, so he had to be walking in order to go in there. The malignant tumors in his legs and on his spine made it very painful and difficult to walk, so after having radiation to shrink the tumors, and lots of therapy, he was strong enough to walk with a walker.

My parents went to pick up Mark from the nursing home, and I (along with Noah and Eli; Jerry was working, unfortunately) planned to meet them at the group home for the party. I picked up Mark's cake this morning, and I thought it was perfect for him!

I packed up Mark's gifts for the residents, the cake, the salad, and soda into the car, and the boys and I drove to the group home, where we met up with Mark and my parents. Mark was really excited for the party! My parents said that the nurses heard all about it all day today, because it was all Mark could talk about.

We went in and spent an hour or so chatting with the residents, and letting them catch up with Mark. (In the photos I post, I've blurred the faces of the other residents; I didn't want to risk upsetting anyone's family). The woman who owns the home has a couple of dogs, and you could tell they were happy to see Mark ;)

There was one man who brought out his art to show us, and I was dumbfounded at how great it was! He is very talented, and was proud to show off his work.

He said that he just looks at photos and draws them--the next time I go there, I'd like to bring him a picture of my boys and see if he'll draw them for me. He had a lot of drawings of Gene Simmons, because he's a fan of KISS.

My dad went to pick up the pizza at 4:00, and I spent some time in the kitchen plating it, while my kids took it out to the dining room for everyone. My kids are ridiculously spoiled, and I really wanted them to help out today and do something for someone other than themselves. My kids fight almost constantly, and I wanted them to see that there are 18 men with special needs living in one small environment, and they get along so nicely--and they are so happy!

Anyway, after dinner, I brought out Mark's cake to show everyone before we cut into it.

We cut the cake and passed that out, and then I chatted with the woman who owns the home for a little while. I was really interested to hear more about how things are run, and if there really was hope of Mark going back to live there. She said that in the 60's, the home was a children's home--kids and babies with special needs, many of whom didn't live very long. I had no idea, and I found that really interesting, although sad.

Mark sat and chatted with his friends for a while before it was time to go, and then we passed out his gifts. It was so fun to give them out! A few of the men were crowded right around me, waiting for me to pull out the gifts with their names on them ;)

Now that I've gotten a glimpse into their personalities, I'd love to buy them a couple of gifts for Christmas or something. Shopping for them was a little difficult without knowing anything about them, other than what was on the wish list I was given. Today, I learned a lot more about each of them.

Mark had a really good time, but you could tell he was getting pretty tired. He hadn't walked this much in the last two months combined! But he said he had a ball, which was the point of the whole thing.

There was about 1/3 of the cake left, so Mark ended up taking it with him to the nursing home and giving it to the nursing staff. Now that we've seen how well he did for his party, I'm hoping we can pick him up once in a while and take him out for an hour or two, even if it's just to McDonald's for lunch. He loved getting out of the nursing home for a little while. He's treated really well at the nursing home, but Mark has always enjoyed the outdoors, and being very active, so sitting inside all day has been hard for him.

Spending time at the group home today was amazing. I'm so glad that I got to meet all of the residents of the home, and it was so refreshing to talk with people that just don't have any complaints ;)  I'm so glad that Mark's party today went off without a hitch, too! The guys all loved seeing him, and he was so happy to feel at home again for a little while. A huge thank you to all of you that helped make this happen; if it weren't for the cards he received, he never would have even had the idea to throw a pizza party. The next big focus for Mark is to get strong enough to walk with minimal assistance, and he's ready to work hard on it (powered by Shamrock Shakes, of course)!

February 14, 2014

Mark's visit at home

I hope everyone has had a LOVELY Valentine's Day. I made heart-shaped French toast for my kids this morning, but it ended up being a failure, because they didn't even recognize that it was in the shape of hearts until I told them halfway through their breakfast! ;) Oh, well, I tried...

After the kids went to school, I hopped on the treadmill for my long run. On the schedule was a 10K race, but since I had no race to do today, I decided to just run 8 miles at the slow end of my long run pace range (8:48-10:07/mi). Sadly, I was down to the very last two episodes of Flashpoint. I've really loved that show, and it has gotten me through many runs during this extremely cold and snowy winter. The last two episodes totaled about 80 minutes, so the timing was totally perfect for my 8-mile run.

The finale was really good, and I was happy with the way the show ended. But now I've got to find something else to occupy my mind on the 'mill. My run went well; my heart rate stayed in the very low end of Zone 3, which is good.

Just after lunch, my dad and I went to go pick up Mark. His occupational therapist was going to follow us to Mark's group home to evaluate how well Mark could handle moving around there, so she would know what to work on with him. When we got to the nursing home, Mark was very excited and ready to go! He waved to everyone as we were walking out (pushing him in his wheelchair), and he told everyone, "Don't worry, I'll be back in a little while!"

Tiffany (his OT) showed us how to get him into the car, and it went really smoothly. Mark has gotten SO much better since he started physical and occupational therapy.

Tiffany followed us in her car, and we drove to the group home. Mark got out and walked into the house with his walker... he did great!

Mark was so happy to see everyone. The residents in the home all came up to him to shake his hand, and ask him questions about where he was, and all that. Mark kept telling everyone that he was there to "take a test" and that Tiffany was his "teacher" ;)  He worked really hard at being independent, and he did great. She had him walk around and show her the house, doing the things he would typically do on a daily basis there.

I have to stop for a moment to say that Tiffany is absolutely WONDERFUL with Mark! You can tell that she really, truly cares about him and his well-being. He's her first patient of the day during the week, and she even brings him coffee from Tim Hortons--not at all part of her job, but she knows that Mark loves his coffee. She really wants to get him well enough to live at the group home again, and Mark is the best patient ever, because he will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

This was the first time I've met the other residents in the home, and I'm so happy that I got to meet them. They all had different personalities which really came through in how they talked to Mark, and I just loved seeing Mark interact with everyone. Tiffany and I laughed at how Mark told pretty much everyone he saw that he's paying for the pizza party tomorrow with his own money. He kept saying he "raised over $200" to pay for the party, and he was very proud of that. Anyway, she is so nice, and I'm grateful that he has a therapist like her!

The whole time we were there, I kept noticing just how happy Mark was. I'd never seen him smile so big! He's always a happy person in general, but today was exceptional. I really hope that he's able to go back to live there (and soon).

When it was time to leave, after Mark "passed" his test, my dad and I took him back to the nursing home. I asked if he wanted a milkshake (and of course he did), so we stopped at McD's to get a shake for him. I noticed that they have Shamrock Shakes now (!!), so I suggested that one. I haven't had a Shamrock Shake in about 5 years, but I used to LOVE them. Mark wanted to try it, and he was in love at first sip. He said it beats the strawberry shake by a lot!

When we got to the nursing home, we realized that they were having an ice cream social for Valentine's Day. Mark wanted to do that, even though he'd already eaten half of his Shamrock Shake, so my dad and I took him to the cafeteria for the social. I did my long run today, so I didn't feel guilty at all about having a sundae with Mark.

I said I just wanted a small scoop, and this is what she gave me--who am I to argue about what a small scoop is? ;) It was so good! Perfect long run treat.

We got Mark settled back in his room, and then my dad and I left. I told Mark to get a good night's sleep for his party tomorrow. The party is at 4:00, and I'm looking forward to it!

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