June 30, 2015

The best ME (Women Inspired post #2)

This is the second post of a three-post series. On the first post, I wrote about how I became the person I am today--which was writing a list of goals and working on crossing them off, one by one. On this post, I've been asked to write about how I can improve to be the best version of myself, as well as my aspirations and inspirations.

For most of my life, I could be described as: the introvert, the "practical" one, the worrier, the shy one, the people-pleaser, and the scaredy cat. These are traits that are just ingrained in my genes, and in my late 20's, I finally accepted that. I know I'm never going to be the super fun talkative chick at a party who everyone is just drawn to; I'm never going to go seeking out crazy adventures all in the name of living on the edge; and I'm never going to get rid of my practicality and fly by the seat of my pants. It's just not me!

However, I have also discovered, in my late 20's and early 30's, that amazing things don't just "happen"... I have to step outside of my comfort zone (sometimes so far it hurts!) and the reward can be huge. Take flying, for example: I missed out on SO MANY amazing trips and adventures with family and friends over the years because I was too afraid to get on a plane. When I finally started flying again in 2010, I have experienced some of the best times of my life! I'm still scared of flying, but I learned that a little (okay, a lot of) wine goes a long way to get me on the plane ;)

[Side note: Ironically, one of the things I agreed to for this Prudential program was to speak on a panel at the BlogHer conferences in July in NYC. I'm terrified of that! But I know the reward of stepping out of my comfort zone will far exceed the few moments of fear.]

I'm pretty sure I was born with anxiety; my mom has always been a worrier, and I can remember having severe anxiety when I was in elementary school (and probably even younger). Back then, I worried about my pets dying, or my parents being mad at me if I did something wrong, or kids not liking me. Now, as an adult, I worry about my kids--I want them to be happy and healthy. I'm always trying to find a happy medium between being too laid-back and being overprotective, which is hard to do. I don't want my kids to grow up sheltered, but I don't want anything bad to happen to them, either. And I want them to have great memories of their childhood, long after I'm gone.

I also worry about money--even though we certainly get by okay, we don't have any savings to fall back on if something major should happen. When I fainted in 2010 and broke my jaw, it came completely out of nowhere. We weren't at all prepared for the huge hospital bills! We have decent insurance, but the deductibles and co-pays were in the thousands of dollars, which we were unprepared for. Jerry also took a week or two off of work (unpaid) to take care of me. So, that "little fainting spell" cost a lot more than we could have imagined.

I would love to get to the point where I don't have to worry about unexpected financial burdens popping up: the furnace dying when it's 20 below zero, or getting in some sort of accident, or Jerry losing his job, or God forbid--a death in our family. We aren't prepared for any of these things, but I really don't know where to start. The thought of saving up an emergency fund is totally overwhelming to me! That is where I hope this experience with Prudential will help me come up with an idea of where to get started.

To answer the question of how I can be the best ME, here are just a few of the things I want to include in my life to be healthy and happy:

Maintain goal weight- Something that will never come easy to me, but I am definitely happier when I am at a weight of 130-140. My goals is to get back there and maintain it.

Travel- I was too scared to travel for so long (fear of flying), and even though I am still scared of flying, I haven't let it stop me from going new places. I'd love to continue that as I get older.

Reach running goals- I always feel on top of the world after I conquer a goal that I've been working on for a long time. No matter the goal, I'd like to continue to work to better my running.

Practice random kindness- Doing things for others has always brought me joy, and I'd like to continue to always look for opportunities to help people. (I can't mention random kindness without remembering Mark, who was all about helping others...)

Step out of my comfort zone- I never achieved anything worthwhile in my comfort zone, so stepping out is a must!

Create family memories- I want my kids to have fun memories of us as a family, so I'd like to always look for ways to be creative in our time together. (I don't love swimming, but I did a lot of it in Punta Cana so the kids would have memories of me swimming with them)

Be adventurous- Doing things I never thought I could/would do!

Be financially secure- Not worry about money, and have an emergency fund set aside in case we need it.

Laugh it off- Sometimes I get stressed or anxious, and I don't look past that to see the humor in situations. I want to remember not to sweat the small stuff.

Maintain friendships- I have some really amazing friends, and no matter where life takes us, I'd like to make our friendship a priority.

What are your aspirations and inspirations? Share your vision by joining the growing community of women inspired in the comments below, or on Twitter using the hashtag #womeninspired. With your long-term goals in mind, do you have any financial challenges you want to tackle?

June 29, 2015

Motivational Monday #113

Happy Motivational Monday, Friends! I had a great week, and I'm very proud of myself for sticking to Weight Watchers while I was in St. Louis. There was a lot of food that I was tempted to stuff myself with, but I made the best choices I could; and I even allowed enough points to splurge on a piece of cake for dessert Thursday, and some drinks on Friday evening. When I got home and weighed myself, I hadn't gained a single pound (I hadn't lost any either, but I am happy to have maintained!). I don't think there is anything I would have changed about how I handled the food situation in St. Louis, so that makes me feel good.

Today, I had a great run! My physical therapist gave me the okay to run a mile without doing the run/walk intervals, so I built that into my three-miler today. I decided to run/walk (at a 2:00 run/0:30 walk) ratio for the first mile, then run the second mile at an easy pace, and then do the run/walk again for the third mile.

I definitely feel like my cardio is improving a little, because it wasn't quite as hard today. My split times were not my best, but I'm okay with that. It's kind of interesting how similar the splits are whether I'm run/walking or just running. My splits were 11:10 (run/walk), 10:35 (run), and 10:53 (run/walk) today. I am very happy that I didn't feel so much as a single twinge where my stress fracture was, so hopefully that means the therapy is working. I'm going to continue to follow my PT's instructions, so that I don't get injured again (fingers crossed).

Anyway, I have some inspiring stories to share for Motivational Monday today! Enjoy :)

Andréa recently completed her first half-marathon! She did the Twin Lobster Half, and her goal was to finish under 2:20 (her best time in training). She crushed that goal, finishing in 2:16:52! The coastline course was beautiful, and she felt great throughout the race--even saving enough energy to finish strong. She said the best part of the day, however, was watching her five-year old son complete the one-mile race in 10:39! She loves seeing him learn healthy habits and enjoy being active. She sets a great example for him, as she has lost 75 pounds since August of last year, and started running. Her 5K time has dropped from 38:46 to 28:57!

Roxanne completed the Grandma's Half Marathon in Minnesota last weekend! Her goal was to run the entire 13.1-mile distance, and to finish in less than three hours. She crossed the finish line in 2:57, beating her goal by three minutes! This was her first half-marathon, and she just started running about two years ago.

Eight years ago, Denise lost 80 pounds on Weight Watchers, and has kept it off! She started running about a year after the weight loss, and ran her first 5K race in 2009. Since then, she has run 38 races--everything from one-mile to a full marathon! She said signing up for races keeps her motivated to run, which has helped her keep the weight off all these years. Last weekend, she set a new PR in two distances: 26:50 in the 5K, and 1:33:01 in the 10-Mile! She says that she is somehow getting "older but faster" ;)

Don't forget to share your own accomplishments from this week on the Motivational Monday Facebook post.  Congrats ladies!

(By the way, my second Prudential post has to go live at noon tomorrow. Normally, I post at 9:00 pm, but because of the Prudential post, I won't have another up until Wednesday night.)

June 28, 2015

A grown-up field trip, part two

...continued from yesterday's post.

On Friday morning, my alarm woke me up at 4:40. I quickly got dressed in my running clothes, and headed downstairs to the front of the hotel, which is where I was going to meet Alicia. I was a little surprised to see that it was lightening and drizzling a tiny bit of rain. We had agreed the day before that if it was pouring down rain, we wouldn't go; but we didn't talk about lightening or anything else.

Alicia showed up a few minutes before 5:00, and she was so sweet! I was really glad that we'd made plans to run together, because if I hadn't been meeting her, I would certainly still be in bed. I would have used lightening as an excuse ;)

I had to be on the shuttle with Purina at 7:15 AM, so I wanted to make sure that we'd be done running in time for me to shower and get ready to head out on time. I'd warned Alicia that I had to do a run/walk, but she was totally fine with that (and going at my pace, which is much slower than hers). I set my watch for two minutes running and thirty seconds walking.

Forest Park was literally right across the street from my hotel, and it was a great place to run. The entire loop of the perimeter (including the path that led to the loop--it was a lollipop route) was 6.5 miles. I had been planning on 7 miles for a long run, but the 6.5 was perfect.

Being 5:00 in the morning, it was still pretty dark when we started running, but the street lights helped. The lightening was closer to the far end of the park, so as we ran, we got closer and closer to the storm. Alicia was super nice, and very easy to chat with. She showed me all of the fun things to do at the park (there are so many FREE things to do there--including the zoo!).

Once we reached the far end of the park, at around mile three, it really started to rain--not just a drizzle. The rain actually felt pretty good, though, because the air was thick with humidity. The rain started coming down harder by the minute, and the last mile, it was a total downpour. There was not one inch of my clothing that wasn't soaked. It was actually pretty fun! I was a little worried about my shoes, though, because I planned to wear them all day.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we'd hit 6.5 miles (by 6:15 am!), which was a nice start to the day. We took a quick picture once we were standing under the awning, and then said goodbye. Alicia had to go to work, and I had another busy day with Purina.

My shoes ended up being way too soaked through to wear, so I had to wear some dressier boot-type shoes. I made it to the shuttle with time to spare, and we headed to the Purina campus. Friday was "National 'bring your pet to work' day", and Purina hoped to set a world record for most pets in the workplace. Purina allows their employees to bring their pets to work every day, but they planned a big celebration day for Friday to get everyone to participate.

First, we had breakfast, and then we toured the manufacturing factory. We had to gear up to go inside:

I was amazed at how immaculately clean it was. I'm not sure what I expected, but it was seriously clean enough to eat off the floor. We weren't allowed to take photos, but it looked pretty much how I expected a manufacturing plant to look--just cleaner.

After our tour and a presentation about the manufacturing process, we went upstairs to learn from employees about what it's like to bring your pet to work. Some employees bring their pets every day, and they say it helps them to relax and be more productive. Most employees bring dogs, but there are some that bring cats.

From there, we went outside to where everyone was gathering for a photo of ALL the pets at work. There were hundreds of people and pets, so it was hard to get photos to show just how many dogs there were (I think there were only three cats, and two sugar gliders, among all the dogs). The thing that I noticed right off the bat was the huge variety of dog breeds. Where I live, you see the same four or five breeds pretty much anywhere. The Purina employees had dozens of different breeds represented--it was hard to even find two of the same breed near each other.

Purina used a drone to get an ariel photo of the employees and their pets...

I do believe that a record was set, with 280 dogs and three cats (and two sugar gliders). It was pretty amazing that there were no fights or incidents with all those dogs in one place!

After the photo, we broke off into small groups of about four people, meeting with three Purina employees. There, we had a "listening session", where Purina wanted to hear from us our thoughts of the event, and working with a brand. This was one of my favorite parts of the event--it was really great that they took the time to listen to our honest feedback about what our readers/listeners/viewers enjoy, and how they can make the program better.

I think Purina does a fantastic job, and there really isn't much I would change. I get offers to work with brands all the time, and I rarely accept, but Purina is really a pleasure to work with (and it's because of their summit that I adopted Joey!). I told them that I thought they would really benefit to invite random people from the public to attend events like this, because it really allows people to see all of the good things that Purina does. Word of mouth is really great advertising, so if people go and enjoy it, they can share what they've learned.

Anyway, we had lunch and then listened to a presentation about shelter pets from the APA adoption center in Missouri. It's a really great organization that takes in homeless pets until they are adopted. It's a small organization, but it makes a huge difference in the lives of pets who are about to be euthanized because of overcrowded shelters. We got to make fleece blankets for the APA.

After that, it was time to say goodbye. Some of the influencers were heading right to the airport, and some where sticking around for one more night. We were invited to stay for the Cardinals vs. Cubs game on Friday night, and I thought that sounded so fun! At 7:15, we got on a shuttle to take us to the game (I think there were about 15 of us that stuck around). The game was AWESOME--very exciting. It was tied, so they went into a 10th inning, and the Cardinals ended up winning.

This is Kady from Cats of Instagram
We celebrated at a place called Sub Zero, and then called it a night. I had to be downstairs by 6:00 AM for my flight home. Getting home seemed to take forever! It's a very short flight--about an hour and a half--but I didn't get home until after 1:00 (with the airport time, and then driving, and picking up my kids from my brother's house, getting Joey, etc.). I was completely exhausted when I finally went to bed yesterday at around 10:00, and I slept 9 hours last night!

(In full disclosure, Purina paid for my travel to St. Louis, but I'm not being paid for (or required to write) this post; and all opinions are honest--as always).

Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday! If you have a submission, here is where to send it. (If you send it to my regular email address, I may not see it in time to post, so please use the MM address).

June 27, 2015

A grown-up field trip

Wow! I had such an amazing (and super busy) few days in St. Louis with Purina. (The whole event kept giving me memories of field trips when I was a kid, which was kind of nostalgic in a way.) I attended the True Nature of Cats event at the Purina headquarters in St. Louis a couple of years ago, and at the time, I really didn't know much about Purina. I just love cats, and thought it sounded like fun to talk about cats for two days ;) I ended up learning more than I could have imagined, and the things I took away from that trip stick with me on a daily basis as a pet owner. Then, in October 2014, I attended Purina's Better With Pets summit in New York City, and that was SO inspiring.

I was so intrigued by Victoria Stilwell's dog training presentation at that summit, and it planted the seed in my head to consider getting a dog in the near future. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and then in February, we decided to adopt Joey. Having Joey has been life changing! I'm still more of a cat person, but now I can say that I really do love dogs, too.

Anyway, both of those events were packed full of amazing information about pets, so I was very excited when Purina invited me to their headquarters once again, this time for a "Meet Purina" event. The purpose of this event was more focused on who Purina is and what they do (in addition to producing pet food, of course). There were about 25 "digital influencers" who attended--not only bloggers, but also Instagramers and YouTubers.

We arrived on Wednesday. My flight got in at around 1:00 pm, and then I went to the hotel to hang out for a little bit until we had "Yappy Hour" (drinks and hors d'oeuvres) at a nice restaurant called Scape. I wanted to stay on track with Weight Watchers for the whole trip, so I was careful about what I ate. I recognized a couple of women from previous Purina events, so I chatted with them and of course met lots of new people (and pets! This was a pet-friendly happy hour, and I totally fell in love with Ruby Roo):

Ruby Roo only has two legs (her hind legs) and she's the
sweetest little doggy ever!

Thursday was a super busy day, starting at 7:30 AM. We went to the Purina headquarters first thing, and had breakfast while we were introduced to several people who would be working with us while we were there. Everybody was so very nice, and it was obvious how passionate they were about their jobs--that was a common theme on the whole campus, actually.

The campus is gorgeous!

We took a tour of campus, and then spent the rest of the morning checking out the research labs and learning about the product innovation. It was all very scientific, and kind of went right over my head, but I was amazed at how much is involved in developing new products.

Lunch was quite the experience! Purina has a chef on staff that uses trends in human foods to inspire new pet products, and she cooked an enormous feast for us. Look at this menu:

The family-style foods were on our table, and we passed those around. Meanwhile, Chef Amanda Hassner served the plated foods listed above. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I wanted to make sure to taste everything, even if I didn't think I'd like it (chicken hearts?!). I decided to take 1-2 bites of each item, which ended up being a good plan to not go overboard.

My favorite dish was the rice with botanical oil vinaigrette (it's under the pile of chicken skewers)... and the quinoa cake for dessert was pretty amazing as well! I left feeling satisfied, but not full, which was the goal.

After lunch, we interacted with the Purina brand teams, which was probably the most informative and interesting part of the event for me. There were two rooms set up like a trade show, and we walked around to talk about the different products and ask questions from each brand. At one table, for the Just Right line of food, I was so surprised when I was handed this bag:

It was actually kind of funny, because at first, I just looked at the words--"Joey's Blend"--and I said, "Oh, I have a dog named Joey!", thinking it was a coincidence. Haha, then I realized that the photo was actually Joey and me! The Just Right line is a food that is completely tailored to your dog based on a questionnaire that you fill out online. They put a cute, customized label on it, like the one of Joey and me, and then ship it to your house.

After that, we got on a bus to go to the Purina Farms, which are about an hour away. I had no idea that the place existed, but it was amazing. It's open to the public, and the whole place is dog-friendly. They have a huge building for dog shows and training. We were lucky enough to see some dogs show off their frisbee catching skills for us, which was really fun to watch. Here are a couple of videos:

We had dinner upstairs--an amazing barbecue spread. I tried to stick with healthier options (chicken instead of pulled pork, lots of veggies) to avoid a spending the 100 PointsPlus I easily could have spent. Someone mentioned that there was a chocolate cake for dessert, and I really wanted that. I decided to have just a couple of bites. I took the very last slice (which kind of fell apart on my plate), and it was SO AMAZING. I decided to go ahead and spend the 14 PP on it, and enjoy every bite.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel, and it was nearly 8:00 pm! I was exhausted, and I had plans to get up uber early (4:45) to meet up with a reader for a run on Friday morning. The plans for that were pretty spontaneous--someone named Alicia emailed me on Wednesday and said she reads my blog, and asked if I wanted some company on my run. I was a little intimidated to run Forest Park alone, for fear of getting lost, so I thought company would be nice!

This post is getting long, so I'll continue tomorrow... :) It feels good to be back home!

(In full disclosure, Purina sponsored my travel to St. Louis, but all opinions are honest--as always).

June 23, 2015

NSV and physical therapy progress

I had a physical therapy appointment yesterday, but it wasn't until 12:30 pm, so I had time to run in the morning. I've been doing my runs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, because my PT wants me to have a day of rest in-between each run. I've always had Wednesdays as a rest day, but I really like running on Wednesdays now--my Weight Watchers week starts on Wednesday, so it's nice to start the week off with activity Points.

Anyways, I decided to increase the running portions of the run/walk. I wanted to add just 10 seconds, but my Garmin only allows 15 second increments, so I set it for a 75 second run and 30 second walk. It was extremely humid when I stepped outside, and I was grateful I was only doing a 3-miler and not a long run.

It ended up being one of the toughest runs I've had in the past few weeks! The humidity made it really hard to catch my breath during the walk breaks, and I wasn't even pushing the pace for the running segments. I definitely felt the extra 15 seconds of running, but I know that I have to progress that eventually, so I was okay with that. It was just the humidity making it hard to breathe that made it feel so difficult.

My average pace was a little faster, but that was only because I was doing longer running segments; obviously, the longer you run, the faster your average pace will be. I'm curious to see what my pace ends up at once I reach two minutes of running and 30 seconds of walking. I'm hoping it'll be below 10:00, but even if it's not, I'm happy with how the run/walking is going.

Finished the run, and the sweat was literally pouring off of me and dripping at my feet. That's what the humidity will do! I took a picture, but you can't even really tell how bad it was.

I was trying to get this tank in the picture, too, because it's an NSV (non-scale victory) for me right now. Activyst sent me this tank several months ago (it's says "GOTTA RUN") and I typically have been wearing a medium shirt, but I wanted it to be a little loose, so I requested a large. When it arrived, I was shocked to see that it was tight! It sat unworn in my bedroom, and just for the heck of it yesterday, I tried it on.

Even though the scale has only gone down a couple of pounds since I started Weight Watchers, it fit pretty well! I've noticed that my clothes have been fitting much better lately, and a few people have said to me that I look like I'm losing weight--so I'm not sure what the deal is with the scale, but maybe it'll catch up sooner or later. I'm happy that I'm seeing progress in other areas!

After my run, I went to my physical therapy appointment. My PT had me warm up on the StairMaster--to be honest, I've ever used one (that I can remember, anyway). He set it for 10 minutes, while he finished stretching out another patient, and holy smokes--that was tough! Especially for a "warm-up" ;) We went through some of the exercises, and talked about the run/walking I've been doing.

He told me I could go ahead and add a one-mile run each week--not a run/walk, but running the entire distance. I was kind of surprised, because I expected it to take much longer before I progressed to that, but I'm curious to see how it goes. He wants me to take it easy, but not too easy (when running too slowly, it can mess up my form, which can cause further injury).

He told me that I could add a fourth day per week, and do just the one-mile run on that day, or I could swap one of my shorter runs with that one-miler. I think I'll try it tomorrow, by walking a mile, then running a mile, and then walking a mile (so I still complete three miles total). I'm a little nervous, but excited at the same time.

After doing the PT exercises, he said that my hip has shown improvement, but it still needs a lot of work. I'm going to work on those for about a month before I go back again, as long as everything is going smoothly. It was a good session--I left feeling optimistic.

Since I'm going to St. Louis tomorrow (coming home Saturday), I won't be able to go to my usual Weight Watchers meeting. I asked Glenda if she had any meetings today, and she did--so I decided to go to the one at 10:30 this morning. It's been six days since my last weigh-in, when she told me to increase my daily PointsPlus target to 29 (instead of 26). I was very happy when I got on my scale to see that I lost 1.5 pounds this week! After several weeks of losing just a fraction of a pound, I was getting discouraged, but I guess my body just wanted me to eat more. I'm going to continue with the higher PointsPlus target, as long as it's working.

Today was the eighth and final week of Glenda's challenge. I attended all eight weeks, even when I had to go to different meeting times/locations to fit them in. I always like challenges that are a specific length of time, because it seems very do-able. That's why I like to do monthly challenges (which reminds me, I haven't done that in a while... I need to come up with one for July!).

I'm not sure if I'll be posting for the next few days, but I'm going to bring my computer and hopefully post from the hotel. Tomorrow evening should be interesting. Purina is having a happy hour reception... with pets included! I was a little curious when I booked my flight, and they asked me if I'd be bringing a pet. If it were practical, I would have loved to bring Joey!

My long run is Friday, so I'm going to try to be adventurous and run in St. Louis. I always get nervous to venture out in unfamiliar places, but it's a great way to see a new city!

June 22, 2015

Motivational Monday #112

Happy Motivational Monday! I've had a fantastic week on Weight Watchers, and I've continued my binge-free streak--today marks 34 days now. Each day that passes, the more determined I get to keep the streak going. This week is going to be a little challenging, because I'm going to St. Louis for a few days (Purina invited me to their headquarters--I went a couple of years ago, and it was AWESOME to spend a couple of days with a bunch of cat-lovers like myself!) I was able to count Points the last time I was there, so I know I can do it again.

The run/walking has been going really well, and today, I increased the run portions a little, which I'll write about tomorrow. I also had a physical therapy appointment today, and my left hip is getting stronger, but I still have a lot of work to do to get it symmetrical to my right side (to avoid a future stress fracture).

Anyway, here are a few stories for Motivational Monday. Enjoy!

Linda (one of my From Fat to Finish Line teammates) just completed her first half-marathon since 2013! She was unable to run for a long while due to an injury; and then her husband, Charlie, was accepted into the NYC Marathon (it's a lottery, and VERY difficult to get into). Linda wasn't accepted, but she decided to run for a charity, so she'll be running NYC in November! Running the half this weekend put her halfway there ;) (You can read Linda's story here, and read her blog here)

Hannah just completed her first half-marathon! She did The Biggest Loser Run/Walk in Rockford, Illinois, and finished under 4:00, which was a pleasant surprise to her. She said the last few miles were tough, but she is thrilled to have finished! She plans to do another next year, with a goal of doing more running and less walking.

Celeste submitted this last month, but I didn't get it for some reason, but better late than never... Celeste and her husband, Al, ran the Fargo Half-Marathon in North Dakota, and they each ended up with a new PR. Al finished in 1:53:12, knocking nearly 3 minutes off of his time; and Celeste finished in 2:18:14, bettering her previous time by over 7 minutes! She is also proud to announce that she is now an RRCA-certified running coach and NETA-certified group fitness instructor. She is certified in H.I.I.T. and Tabata, and will start classes this month. Lots to be proud of! (Celeste's blog)

You can read more stories here on the Motivational Monday Facebook post. Congratulations on your accomplishments, everyone!

June 21, 2015

Father's Day fun

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was make a pecan pie for my dad. Over the last few years, I've done that instead of buying him a gift; I know that sounds like he's getting shafted, but if there is something he wants, he usually just buys it himself--it's hard to shop for him! And since pecan pie is his favorite, I like to make him one for Father's Day and his birthday. I can't bake to save my soul, but I somehow make a really good pecan pie!

Jerry was off work today, so we decided to take the kids to the zoo. We planned to go to the Toledo Zoo, but when I looked at the weather, it was supposed to thunderstorm. The weather in Detroit looked good, so we decided to go there instead. First, we dropped the pie off at my parents' house for my dad, and then we headed to the zoo.

As we were driving, I was thinking about how every time we go to the zoo, we say we're never going again (it's never as much fun as it sounds in my head, and it's crazy-expensive). I started to think of alternatives, and we chose to go to Belle Isle instead. Belle Isle is an island in Detroit that was recently converted to a State Park. The Detroit Marathon goes through it, which was the first time I remember seeing it, and then the kids' first 5K race was there.

The island has a small nature zoo, a conservatory, a Great Lakes museum, nature paths, and some other stuff--all for free. It has an awesome view of Detroit and Canada, too. First, we wanted to get some lunch, and we planned to go to Supino's (a well-known pizza place in Detroit). We'd never been there, but we've been wanting to try it for about two years, so today was the day. On the way there, though, I noticed that they were closed today (I don't know if it's every Sunday, or just today, but we were bummed to see we couldn't go.)

We tried going to the two Coney Islands (American and Lafayette, which are next door to each other), but they didn't have tables available, so we decided to just skip lunch and get something to eat later. We went to Belle Isle, and first, we went to the Great Lakes museum. Eli loved it! He loves to go out on the boat fishing with my dad, and he gets really excited about identifying fish. I loved seeing a map of the old Boblo Island--an amusement park that closed in the early 90's. We used to have to take a boat to Boblo, and that was one of the most exciting parts of going. I have a lot of good memories of that place!

After that, we went to the Nature Zoo. Again, Eli loved it--lots of turtles, frogs, snakes, fish, etc. I was hoping to see the deer (the only mammals there), but I guess they only open the exhibit when they feed the deer, three times a day. The fence was closed, so we didn't get to see them.

We noticed a big slide in the middle of the park, which looked like fun. It was one of those slides that you have to sit in a burlap sack to slide down. The tickets were 6 for $5, so we bought 6. Jerry and the kids went down first, so I could film them.

Then it was my turn to go down with this kids. Jerry told me it was nice and smooth, and from what I saw, it was. Hahaha! Not quite. Listen to the video of us sliding, and you can hear how hard I hit on each bump after getting some serious air. It's so funny to compare the two videos--Jerry's ride is nice and smooth, and then on mine, it sounds like a bowling ball rolling down the stairs. ;)

We watched the video over and over, and all of us were dying laughing. It's the sound--you can hear me hit the slide SO hard. My tailbone is going to be bruised for sure!

After that, we were all starving. It was about 3:00, and we usually eat dinner at around 4:00. I asked Jerry what sounded good to him, considering it's Father's Day, and he said it would be fun to get frozen yogurt for lunch/dinner. My arm didn't need much twisting for that idea ;) So we went to a place called Yogurtopia in Dearborn. I told the kids they could get as much as they could fit in their cups, and they were thrilled.

I chose cake batter frozen yogurt (3 PP per half cup, and I had about 1.5 cups) and I made what my friend Paige calls "yogurt lasagna"--you layer the yogurt, then add toppings, then more yogurt, and more toppings, etc. That way, you don't wind up with lots of yogurt and no toppings on the bottom. I counted each spoonful of toppings as 1 PP, so in total, I counted this as 25 PP of frozen yogurt and toppings:

It was delicious! I felt a little sick when I was done with it, but it was totally worth every point. I'm *almost* glad that we don't have a fro-yo place near my house, because I would get way too used to this. As it is, I only have it about 2-3 times a year, so I tend to go a little overboard when I do ;)

It never rained while we were out, and it was a gorgeous day to go to Belle Isle. We had a lot of fun, and next time, we want to bring our bikes there!

I noticed an awesome deal on Groupon today for the Garmin Viviofit (it's an activity monitor, similar to a Fitbit). It's only $60! That's the cheapest I've ever seen them. Later, I noticed that they are on Amazon for that price, too. Just wanted to let you know, in case anyone is looking for an activity monitor--it's a great deal! Last year, I couldn't decide between the Vivofit and the Fitbit, but I ultimately bought the Fitbit Zip (also $60). But I do love Garmin, and I'm very curious about the Vivofit, so I took advantage of the Groupon today. I'd like to see how the two compare.

Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday! If you have a photo of an accomplishment you'd like to share, here is the info to submit it. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

June 20, 2015

Pizza lunch with Nathan

There have been a couple of sad news stories around here this week. Last weekend, there was a home invasion/murder in a nearby town. A group of people (two female friends and their children) were heading to NASCAR races from upstate, and they needed to get out of the rain (they had been planning to camp), so they stayed at a friend's house overnight. Two men broke into the home and stabbed them, killing two half-brothers (a 12-year old and a 26-year old), and injuring three more people.

To make the story even more shocking, Jerry recognized one of the men who did it--he went to school with Jesse Spurlock, and graduated with him in 1999. Jerry ran into him a few years ago, and said he was all kinds of messed up. It wasn't very clear from the stories what the motive was in the killings, but it sounded like the men weren't expecting those people to be in the house, and they were trying to rob the man that actually lived there, who was a drug dealer. Joseph Hall, the man who did the stabbing, apologized in court, saying that he just "snapped". Seriously?! A person has to be extra-screwed up to stab someone to death, especially a CHILD.

Yesterday, the kids wanted to go to my parents' house to play in the lake with Joey. While I stayed home to write my blog post, Jerry went over there with them. I was surprised when they came back about 10 minutes later, but they said that the waves were too rough to play in the water. A few hours later, I saw on the news that a 10-year old boy had drowned in the lake at the State Park, which is a few miles down the road. It happened at around the same time that my kids said the lake was too rough.

The boy was at the beach with his family, and his mom was with his siblings, when his 17-year old uncle took him out to swim at the far end of the beach. Apparently, there was a strong current, and they were separated. The boy went under the surface, and rescuers arrived to search for him. They found him about 45 minutes later, in just four feet of water. He was pronounced dead shortly after they got to the hospital.

That story really upset me, because it just hits so close to home. The boy was 10-years old and had just completed fifth grade, which is the same age as Noah. We've been swimming there lots of times, and it's just so scary to think of something like that happening. I'm glad that my kids recognized that the water was too rough yesterday to play in the lake, and decided to come home. I'm just so sad for the boy's mom. I can't even imagine how she felt when they were searching the water.

Also yesterday, a 19-year old man was hit by a truck while he was bicycling. I learned today that he died from his injuries :(  This is SO upsetting to me, because the drivers around here are so inconsiderate and don't pay attention to pedestrians at all. When I'm out running, I see so many people texting or otherwise not paying attention, and drifting onto the shoulders of the roads. This is not a bicycle-friendly town, which is unfortunate. We don't have bike lanes (there are a couple, but not anywhere useful), and the shoulders are very narrow.

I am always extra cautious when I run on the busier roads, and I make eye contact with drivers to make sure they see me. I've been hit once, by a guy backing out of his driveway (he clipped my hip, leaving a bruise); and I've had more than a few close calls on other occasions. I feel much safer running than I do biking, because I run against traffic so I can make eye contact with drivers. This man who was killed was riding with traffic (which you are supposed to do on a bike), and he was struck from behind by a man in a pick-up truck. He was only 19, which just makes me so sad.

Anyways, enough bad news! Today, my younger brother, Nathan, had 20 miles on the schedule (he's training for his first ultra--a 50K in September). He likes to get pizza after his long runs, so he asked if we would want to go to Anson's, our favorite local pizza place, for lunch after his run. We, along with my parents, met him there this afternoon.

Anson's has some really good, unique pizzas--things like a Reuben pizza (I adore Reuben sandwiches, so the pizza is one of my favorites), a jalapeño popper pizza, and an insanely good chicken bacon ranch pizza. We each ended up ordering mini pizzas, so we could get what we wanted. I was tempted to get one of the specialty pizzas, but I knew it would be a caloric nightmare, so I chose to get a veggie pizza instead--bell peppers, onions, black olives, and my favorite, banana peppers. (It comes with tomatoes, too, but I requested to nix them)

I estimated each slice to be 8 PointsPlus, and I ate two slices (half the pizza) for 16 PP--that's really not too bad! I could have housed the whole thing easily, but I tried to eat slowly and stick with two slices.

When I put the first slice on my plate, I picked up the shaker of red pepper flakes on the table. I turned it over to shake some on my pizza, and the lid fell off, dumping about a quarter cup of red pepper flakes all over my pizza slice! I've heard of people pulling that prank at restaurants, but it's never happened to me before :/  I was able to dump most of the pepper flakes off, so it was just a nuisance more than anything.

Today marks 32 days of being binge-free and on track with Weight Watchers! It's gotten much, much easier over time. The first couple of weeks were the hardest, but it's starting to become a habit again :)

June 19, 2015

The moment of truth

Today's run was a big one for me--not just because it's my long run, but because I was going to use it to decide whether I am going to continue to train for Detroit. Last week started the 18-week countdown to the marathon, and I am just now coming back from a second stress fracture. Last Friday, I was going to try and run four miles for my long run, but I had to quit at mile 3.44, because of some pain in the location of the fracture.

I've been thinking about it all week, and as badly as I want to do this race, I really needed to face that it may not happen. Back in December, when I first got injured, I never imagined that I would still be injured when it was time to start marathon training! Anyway, I decided that today would be the deciding run--if I wasn't able to make it through my long run today, then I would sell my bib for the race.

I planned out a five-mile route that sticks close to my house, so that I could just walk home if I had any stress fracture pain. I decided to stick with the 1:00-run and 0:30-walk segments, and promised myself I'd keep the pace nice and easy, to hopefully make the full five miles.

The weather was pretty nice this morning! It would have been perfect if there weren't fish flies, but there is nothing I can do about those, so I tried to just ignore them and enjoy the morning.

I noticed right away that the run felt easier than it's been feeling lately, and I hope that's because my body is getting back in shape. I was deliberately keeping the pace easy, but I definitely noticed that it felt easier than I expected. So, I was very happy with that!

I started to get a little nervous after three miles in, because I just kept hoping that I wouldn't feel any stress fracture pain. As I approached the 3.44 mile mark, it was like I was almost expecting to feel something. It was at that point that a blackbird swooped in from my right and came so close to me that I felt its wing brush against my ear. Usually, the blackbirds make all kinds of noise before they dive at me, but this one was totally quiet, and it scared the shit out of me. I picked up the pace a little to get away form it, and then I realized I had passed the 3.44 mile mark. And I still didn't have any leg pain!

I was really excited after that point, because I started to think that I was actually going to make it all the way to five miles. When I got to mile 4.5, where I normally turn to go to my house, I decided to keep going and shoot for 6 miles. I was feeling good doing the run/walk intervals, and didn't have any issues with my fracture. I weaved the streets of my neighborhood to add in another mile, and when my Garmin beeped after that sixth mile, I was thrilled! I've run six miles dozens (hundreds?) of times over the past five years, but today's meant a lot to me--I feel hopeful that I can actually do Detroit in October. (After typing this, I was curious how accurate it would be to say that I've run 6+ miles "hundreds of times", so I looked it up on my training log--I've done 285 runs that were 6 or more miles each. I had no idea it would be that many!)

I love that my average pace was 11:11. I just wrote on Motivational Monday about how 11 is my favorite number. Finishing today's run felt so good--I really needed that mental boost to keep going. I'm going to continue to train for Detroit, and while I won't be setting any PR's there, I am really hoping that I can finish (injury-free). I feel a whole new motivation after today's run!

June 17, 2015

New PointsPlus target

We had a really nice morning for a run today. It actually wasn't too humid when I headed out at 7:00. Again, I had 30-minutes (which I just translate to 3 miles, because I prefer to run for distance rather than time) on the schedule. I'm still doing the 1:00-run and 0:30-walk intervals. I think next week, I may increase the running segments just a tad.

The blackbirds seem to be extra abundant this spring! I can't really find a route that avoids them, unfortunately. Today, I did an out-and-back route on a fairly busy road, so I hoped that the cars would deter the birds. I was dive-bombed a couple of times, and then they were circling above me for what felt like MILES (it was more like a quarter mile, haha). That's the worst--when you can hear them squawking over your head, but you can't see them. I always imagine them right there, ready to start pecking into my skull.

On the way back home, I they wouldn't leave me alone, so I ran right through my walk segment, and through the next running segment--which meant I ran for 2:30 straight. That should be easy for me, but it was hard! I never expected getting back into shape after this injury would be so difficult. My cardio system feels like it did when I was around 200 pounds. I hope that it improves quickly with consistent training.

My pace was slower today, because I definitely enjoy the run more when I'm not pushing so hard. It was still tough, but my running pace was easier (9:30-10:00/mi instead of 9:00-9:30).

I need to get a new battery for my heart rate monitor. Actually, I have the battery--I just don't have a teeny tiny screwdriver to get the old battery out! I haven't been wearing it the last few runs because the battery is totally dead, so I have no idea if my cardio is improving. 

I took a quick shower and then drove the boys to their football camp. After dropping them off, I went to my Weight Watchers meeting. After another fraction of a pound lost, I told Brenda I was getting frustrated with how slowly the weight is coming off this time around. I'm doing everything just the same as before, but it's not working like it did before. I can only guess that it's my age? When I was in my 20's, I would always hear older women complain about how it gets so much harder to lose weight as you get older, and I never really believed them. Ha! 

Brenda told me that she wants me to increase my daily PointsPlus target to 29 (it was 26 before), and she wants me to get the extra 3 PP from protein. I have no idea if it will work, but I'm going to give it a try this week. I'm not a huge fan of meat (I eat a little if it's mixed in with something), and I really despise yogurt, so my protein options are pretty limited to eggs, cheese and maybe smoothies with milk. Conveniently, 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter counts as protein, and it's 3 PointsPlus. I would be thrilled to eat an extra tablespoon of peanut butter every day! ;) 

I noticed right away that there was a guy working behind the reception desk--I've never seen a male receptionist at Weight Watchers! It was really refreshing, actually. He came into the meeting to hand something to Brenda, and she introduced him as Jeff, who was training to be a Weight Watchers coach. He's lost 100 pounds, and he's training for the Chicago Marathon. My ears perked right up when I heard that he runs, because that's a topic that nobody shares interest with me in my meeting (my meeting is mostly women in their 60's). He's a former Marine, and said he's in better shape now than when he was in active duty!

After the meeting, I stopped to chat with Jeff for a minute, and he said he's running Chicago for charity, and he's raising money for ALZ Stars Alzheimer's Association. My grandma died of Alzheimer's, and I know what a terrible disease it is, so I asked him how I could donate. Anyway, it'll be fun to have a male at our meeting center, and someone who understands running!

When I mentioned the Arctic Zero "ice cream" here before, several people suggested that I try the Yasso frozen yogurt bars. They were pretty expensive, so I didn't buy any, but today they were on sale, so I got some of the cookie dough ones. I ate one after dinner, and it was SO good!! I had always been turned off by the "frozen Greek yogurt" phrase, because I hate yogurt (especially Greek yogurt), but these bars taste nothing like yogurt. The cookie dough chunks were delicious! It was pretty small, but for 100 calories, that's what I expected. A very yummy treat! So thanks for the suggestion :)

June 16, 2015

Jurassic World

Yesterday's run ended up going really well! I did a three mile run/walk at the same 1:00/0:30 ratio, and didn't have any issues with my stress fracture. The first couple of miles were uneventful, but then during the third mile, things got a little exciting.

First, I encountered a dog. When I was running past a house, this dog came running off the porch and into the street, barking at me. (Before getting Joey, this would have terrified me... but I'm getting much better at reading dogs' body language, and I don't think this dog wanted to attack me. I was surprisingly really calm.)

I felt bad for him, actually. He was missing a lot of fur down the center of his back and by his tail, and it looked like he was full of fleas. I started yelling at the house, "Hello?!" but nobody came out (there were three cars in the driveway). I had my cell, so I called Animal Control, but they weren't open yet. Finally, the dog went back to the porch and kept barking at the door, like he wanted to be let in, so I just continued running.

A half-mile later, I was just about to start a walk portion, when a blackbird dive-bombed my head. I started flailing my arms above my head to deter it, and even though I was dying to start walking, I ran through my walk break to get away from the bird (it came back for two more dives--those birds are mean!)

When I got to my street, I saw a little crayfish in the middle of the street, and as I passed, it raised its claws up like it was waving me down (like this picture below--I should have taken a picture of it, but didn't think of it at the time)...

photo source
I turned around to move it, because I didn't want it to get run over by a car. I kept trying to pick it up, but it was obviously pissed off at me and kept trying to pinch me. Finally, I just scooped it up and tossed it gently over the dike into the marsh, where I'm sure it came from.

I finally finished the adventurous last mile, and was pouring sweat when I was done. This humidity is killer!

It wasn't raining, despite how it looks in the picture. Rain would have been welcome! But it's just permanently wet, since we've had rain every day for about six weeks now.

This morning, I had to take the kids to football camp at the school. Once I dropped them off, I took Joey to Lucky Puppy. Then I went back to the school to meet up with Jessica. Her boys were doing the football camp too, so we decided to go for a walk while we waited for them to finish up. We walked for about 30 minutes.

Jerry met us at the school after the boys were finished, and the four of us went to the mall to see Jurassic World. I loved the Jurassic Park movies, and Jerry and I were super psyched to see this one! The kids saw the Jurassic Park movies, too, so I figured it would be fun for all of us to go see a matinee together (we tried to go yesterday, but it was sold out).

I guess I figured wrong... halfway through the movie, Eli said it was too scary, and he didn't want to watch any more of it. I told Jerry to stay with Noah, and I took Eli out into the mall. We walked around for a bit, and I got him a cookie from Mrs. Fields (I didn't get anything! That was tough.). I didn't want him to feel bad for leaving, so I didn't make a big deal about it, but I was super bummed to miss the second half of the movie!

After the movie, we all went home, and my dad called to invite the kids over. Since I had to go pick up Joey in a little while anyways, I decided to go back to the movies by myself to watch the whole thing before getting Joey. I packed some grapes and dried cherries to snack on during the movie, and it was actually really nice to go by myself. The movie was fantastic! Just as good, if not better, than the others.

I picked up Joey from Lucky Puppy, and he was totally drained. He was asleep before we got to the end of the road.

I stopped at my parents' house to pick up the kids, and they wanted Joey to play in the lake with them. Even though he was tired, he couldn't resist more time in the water.

It's so cute to watch the kids with Joey. Eli, particularly, loves to play with and "train" Joey. It's now 8:30 pm, and I'm just settling down for the evening. It's been a busy day!

June 15, 2015

Motivational Monday #111

Happy Motivational Monday #111! I'm not sure why, but I love the number 11--and any time I see a bunch of number 1's together, it's even better. My official 10K time for the Runner's World 10K was 1:11:11--that was more exciting than a PR ;)

This week, I am proud of myself for staying binge-free, and continuing to stay on track with Weight Watchers. It's also been extremely humid outside, but I've still gone out and done my run/walks. Honestly, I don't think there is anything I would change about the week (things in my control, anyway)!

I only got a few submissions for Motivational Monday, so it'll be another short and sweet one. Enjoy!

This is my very lovely friend Paige, from Idaho, who is one of my Sole Mates from Ragnar SoCal. Every year she and her best friend travel to Seattle to run a half marathon. They made it a tradition after Paige lost 130 pounds! Each year, they put a lot of thought into the shirts that they wear on race day. This year, they each have a loved one who is fighting cancer, so they made shirts to reflect that they are running for those who can't--in honor of Elena and Leana. 

About six weeks ago, Virginia started her weight loss journey. She's down 11.8 pounds so far, and she says that she is extremely motivated by her Garmin. She's been using it for about a month now, and has brought her pace from 18:12/mile to 16:05/mile! Seeing those numbers improve has pushed her to keep going, and she hopes to continue to get faster. 

I just mentioned how I love the number 111, and it's MM post #111, so it's only fitting that Jill's story began when she set out to lose 111 pounds, starting January 5th. Last Friday, she hit a big milestone--she made it to the halfway mark, having lost 56.6 pounds so far! The following day, she celebrated by running her first 5K in six years! The photo on the left was taken in November 2014, and the right was taken on Saturday. She hopes to reach her goal weight by the end of the year--and she's well on her way! 

Congratulations on your accomplishments, ladies! And thanks for the motivation :)

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