October 31, 2016

To blog or not to blog

What a gorgeous Halloween morning!

We usually get rain every year for Halloween; but today happens to be great weather for trick-or-treating. I'm looking forward to passing out candy while I watch scary movies in the garage. Halloween still feels weird without Mark--this will be the third one without him! I can't believe it's been that long.

This morning, I took Joey for a run with me (that's when I stopped to take the photo above). I haven't been following the 10K plan I said I was going to; instead, I've just been running when I feel like it. If I want to train hard for Indy, I really need to start picking up the mileage now. (I still haven't decided on my goal for Indy.)

I'm going to make it a mission to put together a plan this week. Tomorrow is November already! I haven't made any progress at all this fall on losing the summer weight gain--it's gone by so fast. Thankfully, I haven't gained any more, but I just haven't been as determined to lose it as I wish I was. Now that I've paid for a year of My Fitness Pal, I'm hoping I'll start seeing progress.

As you may have noticed, I've been posting very sporadically lately. I've been thinking about it a lot, and I guess I'm just unsure of where my blog goes from here. I feel like I don't have much left to say, so I wonder if I should just end the blog? But once in a while, I feel like I have LOTS to say.

When I started this blog, it was basically just an online journal--I would write about my day, focusing a lot on diet/weight loss. As I post less frequently, my day-to-day stuff becomes irrelevant, so I feel like if I write something, it should be more meaningful. The problem with posting daily is just that I feel like I'm writing the same thing over and over.

I'm not saying that I'm quitting the blog (at least not yet). When I do, I would hope that my last post will be much more meaningful ;)  I'm just trying to make up my mind where to go from here. I was thinking of making shorter-term goals (a monthly goal, for example) and that would give me something to focus on when I write. I'm not sure! I keep hoping it'll just come to me.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that weight loss/maintenance is not nearly as huge a part of my life as it was a few years ago. Back then, everything was still very new to me. Since I've gotten into a pattern with each year of maintenance, it's not as exciting. It's just... life.

I'm sure once I have more going on in my life (training for Indy, becoming an AUNT in March, etc.) I'll write more frequently. For now, though, I just wanted to explain why my posts have been so sporadic. I'm just not sure what to write!

I hope you all have a Happy Halloween night!

October 26, 2016

Cross country banquet and race pace run

Boy, was I sore this morning!

Yesterday, after I dropped the kids off at school, I went to Jessica's to meet her for a long walk. From her house, a lollipop route around the state park is exactly seven miles, so we chose to do that route. It took us about an hour and forty-five minutes, and my legs felt fatigued but good at the end. Then I woke up this morning, and I was SO sore! 

I never get sore from running (unless I do a crazy tough workout, then I might have a little soreness the next day); but switching things up yesterday by doing a long walk used some different muscles and I definitely feel it. It's a good thing! We already made plans to do it again next week.

The cross country banquet last night went great! It was a potluck, and with 24 kids on the team, let's just say there was a LOT of food. I was only on day two of really getting serious about calorie counting (again), so it was very hard to resist stuffing my face with sheet cake, frosted cookie cake from Mrs. Fields, fried chicken, meatballs, tacos, etc.

Thankfully, I was so busy with a project we had the kids working on, that I didn't really have a chance to eat. I was cleaning up their project while everyone else was eating, and then we jumped into awards. Shockingly, I didn't eat a single thing there! (I ate dinner before I left home, so that I wouldn't be starving at the banquet.)

The project that we had the kids make was a new concept. Last year, Renee and I chose awards for each individual (things like "Fastest boy", "Fastest girl", "Hill Monster", "Most Enthusiastic", "Most Improved Runner", etc.). This year, Renee suggested that instead of us choosing the awards, we have the kids choose awards for each other. 

We put their names in an envelope, and each kid drew someone else's name. Then, they had to come up with a positive award (we had a list of suggestions if they couldn't come up with something) and decorate a paper plate to give to the person whose name they drew. In theory, it sounded like a good idea; however, there were complications we didn't plan for (a couple of kids not showing up, some boys who didn't want anything to do with "decorating" something, etc.). 

But, we got it all figured out, and then we handed out the awards. We also gave the kids medals and printouts of their individual race times. We had one special "Coaches' Award", which we gave to a boy that had been to every single practice, every single meet, improved his running significantly, always ran with a smile on his face, and never complained. 

Then, the team gifted Renee and I school spirit shirts with our names on the back, and a HUGE surprise--a nice banner for our team! When we go to the meets, all the other teams have banners for their tents, but we didn't have one. The families chipped in and got us a banner to use next year!

I had to blur out a lot of this picture for privacy reasons, but you can at least see the size of the banner. The kids were very excited about it:

The season seemed so short! I'm going to miss coaching. I definitely plan on coaching again next year, but Renee isn't able to do it with me, which is a big bummer. We work really well together, and it's gone so smoothly for two seasons.

Like I mentioned, I really needed to get serious about calorie counting again. I'd been counting 4-5 days a week, and then the other 2-3 days I didn't count for whatever reason; and my weight was just stuck. Jeanie, my sister, decided to start using My Fitness Pal again, and she said she was going to pay to have the ads removed (the ads in the middle of my food log was the reason I switched to Fat Secret).

Anyway, I decided to do the same--pay the $50 for the year to have no ads. I think that's a crazy high price for a calorie counting app, but I figure that by paying for it, I will be much more likely to use it. I hate wasting money, so if I don't use it, it would be like throwing away $50, and I don't want that.

So far, so good! On my first day, I went to Ann Arbor and resisted all the baked goods at Whole Foods. Then yesterday, I didn't touch any of the sweets at the potluck. Two very tempting days in a row! But I reminded myself that I'm paying for MFP, so I want to make the most of it. It's funny how something as insignificant as an overpriced app has the power to motivate me so much!

I've been feeling more motivated to run, too. With the nice fall weather, and my realization that my running motivation doesn't kick in until late morning, I no longer feel like I'm dreading my runs. This morning, the weather was great for a race pace run--since I am hoping to pace Stephanie to a sub-60 10K next month, I decided to run three miles at race pace. For a sub-60 finish, that would be 9:39/mile (although I was thinking it was 9:49/mile until I just now double checked).

The run was anything but smooth! Looking at my splits, it looks darn near perfect:

Pretty even splits, right? My pace and heart rate chart show a totally different story, however:

Mile 1: Started out in the low 9:00's, so I slowed down a little until I was at around 9:35. It felt crazy hard! I was doubting whether I could even do one mile at that pace, so I told myself just to get to the end of the first mile, and then I could jog the last two miles. Managed 9:39 on the nose.

Mile 2: Started at a slow jog, because I planned to do the rest of the run slowly. I started spacing out, daydreaming, and realized that I'd picked up speed. That happened a few times over mile two--speed up, slow down, repeat--but I was gradually lowering my mile split. Finally, I decided just to try and hit another mile at race pace. I had to pick up the pace quite a bit to make up for the first half-mile, but I did it. Told myself I could take a walk break if I hit 9:49 or better. Squeaked by with 9:43.

Mile 3: Started out with a walk. Initially, I thought 10 seconds would do, but I kept adding more until it was more like 40 seconds. Then I started jogging slowly. The same thing happened during mile three that happened during mile two--I was gradually picking up the pace without realizing it, until I realized I could probably hit another mile on target. I pushed it the last quarter mile or so, and hit 9:38.

Definitely not the ideal way to hit a target race pace run, but it was better than nothing ;) It felt good to push myself today, even though my heart rate didn't get as high as it probably should have (ideally, it would be over 162). I was also feeling fatigued and sore from my long walk yesterday, which may have contributed to this run feeling harder than I expected.

I've been so busy for the last several weeks, and tonight I don't have anything going on. I plan to just curl up under the electric blanket and watch a movie or something. (Or maybe start to catch up on the last few seasons of The Walking Dead--everyone's been talking about it and I feel left out!) It started raining just after my run, so it's the perfect day for it!


October 24, 2016

The season is closing

I had a fun weekend with Jerry! He worked SO much the last few months, I never really saw him. They were doing a special project at work, and other than our vacation in early September, he only had 4 days off out of 70. He had this whole weekend (Friday through Sunday) off, and it almost felt strange to have him around ;)

On Saturday, my cross country team had our last meet of the season, and it was awesome. It was so exciting during the second- and third-graders' race, when some of the older kids from our team started screaming, "Austin's in the lead! Austin's in the lead!" Sure enough, I saw the golf cart zoom by, followed by Austin. (There were 80 kids in the race, so this was impressive)

My heart started racing and I couldn't believe one of our kids was leading the pack. That's never happened to us before in the two years I've been coaching. The race was 1.2 miles, and Austin was neck-in-neck with another kid for the last quarter mile. Just before the last stretch to the finish line, Austin started to slow down because he thought he was done, when he actually had to make a turn and run another 50 yards or so. Everyone started yelling, "Keep going! Keep going!" He looked surprised but sprinted ahead toward the finish. For the first time for us, one of our team members actually WON the race! We even took 5 out of the top 10 finishers. It was a super exciting way to end the season.

Our whole team did really well, and I was SO proud. It made for a great last meet! Tomorrow, we have an end-of-season potluck banquet, where we'll celebrate the season and recognize each kid for something special they contributed to the team.

Speaking of running, I am finally getting my motivation back. I've had ZERO motivation to run recently, and I can feel myself getting more and more out of shape. So yesterday, I finally made myself go for a six-mile run, and I felt really good about it all day. I noticed that I feel much better about myself on the days that I run.

I realized that my running motivation doesn't hit me until later in the morning, after I've had breakfast and tea. Lately, I've been feeling like I need to run as soon as I drop the kids off for school, and I just don't feel motivated to; but when I was consistently running all spring, I was doing it after breakfast when I felt the urge to head out there.

Today, however, I had plans with Andrea in the late morning, so I dropped off the kids at school and then went to the outdoor track to run. It was still dark outside, and I hate running in the dark, so I figured the track would be lit up. I was wrong. The track was pitch black, but it still felt safer than running on the roads in the dark. At first, it was hard to see even a few feet in front of my shoes, but once the sun started coming up a little more, it got better.

I just ran three miles at an easy pace (circling the track made it feel like forever!) and then I went home to shower and get ready to meet Andrea. She had never been to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's before, so when I told her I had to go to Whole Foods, she said she wanted to come with me.

I'm going to be hosting Winers at my house next month, and I chose to do an "Around the World" theme--wine from several different countries around the world, and food to go with each. I knew Whole Foods would have a good wine selection for that, so I went up there (Ann Arbor is about 45 minutes away). I ended up getting wine from Spain, Italy, France, Chile, Japan, and Germany. I meant to get an Australian one, too, and I totally forgot. It'll be fun to taste them with my wine club!

I managed not to buy any desserts at Whole Foods (when I think of Whole Foods, all I can think of is their bakery section!). After that, we stopped at a consignment shop, where I bought a cat shirt (if I wasn't cozy under the electric blanket right now, I'd go take a picture--it's a cool shirt!). Then we headed to Trader Joe's. I bought a few things there, but nothing too exciting. Thankfully, they had exactly zero jars of Cookie Butter in stock, because I don't know if I would have been able to resist buying some. I haven't had it in so long! By the time Andrea and I got home, it was time for the kids to come home from school.

I'm starting to think about what plan I want to use for half-marathon training for Indy. I don't have to seriously start training until the beginning of next year, but I definitely need to start picking up some mileage now. I am debating using Hansons Half Marathon Method--I loved using the Hansons Marathon Method while training for Chicago, but I felt so burnt out after all those miles. I may write a plan similar to the 10K plan I wrote, which is using the 80/20 method and heart rate training. I still haven't fully decided what my goal is going to be! So, I guess I should figure that out before choosing a plan ;)

Tomorrow morning, I'm meeting Jessica for a long walk--seven miles!

October 21, 2016

Update on my From Fat to Finish Line teammates

Where are they now?

After the documentary From Fat to Finish Line came out on Netflix, I've gotten several emails/comments asking about updates on my teammates. If you haven't yet seen the film, you can watch it on iTunes, Amazon, or Netflix. (I also wrote about the whole process on my blog, from when it was just an idea, to the filming, to the race, and aftermath.) 

The documentary was filmed in 2012 and 2013, so there is a lot to catch up on! I asked my teammates if they'd be interested in sharing a brief update for my blog readers. This is going to be a long post, because there are so many things to share! (I did not get updates from Lealah, Ada, or Carly). Enjoy :)

Runner #1: Katie

Since I blog several times a week, it's no surprise what I've been up to; but, I'll post a brief update here in case you're new to my blog. After the Ragnar Relay with From Fat to Finish Line, I trained for the Chicago Marathon and ran a PR of 4:16. A family friend was diagnosed that month with terminal lung cancer, and I spent the next five months making his last days the best that I could help with (my blog readers helped a ton with that!). After he passed away, I started gaining weight like crazy, and I eventually reached 160 pounds (I was 133 in the film). 

I became injured with a stress fracture in late 2014, and it caused me problems for 10 months! I had to cancel several races, and my weight and race times suffered. When it healed, I started training super hard for a 10K PR using a heart rate training method. I dropped to my all-time lowest weight of 121 during training, and ran a 49:03 10K race in April 2016. I was thrilled! 

After the race, I stopped "training" and started running just for fitness. I had a deep episode of depression over the summer, and gained back a lot of the weight I'd lost last year. I'm now at 150 pounds, which is 103 pounds down from my highest, but still more than I'm comfortable with. I am working on getting back down to my comfortable weight of 130-135, but I'm not in a huge hurry--just taking it one day at a time! I used to think that I had to maintain a very stable weight to be considered "successful", but I've realized that my body fluctuates by up to 30 pounds a year (I gain weight every summer), and I've accepted that. Next May, I'll run my first half-marathon since 2014, and I'm looking forward to it :)

April 2016, when I PR'ed my 10K!

Runner #2: Meredith

Well here it is almost 4 years since I became part of the Fat to Finish Line Ragnar Team. I have maintained a 85-100 lb weight loss over the last 4 years. It is and always will be an everyday fight to keep my weight off, but it is a fight that I will never stop fighting. When I first joined the team, I had run some 5ks and 10ks and had just completed my third half marathon… Since then I have continued to do many races every year. My husband and I do around 25-30 races a year which include anywhere from 5ks to half marathons and everything in between. I have now completed over 25 half marathons with another 10 scheduled in the next 5 months.  I have also completed 2 full marathons. I have my second Ragnar coming up in March of 2017. 

Runner #5: Andrea

It's been over three years since we all met and ran the Ragnar in Florida. Since then, I have ran our local 39.3 race series (where you run three half marathons in less than four weeks), a handful of 5k's, and I've had two attempts at running a marathon (I had to drop out both times due to an old back injury). 

My biggest challenge hasn't been running, but in maintaining my weight. Weight loss has no finish line. Whatever you did to lose the weight, you will have to continue to do if you want to maintain your loss. I've managed to maintain a 20-pound gain. I've learned that I still struggle with emotional eating and when life throws me curve balls, I usually end up eating my feelings of stress, anxiety, happiness, sadness, (name any feeling). Although I know food doesn't cure any of those feelings or make you any happier, it's familiar and it's where I turn for comfort. 

I've also learned not to dwell on my "failures" with maintenance, because it's not actually failing, but rather learning what works and what doesn't. I remind myself often that I've kept off over 100 pounds, so gaining 20 pounds doesn't mean I've failed. 

Just recently, I've realized that I do really well when I have some accountability in my fitness and weight goals. So, I've signed up to work with a personal trainer three times a week and we will take measurements and weight every six weeks. It's a great way to measure my progress and set goals.  I've also been going to my Weight Watchers meetings every week which keeps me accountable with my weekly weigh in. 

I'm currently training for the Indy Mini Marathon in May and I'm looking forward to meeting many of Katie's readers there!

Runner #6: Rik

Since filming completed in January of 2013, so much has happened!

Building on the success of our Ragnar Relay in Florida, and the shape I got into to be camera-ready, I spent 2013 working with a professional running coach, looking to qualify for Boston. I trained very hard for most of a year, then ran the Indianapolis Monumental marathon in November and put up a PR of 3:29:37. It wasn’t good enough for Boston, but I was so close (needing a 3:25), I decided to keep trying.

I continued working with my coach through 2014, targeting a September race to qualify. Six days and 40+ miles a week – we turned running into a second job. That July, I ran a 20:36 at my company’s annual 5k, another huge PR. But by August, I started having some odd fatigue issues. I’d have plenty of energy to get through my work day, but I’d put on my running shoes and feel out of gas before going half a mile. My doctor couldn’t find a thing wrong with me. At my qualifying marathon attempt in September, I felt terrible from the starting gun, and dropped out halfway through, hugely behind pace and completely exhausted – I felt as if I would pass out. I discovered (eventually) that I had overtraining syndrome. And the only thing to do for it – stop running. Which was heartbreaking. And also a relief – I had been training so hard for so long that running wasn’t fun anymore. My Boston dream went on the back burner.

Since that time, I changed my fitness focus to having fun and helping others get started. I got certified by Road Runners’ Club of America as a Distance Running Coach (the same certification that Katie has!), and started a small side business coaching new runners. That has been really satisfying, spreading the joy of running to others, and seeing them discover just how much more they can do than they ever thought they could.

As a result of my fitness journey, my confidence and my willingness to take on new challenges have both grown, and I have seen that spill over into other areas of my life, including my career. About a year ago, I took a new position with my company that had me relocate from my lifetime home in Milwaukee, WI to Sacramento, CA. While a great career move and an exciting adventure, it definitely threw me for a loop with my health and fitness. I have been working a lot more hours, and it requires a lot more of my energy. At the same time, I left behind my regular running partners behind in Milwaukee. I struggled for months to find time, energy, and motivation to do more than 10 miles a week. I put on 10 pounds I didn’t need or want.

Thankfully, over the last few months, I’ve finally gotten my work/life balance back, begun to build a new social and fitness circle, and have spent the summer training with my local Fleet Feet training group for the California International Marathon here in Sacramento on December 4. That will be my thirteenth marathon, and my tenth state – I am on my lifetime quest to do a marathon in all 50 states. And that includes going to Boston, someday!

At my all-time heaviest, I was 275 (approximately). When we shot the movie, I weighed in at 180, which was my lightest - I was really concerned about looking good on camera but my wife felt I looked too thin, especially in my face. So, I found a comfortable weight of 190 and maintained it, until we relocated. I topped out at 200 a couple months ago, and as I write this today, I am at 197 and dropping, targeting 190 again. I know I will always need to keep an eye on my weight, but that’s okay. I am so much happier, healthier, and more able than I was before the journey started – it’s a small price to pay.

Runner #7: Jen Roe

The film was a life-changing and eye-opening experience. Having a difficult and emotional moment on film was super scary, humbling and hard. At the time I felt super uncomfortable and embarrassed that it happened at all and especially on camera but since the movie has come out I’ve found myself grateful. I appreciate that moment now because so many people have said they can relate to it. It makes me feel better to know that not only am I not alone in having hard times when running but that others can feel comforted that they aren’t the only ones to have felt that way either. I also have the benefit of looking back and really being able to analyze how I let those "voices in my head” really get to me. Because of that I’ve been able to do a lot of self-reflection and work in that area. 

Since the movie, I’ve gone on to do a few triathlons, a bunch of half marathons and my dream race - the NYC Marathon. In fact, I’ll be doing the NYC marathon again in November. I’m probably about 10 pounds heavier than I was in the movie but at peace with that as my doctor is very happy with all of my numbers. Running has helped me keep most of the weight off and my health exactly where it needs to be. I still consider many from the team very good friends and it truly was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Runner #8: Linda

So much has transpired in my life since January 2013 and From Fat to Finish Line’s epic Ragnar Relay run from Miami to Key West. I am now balancing working a couple different part-time jobs outside the home with caring for my family and household. My kids you see standing with me in my before picture on the Brooklyn Bridge in the documentary are now 20 and 18 years old and attending college!

This year I turned 45 and it all hasn’t been frickin’ fabulous. After a fantastic year of running in 2013, I managed to injure myself. I tried to ignore it, but the pain wasn’t allowing it. I went to an orthopedist in April 2014 and discovered I had a torn meniscus in my right knee. I had surgery that July and went through 8 weeks of physical therapy. In that year, I wallowed in self pity and instead of meticulously watching what I ate, I reverted to old habits of comforting myself with food. I gained 25 pounds.

That didn’t stop me from gaining entry into my dream race, the NYC Marathon. If I was going to do one marathon, NYC was it. On November 1, 2015, my husband Charlie and I finished the NYC Marathon, hand-in-hand, content and honestly happy it was over. My time was less than stellar. I hit “the wall” very early in the race when us back of the packers were told we would have to move to the sidewalks in order to finish, even though we were still well within the projected time limit. (NYCM is a very back of the pack friendly event with an 8 hour time limit!). Even with that accomplishment, my mind still is the weakest part of my body and I fight the Negative Nelly in me constantly.

There may be a day when I need to tackle that distance again, but it’s nearly a year commitment and I’m not ready to give that kind of time to it right now. This year has been filled with New York Road Runner races, running the five borough races and gaining guaranteed entry for Charlie and I into the NYC Half Marathon, another iconic NYC race. I am still battling to re-lose the 25 pounds, and it is getting harder the older I get, but I’m not giving up. I know the weight is literally slowing me down, and my race times reflect that. I am trying to focus on the joy of racing and crossing the finish line with my husband and not the finish time. I am so very fortunate to have a husband who loves me no matter what the scale or time clock says. That means more to me than any medal or PR.

Runner #9: Jen Small

In 2012, I obtained my Personal Trainer Certifications (ACE and AFAA) as well as my USA Triathlon certification. I have been training and coaching on a one-on-one basis and as well as remotely. I continue to teach bootcamp-style fitness classes as well as cycling classes in both Southern and Western Maine.  I am still with Team Rev3 and love triathlon and endurance sports. I recently started mountain biking and trail running; I just love being outside at the beach and in the mountains.

My daughter is now 8 years old and is very active; she plays field hockey, and is on the swim team. She has also been involved in cheering, tumbling, and lacrosse.

The biggest change has been my personal life. The film highlights the struggles my marriage encountered once I lost weight and gained self-confidence. While we tried to save the troubled relationship, things were just too far gone and we separated 2 years ago. Honestly, leaving a toxic relationship was harder than losing weight but it was just one more part of my journey that shaped me into the person I am today.

I am so much happier now and have found a partner that shares my energy, adventurous spirit and passion for life. I am excited for the future and to help others find their own personal joy! I am returning to school again to expand my coaching and training education as well as study nutrition.

Runner #10: Allison

Running Ragnar with Team From Fat to Finish Line in January 2013 was an amazing experience! I came home and immediately jumped into training for my first marathon in October. In July, with training in full swing and feeling great, I found out I was pregnant with my first child! While I tried to keep training, I ended up withdrawing from the race and volunteering instead. I gave birth to my son in March 2014 and love being a mom; I could write pages on the phenomenal little man my now two-year old has become! In my last trimester, I gained 30 pounds (darn pregnancy cravings!) and picked up a nice case of sciatica, so I started walking, trying to work back to running. I also went back to school, working towards a nursing degree, in the fall of 2014, so I had a pretty full plate and taking care of myself fell by the wayside.

In June 2015, I started working out with a personal trainer and got my butt kicked 3 days a week before work. I was still having a hard time running because of hip/pelvic issues, but I found I love weight lifting! We focused on strength building and interval/Tabata training for cardio while I went to physical therapy for Achilles tendinosis. I was cleared from PT in August and decided, with only 4 long training runs under my belt, to run my second half marathon in October 2015; it went great! The hip/leg pain persisted though, so I had an MRI in April 2016 and learned I had two bulging discs. I stopped working with the trainer, got depressed, started eating, and gained back the 30 pounds I’d just lost. 

In August, I finally screwed my head on straight and started back at the gym, along with pool physical therapy. I’m down 10 pounds and taking it slow and easy. I was recently able to deadlift for the first time in months, and just ran my first 5K since the spring. One day at a time, staying focused, making good choices, and constantly being inspired by the FFtFL community!

Runner #12: John

Since filming the documentary, I have continued to run, finishing eight marathons and twenty-four long-distance relay races in total. I left my Mon-Fri, 9-5 life and now work as a consultant. The flexible time allows me to continue to travel and race in as many destination events as I can handle. I am also very active in the From Fat To Finish Line online community.

Personally, my life took another very public turn for the better when I began to devote as much attention to my mental health as I had to my physical health. Despite the ongoing stigma of mental health treatment, I’ve begun to share my story in hopes that it helps other people in need. You can read more about that at my Writer Blog and my post, Life Medicated.

Life is good, folks. And I’m looking forward to 2017, when I will celebrate my 50th birthday and my 20th wedding anniversary.

And there you have it! We are 12 ordinary people who lost weight, ran a fun race, still struggle with weight maintenance, and are determined enough to never give up. 

You can also read blogs for Leahlah, Jen Roe, Linda, Jen Small, and John.


October 19, 2016

2016 Purina Better With Pets Summit recap

(This post is sponsored by Purina, who invited me to the Better With Pets Summit. As always, all opinions are honest.)

I had a jam-packed couple of days! I only had one night in NYC, so I wanted to make the most of it. I bought a plane ticket for Jerry to come with me, and we arrived in the city at 8:00 on Monday morning. We took the subway to Brooklyn, which is where our hotel was.

The hotel that Purina chose for this event was stunning. It's called The William Vale, and it just opened about six weeks ago. Maybe it's just because I'm from a little country town, but I couldn't stop exclaiming how amazing everything was. We went up to our room, and the view from the balcony couldn't have been more perfect. Here is a nighttime photo, because the lights made it even prettier:

I wanted to just sit on the balcony all day, but of course we decided to go explore the city. Jerry and I went to Manhattan to meet up with our friend Mike, and then had lunch with him. We walked all over the place, and bought each of the kids a souvenir, then went back to the hotel for a welcome reception that Purina was hosting on the terrace. I saw some familiar faces of people that I look forward to seeing at each Purina event, and I met several new people as well.

Jerry and I ended up going to bed that night at around 11:30, even though we wanted to stay up longer with everyone. We'd gotten up at 3:00 AM for our flight that morning, so we were exhausted!

Yesterday was the main event, the Purina Better With Pets Summit, at the Brooklyn Expo Center.

I've written about this event before, because I attended in 2014 and 2015. It was the 2014 Summit that made me want to adopt a dog, and we got Joey a few months later. Better With Pets involves several people (some experts, some ordinary pet owners) giving presentations, all with the common theme of how and why our lives are better with pets involved. Several of the influencers bring their pets to the Summit, and getting to see all the dogs and cats is probably my favorite part!

ALWAYS thrilled to see little Ruby Roo! She's the
sweetest dog in the world. 
My pets would never sit that still for a photo!
I was SO excited to see a glass room just waiting to be occupied, because I knew that in a little while, they'd be putting puppies and kittens in there! We would be able to go inside for "puppy and kitten therapy" ;) (The pets were adoptable; and thankfully, I don't live nearby, because I may have gone home with another pet).

I should've taken a photo once the pets were inside, but I was too busy holding kitties!

This sweet little kitty is Sparkles, and she's missing an eye,
but she was SO curious and energetic. 
I tried to get a picture of the puppies, but they were running around like crazy and my photos just look like a blur ;)

We had breakfast and then sat down in front of the stage to start the program. Dan, who works PR for Purina (and is also a friend of mine thanks to these events), was the emcee. (His voice sounds EXACTLY like Marc Summers. When he started talking into the microphone, all I could think of was Double Dare--remember that show?)

Anyway, there were a few panels throughout the day, as well as a couple other presentations.

My favorite presentation was about the Purina Family Pet Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital. I think it's pretty well known that pets can help with depression and loneliness, so having a pet is great therapy. However, there are very strict rules about having pets in hospitals, so when kids have a long term stay in the children's hospital, they aren't able to see their pets. Flip Becker, the Senior Director for Corporate and Foundations at St. Louis Children's Hospital Foundation, thought it would be ideal if they had a special room where patients could go (with doctor's permission) to have a visitation with their own pets from home.

The funding just wasn't there, so he approached Purina about it, and Purina gifted the Pet Center that is now at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Flip shared a few stories of kids who were able to be reunited with their pets after being in the hospital for so long (one little girl hadn't seen her dog in over a year!). There was one boy who was not very communicative and he spent all his time in his room. Once he was able to visit with his dog, his mood changed for the better, and he began communicating more and showed more energy. These are just a couple of examples of how our lives can truly be "better with pets"!

Another story that really touched my heart was from a woman named Roben Harris. She has a daughter with Spina Bifida, and her daughter has had 28 surgeries, so she has spent significant time at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Roben and her husband had three kids, and then decided that they wanted to open their home to foster children. With just two hours notice, she took in three abused and neglected siblings, and ended up adopting them, turning her family of five into a family of eight!

Here's where pets come in: to show her adopted children just how a "forever home" works, they adopted a dog. She explained that this was the dog's forever home, no matter what--he may pee on the rug, or chew up furniture, but regardless of what he may do, they would never send him away. And she said it was the same for the kids--they were in their forever home, no matter what they may do or say, they were going to stay and be loved and cared for.

Isn't that an amazing way to show unconditional love? I can't even tell you how many times I teared up while she shared that story. What an amazing woman.

Nathaniel Fields, president and CEO of the Urban Resource Institute (URI), one of the largest domestic violence shelters in NY, gave a moving presentation as well. He said that 48% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations because they don't want to leave their pets behind. They fear that their abusers will then abuse the animals, and the victim won't be around to protect the animal. URI launched URI-PALS--People and Animals Living Safely--making it the first co-sheltering program in NYC, and one of only a few across the U.S. Their goal is to keep families safe together, which includes the pets. Such a great program!

After the panel discussion, all of the attendees put together boxes of goodies for URI-PALS. After assembling the boxes, we filled them with blankets, t-shirts, food/water bowls, collars, and food. All of the boxes will be donated to the URI-PALS program.

Finally, something that was announced yesterday that I'm very excited about is that Purina is teaming up with Mayo Clinic for a study that will measure the benefits of animal-assisted therapy as a way to reduce pain and depression while improving quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. This makes me excited because a very good friend of mine has fibromyalgia, and I have seen firsthand just what that can do to a person (mentally and physically). Coincidentally, my friend just adopted the sweetest dog for the very purpose that Mayo Clinic is studying, so I'm eager to see the results of the study.

I learned so many things and heard so many great stories that it would be impossible to fit it all in, but these were my favorite/most memorable. As always, I came home feeling inspired (I will not be adopting another pet any time soon, however! haha) If your pet inspires you to "live big", feel free to share on social media using hashtag #LetsLiveBig!


October 16, 2016

Spectating at the Detroit Marathon

I was SO excited today to go to Detroit and cheer on the runners for the marathon (and half marathon). My sister-in-law, Becky, came over at 6:00 this morning to head to Detroit with me. We really didn't have an agenda, other than to go to mile eight (just outside of the tunnel that comes back into the U.S.) and cheer on the runners.

We were going to park at the casino, which is where I always park because it's free--but they were charging $40 for parking!! That is crazy. We ended up finding a nearby lot for $20--still crazy, but I guess only half-crazy.

The weather this year was MUCH different than last year. Last year, it snowed at the starting line; and this year, it was nearly 70 degrees! I actually wore a t-shirt and was very comfortable--and I wasn't even running. It was great weather for spectating, but probably a little too warm for the runners and walkers.

We took the People Mover to the tunnel, and found a good spot to hang out for a few hours. The hand cyclists started coming through just as we got there, so our timing was perfect. We got out our cowbells, and watched as the runners started coming through.

One thing I noticed right away was that the bibs were smaller than last year, and because of that, each persons name was too small to read. I always like to cheer for people by name, so it was awesome to have names on the bibs! But, since they changed the bibs, I couldn't read the tiny lettering. Bummer.

We were watching for my brother, Nathan, who was running the half-marathon. He'd told me he was going to "take it easy" today and just run whatever pace felt comfortable. We finally were able to pull up his name on the tracking app, and his "easy pace" is apparently about 7:40/mi--haha. He was pretty easy to spot, considering he was wearing short American flag shorts, patriotic socks, and nothing else ;)

I was also on the lookout for a few other people: my cousin, who was running the full; the parents of a couple of my cross country kids; and a couple of readers who said they were going to be there. I ended up seeing the parents of my cross country kids, but missed the others, unfortunately.

We stayed there until a little bit after the 6:00 pacer came through. Then we headed over to the finish line to look for Nathan. The sidewalks around the finish line were CRAZY--so many people. It was impossible to see the finish, and it took us what felt like forever to get to the spot where we were planning to meet Nathan.

We chatted with Nathan for a while, and then Becky and I headed to Redsmoke for lunch. I got my "usual" of a Caesar salad with pulled pork. It was delicious, as always!

Meanwhile, our new furnace was being installed--and the guys finished it just as I got home. I'm so relieved not to have to worry about the furnace constantly going out during the winter. This winter is supposed to be harsh, so it'll be nice to have a reliable furnace.

Well, tomorrow, Jerry and I are heading to NYC for the night. I'm looking forward to it!

October 14, 2016

Getting back to speed work

What a crazy week! Cross country is coming to an end soon, so things will calm down a bit then. Right now, it keeps me pretty busy, though. Thankfully, it's super fun and I love coaching!

I had a really great run yesterday, too. It's been SO hard for me to get back in the habit of having a running schedule. It's kind of odd--for six years, since I started running, I NEVER had a problem with getting in my runs. But the past couple of months have been so difficult getting back in the groove. I've been lacking in discipline and motivation.

Anyway, I was dreading doing any sort of speed work, so I found myself procrastinating again. Yesterday, I promised myself I would do it... and I did. On the schedule was a 10-minute warm-up, 4 x 5:00 with 2:00 recovery walks, and 10-minute cool down. Translation:
Jog 10 minutes.
Run 5 minutes fast then walk 2 minutes (repeat for a total of four times)
Jog 10 minutes.

After my humbling race pace run last week, I wasn't expecting this to feel "easy". I should have checked what pace to aim for, but I guessed it would be right around 9:00/mile. So, I wasn't even going to try to go much faster.

After the warm-up jog, I started the first interval. I was right--it felt tough! I used to do those at a 7:30 pace, and now I'm having a hard time with 8:45. I even started to doubt my ability to pace Stephanie to a sub-60 10K next month; but, when I first started 10K training for my sub-50, my pace was nowhere near where it "should have" been, because I just wasn't able to do it. As I continued to try, though, eventually I was able to hit the pace. Hopefully, that will be the case here! Of course speed work is going to feel hard when I haven't been training much all summer ;)

I had to bribe myself a little throughout the run, but I did end up getting in all four intervals at my target pace. And I felt WONDERFUL. Truly, I need to remember that feeling for the next time I'm having zero motivation to run. I love love love the feeling after nailing a hard run!

I had to stop and take a picture of the lake. The clouds over the lake looked so cool! The picture doesn't do it justice (they never do).

At cross country practice yesterday, I made a new game for the kids to do after their running workout. I set up an obstacle course for them, and after the last obstacle, I had a bucket of the tokens for Connect 4. They would grab a token and run it back to the starting line, where the Connect 4 game was set up. Then they would drop in their token for their team to try and Connect 4. Repeat until one of the teams wins.

It worked out really well, and I think the kids had fun with the obstacle course! We played a couple of games of that and then headed home. It was actually 41 degrees when we left practice! It's been pretty cold for a few days, considering it was 80 degrees last week. Michigan weather is crazy.

Today, I met up with an old friend from high school. Andy and I were pretty close friends back in the day, but I hadn't seen him since we graduated, so it'd been 16 years. (I can't believe I graduated 16 years ago--wow.) He's been living in San Diego, and he just came home for the weekend. It was really great to catch up with him! We took a journalism class in school, where we worked on the school newspaper together (coincidentally, when I was writing a story for the paper one day my junior year, I went to another school to interview some students, which is how I met Jerry).

That journalism class was my favorite class I've ever taken (high school or college), and I was telling Andy today how it is one of the only things I learned in school that I put into use in real life. When writing my blog, I think of so many things that we learned in that class--even when I named my blog, I thought of the "headlines rules" for journalism. We had a really awesome teacher in that class, and sometimes I can still hear his voice in my head when I'm writing. I never would have guessed how useful that class would be in my future! ;)

The Detroit Marathon is this Sunday. I just decided (yesterday) that I'm going to go spectate this year. The only person I know that is running is Nathan (my brother), and he's doing the International Half. I really love that race, though, so I'm going to go to Mile 8 (just after the tunnel coming back into the U.S.) and cheer people on. I think Becky (my sister-in-law) is going to come with me.

And then on Monday (super early!) I'm heading to New York City for a short overnight trip. Purina invited me to their annual Better With Pets Summit again, and I'm super excited for it. I've gone the last two years, and I've learned so many awesome things about pets and people. It was even what inspired us to adopt a dog last year!

Jerry is going to come with me to NYC, which will be fun. He'll probably hang out with our friend Mike while I'm doing the Summit. Then we fly back home on Tuesday night. So, it'll be a short trip, but I'm looking forward to it!

October 10, 2016

Motivational Monday #137

Even though I stopped doing Motivational Mondays, I received an email a few days ago that made me very excited. After getting permission from the woman who wrote it, I decided to post it here, because I'm sure you will find it motivating as well. 

This email came from Amanda, who had written me before this to ask a couple of running questions. She had decided to follow my "Your Best 5K" plan for a series of 5K's this fall. I was thrilled when she wrote to let me know how the plan was going...
"Thank you SO MUCH for your 5K training plan!!  I followed it pretty much to the letter, although my heart rate is a little higher than it should be at my age on my easy runs. 
July 4 and July 16 I ran 5Ks at 31:15 and 31:08.  I stopped racing and followed your plan with the goal pace of running under 30 minutes, then I revised it to 29:00, then in the last few weeks realized I might be able to do it in 28:00.  In my last race pace workout, I averaged 8:45 for the three miles.   Today I finished my 5K in 26:52!!  I am thrilled!  It was a small race so I even placed 3rd in my age group!  I may or may not have sworn out loud in front of children when I saw the clock at the finish. I did lose 10 more pounds over the course of this training, and I hadn't run for that long before those other races, but I credit your training plan for most of the success because I never got injured (and I'm 40 and a new runner), and I enjoyed it and felt good and felt motivated, and I could feel/see the improvement from week to week. I look forward to many, many more runs and I'll use your plans whenever possible. Best of luck and success in your own goals,Amanda"
I only post plans that I am very confident about, because I would hate to be the cause of someone not reaching their goals after following my plans. But I do love to get feedback (good OR bad) about the plans so that I know what to modify in the future. I've gotten quite a bit of good feedback about this 5K plan, but I was very excited to read this update from Amanda.


When I emailed Amanda to ask if I could share her email on the blog, she wrote back that she also has a weight loss story--and I found it very inspiring!
"I started WW in December 2015 at 190 pounds (5'6", 40 years old).  I lost 35 pounds and then started a Couch to 5K program.  The 60 second runs in the beginning were hard for me!  In the next 7 weeks (I compressed it slightly) I completed that program and ran my first 5K on June 4 in 35:15.  I was hooked.  Later that month a friend from WW told me about your site.  I had already planned the other 5Ks, though, so although I read all about the plan, I didn't start it formally until July 17. 
In the meantime, I continued losing weight on WW and am now down 65 pounds to 125.  About 6 weeks ago I increased the amount I eat because of my running, but still lost quickly.  I'm now at a happy place in terms of my weight and running -- but there are always other goals on the horizon and I'm starting to think about more speed and longer races.  Who knows what the future holds??"

I also got this email from reader Katie, who had a fun idea to celebrate her 30th birthday:
"I know you haven't had Motivational Monday's in a while but my mom, Claire, and I are longtime readers of your blog and did something fun together over the weekend. We live in different states and love to plan and do walks, races. We've enjoyed training separately for half marathons in the past but found a new event we wanted to share.  
I'll turn 30 in a few weeks and was researching a race / event weekend a few months ago and came across the "Locomotion" event in greater Hilton Head, South Carolina's "low country". It's a 10 mile run / walk each of three days (if you choose all three!) to raise money for breast cancer treatments and research in South Carolina. Thirty miles in three days for my 30th birthday! We had a fabulous time each of the days on the different courses (Daufuskie Island, Callawassie Island, and Hilton Head Island) and loved meeting new people who all have personal stories and experiences of their own or a loved ones' breast cancer. "

I received an email update that I am excited to share as well. Remember Atticus, the little boy with special needs who was hoping to get an accommodating bicycle? Well, his mom shared some great news!
"Hi Katie,
I just wanted to give you and your readers an update on Atticus. In July, he began walking all by himself. Typically, when Atticus first achieves a skill, it takes him a very long time to master it. Not this time! Just last week, we donated his walker...and we could have done it a month ago. (I wanted to make sure he did ok in school.) I really think his bike deserves some of the credit. It enforced the pattern of reciprocal motion, and of bending and straightening his knees. He is such a happy kid now that he can walk. I owe you such a big thank you!"

Hope this helps motivate you all for the week ahead! :)


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