December 12, 2019

Brittany Runs A Marathon (movie review)

I recently watched an Amazon Original movie, Brittany Runs A Marathon, and the whole time I was watching, I kept thinking, "I should have been taking notes so that I can write about this on my blog!" because it was SO relatable. And motivating. And sad. And inspiring. And funny.

As a forewarning, there will be SPOILERS in this post--however, this movie isn't exactly suspenseful or anything (the title says it all) so even if you know the plot from start to finish, it's still worth watching. But if you don't want to know anything about it, then definitely skip this post. (Or watch the movie and then come read it)

I ended up rewatching the movie so that I could take notes to write a blog post (and I took an embarrassing amount of notes--nine pages scribbled in a notebook!).

The overall theme of this movie is humor (it's definitely funny), but I found so many parts of it very sad as well. I'll get into that more later.

The main character is Brittany, a 29-year old single woman from Philadelphia who is now living a carefree lifestyle in NYC. She lives in an apartment with a roommate/best friend, Gretchen.

When Brittany was a child, her parents got divorced and her mom left. Her dad became very depressed, and Brittany used humor to cheer him up. He eventually became ill and died, so Brittany's sister (can't remember her name) and brother-in-law, Demetrius, took her in. Demetrius was a father-figure to her and the two became very close.

Brittany is obese at 5'6" and 197 pounds, but I love that the producer didn't show her as the stereotypical obese person on TV--i.e. making her skin look bad, wearing frumpy clothes, sad all the time, no friends, etc. She's actually gorgeous; she does her hair and make-up, and she's outgoing, funny, and you basically want to be best friends with her. I do, anyway.

You can tell immediately that she is very insecure, however, and she uses humor to cover her insecurity. Later in the film, she'll drunkenly say, "People love fat people when they're being funny." That is clear during the movie. Something she does frequently when you can tell she feels uncomfortable is speak in a British accent. It's obvious that she is using it to make light of her insecurity and try to cover it by being funny.

Basic Plot in a Nutshell:

Brittany learns from her doctor that she is obese and has high blood pressure. He suggests making some lifestyle changes (diet and exercise). She cannot afford to join a gym, so she decides to start running. She heads out with the intention of running one block, and she does--although it was very difficult for her.

She continues to run, and Catherine, her neighbor (a runner that Brittany makes fun of, calling her "Moneybags Martha" behind her back, and who is usually heading out for a run in the early morning when Brittany is coming home from a night of drinking at a club) invites her to join a run group. Brittany attends and meets Seth, a gay man maybe a little older than Brittany's age, who is married and has a son. Brittany and Seth become close friends, and ultimately, Catherine joins them, making a trio.

As they run together, Brittany suggests that they run the NYC marathon. After some convincing, the threesome trains together. Brittany, meanwhile, is making healthier choices (no more drinking or going out late on the weekends and eating somewhat healthier) and she is losing weight. The more she loses, the more focused and determined she becomes.

As the title states, Brittany does run a marathon--but there are several bumps along the way.

Here is the trailer for film:

The Super Detailed Version (and my thoughts):

Now, for the long, very detailed version (with spoilers, FYI) and my thoughts on the movie:

First, I have to say that the writer/director of this movie did an AMAZING job writing this as if he was truly inside the head of a fat/formerly-fat girl's head--I cannot believe how well he captured the thoughts and insecurities of us fat girls (I mean no disrespect by using the phrase "fat girls"--Brittany and others refer to "fat girls" in the movie, and it's a strong theme, so I'm going to use those words as well. As a fat girl/former fat girl myself, I have never had a problem with those words when used in this sort of context.

There is a scene at the beginning of the movie where Brittany is drinking at a club and talking to a guy. He asks her if she wants to go into the bathroom with him; she smiles and says, "You ARE pretty cute," and you can tell she thinks that he's into her as well. Then he picks up some napkins from the table and tells her that she can put her knees on them (clearly for kneeling down in the bathroom to perform oral sex).

His presumption was so degrading. She liked having a guy's attention, but then felt that slap in the face of humiliation. Sort of like him saying, "Hey, this chick will take what she can get and she's lucky I want anything to do with her."

The next day, she goes to the local gym and learns that it's $129+ per month. She retorts, "You do know people can go outside... and just, like, do things...outside...?" Since money is tight for her, and she is "up to her tits in debt", she skips the gym and decides to run on her own.

As a true newbie to exercising, she dresses in a lace bra, sweatpants, hoodie, and Converse Chucks for her first run, not knowing anything about running clothes or shoes. I liked this detail--I was clueless how to dress when I first started running!

She stares at the door to go outside for a moment, willing herself to open it and go. As she steps outside, she catches her distorted reflection on the side of a hot dog cart, and after staring for a minute, she goes back inside her apartment and cries, skipping the run.

"Moneybags Martha", who is actually named Catherine, hears her crying from her apartment next door and goes to check on her. Brittany is bitter with Catherine because Catherine seems to have the perfect life--money, fitness, health, family.

Brittany tells her as she sobs, "I'm broke. I'm fat. I applied to rescue a dog from a kill shelter, and they told me that I couldn't give the dog the kind of future it deserved. A KILL shelter!" (I thought this was so sad and hilarious.)

Catherine shares with Brittany that she used to be a heroin addict. She in the middle of a messy divorce and and her husband has custody of her kids. She started running a lot after quitting the drugs, and the running turned into her therapy.

The next day, Brittany tries the run again, telling herself she's going to go just one block. And she starts running. I found this part funny, because as she runs that one block, looking like a fish out of water, the end of the block is visible--then the film editing makes the end stretch out farther and farther away (to Brittany, it looks infinitely long).

Afterward, Catherine bumps into her on the stairs to the apartment and invites her to a running group. Brittany rudely scoffs at the idea, but ends up going. When she arrives, Catherine is telling the group that they are going to run two miles at a 9:00/mile pace. As soon as everyone starts running, Brittany falls behind and is running solo.

I have to say, if I went to a running group for the first time and that's what they expected (9:00/mile?!), I'd turn around and go right home. That's asking a lot! I love that Brittany stayed and did what she could.

Eventually, a man comes up behind her, huffing and puffing like she is, and she learns that he is new to running, too. His name is Seth, and he wants to run a 5K to impress his (toddler) son. To which Brittany replies, "Why would you do that to yourself? You're not going to win." This made me laugh and wonder if non-runners think that all runners enter races to try to win them!

He and Brittany become fast friends and begin running together regularly. Seth invites Catherine to join them, and Brittany eventually starts to warm up to Catherine.

(I will stop here for a second to say that before I lost the weight, I used to think that thin, pretty women were automatically happy... what could they be unhappy about when they looked like that? Over the past 10 years, I've learned that all women have insecurities, and like Catherine, maybe they weren't always living a healthy lifestyle. Everybody has a story, and losing the weight made me stop assuming things about people that I didn't know.)

Brittany asked her roommate/best friend, Gretchen, if she wanted to go for a run with her sometime. Gretchen replies, "If I do too much cardio, I get too skinny too quickly, remember?" (At which point, every fat girl watching the movie wants to strangle her.)

Gretchen is NOT a nice girl. She's super pretty, but very insecure about herself and cares way too much about what other people think of her. She posts about her "perfect life" to Instagram and obsesses over how many "likes" she gets. Each time Brittany says something positive about herself, Gretchen gives her a backhanded compliment.

When Brittany mentions Seth to Gretchen, Gretchen asks, "Is he like a serious runner, or is he like you?" An either/or question.

Gretchen is forever mentioning in a passive way that Brittany is not a "real" runner and she's just going through a phase. Nevertheless, she agreed to go to see Brittany at the finish line of her first 5K.

Brittany runs with Seth during the 5K, and at one point, they are running super slowly uphill. Brittany tells him that they're running backwards, hahaha. I have felt that way so many times!

No surprise, Gretchen isn't there at the finish line. Seth's husband and son are there, and the other runners all have people waiting for them. Seth asks Brittany where Gretchen is, that he "wanted to meet her best friend". Brittany makes an excuse for Gretchen, but you can tell she's hurt.

Later, Gretchen told her, "I wanted to go to your thing, but Ace of Base was doing this show thing and it didn't start until 2:00 am", so she was too tired to wake up early and go to the finish line. Brittany is disappointed, of course, and is starting to get fed up with Gretchen's selfishness.

Brittany checks out her race photos online, and they look like nearly all of my race photos--horribly unflattering. Race photos are almost never flattering! It's funny watch her look through them, because I'm sure any runner can relate to seeing unflattering race photos online.

Gretchen's comments about Brittany not being a real runner really start to get to Brittany. She suggests to Seth and Catherine that the three of them run the NYC marathon together. Catherine loves the idea, but it takes some convincing to get Seth to agree. Catherine explains that there is a lottery to get a spot in the race, and if they don't get a spot, then they'll need to raise money and run for a charity in order to do it.

Brittany gets a new job as a pet sitter for long term periods, and she discovers that the apartment for her first sitting job is a multi-million dollar apartment. The couple who lives there is away for months, and she is to stay there during the day to take care of the dog and plants. There is another sitter that goes for a night shift.

When the night shift sitter arrives, she learns his name is Jern and that he actually moved into the apartment (which isn't allowed by the agency). She is annoyed by him--he's a slob, leaving trash all over the house and not taking care of things.

One evening, Gretchen tells Brittany that she broke up with her boyfriend and she wants to go out drinking; Brittany uncomfortably declines. Gretchen suggests ice cream instead, and again, Brittany tells her that she would rather not. Brittany gently says that weeknight drinking is hard on her because she has to run the next day. Gretchen dramatically replies, "Now you're calling me an alcoholic?!"and calls Brittany's friends losers. She closes the bathroom door in Brittany's face.

Having a newfound confidence, and not willing to take Gretchen's insults anymore, Brittany opens the door and stands up to her. She says that Gretchen's whole life is about being insecure and humble bragging on Instagram.

She tells Gretchen, "I'm starting to feel good about myself. And every time that happens, you have to tear me down. I'm not going to be your fat sidekick anymore."

And then Gretchen--Brittany's "best friend"--drops this bomb: "Don't throw away your fat clothes. I've seen girls like you do this before. It doesn't even matter if you keep the weight off. You'll always be a fat girl. It's just who you are."

I wanted to strangle Gretchen at that moment. I had to deal with comments like this several times while losing the weight. On the positive side, it didn't hurt my feelings--it just made me angry. And that worked to my advantage! Those words were like adding fuel to the fire in my determination to get to my goal weight.

On the other hand, it's kind of true. I've lost the weight. I've kept most of it off. But I am still a fat girl inside. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, and I think those of you in the same situation will understand what I mean when I write that. I have more confidence now, but I am still extremely insecure about my looks, my weight, and what other people think about my body. I always think about my weight and no matter how hard I try NOT to, it's there inside of me. I can't unhear the comments that people used to make to me or how people used to treat me.

After her fight with Gretchen, Brittany ends up moving into the apartment where she is dog-sitting, so she spends quite a bit of time with Jern when she isn't running or with Seth and Catherine. She's feeling much more confident and is approaching her goal weight.

I learned that Jillian Bell, the actress who played Brittany, had lost 29 pounds before filming and another 11 pounds during filming. The entire filming process only took 29 days!

Because of the short amount of time, and Jillian Bell's weight loss prior to filming, they needed to use prosthetics to make her look heavier at the beginning of the film. The prosthetics were subtle, though. I love that this isn't a fairy tale-like story where the producer has her wear a huge fat suit and then strip it off and get stick-thin for the ending. In my opinion, the weight loss looks very realistic.

Jern helps Brittany set up a dating profile, and she has a date that goes really well. She has dinner at the guy's apartment, and afterward, they sit on his couch and kiss. Almost immediately, Brittany kneels on the floor (presumably to perform oral sex) and he stops her right away, seemingly a little taken aback.

He suggests going to the bedroom. Then it's Brittany that seems unsure and confused, and it's clear that she's been used by men several times--men that don't care about her or her feelings and just want a quick blow job. She's not sure how to deal with someone who actually seems to like her.

In the bedroom, they kiss again. Whenever Brittany is uncomfortably insecure, she speaks with a British accent to be funny. She made a joke in the bedroom, and her date told her, "No more of this British stuff. You don't need to be guarded with me."

She immediately makes up an excuse about it being late and that she has to leave. You can tell that she just isn't sure how to act around a guy who seems to genuinely like her. He saw through her insecurity and called her out on it.

Later that night, she has a conversation with Jern about what it's like to be a "fat girl". "The saddest part about being a girl who is not a size 0 is sometimes guys talk to you like you're one of the boys. You're 'privileged' enough to get to hear the uncensored thoughts that they would never tell a woman." (She's referring to guys looking through Instagram and saying things like women are slutty, ugly, fat, etc.)

Again, I can relate to this. I've always been friends with boys (even now, most of my friends are male) and treated like one of the guys. Thankfully, my friends are now more mature than what she described, but when I was much younger, I definitely heard boys talk about women like that.

Brittany has grown to really like Jern, and he has never even mentioned her weight. It seems to be a non-issue to him. When she was talking about it, he even said that different people like different things (subtly implying that "fat girls" are liked, too).

She eventually realizes she likes him and wants to seduce him, and despite the hints she gives him, he's a bit clueless. But eventually, he realizes what she's doing and they end up in bed together. I thought this scene was very powerful. Rather than being the girl who would drop to her knees because a cute boy asks her to, she was very confident and took control. They had sex, which wasn't degrading or humiliating to her at all, and afterward, she started crying as she laid on the bed next to him. He was worried he did something wrong, but she just says, "I enjoyed that very much."

You could tell that it was the first time she'd had sex and felt special--Jern liked and respected her, treated her with care, and gave her confidence. She could be herself and feel secure around him.

At just five pounds from her goal weight, she is excited about making a whole new Brittany. She keeps visualizing herself running the marathon, with people cheering all around her. She bumps into Gretchen on the subway as she's going to her first half-marathon, and Gretchen clearly misses her friendship. But Brittany just tells her that she's going to her race, with "serious runners headed to the half-marathon. Very real, very serious runners."

Later, Brittany gets a call from Seth, who tells her that he made it into the NYC marathon. Brittany checks her email and discovers that she did not get a spot. So, she has to earn money for a charity in order to run. Seth tells her that they will figure it out, and she says, "Why would you want to help me?" Seth replies, "Because I'm your friend, Brittany."

This reaction is SO familiar to me. I have always been so skeptical of anyone who wants to do something nice for me or who wants to be my friend. I feel like I'm missing something--why would anyone want to be friends with me? It's the insecurity of the "fat girl" inside of me. It's hard to believe that someone would actually enjoy being around me and it's such a difficult mindset to get over.

My friend told me one time that it's kind of a selfish mindset--when I think that way, it's all about me. That was helpful to hear her thoughts, because it made sense to me. I still struggle with it, but I try to be more trustful.

This mindset of hers was reinforced later that day, when she attended Catherine's housewarming party. Catherine and Seth generously presented her a check to cover her charity fundraising so that she'd be able to get a spot in the marathon. She asks why, and Seth says, "You really inspired us, Brit."

She again feels like she's not worthy. She declines the money and rudely leaves the party, saying that she doesn't want their pity or help.

Feeling down, she gets on the scale one morning to see she's gained a couple of pounds and she panics.

(This is super common during initial weight loss--every single gain feels like it's the start of gaining back every last pound. It's so frustrating while trying to make sense that it's normal for weight to fluctuate. I think most people who have lost a significant amount of weight go through this at some point--seeing a gain and then feeling panicked and trying to overcompensate. It's hard to find a balance.)

She restricts her eating a little more, runs more, and feels desperate to get back to that warm, happy place where the scale is always moving down and you're constantly seeing progress.

She overdoes it with the running and ends up with an injury--a stress fracture that will take weeks to heal. The doctor tells her she cannot run at all while it's healing. I know exactly how frustrating this is, because I went through it as well. When I was told I needed to rest my fibular stress fracture in 2015, I resisted it so much.

I spent months resting for a week or two, then running again and it would come right back. I was so worried about losing my fitness and gaining back all the weight. It took about nine months, but I finally decided to listen to the doctor and take a full six weeks off. And lo and behold, it healed just perfectly. Still, runners hate injuries because of not being able to run and possibly losing the fitness that we worked so hard to gain.

I was not surprised, then, when it causes Brittany to completely derail from her transformation. One line that I found to be the most relatable line in the movie was when she comes home from the doctor and as she's thinking about how her transformation is "over", she tells Jern, "It was really nice to be a woman for once. People held doors for me."

This struck me hard. Before losing the weight, I NEVER felt like a girl. I wasn't one of the girls who is self-confident and wears cute clothes and does her hair and make-up. I wished I was one of those girls! But I just didn't feel worthy. I hate this expression, but I felt like trying to be pretty was "like polishing a turd". In my eyes, at that time, my weight = ugly = unfeminine = why bother trying to look nice? I felt invisible most of the time.

When I lost quite a bit of weight and I started wearing nicer clothes and putting care into my appearance, things changed so much. I felt like I fit in more with my pretty girlfriends, and I got attention from men. People held the door for me. Strangers started making small talk with me. I felt visible and feminine for the first time in my life. I loved feeling that way.

While I'm nowhere near my heaviest weight now, I struggle with feeling pretty again after gaining some weight back. I take less care with my appearance. I'm hard on myself. I wish that wasn't the case, but even after all this time since losing the weight, I never really found the self-esteem that wasn't dependent on my weight. It's sad! But real. So hearing her state that "it was nice to be a woman for once" was very powerful for me.

Moving on... she feels completely defeated because of her injury and moves home to Philadelphia. She doesn't take calls from Seth or Catherine and spends most of the time feeling sorry for herself. On the day of the NYC marathon, she sees photos on Instagram of Seth and Catherine with their finisher's medals, and you can see that she's feeling sad about missing it, even though they tried to get in touch with her to let her know they still care.

She gets very drunk on Demetrius's birthday when there are guests at his party, and she says some very cringe-worthy things to an overweight woman who arrives with a thin boyfriend. Brittany points out that they are an odd couple because she's overweight and he's thin. The interaction is very rude, but it shows that while Brittany may have lost the weight, she is still just as insecure as she was before. She doesn't understand how someone could be happy while being overweight.

Weight loss does not equal happiness and confidence. It's a hard lesson to learn when you're losing weight and hoping that things magically change when you get to your goal weight. I was just as insecure when I was down to a size 2 as I was at a size 24. I think that is the hardest part about weight maintenance--figuring out how to change on the inside (for the better) as well as the outside.

After her stress fracture is healed, and her pity party gets old, she moves back to NYC and decides that she wants to try to run the marathon the following year. She finds a good job and works on getting her mess of a life back together.

The movie skips ahead to one year later, and Brittany heads to the starting line of the marathon. As the title says, Brittany does, in fact, run the marathon. It's not a perfect race, and she struggles a lot when she hits the wall, but she gets through it (I'll leave those details out of the spoilers).

As the credits play, there are photos of the "real" Brittany, who the film was inspired by. The writer/director of the film, Paul Downs-Colaizzo, wrote this script based on his friend and roommate, Brittany O'Neill. The real-life Brittany had decided to change her life and become a runner; Paul was inspired by her changes and decided to write a film script (very loosely) based on her lifestyle transformation.

My overall opinion of the film is that I absolutely loved it. I loved that it wasn't the cliché Cinderella story of "fat girl gets skinny and runs a crazy fast marathon and her life is perfect after that".

I thought that the weight loss was realistic--and technically it was, because Jillian Bell lost 40 pounds for the role. I liked that she didn't get overly thin--she looked healthy and "normal".

My favorite takeaway from the film was just how realistically it portrays "fat girl" thoughts. For women who spend the first 25-30 or so years of life overweight, a lot of the negative thoughts and experiences were very accurate (in my opinion, of course).

The only part I found to be somewhat unrealistic was that this seemed to be her first attempt at weight loss/exercise for health, and she nailed it on the first try. I attempted weight loss a trillion times in my life before I finally did it; and I attempted exercise programs almost as many times.

Maybe some people get it right on the first try, but I think they are in the minority. However, that would be hard to show in a movie.

Other than that, though, I felt like this movie was very relatable, hilarious, sad, inspiring, and thoughtful.

If you've seen it, I'd love to know your thoughts on it! Feel free to share in a comment.

December 10, 2019

My New Niece! (and Week 10 recap of 3-3-3 running)

Last week was kind of crazy, so I didn't post. Whenever I had a chance to take a breather, I just didn't feel like being on the computer, so I read my book or worked on a knitting project for a friend. I kept taking mental notes about things I planned to write about on my blog, and now I forget most of them!

First, though... I have a new niece! Laura, Jerry's sister, had a baby last Monday. It was quite the ordeal. Laura was set to be induced into labor on Saturday evening, and I was ready to head to the hospital as soon as she called. She said I could be in the delivery room, and I was so excited--I'd never witnessed a birth before, and I always thought it would be such an amazing experience.

She didn't get settled in until Saturday night, so I knew it'd be a while before anything was happening. I didn't make plans on Sunday because I wanted to be ready to go. On Sunday afternoon, Laura said that she still wasn't having regular contractions and she was only dilated to 4 cm. A few hours later, she said the contractions were a lot stronger and that I could head up there anytime.

I drove up to Ann Arbor on Sunday at around 7:00 pm. When I got there, I could tell it would be a while (or I guessed, rather, based on my own experience with being induced twice). They had Laura lying on her side with a huge bean-shaped bouncy ball between her knees. The baby was facing the wrong direction (not breech, but she was facing Laura's belly and not her back). So, Laura's back was hurting pretty badly.

I pulled up a chair next to her and chatted for a couple of hours, and then the doctor came in to check her cervix, so her mom, mother-in-law, and I went to the waiting room. By this time, it was around 10:00 pm. The nurse told us we'd have a wait a while because the anesthesiologist was going to give her an epidural.

A couple of hours later, the nurse came to the waiting room and told us that they'd broken Laura's water to get things moving faster. Laura was super tired, and since it would likely be several hours before the baby would come, her husband asked us to go home and let Laura sleep if she was able.

I was wide awake and actually went grocery shopping on my way home at 1:00 am. Grocery shopping at that hour was a new experience for me, and I was surprised at just how many people were there. I took a sleeping pill when I got home because I was still wide awake and I knew I'd want to get some sleep before going back to the hospital. The nurse said she guessed Laura wouldn't be ready to push until 7:00 am.

At 4:00, Jerry's mom called to say they were going back up there, that Laura was dilated to 9 cm. I wished I hadn't taken the sleeping pill because I was too tired to drive at that point. I hoped that after a few more hours of sleep, it wouldn't be too late for me to go.

At 8:00, when I woke up, Laura had been pushing for nearly two hours(!)--so I quickly dressed and went back to the hospital (about a 55-minute drive). I was driving around the parking garage, hoping I would make it in time, and then I got a text saying that they were going to do a c-section.

I was super bummed! Since we wouldn't be able to see Laura or the baby for several hours, I just went back home. In the afternoon, I got a picture text:

This is Shelby! She was born healthy, 7 lbs 9 oz, via c-section. The night before, everyone had written guesses as to Shelby's weight and length on the whiteboard at the hospital, and I guessed 7 lbs 10 oz--so I was the "winner" ;)

Jerry stopped at the hospital after work, and we planned to go (with our kids) to visit Laura and Shelby once they were settled in at home. However, shortly after Laura got home, she developed a fever and a rash all over her body, so she went back into the hospital. The doctors had no idea what was wrong, and she ended up staying for two nights while they tried to figure it out and get her fever down.

She was able to go home yesterday, and I'm not sure what they finally determined had happened. Shelby stayed with Jerry's parents while Laura was back in the hospital, so I feel bad that Laura had to miss a couple of days with the newborn baby. I'm glad she's doing better, though. I'm hoping that we'll get to visit sometime this week.

I miss being around babies! Luke and Riley are growing up way too fast.

Sunday finished off Week 10 of my 3-3-3 running (running 3 miles, 3 times a week, for 3 months to get back into the habit of running regularly).

I suspected that one of my medications was causing a higher heart rate during my runs, so my plan for the week was to run in the morning and then take my medication afterward rather than waiting until afternoon or evening to run. I used to be a "morning person", but for the last few years, I am definitely NOT. I don't really feel awake and motivated until late morning.

Each morning this week that I woke up early to try to run right away, I just couldn't do it. And because of that, I put my runs off until I only had three days left in the week--Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I really didn't intend to do that, but because I am super determined to get in three runs a week every week, doing it three days in a row is better than skipping it altogether. (But I am not going to do that again.)

It's interesting, though--I didn't dread running at all this week. I feel like this 3-3-3 plan is finally starting to help me get back in the habit. I prefer the treadmill right now (I just feel more comfortable staying at home to run, for some reason), but maybe I'll start taking it outside once in a while.

My only complaint is that in order to keep my heart rate at or below my MAF target (146 bpm), I have to run very slowly--so slowly that it's actually difficult to do. I wouldn't mind this so much if it didn't take so long to finish three miles! I used to count on roughly 10 minutes per mile when figuring out how long my runs were going to take. It's a nice round number and was pretty close to my average easy pace. Now, however, it takes roughly 40 minutes to do three miles. On a bad day, it's 42-43 minutes, and a good day, 38-39 minutes.

This week was better, though--I was able to run faster at my MAF heart rate. I'm really looking forward to the day that I can set the treadmill at 5.0 mph and leave it there for a whole run! Or to start doing speed work--it's so crazy to me that I actually miss intervals and tempo runs. I think holding off on them until after the three months is a good thing, though, because it makes me look forward to adding those runs.

(Note: The miles per hour and pace don't match up because the treadmill's distance displays slightly shorter than the actual distance... when the treadmill reads 1.00 miles distance, its actual distance should read 1.06.)

Ever since I started running again, I noticed that my feet feel different than they used to. After just a few minutes of running, I get a pain in the side of each foot, but mainly my right foot. I had started with my old pair of Ghosts 8, the model that I was wearing for a couple of years before I stopped running. I tried a new pair of those (I still had a brand new pair that I'd bought before I quit running) and they felt better than the old ones, but I was still getting that pain.

I thought about why that would be happening, and my theory is that my feet have gotten used to less support over the last two years. After I stopped running, I wore my Converse Chucks almost exclusively--and those are completely flat without arch support or cushioning. After reading Born to Run and learning more about why our feet grow accustomed to the support shoes, I wondered if the bones, ligaments, and tendons in my feet strengthened and toughened up from not having the arch support.

I thought back to when I wore Altras, which are meant as a middle ground between support shoes and bare feet. They are flat on the bottom, so they don't offer arch support, but they are cushioned. They also have a foot-shaped toe box so that your toes can spread out while running. (I have a long post about them here.)

When I first switched to them, it was because Golden Harper (the founder of Altra) was at a Runner's World event that I attended as a blogger, and he gave us a detailed demonstration of why he developed Altra shoes. I loved the idea, and his explanation made so much sense to me!

He warned us bloggers that we should definitely allow for an adjustment period of a month or so to transition into using Altra shoes exclusively. When going from a support shoe to a zero-drop shoe (flat) with unsupported arches, you can get injured because your feet rely on that support that they are used to. You are supposed to gradually introduce the new shoes so that your feet have time to strengthen and get accustomed to them.

I was likely hypomanic during that time, and very impulsive. Of course, I didn't listen to Golden's warning, and I wore them immediately for all my runs. Several months later, I got a stress fracture in my fibula. Whether it was due to the Altras, I have no idea; but I switched to Brooks Ghosts after allowing my fracture to heal.

With the pain I've been getting in my feet over the last couple of months, I decided to try Altras again; only this time, I would transition properly. I bought the Altra Escalante model. As soon as I got the shoes and tried them on, I LOVED how they felt!

I wanted to wear them exclusively, but I know better now. I have had them for two weeks, and I've worn them twice. For the next couple of weeks, I'll continue to wear them for just one run per week. Then I'll try two runs per week for a month or so. And then I'll try switching over completely.

They are very comfortable, but I can tell that they stretch my hamstring and calf muscles more than my Ghosts allowed (because my heels aren't raised in the Altras like they are in the Ghosts). This isn't a bad thing (it's a good thing, actually, because my feet are in a more natural position), but I need to get used to it gradually.

Anyway, here is my recap for Week 10:

Friday (3.36 miles in 40:05, 11:56/mile pace, average HR 143 bpm)

I actually did manage to run in the morning on Friday, because I was planning to go to the hospital with my mom (she had an ablation procedure on her heart). However, I had taken my meds right when I woke up, forgetting that I planned to wait until after my run.

I started the run at 4.7 mph, hoping to be able to leave it there for the duration, but had to lower it to 4.6 when my heart rate monitor beeped at me. However, I was able to keep it between 4.6 and 4.7 mph for all but about 30 seconds when I had to lower it to 4.5 mph. I didn't have to lower the incline at all. This is definitely progress from a couple of weeks ago!

I watch the show 24 while I'm on the treadmill and each episode is about 40-42 minutes or so. When I reached three miles, I kept running to finish out the episode. I actually did that for all three runs this week.

Saturday (3.48 miles in 41:04, 11:48/mile pace, average HR 145 bpm)

I started this run at 5.0 mph, hoping that when my heart rate hit my MAF, I wouldn't have to reduce the speed so much to lower my heart rate. I was able to go between 4.9 and 5.0 for 1.5 miles! That's the fastest I've been able to run while staying at my MAF heart rate in a long time.

After that, though, I had to lower the speed quite a bit to 4.6 mph and occasionally 4.5 for the rest of the run. I was still able to keep the incline at a flat 0%. I don't lower the incline unless the pace gets too slow to maintain decent running form (about 4.2-4.3 mph).

I felt VERY good during this run, especially during the beginning when I was able to run faster. It made my legs feel great! I think that hydration plays a big role in how I feel as well, because I was very well-hydrated Saturday. I haven't been doing well at staying hydrated lately, and Saturday's run made me want to pay more attention to it.

Sunday (3.44 miles in 40:58, 11:54/mile pace, average HR 145 bpm)

I was hoping for another run like Saturday, but I started at 5.0 mph and had to decrease speed to 4.9 and then 4.8 within the first mile. Second mile was mostly 4.6 to 4.8. And then the third mile was between 4.5 and 4.6.

I wore the Altras, so the different running form may have had something to do with my higher heart rate. I notice that I focus on my form and breathing more when I wear the Altras because I am so conscious of how they feel and whether they help with the pain. (I don't get the foot pain that I do in the Ghosts, so it's a good sign so far!).

It's interesting, though--when wearing the Altras, my right foot drags on the belt occasionally (I hear a ziiiiip noise when the shoe brushes against the belt). This makes me more aware of my running form.

While a lot of runners tend to pronate their feet when they run, I actually supinate (the opposite--it's where I land on and push off of the outer side of my feet).  You can clearly see it when looking at my shoes--the outside edge of my shoes is what wears down first. The Ghosts are meant to straighten that out, but when wearing the Altras, my feet feel more "free".

It's the outside part of my foot that touches the belt occasionally, likely due to supination from the different (more natural) shoes. Again, it's not necessarily a bad thing--I'm just hoping that by strengthening my feet and focusing on running with the proper form, I can correct it naturally rather than with support shoes.

So, Week 10 felt like a really great week, other than the fact that I squashed all three runs into three days. I took yesterday off, and I plan to run later this afternoon or evening. And... I'm actually looking forward to it! It's nice that I'm finally seeing some progress. :)

December 08, 2019

The Joys of Toys

I plan to write a "catch-up" post tomorrow regarding this past week, but I wanted to make sure to get this posted as soon as possible.

My friend Jax is doing something amazing for Christmas, and at first, I was just going to write a paragraph or two about it in a regular post; once I started that, though, I realized Jax basically just deserves his own post because there are several cool things to share!

I met Jax and his wife, Lora, at a Purina "Better With Pets" summit that we attended each year (I wish Purina would do another!). When I first attended, I felt sort of like an outsider at the Purina events. I don't consider myself a social media "influencer", because my blog is small potatoes compared to the "real" influencers there.

I was amongst some very popular influencers and it was intimidating! I am talking about people with literally millions of followers on social media. Even animals with their own Instagram accounts that are followed by pretty much everyone on the planet were there.

While I was probably standing alone looking awkward at some point, Jax kindly introduced himself and his wife, Lora. At the time, I didn't know who he was (I mostly followed people relating to health/fitness and his Instagram account contained solely photos of his dog), but I checked out his account later, and the pictures were SO GOOD.

Pet photography wasn't a "job" for him, but I told him he really ought to make it a full-time gig because he was so talented. I think people would pay a lot of money to get these kinds of photos of their pets! He and his wife made me feel much more comfortable about being at the summit, because they were genuine, friendly, all-around good people.

Here are a couple lots of my favorites photos from back then (you can find these and tons more on Instagram @thefugee):

A couple of years later, Jax picked up a new hobby--photographing action figures (yes, toys). When I saw the first few photos, I was completely amazed. Stunned. I had no idea that toy photography was even a "thing", but he was clearly very talented at that as well as the pet photography.

I will admit, I give no thought whatsoever to action figures and I never played with them when I was a kid. I also don't like Star Wars, comic books, or basketball; and Jax includes a lot of photos using these themes. However, it doesn't matter what the subject of his photos are--they are simply STUNNING, and I love seeing them in my Instagram feed. Here are a few several a lot of my favorites:

Occasionally, he will post a "behind the scenes" video showing how he sets the photos up. As you can imagine, it's a big process!

His new toy photography Instagram account (@plasticaction) gained so many followers so quickly (which was no surprise, honestly) but Jax is literally one of the most humble and kind people I've ever met. I want to share a quick story before I finally get to the reason for posting all this.

One of Jax's earlier photos (from 2017) became my very favorite, not only because of the photo itself, but because of the story behind it. If you're into The Walking Dead, then you will like this (if not, you'll still like it, haha). As you may or may not know, the character from TWD who plays Daryl is Norman Reedus.

Jax set up a very cool photograph of an action figure of Daryl riding a motorcycle (I can't find the picture right now) and Norman Reedus actually posted it to his Instagram account to promote his new show! Awesome, right? Except that he didn't credit Jax for the photo, despite numerous comments from Jax's followers that he should credit the photographer.

Jax, being a stand-up guy, replied in a humorous way that I thought was best! If you watch The Walking Dead, then you'll understand this photo. Jax posted it to Instagram with the following caption:

"Last week, @bigbaldhead [Norman Reedus] posted one of my more popular photos to promote his new show but didn't credit me on that photo. Not cool. I'm not bitter or anything, but I've suddenly grown a fondness to Negan. He's my favorite. GO NEGAN!"

Yes, it's gory, but... Lucille.

(As a blogger, I totally understand how posting something without attribution can happen accidentally. I've shared things before where I don't know where it came from, and I do state so; however, if someone was to recognize it and ask for credit or ask me to remove it, I would do so immediately. When I've shared others' photos and I know who it comes from, I ask permission to post it.)

Maybe I should have saved that Walking Dead story for later, because it doesn't exactly tie in with what I'm about to write here (finally getting to the point). But I loved the way Jax responded and just had to share.

Anyway, other than bragging about Jax's photography, here is the purpose of this post. In his words:
"With the holidays coming up, I wanted to put together a campaign that would help some families in need. The money that you donate will go towards purchasing toys for families that are struggling this holiday season. 
With your donations, I will personally be purchasing the toys and delivering them to the Toys for Joy organization in San Diego, California. Since I will be handling ALL the transactions for this campaign, you are going to know exactly where your donations are going. My goal is to spend $2,000 in toys through your donations! 
Please join me on this campaign. Together we can create an abundance of joy for families who are struggling even if it's just for a day. Trust me when I say that your donation could be life changing. I was on the struggling side at one point in my life and those acts of kindness changed me forever."

Jax shared a story that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, which was the reason behind starting this campaign:
"My parents are a big inspiration when it comes to giving back. Even though they didn’t have a lot of money, I have memories of my dad writing checks out to the local church, various charities, and extended family in the Philippines. But, it was my mom that inspired me to start this campaign. 
I will never forget the day I went to the department store with her to buy some necessities. As usual, we ended up in the toy isle, where I could only browse, because we typically couldn’t afford to buy anything. But that particular day, she let me choose something to buy. She probably sensed the overwhelming joy that I was feeling as I held and gazed over the huge Transformers box every kid would die for. I remember being the happiest kid in the world as I dragged that big ole box of greatness to the register. 
After Mom handed her credit card for payment, I remember the word “declined” coming out of the cashier’s mouth. She tried at least two other cards, fumbling through her purse in desperation, looking for other means to pay. 
I didn’t get to bring the Transformer home that day, or any other day for that matter. As disappointed as I was, I got over it and moved on pretty quickly. What I could NOT get over is the look on my mom’s face as we walked out the store. She was so ashamed that she couldn’t look at me.  All she wanted to do was make her kid happy. 
I wish I could have told her it was okay, that it wasn’t a big deal. The thought of how she felt that day breaks my heart. And so this campaign is in honor of my mother, Lourdes Navarro."

It's SO fun to think of the kids' faces as they receive the toys. I love that these were purchased personally by Jax with the thought and care of someone who enjoys toys himself! Jax's sister actually manages a Toys for Joy location, so it's nice to know that these toys are in good hands and we can see where the donations are going.

There are two ways you can donate to his campaign (the deadline is Wednesday the 11th, which is why I wanted to post this ASAP).

1) You can directly send money via PayPal, and 100% of it will go toward purchasing the toys (Jax will be personally picking them out--you can see his first trip to the store here on this video spending $1,000--half his goal. It's fun to watch!)

Here is the link to place a monetary donation online.

2) You can buy a print of one of his action figure photos (I bought the Jurassic Park one--my family loves Jurassic Park!). Here is the page where you can select a print to purchase, and 100% of the proceeds will go toward the toy campaign:

Here is the link to check out the prints available to purchase.

While I asked Jax's permission to share about the toy drive and his photos, I'm sure he is going to be humbly embarrassed at the extent I went to on this post! (Sorry, Jax). Haha, but I love what he is doing and I am happy to help however I can. I wanted to share it here in case you are feeling generous and want to donate toward toys for kids in need.

And also because Jax and Lora are two of the nicest people I've ever met ;)  (Remember, the deadline is Wednesday.)

You can read more about Jax on his website. I'm sure you would enjoy following along with Jax's photography, so you can find him on Instagram at:

@thefugee (This account was started with photos of his dog, Fugee, who I shared photos of above. Fugee was a rescue dog and now has a couple of siblings who were rescued, too!)

 @plasticaction  (This account is where Jax shares his super talented photography of action toys!)

You can also check out his website at here at Plastic Action.

December 01, 2019

A Treadmill Accuracy Test--Finally! (And 3-3-3 Week 9 Recap)

I finally got answers to the accuracy of my treadmill! I'll write more about that below. First, though, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Jerry was working, but my mom invited us to her house for dinner. Becky went with the kids (Brian was working) and Nathan went with his girlfriend, Alex.

That morning, I had the idea to invite Luke and Riley (my niece and nephew) to come over after dinner and stay the night. I'd invited them over for Saturday night, but on Thursday, we learned that Jerry's sister, Laura, was going to be induced into labor on Saturday evening. And I get to be in the delivery room! Of course, I was very excited about that, so I asked Becky about the change of plans, which was fine with her.

(Laura went in to the hospital last night as planned, but things are going very slowly. I'm hoping that it'll happen tonight! I'm ready to drive up there as soon as she lets me know.)

We ate dinner at my mom's, and it was delicious! My favorite dish is still my mom's sweet potato casserole. I could eat nothing but that and die happy.

Since Jerry was working, I had Luke and Riley to myself for a few hours. They are SO STINKIN' CUTE. Luke talks a mile a minute and asks so many questions I can hardly keep up. And Riley is one of the most adorable toddlers I've ever seen. She's very petite for her age--she's small but proportionate, so she looks like a little, drunk adult toddling around, hahaha.

And her smile. My heart just melts. She gets this grin on her face that stretches from ear to ear, and it's SO contagious. I tried so hard to get pictures of the kids, but they never hold still. There was one moment when Luke actually asked me to take a picture, though, which he never does. He was sitting on the floor with Riley. I wish you could see her huge smile!

Anyway, on to the treadmill... in my obsession with not knowing how accurate my treadmill's distance is (I think it's the thing I complain about the most on my blog--being a numbers nerd, it drives me CRAZY not to know!), I was doing some Googling about Garmin watches that are the most accurate on treadmills.

My Garmin is over five years old now; I don't need a new one, but I want accurate numbers on the treadmill. (When I do get a new watch, I don't want a fitness tracker or a wrist-based heart rate monitor--and they pretty much don't make them like that anymore.)

In searching, I came across DC Rainmaker's site (if you ever want to learn about fitness gadgets, he is my go-to), and he had a video that demonstrated accuracy of various tools for logging distance on a treadmill. To get a very accurate *actual* distance to compare the others to, he used a measuring wheel.

I cannot believe I didn't think to do that before! They are used for measuring long distances, typically for road marking, sports fields, paving, fencing, etc., so the accuracy is about as good as you can get. DC Rainmaker strapped a measuring wheel to his treadmill. I tried to do that, but it was very difficult to get it steady, so I had to do it the difficult way--holding it in place for a mile while my legs went totally numb from squatting on the floor.

I had Jerry start the treadmill (on 5.0 mph and leave it there) and read off distances throughout, writing down the number of feet measured at certain checkpoints--1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, then each 1/10 of a mile. I just wanted to see if it was consistent. Then when the treadmill hit exactly one mile, he told me to stop and I could record the exact number of feet that the wheel measured.

Ideally, the treadmill's distance would be spot-on with the measuring wheel. Worst case, I was hoping that the treadmill was going a bit longer than the display showed, so that at least I would know that I hadn't been cutting my runs short.

Here is what the result was:

The treadmill read 1.00 mile at the end. A mile is 5,280 feet or 1609 meters.
The measuring wheel, in the same amount of time, read 5,592 feet or 1704 meters.

This means that a mile on the treadmill's display is actually 312 feet (95 meters) shorter than the actual distance of a mile.

When I multiply that by the three miles that I run at a time, it works out to be an actual 3.177 miles that I've run. It also means that the pace I've been running has actually been a little faster than I thought!

I'm so glad to finally KNOW. I'm going to test it with a few different treadmill speeds, but I figured that 5.0 mph was a good start. Since I've been running until the treadmill reads 3.0 mph, I'll continue to do that, but I'll change the data on Garmin Connect to read 3.18 miles.

And since I'm going to do that from now on, I decided to go back to my runs over the last several weeks and change the distance for my treadmill runs to make it more accurate and consistent.

So, that done, here is my recap for Week 9 on my 3-3-3 running.

(For anyone new to the blog: 3-3-3 running is just my plan for getting back to running regularly. I run 3 miles, 3 times a week, for 3 months. I am doing MAF heart rate training, keeping my heart rate under 146 bpm for the entire duration of the run, no matter how slow I have to run in order to do that. It's a way of strengthening the aerobic system.)


Usually, after a run, I immediately write notes about it in Garmin Connect so that I remember what to write about in my recaps. I was in a huge hurry on Tuesday and forgot to do that. My memory is terrible, so I can't write much about it.

I had to pick up Noah early from school for a doctor's appointment, and I had to leave at 12:15. I wrote a blog post and finished a little before 11:00. I knew that getting ready to run, running three miles, and then showering would be enough time, but I was hoping I'd have time to cook some chicken and make a salad for lunch (I'm on a salad kick right now).

I quickly got dressed and hopped on the treadmill. I vaguely remember being happy that the run was definitely better than last week's runs, but my heart rate was still getting to 147 here and there.

I felt really good after this run! Afterward, I had to choose whether to make my salad or to take a shower. I was going to try to do both, but after trimming and cutting the (raw) chicken, I only had 10 minutes left, so I hopped in the shower instead before rushing out the door.

Garmin Connect only recently started showing my time spent in each of my heart rate zones. I love this! When I start doing speed work, it'll come in handy to make sure I'm doing 80% at MAF rate and 20% in zones 4 & 5.


This was the best run I've had in weeks--probably since the beginning of my training. I started the treadmill on 4.4 mph and then I wondered if starting it higher would allow me to run longer at a faster pace before my heart rate got too high.

Basically, I am so tired of running so slowly and I wanted to see if I could manage starting at a faster pace. After about 30 seconds at 4.4 mph, I bumped it up to 4.7 mph, expecting to hear the heart rate monitor alerting me to slow down at any moment.

But I left it there! I didn't have to lower the speed or the incline at all the entire run. After 2.5 miles, I was even able to run at 4.8 mph for a quarter mile. Running the faster pace felt so good! And my heart rate monitor only beeped 3-4 times during the whole run.

I was trying to think of reasons why this run went so well, and I think it may have something to do with my medication. I deliberately waited until after my run to take my bipolar meds. I think one of them makes my heart rate increase. I can't sleep when I take it in the evenings, so if my theory is correct, I'm going to have to become a morning runner again.

I have such a hard time getting motivated to run in the mornings! I do love how it feels to get it done early, though, and then not think about it all day. I'm going to try doing it for all three runs during Week 10 and I'll take my meds after the run. I'm curious to see if it makes a difference.

From the pic below, you can see that even though I was going faster, I was able to keep my heart rate in the correct range for 95% of the run (and only 3% was too high).


I was excited for today's run because I got a new pair of shoes and I wanted to test them out. I'll write about them next week after I've run in them a little more, but so far, so good.

Unfortunately, I forgot to run before taking my meds. I woke up at 6:15 and took them right away. Laura texted and said that there wasn't much happening as far as her labor, so I decided to give it a few hours before running.

I still wanted to try the speed that I did on my previous run, hoping for the same result. I started out at 4.8 mph this time, and less than a quarter mile in, I had to lower it because my heart rate was too high. Ultimately, I had to run at 4.6 mph, then 4.5 mph for most of the run, lowering it to 4.4 mph for only a few minutes.

Even though it wasn't a good as last time, it was still a big improvement from last week. I think the fact that I was sick last week is what made my runs so miserable and my heart rate so high.

I went back to watching 24 instead of Jack Ryan, because I need more action. I watched the whole series of 24 years ago, and I remember it being very fast paced, which is exactly what I need when I run on the treadmill.

So, that's the recap for Week 9. Today started my third month of the 3-3-3 plan. I'm two-thirds of the way through! And I haven't missed a single run. I'm pretty proud of myself :)

Well, I hope that tomorrow I'll be sharing a photo of my new niece!

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