Sunday, December 28, 2014

Operation Stay Well

I have a pinched nerve and can’t feel my left hand (and can’t touch-type for the first time in forever!); I’m switching from an anti-depressant with a nasty withdraw; I have sinusitis for the second time in this still young winter—because of a deviated left septum for which I’m going under the knife Tuesday morning.  And of the five people in my household, I’m the healthy one!

Yes, it’s that time of year, when illness runs rampant, and I’ll glad to be out of the contagion area as often as possible—yet another reason I love going to Five Seasons.  In years past, it always seemed like I was the first to go down with a holiday bug.  Not just once did I spend Christmas Eve on my snifflin’ own, while the rest the fam made merriment with our extended kin.  But not this year!  With all the body redeeming exercising and healthy eating, I have (touch wood) staved off illness, and it was me and my never-sick-but-now-sick dad who made the trek to Christmas Eve.  I seem to have developed a boost in my immunity which I need to continue (fingers crossed, popping mega-doses of Vitamin C) through my operation time, early Tuesday.

And when the doctor removes the packing from my nose, possibly as early as the next day, I’ll have to a hopefully brief interlude during while I’ll have to take it easy.  I can’t imagine a doctor who wouldn’t return a willing patient to light walking, and before I can run again I’ll walk and walk, all the while working with my Five Season’s team to address what is cause of my lingering pinched nerve.  Maybe just resting will resolve the issue.  Then, sometime is the new year, I will get clearance to do full exercise, and the new and improved 2015 Me—with a trimmed down exterior, more confidant handling, and a redesigned breathing system—will give it all I got, and I’ll be ready for all challenges.

I’ve just got to stay well…

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Liberating Week of Personal Progress, Part One

Woody Allen once quipped, “80 percent of success is showing up,” and throughout this year I’ve tried, I believe without fail, to take every opportunity this once in a lifetime experience has afforded me.  I’ve reiterated it often enough that it is one of my themes, but I cannot but be healthier—physically and mentally—the more time I spend at Five Seasons, and so I’ve committed without thinking—whether it be a 6:30am group with Laurie, a spur of the moment lunchtime walk with Joseph around both banks of the Ohio River, or in a second of the day workout, hitting the heavy bag in Stephanie’s kick boxing class—to drop everything that is inconsequential and give attention to what I had neglected for far too long, my health and fitness.  For I will likely never again have the flexibility of so much free time, without being in school or having to work, and if I—nay, when I—get it right, I will never again have to lose so much weight.

Agreeing to do everything that my team thinks will help me improve and knows that I can do has made me greatly more functional, leaner, and keener to try new things in order to get more experiences out of life.  So when Joseph asked me to speak at the Newport HeartChase committee meeting for their mission moment, I didn’t over think it, and I didn’t freak out realizing that I’m nervous enough walking around each day, let alone preparing to speak before a group of strangers.  Instead, I decided that since I was going to talk about a subject I know better than anything else—myself and my journey—I wouldn’t think about it at all, wouldn’t imagine all the ways I could stuttered and stammered my way to total embarrassment.  I told Joseph I’d love to.

Not being preoccupied on my little speech on Wednesday seemed to spur my active mind into attempting new things.  For the first time ever, I did my first load of laundry!  It’s probably ridiculous that a 27 year old man-child hadn’t ever washed his own clothes (especially when Mindy told me that her 10 year old son does his own laundry!), but the laundry room is the domain of my grandma, and she seems to like for me to be reliant on her as a way of feeling needed.  Well, Nana had been out of town visiting her sister, and at first it was alright because I had enough clean gym clothes.  Then Nana decided that she was going to stay a further four days, and I began to get nervous, trying to figure if I had sufficient outfits remaining in my dresser drawer, contemplating whether I could get by wearing once sweated-in clothes.  When Nana decided that she wasn’t coming home until after Christmas, the solution became starkly apparent: it was time to do it myself.

It doesn’t matter if it’s cooking a new recipe, building a desktop computer, or teaching oneself to launder one’s clothes, it takes so much longer to do things for the first time.  Mistakes are darn near guaranteed, techniques are yet to be developed.  I focused completely on not ruining the gym clothes I spent so much money amassing that I didn’t think about how much clothing constitutes one load of laundry.  I had figured out the right water temperature to not ruin my polyesters, but I smushed two weeks of dirty clothes into the washer.  At the end of the wash cycle the clothes were sopping wet (there were too many of them to spin the excess water out) and there was a soapy soup at the bottom of the tub.

Not knowing any better, that this was wrong, I flung the dripping articles into the dryer, and turned it on.  I walked away, coming back an hour later to a stopped machine.  Done, I thought, expecting to feel nice and warm freshly cleaned clothes, but reaching in and feeling the same sodden mess.  The newb figured out his mistake and halved the load, in the process at least doubling his time.  Yet at the end of a long afternoon, I returned upstairs with what had been a source of great angst, and instead of being tired I felt excited and liberated.  Liberated from having to rely on others for what I can do for myself.  And this feeling set off a chain of events that lead to a week of great progress…

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Five Seasons One Hundred

Reaching one hundred pounds of weight yesterday, and to record it on my trainer Laurie’s birthday, was such a special and wonderful feeling!  Laurie is so mature that she wished for me to set the big goal to coincide with her big day, something I wouldn’t want to have done, lest it overshadow my birthday.  But I’ve always admitted that my guide on the path to fitness is in all perceivable ways a better person that I, so I did my best to add to an amazing person’s day of celebration.

What a relief it was to stand on the scale and see the feedback of success; what palpable jubilation was returned when I sent the photo to Laurie!  Surely past the point of needing the validation of her abilities, she was just happy for me, happy that I had achieved what I had worked so hard for. 

I will analyze why I’m pleased about my weight loss in a post in the near future.  As I will myself to peck out a few lines with my pinch-nerved numbed left hand, battling a bit of the winter blues, I just want to ruminate on the genuine joy with which Laurie hailed me in person on her birthday.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

In Anticipation of a Milestone

It has been another great week on the diet and exercise front, and as I am on a good streak of really adhering to my meal plan, the weight is coming off at a steady clip.  Such a relief it is when you’ve tweaked upon the little change that pushes you off the proverbial plateau.  And whether you have done something intentional and are rightfully reaping the forward momentum, or it is your body deciding it’s ready to jettison weight, it’s wonderful when you feel yourself off that even ground and traveling downhill.

A large part of this latest momentum upswing might be a goal Laurie and I hit upon, a goal that I am within range of meeting and will, thusly, share with you.  For Laurie’s birthday, I want to be at or below 100 pounds for the year—278lbs by December 13!  I weighed in today at 280.4, and am ready to work out every day, twice a day through Friday to be able to text Laurie the goal accomplishing scale-shot on her big day. 

I felt a bit of trepidation in announcing a time sensitive goal for which I can empirically achieve or fail at, but I’m now at the place where I feel that putting goals out there sharpens my focus to eat as healthfully as I can, and fortifies my will to work out as hardily as possible.  Just one more good week separates me from success; if I continue in how I’m feeling tonight, I’ve got it! 

Monday, December 1, 2014


The holiday spirit of Thanksgiving helped to keep me warm as I waited for the start of my first Thanksgiving Day Race, sheltered from the wind by the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  Surrounded by those responsible for bringing me this far—impossible far if I were to have contemplated it this time last year—I looked at the players, save a traveling Mindy, for whom I am deeply thankful for—Thomas Deere, COO of Five Seasons and a man of great encouragement to me; Joseph Pinnell, my friend and mentor; the lovely Laurie Lefton, for whom I’d leave my restful bed so work out with anytime; and Mark Rayburn, my brother in fitness.
Monsieurs Pinnell et Wright
Laurie and Rayburn quickly leapt ahead of us with the start of the race, establishing a fast pace that is a goal I hope to work towards.  Joseph—as always—had my back in racing by my side.  The first mile of the course was a straightaway, slightly uphill.  About half a mile in, the collective runners were past the din of the P.A. system yet not far enough to be huff-huffing out-of-breathe, and with a general, quiet focus, all one could hear was the amazing sound of 17,000 footfalls—an army of holidayers on a volunteered march.

I made it the whole stretch and some on the next turn without stopping, for which I was proud of.  Feeling fleet of foot and strong, I looked to my watch to see if I had set a new personal record and discovered that—forget any record—I hadn’t even set my watch.  Oh well!  The day was a celebration of the holiday and of how far I’ve come, and it was okay to dial back my efforts—okay even to walk.

It was something of a relief to be able to walk when I got tired of jogging, and then to just walk without worrying about making a record time.  I used the exercise to work on my marathon walking pace, and ended up dropping my average time from just under 14 minutes per mile at the Loveland Half Marathon to about twelve minutes and thirty seconds.  I think if I can get it to less than ten minutes per mile I just might have to try the full marathon at next year’s Flying Pig!

The course was wide and packed with families as we crossed from Downtown Cincinnati to Newport.  I had walked a shorter loop many times before with Joseph, but still thought that the bridge to Covington had brought us back to Cincinnati.  No worries, my year of conditioning left me with plenty in the tank!  And before I knew it we were back in the Nati and bearing down on the end.  Joseph suggested we run through the finish line, and I was game.  My mental enthusiasm wasn’t quite matched with my remaining physical endurance, but I do do do-da-do’ed the Rocky theme out loud and I made it on the run!

Such a wonderful event in the morning transferred into an awesome holiday spent with loved ones, and early the next day I found myself in a small exercise group with Laurie.  My appointment for the next hour fell through and I joined Laurie’s regular group training—the big leagues of Five Seasons workouts.  Though sore, I was able to do two straight hours of tough exercising after 6.2 miles the day before!  I am proud of that, and proud to say that I lost weight over the long feasting weekend!  It’s a great start to the month leading to Christmas/New Years—the final calendar test!  Let’s hope time slows down in this, my quickest year ever!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2014 W&S Thanksgiving Day Race Packet

A winter race packet, I’ve learned, is different than the packets of warm-weather races.  And it should be, because if the summer elements get to you on the event course, you can stop; cool down if you’re overheated; rehydrate if you’re carrying water; flag down a race volunteer if you’re desperate.  If you stop in freezing temperatures, you start dying!  Hypothermia, who has started the race behind you, is catching up and is poised to run you over like a freight train.  You’re liable to fall into a snow bank and then you’re really doneski.  You’re a new Ötzi the ice mummy and they’re not discovering you until spring thaw.

That may be a tad overstating it, but there are certain precautions one must take to stay safe and warm while exercising in the winter, and the Western & Southern Thanksgiving Day Race packet reflects the need to dress appropriately.   Included is a pair of blue knit gloves, with touch-screen fingertips, that will block the wind from blowing away body heat.

The long-sleeved technical shirt is, by far, my favorite of the year.  It’s 100% polyester and will lay soft and loose in between a base layer and a jacket.  The graphic, with its Thanksgiving colors and with Cincinnati’s skyline and iconic buildings, fits both the holiday and the race place perfectly.  It’s bold and beautiful and pops against the brownish-green that, despite its innate drabness, possesses a lovely sheen.

The bib is has a disposable timing chip adhered to the back, meaning that I won’t have to worry about losing it or failing to return it against penalty of a surcharge—more a relief than you might imagine and the way of the future.  The bib also has the race graphic on it, so it won’t be as big a deal when I cover the shirt logo with my race number.  Safety pins were out to grab at packet pickup, so if I’ve misplaced them between then and race day, it’s my own fault!

If the best packet I’ve gotten gets the fullest marks, this perfect packet is completed with a Pure Protein bar, a voucher for a free premium salad from McDonald’s, and the race instructions.  I’m so excited to start my Thanksgiving holiday with this special event and anticipate that it will be the first of an enduring tradition.  The 105th running of the Thanksgiving Day Race will be my first but not my last!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Proof Flowing Through My Veins

Yesterday was my 6 month follow-up with my family doctor, and it was nothing but good news and a great experience.  As soon as I walked through the door, the office girls exclaimed about how good I looked, how trim I was getting, and how much younger I appear.

When the nurse brought me back from the waiting room, she recorded my weight for the doctor’s records, something that, at over the 400 pound capacity, I was unable to do for years.  She took my blood pressure, quick and easily—without having to go and search out the bigger, obese-sized cuff—and once again it was even better than “normal” standard of 120/80 and way lower than they’d ever measured: 111/67!

For the third time that morning, I related to the nurse the key points in my journey thus far—how I work out and how often, the major changes in my new, healthy diet, and the events and races I’ve completed.  It’s become a bit of a stump speech, one that seems to hold people’s attention and elicits questions based on their own hurdles separating them from the healthier “way to be.”  But if this hard-headed reformer can do it, anyone ready for the lifestyle change can do it as well!

I feel confident in telling my story, having finally internalized that my hard work has resulted in the changes I see in the mirror, can feel in the fit of my clothes, and in the improvement in my emotions and energy.  To the individuals I talk to, I return nothing but positive, encouraging responses.  If I hear a silly, albeit heartfelt, excuse as to “why I can’t” or “why I can’t right now,” I offer my perspective based on my experiences.  Maybe when they’re ready to change they’ll remember the friendly, supportive, made-a-big-change Mark and won’t hesitate to reach out.

Most times they say that I’m an inspiration as a way of closing our conversation, to which I have to try my hardest not to cringe or refute in humble embarrassment.  My confidence hasn’t caught up to being able to accept that I have the ability to inspire others (or arouse, humor, etc., another; I’m a work-in-progress!), but as I sit here musing on it, I am glad that my example has the potential to inspire in such a healthy, life-expanding way!

By the time the headliner entered the examination room, I was talked out and ready to hear some good news.  My doctor told me how proud he was of me, and how well I looked.  Some people, he said, look ashy, devoid of color, or without zest, when they lose so much weight, yet I looked not only much thinner but much healthier.  He said that reclusion is embedded on the way you act, look, and talk, and on all three counts he could tell I was much better. Don’t go back in the basement! he joked (though I was a bedroom hermit, not a basement caveman, thank you very much, Doctor!).

Turning to my blood work results, he said that my cholesterol and sugar levels were perfect.  My vitamins were right where they needed to be, and that I must be getting out of doors because my Vitamin D was among the highest he’s seen all year!  Knowing what I am doing and what support network backs me, he bade me to keep up the good work and told me that I didn’t need to come back until well into the new year.

I knew what that meant, and when I told the scheduler, she knew as well: in coming back in six months instead of every month or quarter I had previously, the doctor is a lot less concerned about an ever-present, catastrophic threat to my health, that I truly am on the road to Wellville.  Reflecting on how they reacted, there was a great deal of relief among the office staff that has known me for so long and cares for and about my health.

Driving home, I compared how great I felt on this trip to how good I felt on one made about six years before.  I was sequestering myself in my room, emotionally broken and eating to fill the void.  My doctor could tell that I was depressed, and as I had been depressed for many appointments prior, put me on an anti-depressant.

I remember what mood-lightening relief I felt having the reason for my malaise—depression—and its solution—a prescription.  Over half a decade later, after changes in medication and a great deal of therapy, I lucked into winning the contest which prize contained the Answer.  The answer lies not in a pill but is found within you.  Consistent hard work, diet and exercise are the momentum-builders that get the freight train (Chugga-chuggah!) up to speed and will drive you to Providence.  Here’s to never slowing down!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Early Mornings, Early Nights

It’s unfortunate that when one has a lot of reportable things going on, one finds oneself without the time to record it…

In the latter part of an already busy week, Laurie invited me, half jokingly, to a 6 a.m. group training Thursday morning.  As I knew she was adding this in lieu of group training today, when Laurie is out-of-town—and since this year has been all about trying new things, and since the more time I get to hang out with Laurie, the happier I am—I committed to go.

Setting a new earliest alarm on my phone and arriving at the club before 6 a.m., I was carried by the excitement of the novel.  I also liked assuming the mantle of the super-dedicated—those who, while others are in bed, cut time from their sleep to add exercise to their schedules—these, the highly functional.  In order to be high functioning all the time, one must start being high functioning some of the time, and Thursday morning I was among the high functioning individuals.

Once I got going I was fine.  I took a cup of coffee to the exercise floor, and it soured my stomach; but the endorphins pumping in my early morning brain put me in a great mood for the day.  It’s much more heartening having the sun rise with your working out, rather than it setting, like during our Tuesday night groups.  It’s rather counter-intuitive, but when I exercise to begin the day, I have a more vivacious energy throughout the day.

I was nice and tired and ready for bed Thursday evening, which was perfect because, if I wanted to do everything I wished to do, I needed to start my day early Friday morning.  Putting my alarm-set smartphone away from my bed, there was no hitting the snooze button, as I was forced to get up and at ‘em.  I went to the hospital to get fasting blood work, ahead of a doctor’s appointment that I am sure will vindicate my healthy diet and clean living.  Eating a breakfast of cereal en route to the Club, I noticed how much more I was getting done by getting up early.

After a small group in my favorite class—kick boxing—I showered, dressed and was ready to do my tasks for the day.  It’s said that it takes two weeks of routine before a new habit sets in.  If I can continue to get up with a purpose early each morning and go to bed early, with no need for a nap in between, I will set forth a fruitful basic schedule that would serve me well in going for my goals.  Here’s to keeping it up! 

Five Seasons before 6--An representation of my bleary-eyed arrival

Friday, October 31, 2014

Navigating the Halloween Minefield

Halloween opens a scary season for this dieter.  In a short two months we’ll go from today’s sweets holiday, to the overeating of Thanksgiving, to the combination blowout of sweets and overeating on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Then, a week later, to make sure everyone’s at their years heaviest—just in time for resolutions—we eat for New Year’s.

Well, no more for this new man!  With a vein of new confidence gained by finally getting under 300lbs and especially by completing the half marathon (something that many much fitter people haven’t done!), and readied by the hard physical work done with Laurie and steadied by the mental bolstering of Mindy, I don’t want any backsliding into old habits or to even tarry on the trip towards my goal.
Tah-Dah!  This ain't the emblem of the Fatmobile!
Wanting to finish the holiday season lighter than when I entered it, I was tempted to try a big goal: No sweets for a hundred days!  But I know myself, and I just know that when I meet my first challenge, say a delectable caramel-ly treat this Halloween, I would end up delusionally reasoning and bargain: 3 days in, 97 to go, I’ll just submit to temptation and start over again.  By some sort of magic I’ll be strong enough to resist the sweet in another 3 day’s time. 

Instead I recognize that I am a food addict that nearly bargained himself to an early, spoon-dug food/fat grave, and that I’m strong enough to make it through these challenging days if I focus and fight these pathological urges.  To use a recovering addiction maxim, you’ve got to take it one day at a time, and so my goal is to get through tonight and tomorrow without eating Halloween candy.  Then my goal will be to not eat any of the liquidated remainder candy from the grocery that inevitably makes its way into the house. 

The days of successful goals will add up and I’ll finish the 100 days in the new year much lighter and much happier for having proved my new determined will.  That’s the plan, let’s hope all goes well.  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Crossing a Reassuring Threshold

My weight loss progression has yielded me some bad news and some wonderful news this week.  The bad is that I am still considered obese by my body-mass index.  But for the first time since junior high school, I am no longer morbidly obese!

Yes, I feel truly blessed to be back  on the healthy side of that great health risk divide—with its high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, joint disease, esophageal reflux, incontinence, and reduced life expectancy that one risks.

As I write down that depressing list of debilitating conditions, I can’t claim to have returned from my time in the realm of the morbidly obese undamaged, but my blood pressure, sleep apnea, my joints and acid reflux are all being ameliorated with my diet and exercise.

At my heaviest, my BMI was almost 65; today, the first day my BMI has been under 40 in well over a decade, I can see great progress made along the path to my goal.  I’m so excited!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Slow and Steady: The Loveland Half Marathon

It was night-dark as I made my way down the hill to Loveland, and dark still as Laurie and I waited in line to use the portapotties.  Only right before the start of the Loveland Half Marathon did the sun peek past the horizon and shed light on the beginning of a beautiful day.

We watched from the side as the runners assembled behind the timing-mat starting line, listening to race instructions as my race partner and I readied our gear waiting for the imminent opening signal.  I zipped my new running jacket to my chin to fight the morning’s cool chill, adjusted the straps of my water backpack, made sure my cell phone and headphones were at hand in my pocket.  I gave Laurie my GPS watch to wear, and she handed back my sports jelly beans I’d given her to safeguard from an incorrigible overeater.  As the call to GO! was given and the runners started their race, we were as ready as we were going to be.  Swinging behind the assembled body, we walked across the starting line and began my first half marathon.

The early part of the course quickly routed us out of downtown Loveland, through side streets and over a series of rolling hills.  Suburban throughways shortly became winding rural roads, and we found ourselves leaf peeping the beautiful autumn landscapes, framed against the Little Miami River, on our brisk walk.  We developed a rhythm that became tranquil, and it was only an incongruent clatter that made me look back and see that the timing chip I’d zip-tied to my left shoe—or tried to—had fallen off.  A quick reaction and a back track of a few feet saved me $10!

A frantic fussing with the water valve and then some prodding and squeezing of the bladder told me that my water backpack wasn’t going to work.  It was too complicated to figure out en route, too expensive to ditch on the side of the road, so I resolved to just heft the 4lbs that wouldn’t get lighter with each sip or ever-furthering distance.  Four pounds on my frame isn’t near the burden as it would be on yours! I tried to assure Laurie and reassure myself.

The prospect of imbibing water returned mixed messages from my body:  my dry mouth wanted as much as possible with my throat seconding; my over-inundated bladder cried out, no water, no more!  My brain played arbiter—as much water as possible, a bathroom as soon as you can!  I was double fisting cups coming out of every water station, then turning back to ask the high school running team volunteers where the nearest bathroom was.  Nobody knew!

By this time Laurie had to go too, and introduced the idea of weeing in the woods.  Then we recognized from our bike rides on the Little Miami Trail that the course was getting closer to the river and we were going to be coming to a trailside park—bathrooms ahead!  We steeled our bladder-holding determinations and quickened our gait before having a blissfully-brief respite of relief in the restroom shelter.  It was a whole new race once we commenced, one where taking water and making water taxed us not at all.

As we continued, we found ourselves mid-way through the fifth mile, beginning a loop on the Trail that would send us two miles down and then over six miles back, straight through to Loveland.  As we made our way, we saw the runners—some looking miserable, some looking like they were having a world of fun—on their return.  Laurie started me on some sports jelly beans, eager to anticipate the drop in energy rather than having to compensate for it.

Volunteer groups of young, cute cheerleaders called out encouragements, telling us “You’re beautiful!”  which I, though I didn’t feel it, derived some energy from as my legs were starting to get tired.  I would switch to a jog-at-walking-speed to hit less tired muscles, always conscience of telling Laurie beforehand, so she wouldn’t increase speeds and leave me in the fallen autumn leaves! 

After making the turn, I appreciated that the Little Miami Bike Trail was so flat, that it was placed at the end of the course.  There wasn’t as many people heading down the loop when we were coming back, but it seemed like Laurie and I were catching and passing a lot of people, while not really being passed.  Under tree cover, my GPS seemed to be losing distance, the first time that’d happened.  And at what a time!

But as I started to get tired, and my watch was underestimating our distance covered by a couple of miles and the mile markers seemed to lie further and further apart, it was wonderful to have Laurie there to keep me focused on the race.  Making conversation, asking me how I was feeling, instructing me to keep my form, feeding me and giving me one of her two running bottle when I was thirsty, Laurie—who didn’t break a sweat, who felt fine today—helped me finish the race.

At the point when a lady volunteer declared that we had just one mile to go, I felt my legs tightening up.  I went into my jog for about a quarter of a mile, got tired and slowed back into a walk.  I felt the walking gait in my hips and it hurt more than my tired jog, so I returned to the jog.  Not too fast, Laurie shouted, I don’t want you to fizzle at the finish!  She told me to hold back until we crossed a familiar bridge close to the finish line.  Reined in, my adrenaline was going as I strode off the bridge, and we took off.  I remember how strong I felt, how determined I was, pumping not only my arms but turning my shoulders, and how high my knees were. 

In my longest race to-date, it was my best finish line crossing!  Laurie and I told people we wanted to best 3:30, but after training well we had a secret goal between just us of 3:20.  Turns out Laurie had a secret, secret goal she kept from me of 3:15.  Our official time—with a bathroom break—was 3:01:16!  I was so elated I didn’t even notice that my nipples were bleeding in our post-race photos (Oh hell, oh well!  Chaffed nipples is not the worst thing race mishap that can occur ***Don’t Google Image Search “Runner’s diarrhea”*** :-P)

I would never have believed that I could complete a half marathon.  When my last and longest race was a 5K, I can’t believe that in such a short period of time I was able to complete a 5K plus 10 miles!  I’m so happy, so wanting to keep the momentum going that I’m soliciting ideas of what to do next!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Loveland Half Marathon Packet

The Loveland Half Marathon is what the event organizer, Tucson Racing, calls “no frills racing,” by which they mean that there isn’t the expo, swag, or after race snacks other races feature.  By cutting the fat, they offer an entry fee of almost $50 less than other half marathons, without forgoing volunteer support, aid and refreshment stations, bathrooms, t-shirts, and finisher medals that makes a race safe, enjoyable, and memorable.

While the race packet is simple, it certainly isn’t skimpy in quality.  It includes a racing chip that will be zip-tied to my left shoe, a racing bib that for a reason I’d be interested to know features Tucson Racing’s sister race, the Undead 5K (Leeway is given in no frills racing!), and a high quality technical t-shirt.  Marking our entry into the chilly autumn season, it is the first long sleeve race shirt I’ve gotten. 

As I prepare for my first half marathon tomorrow, I can appreciate the lack of distractions that come with no frills.  The thrills come in the morning, as Laurie and I walk our way to my very first, but certainly not last, half marathon finish!  Here we come!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Look Mom, No Blisters!

Yesterday, Laurie and I put in our final long walk before the Loveland Half-Marathon on Sunday.  Part of what makes Laurie fun and interesting is the fact that she never seems to repeat herself, so I was pleased she suggested we walk in downtown Loveland itself, specifically hitting the early hill that begin an otherwise level course. 

It was raining lightly as we readied ourselves—pouring water into running bottles, lathering up on Glide, figuring out path of the race—but as there’s no time like the present, no guarantee that it wouldn’t rain Sunday, and with a need to train, we donned water-proof jackets and headed towards the hill.

Joseph—my mentor, my expert, my friend—read that I was getting blisters and foot tenderness after walking and knew exactly what the problem was—‘twas my socks!  I started the year coming to the Club in all-cotton, casual socks.  They would invariable turn into soggy messes that helped none and hurt a lot.  Then at March’s Heart Mini expo Joseph treated me to an excellent pair of Adidas, top-of-the-line Superfeet inserts, and a pair of deceptively technical running socks.  This kit helped a 65lbs stouter me finish my first 5K without any foot troubles.

Well, I am a newbie and I didn’t quite understand the importance of a high-quality sock, so I bought my athletic socks with value being the chief virtue.  More plainly, I cheaped out!  I’ve learned that when you’re buying things for yourself, don’t cheap out; invest in yourself by purchasing items that will keep you feeling better and last longer.  Joseph reinforced this lesson when he bought me two $12 pairs of running socks.  $12 a pair?!?
The $12 Bargain

As soon as I slid them on, I knew they were well worth the money!  Brilliantly engineered and sowed, my high arch sock has a thick cushioning around the forepads, gets really thin around the arch, and returns to good cushioning on the heel.  They are light, hold tight, and wick moisture away.  I could quickly tell that there was no friction between my sock and foot, and after more than six miles and for the first time on our long walks, my feet hadn’t been rubbed out of sorts.  I will never again take to the road without taking them!

After we crested the big hill we knew we were ready and it was a fun, brisk walk afterwards.  We went by Loveland High School, and walked well into my home neighborhood of Symmes Township and whole different school district before returning.  Upon seeing the attraction sign, I wanted to walk to the Loveland Castle, which was a fun roadside stop.  But to get there we had to go down the steepest hill this side of the Himalayas, a real hill so steep the natural, gravity induced urge to run down it would have surely resulted in instant injury to my ever-so-challenged joints!  When we returned up the hill, I noted that this was much steeper than when I, as a 400 pounder, had barely ascended Clingmans Dome, and then not without stopping at every bench.  Well past 45 degrees, it makes 5 Seasons’ Hell Hill look like a bit…[Enough.About.THE HILL!!!]

We made it back to Loveland, we were damp but determined, confident for having put in the training.  We’re so ready for Sunday!

A Barbarian at the Gates

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Blood Pressure of My Dreams

Today, for the second time in as many doctor visits, my blood pressure was fantastically low—118/62!

 Just two years ago, I surreally found myself lying in a darkened examination room, doing a quasi-meditation in order to get my blood pressure down enough so that my doctor wouldn't have to put me on blood pressure medicine.  With every teeth cleaning, the dental hygienist would explain how she couldn't work on me until I passed a blood-pressure measurement, and then I’d have to wait alone with my thoughts of embarrassment and loathing, while she tracked down the rarely used over-sized cuff and stethoscope. 

But with diet, exercise, and the help of Five Seasons, this is…All.In.The.Past!  And I’m ecstatic!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Feeling My Way to Wellness

We have working theories, we in the working-out world.  We come across a problem; we postulate its nature and purpose a solution.  Then we experiment and rate the findings.  In this we’re like scientists, only with sexy bodies and personable skills.  Well, this may be where we and I part company, but I hope I’m closing the deficit with my ongoing efforts.

Anyway, to meet the overarching challenge of completing the Loveland Half-Marathon and its 13.1 miles on October 19, Laurie and I have been training so that we (meaning mostly I) don’t end up broken on the side of the race course or hurt thereafter.  Deciding that my feet couldn’t take the stress of a 5K plus 10 miles, we resolved to walk the race.  The first challenge was working up to the great distance.  In succeeding weeks we did 4 miles, 6.5 miles. 8.5 miles and, while Laurie was participating in a triathlon, I did almost 13 miles Saturday.  Though only slightly, my body was generally sore after these walks, but it is a testament to Laurie’s work and expertise that the muscles of my body quickly regenerated and ramp up their ability to meet the escalating workloads.

That is what you might expect in a training regimen.   What I am working through are the problems that cause me to feel sore or low in following days, problems that could otherwise be avoided.  Two marked challenges presented themselves; the first I’ve seemed to have solved, the other is ongoing.

At 6.5 and 8.5 miles, I was moving all my weight around for hours at a time and using a lot of energy.  My activity watch estimated that I was burning more calories during a walk then I was consuming all day, and, predicatively, I felt rather nasty for days following.  Knowing everything I’m doing and listening to my symptoms, both Laurie and Mindy nailed what was at issue: I wasn’t eating enough, particularly while working out.  Laurie, the comparative waif that she is, only needs a few sports jelly beans—which she humorously counts out as if they were of the Jack’s magic bean variety—but I’m two to three times her size and need more.

On Saturday I walked to the grocery store and bought three protein bars which I ate throughout my walk.  It was a good thing I did, because though in total the protein bars had nearly 1,200 calories, I used an estimated 3,326 calories in my workout.  Not refueling during such vigorous exercising is not, I believe merely imprudent, but probably rather unhealthy.  The next day, my energy level remained intact, my spirits at having achieved that length and feeling great, were high.

My second problem is ongoing.  I have been getting blisters on my feet from walking; the same size blisters in the same spots.  I switched to a new pair of shoes, which helped a little.  I tried decreasing the interior area of the shoe by adding another insert on top on that of the shoemaker’s—no effect.  Switching to a mid-sock cut out blistering on my ankles.  Glide body lubricant promises to be the greatest ameliorant.  A little Glide helped a little; lathering it on helped a lot more.  I could feel the pads of my feet sliding in my shoe where they would have been rubbing and it worked for maybe half of Saturday’s walk before I, in hindsight, should have reapplied.

So I’m going to lather and then re-lather on the Glide and if that doesn’t fix it I ask Laurie if a mid-change of socks might help.  But rest assured, we’re going to keep training and keep tweaking until we are ready for the Eighteenth!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Working Through a Low Feeling

I am a recovering hypochondriac; I always think I’m sick.  When I was leading an extremely sedentary lifestyle and eating awfully, I seemed to succumb to every virus and bacterial bug that came my way.  I was constantly nauseated, eating myself sick as often as I could.  Dealing with an ever present malaise made me hypersensitive to how I felt, and I would suss out the very hint of an ailment that may or may not have been the onset of an illness.  And when it wasn’t, I’d pretend to be under the weather because declaring myself sick allowed me to comfortably withdraw from a world I feared.

But throughout this year I have gotten out of my home and into a routine that has served me well.  I have learned that you can feel quite a bit below perfect (whoever feels perfect?) and still make it through a day; that a lot of unnerving symptoms subside once I start my day working out at the Club.  And my resistance, like the muscles of my body, has gotten stronger.  I haven’t had to cancel on Laurie due to illness all year, and I hadn’t exercised feeling sick.  Not until Tuesday.

I went into Laurie’s evening class with a sinus headache through which caffeine couldn’t cut, a sour stomach that, like a volcano, threatening to spew, and blistered feet and tired legs from an 8.5 mile half- marathon training walk the previous afternoon.  With a new resolve—that if sickness hasn’t reduced my faculties, if I don’t need a clear path to the toilet for either imperative, if I’m not uncontrollably spreading contagion and can regularly sanitize my hands—I decided to give it all I had.  A reduced effort yields more than no effort, and working through adversity develops the quality of toughness. 

Tough is an apt word to describe my workout.  Every time I bore down to strained at a weight station, my sinuses would compete with my temples to see who could cause more discomfort.  When I rose to my feet, I would get lightheaded, my eyes saw a flash of bright light.  It was then, hobbling around on sore feet, I thought that I may have bitten off more than I could chew.  Finally I reached a roadblock: the first station that gave pain to my sore right knees—hip extensions on the TRX.

It was at this point that I remembered that this wasn’t a boot camp where you ring the bell when you need to quit; it wasn’t even a boot camp exercise program.  It was a training group that you participated to the furthest extent of your own ability.  I think I subconsciously do things with an eccentric flair in order to get attention.  But when I am feeling good and giving my best Charles Atlas impersonation nobody appreciates me and watches what I do (save a roving Laurie, who is used to me).  So when I am feeling low, it doesn’t matter I substitute in-place an exercise that I can do for one that hurts my knee.  Slowing the pace of my reps and focusing on deep, relaxed breathes helped ease my headache and, without a tortuous pain, I was able to get through the session.

A well-earned night’s rested fully restored me Wednesday morning, and set firm a new lesson to add to my tool bag: Whenever possible, a little effort is more furthering than no effort!

Laurie's Ab Alley, on the Path to Sixpackville

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shoes for Every Occasion; or, Shoe Murderer

I wish I knew of a good way to tell when my shoes are wearing out.  It was a week of my feet hurting after work outs, socks coming out of the shoes filthy, and blistering that didn’t abate before I came to terms with the fact that my Saucony’s were rotting on my feet.  It was time to put them to rest and head to Bob Roncker’s Running Spot.
Poor Saucony's, barely had the start of a life! (2014-2014)
Fitted into a pair of New Balance’s I love, I feel returned to form.  There’s nothing like a new pair of shoes—with their fresh smell, perfect cushioning, and grippy tread—and I relish the feeling while I can.  Because with my weight and the amount of exercising I’m doing, they take surprisingly little time to wear out.  I’ve already sent three pairs of running shoes to the trash heap! (Four, if you count the pair I started the year in.)
The dearly departed: HOKA BONDI 2 (2014-2014), Adidas Supernova Glide 5 (2014-2014)
In addition to my New Balance’s, which are my all-around shoe, I have a pair of Mizuno’s I alternate in.  I use a pair of exceptionally supportive Nike’s just for roadwork, walking and running.  After trying to play tennis in a pair of super-cushioned HOKA’s and miraculously failing to twist an ankle, Joseph took me down the road to the fantastic Midwest Sports outlet, where I got a proper pair of Adidas tennis shoes. 

The difference in using a shoe for its intended form is night and day and got me to wonder.  Why not a cross training shoe for group training, with its lateral movements for which a running shoe isn’t designed.  Maybe I could use my tennis shoes but, knowing my shoes aren’t going to last even close to forever, shouldn’t I save them for tennis?  And then what should I to wear for cycling when none of the above share the attributes of a biking shoe…

My shoe budget has replaced a substantial fast food budget and I’m infinitely healthier for it!
Ooh! New Shoes!!! (2014-???)  ???=2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tennis for One

I’m told that my tennis racquet does indeed have a sweet spot but, for all my staggering strokes taken against the technically sound Joseph, I had yet to develop my sweet swing.  What I required was a lot of no pressure practice, so during a lazy Friday lull I gathered my two tennis racquets and three tennis ball and took to the Five Seasons basketball court.

Hitting the balls against the wall was so much fun that I lost track of time.  Over the course of three hours, I swung and swung with the intention of going until I fatigued my arm.  At first the motion felt so unnatural that it started to hurt my wrist and sent the balls far up the wall, clanging off the windows thirty feet high.  Then, a little tired, I relaxed my wrist and eased the trajectory of my swing and the balls started coming off straighter, giving me much better control.  The more strokes I took the more the balls popped off the sweet spot and the longer my rallies got. 

Much more than on the hard court, the wood floor sapped most of the returning tennis ball’s bounce, so by the time it got back to me I had to really concentrate on putting a fast and full swing on the ball in order to put power into the shot.  When my legs got tired from running and shuffling, I went up to seven feet from the wall and practiced my net work.  Without letting the ball hit the ground, I kept the racquet light in my hand, tapping the ball against the wall. 

Repeating the long strokes and the short work quickly passed the time and I was amazed how well my body met this challenge in endurance.  The next day I wasn't sore in my legs, knee or ankles as I would have expected.  All the swinging from the core caused my abs to be tender Saturday morning, which—ultimately wanting a six pack—I love.  I bet a lot of tennis players have washboard abs and, if so, a tennis player I will become!  Oh, I really need to work on my serve…

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In-Training for the Queen Bee Half Marathon

Laurie and I went a-walking yesterday in what Laurie calls our long walks, preparing for the inaugural Queen Bee Half Marathon on October 11.  Joseph, Laurie and I will start and then finish at the Horseshoe Casino after flying through a full 13.1 miles of Cincinnati’s many wonderful neighborhoods.  Well, we may not fly through a course of that length, but we will walk it and we will finish it! 

And so we’re not out there for four or more hours in this test of endurance, Laurie has us in-training for the half, and it’s a good thing we are!  Marching around the neighborhood opposite Five Seasons, we walked 6.5 miles in a little over 90 minutes, bumping up our distance of 5 miles last week.  I’m amazed how much more I am able to engage additional areas of my body—like my core—while walking and also how sore I feel today!  Instead of soreness in my hamstrings and quads as from running, I’m sore in my calfs, shins and gluts.  But the soreness is far less than last week and will hopefully be less and less going forward, until I start the Queen Bee in perfect half-marathon walking shape. 13.1 miles, wow!  Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 2014

The rising early morning sun removed the September chill from the air as we waited for the start of race.  While listening to the run’s instructions and rules, the participants formed a dense pink-cladded column behind the starting gate.  And then, the sudden BOOM! of the starter’s pistol officially opened the 2014 Komen Greater Cincinnati Race for the Cure.
Team Five Seasons: Joseph Pinnell, moi, Tom Porter, Amanda Mills
The course around Coney Island was wonderfully wide and totally flat—my favorite yet.  There was no bottlenecking at the starting stages today and I opened up into quick pace.  I jogged and jogged, mindfully focusing on my breathing without worrying about the time elapsed or distance covered.  Just as I was about to slow into my first walk of the day, Joseph told me that I broke ten minutes in my first mile —9:44!—my fastest mile time ever!  So surprised and elated, I forgot that I was tired and ran about half a mile before my wind, or lack-there-of, slowed me.

We passed the water station and I was huffing and puffing so much that I had a hard time downing the liquid reinvigoration.  Joseph helped me with a quick lesson of deep breathing and I was soon off jogging again.  Not nearly as long did I last, as the second start was the first done tired: back to walking.  Sorry, I said to Joseph.  Never apologize, there’s no need, he replied, and I could tell he said this because he could see that I was earnestly trying. 

After a few more starts and stops, I had a feeling that if this continued it’d be a long and ugly slog.  If I could just push myself to run a little longer, I reasoned, it’d go much faster.  I looked down the path and saw that the course rounded a corner about a tenth of mile downfield.  Don’t let me stop until we get to that bend! I told Joseph.  That was the toughest bit, stretching the jog to the corner, and I walked as soon as we reached it.  But I had earned the rest.  I repeated this tactic, increasing the intervals before walking as the finish line got closer and closer.

In the meantime, timekeeper Joseph called out more personal records that I didn't even contemplate attempting to beat:  2 miles in 22:15, surpassing my goal of 22:22; breaking 34 minutes for 3 miles.  I was especially proud that I was able to break the finish line in a run, something I hadn't the energy to do at May’s Flying Pig.  I broke the finish line in 36:23, beating my Pig time by nearly ten minutes!  As we celebrated afterwards, I was ecstatic with my personal records, gratified by the confirmation of my hard work.  And I’m glad it wasn’t perfect, that I walked and wheezed and nearly threw up.  It means there’s room for improvement and reason to redouble my efforts.  Tomorrow morning, it’s back to Five Seasons!