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