What a difference a year makes…

29 Mar

I’m embarrassed to say that it’s been over a year since my last post. I was skimming back through my blog tonight, amazed at how different things are with me after just a year.

Some things have changed…

I am no longer a runner –
After surgery on my left knee in February 2012, I ended up also having surgery on my right knee in April 2012.  Between the bad cartilage in both my knees, and the vascular issue with my gut when I run, I am benched permanently. I am still trying to come to grips with this…some days are harder than others.

I am no longer passionate about fitness –
Because my knees are so bad, working out is not a good time; it’s just a thing I have to do. After being a runner, walking on a treadmill or striding on the elliptical is not at all exciting. So it’s difficult for me to talk to others about fitness when I don’t get excited about it anymore.

I am no longer blogging –
This one is pretty obvious given I haven’t posted in over a year. I started this blog to be an encouragement to others, and when things turned upside down for me I didn’t want to bring everyone down with me. Nobody wants to listen to someone whine about not being able to run any longer.

Some things are still the same…

I am still a Weight Watchers lifetime member –
I still go weigh-in each month to ensure I keep my lifetime membership active. Last summer, I actually started tracking my points daily to lose several pounds I had gradually put on since the spring. It look a few months, but I shed all the extra pounds. Weight Watchers still works, and I am still a big fan.

I am still “wife” and “mom” to a wonderful family –
My husband and kids are great. My son graduated last year, and my daughter is driving now; so Bill and I are empty nesters most days. We are all healthy though, and for that I am very thankful.

God is still good –
God is still God, and He is good. When I start to get really down about not being able to run, God gently reminds me of all the people who have never been able to run, or even walk. And I am quickly reminded how blessed I am.

So, on this Easter weekend, I will leave you with this bit of encouragement…when you think it’s all over and you have given up hope, think about Jesus and what he endured on the cross for you and I. After being beaten and nailed to a cross, he showed nothing but love and forgiveness.

While hanging on the cross…
“Then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'” – Luke 23:34
“And Jesus said unto him, ‘Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.'” – Luke 23:43

He endured the ultimate punishment to show His love for us. Because of His grace, we all have eternal hope. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

We are all sinners…
“As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one:” – Romans 3:10
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23

So Jesus died for our sins…
“But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

All he asks in return…
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” – Romans 10:9

God’s love is available to everyone…
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Romans 10:13

Once you are saved, nothing can separate you from God…
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38

Peace and love to you all – Happy Easter!

Putting my trust in Him

12 Feb

Sometimes you are going along and life is great. You have set big goals for yourself, and you are tracking towards them with hard work and it’s paying off. Then God has a change of plans for your life, and all the sudden you are faced with completely unexpected challenges. This recently happened to me, and I am now on a detour in my journey.

On Thursday, February 2, 2012, I went in for a scope of my knee. I had been experiencing pain in my left knee since the weekend of Thanksgiving. Putting out the Christmas decorations seemed to be the catalyst. Over the weeks it got progressively worse, and it was time to go to the doctor. My primary doctor took an X-ray and it showed effusion in the joints. They said to rest and brace it. Being an avid runner that was not welcome news. I wanted specifics, how long do I need to rest? A day? A week? What are we talking about here? I can’t not run. So on a Friday I stopped running, bought a brace, and waited. By Monday it felt so much worse that I decided to go see the orthopedic surgeon that had reconstructed the ACLs of both of my teenagers’ left knees.

Wednesday I was in his office. As I sat in the waiting room, I prayed to God for answers. I didn’t want to have to drag this out over weeks to find out what was wrong. I just want to fix whatever it is and get back to running.

Back in the exam room, we joked around that I was the third family member to require his services. I suggested a punch card where we can buy three and get one free. Then joking aside, we focused on my issues. He said it sounded like a torn meniscus, and I needed to get an MRI to see what’s going on. We then determined that since I have a spinal stimulator implanted I can’t get an MRI. The next option was a steroid shot plus therapy. And with my reaction to the shots in my back in 2007, he didn’t want to risk me going through that again. We were really left with a scope of my knee to find the supposed tear and fix it, or more likely just finish the tear and clean it up. So I asked him what he was doing the next day, and he said surgeries. I said, “so you can fit me in tomorrow right?” And to my surprise he said yes. God answers prayers people. We were now less than 24 hours from an answer.

Thursday morning Bill and I showed up early for surgery. Again, we all had a great time joking around about our family having four knee surgeries in the last four years. Our son, 2009 and 2010; our daughter in 2011; and now me in 2012. We pray 2013 isn’t Bill’s year! All the prep was done and it was time to get started. I remember getting into the operating room, but as soon as the meds were pushed it was all over for me. Nighty, night all.

In recovery, I was fighting as hard as I could to wake up enough to ask if he found the tear. My biggest fear was that this surgery was all for not and that he couldn’t find anything. I would be so disappointed if he didn’t see anything wrong, because that would mean I would have to just suffer with the pain. Remember, I wanted answers. The nurse told me what he did, but it didn’t stick with me. It wasn’t until Bill got in to recovery that I found out. I woke up again and asked him, and his exacts words were, “you are so screwed, you had a micro-fracture procedure and have to be on crutches for six weeks”. He explained that they found I had worn the cartilage on the back of my knee cap, but worst of all torn the cartilage on my tibia down to bare bone. He had to poke or drill holes in my tibia to spur the growth of new fibro-cartilage. And that is why I have to be on crutches for so long.

Me and my crutches!

The next hour in recovery was a whirlwind of nurses and therapists telling me how I had to use crutches and be completely non-weight bearing. They fitted me for the crutches and a walker. They even brought a step in to teach me how to go up and down steps. They were all really great. I was pretty much in shock though. This was not the outcome I expected. But God had provided the answers I asked for, and I was thankful for that. God is so good.

I got home that afternoon in great spirits. I wasn’t going to let this defeat me. God had already stepped in and given me peace about the situation. I love running, but it doesn’t define me as a person. I was ready to accept whatever plans God had in store for me. Then came day two and frustration set it. Not being able to do anything for yourself was proving to be a huge challenge for me. Since then it’s been a roller coaster of emotions. I am leaning heavily on God for strength. Not sure what it would be like to go through tough times without his love and comfort. I don’t want to ever find out! I am putting my trust in Him that He has great things in store for me, and I am open to whatever it is. Over the coming months I will be writing about this new leg of my journey and sharing what God is revealing to me. I hope you can follow along and be blessed by His goodness and mercy. I’ll also be writing about the rehab process. It started last week, but it is months away from ending. So stay tuned, and please free to share stories with me of tough times you have overcome by commenting below.

By they way, if you review the goals I set in an earlier blog post, you can see that many of those won’t be achieved this year. But there is always next year! My most important goal of encouraging others is still a huge focus for me. Especially now that the initial shock of everything has subsided.

Take care!

My super cool ride for five more weeks! Complete with tennis balls (:

Helpful tips as you start your journey

28 Jan

I am no health expert, but as you know, I do have personal experience in once suffering from a very unhealthy lifestyle to now living one that is much healthier (and happier).  I wanted to quickly share a few things you may find helpful as you start your journey.

Know your numbers

Get a biometric screening at your doctor’s office or local health clinic. This will help you understand any health risks you currently have such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar and/or high blood pressure.  You will also find out your weight and body mass index (BMI).   All of these things are important to know and use to track your progress.  Having these numbers up front, getting them rechecked periodically, and seeing them improve will not only benefit your health but will encourage you to continue working hard.

Another way to track your progress is to take body measurements.  At a minimum you should measure your:

·         Waist (about an inch above your belly button)
·         Hips (around the fullest part)
·         Bust (around the fullest part)
·         Upper arms (largest part above the elbow)
·         Thighs (just below the buttocks)

Be consistent with where you measure so you are tracking the same part of the body each time.  Also make note of your current clothing size.  Find a measurement chart online and print it off, or use a spreadsheet to track these measurements.  Track them once a month, or more often if you like.

Heart Rate
Know your resting heart rate.  Check it first thing in the morning, ideally before you get out of bed. The healthier you become the lower your resting heart rate should get. Mine is much lower than it used to me.

Use Visual Aids

Brave the Camera
If losing weight is a goal, find a before picture of yourself; one that you really dislike.  If you can’t find one, have someone take one of you.  Place it somewhere you will see it every day, such as your refrigerator, to serve as a reminder of why you are starting this journey. This will motivate you to continue to make healthy choices, and it will also be nice to have later in the journey to compare to new pictures of yourself once you have made visible progress.

Track Your Activity/Workouts
There are many online fitness sites and mobile apps that will allow you to track every type of activity you could possibly do.  MapMyFitness.com, DailyMile.com, NikePlus.com are just a few.  Seeing how often, how long, and how hard (if you have a heart rate monitor) you work out will also serve as an encouragement to you as you progress.

Express Your Thoughts
Not everyone likes to write, but keeping a journal is a great way to express your feelings.  It doesn’t have to be a journal that you share with anyone else but yourself.  Many of the previously mentioned fitness sites have a place for you to write how you felt during your activity/workout. That is also a great place to journal. Later in your journey, it will be inspiring to read your early journal entries to see how far you have come both physically and emotionally.

Team Up

Find An Accountability Partner
Ask someone to help you stay accountable, someone who you feel comfortable talking to that is facing, or has faced the same struggles; DO NOT try to do this alone!  We are all weak and sometimes need to lean on others for strength.

Join In Group Activities/Workouts
There is strength in numbers, so find a group of people you can walk, run or do other group activities with. Talk co-workers or neighbors into walking with; join a local run club; join a gym and take group classes. Being around other people who have similar goals as you is motivating and will help you stay on track.

Set Goals and Reward Yourself

Baby Steps
Most likely, you have an ultimate goal in mind, which is great, but you also need to set incremental goals. Focusing on smaller goals will help you to succeed sooner and more often than if you only had one end goal. Some examples are:

  • Losing weight – Let’s say you weigh 200 lbs and your goal weight is 160 lbs, set smaller goals such as 5 lbs increments (195, 190, 185, etc.), or percentages (10%-4 lbs, 20%-8 lbs, 30%-12 lbs, etc.)
  • Running – If your goal is to run your first 5K, and you currently can’t run an entire mile, build up to it. Set smaller goals, such as running a tenth, quarter or half mile first, and walk the rest.

Reward yourself each time you reach a goal with something such as manicure or pedicure, new clothing accessory, new pair of shoes, a book or a new tool (for the men).  Send yourself flowers, ladies!  Just have fun with it and don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back for all your hard work.  You are worth it!

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Whether it’s losing weight or physical activity, the longer you do it the stronger you get mentally and physically and the easier it becomes.

Tell me about your journey. Are you just starting it or in the middle of it? Either way, leave a comment and let me know what your goals are and what progress you have made; or share some struggles you might be trying to overcome.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Battle of the Bean 5K

22 Jan

Who in their right mind wants to run a 5K in mid-January when it’s 17 degrees outside? Me! As you know from my previous post, I want to run at least a race per month this year. Well this Saturday was the first race this year, The Battle of the Bean 5K. This inaugural race was the battle of the coffee bean and cocoa bean. When you registered, you had to pick a team. I was running for Team Coffee.

Team Coffee Logo

Here is the logo on my super cool Team Coffee long sleeve tee!

It has been unseasonably warm around here this winter. As a matter of fact, we just had a thunder-storm come through here earlier tonight. However yesterday, it was cold. It was only 17 degrees, not sure what the wind chill was, but it felt like sub-zero temperatures to me. I don’t handle the cold very well.

Bill and I went to the race, the kids stayed home in their warm beds. It was too early for them. Although it wasn’t a super early start like the summer races. It started at 9:00 a.m. We arrived about 8:30, and I immediately got in the restroom line. Foo’s Custard was hosting the race, so I opted for their inside restroom as opposed to one of the Johnny on the Spots out in the parking lot. The line was kind of long, but I was fine with standing in the warmth of Foo’s. We ladies lucked out at this venue, as they had a women’s restroom, and a uni-sex restroom. And you better believe we sent the guy that walked up looking for the men’s room to the end of the long line of ladies. Sorry dude.

With the pre-race business taken care of, we headed out into the frigid cold to find my friends who were racing as well. We found them and stopped to take a group picture.

The Battle of the Bean Gang

Here's the gang just before the race, standing around freezing in the 17 degree weather. We are psyched though!

Then it was time to line up. It was pretty small race compared to the others I have done. People were just kind of all over the parking lot trying to funnel through the start. It took us about a minute to cross the start after the gun went off. After that, I fought my way around people to try to get a good start. There was one older lady, bless her sweet heart for being out there, that I almost ran into the back of because she was walking in the midst of all the runners.

The race started up a slight incline, then after a bit there was a nice downhill. I caught up to my friend’s boyfriend and ran by him for a little bit, but once we made the first turn he was off and I never caught him again. Dang it! The rest of the course wasn’t too bad. Mostly flat except for one hill closer to the end. That hill was about the only time I was semi-warm the entire race. My hands and face were hurting so bad by mile one, I wanted to stop and cry. But there was no way that was happening, and I just kept pushing on.

The course was just a big loop, with several turns in it. I am not real familiar with the area, but I knew when we had made our last turn, because I knew the name of the road…Mission. And that is what I was on…a mission…to finish and get into the warm car and thaw out! Luckily the finish was going down the incline we started on. I found the strength to start sprinting. Then I saw Bill (I love you babe!), which always gives me more strength, and I really started sprinting. Now the finish line was in sight. I don’t think I had ever been so happy to be finished, I was hurting.

I crossed the finish line in 00:28:28.9. Not a PR, but it’s all good. I have lots of chances to PR this year. I ran into my friend’s boyfriend, and we watched her come across the finish line. She did PR, awesome job girl! All of us could hardly talk, because our faces were frozen. We hung out for just a few minutes, and then Bill and I headed to the car to thaw. I thought my hands were going to fall off they hurt so bad. But once the car warmed up, they started to warm-up and all was good again. Next time it’s that cold I know I need to wear more layers. Yes, I said next time. You don’t think I’m going to let a little cold ever stop me!

Finish Line

Look, I was so happy to finish, my feet weren't even touching the ground!

Thank you to www.KCRunningCompany.com for the finish line pics.

Getting inspired at the ‘Y’

20 Jan

I was running on the treadmill the other night at the ‘Y’, and I noticed an older, heavy set lady walking around the track that goes around the perimeter of the large workout room. When she came around the second time, I noticed she was carrying a set of hand weights, and she had such a look of determination on her face. As I kept running, and she kept walking, I watched her and thought about how much I admired her for what she was doing. I don’t know her story, but I don’t have to for her to be an inspiration to me. She will probably never know it, but she made a lasting impression on me.

We have been going to the ‘Y’ as a family for a couple of weeks now. I see a lot of the same people each night. And many of them inspire me. And it’s not the ones you might think. I think the super-fit people are great, and I love their passion for working out. But the one’s that affect me the most are these people…

  • The older man in a pair of jeans and t-shirt walking the track, around and around.
  • The new mom who I saw carry her new baby into the gym, dropped him/her off in child care room, and then proceeded to run around the track over and over until she was red in the face and exhausted, all in an attempt to get back into shape after having a baby.
  • The teenage girl who leads a group class for younger kids; helping to teach them the importance of being active. And the overweight young kids in her class working hard to get in shape.
  • The dad and son working out together in the free weight area.
  • The brother and sister working out as a team using a medicine ball, throwing it back and forth to each other.
  • In the PiYo class I took, the girls and ladies that didn’t give up even when it got difficult.
  • My husband who, even though it hurts his back, walk/runs on the treadmill beside me to try and get stronger.
  • My son, who has struggled with his weight for years, and is now determined to get in shape so he can go to the fire academy in the next year.
  • My daughter, who had ACL reconstruction late last year, who works hard at rehabing her knee, so she can get back onto the soccer field.

There are many others. And I will continue to watch for more who inspire me. It is so great to go to place where it is all about family, fun and fitness. Thank you all for motivation and inspiration you provide me.

How about you? What inspires or motivates you? Leave a message below.

Taking control feels amazing

15 Jan

Just before I started this blog at the end of last year, I had just come through a major breakthrough. This blog, in large part, is due to that breakthrough. In my previous posts, I talked about how I’ve lost weight, overcome back problems, started getting fit and running. I made mention of having issues with my “gut” but didn’t go into a lot of detail. Well, I won’t give you all the gory details now either, but I will share a little bit.

In February 2005, I was diagnosed with non-specific colitis. I was put on a medication to suppress it, and it helped a lot. I would only have a couple of bad bouts each year, but they would generally only last a day or two. It was tolerable. Then I started half-marathon training in mid-2010, and my gut didn’t like that. As my miles per week increased, so did the issues with my tummy. My GI doctor added another medication to help with the IBS symptoms, and while it helped a little, it was still something I had to deal with constantly. At the end of last year, 2011, I went in for a 6-month appointment, so I could get blood work done and get my prescriptions. I talked to the nurse practitioner about my symptoms that I continued to deal with. She suggested that I get a scope, so they could try to figure out what is going on. Amazingly, the doctor had an opening later that week, so I took it. After the scope, he talked to us and said that considering my symptoms, everything looked really good. He took a biopsy and was going to have it sent out for testing. They did a bunch of blood work to test for Celiac and Chron’s too. He really wanted to get an answer for me. Then came the bad news…he was putting me on a gluten and dairy-free diet. The nurse gave me a bunch of paperwork on how to eat gluten-free and dairy-free (two different packets that I had to piece together to see what I could eat), and they sent me on my way.

I got to the car and freaked out. What the heck was I going to eat? Everything that I was not supposed to eat anymore was what I ate everyday. Not to mention the things I was now supposed to eat, like fresh fruit and vegetables, were typically not my friend as they would cause my IBS to flare. What had my doctor done to me?! You would have thought it was the end of the world by the way I reacted to the news. Stressed out and starving, we headed to McDonald’s for my “last meal”. I hadn’t eaten for about 36 hours (only liquids the day before), and I wanted McDonald’s breakfast. I ordered a big breakfast with hotcakes and ate every bite. I felt over-stuffed afterwards, but it was nice to enjoy one of my comfort foods. You see, since I started running more over the past year, I had this mindset that I could eat whatever I wanted. And since fresh fruits and vegetables didn’t get along with my stomach, I ate out a lot. It was quick, it was easy, and the McDonald’s $1 menu was cheap. I didn’t think a whole lot about eating this way, because I was able to keep my weight in check by running. I never stopped to think about what eating like this was doing to my overall health. We left McDonald’s to head home, and I proceeded to partake in my pity-party. I was so angry…it was consuming me. I apologize now to anyone I interacted with during those first few days, because I know I was a negative Nancy.

The afternoon of my procedure, I went to the grocery store to buy some food. I was totally unprepared and wandered around the grocery store looking at labels and feeling completely overwhelmed. I made my way to the health food section at Hy-Vee and found an employee to help me. She was very helpful showing me around and pointing out the gluten-free items. Then she went and got the nutritionist on staff who was also very helpful. She spent a little time with me trying to help find alternatives to my daily oatmeal and small bagel for breakfast; ham sandwich, chips, yogurt and granola bar for lunch. I left there with several items to get me through a couple of days until I could make a better list and go back that weekend. As I checked out, with a small cart of items, it dawned on me how expensive this new way of eating was going to be. That is something that has always bothered me…it costs a fortune to eat healthy. Fresh produce is expensive, health food is expensive, lean meats are expensive – it’s ridiculous. Maybe if it wasn’t so expensive to eat right, we wouldn’t be so overweight as a Country. Someone should really do something about that. Just sayin’…

At the same time I started eating gluten/dairy-free, I also decided I would start keeping a food/activity journal. I didn’t have issues every time I ran, so I wanted to see if there was any connection between what I ate and me having an episode after running. A few days past, and then the weekend came. I headed to Weight Watchers Saturday morning to weigh in for December. The new 2012 program information had been rolled out earlier in the month, so I got all my new material and my Lifetime key charm for my WW key chain. And the best thing of all, I found out that Life members now got access to the online tools for free! I missed using those tools so much since I made Lifetime, so I was elated to find this out. When she told me about the free tools, I believe my response was, “Woohoo, it’s about time!” I needed some good news after wallowing in my sorrow most of the week.

After I got home, I entered the code to unlock my tools and played around for a while. They had made a lot of changes to the site, and it seemed to be better than ever. I had forgotten how fun it was to look up your foods and see how many points they were. In addition, I could track my activity and earn points for that as well. When I used the tools in the past, I wasn’t active so that part of tool was new and exciting to me. I decided that instead of writing down what I ate in a journal, I would start keeping track of everything online. It would be fun and convenient (iPhone app), and it might help Bill if he had someone doing it along with him (he does WW Online). Plus, I had put on several pounds right after my marathon in October, and I wanted to get that off before I added to it over the holidays and winter months.

Also that weekend, I found a bunch of recipes that we could try, we made a good list, and we headed to the store to load up on groceries. I don’t think I had ever bought so much produce at one time before in my life. I was actually really proud of how healthy our cart looked when going up to the checkout. A lot of it was from the perimeter of the store, not from the middle where all the processed foods are. The processed foods have a lot of ingredients that contain gluten and dairy that you wouldn’t think contain it, so we steered clear of all that. I was nervous about how my tummy would tolerate all the fresh fruits and veggies, but I was willing to give it a try. I was still upset about how much everything cost, and I was still concerned about how much more time we were going to have to spend planning and preparing meals. But my anger was starting to dissipate a little each day.

After a week or so of the new routine, I was starting to really get into cooking new things. Some of the recipes bombed, like the tofu pad Thai. I liked it, but the rest of the family thought it was gross. Some of them were a huge hit, like the chicken tortilla soup. I was also really getting into tracking with the online tools. A couple of things tracking with the tools reminded me to think about was portions and serving sizes. I started weighing and measuring out my servings. You know, a serving of cereal is a lot less than you think. It’s a far cry from the top of the bowl like I normally eat. It’s more like a third to half of a bowl. But when you add a sliced banana and a cup of vanilla almond milk, it’s right back up there at the top of the bowl.

A couple of weeks into this new lifestyle, I realized that I felt great! I had lost a few pounds, I had a ton of energy, my IBS symptoms seemed better, but best of all I was really happy. And then it dawned on me that I was happy because I was in control. When I first found out I had to quit eating gluten and dairy, food was in control of me. I was addicted to McDonald’s and other fast food and to eating whatever I wanted. That’s why it seemed like the world was coming to an end when it was taken away from me. But now I was planning my meals, making sure I had healthy snacks with me all the time in case we were out and about and I got hungry. Stopping for fast food was no longer an option. I was tracking what I ate and was more aware of everything I consumed. I no longer wanted to lick the bowl or sneak some bites of what I was making, because I didn’t want to have to put that in my food log. I was controlling my portions by weighing and measuring my food. And I was having fun with trying new foods and recipes and cooking for my family more. Food was no longer controlling me, I was controlling food.

Since then, I have gone back to my GI doctor. All the tests he ran were negative. He is running one more test to see if he can figure out why I continue to have issues sometimes after I run (unfortunately the new diet didn’t make a difference there). He told me during my latest office visit that I could ease up on the gluten and dairy-free restriction, but I told him I didn’t want to because I felt so much better eating this way. He said he didn’t blame me, because he feels much better when he doesn’t eat gluten. So I’m sticking with this lifestyle, and I pray that it continues to make a positive impact on me and my family. We are saving a ton of money by not eating out (I’m embarrassed to say how much we are saving), we have joined the Y and are going as a family to work out, everyone is thinking about their food choices more, and there is less stress around the Large house. We are Large and in charge! Taking control feels amazing.

How about you…do you let food control you? Have you overcome an addiction to food? Maybe for you it’s not food. What other addiction do you need to overcome? Leave a comment below!

How I became a Runner

9 Jan

It was now Spring, 2010. Spring at my company means Corporate Challenge. Corporate Challenge is like the Olympics for local businesses. Companies pay to participate, which in part goes to charity; and their employees compete against each other in different sporting events, which promotes fitness and healthy competition. Win win. Every year when Corporate Challenge time would come, I would always sign up for one thing. The one mile walk. It was really the only thing I was capable of doing for years. But this year, I was stronger and healthier, and I wanted to do more.

The previous year, our CEO shared his story with us at a staff meeting. He wanted us all to know why he thought Corporate Challenge was so important, and how it had changed him. A couple of years back, he signed up to do the 5K race. He had been athletic in the past and thought it was going to be pretty easy. He was wrong. It made him realize how out of shape he had let himself get. Instead of letting it get him down though, it motivated him to get fit. Then and there, he committed to doing the Corporate Challenge (CC) triathlon just six short weeks away. He trained for six weeks and finished the triathlon. After that he wasn’t going to let himself get out of shape again, and he wanted to help others become healthy too. The next year, he started buying bicycles for any employee that participated in the CC du/triathlon. I was really touched by his story and his willingness to share that with the entire company (he tells it much better than I do). After hearing his inspirational story that year, I wanted to do more than the one mile walk. But because of my back problems, I didn’t.

This year would be different however. I was much stronger after building my core which made my back stronger. And I had a lot more endurance and strength. So I committed to doing the 5K, and I started running. Man was it hard! I couldn’t run 1/10th of a mile before having to stop and walk. I really had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t following a plan, but I was determined to complete that 5K. As the weeks went by, I was able to go further before I would have to walk. I would try to run/walk at least on mile a day. My pace was pretty slow. I think a 13 minute mile was really good for me back then. I thought that was pretty good, and I was just proud that I was sticking with it. And better yet, I seemed to be getting stronger and improving daily.

Closer to race day some of my co-workers, who had also signed up for the 5k, started meeting at the park where the race was going to be held to run the actual course. Once again, I was back to not being able to keep up very well. The course was really hilly, and my walk breaks really slowed them down. One teammate was really good about sticking with me and giving me a lot of encouragement. To this day, she may not know how much that meant to me. She was my mentor, and I was so thankful for her patience and encouragement.

Race day came, and I was a bundle of nerves. The race started at 7:00 am, and we arrived at 5:45 a.m. It was probably overkill to arrive that early, but I did not want to be late. My husband, kids and father-in-law all came to cheer me on. I went to registration to get my, first ever, race bib. I felt so official! It was still early and really cold, so we went back to the car to warm up. Once the sun came up, we walked around to look for my co-workers and found a few of them. Then it was time to start lining up. We were all freezing, jumping up and down trying to get warm. It felt like forever as we stood there freezing. Then the gun went off, and we were on our way. It was really difficult to navigate around all the runners at first. By the time we got a 1/4 mile into the race everyone started to fall into their pace groups, and it started to thin out. I was no longer thinking about how cold I was…all I could think about was my goal; and that was to finish the race without walking. I didn’t care how long it took, or how fast I was, I just didn’t want to walk. This was a huge stretch for me considering, the few times I had run the course, I had never been successful at running the whole thing. This day felt different though. I was totally invigorated by all the other runners around me. There were so many people in front of me and behind. Yet I wasn’t racing against anyone but me.

I made it to the drink station which marked the half way point, and I barreled through. I had just made it up a long hill that I normally had to walk, so there was no way I was stopping now. Plus, I had run this course a few times and knew there was a big downhill stretch not too far away. I also knew that just after the downhill was the last 1/2 mile of the race. Unfortunately that entire 1/2 mile was a steep incline. I was not sure I could do it. I was wearing down fast. As I got closer to the last 1/2 mile, there started to be people lined up to cheer on the runners. They were cheering for me! A new-found energy sprung up inside me. By the time I got 1/4 mile from the finish, the sidelines were packed with supporters. I don’t know how, but I started sprinting, up hill. I passed three other runners before sprinting across the finish line. I made it! I was completely exhausted and could barely breathe, but I had run my first 5K! After catching my breathe, I quickly headed back to the finish line to find my family. We all hugged and celebrated. Bill, my husband, told me they almost missed me coming across the finish line. They were watching the race clock and weren’t expecting me yet. Apparently, I had finished much faster than anticipated. Bonus!

My First 5K

Me, still on my runner's high after the 5K

Once again, Bill and I walked around to find some of my co-workers. I specifically was looking for my CEO, who I knew was there, because I heard him yelling my name during the race as I closed in on the finish line. I found him and ran up and gave him a big celebratory hug. I think it took him off guard, but he was certainly excited about my big achievement. I told him I had reached my goal of not walking and finished faster than expected. He congratulated me, then asked if I was going to sign up for the triathlon. I told him, “maybe next year”.

Well, I’m not really sure how “next year” came so quickly, but I competed in my first triathlon six weeks later (: It was as amazing as my first 5k, and I got an awesome Trek bicycle from my extremely generous company. In 2011, I competed in the same two events, 5k and triathlon, and I set new personal records in both. God willing, I will PR in both again this year!

Me and my awesome Trek bicycle

After those two events, I was hooked. I kept running, and that summer I decided I needed a new challenge. I wanted to run my first half marathon. So I trained (for 16 weeks) and ran my first half in October, 2010.

My First Half

I love this picture. We passed right by my office and it was in the background of the picture.

Here is a recap of all the events I participated in 2010 and 2011.

My Events in 2010 and 2011

I almost doubled my events from 2010 to 2011. in 2011, I ran two 5Ks, one 4-mile, three halfs, and my first full marathon. (Stats courtesy of http://www.Athlinks.com)

As I come up on my two year anniversary of being a runner, I have to thank God for giving me the strength and courage to to take up the sport and for allowing me to be the healthiest I have ever been. I also want to thank my husband for all the support he has given me. Bill, you are amazing. And thank you to the rest of my family and friends for all the support they have given me the last two years.

Me and my crew after the marathon

Me and my crew after my first full marathon. Thanks to everyone (pictured and not pictured) who came out to cheer me on. You all are the best!

Look out 2012, here I come!