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Fat to Fit, the Journey from ICU 2 26.2

Standing at the starting line I faced the most daunting experience of my lifetime; I was on edge. My adrenaline fueled heart raced with anticipation as I waited for the starting cannon of my first marathon. I confess, I did not feel this anxious on August 4, 1982 when I joined the Army and was sworn in, knowing that I was going to get on a bus and arrive in the sweltering August heat of Alabama.

What is an old ex-fat guy doing here?

For some, a race like this is on their bucket list – its something to be experienced. For me, it was the proving ground of my faith. All the encouragement I had received from friends and cyber-friends had to outweigh my own doubts. I am not a quitter, but some humans are just incapable of finishing a 26.2 mile race. (42.2 kilometers) The question, was I one of them?

For years I have doubted my ability to run or even walk 26.2 miles. Until I was standing at the starting line, I still did. Of course I had trained; most of it in the heat and humidity of a New England summer. My long runs (over 14 miles) had often felt disastrous, ending in more walking than running. My heart rate skipped up to near maximum as the miles wore on and this old body clamored for oxygen to fuel my muscles.

Since I first watched the Boston Marathon in person, I have held on to a dream – a dream to finish a full marathon.

I remember just a month out of ICU, I was walking back from the race route to my home. I had a skip in my step and my little one ran ahead pretending to be a marathoner. I wanted to run, but the reality was that it would take me an entire year to simply complete a 5k race. HERE is that story. It was going to take another year for me to cross the finish line of my first Half Marathon. HERE is that story. 

There is a lot more to running a marathon then running. It's easy to fantasize crossing the finish line. The reality is that even though I trained starting June 22, logging 192 miles in August, I still had to go the distance in one day without any significant rest during the event. There were no TV time outs, no half times, no shift changes or player substitutions; it was foot to pavement for over 5 solid hours.

Nearly 50,000 steps for you FitBit-ers.

Then there are the other challenges. Chafing, sun protection, blisters, hydration, fueling and electrolyte balance. I was new to all of it. Anyone can run a few miles in a t-shirt without chaffing, but getting through 26.2 is a different story. I ran 3 half marathons and had bloody nipples by the end of 2 of them.

Then there was the race course. It contained 12 solid miles of hills. HERE is a video of part of that segment.  And the hills kept coming.  

I did have some fun along the way. There were water and Gatorade stops every 3 miles. "Where's the beer?" I teased the volunteers. A lot of the townsfolk sit on their front steps or in folding chairs clapping, ringing cowbells or holding signs to encourage us. Of course its early on Sunday morning and most of them were drinking coffee. In one group, there was someone with a pot of coffee refilling our cheering section. "Is this the coffee stop?" I asked. They laughed and cheered me on. At another intersection there were three woman with babies in infant carriers. "Is this the baby stop?" I asked. They laughed, and gave me a high-5. There was another group drinking wine. "Is the communion stop?" I smiled.

Late in the race, there were no crowds, just a few race marshals every half mile or so. I thanked them for being out there. I passed everyone that I spoke with at the starting line.

There were some young folks out there. "Come on, you can beat the old fat guy!" I needled them.

The salt was forming on my skin like a fine beach sand. My calves were tight so I slowed to a walk along side a fellow named Vince. He was a cancer survivor from Vermont. In the distance we could hear music. "It sounds like heaven, Vince." I said, hoping it was a water stop. As we rounded the bend, there in the middle of the road, was Elvis! "We are in heaven, Vince!" The King was handing out trick or treat candy to the weary along with cool drinks. "Thank you very much." I said in my best Memphis drawl. Vince and I pressed on. Running 3 minutes, walking 1.

The "Tired Runner" vehicle was making it's way in the other direction circling to find those who just couldn't make it. They offered us a cool bottle of water out the window. "Thank you, it's the next best thing to a ride." I said.

"We've got those too." the driver quipped.

"If I have to crawl, I am finishing this race!"

Down along the beach I had a leg cramp so bad I nearly fell in the sand along the side of the beach road. Vince helped me along. He was hurting too. We walked it off and ran another few hundred yards when the cramps started again. On and off they came. I rallied another run and took off with less than a half mile to go. They hit again. I stopped and steadied myself on a telephone pole.

Vince caught back up to me. We ran a few hundred feet and walked a few hundred. Just before the turn onto Main Street, Vince was sagging behind. I yelled at him, "Come on buddy, the race has just begun." Then I turned and gave it everything I had for the last few hundred yards.

They called my name out on the PA. I didn't care about the clock, I just wanted to stop. The volunteers met me with water, a finisher's medal and a blanket. From the crowd an old co-worker came up to congratulate me. I turned and saw Vince limping across the finish line. "You got this I yelled!"

My legs were on fire and I steadied myself on a crowd barrier. My friend was crying. "You made it! How incredible."

"I did it. I made all the way from the ICU to the finish line of a marathon."

 If you would like to read the whole story, HERE is how to join the party. 
Here are all the videos from the marathon course.






Rules for MFP Success Revised

If you are new around here, welcome. Now here are the rules of success! If you have been around a long time, don't forget this stuff. It might be time to get started, or time to regroup and get back on track! And remember losing weight is easy (I do it every time I use the bathroom). 

-1 Schedule your workouts like you would a gynecology appointment. You may not want to go, but you need at least to take 30 minutes 3x/week to move as much and as fast as you can. Fitness includes some strength training in my book (which you should buy!)

-2 Log all your food and set your activity levels properly. If you can't count, Google easy math. ;)

-3 Try eating your exercise calories as recommended. It might NOT work, so try not eating them! Just don't make another post in the forums about it! Nobody likes forum Nazis.

-4 Weigh your food portions. I suspect you didn't get to where you are by knowing how many grams/ounces a rib eye steak weighs!

-5 Get rid of all the junk foods and trigger foods in the house. I will even let you log this as Cardio exercise, "Cleaning with Maximum Effort!"

-6 Take pictures now, you'll be glad you did. If you are serious, take some ugly fat pics! 50 pounds from now you'll be glad you did.

-7 Use the tape measure often and the scale sparingly. If you are doing the cardio and strength training (not body building), some weeks your weight is going to move around. The sign of true weight loss is lower body fat percentages (not lower body fat, like your butt jiggles.)

-8 Plan for success - know what you are going to eat as far in advance as you can. A weekly meal plan, lunches made and frozen before the work week, and planning for holidays and parties is essential. A flight plan will save a lot of complaining and looking for sympathy on the news feed. :)

-9 Visit your favorite restaurant sites NOW, and make a list of suitable meals at each of them. You really can get out of most places with a 400 calorie meal if you plan for it. bookmark them on your PC and/or Smartphone.

-10 Fill out your profile, outerwise you won't have any friends.  Friends are essential.

-11 Remember most people eventually fail (well ovr 70%), but you don't have to be one of them. Dieters are usually the first ones to fall off the circus wagon, followed by those that were doing it for a special occasion and then those who did not maintain their lifestyle change.

-12 Never make excuses, it's your life. :) 

Thanks for the votes and comments.

Today is the Day

DavidIf you have ever run a foot race, piloted a boat out of a harbor or shopped at Walmart on Black Friday, you have experienced the feeling of being confined. I have run races with thousands of runners; so many in fact that the first mile was almost walking until the crowd thinned out. Even a small boat needs to obey the rules, staying within the channel so that it doesn't run up on a reef. And every one knows that you are taking your life into your hands shopping at big-box stores on Black Friday.

Many of us are ex-fat people in the making, breaking the chains of confinement. A few of my readers are at thier goal.

This week the scale hit 199.6. That is 12.4 pounds from my goal weight. The dial on the scale hasn't seen this weight for more than a millisecond since 2004. Back then, I lost 32 pounds in 6 months following the Dr. Phil diet. I went to the gym and did 20 minutes of cardio as well as running the weight circuit 3 times a week. I remember being on the treadmill and huffing and puffing after running 6 miles per hour for one entire minute. To make the most of my time, I cranked the incline up to the maximum. This is how I got plantar fasciitis. It was a combination of obesity, lack of proper stretching, improperly fitting running shoes, and the high incline.

Because of the injury, I quit exercising - my progress card lay dormant in the weight room of the YMCA.

I thought I got fat again because I couldn't exercise, but what really happened is that I slowly started eating larger portions and making increasingly bad food choices. Where did I go wrong? After all, I had increased my fruit and vegetable consumption, kicked the daily soda habit and spent more time cooking at home and less time eating out.

You can't out exercise a bad diet.

What happened is that I did not make a lifestyle change. I didn't really care about being fit. I substituted diet junk for the real junk, and I believed a lot of food labeling including phrases like "all natural," "low fat," "0 calories," and a host of other marketing slogans aimed at making me think that my diet was healthy. I embraced an occasional splurge meal, and never read a label. I tried to follow the guidelines in the book, but it was about comparing numbers and never understanding what trans-fats were, the impact of sodium on my health and the difference between whole wheat and whole grain.

I was; however, so serious about my weight loss that I went out and bought an entire new wardrobe of skinny clothes. Unfortunately, as they wore out, the sizes kept pace with my weight gain. I was confused, maybe I lost weight too fast? I didn't really have an answer. Each time I went to the doctor there was a new caution about cholesterol, sugar, blood pressure and that was always followed by "and lose some weight."

What is different this time? In the beginning, nothing. I went back to some of the things I learned before. I dumped the rice, potatoes, and white flour products. I ate less fast food, and I started back to the gym in spite of having a number of issues which made it downright miserable. But I did it.

I came to a crossroad as I lay in ICU.

I could give up, or I could change my life, my eating habits and learn about the foods that would help me recover. I started walking as soon as I could. First a few hundred yards, and then portions of a mile. I got an appointment with a nutritionist and we started working on my food choices. I replaced bad food with healthier options, got a food scale and learned to read a label. In fact, most of the food I bought didn't even have a label!

The details are in my in my new book, ICU to Marathon

I recently posted "Gaining weight back has next to nothing to do with how fast you lose weight. It has to do with unsustainable dieting and not sticking with a life change." Many of my friends agreed.  There was one that mentioned a hormone called ghrelin that makes us feel hungry after we've lost weight. (MORE HERE and a host of others, as well as suggestions for beating the primal screams.) A couple of other long-time friends mentioned emotional eating. As a recovering addict, I know a lot of about emotional binges with just about everything from booze to running. I am not saying I am not tempted to splurge, or have an extra helping of something I like to help me escape the stress. I am not in judgement of those that fall pray either. This is a tough journey!

Many of you know about my miraculous recovery from congestive heart failure, and that fact that I run a lot even though I have had knee surgery. I don't know how you do it, but for me it is through faith, education and living a day at a time. 

Yesterday was a tough day. I went to the doctor and had a blood test. Although it is not a definitive test, it reveled the possibility of cancer. I am scheduled for a biopsy.

I have choices. I can trust God like I have in the past or not. I can go for a run, or I can sit home feeling sorry for myself and eat. Most of us can't say we have the perfect life. Something is always going awry: the car, an important relationship, addictions, work, lack of work, our health, finances, kids, no kids, and a long list of other thorns in the butt like flat tires, running out of gas, losing our car keys and donuts in the break room... To quote country singer Darryl Worley, "sounds like life to me; plain 'ol destiny - yeah the only thing for certain is uncertainty."

In the end, we always have choices to make when it comes to food. Today I am going for a run. Then I am going to come home and thank God I still can do that. Then I will look for a job, and because I need it for me and my family, hopefully find a way to keep my health insurance which ended yesterday. Then I am going to be with my family because they are the most important part of my life. And for today, I am going to stick with my long-time food habits.

Thanks for the therapy session, see you at the track in about an hour.
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