Tag Archives: Runner

Almost Famous

Jen Double Runner Magazine

Almost famous…OK, not really, but I am in my first magazine article!  Well, OK, I’m included in a picture in a magazine.  OK, I’m in a crowd in the upper corner of a photo, but I’m in there!

It’s not being in a magazine that makes me smile as much as the type of magazine it is…it’s a running magazine!  Who would have thought when I started my gastric sleeve journey that I would ever find myself included in a magazine that was all about running?!

This non-athletic over weight woman is now a healthy running woman and she couldn’t be any happier or prouder!  Yeah, me!

Thanks for letting me share my “15 minutes of fame” with you at Down the Scale…

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Running Toward New Challenges

I’m the kind of woman who needs new goals. They can be small ones like getting my kids to put away their dirty dishes to big ones like maintaining my weight loss. I thrive on new challenges, especially when it comes to running. From new places to run to different types of races, I’m always searching for the next big thing to keep me motivated and inspired. This past Sunday I tried a new type of race and it was just what I needed to keep me going on my weight loss journey.

Not my best time for a 5K, but for my first trail run, I'll take it!  Running is one of the best things to come out of my gastric sleeve surgery journey!

Not my best time for a 5K, but for my first trail run, I’ll take it! Running is one of the best things to come out of my gastric sleeve surgery journey!

A few months ago, I received an email about the Double Adventure Run. It’s an 8K race, but split into two parts. First you run a 5K, take about an hour break and then run a 3K. This one took place at Land’s End which is full of trails by the Pacific Ocean with incredible views including my beloved Golden Gate Bridge. I knew this distance was doable as I’ve done a bit of trail running and I did a 10K in April. This seemed like the perfect challenge, especially when my 11-year-old son, Jack, asked to join me.

Jack and I arrived early at Land’s End on race day. If you’ve ever participated in a running event, you know about the energy in the air. This was a small race of less than 200 runners, but it was still exciting. I’ve found many runners to be very friendly and encouraging, especially when you have a child with you. We chatted with other runners and took our pre-race photos in this scenic locale.

I’d love to say we ran the race together, but I can’t keep up with my athletic son. Jack tried to go to the front of the starting line, but I made him go to the back with me. Pacing is not in his vocabulary just yet, so I knew he would start trying to keep up with the master runners. As a soccer player, he’s used to sprinting and I have to remind him that 5K races are a different type of running. This wasn’t his first 5K, but he did the first one with a friend so they paced each other.

My obliging son did start the race with me. We were only about a quarter of a mile in when he batted those big blue/gray eyes at me and politely asked if he could go ahead. I wasn’t finished saying “OK” before he grinned and went running ahead. As much as I wanted him to run with me, I knew I had to let him go. He knew to stay on the race path and wait for me at the end. Part of me hoped I would catch up to him, but I was doubtful.

And my doubts were correct when I came to the first 100 step staircase. I knew I wouldn’t see Jack until the end as I huffed and puffed up the stairs. The 5K race started nicely downhill and then up a relatively easy incline, but this beautiful park is full of evil, killer stairs. I’ve walked and run a bit through Land’s End before, but when you’re in race mode it’s three times as hard. Fortunately the other runners around me seemed to feel the same way. There was a feeling of struggle and determination in the air along with a lot of heavy breathing. This mixed with the salt air and sweat made this race unique to say the least.

After this first staircase I realized I wouldn’t be able to have a PR (personal record) for this 5K part of the race. I begrudgingly told myself this was OK. This was my first real trail race with hills and staircases. This 5K would be the new baseline for trail races I decided so I pushed through to the end.

Here is my amazing son running to finish the 5K portion of our 8K race.  He inspires and motivates me with his athletic abilities!

Here is my amazing son running to finish the 5K part of our 8K race. He inspires and motivates me with his athletic abilities!

Running to the finish line, I finally saw Jack. Nothing made me happier than seeing his smiling face! He finished 11 ½ minutes before me and I was proud for both of us. Jack said he chatted with other runners throughout the race and one particular runner recommended he try to pace himself. He said he tried to after she talked with him. I just smiled at him instead of saying “I told you so!” Sometimes being a parent means keeping your mouth shut.

We weren’t done yet! It was halftime, so to speak. We had about an hour to rest, stretch, hydrate and dance to “Shake it Off” about 10 times before the 3K race. I really enjoyed this time to hang out with my son. We talked with other runners, many of whom congratulated Jack. I love races that have such a positive spirit. While it is a competition I’ve found everyone to be encouraging to each other.

I must admit it was hard to get pumped up for the second race even though it was only a 3K. (OK, I never thought I would say “just a 3K” ever in my life!). It’s a bit strange to think about racing again after a break, but once we start lining up, the race energy got me going.

As before, Jack went off on his own. This is the time I wished I brought my headphones. I didn’t plan to run with music like I normally do since I would be with Jack. Silly mommy, thinking her baby would run with her! I can’t say I completely enjoyed running without music, but it was a good experience. It was such a beautiful place to run that I really took in the views as I ran. I’m sure it was a safer way to run through the narrow dirt paths and up the steep stairs too. But sometimes when you’re slowing down, having the Foo Fighters sing loudly in your ears motivates you to pick up the pace.

While I didn’t particularly run a fast pace during the 3K, I finished with a smile on my face and received a big hug from Jack. I need to start bribing my husband and daughter to come to these races just so I have them waiting for me at the end. Nothing is better than having the people you love waiting for you to complete another challenge. So my little runner finished with a total combined time of 49:51 and his momma finished with 1:09. Would we do it again? You betcha! Splitting the race into two parts was difficult, but fun. Trail running is such a great change from road races and I plan to do more.

Every race I do gives me more things to work on like running more hills and increasing my pace. Finding the motivation to keep active and heathy is sometimes hard, but for me, finding new challenges is helping me as I head into year two of my weight loss journey. I plan to keep on running Down the Scale for a long, long time…

Here we are after running our first 8K race!  I'm looking forward to sharing more runs with my son!

Here we are after running our first 8K race! I’m looking forward to sharing more runs with my son!

My Happy Surroundings

Here I am with my writing practice inspirations:  my journal and coffee!

Here I am with my writing practice inspirations: my journal and coffee!

This past weekend I went to a writing seminar. Not only was I inspired to create a writing practice, I was reminded that I had already created a weight loss practice. It’s this routine that I developed after my gastric sleeve surgery that is keeping me healthy and happy.

The writing instructor shared many helpful and insightful writing information, but one hint he shared really struck home. He mentioned he liked to keep one of his favorite books on his desk when he writes. His favorite author inspires him. Sometimes he reads from the book to get ideas, but not to copy. It reminds him of different aspects of writing such as structure, word choice, etc. Surrounding himself with his inspirations and influences keeps him writing.

As he told this story, I realized I am already doing this with my weight loss journey. Since my surgery, I made the conscious effort to make my surroundings healthy. I believe it is one of the biggest reasons for my success. What are these positive things I surround myself with? The first is food. Out with the bad, in with the good. Soda, junk food, fatty food had to go.

No, I’m not an angel by any means. As I write, a pan of chocolate drizzled rice crispy treats are in my kitchen. They are leftovers from the ones my daughter took to a school event. Am I going to have one today? You bet! It’s a treat, not a regular food choice. The rest of the my food choices today will be healthy, especially when I know that large amounts of sugar make me ill. I am surrounded by better food so that what I choose now is what I truly want.

Exercise is another positive aspect of my life. When I don’t move, I am cranky. Trust me, I know I am. Even if I’m just walking my kids to school I am a happier woman. Now running is a passion. I’m still a solo runner, although I am getting closer to running, and hopefully chatting as I run, with friends. I really enjoyed the 5K races I completed. Even though I’m not running and talking with people during the race, I am inspired being with people who are putting themselves out there. Whether these people are competitive runners or determined walkers, they give me a sense of affirmative energy that I love. This is one of the reasons I signed up for another 5K race less than a month after my last race. When you find something that makes you happy, you keep reaching for it.

This leads me to the third thing that makes my surroundings healthy: choosing positive people to keep in my life. Naturally, I can’t control who I am in contact with 100% of the time. I have learned it’s OK to keep my interactions with negative people to a minimum when possible. I am a firm believer that positivity breeds positivity. When I’m with people who are interested in me, who encourage and support me, and see the light and humor in life, I feel better about myself. Hopefully I offer the same to my family and friends. I don’t believe a person needs to be perky and positive all the time, but if your first thoughts are always negative, how can you let in positivity? I continue to struggle with anxiety and depression and I know I always will since life is full of family drama, financial issues and just plain old unhappiness. I feel like I handle these struggles quicker and better because I have a positive, strong network in place to help me in my continuing weight loss journey.

I will take my writing instructor’s advice to surround my writing environment with things that inspire me. For me this means a cup of coffee, my journal and stacks of books that I love and ones I want to read. To lose weight and maintain my mental and physical health, I surround myself with good food, exercise and positive people. I plan to apply my positive weight loss environment method to my writing practice and hopefully other areas of my life. I look forward to a successful writing practice and healthy lifestyle as I continue to preserve my happy surroundings!

I am a Runner

jenrace11115

I enjoyed running the Hot Chocolate 5K Race, but also enjoyed the treats at the end!  Can’t wait for my next race!

Naming this week’s blog post, “I am a Runner” is making me a little uneasy. Since I am not a natural athlete and regular exercise was never a part of my past, it feels strange to declare myself a runner. I am a runner even if I doubt it. I think declaring it publicly will help me realize it is true.

As a child and teen, I hated sports. I was always overweight and uncoordinated. I dreaded P.E. in school. Since I was bad at physical activities and I had to change in front of my peers in the locker room, P.E. was the ultimate nightmare. P.E. didn’t end with college unfortunately. I tried tennis and quit before I failed the course. Thank goodness for aerobic classes where I could hide my awkward self in the back.

As an adult I tried again to find a physical activity I would enjoy. I joined the YMCA with all the other moms. The treadmill was tiresome. I did the “Total Body Conditioning” class and struggled through each session. I used my second pregnancy as an excuse to quit. The Y turned into a place I took my kids for sports, not a place for me to exercise.

I did have a brief period of exercise enjoyment when I bid on a personal trainer for a fundraiser. I didn’t think I would win it, but I did. The ever-supportive husband and I worked with a great trainer for a few months. I can’t say I loved the strength training routines, but I survived. I did however enjoy the spin classes she made us go to at the Y. I was surrounded by toned and athletic people, but it was OK that I was fat and slow. When the instructor yelled to turn it up to ten, it didn’t matter that my ten was someone’s two.

Unfortunately our move cross-country put an end to my burgeoning exercise routine. For our first year in our new home I was depressed and instead of using my new walkable surroundings to my benefit, I ate my way around town. It wasn’t until my ever-supportive friend, N., suggested I try the Couch to 5K running program. Me, learn to run? At this time I weighed my all-time high of 283 pounds so the thought of running seemed ridiculous. N. offered to watch my kids so I didn’t have any excuse not to try. I had shoes and a babysitter so off I went. This was the beginning of my newfound love of running. I was slow as molasses, but I felt good. The Couch to 5K program and a gentle, but firm nudge from my friend started me down a new exercise path.

My running routine was interrupted a few times. After my gastric sleeve surgery, I took a break to recuperate, but I did walk until I could run again. Last May I had to stop running due to the pain of my abdominal hernia. About four weeks after my abdominal hernia repair and tummy tuck surgery, I started running again. It felt so good to be back!

One of the best rewards of my latest surgery was running a race on Thanksgiving. What turned out to be a five-mile race instead of three miles was just what a I needed to prove to me that I was a runner. As I wrote in my post, “Running Down the Scale”, I just told myself I had to finish. I did that and set a new PR (personal record) that I was proud of.

That brings me to one of the most important reasons I love running: it’s about my running pace and no one else’s pace. Sure, I don’t want to be the last person over the finish line, but if I am, that is OK. All I have to do is finish what I start. I strive to improve my pace, but not to beat anyone else’s. I may not be a fast runner, but I am a runner…just because I run.

The 5K Hot Chocolate Race I ran on Sunday really made me believe I should call myself a runner. I did this race with my 10-year-old son and his friend. Well, we started the race together, but after the first half mile, they were gone. At first I was annoyed and embarrassed. Didn’t they want to run with me? Ah, no, Jen, they’re two athletic kids who love to run and compete. Hanging out with the 45-year-old mom with a previous running pace of 13:22 wasn’t that exciting I’m sure.

It turned out to be good thing they ran at their pace, because I could then run at my pace and not kill myself keeping up with them. I put on my music and enjoyed the run. I walked some of it but I ran more than I thought I could. I finished with a PR (personal record) pace of 12:08.

The kids finished four minutes ahead of me, but we all enjoyed our chocolate treats together. No guilt for me when I indulged in hot chocolate and snacks! I earned it! And my gastric sleeve is my constant tool to keep me from overeating. I could eat a bit of the snacks, but nowhere near what I would have consumed in the past.

While I am already looking for another 5K race, I don’t believe racing makes me a runner. Just getting outside and running is what makes me a runner. This formerly uncoordinated and obese woman finally found her athletic grove. It took me over 40 years to find it, but it was well worth it. I think everyone can find some type of exercise to love. Whether it’s a group class, swimming or even walking, all you need to do is move. I am happy to call myself a runner, but more importantly I am happier to call myself a healthy woman.

Running Down the Scale

Here I am in 2012, 2013 and 2014 at the races! I love see how happy I am every year after the race.  And I'm happier that I look and feel healthier every year!

Here I am in 2012, 2013 and 2014 at the races!
I love seeing how happy I am every year after the race. And I’m happier that I look and feel healthier every year!

Last Thursday I ran my third Thanksgiving Day race. While my speed improves each year, I am most proud of my increased confidence in setting and reaching goals. Running is more than just exercise; it keeps me focused and motivated to keep living a healthy life. While I knew running would help in my gastric sleeve journey, I didn’t expect the many positive results it would bring.

My last two races were 5K races on city streets. My friend, N., and I decided to switch to another race in our neighborhood. It seemed like a great idea until I received the first email from the organizers. That’s when I noticed that it was a five-mile race not a 5K (3.1 mile) race. In the words of Scooby Doo, “ruh roh!” Not only was this race an extra two miles, but the course wasn’t on roads, but mostly through grass fields and woods. N. and I decided to do it anyway. What could go wrong?

My head told me there were many things that could go wrong! The race was only nine weeks after my abdominal hernia and tummy tuck surgeries. My incision was healing slowly and my abdominal muscles were sore and strained from time to time. I only started running four weeks before the race so I didn’t have much training or miles under my belt. I had every reason to back out of the race or at the very least change it back to the 5K race. Believe me, I thought about it often in those weeks preceding Thanksgiving. What kept me committed to the new race was one thought: all I have to do is finish. That simple phrase kept me training and made me show up on Thanksgiving morning with my turkey headband and running shoes on.

Here I am getting ready for the Thanksgiving 5-Mile Race!  I love that running on Thanksgiving has become a tradition.

Here I am getting ready for the Thanksgiving 5-Mile Race! I love that running on Thanksgiving has become a tradition.

All I really needed to do was finish the race to feel successful. I’m not a competitive runner…with anyone but myself. I only need to be competitive with myself. I ran two earlier races with hindering factors and I finished. If I could do the first race 100+ pounds heavier and finish I could do this new one. And last year, I ran four and a half minutes faster than the previous year with my abdominal hernia still intact and I finished. I could do this even if it meant I was the last person over the finish line.

But I wasn’t the last over the finish line! I finished with my best running pace ever. But more importantly I loved the race. There is an amazing energy on the starting line of a race, especially one with people dressed as turkeys and pilgrims! I lined up with the other runners and followed the lead runner dressed as a turkey though the course.

I managed to actually run the first two miles which surprised me. I am more of a walker/runner but the excitement kept me running. Throughout the race I ran when I could and walked when I needed. I finally realized there is no shame in walking. Many people were doing the same. Again, I kept in mind that I just needed to finish.

When I came to the three-mile mark, I had to make a choice. There was in fact a three-mile walk I could do or keep going to the five-mile finish. I came up on the literal fork in the road and chose the five-mile. I really wanted to finish five miles I decided. At that moment I realized I could do it!

I made it to the five-mile finish line with a smile on my face! Nothing feels better than accomplishing a goal that you set. Even though I had doubts up until race day and even in the beginning of the race, I kept going. Running is the perfect metaphor for my weight loss journey: do your best at your own pace and you can work through your doubts and fears. I never thought something as simple as running would give me such hope, joy, and confidence.

Another Thanksgiving Day run is done and the turkey headband is back in storage. My running shoes are not. I am already signed up for another run! This one is a 5K with my son in January. Am I worried about keeping up with my naturally athletic son? Yes, I am, but you know what I say to that…all I need to do is finish. Wish me luck as I keep running Down the Scale…