Finding time for running and working out has been a serious challenge. During the first part of 2013, I'd only been "running" about 2 miles at a clip, 2-4 miles a month. That's it. Pathetic. Anyway, my bullheaded self got an idea, and that was all she wrote. When I get something firmly planted in my head, it's cemented. Not even Houdini could pry it. Remember that little fact because it will surface again before this writing has come to its conclusion.
At 7:08 P.M. on July 25, 2013, the day before the birth of my first grandchild, I sent my father the following email:
This is your birthday gift. You know I can't afford a gift & I know you would tell me not to spend my money anyway. So I thought of something I can give you as a gift that wouldn't cost me anything. I wanted to do this yesterday on your actual birthday, but I had to work & wasn't able to do it. Today I did it.
You have taught us many things and given us many traits to emulate. You are an exceptional hunter and golfer. I am neither of those things. My brothers do an outstanding job carrying on those traits. You also have taught us perseverance and dedication. You have taught us and demonstrated that we can do ANYTHING we set our minds to doing. Those traits my brothers and I all got from you. You turned 78 yesterday. That's just a number because you sure don't act it or look it. You certainly walked circles around me that day a year ago when we walked together, a day I will cherish forever.
I haven't been on the pavement in 5 days & I have only been doing around 2 miles. As you may remember, my highest distance achieved before now was 7.1 miles.
You're 78. I couldn't do the 70. Okay. There's no such thing as "couldn't." I set out to do 8 today, more than I've ever done before by almost a mile. I didn't care how long it took, but I was determined to give you this birthday gift. I decided not to do the 70 :):):) Besides, as I said, you neither act nor look 78. You're a very healthy 78! So the 70 part doesn't matter. For your birthday, I did 8 miles today, Dad! Actually, 8.2. :) See, I can and do do whatever I set my mind to doing. Thank you for giving me that trait of determination and many more.
Love you! Happy birthday!
Several times during the 8.2 I found myself having to convince self not to quit, especially since my grandson's mother was at the hospital awaiting his impending arrival, but I had a mission. Although I did not quit, I did have to on multiple occasions during the run/walk return home to present offerings to the porcelain goddess. Also, why does the distance from the parking lot to Labor & Delivery at Mary Washington Hospital seems like a treacherous 30 miles?
For the next week, I did precious little walking and all that I did do was not done independently. Moaning & groaning, I slithered along the wall for support. It took about two months for me to regain the ability to hit the pavement. Yet, conjuring up my next goal came to me like a bolt of lightning. Then I paused. Could I? Should I? Have others? I went straight to my friend Google.
One of the first things I read about obese runners talked about a runner who was ridiculed by people shouting such things as "Go home and eat Twinkies." The first of October as I was walking/running and contemplating whether or not I could meet my next goal and mulling over all possible "What if? What if?" excuses, all of a sudden, I burst into laughter because it occurred to me that, of course, I could do it because, after all, I don't even like Twinkies. That thought and laughter gave me the fuel I needed to hit the gate running, no pun intended. Folks who want to make fun of me can eat my dust as I run, go home to their couches and eat Twinkies, OR run beside or in front of me and cheer together with me when we cross the finish line. The latter seems to be the more appealing choice, doesn't it? Besides, there's a pig roast after we finish!
After a great deal of research, I signed up. I knew what I wanted, and I knew how I wanted it. I told my family to save the date. At a pace of greater than 30 minutes per mile, I knew it had to be sans time limit. Because I can't afford to go far, it had to be relatively close to my house. I knew Samantha had to be there. I knew I had to have someone inexpensive (read free!) babysit my animals. And since after 8.2 miles I had lost the ability to walk, I knew I had to have a running teacher.
One last thing. As I always do with fitness and most major decisions, I called my brother Les. "What do you think?" I asked him, as I always do. "Of course, you can do it," my ever-athletic brother responded and, without skipping a beat, added, "and I'll buy your shoes." How awesome is that? My brother is awesome. Both of my brothers are awesome. That was the first of many times I cried during this endeavor. In fact, each time I repeat the story of what he did, I cry. Whenever I need a boost towards faith in myself for anything, one call to my brother nips that in the bud quick, fast, and in a hurry. Tending to hang onto a few positive things said to me as they comprise the fuel for my endeavors, this gesture was the first of those things in my latest quest. My brother Les is my hero. He has unconditional faith in me. When they read this, my father & other brother (Doug) will learn for the first time, along with most of you, that I'm going to do a half marathon. Right about now, I know several of you are sitting there with your bottom lips falling down to about where your belly buttons reside.
Yes, you read that right. Yes, I am doing a half marathon.
I searched. I found it. I registered.
On June 14, 2014, I am doing the Hatfield-McCoy Half Marathon, River Road Course. Yes, I am doing a half marathon. Did you hear me? Let me shout it. 13.1, BABY! IT'S MINE!
Yes, I am extremely serious. Sorry I get a little excited, but traveling from a sad state of not knowing the definition of a "k," weighing 500 pounds, and experiencing difficulty going a distance from my desk to the bathroom to this - pushing the shoe leather 13.1 miles - brings me to a place of more than a little exhilaration.
Every video on YouTube about the Hatfield-McCoy half marathon, every blog entry about it, every online photograph pertaining to this race I've visited. And the more I see, the more excited I get. My half marathon starts in Matewan, West Virginia. West Virginia is home for me. I'm going home to race! YES! Well, it's the southwestern side of the state, but it's still God's country. And, Nicki, this is why I said we might see you. I hope you can come! Brandi, Donald, & Landon (my daughter, son-in-law, & grandson) will be there. Not only will Samantha be there, but she's going to do the half, too. It's her first half as well. She will be gone & done before I can blink, but we'll be there together. Hopefully her other half, Alex, will be with us. I expect my father, brothers, and their families to be there as well. In my head, I have it all planned out. Each mile in my head and heart will be for a specific person. All I have to do now is train and implement my plan.
Do I have a speed goal? My goals are (a) to start it and (b) to finish it the same day I start it. That's it.
The next step was to find a teacher. After researching; calling/emailing several places; & badgering Jody, who badgered Ved, I ended up with two awesome teachers. Do I need two? That question probably should be reworded to, is two enough? Brandon at American Family Fitness, Fredericksburg, is my personal trainer. Katie at Off Da Couch Training, Fredericksburg, is my running coach. Allow me to rave about them separately for a few minutes if you don't mind.
They're both awesome.
My favorite thing about Brandon is that he understands and when he doesn't have an understanding, he works to gain one. He served in the armed forces. While serving in the Middle East, he sustained some injuries. So he understands aches, pains, and recovery. When I told Brandon I walk out the gym door &, since fitness is a novel concept to me, forget everything I learned, he solved the problem by finding an idiot-proof application on my phone for me to use. When I have a pain or a difficulty doing a particular exercise, he figures out the exact muscle or bone that's the source of the pain and crafts a remedy or tweaks an exercise in a certain way to make it work for me. I signed up for a 5k in December, which I didn't do because Mother Nature started producing freezing rain before I had to leave the house, but Brandon intended to do the 5k with me. That is huge because running isn't Brandon's thing at all. It was actually more than huge. It was over the top because not only was he going to run it with me, but he, a young, fit guy, was going to carry a bag with him with 50 pounds of weight in it. See what I mean about how he goes out of his way to understand? Isn't he awesome? Unfortunately, I can only afford sessions with Brandon once every other week, which I have paid for through the end of January. Brandon even helps me work on things that might seem small to some, like walking down steps normally, instead of putting both feet on the same step all the way down, that are extremely important achievements to me. Brandon thankfully isn't Jillian. He genuinely cares about his clients & their accomplishments and even slips a bit of a sense of humor into the work. I think Brandon was the perfect choice to be my strength trainer.
Little things both Brandon & Katie have said have stuck with me. Among many impactful things Brandon has said, that which has affected me the most (so far) is when we were talking about a few different things I want to improve about myself in the areas of fitness, weight, & health, Brandon said, "Why not just change it all at once?" I'm sure he was half joking, but I didn't take it as such. That's what I need: my trainers having that over-the-top level of confidence in me.
Three things, in particular, Katie said that have affixed like glue are, first, the story of her 26.2 tattoo. Her friends, laughing, thought she was crazy for thinking she could/would do a marathon. She did it. The 26.2 on her finger means anything she touches, she can do. I absolutely love Katie's "I don't even like Twinkies" attitude.
Second, I signed up for a C25K ("Couch to 5k") program under Katie's leadership, which was a group class once a week until the first week of December. Right now I'm working on finding the money to continue with her, as I need to do. When I met Katie the first of October, I needed to make sure she understood I needed a coach to get me through the half six months after the C25K class ended. Maybe I was sort of looking for someone to tell me I am crazy. Perhaps that would have pushed me. Into which direction it would have pushed me will remain a mystery. Katie said, "Don't worry. We got you." To some, that might seem like nothing, but it meant the world to me. Katie's a real runner, the gazelle type. Her saying that to me will get me through a rough spot. She has the same confidence in me my brother does. Having the people I have in my corner, how can I go wrong?
Third, and, finally, Katie said something that goes in the crying bucket alongside my brother's buying my half shoes. During the C25K course, I improved to a 25-26 minute/mile. When I shared the info about the half with Katie, she said, "Excellent." Excellent! Not "Impossible," not "Okay," not "Really?" She said, "Excellent." Can you tell why I love her? Then the kicker. She said, "There is no time limit BUT I personally want your miles down to 18 minutes by then." She wants ME doing the half at an 18 min/mi pace??? The confidence pouring out of that statement has me crying even as I'm typing this!
Maybe other trainers are that way, too. I don't know. But Brandon's carrying a 50-pound bag alongside me at a race and Katie's confidence that I will do the half at an 18 min/mi pace put them in the Best Trainers in the World category in my book. Neither has tried to discourage me from my shoot-for-the-moon goals. Exactly the opposite. Does it get better than that? I don't believe it does!
Oh, I almost forgot my third coach. I would be remiss not to include The Penguin, John Bingham. They call him "The Penguin," he says, because he waddles his marathons/half marathons. He's faster than I am! Marathoning for Mortals is the book he co-authored that I read about as slowly as I run so I could savor every word. If I hadn't run before I read his book, I certainly would have afterwards!
As time permits, I'll put my adventures, training, and planning in this blog. And I invite all of you to join me! Besides my half, there's another half, a full marathon, and a 5k that day as well. There's also the pig roast as well as a Hatfield-McCoy festival that weekend. It's a big deal to the folks in that neck of the woods. I know that because in my search for housing during the marathon, I ended up spending half a day on the phone with a fellow by the name of Jeff Hatfield, a down home West Virginian who has an 8-year-old white Boxer with uncropped ears & tail and whose mom is a retired schoolteacher. I ended up reserving a place for us run by two sisters who advertise they have a pie in the oven and "Come sit a spell." When I called, the sister who answered said, "Hold on. I have to find my glasses. I can't hear a thing without them." See why I love West Virginia? I'm going home. I'm going home to race. And if you want to join me and the festivities don't interest you, if nothing else, maybe you could help carry the stretcher I'll need to get my body to the pig roast after the half or you could babysit my animals and house in Virginia while I'm racing!
You might ask what the future holds after the 13.1. I've got my sights on the Honolulu 26.2 December 2015. So if you don't like Twinkies either, maybe you'd care to join me?
Stay tuned to this blog as the journey unfolds. I need to end for now. It's time to hit the pavement :)