New Me Journey — It’s become fun to run

[This doubles as my column in the May 19 issue of The Commercial Review. I’ve added some more at the end to update since the column was published.]

For a vast majority of my life, the extent to which I ran took place on a softball diamond.

It was generally from one base to the next, maybe even two at a time. If I was lucky, I may even be able to run three bases.

And, if my teammates hit it far enough, I could circumnavigate the infield without fear of being tagged out and greet the guy at home plate with a high five for allowing me to strut around the base paths.

In short, I’m not a runner.

Now let me define what I mean by the term “running.”

I use my legs to get from one place to the next in one of two ways — walking or running.

Anything with a pace faster than my walk, I consider running. I just run at different speeds depending on the circumstances.

Ground ball to the shortstop, I’m running fast. Teammate hits a home run (because that is more likely than me doing it myself) I run slowly around the bases.

That was the extent of my running, and I was perfectly content with that level of exertion.

In 2012, though, I ran my first 5K with my sister-in-law and her mother when I was on a health kick. I did one more after that, and I’ve completed the Mad Run in Fort Recovery twice.

All four of those events included walking to catch my breath or to rest tired muscles.

I’m not much of a runner. I’m asthmatic, and my inhaler has become such a part of me that I tend to know where one is at all times, much like most of society does with cell phones.

I changed, however, when the calendar turned over to 2016.

Since the first of the year, I’ve completely altered the way I approach health and fitness. In March 2015 I was at the most I had ever weighed, and after seeing my father drop more than 80 pounds that year I got motivated to change my life.

So over the course of the last five and a half months, I’ve eaten much better than I have before, aside from the occasional El Camino visit. I’ve worked out at the community center six days a week — playing basketball, lifting weights from time to time and …

I’m becoming a runner.

I try to do cardio every day, whether I lift weights or not. Basketball three days a week generally takes care of that, but the other three days I find myself needing to get a good sweat going. In January, that task was fulfilled on an elliptical.

My routine would be to use the elliptical for a half hour or 4 miles, depending on which was longer. Some days I would struggle to get 4 miles. Other days I would blow past that distance, but still quit at 30 minutes.

Then one day, probably the middle of March, I wanted to mix things up to break the monotony. I hopped on a treadmill and gave it the ol’ college try.

Since then, I’ve been able to jog — I mean run, because if I’m not walking I’m running — for longer durations and distances. A couple weeks ago I was able to run 2 miles nonstop, the furthest I’d ever gone.

Last week I ran around Portland on a 2.42-mile rectangle on the southwestern part of the city without needing to take a break to walk, whether from fatigue or the inability to breathe.

Running on a treadmill is easier for me than running on pavement. It is less stressful on my knees and ankles, as well as my hamstrings, calves and quads. I am typically not as sore afterward from running on a treadmill as I am from pavement.

Tuesday, that personal best on a treadmill was pushed to 3 miles.

Wednesday, I made a new running route through Portland, one that was 3.55 miles, and didn’t stop once.

This whole “running” thing isn’t so bad after all.

Cardio has been a big part of my new desire to become healthier and more fit.

As a result of that, as well as eating better, I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds since the first of the year, and I am a shell of who I was when I was at my highest weight 14 months ago.

Running has played a crucial role in the person I am today.

I no longer hate to run. Instead of running only when necessary — like on a softball diamond — I’m beginning to run for pleasure.

I just embrace that I may not be as fast as most people.

I used to be insecure about people seeing me run, but now I want to be seen when I’m out and about, taking it one stride at a time while chasing my health goals.

Now, I think I’ve become a runner.

5-23 treadmill

treadmill readings after running 2-straight miles; 1/4-mile warmup, 2-mile run, 1/4-mile walk, mile run

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[Update: May 23, 2016]

I can’t quite find the words to describe the feeling when I realized I had run (nonstop) for 3.55 miles. But I will try.

First, while running it seemed like I had gone a lot farther. But upon completing, I still felt like I could go more. I wasn’t running at a blistering pace, but after hitting the second mile I was in a groove, and I was just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other for the rest of the way.

I like the new route I had found. It has a little bit more of elevation change than my original rectangle, which is nice.

I’ll conquer that route a few more times than switch it up to something else.

Mad Run 2K16

Speaking of conquering courses, I participated in the Mad Run again on Saturday. For those who are unaware, the Mad Run is similar to a Warrior Dash, but clearly not administered by the same company. It was a 5K-ish course, complete with a ton of obstacles.

In 2014, I ran the course by myself on a badly sprained ankle and finished in 59 minutes, 39 seconds (my goal was under an hour).

Last year, I ran it with a friend, Chrissy, and my goal was to take 10 minutes off my time, given the fact that I was healthy. Instead, we added 10 minutes, which made me mad. However, the reason we added time was not in our control; we had to wait in places as the people ahead of us went through the obstacles.

So this year, Chrissy’s sister joined us, and they let me go on my own in an attempt to beat my goal of finishing faster than my time in 2014.

Mission accomplished.

I finished in 54 minutes. 41.6 seconds … 2:58 faster than 2014, and more than 13 minutes quicker than 2015.

Here are some stats from the run:

  • I was the 93rd person to cross the finish line.
  • My time ranked 276th out of 867 competitors.
  • I was 37th out of 63 males age 30-34.
  • I was 188th out of 367 total males.
  • I completed every obstacle.
  • I wasn’t last.

But it came at a price.

After passing the 3-mile mark, there was an obstacle that consisted of knotted ropes hanging over a wall made of wood that was at an angle of about 45 to 50 degrees. This was one of the obstacles I skipped in 2014, but had no problem doing it last year. Only issue this year is it had rained the previous night so the wall was slick.

I fell from halfway up the 10-foot incline on my first try, and the second attempt I made it to the top. But as I tried to get over the ledge on to the other side, I tweaked the inside of my right knee … the location of the medial collateral ligament (MCL).

I fought through the pain — I figured it was just a sore muscle group from completing the run, because my entire body was sore afterward — and crossed the finish line.

Unfortunately, it hurt the rest of the day, and it was especially painful the morning after when I was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Indy 500 qualifying.

A steady diet of ibuprofen and applying IcyHot throughout the rest of Saturday and Sunday made it better, but I was concerned.

I’ve never had any serious knee issues in my life, with exception to Osgood-Schlatter disease when I was a teenager.

But at 30 years old, while participating in the Mad Run, a torn knee ligament is precisely what I do not need.

I was also worried because, given how active I have been for nearly six months, a knee injury could be a serious setback, which could lead to me putting back on weight I have been working so hard to lose.

Long story short, I found an old neoprene knee brace and went to work out today. I went a full 3 miles on a treadmill without any sort of knee pain. Even as I write this, my knee is fine, but if I bend it a certain way — such as the motion it takes to get in and out of a vehicle — there is a little pain.

I am happy to report that I do not have a torn MCL, or any knee ligament, for that matter. So I can carry on with my drive of getting down to 230 pounds and, hopefully, beyond.

5-23 mad run

pre- and post-Mad Run. bottom from left Jenna, Chrissy and myself

Weight

For a number of weeks I had been struggling (of course) with my weight again. I just couldn’t get close to 240.

However, as I wrote about a few weeks ago, I will not be defined by a number.

On May 5 I had hit my lowest weight of 243.4 pounds (for the second time) but I couldn’t get much lower. I got up to 247 four days later, and eventually hovered around 245 for a few days.

I got discouraged. I fought with myself mentally, wondering if I had hit a plateau.

Could I lose any more weight?

Was my body getting used to the routine?

Was I going to have to do something different, tricking my body? If so, where was I supposed to start to look for alternatives?

The latter hit me the hardest, not knowing if I could mentally get in the right frame of mind, especially given the fact last week, this week and next week have the potential to be extremely busy in terms of my work obligations.

There was no way in hell I’d be able to find time to get on a new regimen. Hell, I was at the laundromat until 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning after work because I haven’t had any other time to do laundry.

So, I continued doing what I was doing. And, the Mad Run helped. After completing the physically grueling, yet fun activity, I dipped below 240 pounds — 238.4 to be exact — to hit a new low weight.

What a relief. I was finally able to get over that hump of 243, then get into the 230s for the first time in who knows how long. That means since Jan. 1 I have lost an even 44 pounds, and dropped 63 since March of 2015.

I’m not done yet, though. My goal is 230. I’m so close. But I’m not going to stop there either.

Reception

The middle of March is when I first noticed a change in my body.

Others have taken notice as well.

The receptionist at work, Kari, has mentioned to me on a few occasions that I need to buy new clothes. (I will, eventually, but I want to be sure of where I’m going to be before I spend hundreds of dollars on a new wardrobe.) She was one of the first people to notice a change, other than myself, obviously.

While at the grocery story, I ran into a friend of mine Adam, whose first words to me upon our paths crossing were, “What’s up, Skinny?” I’m nowhere near “skinny,” but I can fully admit I am skinnier than I used to be. We shared a chuckle over my new nickname.

Saturday, I saw Isaac, who also had kind words to say of my transformation.

Today, while at the grocery store, I ran into Jeff, who I hadn’t seen in a while. He asked if I have been losing weight, to which I gave him the meat and potatoes of what I’ve been doing for the last six months. He then offered some kind words of my appearance.

Those are just a few examples. Some Fort Recovery residents have been saying it for a month or so now. The occasional Jay County resident does also.

It’s pretty cool, honestly. At the very least, each comment is motivation to keep going.

The fact that I bought three new shirts and a pair of shorts (all a size smaller than what I used to wear) on Saturday helps too.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time …

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