Last February I joined an online Weight Loss Challenge Group hosted by my good friend Karen. I have always been athletic and at a healthy weight for my height, but let’s get real. Having two kids, loving to cook and bake, and living most of my adult life chasing little kids around as my only form of exercise, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. (Yes, those of you who know me….after high school and until I was 33 years old I was not a runner. Family hikes and occasional workout DVD’s were my only purposeful exercise). It was a time to focus on family and I loved every second of it.
When running came into my life, I started feeling really in shape for the first time. I felt a renewed sense of health that I hadn’t had before …especially when I increased my distance from 5K to 13.1 and eventually a marathon. I was in a good groove; however, two moves 800 miles away, in two years, and two new jobs in those new towns left me feeling like I didn’t have the time or energy to put into running and working out. 2013 was a very stressful year for our family for a lot of reasons. We were between the moves, wanting to move back to PA to be near our family. We were dealing with a lot of stress, both financially and health-wise (my father became very sick and was in the hospital for weeks). Needless to say, running took a back burner. I still ran a few times a week when I could but did not train for any races or do any other type of exercise. Most of my energy was put into applying for jobs and packing up the house to move back to PA! We left behind some good friends, but the move needed to happen.
Thankfully it worked out, and in the summer of 2014, after getting settled into our new life, jobs, and community. The following spring I began to train for my first race in about a year: the Gettysburg North-South Marathon. It was my fourth marathon, and I ended up with a nagging hip injury a few weeks out but was still able to do the race. It wasn’t my best race at all, as I was under-trained and not in the best shape. My nutrition wasn’t what it should have been. Although we have always eaten a healthy diet for the most part, I wasn’t thinking of food as fuel the way I do now. I wasn’t doing any form of cross training, lifting, or regular stretching. I was pretty much doing the minimal. I think I finished in 4:30 something.
I can see the difference in my body between now and then just looking at these pictures. I love myself no matter what, but it makes me realize how much stronger I’ve become and how much my hard work is paying off!
One good thing that did come out of my Gettysburg training was that I took the plunge during training and signed up for my first trail race. A half marathon on hard snow and ice around a frozen lake with freezing temps and the best soup and candy at the finish line. I became hooked on trails and pretty much knew that Gettysburg would probably be the last road race finish line that I would cross in a long time (maybe ever?).
I still trained on roads for logistics purposes in 2016, but I focused on getting ready for my first 50K race: The Ironmaster’s Challenge 50K. After my first trail race I decided that an ultra had to be in my future! I did some long runs on trails once a week but didn’t make trails a priority like I should have for that training. I planned to add more trails around February or March, but that never happened because I ended up with a stress reaction behind my knee. (Again, NO cross training, NO lifting, and minimal strengthening).
I decided it was time for a change so here is where Karen’s online Weight Loss Challenge came into play. I knew I could be stronger. I knew I could feel better running. And I knew I could hone in on my nutrition to optimize my potential. I just needed to be held accountable and to start putting a plan into action.
I had a goal of losing 10 pounds I think. For my petite stature (5’1″) 121 pounds was not an ideal running weight. I didn’t like how my shorts or pants were fitting and it was impacting my running. I just didn’t feel very strong or swift on my feet. The knee injury only added to my good fortune as I became a crazy stationary cyclist to log my miles (all while watching You Tube videos on ultra running nutrition), and I even began to lift weights and work on my core. I started to see more definition in my muscles over the first month or two of the challenge and I was doing really well. I was finally on track and getting the results I wanted to see. I have always loved the feeling after a good run (and still do of course), but I was gaining new appreciation for the feeling in your muscles after a good lifting session.
Here is a before and after that I took at the beginning and end of this challenge:
I started to keep a food journal and made sure to eat plenty of protein, healthy fats, minimal sugar, and minimal carbs (except for long run days!). I cut out all processed foods and made sure to eat mostly whole foods. Even for snacking. Breakfast was oatmeal or eggs with fruit. Lunch was a healthy salad with avocado and veggies. Dinner was a lean protein and veggies. For a snack it was plain Greek yogurt with PB2, honey and ground flax, fresh popped popcorn, or nuts.
I can see the difference in my body between now and then just looking at these pictures. I love myself no matter what, but it makes me realize how much stronger I’ve become and how much my hard work is paying off! I mean, I’m going to be running a crazy tough 50 mile course in less than four months, so I need to be strong and ready!
I’m proud to say that I have continued my lifting and core routine since this time last year. I aim for 2-3 sessions per week and am currently trying to figure out when to add a steady leg routine in as well. I am a much more well rounded runner and feeling strong on the trails (and roads when I have to run them). I feel light on my feet and the newly found strength in my core has paid off tremendously over the long distance. I have my nutrition figured out. I am getting out on the trails 2-3 times per week during this training cycle. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been this fit in my whole life. I surpassed my 10 pound goal and my body has found it’s happy place which I am maintaining well with my current training and nutrition. What an amazing feeling!
Excuse the poor lighting on this next one. It’s not like me to post random pictures like this, but I think it shows how I am feeling inside. Strong, confident, and ready to put in more work to conquer the Cayuga Trail 50 mile race.
or at least get to the finish line in one piece…
Hell of an elevation chart, right?
Thankfully I have my girl Jen to share food ideas with, talk training, and all things ultra trail running. We will both be going up and down the hills of Cayuga in June, cruising (or rolling) to the finish line, whatever it takes.
So that is, in a nutshell, how I got to where I am now. If you read this far, thank you for sticking with it. You must have some serious endurance. Have you ever thought of running an ultra? 😉