The Start of the Journey

So, how do you go about losing 100lbs? Well, there are a few ways you could do it I guess. There’s the bariatric surgery route where they basically shrink the capacity of your stomach, sounds fun right? I’ve always called this the “easy route”… Yeah I know there is the recovery part of it, but really, c’mon guys…it took years to gain the weight…a quick fix isn’t gonna solve the real issue and a good part of the people that choose this route lose the weight and gain a good portion back. Then there’s the biggest loser route…massive diet restriction, work out for HOURS a day-another “healthy” route, right? Far from it. Most of these people gain back what they lost and then some…another quick fix that doesn’t last.  Then there is the slow and steady route; learn to make healthier food choices, consistent exercise, both cardio and weights, and take rest/recovery days. This way you are learning to make lifestyle changes; changes that start off difficult, but become your new daily routine. You may or may not find the root of why you gained the weight, but you learn to adapt, and guess what? This way is usually more successful and long term. So, what did I do? Take a guess… yeah the gradual, consistent, lifestyle change route…now 7 years later and I haven’t gained the weight back. How do you totally overhaul your life? I don’t know, it’s different for everyone, but here’s what I did…

I think one day I just decided to go to the gym. It was inconsistent at first, because it was HARD. Running? The elliptical? Ugh… I knew what I used to be able to do when I was growing up and now just walking up few flights of stairs was rough. I remember the first bike ride… 8 miles and I thought I was going to die, now those 8 miles are my warm up for a long endurance ride. Wow, has that changed. The first run, I couldn’t even make it 1/4 mile without having to stop and it wasn’t even a jog pace. It wasn’t all about exercise though; I also began to track my food…holy cow was I eating a TON. Normal days could top 5000+ calories and it was all filled with fast food, cake, chocolate, a box of mac and cheese, sugary/processed foods, soda, etc.  Once I started to learn portion control, balanced meals, and healthy choices and I took all the “bad” food away, things changed-for the better.  Slowly, the weight began to come off and I noticed I started to feel better. Huh, who would have thought that food could make that much of an impact?

Well, I’m here to tell you now that yeah it does, when I fuel my body with clean, nutrient filled food, I feel more energetic, my mood is better, I just feel alive. When I have a “let’s stray from the clean food” meal, boy do I feel it. Pizza, donut, and cake-I mean really who doesn’t like a few pieces of pizza, a donut, and a piece of cake? That next day, ugh…you can guarantee I’ll be running at 1/2 capacity.  Do I still occasionally have “bad” food, yeah, but not daily. This brings me to fast food…Chipotle is as close as I come to fast food and that’s even a seldom thing. The “other” places, I haven’t touched in a good 5 years. When I saw a photo and documentary showing various meals from “chains” NOT decomposing after a year and beyond…it make me go WTF?? That’s not even food. Food is supposed to break down. Then there’s the soda. I was a diet coke-o-holic until I started this journey. Did you know you can use a lot of sodas- coke in particular to clean stains off of toilet bowls, rust off of cars, etc.?  Yeah, neither did I. Ginger ale does have a “special occasion” moment for me, only when I’m sick to my stomach, but I’ve even tried to go towards just ginger chews. I think we, as Americans are to the point where we mindlessly put stuff in our system and don’t think about what it’s actually doing.  We are looking for quick, easy, stress free meals,  but when things go “wrong”, we gain weight, get sick, develop issues, we are quick to blame and want a quick fix. The thing is though…we all have a choice what we put into our system. You can argue that healthy food is more expensive, isn’t quick, and doesn’t taste good, but if you are creative and educate yourself, you learn that ultimately, it’s less expensive in the long run.  You can also say “I don’t have time to cook” or “I don’t feel like cooking”, but it’s your body, you only get one… why not take the time to take care of it? Fuel it for success and longevity.

Me? Morbidly obese?

So, I recently posted a photo on FB…one of those transformation photos. It still sorta shocks me how big I was and how much progress I’ve made. I’ve always been pretty athletic. Growing up, Poppy (my grandpa) had my sister out in the back yard learning to throw a football, swing a bat and throw a ball, shoot a basketball, etc… the typical tomboy stuff.  We were always outside being active. I started playing softball around the time I turned 5 and kept playing for 12 years. My dad coached a year or so, my Mom, Sister (eventually), Nana and Poppy would come to games, and Poppy would help me practice after he got home from work. I was actually a really good ball player, was fit, and having a blast. Well, middle school hit, dynamics changed, our lives changed a bit, and the weight gain started. I still played softball and all, but every year I got slower and it got harder, I persevered until I was 17, but it was hard and sometimes embarrassing when I couldn’t run as fast around the bases, got winded just running to first base, and couldn’t move as fast to field a ball.  I knew I had gained some weight, but I had no idea I was actually on route to be…obese or even morbidly obese. I didn’t know why I kept gaining weight.  The key… I didn’t know.

I thought I was eating/doing what every other teen was doing, but the fact was, I was eating more than the average teen and was not active enough to even somewhat balance my caloric intake. We still had all the healthy foods growing up, but we also had the junk food. Our lunches we could buy at school, were not balanced by any means…Pizza every day, McDonald’s like breakfasts, yeah it tasted good (at the time), but was it nutritious? Far from it. They did have salads and such, but they looked so unappetizing.  So, if the school served all this other food, it was “good”, right?  Food was food… The thing was, I didn’t know how many calories I was consuming, what a healthy, balanced, or nutritious meal was or that what I was eating was that bad for me. As the weight kept creeping on, I became less active. I would come home from school around 3 and have “pre-dinner” a can of spaghetti-o’s or a sandwich and chips. Then around 6 or 7 would eat dinner and dessert… the standard meat, pasta or potato and maybe (but probably not) a veggie.  This was after of course, my school breakfast sandwich and tater tots, pizza and fries, chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes, tacos etc… You know those “balanced” breakfast/lunches. I knew what I was eating, but didn’t know that is wasn’t healthy. Again, I didn’t know.

So, I graduated high school somewhere around 170-180 lbs. and continued gaining weight through undergrad (all 7 years). My activity levels dropped to almost nothing and my diet continued with the “bad” food.  I did eat more veggies, but bathed in sauces and butter. I topped the scale at around 230 and was a size 24 pant. I thought nothing of stopping by Chick-fil-a or Wendy’s and grabbing a fried chicken sandwich, a large order of chicken strips, large fry, and a soda. (sometimes even a milkshake), 2-3 cupcakes was a serving, candy bar, sure, I’ll take two. Yep, I was borderline morbidly obese.  Shopping for clothes was difficult and depressing, eating out was embarrassing; you know people snicker and talk about how fat you are, they judge. Life was hard.

I get asked a lot: “Why did you decide to lose weight?”, “What triggered it?”, “What did you do?” Honestly, I don’t know why or when I really decided to make a change, but I did. I overhauled my lifestyle, my diet, my thoughts, and my body.  I learned about food, exercise, how to fuel my body. I started to think of food as fuel. How did I want my body fueled? Would I put dirty/greasy/bad gasoline in my car…? No. Why would I put the food equivalent in my body?

Over 6 years or so I dropped almost 100lbs though eating cleaner, healthier, and just moving my body more.  More details on the actual journey later…

We all have choices in life, we can choose to mope around feeling sorry for ourselves, to worry what people think, to eat like I did for years, or we can choose happiness, to ignore what people think, and fuel the body for success.

Was it hard, yes, but so was being obese and unhealthy. Make a choice and choose your hard.

Podiums don’t always make for a win.

This season I had every intention of making this my kick ass season. Top 10 in this race, podium in that race, rest and repeat; you know, the things that people deem “wins”. When last season ended I felt good going into the “off season”.  I had a training plan and goals. Well, life happened and my schedule got crazy busy which left almost no time to ride. My “training rides” became my stress relief and the last thing I wanted to do was a 60 min ride maxing out power. Eventually, I came to the conclusion this season’s goals were now pretty unrealistic. This was actually a very tough thing for me to accept…at that time, but I couldn’t expect to ride at the “elite” level when I wasn’t actually able to train. The good news- my endurance and strength is still there, if not better, but the bad news- the “cycling legs” have taken a hit. Thankfully my time is freeing up, so bike time will be A LOT more frequent!

I’ve only done a few races so far this year (a lot less than my “plan” had). Barry Roubaix, a killer gravel race in Michigan (the weather was less than great – rain/wet and temps between 30-40 degrees) I registered for the 62 mile distance which I’ve done the last 2 years. I bailed at 36 miles solely due to weather and the risk of hypothermia. Next came the OMBC race at Mohican. I decided at the end of last year that I would make the jump to expert class this year. I wanted to push myself to be better and you get better riding with faster, more advanced riders. So, I get to the race, register, get ready, and do my thing. I knew a podium was well out of the picture, so my plan was to ride smart and be more aware. Aware of my nutrition, the terrain, new lines, just more aware. Even with my total lack of training, I pr’d almost every segment. That gave me some hope that the legs would be back sooner than later. Even more though, it showed me that my skills had improved enough to make up for my lack of “legs”. This was a win in my books! Those instructor certifications, clinics, and lessons have paid off!

This weekend I drove over to PA for 6 hours of Brady’s Run. Yeah, 6 hours of riding a mountain bike. What can I say, I like those endurance rides. This was a lap race (7.5 miles according to my Garmin) and I had goals going in 6 laps if I was feeling really good, feeling strong, and was in a good groove; 5 laps (more realistic) if I was going steady and still pretty strong, 4 laps if I just doing “ok” and fatigued faster than I planned.  Temps were favorable, I felt pretty good going in, but that changed once we hit the single track after a lovely gravel road climb. The first lap, the trails were slick, muddy, and just not fun. It sucked a lot of my power and desire to ride. I finished that lap and said “ok, start lap two, if the trail is still a mess, just bail, turn around and walk it out”. Well, each lap the trails got tackier and tackier (in most places) and by lap two I knew a podium was out of the picture, so new goals were set.  Each lap, I was going to use as an opportunity to refine my own skills. I was going to ride something that freaked me out on a previous lap.  So it went like this: Lap 1:  totally new trail, no clue what to expect and wtf is that downhill at the end.  Lap 2: ride the wtf hill at the end. Lap 3: ride the wet log overs and other freak out spots from the first lap.  Lap 4: work on cornering, pedal punch wheelies, and just keep it together. Again, no podium, but each lap I was able to hit my goal! Yes, there were still sections I walked, but I rode within my limits and my limits expanded each lap. Another Win!

This weekend I did a 6 hour race and climbed 4,800 feet, rode 90 minutes with a new friend, and then another 90 minutes doing an orientation patrol for the National Mountain Bike Patrol with my dad (see the photo below he’s demonstrating how to not properly ride a bike). It was a great weekend and it showed me again and again that when you don’t give in, that temporary feeling of being miserable turns into a feeling of I made it, I freaking did it!

I was not raised to just give up and take the easy road; I was taught to dig deep and that good things and feelings are worth fighting for. My motto recently has been “suck it up buttercup and get it done”. This weekend, I got it done…

How it all began

I’ve been told how I live my life and got to where I am today is inspirational, who would have thought, me, inspirational?!? Well, I’m going to roll with it. The idea blogging or really letting people into my bubble is well, kinda scary and after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to give it a shot in hopes that maybe someone can learn from my mistakes and successes.  So, over time I hope to tell my story both on and off two wheels, give some tips, try to figure out why I’ve been placed on this earth, and keep my wheels rolling.

Let’s get started… Today’s ride was hard, not in the terrain or elevation, or really effort. It was a mental and physical one.  I started off less than enthused and for the first, oh, 20 miles I kept asking myself: “Why are you doing this?” “What is it that drives me to continue?” My legs felt like lead, there was a steady head wind, and my stomach felt far from awesome. I set out with the plan of 3-4 hours in the saddle and with each pedal stroke that obnoxious inner voice (you know, the one that tells you “you suck, turn around – you don’t feel good, take the easy way out”) kept saying, this is good enough, just turn at the next “good” place.  Somewhere during the argument with “it”, I decided that I was going refocus my mind and turn this ride into a stop and smell the roses and just be in the moment kind of ride. It was by far not my best ride, but in some ways it actually was, it was the ride that led me here.  My thoughts shifted from identifying everything that made me want to quit, to why I began and what makes me keep going.  I started riding and racing because of a personal trainer that inspired me to give it a shot. I was working with her because I noticed my weight was starting to creep back up to a “Oh, Hell No” place and well, I wasn’t going back there. (More on this later). Being on a bike gave me this freeing, exhilarating, peaceful, powerful, and overall sense of adventure that I was craving. It showed me that I was stronger than that voice, that I could climb that hill, I could ride through those rocks, and so much more. That feeling of rolling back home after riding your thoughts out, riding though those hard moments, showing yourself you can and will, is what brings me back. That feeling of “girl (or dude), you got this and you just did it” is what I want to give to others. It’s such an indescribable feeling, but once you experience it you know it and crave it.

So, today I ended up riding a lil over 3 hours and almost 50 miles through a head wind, tired legs, an upset stomach, and most importantly, I rode through and right over that voice that told me to stop because “Girl, I’ve got this”.