Yet, for some odd reason, when I started this lifestyle journey more than four years ago; I felt strongly compelled to start writing things down.
I had no road map and I KNEW I was headed somewhere totally new. So I followed my gut feeling and started writing in a journal.
These books are deeply personal and have become cherished time capsules of my adventures. They also happen to be largely a chaotic mess and perfectly inconsistent. 🙂
They were never written or designed for anyone else to see…
Race bibs crookedly taped in. Notes people have lovingly written to me stuck in random pages. Cryptic and short hand notes about blood sugar readings and countdowns of units of insulin scratched in the margins. Reminders to stay focused. Indications I was elated, terrified, frustrated. LOTS of numbers; weight, blood sugar, insulin units, running paces. Pictures taped in that SHOW my story.
I am not a fan of spending a lot of time looking back. Having said that, sometimes you really do need a dose of perspective. A solid reminder, from your own point of view, of all the work you’ve done, all the good that’s happened, how hard you’ve fought for progress or change.
Collectively these journals remind me how excruciatingly small, but critical, some of the steps really were.
These pages also remind me that I was intent – from the very beginning – on building a new lifestyle. A sustainable lifestyle.
This was never about a diet. Or about losing weight. Or even about running.
This was always about trying to find health and LIFE and learning to be in love with being active.
I feel oddly grounded with these books in my hands and my eyes on their pages.
They contain my dreams and goals and hopes and wild longings…
I want to run. On trails. Actually, I want to be fit enough to do anything active if I’m lucky enough to be invited.
I want to wear normal sized clothes. Cute, fun, sexy, NORMAL sized clothes.
I want to learn to eat only when I’m physically hungry and my body is asking me for healthy food.
I want to be alive and healthy to watch my nephews grow up.
I want to reverse type 2 diabetes.
My journals never mocked or hesitated or questioned or doubted. They never shot down my goals with reality. 🙂
My journal pages have captured my thoughts and emotions and hopes.
He didn’t want me to have to run alone. Seriously. That is the sole reason he decided, with less than 24 hours notice, to run a 50K.
When I tell people Jeff is like the little brother I always wanted and never had — can you see why?
You’ll read his account of his accidental 50K , but I have one of my own stories about this epic adventure to share with you first…
Jeff KNEW he had to fuel (consume calories) to be able to endure this event. Josh and Spencer had hammered home that point perfectly. But at the first tiny taste of the Gu he had picked out the night before at the grocery store, he refused to eat his fuel.
He hated the flavor and texture.
This episode occurs like 3 miles in on a 31 mile day.
He was flat out refusing to eat his energy gels.
I start yelling at him, begging, pleading, I even told him at one point to just plug his nose and swallow the damn stuff… He just kept looking at me (all of this is happening while we were running) and saying ‘No.’ And then would lift the Gu packet to his face and without tasting it — he would make a face and gagging sounds.
After several frustrating miles, we eventually reached a compromise of sorts.
We traded gel flavors.
After some serious coaxing he finally decided to try, and liked my salted caramel flavored Gu’s. I wound up with his barely-tolerable Raspberry flavored Gu’s.
I mean only TRUE friends would give up their Salted Caramel flavored Gu’s just to help someone else through a race.
Thank you Jeff for embedding and creating such happy and cherished memories into an event that I will remember with pure joy for the rest of my life.
Take it away Jeff, my accidental ultrarunning friend…
Bets loves telling this story.
This was her first 50K, and I was privileged to share the experience with her.
Yes—on accident, I had the privilege to race with her! I was not supposed to run this thing. And, not to mention, I had not raced since high school, and even then, those were 5Ks!
So, in this single race, I ran my first 10K, half-marathon, marathon and ultra.
Bets told me “Jeff this is something we HAVE TO SHARE!!!”
Think of all the stories that would be in ONE race weekend report!”
I said “Ok!”
First thing: I DO NOT want to downplay how much work Bets put in on this race… her first Ultramarathon. She wants to be an ultrarunner and this 50K (~31 miles) was her golden ticket to becoming that runner. She worked her butt off for this race. Almost literally. 🙂 She. Trained. HARD!
Meanwhile, I was running maybe 2-3 times per week with her (on her short distance days) and she was putting in 5-6 days a week training for this crazy thing. She asked me to travel with her, mostly just as support from the start line, aid station, and finish line.
I was promised there would be little running involved.
“Absolutely, I am in.”
The idea was that I would travel to The North Face Endurance Challenge (TNF50) in San Francisco with Betsy, Spencer, Hannah, Josh, and Wendie, as their friend. Not a runner.
Wendie and I would crew for everyone else. Basically, we would load shoes, water, Gu’s, and lube in a backpack and jog between aid stations.
Sounds like fun to me!
When we flew in to California, Josh mentions he is not feeling well.
I don’t think about the comment too much, other than Josh had planned on running with Bets. I knew she might be a little nervous about going alone.
The next day [pre-race day], we drive to San Francisco and pick up running bibs. When we get back to the house, Josh, Spencer and I go out on a “shake-out” run. About 2 miles in on this slow, flat, dry run I make a comment to Josh,
“You know, if you are too sick to run tomorrow, I think I could run with Bets.”
They both looked at me with shocked faces, and then responded with huge smiles and yelling, “F%*# Yeah!” The context for their original shocked faces is that, up to this point, I was adamant to anyone that would listen that I was not a runner. Just a friend of Betsy’s who liked being outside.
The fact that I expressed interest in the run, was a little out of left field.
Bets, Wendie, and my Mother (not on the trip) did not share the exact, instantaneous, enthusiasm of the guys.
“You have never run a 10K race before, let alone a f@#$ing 50K on trails!” – anonymous
Josh did end up being too sick to run… and the teaching began. Between Josh and Spencer, I “learned” how to run an ultramarathon at the dining room table in our rented Yellow Ferry Boat.
I have never listened to anyone so intensely before in my life. I learned how to eat a Gu (NASTY- snot textured sugar packet), when to take a salt-tab, when to eat an Imodium (extremely important to keep the Gu in), how much water to drink, how to run downhill.
I listened to every single word.
Still today, I proudly quote Josh Gum before starting a long run.
Race day arrived.
We woke up early, covered our feet in this nasty paste lube and sent Spencer off on the 50 miler. Meanwhile, Bets, Hannah, and I, had an hour to sit around and process the ridiculousness of what was about to happen. I remember saying (several times),
“wait… this is going to take how long?!!”
In my head, I know I can do this. Bets and Josh keep telling me this is about mental toughness.
That is 99% true, if you have trained for your race!!!
If I can leave you with anything from this blog? Train for races. Whether you train with a coach or from a variety of online sources, it makes a difference.
This picture was from Bets and I at the “start” of the race, when I had run my first 10K (6.2 miles). No biggie.
This is fun.
We were having so much fun! Stomachs weren’t upset, we had climbed less than 1,000’ in elevation, laughing the entire way.
Life was good.
Then came mile 16ish.
Both of us may have fallen just a little behind on fuel and we had some upset stomachs.
[Short preface: Bets told me I could go this far into detail in the story.]
This is a nice way to say that we left some dignity in the bushes along the course. Apparently, pride stays in the rental van when nature calls during ultrarunning.
The trails were a slippery, muddy mess from the rain storm the day before, so people were really not paying attention to our bathroom trail side-excursions… Well, except for one poor gentlemen who followed Bets off the trail, thinking that was the course. I didn’t know what to say, so I just yelled,
“NO!!! She’s pooping!”
Let’s just say Bets was not impressed with me announcing that fact to a squadron of runners.
Then came mile 26.
This is the point where a normal marathon stops!
We still had 6 more miles – with hills – to go.
Here was my attitude at the time when Betsy asked for a selfie…
This part of the race hurt.
It hurt really bad. Every muscle ached. I was sure this was what death felt like.
She was smiling, but holy crap this was HARD!
I know at some point I laid down by a porta-potty and asked Bets if she could,
“just leave me here to die.”
After a few choice words were thrown at me, I picked myself up and onward we limped.
The trail was absolutely beautiful… In hindsight. We could see down onto the Golden Gate Bridge, out towards the water on one side and beautiful valleys on the other.
All we could talk about… Pizza and beer. Bets talked about pizza and I talked about how I could taste the beer. No more disgusting watered down sugar packets. This was our conversation for the last 6 miles. Pizza and beer.
We came across the finish line happy for the picture, but it was really time to be done.
We finished a few seconds past the 8 hour mark.
Looking back, it’s hard to think about how tough the run really was, because I keep thinking about how much fun I had running with a great friend.
We kept each other mentally strong and now have some really great stories to tell.
I would go back in a heartbeat, but NOT for a 50 miler. 🙂
‘This might be a touchy topic Bets, but you should talk frankly about what you think about obesity now that you are no longer in that medical category.’
Here are my thoughts on that topic… 🙂
At the time Shay sent me this note, I noticed a theme in my Facebook feed content; postings on fat acceptance, being ‘fat and happy’, miracle cures for rapid weight loss, rampant and not-very-subtle, fat shaming. (Thin shaming is prevalent and malevolent as well, as my friend Taryn would remind me…)
I feel that 80% of what I typically see is crap aimed at ‘helping’ people feel like there is a quick/effortless answer or trying to aggressively sell the ‘magic bullet’ to losing weight and getting healthy.
The part that I think is largely absent is discussion about managing and solving the oncoming tidal wave of issues headed our way given that 68.8% of our TOTAL U. S. population is currently estimated to be overweight or obese.
Let me say that again…
68pointfreaking8 percent of our U. S. population is currently overweight or obese.
A lot of the information out there is about ‘losing weight and getting healthy’, quick fixes or ‘loving who we are no matter what we look like’… There is not a lot of discussion to be found about solving the core issues surrounding the topic of obesity.
The hard issues and truths.
These are brutally difficult discussions to have because they are about people, their body and their very personal relationships to food/health/society.
So let’s take me for example. I mean, people approached me about my weight periodically. And no matter what ANYONE tried to say or how they tried to say it, here is all that I ever HEARD…
‘Hey, Betsy, I can see you’re fat.
I don’t know if you know that.
Being fat is not a smart life-choice. It’s not healthy. I’m sure no one has ever told you that.
Research backs me up.
I see a heart attack waiting to happen. I see that you are physically uncomfortable with every breath you take. And while you keep yapping about how you’re happy and healthy, I really think you’re protesting so loudly about being ‘happy’ because you’re trying to convince yourself that being fat and unhealthy is OK.
I think you’re too lazy to do the work to make your life different.
Why can’t you do a little work to try to save your own life?
Why can’t you just eat less and get moving..?”
THAT conversation – and variations on it that occurred over the years – never went well no matter who said it, how it was phrased or how loving or well-intentioned they might be in trying to help me find a path to health…
I really think they thought I would listen and not be defensive and immediately change everything I was doing…
What would happen when someone tried to talk to me about losing weight? I would listen, thank them politely for their concern, be utterly humiliated and go find comfort food. Lots of comfort food. And then spend the rest of my life avoiding the person who tried to talk to me…
I obviously have some level of understanding on both sides of this issue now.
I hid from the conversations – real and imaginary – for years. Clinging with longing to those messages and ideas being pushed at me to demand that I be accepted exactly as I was, that society at large (pun intended…) is the one who had the problem with ‘fat acceptance’. Not me. Not my problem if they couldn’t accept what I looked like.
I was part of the obese population and related health problems for a very long time. I didn’t want to face the core issues with my obesity and subsequent lifestyle-induced Type 2 diabetes. I wanted to convince those around me I was fine. I wanted everyone to accept me as I was. I desperately wanted everyone to think I was a beautiful human inside and out. And there were endless conversation with friends looking for affirmation that I was indeed loved and worthy no matter my size.
From where I sit now… I can see that all of my posturing and fervent hoping was simply a way to avoid the core issues that I faced.
I was obese and unhealthy and didn’t want to do the work to NOT be obese. It is a hard work to change that kind of chronic thinking. And it is incredible amounts of on-going, non-stop work, to change life-long habits surrounding food and exercise.
Here’s what I think we need to acknowledge…
Obesity remains a taboo topic.
We have to quit ignoring the hard conversations about how obesity, and all that relates to it, is killing us and robbing our quality of life.
We need to talk openly about how the way to health, from obesity, is in most cases going to be a lot of hard, un-fun, not-sexy, work.
People need to take personal responsibility for their health and quit blaming ‘society’, genetics, life… Those play a role, but in most cases they don’t have to OWN us…
So I’m going to do the only thing I can think to do…
I’m going to work, intentionally and consistently, to help shift the conversations with those around me.
I will talk less about weight and scales and talk more about fitness and quality of life and health.
I will be thoughtful about moving conversations away from diets and tricks and toward talking about life-long, healthy choices.
And I want to talk purposefully and thoughtfully about reclaiming our LIVES from the grip of obesity while we still have the time and ability.
‘You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do. Act accordingly. — Colin Wright