Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I have mentioned before that I rate trails on a fun/work scale. The higher number the better. There is another way to manipulate the equation: Adding speed makes fun go up...until you crash.

Still, the adrenaline rush makes up for an occasional crash, at least for me. I love to ride fast. Just sayin'.

I am KOM (King of the Mountain) on several Strava segments for my age group and have respectable times overall. For example,

Lower Big Springs DH 1 out of 81


Frosty's Big Springs DH 1 out of 52

My respectable overall times include a second place for another segment and a 5th for another out of 231. 

Balls McGralls 2 out of 681

Most people think I must have a screw loose to be charging down a dirt trail at 36.5 mph. Although probably true, there is some technique involved that adds both speed and safety.

1. Equipment

High Roller II's by Maxxis are the best thing out there. 

They roll fast, grab dirt and clear mud. One of the most important components of speed is to be able to go as horizontal as possible in turns. If your tire can stay attached to the dirt and not wash out, you can take the turn much faster. For example, 

You can watch the video version here

Brakes go from good to critical at higher speeds. Don't skimp. Check your brakes often and bleed them as necessary. 

Wide bars are better!

Body armor can help mentally while riding and physically in a crash. I wish I had been wearing some here: 

2. Technique

At high speeds, you should rarely be touching your saddle and your saddle should be far lower (for me, 4 inches lower) than it is positioned while climbing. Your knees, hips and to some degree your ankles are your best suspension. 

Focus is critical. You need to anticipate the next turn or obstacle and decide, based on trail conditions, what you will do when you get there. You also need to be aware of new obstacles that were not on the trail on your way up, such as people, dogs and wild animals. Elk, mouse grouse and deer are all common trail sharers. 

In following my cycling partner, Jonathan, who is faster than I am, I have noticed skid marks that start very late right before a turn. He hits his brakes hard, even locking them up, as late as possible right before a turn then accelerates into the turn and after. He learned this as a Porsche dealer. 

Trust your bike...unless you settled. I trust my bike do perform how I need it to. I don't have to worry about it. 

Drifting is way cool. Drifting is basically a controlled skid and recovery. If you get really good at it, you can do a two wheel drift and some guys can even drift on slick rock. to learn how to drift, watch this video. 

3. Insanity

I admit that I am a little insane on a bike. That insanity helps with speed for sure. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

St George Marathon Plan

I'm still not sure why, but the St George, Utah marathon did not fill up this year through the normal lottery process. Registration opened up for about a week and I took full advantage. I had not planned on running another marathon in my life, but am happy to make a St George exception at the encouragement of my wife who has run it several times.

There are some trail ultras in my future, partly because of this, but my pavement marathon days are numbered. Why? Pavement marathons are unnatural. I realize the oddity of that statement. Running 50 - 100 miles on dirt seems unnatural enough. I am more talking about the toll pavement takes on a body. Although humans are physiologically intended to cover great distances over varied terrain, we are not constructed by evolution to stress such a limited muscle range in such a concentrated period of time as required by a pavement marathon.

The best reason to run a pavement marathon is the event itself. The pre-race expos, speakers, other runners, cheering fans and witnessing the pure life accomplishment for many make for a satisfying two days.

Since this is likely my last marathon, I want to do well. I got my training plan off of runkeeper.com with some modifications. For example, I will be running four days per week instead of five as suggested. I will make up the difference with some heavy cross-training. I refuse to give up mountain biking. I will also add in some high rep weight lifting and core strengthening along with some plyometrics. According to Janae Jacobs, the Hungry Runner Girl, her best marathon came after incorporating a spin class into her training.

I plan on weighing in at 205 the day of the marathon. I am currently at 227. This puts me in the Weight over 40 category. I am a big fan of weight categories in endurance races. They encourage participation to a demographic most at risk. Last year's top ten results had the slowest runner in the category at 3:49:44. I have made this my goal time.

The elevation map makes the run look rather easy. There is a ton of downhill, but according to Golden Harper, former course record holder for his age group, there is a ton of up hill and a strong need to train on hills.  Golden also expressed the importance of holding back and negative splitting. Quad shredding will doom the end of the race.

I will be doing a significant amount of trail running (another recommendation from Janae), mostly because I prefer it. I have a rule, however, to do at least one pavement run per week.

So we will see what happens. I will be posting training updates occasionally.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Altra Co-Fouder, Brian Beckstead, Runs Boston Backward then Forward, Negative Splits

After 52.4!

Since I last wrote about Altra, a lot of new, awesome stuff has come out. I still race in the One2. Check out this video...

Seriously, it feels like you are running barefoot on a wrestling mat. I prefer them for runs under seven miles. They weigh 5.9 ounces which is just a little more than the weight of a Double Whopper and 20 times better for your health. There is a new version coming out which I have seen but have not run in.

There are four new shoes that I have tried and love three of the four. If there were no Lone Peak 2, I might love the Superior 2, but in a head to head battle, the Lone Peak 2's are always my shoe of choice. Lighter people seem to like the Superior 2 better. It is thinner and lighter. The issue for me is that I am throwing 230 lbs plus vertical and angular momentum onto my shoes with every step. I need a little more cushion.

The Lone Peak 2 is ridiculously grippy, durable and perfectly cushioned. The rock guard sandwiched in the sole absorbs sharp spots effectively. So far I have logged about 400 miles on my first pair and have already purchased a second pair to alternate. 

The Provision 2 is a stability shoe that solves my wicked pronation issues. Its StabiliPod technology does something I don't understand but like when I run in them. It also has a built in stability wedge that helps with pronation as well. I use this shoe for runs longer than 7 miles on pavement.

Finally, Brian Beckstead ran Boston this year in the new Torin 2's...twice. He ran it backward before the race started then forward and negative split.

Brian after completing Boston backward

I asked him what shoes he ran in. His comment, "The Torin 2. It exceeded my high expectations." I will be testing these over the next several weeks. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Wild Side of Mountain Biking and Trail Running

Bighorn at the mouth of Provo canyon

Although uncommon, wildlife encounters are anything but rare in the mountains near my house. Last night my son Joseph and I were traversing a fire road in Provo canyon on our way to some singletrack he had never done when we say the Bighorn in the picture. 

The Bighorn was not at all afraid of us and just kept eating when he first saw us. His lack of fear put a little fear into me. I had to think about what might happen if he got angry and charged me, or worse, charged at Joseph. 

We stood there for several minutes watching until he decided to move on. 

This was not my first wildlife encounter in the mountains by my house or in other remote locations. I have come up on a herd of Elk at Big Springs as well as an enormous bull moose and a baby. I have had a huge rattlesnake sit on a slickrock ledge that was my only exit point from a plateau. I had to kick small rocks at it to get it to move on. Near Little Baldy, I rode through a flock of turkeys and got chased by one I assume was the mother. 

My friend, Seth Wold, got attacked by a Rattlesnake on a trail run. 

The beautiful landscape is always there and makes the bike or the run that much better, but every once in a while you end up with an epic wildlife encounter.

What have you seen on your own runs and bike rides?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Utah Valley Marathon Race Report -- Euphoria Goes Up To Eleven

Close to infinity porta-potties....still long lines.


At 5:50 in the morning, I had dropped of my sweats, a water bottle and a half eaten bagel to be collected at the finish line in four hours. I had pulled up Strava, queued up my music and waited in a massive cluster of people for the starting gun. At 5:59, I started Strava and hit play. The gun went off 30 seconds later, and no one around me moved. It took three minutes to cross the start line. The music, temperature and taper were all perfect, and I felt great. So great, in fact, that I decided to run my body instead of the course and thereby abandoned my race strategy, which was to hold back.

Although it was a big mistake from a strategy standpoint, it was well worth it. Never in my life had I felt so good for so long while running. The endorphins were surging, the planets aligned, the world was perfect for about eight miles.


My wife and coach made me promise that I would hold back. I thought I was. I did not carry any way to tell how fast I was going, and the speed felt pedestrian. All of the literature suggests that you should hold back to finish strong, but that would have come at a cost that I suppose I was unwilling to pay. The trade-off for the early euphoria was an eight mile bonk that slowed me down to occasional walking pace from mile 18 to 26.

The other critical, strategic mistake was to have heavily favored trail miles to asphalt miles. I had not run more than 13 on asphalt prior to the marathon. When I sign up for my next marathon later today I will make sure I get at least two 20 mile asphalt runs in a few weeks prior. Trails are still way better.

Flash Forward:

It was not until after the race that I looked at my splits and realized what a big strategic mistake I had made. I PR'd (personal record) everything up to a half marathon. I had a 22 minute 5K for heaven's sake. That is way too fast for me for a marathon, but it sure felt good.


Conditions were perfect. The temperature was in the low fifties for the first half marathon. As I turned down the canyon at about mile ten I was faced with an unexpected head wind. Janae Jacobs (Hungry Runner Girl) reports that the wind "was so strong that everyone I talked to finished about 10 minutes slower than their training predicted." Janae had a tough experience and still qualified for Boston. Her report is worth reading. 

Having some experience with distance events (Lotoja, Desperado Dual, etc), I had my wife meet me at about mile 21 with a fresh pair of comfy shoes, clean socks, a banana, otter pops and a full sugar Dr. Pepper and a caffeinated accel gel. I had already downed two accel gels, sport legs, salt tablets and Excedrine at the start then again at mile 13 (less the Excedrine). I ate one otter pop, had two swallows of Dr. Pepper and was shooed away by my coach. The socks and shoes were sublime. My mom came with my wife and helped swap my timing chip to the new shoes. The old ones were Altra Torins. They were great, but I was starting to get a few hot spots. I switched over to Altra Olympus' and thought I was running on the moon. They were dreamy.

Mom helping move my timing chip over to the other shoes

I had been plagued by low back pain for two days before the marathon. A chiropractor at the expo said that there was not much that could be done and to just run.


My low back started to tighten as I hit the first hill at mile eight. I adjusted my stride to compensate. That has left me with some residual soreness that I don't think I would have had otherwise.


At 5:30 that morning, I saw our old friend Sherisa Snoddy. We used to live near her and her husband Bill. They are both avid runners, and it was great to see her. I need to run with Bill soon. 

I am looking rather chipper for 5:30 AM


I got passed by Sherisa at about mile 20. She was on her way to finishing at her four hour goal. 


I crossed the finish line 4:11. That was eleven minutes slower than my goal. I don't fell badly about a slower than expected finish. I came in 15th out of 57 in my division. The finish food was great. They had creamies, protein drinks, cinnamon rolls, chocolate milk and other great food. It was there that I saw who looked to me like my old friend Stan Villalobos.

Stan trying to avoid getting salty from my sweat stains

I was not sure, so I said nothing. Later when I was standing in line to get a glorious massage, I saw him again and yelled "Stan!" He recognized me immediately. We hugged and caught up.

Spiritual Aside:

Stan is a spiritual giant. We had overlapping ecclesiastical responsibilities when we both lived in Arizona. Whenever we dealt with difficult issues, Stan always seemed to come up with solutions that had spiritual sanction. I looked up to him then and still do. 

Later that day at Walmart, after consuming a philly cheese steak sandwich, I happened upon running legend John Bozung. I first heard of him in cursed tones as some of my ultra friends spoke of the hell that is Bozung Hill. John is the founder and directory of the Squaw Peak 50 Ultra. The hill is gnarly. It took my very fit friend 45 minutes to run one mile up the hill. John holds the current world record for consecutive months running a marathon. It is somewhere close to 300 straight months. How cool is that? I hope to interview him soon. 

I really, really, really want to get into St George. If anyone has a connection, I will be eternally grateful. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Taper Week Sickness -- There are Benefits

I spent the day in bed yesterday with low fever, aches and fatigue. How could that possibly be a good thing, you ask. The silver lining is two fold. One, it forced me to rest...I heave a tendency to go ham when I should hold back. In fact, 50% of my marathon strategy is to force myself to hold back early in the race so that I can finish strong.

Two, I was not going crazy wanting to run. Monday was a designated rest day that drove me mad. Every time I saw a runner, I was green with envy. I wanted to put my shoes on and go. I was sick enough yesterday that I had no desire to run or do much of anything but sleep.

I feel better today...about 70%. I will rest today and tomorrow, do a short run on Friday and hope to be 100% by start time on Saturday. Weather conditions seem to be perfect. It should be about 40 degrees at the start and will only get to 76 for a high. I am not left with many excuses.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Once Per Year Road Bike Experience

Varden, Desi, Irina, Josh, Alison, Phil, Becky and me

Late Saturday I received a text from the great Irina Wong, road biker, mountain biker and canyoneerer extraordinaire. She, her husband Josh and several others were going to bike the Alpine Loop. I considered my post half marathon state and opted in. We left at 7:00 AM in a group of 12. It was a great ride up to the top as conversation flowed, and we laughed a lot. The push from the mouth of Provo Canyon to Sundance Ski Resort is HC category climb with segments that are less steep at 2 and 3. Phil Graham, the rider straddling his bike in the picture, is an animal. He and I led the climb for a while. Phil was breathing easily while I was pulling in as much air as fast as I could. I was about at my limit and he would sprint ahead or go back down to check on the rest of the group.

These are such good people. As much as I would rather not road ride, being in their company is always great and made my once/year experience worth it. Other than the great company, the views were spectacular. There are not many better mountains than Tmpanogos.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Timp Trail Marathon and Half Report

Trail conditions were perfect. It had rained lightly the night before and some that morning making the trail soft and grippy with no mud. The weather was also perfect. it was cool with full cloud cover and occasional misty rain. The marathoners took off as a group at 6:00. They encountered the Green Monster about an hour and a half later. This thing is a beast. I ran it, better said, I power hiked it several weeks ago as part of my training. It begins at mile 12 and ends at mile 16. Brutal! Two runners tied for first and set a new course record with a 3:30 finish. Given the terrain and the elevation gain, this is a great time.

I had trained for the full marathon, but opted for the half in order to optimize for a strong finish in the Utah Valley Marathon on June 14th. The half marathon started at 8:00. I would guess there were 70 of us. My training was good, the day was perfect and everything aligned for a strong finish. I was hoping to beat 2:30. I had run the same course a week prior as part of an 18 mile run and had finished the course in 2:50. My friend John Aznar asked where I planned to make up the 20 minutes. I told him I would not talk to a guy on the trail for ten minutes as I had done and that I thought with rest, I could drop another 10.

I felt good the entire way. It is a steep course with 2400 feet of elevation gain. I learned a lot on the run. I followed one guy who was careful to cut to the inside of every turn to minimize the total distance. The guy, call him Bob for now, had clearly done several of these runs. I suppose all of the cutting to the inside of the turns adds up by the end of the run.

I learned that sometimes you are better off walking really steep stuff. It is all about energy conservation. I got passed on a hill by two guys on a steep section. By the time I got to the top, seconds after they did, they were doubled over, heaving and I was able to start running again. I never saw them for the rest of the race.

Maybe the biggest lesson is that it is really hard to pass people on a narrow trail while running down hill. I was slowed by two groups that I could only pass when the single track turned into double track. I can descend fast and lost some time on the two largest descents.

Finally, I learned that placement is a big deal for some people. I saw Bob, bobbing along near the end of the race ahead of me. I was pushing pretty hard at the time and passed Bob in the last fifty feet. I crossed the finish line seconds ahead of him. As I was standing in line to get my shirt and a bowl of chili, Bob tapped me on the shoulder and asked my age. He was relieved that we were not in the same category because I would have bumped him in the rankings.

I crossed at 2:23 according to my GPS. I am delighted with the result and look forward to more races this summer, in the fall, and, well, forever.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Well, it happens

I was feeling confident and fast on Saturday morning. I was one week out from a trail half marathon and decided to run the course and add on the distance from my house to the start line. That added about 5.5 miles for a total of about 18.5 with a  lot of elevation gain and on fairly familiar trails. I had just come out of a sustained climb and had started to pick up speed when I stepped too close to the side of the narrow trail, missed seeing a camouflaged root, tripped and in milliseconds was sprawled out over the trail with cuts, abrasions, embedded pebbles, slivers and a lot of pain. Being a mountain biker, this was all familiar. I waited for about 30 seconds, assessed the damage, got back up and started to run again. One mile later, I went down again and further scraped my right knee. This kind of injury is child's play by comparison to many I have had and really did not slow me down except for the minute it took me to get running again.

That is going to happen on trails. Every running condition is a trade-off. I have concluded that trail running dividends far outweigh the occasional costs of a boo boo once in a while.

I also learned that I make the best energy bar available. I will include that recipe in a later post.

As a side note, I will be shooting for a 2:30 half marathon on Saturday. The terrain is occasionally steep and very rocky. I will report back.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Downhill Improvement!

A short departure from my series on weight loss success stories...

Jonathan and I set out to break some records today on an after work ride. It is so great to be this close to some great trails. We came close to #1 Strava rankings. When he is serious about it, he wears his DH helmet.

Jonathan wearing a DH helmet for high speed today

My Strava shows that I currently hold second place out of 61 people for one of the DH segments. 

My Strava results for today's downhill segment

Not sure how long it will last, but I will take it for a minute at least. 

Jonathan was second out of 285 in one segment. On the same segment, I was 16th. He was third in another segment and had some chain ring problems. I was 16th in the same segment. He is so fast; he will be first by next week. 

There are times when I will have biked with Jonathan only for weeks at a time. I sometimes get discouraged by how fast he is downhill and how relatively slow I am. It is good to get more feedback sometimes. I will be doing a post on what he does to be so fast. He is a purist and a technician about it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ann's Story -- Her Weight Loss Journey

Ann's story is the second of at least a three part series profiling success stories. I am so happy to have met Ann and grateful that she took time to tell her story. Ann is a friend of a friend and now a friend. Ha!

Ann's Story

D:  Let's start with how you put on weight in the first place. Were you thin as a teenager?

Growing up I was always naturally strong. I played volleyball and stayed active but never really worked out. I tried cross country one summer and hated it. My senior year I strained my back and then a car accident left me with a lower torn disc. I knew I wasn’t a skinny girl but I assumed that I could stay where I was and nothing would change, right? College was busy and I gained about 10 lbs, not bad. When I was cleared to start being active again, I never really picked up any sports or workout habits. 

D:  Ten pounds is not bad at all. Was the gain slow and gradual or was there an event?

A: In 2004 things started to change. I was now married and we were expecting our first child. The pregnancy was going great till 24 weeks when I went into preterm labor. Weeks of bed rest resulted in a
healthy baby girl but I was now just less than 200 lbs. naturally some of that baby weight came off but not much. Our second child came one month after moving to the Midwest, far from family, to start grad school. This pregnancy had done better with less bed rest but I didn’t work out at all during the pregnancy. In our new city I found a group of girls that also liked to play volleyball. We would meet each Tuesday to play, and occasionally we would have a couple’s night. This is where I started to feel like I could be active again. I dreamed of extreme weight loss, but let’s be realistic, an hour of church volleyball and chatting doesn’t lead to weight loss, but it is a great stress reducer!
When my son was 8 months old I decided to finish my bachelor’s degree. I remember thinking that this would also be a good time to work on losing some weight because I would be out of the home. I could plan better meals, walk a lot on campus and omit all the extra snacking. Well, my intentions were good, but things never really got established. I tried the “Eat to Live” diet and went from 195-183 in a few weeks, but as soon as I stopped the program the weight came right back. It was so frustrating. 

D: It sounds frustrating, but that is pretty typical. It seems that unless there is a life change, diets may have immediate results, but they rarely lead to lasting change.

A: Frustrations come in lots of different forms, I haven’t mentioned it yet but I have two absolutely gorgeous sisters, and one is my twin. They both look amazing after each and every pregnancy. My perspective of them over the years has changed, but at this time I felt like I was the girl that drew the short stick. I was constantly comparing myself to them. Always shopping, spending money to try and find that perfect outfit that would make me look smaller whenever we would travel home to visit family. I had a false perspective of them and a false perspective of myself. Neither helped. Comparing myself to them only made me more miserable…and then I would eat more…a vicious cycle difficult to break. 

D: Wow, a lot of people will resonate with that.

A: Just after graduation we were excited to find out that a long desired baby number three would be joining our family. I continued to play volleyball weekly, but it still only remained a stress reducer. My husband was in the process of preparing to present his preliminary defense and we were making a move from an apartment into a rental home. It was a bit stressful. I talk about stress a lot; with each of my pregnancies I’ve dealt with post-partum depression. Thankfully after my first I was able to find the medical help I needed to keep it under control, but I have a history of depression, something most people don’t know about me, because I try hard to keep that part of me in control. This means keeping up an appearance of being happy and helpful to others all the time despite however I may truly be feeling…it is exhausting. 

D: I am astounded at how highly weight gain and depression positively correlate. What was your weight at this point?

A: My weight kept going up and when we had our second daughter I was 220. Frustrated, I asked my husband to purchase a treadmill so that I could start working out. He was so supportive and the purchase was made. I signed up for my very first 5K and started training.
Mid training I tore my shoulder in a volleyball game, so physical therapy started, but as my arm got weaker they realized that surgery was necessary. Two weeks after that race my shoulder was surgically fixed but it came with a setback. No workouts for 2-4 months. I felt defeated. I finally was making some good choices and building up my activity levels and now I couldn’t do anything. Holding my five month old baby was difficult, caring for the other two one-handed wasn’t easy either. We accepted a summer internship and it was there that we found out that we were pregnant with baby number four -- a complete surprise! How was all this supposed to work? I was still over 210 and I never saw my husband. I took it one day at a time and stayed very busy to help manage everything. Thirteen piano students, one daughter now in school, one son in preschool, a husband preparing his final defense and I was keeping the fort down. I snacked all the time. I told myself at first that it was to help with the nausea of the first trimester. In truth it was a comfort, a crutch, something to make me feel better. Well it worked, I didn’t go crazy, but it didn’t help the scale either. 

D: Taking it 'one day at a time' is good advice. I can't imagine how difficult and frustrating that must have been. When did your weight peak?

A: Two months after I delivered my 2nd son I weighed 255 lbs. For the most part I was happy. I avoided mirrors and photos and tried to make up for it in other areas. This lead to some hobbies and talents that I truly enjoy now, but they didn’t fix the root problem. My son came three days after my husband’s final defense. We packed up the house, made a trip to visit family and then moved to another new city to start his career. 

It's fun to have to give away bog clothes!

D:  What turned things around for you?

A: While waiting to close on our home, we rented a two bedroom apartment with no air conditioning, a tiny kitchen and on an upper level. I found that my previous struggles with depression were starting to come back and I wasn’t ready to deal with those again, so I decided it was time to make some permanent changes. Running wasn’t that bad the last time I tried it, so a friend and I decided to train for another 5K. We had five months so we started the “Couch to 5K” program. I also met some ladies at this time who attended the same church as me. They are beautiful and athletic and they run half marathons. I remember being so impressed. My twin is a runner and I’ve always admired her ability to maintain this activity as a mother, so I started making plans. I signed up for a six mile trail run called the “Frosty Trails” in January of 2013. I told myself if I felt good after that I would consider running a half marathon too. Several other friends included me in their training plan and we prepared for the KY Derby half marathon for April. I trained hard and met some amazing friends who I continue to run with today. I finished my first half in 02:26:00 and I was so proud of myself. My family came with me to support me on the race, they were there at the start line, then at mile four, then mile 12 and then at the finish line. My husband has continued to make it possible for me to race. 

The running pictures were one year and 50 pounds apart!

D:  Having a supportive family seems to be common with success stories. Did you do any other events?

A: I ran two other half marathons and a 6 mile race in 2013. Now in 2014 this last April I repeated my first ½ marathon setting a PR of 2:17:00. A year and a half of running and being aware of what I eat has helped me lose 77 lbs. I have a goal to lose a total of 100 lbs and I’m getting there! I now run 10-20 miles a week and heavy lift daily. A YMCA membership has helped me spend more time building more muscle because their gym is amazing. I am surrounded by women of all ages, mothers, grad students, single women all working out because they too want to be stronger and healthier. No one is there training for a body building competition or racing around the track to show off a 6 minute mile. No one compares, no one judges, everyone just encourages each other

Ann with an old pair of shorts
D: What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation as the one you were in after your last baby? What did you do to deal with certain setbacks and difficulties?

A: Depression: There is nothing wrong with asking for help to manage depression. For me it centered around my hormones changing and pregnancy. What a blessing to have a doctor that knew how to readjust things so that I could be happy. 

High expectations and Comparing myself to others: I had to learn to like myself and my body. I’m not like my sisters and that’s okay. We all have something that we would like to change about ourselves. 

Stress: I needed to find a new way to deal with it. Eating wasn’t the best option that fit with the fitness and weight loss goals that I was trying to achieve. I had to be honest with myself and stop making excuses. I figured out what my stressors were and then looked for healthy ways to manage them rather than turning to food. 

Diet: I try now to take good supplements and watch the calories that I eat. I track with My Fitness Pal and use a heart rate monitor to follow my calories burned while working out. I’m trying to eat more fruits and veggies and make more foods from scratch. 

Ann recruiting her daughter into running

D: I am a big advocate of My Fitness Pal. What else has worked for you?

A: Things that work great for me: Find a buddy (or two) who can workout with you or help trade kids. Sign up for an event; this motivates me to train for something. Plus that wall of medals and photos is really motivational!! If you have a cheat day or meal that’s okay. Just don’t let it turn into a week-long episode. Pick yourself up remind yourself of your goals and keep on going. Find a balance with the other things in your life. I rely strongly on a balance between a few big things. Spirituality, Physical Performance, Education, Emotion, and Family. I have found that I need to be doing something in each of these areas to help me feel well rounded. So daily I try to focus on something small that meets each category. My family is a huge part of my life and with little kids, I want them to know that I am never putting other things before them. If I have a workout planned I try to make sure they have a fun activity to do or they can work out with me. Meal time as a family isn’t negotiable. We eat together no matter what, and at the dinner table, where everything else for 30 minutes is put aside. Is losing weight and running easy? No but neither is life. I love this challenge and I love the results that I see from the hard work.

Ann and a running buddy at the KY Derby half

D: Thank you, Ann. Your story is inspiring. Please keep me posted on further progress. We would love to do an update as a blog post as you hit goals and milestones.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

From Obesity to Fitness -- The Journey for Three Women

At a recent athletic event for one of my children, I sat by a couple who had not seen me since December. I am down almost 40 pounds since January 5th and it is showing in my face and neck. Kelly asked how much I had lost and what I had been doing. I told her that I was putting in a lot of miles each week running, I was regularly mountain biking and was using My Fitness Pal to carefully watch my intake. Her response was, "Oh, why is it so easy for men to lose weight and so hard for women?" I could have let it go, but responded, "Maybe you think running 40 miles per week, biking and me depriving myself of one of my favorite passions, food, for months at a time is easy." She was embarrassed and nodded in acknowledgement. There was no friendship lost. She is one of the best people I know, and we have spoken since as though nothing was said earlier.

The point is that it may be easier for me or men in general to lose weight, but it is a bad assumption to assume that any individual situation is easy (or hard, or anything). We can only speak in generalities.

The success stories seem to have desire, discipline and pain tolerance at their core. Failure occurs when one is missing. Fortunately, all three can be improved.

Here I profile three women with similar stories on successive posts and make some observations. I will begin with Heather Dittenber. Heather showed up in my facebook news feed as a participant in a run. Though impressive, one of the best features of the photos below is not her weight drop, but her facial expression in successive years. The difference between the first three and the last three is stark.

Heather's Story

Pictures of Heather running the Fifth Third River Bank Run in successive years

I friended her on facebook, got her permission to do a write-up and asked her some questions.

D:  What made you decide to get fit?

H:  It was a combination of things. It started with my sister-in-law talking me into doing the 5th 3rd 5k. We wanted to do one that was huge I started running and exercising and joined the YMCA after that but never really changed eating habits. I got sick of always trying to stay out of pictures when my hubby would take pictures of our children. I hated buying clothes from the big girl catalog and hated sitting in the bench at the park while the kids played. I wanted to play with them.

D: What was your weight loss journey like?

H: I am 5'6" and my top weight was 298. My lowest was 173. I have a lot of that weight is extra skin and a lot of muscle. I met a trainer at the YMCA, and they were having a 'Choose to Lose' competition so I joined his team. In the 10 week program I lost 61 lbs . In that program I met a woman who was very into fitness she got me in to weights but I wasn't as strict with my diet so It took me a total of 10 months to lose 100lbs.

Side Note: I'm not sure if you are aware of the latest, big weight loss story, but Shape Magazine has decided to run with a story and photos of Brooke Bingham which show her excess belly skin after weight loss. The reality is that skin loses elasticity over time, and only surgery can remove it to any significant degree. When Heather talks about excess skin, it comes as a consequence of weight loss, unless you lose weight in your teens and even then there is excess skin. You can see Brooke's photos HERE.

 D: That is impressive! What other things do you do besides run and lift weights?

H: I like boxing but not great at it. I have a friend who has a boxing class at the Y and I love that. Other than that, no. I don't have tons of time with 2 younger kids and a husband and not willing to sacrifice running or lifting for much of anything

D:  Another blogger mentioned that your husband is very supportive. 

H:  I have a super supportive husband who will buy me all kinds of spices to change things up and he always has my food prepared when I get home from the gym. He has even started running and loving the gym. When the kids complain, he would always say.. 'mommy going to gym gives her more years with us. Please don't make her feel guilty.' He is my greatest fan. He has literally loved me through 'thick and thin.'

D:  Were you thin in High School?

H:  I was thin in High School

D:  How did you get heavy in the first place? Was pregnancy a part of it? 

H: I wish I could blame it on that. I became depressed around 22yrs old, and got put in anit-depressants. I put 60lbs on in 3 months and just continued to try different meds until one day I decided I wasn't taking this crap medicine any more, and I was going to fight it! I got out of the depression med free but still hung onto to weight. And I love food. I always say...unlike alcoholics who can choose to stay away from their addiction, food addicts have to eat to live.

D: What advice would you give someone starting out on their own fitness/weight loss journey?

H: Find something you love to do, and make meals ahead of time. Being prepared is very important! Drink water! We are made mostly of water if we don't give our body water it will hold onto what it has. Find a partner with like minded goals.

Heather is also an impressive weight lifter. She dead lifts 225, no grips. Her max squat is also 225. Her max bench is 165, and she leg presses 440.

Heather is open, kind and delightful. Her story is inspirational.

Maybe My Best Smoothie

This one may be the healthiest, best tasting smoothie I have ever made:

2 Cups frozen mango chunks
2 t Spirulina powder
1 T Chia seeds
1 Banana
2 t Honey
1 Cup leaf spinach

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Healthy Appetite is A Weight Loss Asset

As I finished a run earlier this week, a friend who is suffering from back and leg pain, partially due to excess weight, was finishing a walk. He asked me for some weight loss tips as he had seen my drop in weight over the last few months. I had not really thought of it until I started explaining to him what My Fitness Pal does for me, but my big appetite and food cravings were actually instrumental in my weight loss. Here is how it works,

My Fitness Pal status after breakfast and a workout

I really love food. I have set My Fitness Pal to allow me a calorie reduction that will result in a 1.5 pound per week weight loss. The way My Fitness Pal calculates my calorie allotment for the day is by taking what would be my normal calorie burn if I did no exercise and reducing that amount by 750 calories. 750 calories times 7 days results in a 5250 calorie deficit for the week which is equivalent to 1.5 lbs. 

The problem is that the 1680 calories allotted in a day with no exercise is just not enough to keep me from being hungry most of the day. The only alternative I have is to work out, and the harder I work out, the more I can eat later in the day. I mentioned on my weight loss page that although workouts do increase our appetite, they only do so at about a 70% rate. Meaning, that if you burn 1000 calories in a workout, you are only hungrier by 700 calories. The 300 calories left over are pure magic for me. 

My appetite got me out of bed this morning on what could have been a rest day. I have gone out running for the last three mornings including doing speed work on Wednesday. I could have easily and justifiably rested, but I got out of bed, went to spin class for an hour and burned 634 calories. 

The other powerful result of calorie restriction and a big appetite is that junk food has lost its bliss. All I have to do is read a label like this one and yuck!

150 calories and 90 of those from fat is not satisfying. Here are some alternatives with high nutrient density:

Banana 105 Calories
Apple 65 Calories
Pear 102 Calories
Tomato 22 Calories
Broccoli 50 Calories

For a long time, I thought my appetite was the enemy of my weight loss. Not any more.