Sunday, November 17, 2019

October challenge

At the end of September, a few people who I have met through a boot camp class I started in the summer in Carrollton, posted into the training GroupMe a “challenge” for the month of October.

No chips. No candy. No chocolate (!!). No cookies, cakes, pastries. No white potatoes. No fried food. No white bread. No soda.

At first I breezed right past those messages thinking that something like that would be impossible for me. I love my chocolate. And my Diet Soda. And I'm training for an Ironman, I DESERVE all this stuff, right?! I knew that the month of October included a lot of travel as well - a week at a hotel for a work conference, a trip to Aruba for my friend's birthday, the birthday party itself, and of course, Halloween. I will be honest, I was terrified to try and commit to this.

But at the same time, I knew that it was something I needed - SPECIFICALLY for all those reasons why I felt like I shouldn't do it. I had been tracking what I was eating for a few months and trying to commit to eating better, but my progress was very slow. Most likely because I kept stopping and restarting every time there was a special occasion or travel. So I'd eat healthy for a couple weeks - then go to New Hampshire to see my family. Come back, eat healthy again - then go on vacation to Finland. Eat healthy again - then go to Toronto... you get the picture, right?

I was making some progress in the form of about a pound a month / 3 pounds overall. starting to make some very slow progress, in the form of losing about 1 lb a month. Which, I will take any progress over no progress, but with my Ironman in November, I knew that I was running out of time to keep delaying and stopping the good habits every time a special occasion came up.

Aside from letting travel and events interrupt any consistent diet, I also had some seemingly small tendencies that started as “once in a while treats” had suddenly turned into a daily habit. Such as adding some mini chocolate chips to my protein smoothie. And having a 2nd piece of chocolate to my daily allotted dark chocolate break. And Diet Sodas had become a daily thing – often with me sometimes driving out of the house to a gas station JUST to buy a soda, and purchasing cans to keep in the house, which is something I never did before (Hellloooo suburban living and being able to unload groceries right from the garage!!)

So, the day after Half Ironman Augusta, on Monday, September 30th I kicked off my "October Challenge" and what started off incredibly challenging, started to get easier and easier as the month went on.

I will admit, I did break the rules with a few small exceptions I allowed myself. One of which was Ironman training. For example, sometimes sweets are a part of the nutrition that I use to break up a long bike ride. Another example was Diet Soda, I did allow myself to have diet soda at times but not the daily go-out-of-my-way-to-get-it times. But now and then I did have Diet Soda, mostly as a replacement for alcohol when I would be socializing.

But otherwise, I honestly did so so good with it and was really proud of myself for sticking through!

I ended up having a second work trip at the end of October and so I survived 2 weeks of catered meals 3x a day, avoiding all of the pastries and breakfast sweets they'd have out.

Avoided the desserts and rolls that appeared at every lunch and dinner. I passed on the amazing baked goods of one of my friends on multiple occasions. Skipped the warm bread at the steak houses we went to in Aruba. And passed out on CHIPS when out to eat at a couple of Mexican restaurants - something I don't think I have EVER done in my life.

By the end of the month, I have to say, it got so much easier. The first week I was staring at dessert every day and pining about how I wanted to try it. But by the work trip I had the last week of October - I just didn't even look at the desserts! It got much easier to say no than I remembered was possible.

The scale started to make more progress and I was feeling really good - and really proud! - of myself.

October 29 in Puerto Rico

And then November came...

I am learning more about myself, but sometimes am not sure what to then do about that.

At the end of October, I was feeling so good and really wanted to keep going the eating habits that I had - but hoped to try and just be a little more relaxed with them. I wanted to be able to have chocolate here and there and indulge for special things, but, I have found myself slowly creeping back into some of the habits I had pre-October challenge!

I am learning that I do really well with having a strict set of limits of what I can/can't eat and I do really well with accountability to others. For years, I was most successful at losing weight when I did Weight Watchers. That program provides limits, in the form of the number of points you can eat in a day AND the accountability of a weekly weigh in by another person to have progress logged. This "October Challenge" provided those same things for me in the form of strict rules about what I could/couldn't eat. Whereas Weight Watchers doesn't rule out any food as an option, for the month of October I set limits BY eliminating certain foods. As well, it provided a group of people who were all encouraging each other and committed to this together.

I don't do well with moderation. I remember reading a long time ago on Swim Bike Mom's blog that "everything in moderation" is not a motto that works well or should be pushed upon everyone. Some people cannot moderate themselves well so "everything in moderation" does not work. You would never say "alcohol in moderation" to an alcoholic, of course not. But yet for people that struggle with sugar addiction and food, people don't always apply the same logic. I am very much a person who struggles with moderating myself around food. I cannot just have one cookie and be satisfied. No, I will eat ALL THE COOKIES until they are gone. I cannot eat just a few corn chips. I will eat 2 baskets full of chips at a Mexican restaurant before my meal arrives. I am not good with moderation so sometimes what's better for me is to strictly eliminate things as options. No chocolate. No chips. No cookies. No fried foods.

Set limits and accountability to others seem to be a good fit for me, yet I can't figure out how to make that happen when it is just me. October is over and so is the challenge, both the elements that work well for me are gone.

Right now I am continuing to try and set my own little "rules" for myself. For example, I weigh myself every day that I am home. No more skipping the morning weigh in if I have had a bad couple of days - I need to see it every day.

I am still limiting my chocolate intake and not bringing chocolate back into any of my snacks, and avoiding pastries and baked goods as much as possible. However, I will now have a bite of Jonathan's cookie or donut whereas I would have skipped it completely in October. Fried foods have creeped back in when going out to eat and white potatoes and bites of Jonathan's sandwiches have come back as well. As well as some chips. Although these things are small, when trying to diet, they add up. In essence, as I type this, I realize am back to trying to do "everything in moderation" even though I KNOW that doesn't work for me!

With the holidays coming up, as well as a big race, I want to keep with the progress I have been making. I don't want to back track through December. I hope that with writing and being open about what I am trying to do, that will help with some of that "accountability to others" that works for me and I will keep working on trying to enforce strict limits on my own. At 33 years old I'm finally figuring out are the elements that make up a program that work for me, but just need to figure out how to apply that knowledge as a next step. Always something to strive for! :) 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Veterans Day and the next part in this "story"

Part of the reason that I wanted to come back and continue writing here again was because the next part of my "story" is one that I really want to be able to document and remember. And one of the things that is so meaningful to me about this next story line is that I am expanding "my" story to be not really about me.

I am excited to share that in April 2020 I will be running the Boston Marathon in support of Home Base program, a nonprofit dedicated to providing support and treatment to Service men and women and their families with non-visible injuries. Home Base is a Mass General Hospital and Red Sox organization based in Boston that supports veterans nationwide. They do incredible work, that without sharing too much detail, has become an organization that I will forever be grateful for.

Yes, running Boston Marathon will be incredibly meaningful for me personally, but that is just a cherry on top of being able to support an organization dedicated to a group of people in our American community that has become incredibly personal to me, out Service men and women.

This opportunity came about at a time that I was looking at ways that I could support Home Base, NOT at a time when I was looking at ways to run Boston. That feels like just a bonus.

For those who have been around a minute, you know that Boston Marathon is something that feels deeply personal to me, as to many people from the Boston area. It is our home town race. "Boston Strong" feels like something that beats inside of us. I've watched the Boston Marathon on TV as a kid, pretending to be a runner in my driveway and mimicking the athletes (never actually thinking I could be one myself, I just "pretended.) I've rooted for Boston sports teams for as long as I've known. Attended baseball games at Fenway Park. Spent countless weekends roaming the streets of Boston visiting my friends who moved there after college. I ran my first Half Marathon 2 weeks after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, when our city and the sport I was growing in to was attacked. I went to Boston to cheer at the race in 2014, the year after the bombing and 2 weeks after my first marathon, to return, show resilience, and cheer and celebrate a marathon for the first time as a "marathoner" myself.

And in 2018, I made an attempt to try and get into the Boston Marathon by qualifying. Which did not go my way in the end, and was one of the most mentally and physically challenging experiences of my life.

I was training for my qualifying attempt during the months when my grandmother had her stroke and passed away. During the months where it was bitterly brutally cold in New England. When I felt like my family and I needed SOMETHING to lift our spirits... so I put the weight of the world on my shoulders trying to run faster than I ever dreamed possible. I wanted to be able to give my grandfather - a lifelong Boston native, Boston College graduate and all around Boston die-hard enthusiast - the chance to see me run the race. He has followed and supported and cheered at the race his whole life with my grandmother and her father, and told my mom he "hoped he lived to see the day I ran the Boston Marathon."

So yeah, you could say that running Boston will be meaningful to me personally. But it also means so much more because of this organization.

Which brings me back to Home Base. And the reason I am writing this post today, two days after Veterans Day. This organization has changed the lives - and saved lives - of many Veterans. And I am so proud to be supporting them.

Let me tell you a little bit about how I got here.

Back in August I was researching the Home Base website and looking for ways that I could support. I knew they were based in Boston but wasn't sure if they had other chapters or physical locations where I could volunteer or donate or something. While on their site, I saw pictures of their Boston Marathon team, which struck my interest.

I reached out to the organization's volunteer contact via the website and asked if there was anything I could do remote (which their wasn't) and asked - out of curiosity - about the marathon charity team. I learned that the charity team was very new, 2018 had been their first year, and that it was very small compared to other organizations and they only had about 20 spots. And that registration would open up in September.

I thought about this more, and what it would mean to apply for the team, and if now was the time I wanted to try again at running a marathon and if I wanted to get into Boston via a charity or keep trying to qualify. And ultimately decided that if I had the opportunity to support THIS organization, that would be so incredibly special and meaningful to me that I wouldn't be able to pass it up. Just applying to charity teams is not a guarantee because these spots can be really competitive and having so few spots, I didn't know what to expect with Home Base.

When registration opened, I decided to complete an application. I explained why I was passionate about the organization, which was due to its impact on people in my life. Since Home Base is a part of Mass General Hospital, one of the questions they asked was if I couldn't get in to the Home Base team, would I be interested in some of the other Mass General charities.

I told them no. That if I couldn't run for Home Base, I wasn't interested in running Boston this year. This organization was meaningful for me to support at this time, otherwise, I would pass.

Within an hour of hitting "Submit" on the online application, I received a phone call welcoming me to the team! I was shocked to say the least. The application period didn't even close for another 2 months but as the organizer told me on the phone, "I could have waited but I knew as soon as I read your application that we wanted you on the team so why delay? We want people who care about this cause and that came across."

This is an opportunity I don't take lightly and my fundraising to reach my $10,000 goal is something I will be just as dedicated to as my training over the next 5 months.

Although I still have Ironman Arizona creeping up on me (a week and a half away!) I did want to share my plans for Boston this week on the blog as this past Monday was Veterans Day.

Throughout my life, I can honestly say I have always been thankful for the military Veterans out there, but it hasn't been personal. As with many, my gratitude deepened after 9/11 to service men and women. However, I have never really had a close connection to anyone in the military or anyone with Veteran status. I would thank people for their service when I came across members of the military, and truly felt that way, but it was not a personal thing for and thinking about how to support this group in our community was not a prominent thought in my mind.

Later in life as I have had more friends with military affiliations, watched friends prepare for and go out on deployment, heard and seen the impact on families, and adjustments back into civilian life, the space that this etched in my heart became so deep. And the desire to do something to support Veterans given all that they have given for our country - became so strong. I am so thankful that this opportunity has come for me to raise money for Home Base and to give back to our Veteran community.

This Veterans Day, I chose not to post my fundraising page on social media the day of the holiday. I didn't post anything. I thought about it a while but ultimately felt like I would be "exploiting" the holiday with a call for donations to my charity page. It just didn't feel right to me.

Instead, I watched and I read and I cried at the stories and messages and videos I saw some across my social channels instead. I read about and saw pictures posted from friends about their Veteran husbands and fathers, wives and aunts, grandparents, siblings, and loved ones for whom they are grateful. I used it as a day to give me more motivation towards planning events, organizing fundraisers, and giving me more reason why this cause is something so important for me to stand behind.

That being said, if you are like me, and you have always felt an appreciation for the military men and women who serve our country, but haven't had a close connection or known how to support but would like to - please consider donating to Home Base.

Home Base develops a treatment plan for each individual who seeks out help, working to overcome post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries, in order to successfully return to family life, job, school and community. With Home Base, they work to remove all barriers from patients looking for treatment - no long wait times, access to care regardless of discharge status, and where my fundraising comes into play, payment will absolutely not be a barrier. Home Base covers the cost for treatment for Service men and women.

Please click here to view my fundraising page.

I would love your help in supporting this cause, if you are so inclined, and will continue to share about my fundraising and training efforts in the months to come. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

I'm Back!

I am back! Not sure for how long, because life seems to be getting the best of me lately and time has become somewhat of a precious commodity. However, to be honest, I miss writing. I miss interacting with my little online community, carved out space in the world, and I miss having a channel to process emotions and document my life – for better or worse.

So, I’d like to make an effort to try and write more, especially because there are some pretty exciting things happening in both the very near and further out future.

But first, let’s recap a few things that have happened in the 12 months since I last posted.

·       I moved! Jonathan and I bought a house and I moved from the big city out to the way, way, way out ‘Burbs of Carrollton, GA. It is a really cute and fun little city and we are both really involved in and enjoy the local community here. I have a great group of friends here and have honestly been really happy with the move. A lot of times I just look around our house and think to myself, "I can't believe I get to live here." which makes me feel so at peace.

·       I began working primarily from home. My job has become more flexible, which is a blessing given the announcement above. I go into the office 1x a week, sometimes 2, and now have a wonderful home office where I spend the majority of my Monday through Fridays. The team I work with is mostly remote, so even when I was in the office, I spent most of my time on the phone, so there hasn't been a huge adjustment on that side!

·       I started traveling again! After 2018, a year where I still traveled, but it was primarily within the U.S. or Canada, I was itching for some real global exploration in 2019. I was very fortunate that at the same time I was able to get some personal travel on the books, there was also a pickup in my work travel. This year I was able to travel to British Virgin Islands, South Africa, Finland, Estonia, and Aruba, in addition to two trips to Canada (Toronto area and Calgary) and Puerto Rico. Beyond that, I had weddings in Key West and Lake Placid, 2 weekend trips to Boston early in the year, 2 weekend trips to Florida, a work trip to Las Vegas, AND my annual family summer vacation to New Hampshire. It has been a fun but BUSY year.

·       I’ve continued training. This is probably not a shocker, since exercise and endurance sports have become a big part of my life over the years. After Chattanooga Ironman, I took a month or so off, and then went into training for my first official “Ultra” which was a 50K trail race in North Georgia in February 2019. After the race, and additional time off, I got back into triathlon mindset and raced Ironman 70.3 Muncie in Indiana. I had such a fun time racing I decided to keep going with triathlon for the year and added to my calendar Augusta 70.3 at the end of September, which was part of a build into my 2nd full Ironman, Arizona, which is less than a month away now on November 24th

Although I think at this point the majority of people that read this blog are friends in real life or people who follow me on social media, so would likely know all of the above… I wanted to list it out because all 4 of these factors contribute heavily to where I am now. Mentally, and well, physically.

On the topic of training, with all of the changes going on in my life, to say that the majority of this year I have been out of a “routine” is an understatement. I don’t think I have had a “normal” week all year. For a long time, it felt like my weeks and my training, were very consistent and expected. I have been working with a coach for almost 3 years now and how we work together is that every Sunday evening, he will upload my schedule for what training and workouts he’d defined for me in the coming week. For a very steady period of time, my schedule was so routine that I honestly didn’t really need to check my schedule on a Sunday night. I had a consistent series of workouts I did Monday through Sunday, week after week. Monday swim, Tuesday track, Wednesday swim and trainer, Thursday group run, Friday swim, Saturday long ride, Sunday trail run. Or if I was marathon training, it was something similar – very standard and routine.

This year, I have no idea what each week is going to look like. Between what travel is happening, when I am going into the office each week, what my weekend availability is, when the pool is open, and a million other factors that have seemingly had my life be anything but predictable on a week by week basis. Adjusting to a normal training schedule while settling in to a new city, has been more challenging than I thought it would be.

For some, the unpredictability might be fun and break up the monotony of a regular work week. But my mind doesn’t always work that way. I like knowing what to expect. And I think my body likes knowing what to expect as well!

Although I am fit and although I am strong (hello! Ironman training is not easy!) I haven’t felt as good about myself and my body as I have at other times in my life. I have gotten a lot slower in all 3 elements of triathlon, which is hard to see happen. I had fought so hard to build up my running speed over the years, and then last year I clawed tooth and nail to just get a bit faster on the bike. Now, both running and biking, I feel like I’ve gone back years in Katelyn-time and reverse progressed. Even my swimming, which was something that I could always rely on, is slower and a struggle to get myself to do.

But that’s some of what happens when you don’t do track workouts consistently (i.e. ever) anymore, don’t ride 10 centuries in a summer, and stop swimming 3x a week with a Masters group and instead swim 1x a week alone and with no one to race in the lane next to you. Plus, the 15-20 pounds you’ve gained in the last 2 years.  

While these things shouldn’t be a surprise, it can sometimes feel like they are when you are busy enjoying life! Because don’t get me wrong, I absolutely have been! The past 2 years have been wonderful and fun and filled with adventure and love and delicious food. But I have been craving a need to make some changes in my life too. And I’m starting to take some steps in the right direction and see some of the pieces that I think could fit into place in the coming months.

I’d really like to make blogging and writing here a part of that experience and hope to spend more time writing in the future. I’ve missed you guys!