Saturday, October 29, 2011

Life as a Marathonaholic...Still Lovin' It!!!

About 5 minutes before the official start time for the 2011 MONSTER DASH!!!!! YEAH!!!!

This post will probably be shorter this time--and note that I did say probably--because as soon as I'm done, I'm going to get in bed with dinner, watch Monte Carlo on Blu-ray, and just chill for the rest of the evening! Yes, I'm one of those girls who watches Selena Gomez movies on a Saturday night...and that's okay! :)

It was a long day--but a very fun and happy one--at the Chicago Monster Dash with my mom. I ran my second half marathon in 2:39:18, which is four minutes longer than my finish time at the Chicago Half Marathon in September, and a 13-minute drop from the halfway mark at the Chicago Marathon. But in that case, you must understand that I was running with my sister Katie, aka the girl with legs like lightning, and she was not there today to help me stretch beyond those limits. Still, it was a beautiful course to run along, and I only stopped running to tie my shoes and go to the bathroom at mile 9, so all in all, I'm happy with my finish time.

The weather was about as perfect as it can get at the tail end of October...a little chilly, but sunny skies the entire time, and the crowd of runners was considerably thinner than the last two marathons I've done, so there was plenty of open space to run along the lakefront. The only bummer was that there were hardly any spectators, and considering the beautiful day it was, that was a little surprising. We were definitely spoiled at the Chicago Marathon and Half Marathon, respectively, with the large numbers of supporters out there, and this time around, the course was very...quiet. Even the runners weren't hooting and hollaring the way they normally do. There were a lot of feet hitting the pavement, and a few isolated conversations were going on, but the tone of the race was definitely different in that respect. It wasn't necessarily bad--just different. That said, there were certain points on the course that had more people watching, including Navy Pier and the start/finish lines, and as always, the volunteers were amazing. A lot goes into the making these events successful, and there was a lot of kindness and generosity going around at the Chicago Monster today. I loved spending the time with my mom (we had lunch at Bennigan's after the race), and at least in my eyes, she's the best supporter in the world!! Now it's time to look forward to the Inaugural Chicago Polar Dash on January 14th...yeah, it's gonna be a frigid one, but the way I see it, if you're gonna be outside at that time of year, you might as well warm yourself up by running 13.1 miles around the city! Sounds fun, right? :)

Other than that, things have pretty much been the same around here. Wednesday was an incredibly exciting night, because I reached my goal weight at my Weight Watchers meeting. What this means is that I now have to enter a six-week maintenance program, and at the end of that sixth week, if I am no more than two pounds above my current weight, I will receive a Lifetime pass to attend Weight Watchers for free (as long as I maintain that goal weight). It was awesome to share my before and after pictures with the group and talk a little about my journey over the past three years, and it's also incredible to think that I have reached this point. It's taken a lot of time and hard work. At the same time, though, there's that feeling what? When you've been working toward something very specific for so long, you find yourself wondering what the next challenge is going to be. I am hopeful that I can lose another 40 pounds or so (I've lost 154 so far), but I'm trying not to get too worked up about that. First, we'll see how these six weeks of maintenance go, because staying disciplined and not slipping back into old habits is going to be difficult enough. I think we all know what that can be like. Tonight, for instance, I am treating myself to a sausage stromboli from Sbarro's (picked it up for dinner after the race because I haven't had Sbarro's in at least a year and have been craving it like no other), and while it's fine to indulge once in a while, it can be rough getting back on track the next day.

You know how it goes...once you have one or two less-than-healthy meals, you start craving the bad stuff again, and like an evil manipulator, your body will try coaxing you back in the wrong direction. Fortunately, I've gotten better at spotting the warning signs for this, and if we are firm enough with ourselves, we can learn how to keep out of trouble. I guess that's one of the reasons I love running so much. A friend of mine recently said that running has been her saving grace in maintaining her weight, because even if she eats badly over the weekend, she can exercise the next day and use that as a springboard to get back on the wagon. That's the incredible thing about exercise--when you learn to take advantage of it and integrate it into your regular routine, more healthy eating is sure to follow.

I hope everyone is enjoying their Saturday night (I know I will) and has a beautiful, relaxing Sunday tomorrow. Always work hard and stay focused on your goals, but don't forget to enjoy life too!

Question of the Day: It's a simple one...what makes you happy?

Here I am shortly after crossing the finish line. The medal and post-race string cheese are the best part!

Hanging out at home with my medal and new Monster hat...and of course, my fabulous dad :)

As you can tell, this jacket is just a little...incandescent, shall we say? My dad says it looks like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket, and I guess I can't disagree with him on that one. Oh, the things we love wearing to make life just a little bit brighter! :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Running, Running, Running As Fast As I Can...But Not Getting There Fast Enough...

Here's a few fun pictures from marathon day last week that I just felt like sharing...

Fueling at 5:45 AM with a banana and Gatorade! Yep, Rosie definitely lived to regret drinking that much before running 26.2 miles...for obvious reasons!!

And this is Ditka being Ditka. When it's that early in the morning, he just wants to sleep...kind of like the rest of us!

Eeeeeek! At the hotel room after the race, just about to hit the shower after taking out my French braids! Check out the double chin action...oh so attractive :)

A whole week has gone by since the Chicago Marathon! Really?!?! I thought about it all day today, recalling the exact times I was running last Sunday, when it started to get really painful, when my sister and I finally crossed the finish line, etc... Last night, while my mom and I were sitting and talking, she said to me, "Do you ever find it hard to believe that you actually ran 26 miles? Doesn't that just seem crazy to you?" In a way, yes, it does, but after three years of leading a completely different lifestyle health-wise, it's hard to imagine a time when I didn't aspire to run a marathon. It's difficult to recall ever being so horribly overweight, eating whatever I wanted whenever I felt like it, and not caring about my body the way people should. Right now, I am finding that maintaining weight loss is truly a long and time-consuming journey, and if we want to be successful at it, we can't be constantly looking for that "off switch". It's a lifestyle, not a destination, and I struggle with that fact every single day.

Seven days after a marathon, many runners are taking time to recover and transition to more "cross training" activities, but I can't seem to stay away from the treadmill. I did five miles today, which felt pretty good (aside from a few cramps toward the end). When people ask why I'm not taking a break from this, I like to say it's because I am too passionate about it to stay away for long...which is true...but only partially so. To be perfectly honest, one of the main reasons I am still trying to run vigorously post-marathon is because I am only three pounds away from reaching goal at Weight Watchers. Well, actually, that's how much weight I had left to go at my last weigh-in, and I have gone up a little more than I would have liked over the past few weeks, but we'll just leave it at that. My next weigh-in is in three days, and I have a chance at being where I want to be by then, but it's been extremely tough recently.

After finishing the marathon, it would have been ideal to just relax for a while and not have to worry about these things, but unfortunately, right now, I am still very focused on that number on the scale. With any luck, I will hit goal on Wednesday (153 pounds total lost), begin the 6-week maintenance program with Weight Watchers, and become an official Lifetime Member the week after Thanksgiving. What that means is that I will never have to pay the weekly fee for Weight Watchers again, as long as I weigh in at least once a month and never end up more than two pounds above my goal weight. I remember a time in life when I had over 150 pounds to get rid of before I could achieve that, and it wasn't until I lost at least 100 of those pounds before I really got the sense that it could actually happen. Now that it's so close, it's just amazing...and at the same time, these last few pounds have been some of the hardest to drop.

At 7:30 on this Sunday evening, I am watching the Bears game with my grandma and trying desperately to keep my mind off food. I had a bowl of chili for dinner and a Weight Watchers ice cream cup for dessert (actually, make that two ice cream cups...) and now it's time to stop for the night. Hopefully, I won't be sneaking over to the fridge later in the evening, but it represents something we all have to deal with. In some ways, it gets easier, but in other ways, it almost seems to get harder over time. I guess I could sum it up best by a text message conversation I had with my mom about five minutes ago (she's at the game with my dad and sister). I was whining about being hungry (and my poor mom often bears the brunt of my complaining), and her response was...

"There is a 400 pound girl here who can barely will never be that girl. You are a strong and healthy girl. My girl."

To that I said...

 "I just wish it wasn't something we had to obsess about every day, you know? When I treat myself, I either feel guilty about it or spend the next several days trying to make up for it. But that's good, I guess, because if I'm constantly thinking about it, then I know I won't revert back."

So there you have it. The bottom line, I think, is that when we are worrying about our exercise and calorie intake, we should take that as a good sign, because when we stop caring, that's how we know we're in trouble. I can remember the summer after graduating from high school. I had just spent the year losing 50 pounds and felt pretty good about myself, to the point where I was getting lazy about a lot of things. I would order steak and eggs for breakfast at a restaurant, even though I knew that probably wasn't a good idea, and went back to regular pop because I felt I "deserved it". If I had caught myself in time and worked harder to stay on track, then maybe I wouldn't have had to deal with the fallout of gaining 100 pounds over the next few years. The good news is that I learned from those mistakes and am determined not to lose control again. It's too easy to let ourselves get out of hand--a bad day is one thing, but if it starts leading to a bad week, or a bad couple of weeks, the consequences really present themselves.

The point I'm trying to make is that so often, we tend to beat ourselves up, specifically when it comes to weight and physical appearance. Life was never meant to be miserable, and we shouldn't be worry every second of the day, but to an extent, I think it's healthy to fear about this stuff. Okay, maybe "fear" isn't the best word, but it's all I've got right now. Basically, we are all accountable to our own selves, and we can draw help and inspiration from the people around us, but ultimately, it's a matter of listening to ourselves...and actually paying attention. It's good to be a little hard on ourselves sometimes, especially when people around us are saying things like "Oh, you look so awesome!" and "Now you can just relax and enjoy accomplishing your goal!" Those people mean well, and part of what they're saying is correct, but we can't get too cocky about our successes. We all enjoy the occasional pizza, ice cream, or popcorn at the movies, and that's okay...crucial, even. Taking time to enjoy life and indulge in our favorite things keeps us sane. On the flip side, we need to listen to our bodies, know when to stop, balance it out with healthy foods, and exercise as much as possible. Sounds so easy when it's written out in simple terms like that...and yet it's still so hard sometimes. Trust me, I know. I am not a pro at this by any means--as I type this sentence, I am continuing to wrestle with it, same as everyone else in the world. But we can do it. You can do it, I can do it, and we can help each other along the way. We may not want to, but really, what other choice is there?

Question of the Day: What's something healthy you try to accomplish every day that is a constant battle, but in the end, it makes you feel good knowing that you continue motivating yourself to do it?

Have a great night, everyone! I am off now to check the score of the game. Will Chicago go to bed happy tonight?? Here's hoping!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Unforgettable...Yep, That's the Chicago Marathon!!

Well, after a whole year of excitement and anticipation, Marathon Weekend has officially come and gone. Something always seems a little "off" whenever something like this happens--almost as if you don't know what to do with yourself now that you've reached a goal you were pursuing for so long. Of course, my work is far from over, but more on that later.

This is what Katie and I looked like at mile 13 of the marathon on Sunday, when we stopped briefly to say hi to the family and take a picture. I can't speak for my sister, but while we both look sufficiently collected and happy here, I was pretty miserable. Being only halfway through your first-ever 26.2 mile journey tends to have that effect, which has made me think of the top ten reasons I should never consider running a marathon again:

1. Two words: Will Caviness. Mr. Caviness was a 35-year-old firefighter with two young children under the age of four, and an experienced marathoner/charity runner raising money for kids who are burn victims. He collapsed 500 yards away from the finish line and, unfortunately, did not survive. I didn't give it as much thought at first, but over the past 24 hours, it has really made me consider the extreme strain that a marathon puts on a person's body. Throughout the race, I literally felt like my heart might explode out of my chest at any moment, and there were two or three instances where part of my arm went numb for about a split second. I never felt that I was in grave danger and needed to stop, but it makes you well do marathoners know their limits? We would like to believe that we are smart enough to listen to our bodies, but the truth is, many of us might not get the hint until we are literally lying on the ground. I'm sorry if this is going in a depressing direction, but I guess my main point is that when a fellow runner loses his life on the course, it gets pretty scary as you start putting it all into perspective.

2. I had an incredible experience at my first half marathon on September 11, just four weeks ago. The weather was beautiful, the distance (13.1 miles) was perfect, and I was able to run comfortably the entire time without stopping for walking breaks. After that, I got it in my head that if a half marathon could go that well, then the full marathon would be a breeze, right? Oh, Rosie, if only you had known :) So, now that I've been through both and am confident that the half marathon is "just right", why bother attempting anything longer?

3. Every marathoner is familiar with that moment where he/she "hits the wall". For me, it was mile 17, and boy, oh  boy, every possible depressing thought raced through my mind during that time. A fellow runner that I know recently said "Twenty miles is a physical feat; after that, it becomes all mental. It's your focus, determination, and what you can handle". This is definitely true. The body isn't designed to take that much impact, so when you attempt it, everything inside of you says "Stop. Please just stop". And in any other situation, you would have stopped a long time ago, but when it's the Chicago Marathon, you can't exactly compare it to "any other situation". My sister and I ran together, so we were attempting to find a "happy medium" with our two varying paces. Maybe it was because we started off a little faster than I normally would have, but in any case, miles 10 through 20 were a doozy, to say the least. Although the idea of quitting never crossed  my mind, I absolutely wished that the ground would just swallow me up and put me out of my misery.

4. Your marathon experience can turn around pretty quickly if you drink too much beforehand, which ended up being one of my problems. Consuming a huge bottle of Gatorade seemed like a good idea at the time, for the sake of being well-fueled, and even though Katie and I went to the bathroom before starting, I felt the urge after only about half a mile of running. It wasn't until I finally found a port-o-potty without lines at mile 20 that I realized just how much that can slow you down.

5. Early in the race, I was eager to connect with every hand that people held out to give a "high five", and whenever someone would cheer for me, I smiled and waved because simply stated, it's an amazing feeling when someone calls you out by name. After a while, though, there came a point where I just wasn't smiling anymore. Nothing about any of this seemed fun. I would hear an enthusiastic "Go, Rose! Keep it up, Rose!" and wish I could just tune them out. Then I felt guilty for not even wanting to acknowledge them when, in reality, what they were willing to do for a bunch of total strangers was pretty darn amazing.

6. I don't know how many other runners have experienced this, but eventually, after completing a certain number of miles, I felt as if I couldn't even think straight. I was texting my other sister Kerry throughout the race, so she and my mom would know exactly where we were, and she would respond with encouraging messages and/or information on where they were standing in the crowd. After about the 14th mile, though, everything was kind of a blur. It's funny to think back on now, but at the time, when Katie would turn and say something to me, I don't think I processed half of it. Whether it's the adrenaline, the exhaustion, or simply trying to put one foot in front of the other, you find yourself just fighting to survive.

7. When I first signed up for the marathon and began the training process, I often said that it would be "just this one time". I rarely pictured myself ever attempting it again. It was more like a "bucket list" activity that I could cross off later as I moved on to the next challenge. Seems reasonable, right?

8. As I mentioned before, I was somehow managing to text back and forth with Kerry as I ran, and while looking through the saved messages later, I realized how dark some of them were. "I feel like a failure" is one that is still pretty clear in my memory, along with "This is bad" and "Please, please pray for me". There were times when I wanted to write her and say I can't do this anymore, Kerry. I just can't do it. What part of me possibly made me think this was something I could do? I refrained from texting those words, but they played over and over in my mind as I hit the most difficult periods of the race.

9. Whether it's a sign of inexperience or a common issue with even the most elite runners, the recovery period is rough. It's only been about 48 hours so far, but the legs are extremely sore, my shoulders ache after lying down in bed for a while, and it is painful to walk down a flight of stairs. Furthermore, I can barely bend over to tie my own laces, let alone help a 7-year-old student at work get the knot out of his shoe. Marathons have a funny way of making you feel elderly for the next several days.

10. To put it bluntly, life is all about challenging ourselves and looking for new things to accomplish once we have reached those goals. I have officially finished a marathon in my lifetime. I did it. Why do it again? I should concentrate instead on finding a brand-new challenge and devoting time to that...right?

Okay, so now that I have spent some time being Debbie Downer, here are the top ten reasons why I know for sure that I will run more marathons in my life:

1. Everyone should experience a marathon in their lifetime. There is something truly beautiful about it, whether you are a runner, a spectator, or a volunteer. I felt it a little bit last year, when I went with the family to watch Katie complete her first marathon in Chicago, and I remember being amazed by the enthusiasm of the crowds. This time around, as an actual participant on the course, I was blown away at the sights, the sounds, the people crowding the sidelines, and how they all came together on a warm, sunny day. I absolutely loved being out there, taking it all in, and noticing details in the city neighborhoods that I hadn't necessarily stopped to look at before.

2. The posters that are held up by spectators were one of my favorite parts of the Chicago Half Marathon, and I enjoyed them every bit as much at the full marathon. Every time I saw a funny or particularly poignant one, I made a mental note to remember it, but sadly, I forgot many of them...and wasn't smart enough at the time to type them into my phone as I was running. A few that I did manage to pull out of my brain over time included:

A) Be proud - you're running faster than my husband!
B) Shoot...I thought they said it was 2.62 miles!
C) Quitting will hurt a lot longer than the pain.
D) It's easier than me!
E) Dear Lisa, I love you and miss you. Hopefully we will meet again one day. Love, Your Toenails 

3. Every time I listen to "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey, I will remember hearing it at approximately the 24th mile, with the crowds going crazy in the background, all while knowing that I was lucky enough to be participating in something amazing.

4. Seeing my family along the way. My mom, sister Kerry, and brother-in-law Jay were able to use the text messages between me and Kerry to track where Katie and I were running, and we saw them three times on the course--miles 13, 16, and 25. It always gives you a burst of energy when you pass your loved ones while running. Just knowing that they are there and excited to see you is a huge source of motivation and support. My dad also participated in sending text messages and reminding us that he was praying. "We're all with you", he wrote at one point, and it's moments like that when you remember that you don't have to do these things by yourself. Our families are there to lift us up during the hard times and make it all worthwhile in the end...and in this case, it absolutely was.
5. Looking through the pictures at after the race. I look so exhausted and unhappy in many of them--one in particular around mile 17, where I wanted that photographer to know exactly how I was feeling. Now I wish I had smiled a little more, but even so, it's fun to look through those pictures and recall the various emotions that were taking place at different times. It offers a portrait of the overall marathon for later, after you have regained your composure and can look back on it with a clear mind.

6. Receiving support from everyone on Facebook, from the teachers and parents at my mom's school, at work, and at home. People say the kindest words...they really, really do. I am amazed at how many people have cared about my success and taken the time to tell me so. The same goes for the crowds who came out to cheer on all the runners during the race. What's so phenomenal about these people is that they genuinely want to yell and cheer for you...and they want to single you out individually. I think the best decision I made for this race was buying a shirt online that had my name printed in huge letters across the front. I can't even count the number of people on the sidelines who looked me right in the eye, smiled, and screamed "Go Rose! You can do it, Rose!" Consider the power of what it means that so many people are eager to do that for complete strangers. It gives you hope that the world really is still good at heart, and that's what the marathon brings out in everyone who participates in some way. It's one of those moments where you just want to "pay it forward" and do the same for others when they need it.

7. The weight loss that has come from this training has just been an added bonus. I had lost about 100 pounds by the time I began preparing for the marathon, but training has helped me drop that additional 50 that may have otherwise been extremely difficult to lose. Running keeps me focused on my health and helps me maintain the right balance with food and exercise. I never imagined I'd get addicted to it so fast, but there you have it.

8. Talking to people and having newfound confidence in myself. Just today, I went to the Runner's Soul shop in town and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a marathon jacket and official finishers' shirt. To my surprise, I found it incredibly easy and exciting to strike up a conversation with the woman who was working there. I told her about the marathon, its ups and downs, and the weight loss journey that has come with it. In turn, she told me about her training for the upcoming New York Marathon, and how she has stayed motivated over the past several months. I have been painfully shy my entire life, but by losing weight and developing a passion for running, I have found that I have so much more to say, and it is exciting that I can look at people directly in the eye without getting so flustered or embarrassed. It has taken a long time to get here, but now that I have, it's hard to describe exactly how awesome it feels.

9. There's nothing like walking through the finishers' chute, toward the volunteers with medals in their hands. For a few moments, you feel like an Olympian as they put the medal around your neck and congratulate you on a job well done. As soon as I had mine, I held the medal part in my hand and actually kissed it. I'm pretty sure someone behind me laughed at this, but you know what? When you've been through the grueling journey of earning something like that, all you care about is basking in that happiness and being grateful for what's in front of you. So you look a little silly? WHO THE HECK CARES???? :)

10. Pushing through the pain, because I matter...and because we all matter. I mentioned before that the marathon pulls every single emotion out of you in its time, but ultimately, that's exactly what life is--all those mixed feelings endured for the sake of the payoff on the other side. There's the excitement, impulsivity, shock when the "hard stuff" settles in, anger, pain, fear, embarrassment, and frustration...followed by complete relief and joy when you realize that you have made it. All of a sudden, you want to just live in the moment. You forget the pain pretty quickly, but you always remember the good...and that is exactly how it should be!

Katie and I loved wearing our medals at the hotel after the marathon, when we could just relax and enjoy what we had spent five hours and twenty eight minutes completing. THAT right there is why we do this, and why we love it so much!

And with that, the verdict is in...I am totally and completely in love with running, and as long as I have a say in it, I will continue to chase after it! There's a famous quote (and another famous marathon spectator poster) that says The day will come when you are no longer able to do this. Today is NOT that day! As I continue into my thirties and beyond, my main goal is to stay healthy and stick with the forms of exercise that I love the most...and running just happens to be at the top of that list. Several people have asked me already if I would consider doing the marathon again next year, and the answer is always yes! Absolutely! There's no question about it...which is odd because the whole time I was running on Sunday, I swore that I couldn't possibly be dumb enough to do this to myself again. As I waddled around for the next two days, completely sore and stiff, I knew that this was more than something I had randomly stumbled had become a passion. It really is like childbirth (not that I would know anything about that, but you know what I mean)...the memory of the hard parts fades as soon as you experience the reward, and from then on, you're eager to start all over again. The 2012 Chicago Marathon is 100% for sure part of my future plan, barring any injuries, and if all goes well physically, chances are I'll find another one to run before that! Ah, it's tough when we start forming obsessions :)

I think my heart will always be with the Chicago Marathon each year, mainly because it's my hometown, and because this is where it all began for me, but I am already getting excited about putting other marathons on my To Do List. The Illinois, Las Vegas, Disney Princess, New York, and Wisconsin Dells Marathons all sound flat-out AMAZING, and I look forward to hopefully turning these dreams into a reality. After finishing Marathon #1 with a goal simply to finish, I am excited about fine-tuning other areas that didn't seem to matter the first time around--such as speed training, increased outdoor runs (the treadmill has represented about 90% of my training this year, if not more), and possibly training with other people to build endurance and practice keeping up with different paces. It will be a slow process, and not all of these things will be achieved at once, but the first step is where it all begins.

Question of the Day: Name something in your life that you love, as well as the top reasons why you choose to persevere with it, even in the darkest moments.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"You are your problem...and you're also your solution."

Hanging out with my dog at our Bears Tailgating Party in October 2008...

...and posing with my sister Katie at the Chicago Marathon Expo in October 2011! What a difference a few years can make!

All right, wasn't too long ago that I resolved to be much better about updating this blog, adding to it at least once a week. Well, four weeks later, you can see how well that turned out :) Maintaining these things is much harder than it looks...but I guess late is better than never!

Since tomorrow is going to be a pretty exciting day (to say the least), I figured it was the perfect time to post something. The title I used comes from the movie "Bridesmaids", which just happens to be one of my favorites. The raunchy, "female version of The Hangover" nature of it might make it difficult to picture it as a starting point for a valuable life lesson, but it has more heart than you might think...which is the sign of a perfect comedy in my book! :) In the movie, Melissa McCarthy's character snaps Kristen Wiig's character into shape with an admirable pep talk that basically ends with this line: "I do not associate with people who blame the world for their problems, because you are your problem...and you're also your solution."

Sound familiar? It certainly does for me, especially when I think back on the way I was living just three short years ago. It is so easy to reach a point of unhappiness that leads you to blame others for your own shortcomings, because after all, if they're the problem, then you can just keep on accusing them of getting in the way as you avoid the real solution. That solution, of course, requires us to acknowledge that if we're miserable, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. The good news is that admitting this is the first step, and from there, it can only get easier to initiate change.

Believe me, I know that's easier said than done. There was a time in my life when I simply didn't want to hear any of this. I was perfectly content blaming everyone aroud me for my weight problems: my family, my school/job responsibilities that got in the way of an ideal workout routine, and so on. Plus, I hated the idea that physical appearances have to matter so much in society. Back then, it was like, okay, would people actually like me better if I was thinner? What kind of people must they be if that is so important to them? Why should I inconvenience myself just to make them happy?

Well, as it turned out, the problem wasn't "those other people" at all--it was me. I hated having to do all my clothes shopping at Lane Bryant, Sears, or other restricted location that carried plus sizes. It was frustrating having to alternate between only two pairs of dress pants and a couple of tops during student teaching, because even if I did spend the time and money to search for more outfits, it hardly seemed worth it. Back pain and soreness in the feet were commonplace, and as I worked with my students at school, it was exhausting to be constantly worried that my weight was the only thing they noticed.

Okay, I'm officially starting to ramble now...sorry about that! With the Chicago Marathon less than 12 hours away, it has me thinking about what it took to get here, and how unbelievably exciting it is to be chasing this new goal. Nearly 45,000 fellow runners will be at that start line in the morning, which is incredible. 45,000 people are running to give back to charities, improve their health, and have some fun in the beautiful city of Chicago. We all have stories to tell--stories about coming back from a low point and learning how to be happy again. In a world where so many situations are completely out of our hands, it is comforting to know that there are so many other things that we can control with a little self-discipline. I have lost 150 pounds in three years, and after making it to the other side of this journey, I can't ever imagine going back. Now it's exciting to set new goals and aspire to do more things that seemed impossible before. To me, that's what the Chicago Marathon is all about--grabbing an opportunity with both hands and being grateful for it when it comes along. Not everyone is necessarily interested in running a marathon in their lifetime, but that isn't the point. The point is that if you find something you truly want to do, but you realize it's going to take a lot of time and patience before it comes to fruition, you're going to accept that as part of the journey. You don't let a little hard work prevent you from doing something absolutely worthwhile, because after all is said and done, there's nothing like enjoying the payoff!

I want to say thank you to everyone who has been reading this blog and offering words of encouragement, either here, on Facebook, or in person. Exactly one year ago, the Chicago Marathon wasn't even something I was remotely interested in, let alone physically prepared to do, so it's still pretty surreal that I actually went through with the training for this. Without the love and encouragement from family, friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers, I might have backed out a long time ago, which says a lot about the power of motivating somebody else with simply a kind word. It all adds up in the end, and it makes a huge difference as we set out to accomplish what matters most to us.

I will post pictures from the marathon and let you know how it went. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous (if not a little warm), which is always a plus! Happy Columbus Day weekend, and remember...TODAY is ALWAYS the day to stand up and "get 'er done", as they say! We never know for sure if a tomorrow is coming, but one thing's for sure: we have right now!

Question of the Day: What's an example of something you were able to improve upon in your own life when you finally accepted that you were your own solution?