In Her/His Words

In His Words: Matthew’s Redemption Marathon Story

In case you missed them, check out Matthew’s other guest posts:

The Chicago Marathon was the most fulfilling day of my life. It was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to changing my life and being healthy.  But truth be told, I was disappointed in myself after that race.

Minutes after crossing the finish line, I knew I could have done better.  Both the physical and mental breakdown I had during that race were a product of my lack of training.  Granted, I had some setbacks along the way, but I knew in my heart I was under trained.  I decided I wanted another shot at the marathon to redeem myself, which came in the form of the Rock n Roll USA Marathon this past weekend.

To prepare for this race, I decided to use a significantly different training plan than I did for Chicago.  It had me running six days a week and included weekly speed training sessions and tempo runs.  I knew it would be difficult, but I was up to the task.  Starting on November 15, I spent 18 weeks training my butt off.  Over that time I ran a total of 622 miles, dropped 23 pounds and 4% body fat, and saw my average pace drop by 45 seconds per mile.

side by side

Race weekend came and, once again, my mother was here to support me.  She has been there for all of the most significant moments in my life and she did not want to miss this one either. We both awoke at 4:30am on race day morning and got everything we needed together.  I had a light breakfast, got dressed and collected all of the gear I had packed the night before.  We set out at 5:30am to catch the metro to the start area, which was right by the Washington Monument.

RNR2

I had never felt so calm before a race.  Despite knowing I was about to run 26.2 miles, I felt so good about the shape I was in and the training I had done that nothing made me nervous.  My running buddy Rachel met us outside of my corral about 10 minutes before race time.  I hugged them both and went into my corral, and twenty minutes later I was off and officially running my second marathon!

Start to 10k

After crossing the start line, I immediately felt a tad emotional.  I had to make sure not to start off too fast, so I kept checking my Garmin to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it.  After my usual three miles to feel fully warmed up, I really started to feel good.  I ran with a fluidity that I hadn’t experienced in the past.  I was smiling, taking in the sites of the city, and actually having fun.  The hill just before we hit Mile 6 looked to kill most of the other runners, so I just put my head down and charged right up it, my quads burning the whole time.  I knew my Mom and Rachel would meet me around this part of the course, but we missed each other.  I didn’t let it deter me and hit the 10k mark at 60:43.  I was pumped.

10k to Half Marathon

This was my favorite part of the run and I was now keep a comfortable pace of 9:30.  To say I was in a zone would be a complete understatement.  During this stretch I knew I had a couple groups of friends who were cheering on runners.  I saw my friend Caroline around Mile 7 and then a group of friends at the water station near Mile 9.5.  I was so pumped to see them I actually ran UP their stairs to give them all a high five.  Here I was running a full marathon and I did some steps along the way.

RNR7

Ten miles is my favorite distance to run and when I passed the 10 mile marker I looked at my watch and saw that I had PRed!  I then picked up the pace a little more and charged toward the halfway point. The marathoners split off from the half marathoners and the road became like a barren wasteland.  I saw my Mom and Rachel for the first time on the course, gave them a high five, said “Gotta go!” and hit the half marathon marker at yet another PR of 2:05:54.  I was on a roll!

Half Marathon to Mile 20

During my first marathon, I had a physical breakdown just after passing the half marathon mark.  This time was so much different.  I continued to barrel through at a 9:30 pace and just felt like I could do anything.  13, 14, 15, 16, the mile markers just kept ticking away.  However, there comes a time during the course of running 26.2 miles where your body just runs out of energy and that time finally came for me at Mile 17.  I had run without stopping for seventeen miles in a time of 2:43:34.  At that point I knew that I was already a shoe-in to beat my Chicago time, the thought now became “by how much?”.  Over the next 3 miles I took a GU and walked a short portion.  I knew a person in the band at Mile 20 and he gave me a high five as I passed.  I then saw my Mom and Rachel for an embrace and another pair of high fives.  20 miles down in 3:16:54.

RNR8

Mile 20 to the Finish

This was the most difficult portion of the race for me.  My pace slowed significantly but I still did not let that break me.  I ran the majority of the way and took a GU at Mile 21 to give me the extra energy I needed to finish strong.  I dug so deep to keep pushing forward.  There seemed to be more hills during this portion of the race than the rest of it.  That seemed so unfair!  With less than a mile to go I came into what seemed like a straight away portion of the highway.  I saw RFK Stadium in the distance and knew it was only a matter of time before I would cross the finish line.  I ran as hard and as fast as I could the rest of the way, never stopping.  I managed a 9:00 minute pace the last half mile and burst across the finish line giving it every last ounce of energy I had to give.  For the second time, I became a marathoner.

second time

I was winded, I was hurting, but nothing could have dampened just how good I felt about what I had just done.  I collected my medal and gave it a big kiss.  I had earned that piece of hardware and it felt so good to feel it around my neck.  I walked very slowly through the finish area festivities, seeing all of the elated runners along the way.  I knew many of them had to be feeling as amazing as I did.  As I met up with my Mom and Rachel, finally, we all embraced in a moment I will never forget.

RNR1

They were both so proud of me and it felt good to know that I had that kind of support, not just for that day, but in my life in general.  My mother’s presence in my life has allowed me to grow into the person I have become and without her support I really don’t know where I would have ended up in life.  I certainly would not be a two-time marathon finisher without her that is for sure.

RNR3

Having had some time to process the entire experience I came away with a few thoughts. First, no matter how hard you train, running a marathon is hard.  There is no getting around it, but completing it will change your life forever.  Second, the marathon is so much like our lives.  You have ups and you have downs, but you ultimately learn how to get through all of those times to come out better when all is said and done.  Lastly, and most importantly, it taught me that I am STILL capable of so much more than even I think I am.  That applies to all of you reading this too.  It is so important to always believe in yourself and never sell yourself short. Ever.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read another of my stories for you.  I truly appreciate all of the comments and support.  In closing, I will let the numbers speak for themselves:

  • Chicago Marathon – 5:24:45
  • Rock N Roll USA Marathon – 4:24:03

Redemption at last.

In Her Words: Darlene’s Story

“In Her/His Words” is a series on Beth’s Journey for people who want to share their weight loss story. There are so many different ways to reach success and all of us can use a little inspiration from time to time. Check out the past In Her/His Words Posts:

If you’re interested in sharing your story, please email me at bethsjourneyblog at gmail dot com to get the conversation going!

I’ve struggled with my weight most of my life, but it went out of control after having 2 children. Every time I’d lose a few pounds or more, I’d put it back on and then some. I saw this as going nowhere, and so for many years, I gave up.

The turning point was summer of ’06. I was 44 years old and our family went to Disneyland. On the plane, I asked the attendant for a seat belt extension. Forgetting who asked, she held it up and asked loudly who needed it. I felt like sinking away in humiliation. Southern California was in the gripes of a heat wave, temps were in the high 90’s and more. As a large person, this was torture. There was also the shame of not fitting on some of the rides with my kids and husband. We were in the happiest place on earth but I was miserable. I promised after that vacation I would do something about my weight.

IMG_0218

It took six months for me to keep that promise but on Feb. 24, 2007 I joined Weight Watchers. My doctor had urged me to consider WW over the years. I tried it twice as a young woman. I knew WW would work if I was serious about it. My weight was 313 pounds and I needed to lose over 160 pounds! I never knew anyone personally who had ever lost that much weight or if it was even possible. But with steely determination I was going to defy the odds and make it work, and work I did.

I attended nearly every meeting (I missed only 2). I tracked every morsel I ate, drank plenty of water and started walking. I made sure I stuck to my daily Points target and often used my bonus Points. As I started walking more and incorporating weights and resistance exercise into my routine, I used my Activity Points often. I wasn’t going to let anything derail me, so I did what I needed to make sure I had time for planning, shopping, food prep and exercise.

IMG_0625

At my one year anniversary with WW, I had lost over 100 lbs. By Feb. 21, 2009, I reached my goal weight of 146 lbs. In total, I lost 167 lbs! The day I completed Maintenance was the proudest of my life. I went from a size 28 to a 6. I lost 23 inches off my waist, 24 off my hips and 20 off my bust.

File0011

My challenges along the way were few. I was so focused and determined, not much stood in my way. One challenge I had was doing exercises that would boost metabolism and reshape my body. It took 8 months for me to start a workout routine. I started with the exercises in the WW material. Once I saw the difference, how it pulled in the flab and gave me a sexy body, I was hooked! Another challenge that reared its ugly head was breads and sweets! I learned to limit those in my home and gave away most of the baking I did. Trigger foods that had to be in the house for my family was kept in a cupboard that was off limits to me.

My motivation? Liking what I saw in the mirror, how my body could move, the energy I had, the
increasingly smaller clothes I was fitting into, the pride of my family. The joy I felt every day.

Five keys to my success:

    1. Track EVERYTHING!
    2. Eat the daily PointsPlus Target, always!
    3. Exercise! I didn’t have tummy tucks or lifts; exercise did a damn good job at that
    4. 4. Be POSITIVE! Focus on the CANS not the CAN’TS.
    5. Practice healthy selfishness – setting aside ME time for success.

Whoever you are; you can do it. Pull it out of your inner most self and tell yourself everyday: I
CAN do this! I WILL do this!

Good luck!

Darlene Scott – Lifetime Member, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

In Her Words: Rebecca’s Story

“In Her/His Words” is a series on Beth’s Journey for people who want to share their weight loss story. There are so many different ways to reach success and all of us can use a little inspiration from time to time. Check out the past In Her/His Words Posts:

If you’re interested in sharing your story, please email me at bethsjourneyblog at gmail dot com to get the conversation going!

I’ve always been thin-average size, never skinny, never overweight. When I had my son in 2005, I weighed the most I’d ever weighed in my life–186 pounds. I gained 65+ pounds during my pregnancy, apparently I thought the weight would just melt off after my son was born. It didn’t melt off, didn’t even come close to melting off, and over the next several years, my weight kept creeping up. I’d go through spurts of “starting a diet” only to give up two days in and eat everything I’d restricted myself from “ever eating again.” It was a vicious cycle that lasted until I decided to join Weight Watchers with my mom at the end of 2011.

When I first started the program I ate a lot of Smart Ones (the WW frozen dinners), Fiber One brownies, string cheese, and baked popped chips. All of those things have the points values listed right on the box so it was easy to calculate the points and write them down in my tracker. I also ate a lot of salads–McDonald’s and Chick fil A both have a really yummy southwest salad that I ate all the time. Fruit is considered “free” on WW so I ate lots of apples, blueberries, and watermelon. I didn’t exercise at all, I just tracked what I ate and wrote EVERYTHING down in my WW journal.

It was like night and day when it came to what I ate before starting WW. I used to get fast food ALL the time. I always “biggie sized” my meals and I ate french fries almost every single day. I was tired all the time because of the crap I was putting into my body. After my first 3 months on WW, I felt so much better and had lost 33 pounds!

I kept with it and by July 4th, I hit 50 lbs lost. That was such a proud moment when I stepped onto the scale at WW and saw a number staring back at me that I hadn’t seen in SO long! I couldn’t believe that I’d lost 50 lbs in just 6 months…it seemed like such an impossible thing to do when I walked into WW just 6 months before.

My whole attitude on life changed after losing 50 lbs. I’m so confident now and I find myself doing things I never would’ve done 50 lbs ago. I’m a better wife, mom, and employee. I have lots of energy, I’ve started working out, and I love being active. I lay out my workout clothes every night so that I have no excuses when it comes to whether or not I’m going to workout.

If I can’t make it to the gym I don’t let that stop me from working out. There are TONS and tons of great workouts all over the internet. I loved this dorm room workout, it was a lot harder than it seems!

The most important thing to remember is that relying on exercise to give you the body you want isn’t going to work. Yes, it’s important and it’s good for your heart but you’re going to drop the pounds when you change your diet. I cook healthy for myself and my family by either lightening up recipes I already make or finding recipes with WW points values already calculated. There are some of my favorites from my blog.

Healthy Turkey Chili

Turkey, Cream Cheese, and Sausage Stuffed Shells

Remember to set realistic goals–everyday is not going to be an ideal day to workout and eat “perfectly.” There are many, many days where I eat everything in sight and feel like a bottomless pit. Just start with your next meal and make it a good one. Losing weight is not about getting to the finish line. You have to change your entire lifestyle and turn a not so good one into a healthy one. It’s about finding your best self and enjoying the journey!

Thanks Beth for letting my share my weight loss story with your readers!

In His Words: Matthew’s Marathon Story

Hello readers, this is Matt writing to you again. You may remember my In His Words story featured in back in September. In that story I spoke of my intention to run the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2012. The responses to my story and the requests to hear about my marathon experience were enough that I asked Beth if I could do a follow-up piece for you. She was more than happy to feature it and here I am again.

There are many experiences in life that no matter how prepared we feel, we cannot be 100% prepared for.  The marathon and its 26 miles and 385 yards is most certainly one of those experiences.

Chicago5

Race day is always such a special day for so many reasons.  No matter what the distance or how many races I have done, my emotions always seem to be all over the map.  The marathon was no different for me.  My 4:45am wake up call came and I jumped out of bed.  I was so excited to run my first marathon.

Chicago8

I had my pancake breakfast, showered, stretched and got dressed to leave.

Chicago6

The Chicago Marathon is a very well-oiled machine I’ll tell you.  It was nearly a 2 mile walk to my gear check area because there were three different gear check areas depending on your starting corral. My mom came with me as I got my things in order, stretched a bit, and dropped my gear off.  She gave me a big hug and off I went into Corral L around 7:45am.

It was time.

Standing in my race corral, surrounded by 45,000 other runners was really a breathtaking sight. As we inched toward the start line I found myself becoming more and more serious.  Gone were the days where I could train.  Gone were the days where I could daydream about this moment.  And gone were the days where I was not a marathoner.  The moment had come to actually do it.   At around 8:15am, I blew a kiss to the sky (something I do at every race for certain loved ones no longer with me), started my Garmin, and was off.  It was official, I was running my first ever marathon!

Start to 10K

As I began to run, a huge smile crept over my face.  I just kept thinking “I am running the Chicago Marathon.  This is so cool!”  The 10K distance went by in a blur.  The streets were lined with thousands and thousands of spectators.  That, coupled with adrenaline, had me feeling so good.  I hit the 10K mark in 1:05:48, feeling fresh and confident.

10K to Half Marathon

This might have been my favorite stretch of the race.  I knew going into the race that I would see my friends Jon, Steph, and baby Samantha (people I consider true family) at the Mile 7 marker.  I saw them right where they said they would be.  They jumped up and down and screamed when they saw me and we shared a hug.  I gave baby Sam a kiss, took a photo with Jon and Steph, and was off and running again.  It was such a boost to see them.  Miles 7 through 10 flew by as I was feeling great and knew my Mom would be waiting for me around Mile 10.  As I approached I saw her and my friend Jillian. My mom started jumping up and down like I knew she would.  I got a hug from both of them and a “You got this.” from my Mom and off I went. As I crossed into double digits and hit the half marathon marker I felt so good.  I passed the halfway mark at 2:20:19, ahead of my projected finish time, and figured if I kept at this pace I would be just fine.

Little did I know…

Half Marathon to Mile 20

This was, by far, the most lonely and challenging part of the race for me.  As I passed the Mile 14 marker my body began to do something it had never done in two years and nearly 1000 miles of running … it began to breakdown.  My quads began to violently twitch and spasm.  At first I thought it was a temporary setback and pushed through it the way I had pushed through everything else along the way in life.  The pain became so intense that it forced me to begin walking and, eventually, come to a complete stop.  I was so unprepared for something like this, as I had never experienced it before.  To look down and actually see my muscles spasming to the point that it nearly buckled me was scary.  I did what I could for the next two miles knowing my Mom had said she MIGHT be at Mile 16.  Well, Mile 16 came and went and I couldn’t find her.

At the time it was crushing.  It may seem odd for me to tell you that in a field of 45,000 runners and almost 2 million spectators that I was lonely, but I truly felt that way.  For a split second I thought “I still have ten more miles to go.” but immediately stopped that line of thought.  I made a tough decision and decided to lay down the fierce competitor in me.  The race became about finishing and not about time anymore.  When I finally got to the Mile 20 marker I saw my Mom and she knew something was wrong.  She gave me a tight hug and said exactly what I needed to hear. “Do what you have to do Matthew.  I love you.”  It was then I decided not to seek medical attention because I knew there was a chance they wouldn’t let me back out to finish.  I was willing to risk permanent injury to make this dream a reality.  I was finishing this race … by any means necessary.

Mile 20 to Finish

They say the real race begins at Mile 20.  I can’t really vouch for that, but I can tell you I learned a lot about myself during those last 6.2 miles.  My quads were still spasming but I began to figure some things out.  I shortened my running stride and was able to run easier than walk.  I ran/walked (more like a shuffle) the rest of the way.  I was able to put together a 10:45 pace when I did run and felt pretty good.  I saw the the “1 mile to go” sign and decided to run that last mile.  As I turned the corner past the Mile 26 marker and saw the finish line it dawned on me … I was about to finish.  After 5 hours, 24 minutes, and 45 seconds, I raised my arm to the sky and crossed the finish line.  It was official.  Matthew Frates had become a marathoner.

Chicago4

In the weeks since then I have had some time to really think about the whole experience. While training for this took place in 2012, the real journey toward this moment started back in 2010 when I decided to get my life together.  As much as this race for was for me, I realize now that it was as much for those I hold close as it was for me.  I received an overwhelming amount support along the way and I know I would never have achieved all that I have without it.  I was fortunate to not only have my Mom there, but four of my closest friends as well.

Chicago3

I will never be able to truly express what that meant to me and I know that no matter where my life takes me I will never forget this experience and everything they contributed to making it such a success.  26.2 miles is a humbling distance and the experience of running it taught me many things.  The most important thing it taught me is that no matter what life throws my way, I will never again think or feel that I cannot do it.  I am a marathoner and no one will EVER be able to take that away from me.  Thank you so much for reading my story.

In His Words: Matthew’s Story

“If you don’t change your life, you will die early Matthew.”  Could there be a more powerful statement in your life at age 27?  My name is Matt Frates and I once heard that from my doctor after a medical scare shortly after my 27th birthday.  Being forced to process my own mortality at a time when I was supposed to be in my prime was, and still is to this day, the largest pill I have ever had to swallow.  I had to deal with the fact that I was not invincible, and the destructive lifestyle I unconsciously chose to live would have dire consequences on my future.

matt5

The next day I received a work email about a session of Weight Watchers starting the following week.  That, my friends, was “the sign.”  It was time to get my life together.

matt6

For all of you readers out there, whether you have lost weight or have yet to take that plunge, we all will have that moment where we are ready, and boy do you have to be.  I marched into that WW meeting ready to take on the world, thinking about how I needed to lose this weight to be in the place I should be.  I signed up, I paid, and I stepped on the scale.  BAM!  I was slapped in the face with the true reality.  I weighed 312 pounds.  Come again?  I will spell it out; three hundred and twelve pounds!  I was embarrassed and I was scared, but I was motivated.  I wasn’t there for anyone but myself.  I was ready to do whatever it took to change my life and my lifestyle, NOT to go on a diet.

That day, February 25, 2010, was the start of the rest of my new life.

Making life changes is never easy and I started by going home and throwing away all the food I had in my apartment.  It was time to start fresh.  I bought all new food, made menus, and stuck to the plan.  The first week I lost 6.2lbs and the following week 2.9lbs.  I was on a roll.  I began exercising five days a week, tracking all of my food, yet still enjoying life.  Throughout 2010 I lost close to 50 pounds by sticking to my points and exercising vigorously.  My exercise involved massive amounts of cardio, which included the elliptical, the stationary bike, and rowing machine.  I loved seeing the amount of calories burned at the end of a gym session. The day when I hit 1000 calories burned I thought was the best accomplishment of my life.  I was set for life right?  Or so I thought.

In mid-June of 2010 I received a phone call from a good friend asking me if I had heard of an event called the Warrior Dash.  I had not, but upon checking it out, I saw that it was a 5k (3.1 miles) with obstacles.  I knew I hated running but the concept sounded like so much fun.  Starting in July I began to get my butt on the treadmill and attempt to run.  It was ugly for sure, but I made it to the point where I could run about 2 miles of the 5K distance.  The event was in Amish country Pennsylvania and it was a blast!

matt3

What is significant about this story is the fact that I finished in 49 minutes when I had expected to finish in well over an hour.  I felt so good about myself and what I had done that I began to think I could do it again.  You know what I found out?  I actually enjoyed running!  I did my first 5K on Thanksgiving of that year and then my first 10K two weeks later and it became official, I was hooked.

matt2

Since then, my journey through weight loss has taken on a completely different meaning.  No longer was it just about the weight or even about the food.  It became about something so much deeper.    Running, not food, became my new passion, my new addiction.  It filled my body, my mind, and my heart with something food never could.  All the mindless eating I had done to satiate the repressed and misunderstood emotions I was carrying around could never have given me what the sport of running has over the last two years.

MattGW2012

Over that time I have competed in 19 races, including five half marathons and a Tough Mudder. On October 7, 2012 I will run my 20th and most challenging race to date, the Chicago Marathon.  The marathon and its 26.2 miles will be a microcosm of my journey through weight loss.  It will be long, it will be difficult, but ultimately it will end with a feeling of satisfaction that nothing else can give.  It will not be the end of this journey, just steps into another phase of it.

mfbefore-after

As I sit here writing the conclusion to my story I thought of three powerful thoughts that have kept me so successful over the years.  The first tip I can give is never look at losing weight as a diet.  The word diet implies deprivation and carries a negative connotation with it.  Think of it as the start of the rest of your life because this is about changing your lifestyle. The second tip I can give is to always remember that satisfying your mental appetite is just as important, if not more, than satisfying your physical appetite. Weight loss is not a sprint it is a marathon.  That may sound cliché but it’s true.  Many of us know emotional eating all too well and it does not go away once we are ready to change our lives.  Just be aware of the mental aspect of weight loss because it will be there through the bad times AND the good times.  Lastly, and most importantly, never doubt yourself.  If my story can teach one thing it is that ANYTHING is possible.  When I started I never thought I would have become the person I am.  That desire, that sense of purpose is in all of you.  Some of you may have found it and for some it may be dormant, but it is there.  Always believe … always.  Good luck to you all on your journeys and thank you for taking the time to hear about mine.

Yours in health,
Matt