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Heather’s First 5k

“I want to start running. What do I need to do?”

I nearly squealed with excitement when I heard those opening words from my sister Heather. I’ve run many times with my sister Wendy (including The Broad Street 10 Miler and the ODDyssey Half Marathon this year), but my sister Heather has never been that into the idea of running for voluntary reasons.

Heather is a busy mom of two kids who works, takes care of her family, and has a million and one things to do every day. Running to her sounded like an efficient form of exercise that would take far less time away from her busy life than her beloved 1.5 hour yoga classes.

And I was delighted that she called on me for advice!

I told her to go to a running store to get fitted for a good pair of running shoes, look up the Couch to 5k Program, and get started right away before she could come up with excuses not to. And for one of the first times in my life, my older sister listened to me!

She downloaded the c25k app on her iPhone, went to a running store and bought a pair of shoes (Brooks Glycerine 10) and got started the very next day.

I somehow convinced her that we should sign up for a 5k together around Thanksgiving to keep her motivated and so that we could run together when she was gone with the program. Several times a week she would check in with me on her status with c25k, and her enthusiasm was infectious each time she crossed a new running threshold.

She went from running 90 seconds and wanting to die, to running 22 minutes straight over the course of 6 weeks, and while being delighted to be done, felt she could have run more if need be. She didn’t exactly finish the program in time for the 5k, but we had signed up for a Turkey Trot on the Friday after Thanksgiving and I may have twisted her arm about running it anyways.

I told her the excitement of the crowd and the adrenaline from running a race would carry her through, and if she could run 22 minutes, she could run 36 with me by her side. And, if she couldn’t? We could walk. No big deal.

Friday came and we woke up bright and early and set out the door at 7:30am to make the almost hour drive to the race site. I told everyone who would listen that it was her first 5k and she told me she was going to punch me. Sisterly love. Smile

Before we knew it, it was time to go to the starting area and I was being far too excited for her taste, but she had no choice. She was running her first 5k, and I was there by her side!

Heather and Beth

All of a sudden, the announcement was made and we were running a 5k! I told Heather to set the pace and that I would just go along with whatever she was comfortable with, and we started off FAST. She wasn’t sure what her exact pace would be, but was guessing 12 minute miles, and we were running sub 10s at the beginning. I told her to slow down and that we could pick it up if she feeling good for the second half of the race.

We lucked out with a GORGEOUS day for running.

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I was so impressed with how she was doing and was trying to think of what I would want someone who was running with me to do for my first 5k, so I did what I do best and just talked and talked. I told her random stories, talked a lot about food/pancakes/post run eating, and updated her about how far we’d gone periodically. And before we knew it we were at the half way mark and she was doing awesome.

The course itself was fast and flat and and pretty scenic. We kept an even pace after that quick start at the beginning and I was surprised we were going closer to 10 minute miles than 12. Before either of us knew it, we rounded the corner and laid eyes on the finish line. Side by side, we picked it up for the last little bit and ran through the finish with arms held high! We’d done it!

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My nephew (her son) Ben had come with his dad to cheer us on (how CUTE is he!?!?) and was so impressed by his mom! As were the rest of us. Not only did we finish, but we finished in just under 32 minutes for her very first 5k!

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Just Like That

So one thing I neglected to mention was after the run that possibly put me into crazy territory, I started to experience some soreness behind my knee. It was weird because I’m very good about listening to my body, and it didn’t hurt AT ALL during the run itself. But right when I stopped, it felt kind of tight and strange, so I stretched it out and then walked around a bit.

As Sunday went on, the pain got worse and worse. I took a little Advil and told myself to just go to sleep, nothing was wrong, I’d wake up in the morning and everything would be fine.

Not so.

After going to bed, I woke up a few times in the night if I moved a certain way with a sharp pain on the back of my knee. I woke up on Monday and it was REALLY sore. I could still walk, but it was really stiff and sore and there was no way I could run. When I was at my desk at work, I kept trying to convince myself it was fine because while sitting I could barely feel a thing, but as soon as I stood up, I would practically hunch over in pain. I called the sports medicine doctor to make an appointment, and it turned out they could see me the next day, which was two weeks ago today.

When I woke up on Tuesday, the pain was a LOT better than it had been the day before when I called the doc. If it was an 8 on Monday on a scale of 1 – 10, it was more like a 3 on Tuesday. I still decided to go to the doctor to see what he had to say and make sure I hadn’t done anything major, though the amount of relief I felt made me know nothing serious was wrong.

After seeing and talking to the doc, and having him poke around for some diagnostic testing, he told me I had strained my hamstring. He said it’s not a major injury, but more of nagging one and that I would need physical therapy. I let him know that I am training for a half marathon (which is just two weeks from Sunday – argh) and he said to just play it by ear and see how my body responds to the PT.

I was told I could run a few 3-4 mile runs that week but to stop if it hurt at all, and I was able to knock out a 3.5 miler the next day and feel good. I felt back in the game.

When I was in San Francisco, I ran only once and did 5 miles on the treadmill, which I thought would be more forgiving than running outside, and though I was told to only do 3-4, I was supposed to do 10 so I felt like I was being agreeable. Well, turns out, 5 was too much. The next day I was in a lot of pain again, and once I got back from San Francisco, I had my first few PT appointments.

I’d never been to PT before, and the first appointment was basically just a diagnostic one where I spoke to the doctor, she asked a ton of questions, testing the strength of many different muscles, and came up with a plan of action. She gave me some stretches to do twice a day, and then I went back the next day and she gave me some exercises to do (single leg presses, balancing on one leg, foam rolling, and then two things using a band).

My prescription for PT is to go twice a week for the next 3 weeks, and to play the half by ear. I’ve been able to run up to 4 miles without pain, but haven’t done a longer run since the 9 miler that caused this, and the pain flares up a lot if I run more than 2 days in a row, even shorter ones. So annoying.

At first, I was realllllllllllly pissed. I started running almost 60 pounds ago and have never had an injury of any sort. I’ve trained for several half marathons half-assed where I haven’t done any cross training, stretching, or strengthening, and this time, I had been doing everything right. I honestly was feeling on top of the world with training, and so good about where I was with running and fitness in general! But now that it’s been a few weeks and I’ve had time to process it, you know what I realized?

It’s not the end of the world.

Sure, it sucks. I was 3/4 of the way into training, and I may not be able to run the half. Even if I can run it, I won’t be as prepared as I was going to be and likely won’t “kill it” because I’ve had to step down my training so much. That said, it’s much, much, much more important that I listen to my body right now and take it as easy as I need to. Being injured is frustrating, and sometimes I look at people running and am a little envious, but I’ll get back there. I just need to focus on PT, listening to the doctor, and getting healed.

Moderation with Treats–Is It Possible?

Moderation is and always has been one of the things I struggle with the most in many areas of my life. Part of this as it pertains to healthy living is because of my inclination to classify foods as good or bad. In this month’s Attune Foods post, I make an argument that goes against popular opinion – that food really is good or bad – and how much I still struggle with having treats in my diet without going overboard.

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Click over to read about when I started struggling with this mentality and where I am now with it.

I’d love it if you could weigh in over there on where YOU are with moderation in your diet and any tips or tricks you have.

Wednesday Weight Check #9

Another Wednesday, another weigh in vlog.

I had a small loss on the scale this week and was honestly pretty upset that it wasn’t more when I weighed in, but after reflecting on it, I am OK with it. I know that weight loss is especially slow going when I’m this close to my goal, so I’ll take it.

I did a really good job of getting in my healthy fats this week, mostly in the form of avocado and olive oil,. While it obviously didn’t make the scale move much more, I did feel more satisifed, and absolutely love avocado, so I think I’m going to keep it up.

I leave for California a week from today which I know is going to be really challenging as it comes to weight loss, so my goal for this week is just to stay on track and keep the scale moving in the right direction before my trip.

Are you good about getting healthy fats into your diet? What are your staples for getting in it?

Weekend Kitchen Experiment

This weekend, my big kitchen experiment was with my new crockpot. Into it I threw:

    • 1 diced large onion
    • 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
    • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
    • 4 ounce can diced green chilis
    • 1 cup chunky salsa

I let it cook on low for 5 hours while I tried to find ways to entertain myself and ignore the delicious smell taking over my apartment. After that time, I took the chicken out, shredded it with two forks, and then put it back in the crockpot on high with the cover off for 1 hour to reduce the cooking liquid. [Half of] the finished product:

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And it is/was DELICIOUS. Moist, flavorful, and a little spicy from the salsa and chilis. Yum!

The entire recipe yielded 10 servings, so I froze half (what is pictured above) and kept half for use this week. It worked out to be 2/3 cup of the shredded chicken mixture per serving, for 4 PointsPlus a pop.

So that is kind of the theme for this week’s menu plan because I tend to only cook 1 or 2 nights during the week, and then use big batches of things I make over the weekends to carry me through the rest.

Here’s what my week is shaping up to look like:

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner
Monday Pumpkin Oatmeal w/cottage cheese + pumpkin pie spice Mexican Chicken Salad w/black beans, corn + cilantro Lentil + Feta Salad Soft boiled eggs w/English muffin, turkey bacon + fruit
Tuesday English muffin w/PB + banana Chicken soft tacos w/corn tortillas + side salad Greek yogurt w/honey crisp apple Black bean and corn quesadilla with cilantro
Wednesday Pumpkin Oatmeal w/cottage cheese + pumpkin pie spice Mexican Chicken Salad w/black beans, corn + cilantro Lentil + Feta Salad Out with friends – Sushi
Thursday Greek yogurt w/ cereal + banana Chicken soft tacos w/corn tortillas + side salad Lentil + Feta Salad Grilled tofu w/sweet potatoes + veggies
Friday Pumpkin Oatmeal w/cottage cheese + pumpkin pie spice Grilled tofu w/sweet potatoes + veggies over greens Greek yogurt w/frozen berries Out for Mexican!

 

And here’s what my week is looking like exercise-wise:

    • Sunday: Ripped in 30 Week 1 + 2 – first time trying this and I loved it! Similar to The Shred but no strength training move is more than 30 seconds and it’s all different moves. Refreshing!
    • Monday: 4 mile run
    • Tuesday: Running Intervals + Weights
    • Wednesday: Rest
    • Thursday: Cross train w/strength training
    • Friday: Rest
    • Saturday: 8 mile run

I’ll do a full update on half marathon training soon since I’m now 1/3 through it, but that’s the plan for this week!

How many nights a week do you cook?

Lots of Firsts

I know the first day of fall isn’t officially until Saturday, but this week has brought a lot of firsts that sure make it feel like fall is already here!

This morning was the first time I saw a temperature starting with a “5” when I went out for my run… plus when I got back home after!

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Today marks the first time I’m using my new crockpot:

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To make maple syrup and dijon and mustard slow cooked pulled pork!!

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I can’t wait until I’m home to eat it for dinner tonight!

Last night was the first night I didn’t turn on my air conditioner since pre-summer. I also didn’t turn it on this morning, while getting ready!

This morning is the first time I’ve had canned pumpkin this season:

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It’s also the first time I’m having oatmeal in I can’t even tell you how long!

And, perhaps most excitingly, today is the first day I’ve been able to comfortably wear my size 10 black dress pants (again) for work without them looking inappropriate!

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YES!!!

Have you had any good firsts this week?

Wednesday Weight Check #6

Another Wednesday Weight Check video with results from yesterday’s weigh in!

Weight Watchers Weigh In #6

Check out to clip to hear what I really struggled with this past week, as well as a summary of what I’ve been doing for activity. As promised in the video, here’s a link to the spreadsheet where I track my activity.

Goals for this week:

    • Plan my splurges better.
    • Track everything that I eat.
    • Keep up with half marathon training.
    • Sleep at least 7 hours per night.
    • Go grocery shopping Thursday or Friday so my fridge is stocked for the weekend!

Also, for your reading pleasure, I came across this article yesterday through the Wall Street Journal about food cravings and found it really interesting, so I wanted to share!

What sorts of foods do you find yourself craving? How do you handle your splurges throughout the week?

Wednesday Weight Check #5

Another Wednesday Weight Check video with results from yesterday’s weigh in!

9-11 Weigh In Results

Watch the clip to hear the results and also hear what I’m doing better this time around with losing weight.

Goals for this week:

    • Focus on staying on plan this week so I have extra Points to work with since I’m going out of town Saturday night.
    • Keep up with half marathon training, with a long run of 6 miles this weekend.
    • Focus on eating less processed foods and getting in all my Good Health Guidelines.
    • Be mindful of what I’m putting into my body.
    • Get a lot of sleep – I do so much better when I do!

What is your #1 focus for this week?

Wednesday Weight Check

It’s frustrating when you feel like you’ve done everything right and the scale doesn’t move. I know I need to focus on the things that I CAN control, like how many times I work out, how much I eat, etc. etc. but man is it annoying when you can’t make the scale do what you want it to! I know it’s a journey (hello blog title) but its tough when you don’t see the results you want and deserve. Ugh!

I know all that said, I do have a lot to be proud of from this past week, including:

    • Working out 6 (!!!!) times
    • Getting back into the kitchen
    • Feeling in control with food all week
    • Getting up before work 2x this week to run
    • Making good choices throughout the week

Here’s to a better week scale-wise next week.

Oh! And let me leave you with this sweaty (blurry) picture from this morning:

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This is after clocking in 3.0 miles outside at an 8:55 (!!!) pace. Take that, scale!

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