Two Year “Blog-o-versary” / ACS DetermiNation Dinner & Speech

So today is my 2 year anniversary of all my weight loss efforts, and of this blog. My “blog-o-versary”, if you will. What a difference 2 years can make. I’m still me, but my life is so dramatically different. I’m still holding strong at 200 pounds, roughly 130 lower then I was this time 2 years ago. I’m a new dad again. The blog is continuing on, and has come full circle. What I mean by that is all of this started because I got fed up one day and decided to make changes in my life, but I had no idea how to do it. I consequently turned to the internet looking for inspiration and not surprisingly, came out inspired. Now, my blog is one of the ones that other people who are searching for inspiration are coming across, and it’s helping to fuel their fire. See what I mean about “Full Circle”? It’s totally awesome and words cannot explain how gratifying that is to me) I am now dealing with “athlete problems” and not “dangerously obese” problems- working my way back from running related injuries, not attempting to lost triple digits worth of pounds from my body.  Like I said, pretty much everything is different, and I mean that in the best way possible. I am grateful for the position that I find myself in with the ability to share my story and experiences to help others. To that end: here’s the Year 2 recap of where I’m at right now.

I’m now associated with 2 different athletic based charities. The first is Charity Miles, a phone app based company that tracks your workouts and accrues money based on your mileage to your choice of approved charities. It’s pretty awesome and a way to leverage the workouts you’d be doing anyway to generate funds for those who need it. Who knows, the money that was donated as a result of your random Tuesday morning 5K might just be what puts food in the bowl of a hungry puppy (via the ASPCA) or helps researchers find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease (via the Michael J Fox Foundation). Very real and tangible results can come out of you downloading the app and hitting the start button before going for the run you were about to do anyway. So yeah, it’s safe to say I’m a supporter.

Additionally, I am associated with The American Cancer Society. In no formal capacity other then an active participant and avid supporter (but you never know what will happen in the future) I took part in a race through their athletic based fundraising program, named DetermiNation. Ever since then I was completely on board and looking forward to getting more and more involved. Again, it’s a way to take what you are doing for your own reasons and add an extra layer of meaning (and drive, and satisfaction, etc) to it all. Attending the DetermiNation functions such as the kick off meeting and the pre-race dinner you get to see exactly where the money you raise goes and some of the actual people and their support systems that it goes to help. This puts a face to what could otherwise just be a lofty ideal kind of goal and really drives it home. My running has done so much for me, and I am happy to say that I have been able to use it to do for others as well.

To further elaborate on the involvement with DNation, This past week I was asked to be the inspirational speaker and share my story at the recent pre-race pasta dinner for runners of the Philadelphia Full and Half Marathon. I was amazingly honored, humbled, and excited to be there, and it turned out to be one of the hardest things I’ve done to date surrounding my entire weight loss/ lifestyle change experience- up to and including losing the weight. I have written about it at length for 2 years now, given a multitude of interviews about it, but had never really “spoke” about it until now. That was surprisingly difficult and emotional for me. It’s much easier to hide behind a keyboard than to stand up in front of a room full of people and actually say these words out loud. Seems like a subtle distinction, but I can tell you it is a whole different world. I thought that putting everything out there on the internet left you with a feeling of being vulnerable. Dude, that is NOTHING to standing up there in front of everyone and talking about it.   Now, I feel like I had the deck stacked against me a little. I’ve never spoken about anything that I am so closely tied to and emotionally invested in. and in my defense, it was a very emotional night., I mean, come on…I was scheduled to follow up the Brain Cancer survivor and then the slideshow of people that all the athletes are dedicating their runs to. Read- loved ones who were either currently in the fight against cancer or who have passed as a result of it. (….and now here’s Andy!) I got up there, trying to hold it together, saw my daughter’s name on the paper as I glanced over everything, and then let the shaky voice and weepiness commence instantly. I’m very glad that I did it, but it definitely opened my eyes to experiences that are much more difficult than I anticipated, but to have the immediate feedback of audience members coming up to me after the fact coming up to me and thanking me for sharing was completely fantastic. I’m also glad I did it because writing a speech to be read to a room full of people who don’t know me was very different than a phone call to a writer who has read my blog and has frame of reference. It was a different way of telling the same story I’ve told countless times now. (in case you are interested, I’m attaching a copy of my speech to the bottom of this post in case you are new here or are interested in hearing what I read to that room of approx. 100 Philly Marathon/ Half Marathon charity runners and their families). I’m looking forward to continuing my involvement with DNation, so much so that I’m organizing a team for Broad Street and will certainly be looking to make things bigger and better every year. With any hopes, this is just the beginning.

Bringing it back to the anniversary of all of my efforts and the blog: in addition to trying to help others, there is one more common thread between now and that day I started 2 years ago. I have a plan in place for the next year that is set to challenge me with the unknown and take me into races that I have never considered before. I am talking about my 2014 race calendar and the three back to back to back Triathlons I am registered for.  It’s going to be a whole new world of training, scheduling,  balance, and pushing myself through limitations that I thought were previously impossible.

I’m looking forward to continuing to share everything with you all, and consider myself fortunate to have you along for the ride with me thus far. I’ll be talking all about my efforts to rehab my leg, my triathlon training, my fundraiser virtual 5K, and whatever else presents itself. I try to keep it interesting, please let me know if you have any feedback/ ideas/ etc.

Thanks for everything, and as always, till next time: take it easy.

Andy

———- DetermiNation Speech ———-
-As delivered at the American Cancer Society Philly Marathon Pre-Race pasta dinner on Sat, 11/16/13-

Good evening everyone. My name is Andy Aubin, and I am a DetermiNation runner, just like all of you. I ran my first Race with ACS last year at Broad Street, and by the time that race was over I was officially hooked on the entire charity running experience. I actually got to know John* after the fact, the first time we had a really substantial conversation was when he called to thank me for the fundraising efforts, since I ran a pretty successful Virtual 5K to raise money to meet my team’s goal. We kept in touch and spoke on a few occasions and he got to know my story. But I’ll be honest, when he reached out and asked me if I’d be willing to speak tonight, it was only after hesitating for a moment that I said yes. Reason being is that I feel a little out of place up here in front of all some of the people in this room. Marathoners. Running Coaches. People fighting with cancer and all their supporters. Survivors. Surviviors! People who went up against cancer AND WON. I mean: I’m just some guy who set out to fix the mess that I was in. A better way to say it might be this: Look, I would be remiss without starting this off by saying that even though I’m up here telling you my version of an inspirational story; I am standing in awe of all of you all as well. And as out of place as I might feel, I also feel oddly at home too, if that makes any sense. I look around the room and I’m surrounded by runners, and by that measure I am among “my people”. That’s something I never would have even dreamt of saying 2 years ago. Hell, that would be the punch line to a joke:  Being at home in a room full of runners. I would have broken out in a sweat just thinking about that. But here I am: here we all are: and that seems as good a way as any to transition into my story.
Looking backwards, I have always been a big guy. So much to the point where growing up my nickname was always “Big Andy”. I was not always super heavy like that, but I was always the big guy, taller and broader than all of my friends. About 10-15 years ago though, things changed on me. I very quickly went from being Big Andy the bigger that the rest of his friends guy to Really being Big Andy, ballooning up to 330-340 at my highest. I knew the name had taken on a whole new meaning, but I just dealt with it. I eventually came to embrace the name, and I almost hid behind it after a while. That brings me to that starting point 2 years ago, almost to the day.

So there I was, a 6’3”, 330 pound guy in his mid 30’s. My wife and I had just brought our first child, our daughter Tessa into our family the previous April, and the thoughts of my obvious weight issue and what kind of harmful repercussions it had for myself, and by extension my family were in the forefront of my mind. All of a sudden I found myself in a position where the way that I had been living comfortably for so many years was no longer acceptable. It was not acceptable for me to be so big that I risked leaving Tess and my wife Jenn earlier than I should, it was not acceptable because I did not want to set the wrong example for her growing up, and it was not acceptable because quite frankly, the thought of that little girl growing up and being held back in any way because I was too damn lazy to be in shape for her was just unthinkable to me.

All of this was playing very heavily on my mind, but I found myself in the all too familiar rut of wanting to do something but honestly not even knowing how or where to begin. Now like most habitually overweight people, I had tried the entire range of diet plans and gimmicks. Weight watchers, etc. I did this time and time again and even experienced some success, but it  always went the same way:  I would start out like gangbusters, but the a few weeks or months later I would fizzle out or get bored or whatever and then fall off the wagon, only to end up exactly where I started. This time, however, was different. It wasn’t about me. Well, it was, but the driving force had someone else at it’s core.  

Like I said, all this was playing very heavily on my mind, and then one day, one random Friday I hit my tipping point. I work in Corporate America. In your standard, run of the mill office building. On the second floor. So on this random Friday, Nov 18, 2011 to be exact I go into the office just like any other day and get winded walking up the flight of stairs just to get to my desk. Really winded. Breathing hard, beginnings of breaking a sweat. From 20 steps.

But I’m glad it happened, because it was then right and there that I decided enough was enough. For me, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I mean, this was nothing new, it had happened to me before on multiple occasions, but that day I was just ready. I didn’t know how exactly, but I knew it was going down, and it was starting that day.  

I’m not embarrassed to admit I spent the better part of that day searching the internet for ideas and inspiration, and not surprisingly, I came out of it inspired. I came up with this crazy master plan that I was going to take my couch potato body and somehow transition it into a runner’s. I had a full year’s worth of activity laid out with the intention of becoming more fit and active. I decided I had 100 pounds to lose, and I was going to do it by running. I had every intention of literally running my ass off.

There was only one problem with that all of this: let’s not forget that even the thought of physical activity was enough to break me out into a sweat. I couldn’t walk up the 20 steps from floor 1 to floor 2 without breathing heavy. How exactly was I going to become a runner? Well, first and foremost, I’m a planner. So I decided to go with what I know…I did the research and laid out a plan. It was twofold at first. I was going to ease my way into running and I was going to utilize every means available to ensure that I forced myself to keep going once I fizzled out and wanted to quit. As for the easing myself into running: Well, I had tried the popular Couch to 5K program before and week 1, day 1 kicked my butt every single time, so I needed something more introductory to start. So after some digging I discovered a similar program called 4 weeks to 1 mile, which (just like C25K) does exactly what the name implies. Slowly builds you up to running a mile over a 4 week span.

As for the forcing myself to keep going, well for me that meant going public. To that end I decided to start a blog on the internet. I had tried to lose weight “in secret” countless times before, and I knew for a fact that it was entirely too easy to quit if there was no accountability. So I started it all. It was slow going at first, when I began I could not run ¼ of a quarter mile track. 1/16 of a mile was enough to make me feel like I was about to die. I will never forget my very first workout, and let me tell you: that was one heck of a first night. Not only did I break out in a heavy sweat and start panting immediately after running 1/16 of a mile, but when I was almost through what I will refer to as “that first mile of pain”, I fell off the treadmill. Fell. Off. The. Treadmil. Now, I am one of the clumsiest guys you’ll ever meet, but come on? Who falls off the treadmill on day one? I’ll tell you who….this guy.

Long story short, I slowly progressed through the 4 weeks to a mile program, and transitioned directly into the Couch to 5K. I just kept it moving right along. At the same time as this I also decided to start changing the way I ate as well by counting calories. I was not entirely unfamiliar with the concept because it was basically a food log just like I had done for so many times with weight watchers. Only this time I took it seriously and did not look for creative way to cheat or give up. This also added another way for me to measure my success. If I had a crappy week on the scale but completely rocked it on the treadmill -or vise versa- there was still some positives to be drawn. I progressed through the couch to 5k, and while it certainly was not easy I was able to push through, and for every ache, pain and lung burning run I was also rewarded with progress. Progress on the treadmill, on the scale, and mentally as well. I swear to you, I would walk out of that gym absolutely amazed more times than not that I had actually completed the run I just finished. I would go into it thinking that there was no way that I could pull it off, and then somehow managed to get through it and get ready to push it even harder the next time. I got the chance to run my first 5K in Early February of 2012. I never even gave a thought as to what the running conditions would be in an early February 5K, all I knew was that I was scheduled to finish the program at that time, and I WAS RUNNIG IN A 5K RIGHT THEN AND THERE. Yeah…so it snowed. So there I was, the most novice of novice runners heading out for one of my first outdoor runs ever in the snow. If nothing else, it was guaranteed to be memorable. I can’t say I ran the entire thing, but I finished in 35:00 flat and I will never forget the feeling of coming into that final stretch and crossing that finish line. It was enough to hook me for life. It took me another solid month of training to be able to run a full 5k and actually run the entire thing, but just like before it was steady progress and like I said, there was no stopping me at that point.

All told in that first year I trained for and ran 4 5Ks, a 10K, a Mud run, one planned Half marathon (the Philly Rock and Roll Half) and then I noticed that there was a second Half marathon that fell exactly one year to the day of when I started everything. One year exactly to transition from a guy who was sweaty and breathing hard from walking up a flight of stairs to a guy who was sweaty and breathing hard after running for 13.1 miles for the second time in a matter of months. I had to do it. That race, coincidentally, was the Philly Half Marathon. It meant the world to me then for so many reasons and this race will always be near and dear to my heart.  

So all this time as my running progressed and my fitness level went up, my weight was going down. All told, those hundred pounds that I had planned to lose over the span of the full year actually came off in 6 months. Even when I stopped counting calories so aggressively after I hit the 100 pound mark and let things “level off” so to speak, I still lost another 20 pounds on top of that initial 100.

Nov 18, 2011, 328.8 pounds, my official starting weight. Nov 18, 2012, 205 pounds.

Needless to say: It was one hell of a year, and will long be remembered as the year I completely changed my life.

In the time from then till now, I have focused on maintaining the healthy and active lifestyle and trying to help others do the same. I ran the last one of my initial goals, Broad Street last spring, and like I said, did so with DetermiNation. Additionally, I got in a great group of races, and focused on the blog which I mentioned earlier.

I honestly started it as a way to keep myself honest and accountable throughout the process. I figured it would add an extra layer of motivation when the going got tough and I wanted to quit, figured it would be a great way to look back at everything once it was all said and done. I thought it would serve as a way for those in my inner circle, close friends and family and such who wanted to check my progress to keep tabs on how was doing. What I did not anticipate, however, is it taking off like it has. So it turns out that when you are setting out on an effort like this, people come out of the woodwork who are looking to support you. Friends, family, casual acquaintances, even complete strangers went out of their way to keep me motivated and on track.

 I never set out to be an inspiration; I was just a fat guy trying to fix the mess I was in.  I think my brother said it best when we were talking about it one night: I was mentioning about how the blog was starting to take off and how I was getting a bunch of messages from people telling me that I have inspired them. He summed it up with the following statement. “People like you and your story because you’re just ‘some dude’. No personal trainer or dietician or fitness resorts, you are the same guy who has to get up and go to work every day and then come home and take care of his family” I like to think that’s true, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being “just some dude”. In fact, I prefer it that way: if nothing else it provides proof that this kind of thing can be done. I love the feeling I get from chatting with a new runner about beginner’s questions or discussing the combo of diet and exercise. It’s all great stuff and if it helps somebody get started in any way, then all the better.

So that pretty much brings us up to date. So here I stand, and I’ll ask the question that I would want to know if I was in your seat right now. “So if you are this great weight loss /runner guy now, how come you’re not running with us tomorrow?” excellent question.

Two reasons. One, with my new son AJ being born in August, so the free time that would be required to train has been all but removed. I’ve traded my running shoes and compression socks for diapers and pacifiers lately. And Two, I am working through 2 separate injuries/ problems. I have IT Band issues on one leg for the first time ever that I am working through, as well as a crappy arthritis riddled knee on the other leg so I am dedicating this entire fall & winter to improving myself as a runner  (which ironically means a whole lot of not running), but it’s all ok. After you prove to yourself that you can shed the weight of the average 15 year old boy, the prospect of having to strengthen your legs, hips, and butt really doesn’t seem all that bad anymore, you know?

So that’s it, that’s the story of how I turned from 330 pound couch potato into the 200 pound runner who stands in front of you now. I am proud of my accomplishments, definitely for me but even moreso for what it means to my family; and I’m proud of the fact that I have been able to help others take some of the same steps for themselves so they can see some positive change as well.

Personally, I’m now comfortable calling myself a runner. I love running, and it’s true that it really does give more than it takes. If I never get to run another mile again in my life, I’ll have gotten back tenfold what I have put in. I’ve gotten confidence, energy, a new outlook on everything- of course in terms of fitness, but that also carries over into “real life” as well- work, relationships, etc…all of it. And most importantly I’ve gotten more time: more healthy years to be the dad and husband my family deserves; and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

That being said, I’m certainly not done yet. I won’t be running tomorrow, but I will be out on the course rooting each one of you on. If you see me, throw me a high five as run by, I’ll be living vicariously through you and having a great time doing it.

So in closing I just want to thank you for listening to my story, and as one final thought I’ll give you the same sendoff I give every one of my friends as they head into their races:

It’s Go Time.
Good Luck.
Have Fun.
Kick Ass.

Thank you very much, have a great run tomorrow.

* NOTE: The “John” I refer to the American Cancer Society Staff member who organized the entire fundraising campaign and series of events associated. One heck of a great guy and super supportive of me and my efforts.

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8 responses to “Two Year “Blog-o-versary” / ACS DetermiNation Dinner & Speech

  1. Awesome “Big” Andy, and by that I mean the runner with the “Big” heart!

  2. I was at the dinner on Saturday night and I’m so glad I was….great speech!! Very inspirational. =)

  3. I was at the DNation pasta dinner and couldn’t get to you after your speech (from the many people wanting to tell you how great you were) but I want to echo those thoughts- You are a true inspiration to others who don’t know what step to take in their weight loss journey. Your story of running last year’s Philly marathon was amazing because the theme “Redefine Possible” was just what you have done in the last 2 years. Great guy Andy and beautiful family 🙂

  4. I also was at the dinner on Friday night (Go Team Manning!), and you were fabulous. Don’t worry about getting emotional–it was such an emotional night all around. You clearly spoke from the heart, and you touched everyone there.

    I agree with you that running with DetermiNation is addicting. I’m thinking of doing Broad Street as well–do you still have room on your team??

  5. Thank you all so much for the kind words, especially those in attendance. It means more than you know to get the reaffirmation that what I said up there actually hit home/ touched everyone (and that I was not just a mumbling mess up there…hopefully it was worse in my head than it was in actuality). Just as I expected it to, this entire experience has gotten me even more excited and “DetermiNation’d” up than I was before, and ready to get started on Broad Street. And Manneters, as for room on the team…we’re still building everything so please feel free to email me at: teamrunningmyassoff@yahoo.com if you want more info.
    Also, a special thanks as well for finding me. I purposefully did not plug the blog at the dinner, mainly because I wanted the focus to be on the story… not boosting visitors to the website. I realize you had to do a little bit of digging to find me here, and I appreciate it.

  6. Wow, Andy, fantastic! I knew from reading your speech that you were going to be great and inspire the people you were talking to. Reading the above comments is proof that that happened. You rock my friend and I am blessed to have you in my life. I am so looking forward to following you along as you become a Triathlete. I think it will be awesome!

  7. Andy,
    I’m from the Sub30 Club, and I perused your website after the V5k. I’m in Chicago, a DNation volunteer, runner, committee member, and former pre-dinner speaker!! I just wanted to give you a virtual high-five for running. Like the commenter above said- running with DN is addictive. Enjoy and Thank you!

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