Tag Archives: weight loss

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.

“New Normal” / Back In The Trenches / Sunday Fundays Begin

Here we go again. Weight still hanging right around 200’s. Hoping to keep it there or actually let it creep up a bit. I’m comfortable where I’m at, and I am honestly getting less fixated on the number and more concerned with how I feel. (which is fantastic by the way, so I am not going to add stress over a number anymore….or at least try not to). I am feeling good and comfortable where I’m at, and there is no reason to freak out over a few pounds either way. That’s what I say out loud anyway. When I started all this out, I went into it with the mindset of “I am going to focus less on the number and more on getting physically fit”, so by that measure, I am doing great. I feel better and have more energy than I may have ever before. It’s hard, but I am slowly (but steadily) making progress in the effort to stop being so hyper-focused on the effort “as an effort” and more of just making it a more effortless “new normal”. This “new normal” will even include cheating. I don’t want to call it cheating per se, but I haven’t come up with a better term for it. Maybe just say that I want to be more accepting of the fact that I can actually eat some of those foods that I thought were gone forever and still be fine. I’m not saying that I can go out and get down with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every day, but once in a while it’s actually ok. I know this sounds like common sense, but when I was in the thick of things, it felt like that kind of thing was gone forever in my mind. Not so! It’s a good feeling.

It’s a lot harder than I thought, this whole “learning how to eat and live a healthy lifestyle from scratch” thing…i’m not sure what I expected, starting over from scratch is supposed to be hard as hell, otherwise everybody would be doing it. But I got this. Getting it, anyway…

As for the workouts, well it’s safe to say that I am back in the trenches. I think I realized this on Tuesday when after work, I went out for my 8 mile run that I had to skip on Sunday. I came in the house after I was done, completely drenched and said to Jenn “yeah, it’s not raining”. Her response was “oh ok, it was pouring then?” No. It was not raining nor pouring at all. I was just that sweaty. So much so that she thought I got caught in a downpour. Gotta love it. The reason for this borderline over-share is to illustrate that even after completing the half, this is still hard work. It’s not like a switch flipped and I am now one of those effortless runners you see sprinting up hills with a smile on my face. Negative. Still a big sweaty guy breathing hard and pushing through. I’m not sure I would want it any other way. The challenge is still there and I love the fact I have to work for it. (I love it after the fact anyway, I might have a different answer if you ask me mid-workout at mile 9 or 10 of a long run). So here I am, back into the schedule of living an already hectic life and working in the runs when I can. I did 8 on Tuesday, I want to get 3 in tonight (most likely late night treadmill miles) and then 9 at some point this weekend. I already have the route mapped out; all I need is the time to get my ass out there and actually run it at this point. Back to the grind, let’s get it on. Philly Half is coming up in 44 days, so I’m back on the clock and working up to 13.1 again…

So in an effort to continue pursuing the previously mentioned “new normal” that I am trying to achieve in my life, I have made the decision to take my one day a month that I don’t log/ think about my food and turn it into one day a week. I am going to keep on keeping on like I always have, but then every Sunday I am just going to open up MyFitnessPal and close out the day immediately. No overthinking, no regrets. I honestly do believe that I will be ok. The hardcore losing is behind me, and now I can afford to make allowances that I would have considered unthinkable before. So my new “Sunday Funday” routine rolls out this weekend. Only time will tell how it works out, but the outlook is overly positive and hopeful. The logic is that I can then in time transition into 2 days a week, and then 3, etc. it’s a long term plan but I’m trying to do this smart and not screw everything up that I worked so hard for. Not that I would, but I am all about taking steps to make sure it happens the way I want it to. So I’ll let you know how it goes. Sunday Funday, here I come.

So it turns out I have a busy little October ahead of me. 2 races, an exceptionally full social calendar, selling a house, buying a new one, and 8,9,and 10 mile long runs to work into my weekends. All while working and spending as much time as humanly possible with Jenn and Tess. Should keep me moving. I am guessing that this will consequently mean that the month will fly by without me even realizing how fast it’s going. As per usual. So once again, expect to see a lot of me this month. I have the monthly picture update due next week, plus pics from both the Runner’s World 10K with Rock and then the Hatboro YMCA Skeleton Skurry 5K with Katie the following week. I also found out that my awesome co-workers and steady running partners Maureen and Lauren are running in the 5K as well. (Looks like it’s time for another update to the obligatory pre-race pic)

Ok, once again it’s time to cut myself off before I start rambling on forever here.

Definitely more to come, but I’ll save something for next time.

Talk to you next week. Till then, take it easy.

Philly Rock and Roll Half Marathon Recap & Pictures

Where do I even start?

I have tried to write this post about 4 times now, and each time I was not sure exactly where to go with it and ended up nowhere near where I wanted to finish. So here is my best effort of staying focused and on point…

This past Sunday, I got the opportunity to complete something that literally seemed impossible to me when I started out in all of this just 10 months ago. I think I’ve said this before, but if you told me that I was going to be running for 13 miles straight I would have laughed and said “why don’t we just make it 100? …because they are both impossible”. Even when I made up the plan I thought it might be a stretch to pull this off, but here I am, having run in and completed a half marathon and it feels freaking unbelievable…

There is so much that I want to touch on, between the race itself, all the people who helped make it such a special day for me, and now that I have had a few days to digest it all, some thoughts looking on back on a day that I will never forget.

First and foremost, this post is about the race itself, so let me start there. It was the perfect day. Literally perfect. Cool in the morning and then heating up to the mid 70’s. Partly cloudy but more sun than clouds. If you could custom create an ideal day to go for a run, this would be it. So not sure if it was just the hype and environment that goes with it being the day of the race, or the sheer volume of people, or a combo of the both, but I was not nervous at all, just excited and anxious to get started. I got down there around 7, and met up with my Uncle Mario, who I was running with. (more on that later). After we met up, he tracked down one of his buddies and I tracked down my peeps too. Everybody met, caught up, and then got stretched and ready to run. So the way they run these massive races (21,000+ runners for the race) is to start people in waves, rather than all at once and risk a massive bottleneck at every turn. So we ended up in corral 19, which meant that we did not start running till approx 20 min after the initial starting gun went off. Kind of anticlimactic, I know, but it allowed me some breathing room, and I’m a big fan of that. As for the run itself, it was a great one. It wrapped through Philly, running through center city, all the way down to old city/ historic district, and then out to the part of the city where most of the runners go…”the loop”, as they call it. Out Kelly Drive on one side of the Schuylkill River, over the Falls Bridge, and back down West River drive on the other side of the river, finishing right in front of the “rocky steps” at the art museum. The starting in waves actually worked, because even though there were 21,000+ runners in the race, you would never know it. It was crowded all the way, but not mobbed, everybody had room to just relax. Settle in, and run their own race. As for me and Uncle Mario, we started out strong and never looked back. Actually, we actually had to dial it back a little a couple times because we just kept slowly getting comfortable and creeping into a faster and faster pace as we went along. It was pretty cool to just relax and chat it up the entire time.It did start to get challenging on the final leg of the run down West River drive, and the talking did start to get more spread out, but even then it was still all good. Uncle Mario got hit with a few leg cramps as we got into miles 12 and 13, but we were both able to fight through and finish it out strong. We ran 13 of the 13.1 miles together, and as we came into the final stretch he waved me off and I was not about to argue, the adrenaline was not like anything I have experienced before. I just took off sprinting and hauling ass for that finish line. The only time my focus wavered was when I saw and heard Jenn jumping up and down cheering me on right before the finish line. Having her there and finishing that race is one of the best feelings I have ever felt. I actually had to bite my lip as I crossed the finish line to keep myself from getting emotional. The course, the water stops, the bands that were set up and playing every mile…everything was well planned and executed. It resulted in a race that actually lived up to its billing…it was just a ton of fun. I loved it. Not to mention all that on top of the fact that it was the culmination for me of 10 months of hard work and dedication. Let me tell you, there are a few moments that have come out of all this that are standouts to me, the times where I have been so invested, both physically and emotionally in what I am trying to accomplish that once I get there it really blows me away. This is one of those times. I can say that I will literally never forget taking those last few strides over the finish line. It was a combo of being so happy I am ready to cry and being so amped up that I felt like I could have run for another few miles at the same time. (case in point, after I crossed the finish line, I went to open my water bottle  and take a drink…with my teeth like I always do and I was so amped up I ripped the open/ close thingy clean out of the bottle; looks like I need to spring for a new one now).

The race was amazing, it exceeded every expectation I had. (And that was just the race itself) There were a collection of people there to support me that pushed the experience so far over the top I’m afraid I’ll never be able to match it.

The first people I wanted to mention are Moe and Lauren who also ran the race. You have heard about these ladies before, they are the same girls I ran my very first 5K together with. It’s a great feeling to see how far we have all come since that snowy morning last February. Girls, you have both been an every day source of support and sounding board for me, and I thank you for that. Awesome ladies, for real.

Speaking of ladies who were also running the race, I need to mention my buddy Donna. I met Donna when I first started dating Jenn. I would go up to her college to visit her every weekend, and since Jenn was on the rugby team at school, that’s where a lot of her friends came from and consequently I got a chance to hang with all the “rugger” girls on a regular basis. Donna was on the rugby team (read: she’s been an athlete for a long time now) and I got the chance to meet up with her before the race and then I bumped into her along the course as well. I only got to run about a mile or so with her, but it was really great. This is what I was talking about when I say that she was out running miles back at a time while I was not running anywhere but to the car so I could hit the next drive thru. Now I’m in a position to hang with her. Kind of puts things in perspective for me. (And feels fantastic)

This leads me to the last person who I wanted to talk about in terms of running the race. I have to take a second and talk about the now infamous “Uncle Mario”. So here’s the deal, I have a very close knit family. My mom and her two sisters are pretty much inseparable, and the three associated families are all very close. Uncle Mario is married to my mom’s sister Andrea and has known me since I was a little kid. So he has consequently had the chance to watch me grow up. (This includes watching me both before and after that point in my 20’s where I started to pack on the weight and blow up the scale). We have always been relatively close, but I feel like our relationship has taken a whole new turn over the past year. I’ve gone into all this before, but it’s safe to say that he has become kind of my mentor when it comes to all things running. I’ve said all this to him offline already, but it feels like “thanks” does not quite cover it all…he’s been one of my #1 supporters from before I even started any of this, (even back when I was still just planning things out) and has been a constant source of insanely useful advice, encouragement and guidance through the entire process. So thanks, this race/day would not have been everything it was if I wasn’t running beside you on this one.

Then I come to the rest of my entourage. I put out a message on facebook a few weeks back with an open invite to any friends who happened to be free that day to come on down and celebrate with me. Not surprisingly, a lot of people were busy with families or other plans, etc. There were a few people that went out of their way to come down and cheer me on, and I wanted to send a quick thanks to you as well. First, my buddy Kevin and his wife Courtney biked down (with their young daughter!) all the way from Conshohocken to Center City to cheer me on. They saw me and cheered me on at three (3!) separate places along the course. I’d pass, they’d cheer and then move on to the next spot along the course. I’d pass again; they’d cheer again and move on again. Extraordinary effort on your part, and believe me, it gave me a tremendous push. And last but certainly not least, My family (and Tara). I had 4 beautiful ladies all waiting for me when I crossed over the finish line. Jenn, My Mom, My sister Jennifer, and our good friend Tara all were hanging together while I was out running all over Philadelphia, and they made for a fantastic welcome party when I was finished. All of my favorite people were there, and it completely made the day for me. Our friend Tara has been a huge supporter of mine as I went through everything, and she is an all around awesome person and great friend. Plus, she and I will always have a special bond. Let’s just say I was given the opportunity to play an integral part in her wedding last summer. As for my mom and sister, it means so much that you were both there. To hear you say how proud of me you are, it makes all the effort worthwhile. And Jenn, Jesus, where do I even start? We have talked at length about all this, but suffice it to say that you really are my driving force and without you, none of this ever happens. I love you babe. So much.

OK, enough sap-sap-sappy stuff. Back to the race. Looking back on it now, it was an amazing time and I can’t wait to run my next one. Now that I have had almost a week to digest everything (and come down a little from the high of finishing the race) looking back everything was still as good as it felt immediately after. The race pictures from the official photographer came back in and although I’m still not sure if I’m going to buy any (because I might have to re-mortgage the house in order to afford them they are so expensive), the general theme is that I look happy and relaxed for the entire race…except for that last .1 in between 13 and 13.1 mile marks where I was really pushing and sprinting it out. Apparently, when I am really bearing down and hauling ass, I get “Angry Andy” face. I look seriously scary and intense. I have no idea where that came from, but there it is. Angry Andy. I’ll have to work on not looking like a serial killer as I’m sprinting out the end next time…haha.

The other revelation that I had during the race and then has been reinforced all this week (although it may seem obvious to most people) is that: I AM a runner. Up until this point, I kind of viewed myself as a weight loss guy who was using running to assist in the weight loss. Now things have flipped. I am a runner. I really enjoy running, and I have proven to myself that I can actually hold my own and hang with the real deal runners out there. Now, I am not an elite runner, and I will never have the burning desire to run a half marathon in an hour or anything, but I have really unlocked something inside myself that I never knew or could have imagined was there. I really enjoy this and I am not exaggerating when I say that it has changed my life. The way I look at things, the way I look at myself and every aspect of my life has been altered, and I owe a lot of that too running. It’s very true what that say, Running does give more than it takes. I’ll say it one more time, I AM a runner.

And lastly: I can easily see why people can get hooked on running in general and on running in these races. I have 3 more left on my calendar for the year, and I am looking forward to each of them for different reasons. The Runner’s World 10K will be my first race with our good friend Rock. Then there is a local 5K around Halloween called the Hatboro YMCA Skeleton Skurry that I am getting the privilege of running with our friend Katie (it’s her very first 5k!), and then The Philly Half Marathon coming up in Nov. I will go on at length about that one later.

This is MORE than enough for now, so I hope you enjoyed the recap and the pics below.

Talk to you soon; and until then: Take it easy.

Andy

The Starting Line around 7:00 AM Me, Moe and Lauren
Me and Uncle Mario…before the pain.
Me and Uncle Mario…after the pain.
Me and Donna after the race
Me and my Favorite Ladies: my sister Jennifer, my Mom, and Jenn
Me and Tara
 
Me and the love of my life: My Jenn
 
Happy Andy! This is what I lloked like for 99% of the race. Until I turned into…
Angry Andy! Still not sure where this face is coming from.