7th “Runiversary”

StefPhilosophy, Training

Celebrating another “Runiversary”

It seems like just yesterday on one hand, but ages away on the other. Next weekend at the Houston Marathon will mark my 7th “Runiversary”. Most who know me today don’t remember or didn’t know me in my “pre-runner” classification. In those days, I was pursuing my academic passion, geology.

Throughout my academic career, the extent of my exercise came through my field work. As a sampling of my endeavors, I hiked through the Mojave Desert assessing a fault system completing geomorphologic mapping (I helped map landforms). I played in the White Mountains of California for an advanced field seminar. I brushed off my rusty Spanish and assisted with field work in Puerto Rico. I even spent a fantastic 6 weeks in Western Ireland hiking and mapping in the Irish countryside. The Earth is an amazing place and I was blessed to study it.

Peering over the Cliffs of Moher - July 2003

Peering over the Cliffs of Moher – July 2003

Though I was mildly active, I wasn’t very healthy. In between those field sessions included lots of lab work. Living with my eyes either affixed to the microscope or on my laptop drafting (and redrafting) my thesis. I had goals to become more active. I bought a “cheap” hybrid bike to commute to and from school (nothing is cheap on a graduate student’s salary). Then there was the rowing machine bought on Craigslist…

Each of these promises to be better to myself fell short.

The bike sat in my apartment and the rowing machine went rarely used. The most of my exercise between field sessions ended up being walking to and from bus stops and our department’s weekly bowling league.

My diet was starting to catch up to me as well. I didn’t really watch what I ate. I ate what I pleased and drank how I pleased. Mind you, I wasn’t a big drinker then nor now for that matter, but my diet was pretty poor. After those bowling league nights? A bacon cheeseburger with fries and shared deep fried cheese curds for the table (it was Wisconsin after all). Chased the meal with the freely flowing pitchers (or boots) of beer.

Draining a boot of beer

Draining a boot of beer – April 2007

I wish I could say that was an uncommon meal for me, but it was becoming more and more normal with time. I’d commonly go out for lunch with my colleagues and eat highly processed food for dinner. Breakfast was not even a thought. I bet I could count the number of times I ate breakfast on one hand from 2000-2007.

After a series of events not worth mentioning, I decided to go on with my career and into industry to start my professional career. The years of abuse on my body was becoming more and more evident. I wasn’t overweight, but wasn’t particularly a healthy weight for my small frame. I started feeling more and more comfortable in size 10-12 pants, which again, isn’t that big, but was large for my small frame. Something had to give…

My wake-up call came after my first health screening at work in early 2008. Though I was in my mid-20’s, I had never had a proper adult physical or blood test. The numbers stared at me and were very scary! Cholesterol was >220; triglycerides >200 and all sorts of other out of whack numbers.

I fully understand that these numbers are just a guide and the risk of heart disease is much more complex than blood test numbers. However, it did give me a proper wake-up call to give a critical look to my lifestyle.

I joined the company gym as a result of the health screening. At my required fitness assessment, I was given another shocking blow. I failed out of the cardio step test after only a couple minutes. My heart rate soared with the tiniest bit of exercise. It was time to get serious!

I started slowly. Very slowly.

A little bit of cardio, a little bit of strength training and some yoga thrown in for good measure. I opted for the elliptical for my cardio until I got into better shape and the “graduated” to the treadmill. While I was getting into shape, I started taking a serious look into my eating patterns.

Portion size was the easiest thing for me to tackle first. Whenever I went out to eat, I aimed to keep half of the portion on my plate to take home for lunch the next day. Snacking was kept to a minimum and I cut out soda completely. Opting for the lighter options on menus was difficult at first. I was still, in my heart, a “meat and potatoes” kind of person. Healthier choices became easier with time. All of these changes culminated in adopting a plant-based diet in June 2010 (after my first full marathon).

A few months into my lifestyle change journey, I decided I wanted to do something crazy. Something way out of character for me. I wanted to do a marathon! Not any marathon, I wanted to walk the Disney Marathon with my Dad. As it was coming up on the 10th anniversary of him completing the 1999 Disney Marathon, I wanted to do a 10th anniversary event with him.

We registered for the marathon and not long after, my Dad was given a grim diagnosis. Fall 2008, my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He was starting to stumble some and walking was becoming difficult for him. Not impossible, just difficult. It seemed like the marathon was a bad idea. Though I was registered for the marathon, I opted out. I wasn’t really trained to run a marathon, I hadn’t ever done a 5k, let alone anything approaching a marathon…

We went to Orlando and visited with some family in the area and checked out the more awesome than Disney (in my opinion), Universal Studios.

I still had running on my mind though…

Upon getting home, I did it, I registered for the EB5k. The EB5k (now ABB5k) is the 5k run associated with the Houston Marathon. In 2009, it was run on the same day as the Chevron Houston Marathon, so I opted to run the 5k and volunteer at the beer tent for the marathon finishers.

That was the day I became a runner.

That was the day I realized runners come in all shapes and sizes, ages and backgrounds.

That was the day I found true meaning in the word community.

That day changed my life…

January 18, 2009

What will make you change your life for the better? For me, it started with a simple blood test. The end game is not clear, but I’m having a blast on the journey!

August 2007

August 2007 – Park Guell, Barcelona

January 2015 Houston Marathon

January 2015 Houston Marathon – 6th “Runiversary”