55 miles

Know Your Limits, But Don’t Get Discouraged

Recently I caught an episode of the Extreme Makeover Weight Loss show. I don’t really watch those “Biggest Loser” type shows anymore for a lot of reasons but I watched a few episodes of this show. One in particular was about a guy who started out in the 400 pound range. He lost a significant amount, then fell off the wagon and gained back a bunch of the weight. The personal trainer had him doing interesting but in my opinion, dangerous workouts.

First, he had to climb over 100 flights of stairs at a tall building in Chicago. This poor guy was like 380 pounds and doing something so strenuous I thought for sure he was going to have a heart attack in that stairwell. He looked woozy by the end.

Second, his trainer took him and his brothers out for a 100 mile bike ride. Really? I scoffed at this and immediately lost respect for the trainer and the show. I don’t think the show has integrity or realism, but more on that later. It was a hot summer day, about 100 degrees in the sun but the trainer said “it will be 110 degrees biking on this hot pavement.” Really? You’re taking a morbidly obese man who hasn’t exercised at all in three months out into 100+ degree weather to bike a century with no training whatsoever?

Can you guess how this ride ended? Around mile 30 he started to fatigue and feel the effects of heat stroke. At mile 40 he was incoherent, delirious and suffering from heat stroke so badly they had to call 9-1-1. He was hooked up to oxygen and fluids and the bike ride was over. DUH. I was irritated with the show because of this and it brings me to today’s important topic of knowing your limits.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a goal or event and lose perspective on our abilities. Especially when we are big weight loss losers. It’s easy to feel overly confident because for once we can do something wonderful! We aren’t picked last for the team, we can run! We can bike long distances! Woo hoo! And the tendency is to bite off more than we can chew. I know I’ve been guilty of that.

I trained for Hood to Coast for a year. I was a fairly new runner but I was feeling confident and strong. I was running a lot. I thought I would be unscathed running something as epic as Hood to Coast. My longest run while I was training was about 8 miles without stopping or walking. That’s pretty good, but not good enough. My mileage for Hood to Coast was 17 miles. I should have been clocking in over 20 miles a week before the race and my weekly mileage was more around 15. Not good enough. I ended up injured.

I learned from my mistake with Hood to Coast and knew my limits when it came time to do the Portland Century. Was I conditioned for 100 miles on the bike? Sure–in a way. My fitness level is strong. But am I bike strong? Not really. I knew I wasn’t conditioned enough the complete the 100 miles without hurting by the end. That’s not fun. My weekly mileage on the bike was hovering around 65 miles and I knew that wasn’t enough training to do 100. I switched my miles to 72. Not quite a Century, but it’s still a great accomplishment. And I don’t regret that decision at all!

I see a lot of people in the blog world making this mistake. They are new runners and they sign up for a half marathon as their first race. Don’t get me wrong, I commend their enthusiasm and determination. I just silently worry about their bodies holding up. Why not start small? Do a 5k, then an 8k, then a 10k…? There is something to be said about working up towards a big goal.

Besides risking injury, you are robbing yourself of the joy of getting better and challenging yourself. Last year I biked 55 miles in Reach the Beach and this year I did 72 miles in the Portland Century. I was SOOO happy! I did 20 more miles this year without any issues. Awesome! That means next year I can totally rock 100 miles! And I’m looking forward to it.

There is something really special about challenging yourself to try harder, do more, bit by bit. It’s why training for things is so fun. You start small and work up the ladder. You earn that big accomplishment by the end!

That does not mean you should be discouraged, or feel less than someone else who is doing more. I did not feel like less of an athlete because I biked 72 miles instead of 100. I still felt like a rockstar at the end! Don’t get discouraged that your abilities are not quite what you expect them to be. It takes time. It takes training. You’ll earn it.

QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree with this? Do you know your limits?

Timelines and Landmark Dates

Tina wrote a very personal, heartfelt post recently called Timelines. I was impressed with her openness and honesty about personal things in her life and the challenges she’s faced. I could relate to her personal stories about bingeing and using food to make herself feel better. And it got me thinking…where was I way back when? How far have I come? Sure, I write about the challenges I faced, how I lost the weight and how I’m keeping it off. But what about specific landmark dates? Here goes…

Where Was I 10 Years Ago?

I was 21 years old, living in Portland with my boyfriend of two years. We broke up and I moved back home to Seattle for the summer. It was a harsh, painful summer filled with eating, grieving and depression. I worked two full time jobs for four months to save money to move out on my own again. I didn’t have a single day off from working that summer. It was a good distraction. Working all the time meant I had no downtime to brood. It also meant I had no time to exercise or eat right. I ate a lot of fast food on my way to and from jobs. There was a Taco Bell and a Subway right by my evening job and that’s where I ate my dinners.


After a few months I’d saved up enough money for move-in costs and I transferred my job back to Portland. I found an apartment by myself in the quaint Multnomah Village area and I lived my life. I worked full time, I started eating my feelings. It took a few years to gain the weight. I was living my life alone, making new friends in Portland and got a new job. Life was pretty good, despite the depression and eating.


The weight crept up steadily, almost unnoticed.

Where Was I 5 years Ago?

I was 26 and weighed over 250 pounds. Earlier that year I’d had a revelation about my life and where I was headed. I’d just gotten home from a vacation in Chicago, surprised at the photos I saw of myself.

2006 - 250 Pounds

I had another wake up call and realized it was time. It was time to make a change and that’s when I started to lose weight. I started swimming and then I tackled the hardest part: the food. Counting my calories was natural and easy for me. It became a habit in my life immediately. Sure I had some challenges but it worked. I was on my way. It is hard to believe it was only 5 years ago…

Where I was I 1 year Ago?

I was running the Hood To Coast Relay race and celebrating my 2nd anniversary with  Michael.



I was happy and in a healthy relationship with an evolved, understanding man. I was also celebrating the 2nd anniversary of maintaining my 100 pound weight loss! I had been maintaining my weight loss for so long it was second nature. I still counted my calories and I grew to love fitness. I loved biking and hiking and still swam.

Not much different from where I am now, I think.

Where Am I Today? 

I’m finally in a place where I am at peace with my body, my weight (for the most part) and don’t feel that urge to “try and lose those last few pounds.” If I do, I do. If not, who cares? I’m enjoying my life as it is: working out, getting my fitness in through recreational activities, and eating good food.

On August 21, 2011 I biked 72 miles in the Portland Century. It was a challenge I set for myself, unsure if I could do it. But I did.

Where Will I Be Tomorrow?

I want to continue maintaining my weight loss. I’m thinking about going back to school. I’m writing a book–maybe it will be published someday. Since I was a pre-teen I’ve been writing stories and dreaming about being a published author. I hope that dream comes true.


I have dreams of other challenges:

  1. Biking a full Century–the full 100 miles, baby!
  2. My hope is that in 2012 I swim across the Columbia River!
  3. I want to run again.
  4. I want to do a triathlon.

Having goals to work towards keeps me alive and happy.

QUESTION: What are your timelines and landmark dates?