Celebrating 3 Years

Stone Mountain Top

Today I meet with several of my friends to climb Stone Mountain and celebrate me surviving my Vertical sleeve gastrectomy surgery back on July 12, 2010.   At the time of the surgery I weighed 634 lbs.  When I had the surgery they were very concerned because, anesthesia is fat soluble and there was a good chance that I would not wake up after surgery.  But I did, and that was the day my old life stopped and my new life began.   Some people think that bariatric surgery is a magic bullet when it comes to weight loss, I am here to tell you its not.    It is a tool, a tool to help you get started, you still have to change your life.  It requires countless hours of work, and many miles logged on the road.  Also you need to find a support group,  I have been able to use Facebook, to help extend my network of supporters, and so can you!  I want to take a minute and personalty thank all of you for your support!  I know that I would not be where I am today without the support of so many of you.

 

3 Years into my new life

On July 12, I will be having my 3rd year anniversary of my Vertical sleeve gastrectomy
Norris Lake  6-20-2009  690lbssurgery. When I had the surgery, I weighed in at a whopping634 lbs, down from my peak weight of 696 lbs.   Every year since then I have celebrated my anniversary by climbing Stone Mountain. This year will a little different because I am going to be at the Spartan Race in PA, so I am going to be climbing it on July 6th.  If you would like to Join me meet me at the base of the walk up trail at 8 am.  Here is the  link to my Facebook event page.   Also, I am going to re-posting all 20 weekly updates from my time in Vermont training for the Vermont Beast, to my Facebook fan page.

Margaret, Forest, and ChrisSpartan Camp Videos:

 

2013 Costerthon : Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

On Friday June 7, I faced another one of my fears by participating in a fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.   Riding a roller coaster, my fear was different that mostMindbenter_2 people. I don’t have a fear of heights anymore.  Thanks to me going Over The Edge.  It’s not that funny feeling you get in the 0g bumps. My fear comes from my last trip to Cedar Point back in 1996, we were there for senior skip day, and I was looking forward to riding the coasters, but I couldn’t, I didn’t fit. I was just to big.

That was then, and I’m a new person now. So I decided to face my fears head on by signing up for a coasterthon. You have never heard of a coasterthon, we let me fill you in. This one was set up on a ride called Mind Bender at Six Flags Over Georgia. The plan was to start at 10am and ride till 7pm. Six Flags had set aside one of the two trains for us to use. So we were able to ride non stop, minus a few 5 minute breaks to use the bathroom and 30 minutes for lunch

When the coasterthon started we had 32 brave soles, that agreed to take on this challenge.  Because each car only holds 28 riders, Six Flags gave us the first 4 seats on the second train as well.  That way we could all start riding at the same time.   It didn’t didn’t take long for people to start getting sick.  by the start of the 3 loop someone got sick and had to bow out.   That is when I knew it was going to be a long day.  Things were going well for the first 9 loops I sat in the back of train 1.   Every once and a while we would CoasterBuddiesget up and choose a new seat,   It was in one of these that I meet up with my coaster buddies Ali RiddleRichard Rock, and Michelle Bryan .  Once we joined up it was one giant party!  It is funny the things you will talk about and the things you will do when you are riding the same roller coaster loop after loop.   For me, I found my self focusing on trying to grab leafs of the trees as we passed.  I found out that if you were in the front or the back you had the best chance of grabbing them because when you are in the middle of the train, the leaves get blown way by the air of the train passing, but by the time the end of the train goes by, they branch has come back to it original location if not even a little closer to the train. On another loop Ali and I tried to look at each other and talk, completely trying toMindbener_1 ignore the fact that we were on a roller coaster that worked for a while until we hit one of the high G sections of the ride, and I collapsed like a pretzel.  To quote Ali it looked like I was having a seizure, we could not stop laughing.   Our first long break came at 1:30 where we took a 30 minute break for lunch.   It is funny how riding a roller coaster for three and a half hours can make you so hungry.   But I knew I needed to eat light, because the last thing i needed on my stomach was a lot of food.   To top it off they provided us with greasy chicken sandwiches that has been sitting out for hours :)  I think they were trying to get us sick to see how badly we wanted to make it the full 9 hours.  Even though I knew they had been sitting out for hours I was so hungry I had mine, but skipped the chips.   When we got back on the ride I was afraid that my stomach was going to give me trouble, but as luck would have it I was fine.

A few hours later Johnny O from Q100 showed up to help cheer us on!   It was great seeing them come out in the middle of the even and help keep us motivated by bringing Johnny O from Q100attention to what we were trying to do.   While we were at the station between loops he came up to me and asked about fact that this was my first time riding a roller coaster since high school, and about my weight loss.  A little later in one of our 5 minute bathroom breaks, i grabbed my big pants and showed him what I use to wear.   The look on his face was priceless!   After meeting up with Johnny O we got back on the train, and we experienced our first light rain shower.  In the distance you could see even more clouds forming this is when I was glad I had picked up a cheap pair of sunglasses.  A few hours later  We completed loop 85, and the 17 of us that were still going were told news that we did not want to hear.   There was a thunderstorm inbound and they were shutting the ride down.   We had been going for over six hours.   But we understood, they had us move to our staging area, and that was when I noticed that Goliath, and Batman were still going.   This caught me off guard as Goliath is taller than Mind Bender.  But I put it aside, as Mind Bender is an older roller coaster and may be more affected by weather.   We sat and waited for the rain to come for a good 25 to 30 minutes.   This was very odd to me, but I continued to let it go.   While we waited for the storm to pass, we were all watching the clock as we knew it would take about 30 minutes after the rain stopped before they would run the required test loops to allow us back on the Mind Bender.   Around 6pm they we were told that they would not be starting Mind Bender back up, and they wanted to give out the awards early.   We were bummed as all 17 of us wanted to get back on and try to break 100 loops.   So we headed back out to the park and found other roller coasters that were running again, and continued to ride, we were asked to return back at 6:45pm so we could eat dinner and give out the prizes.   This is where things get sketchy…  When we signed up the following prizes we going to be given out depending on how long you could ride.

  • Ride for 2 hours and you would receive 2 return tickets.
  • Ride for 5 hours and you would receive 4 return tickets
  • Ride for 7 hours and you would receive a season pass for 2013 or 2014.

Me being the person I am, I always worry about being on time so I got back to the Mind Bender around 6:30ish and I noticed that people were riding the coaster again.   I was so frustrated, and that is when I relied that we had only rode the Mind Bender for 6+ Hours.  Then I had a crazy thought, was the reason they closed down the Mind Bender so early was because there were 17 of us left, and they did not want to give out 17 season passes.  then I laughed and though no, there is no way, this is a fundraiser for a great cause.  They would do the right thing, and since we were all still riding when they shut down the ride they would go ahead a give all 17 of us the season passes.

I when we all gathered at 6:45pm  we were told that that the riders that we still riding on the roller coaster we going to be getting 4 return passes, and the 4 top fund raisers that had all raised over $1,000 were going to be getting the season passes.   I was upset by this decisions as we technically did not ride the Mind Bender for over 7 hours. That was until I saw this TV news clip from WSBTV where they publicly state that 17 riders received season passes.   Then I was just pissed off not at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, but at Six Flags Over Georgia. I really need to repeat this I feel that this decisions was not Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta call but Six Flags.  I will continue to do support Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as they do great things here in Atlanta, and I look forward to helping them out again in the future.

In the end the 32 of us were able to raise $14,505 for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  It was defiantly worth the sore back and feeling like I was in a car crash on Saturday.   I can not wait to do this again next year!2013_CHOA_Check

 

 

The Next Big Steep

For most of my life I have been focused on one thing my career, I focused on it so much that nothing else mattered, my health, my relationships, my mental well being nothing.    Then about 4 years ago it all changed when I was hospitalized with lymphedema and cellulitis in my legs.   I can remember the day like it was yesterday.    I was sitting in a hospital bed, looking up at the ceiling and I saw dead flies in the light fixtures.   That was when my life changed.   I started with my health, because if I knew that if I didn’t get that my physical health under control nothing else matter.   Once I had that started, I started to work on my mental health as well, because it directly affected my ability to focus on my physical health.   Though were some dark times in my life.

Second big changing point in my life was choosing to move to Atlanta, I had purchased a house in Detroit, before the housing bubble happened, and I had done almost everything right.   I didn’t get a crazy loan I couldn’t afford, I didn’t buy a house that was out of my price range, but I did buy it at the wrong time.   When I was time for me to sell it so I could move to Atlanta, my house was worth 1/10th of what I had paid for it just 3 years prior.   After talking to several finical advisers, I decided to return the house to the bank and file for bankruptcy.  That was another one of though dark days, but looking back on that decisions I know it was the right one, and I would not be the person I am today if i had made a different choose.

When I moved to Atlanta, I reinvented myself, I joined a running group, and it lead to me doing my first spartan race.  I worked on going out and putting my self in social setting like joining meetup groups and going to Dragon*Con. Since coming home from Vermont, I have felt like my health is now under control, while I have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t fall the rails it has not been my primary focus.  I have also worked allot on my fears of being in crowds in public places.   So what has been my primary focus?   That is a good question.

Well remember how I said that everything took a back seat to my job,  that included my personal happiness.    Do you have any idea how bad it sucks when asks you what make you happy, and you don’t have an answer, not because you don’t want to share it, but because you really have no clue.   This has so many side affects, like how to do get into a relationship with someone if you don’t know what make you happy.   I have tried a couple times, most of the times, It turns out that I have feeling for someone but they and they didn’t having the same feeling back for me.   This sucks, but as I’m starting to learn this is the way that it works.   About a month ago, I tried again, and while things started out great, I thought we both had the same feeling for each other, but it looks like I screwed it up.   I don’t know whether I pushed to hard to fast, or if I was just looking for something in the wrong place, I don’t know.  Am I jumping to conclusions I don’t really know as I relies that I am entering the dark days of the next step in my life.    But I do take some reassurance because I know a year or two from not I will look back on these days as days that changed my life for ever.  If there is anything I have learned things will work out they way they are meant too.

So what make me truly happy?   After months of searching, and trying new experiences, I still don’t know, for sure, but after the small gimps of happiness I have recently experienced, I have a feeling it is going to be sharing my life with someone, and having them share there life with me.   I know this is not going to be an easy process, and I know I’m going to make mistakes along the way, but in the end the rewards are worth so much more than the risk.

My First 100 Mile Race

A few weeks ago, I got to spend a week with Margaret Schlachter from Dirt In Your Skirt while attending the Kalispell Spartan Sprint.   One of the things we talked about was her Summer 100 Challenge.  I will be the first to admit, when I heard about the Summer 100 Challenge, I just laughed there is no way I could ever complete a 100 mile challenge, but the more that we talked about about it, I started to relied that to complete the challenge I would only have to average about 1 mile a day for the summer.    That is when it became  a possible reality.  I was ready to sign up, then I forgot because of everything that was going on in my head during the week.   That was until till May 22nd when I saw post that all 200 spots had been filled, but she was adding 50 more spots.  That’s is when I knew I had to sign up right away!   I was not going to miss it this time.

So How does it work?

The Challenge officially begins Monday May 27, 2013 and ends Monday September 2, 2013. During that time you can log your miles using your favorite app, or simply do it the old fashioned way in a training journal, on your calendar, or keep a tally on the fridge! At the end of each week everyone will report there mileage on the DIYS Facebook Page with how many miles total you have already completed in the challenge. You can share your weekly total or manually add the miles together.

What do you get when you finish your 100 miles?

The day you complete your 100 miles report it on our Facebook Page or Email Margaret and your name will be added to the finishers list on this page with date completed.  You will receive a metal, no, like most Ultra 100 mile races, you will receive a belt buckle.   Something that you can ware for the rest of your life showing the world that you have completed a 100 mile race.   How cool is that!

100_Mile_Belt_Buckel

 How do you sign up?   

Simple, go to the Summer 100 Challenge event page on Dirt in Your Skirt and sign up!   But you have to hurry, as you only have until 5/30 to sigh up and spots are limited.   So come join in completing my first 100 mile race!

Michael Mills vs Stone Mountain

Saturday I watched Michael Mills from Chasing Spartan Michael Mills fight though the pain and climb Stone Mountain on his hands and knees.  He asked each of us that joined him to challenge our self in our own way.  So I chose to carry 100lbs of 1 inch think steel plates.100_Lbs_Steel The plan was to start our adventure at 7:30 am, in the parking lot at the head of the walk up trail.  It was very cold almost freezing, and I started to have flashbacks to my experience during the Vermont Beast.  I had the same scared but excited feeling in my stomach as I had on that cold morning in Vermont.  It got so bad that I started to second guess my ability to complete this challenge, and that is when I saw on Facebook that Michael had like my comment about bringing the 100lbs and I knew, that there was no way for me to lower the weight to something more do able like 60lbs.  So I took in a deep breath and decided at that moment, no mater what I was going find a way to get to the top with all 100lbs.

When Michael arrived, I knew that I had made the right choice in not going to the Arizona  for the Spartan Race.  It was a strange feeling, but I just knew I was at the right place at the right time.  I knew that today was going to be one of though days that changes the way you look at the world.   Everyone gathered in the parking lot and we headed out a little before 8 am.  Michael, started out the adventure in his wheel chair, but it was notStart long when he decided to get out of it and continued the long journey on his hands and knees.  I have climbed Stone Mountain and have seen what it can do to people that are in relative good shape, but I could not imagine trying to climb the hole thing in your hands and knees.  It was a slow, but steady climb, Michael, was like the energizer bunny, he just keep going and The_Railsgoing. By 11:30 we had made it over half way up and we were facing the most difficult part of the climb.  This part of the climb is so steep that they have to put in two hand rails to help people climb up this part of the trail.   For me this is a very scary part of the trail.   The first time I climbed Stone Mountain, back in 2011, I fell twice trying to climb up this part of the trail.   I know a lot has changed since then, but I keep having visions of me falling, and getting crushed by my backpack.  Let be honest, steel plates to not have alot of give in them.  Half_Way_Up_The_RailsBut the sight of this part did phase him, he just took it in stride, and keep on going. Before I knew it were we half way up.  You could tell that his arms were killing him, but he never gave up and a few minutes later we were at the top of the steepest segment of the climb.  But the climb is not over in fact this is where you have to dig deep, because you are not at the top, not even closeTop_of_the_Rails.  We took a few minutes to recover and take in the incredible of Downtown Atlanta before counting up to the top.  We arrived at the top around 12:40 pm,  four hours after we started, to put this in perspective, the first time I climbed stone mountain, it took me three an half hours, and I was The_Finish_Linewalking.  The fact that Michael made it up in just four hours to me is incredible!   You could tell that he was exhausted, but it did not stop him from celebrating and taking some time to reflect on what he had just done.   He was on the top of Stone Mountain, and he had climbed up there on his hands and knees.  I think that is Only_Halfway_Donewhen he relied that if he could do this, there is nothing that he couldn’t do!   After taking photo with everyone we sat around and relaxed for a few.  After everyone relaxed, and started to regroup, we all realized that we were only half way done.   Chasing_Michae_Mills_vs_Stone MountainSo we started are way back down.  This went a lot faster, especially once we got past the steep part, and Michael, climbed back into his wheelchair.  I can not tell you how cool it was to see him doing jumps over rocks, and having a great time taking his new wheelchair though it’s paces. We were about 3/4 of the way down, and I was taking a break, when I saw a father reach over to his young daughter.  He then keeled down and said, look over there as he pointed to Michael, and said “Never say you can’t do anything, there is proof that anything is possible!”   When I heard that, it made me think, we came to the mountain to challenge our self’s in doing this we may have inspired others on the mountain to do something they thought was impossible. I know that I will remember this day for the rest of my life.  Thank you Michael Mills for sharing this great adventure with me!

To help Michael raise money for Bert’s Big Adventure please visit http://www.crowdrise.com/chasingspartanmichaelmills/fundraiser/michaelmills

The_Top

News Coverage:

11 Alive Video coverage of this adventure. Official Link

Creative Loafing Article:
Paraplegic Michael Mills climbs Stone Mountain

I Believe

This weekend was a very powerful weekend for me.  I climbed up Stone Mountain caring 100lbs of Steel Plates in a backpack with my friend Michael Mills.  It reminded me of my second Spartan Races that took place in Pennsylvania   I had been training in Vermont for about 14 weeks, and this was the first time that Margret and I completed a race together.

I will never forget that sandbag carry, and having Hobie Call on the course with us taking photos of Margaret and myself, can you say a surreal moment! After the race, I was walking though the venue when Ty from ibelievebandz.comI_beleve gave me the black band I wear on my wrist.   It has been with me for almost every race since then.  For me it is a constant reminder that I can do anything I set my mind to do including: facing my fear of heights, climbing over walls, even climbing a mountain with 100lbs of steel plates on my back.  The world is yours to enjoy as long as you believe in yourself.

Spartan Camp Summary Video

The 20 week summary video


Video Links:

2013 New Year’s Resolutions

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 are:

I have been thinking a lot about these things lately, and it not going to be easy to complete this list in 2013, but I know I can do it.  As far as this list goes the 3 items that I am most nervous about completing are: Going on 10 Dates, Having my skin reduction surgery, and falling in love.  You may be asking your self with everything I have completed in 2012, why would these 3 make me nervous.

Going on 10 Dates, and falling in love… My hole life, I have focused on my professional life, and nothing else mattered.  That started to change, when I made the decision to loose weight.   Since then I have been focusing on my professional life, and I made time for my health.   It was not until, I went to Vermont that I put my health ahead of my professional life.   Now that, I have my professional life and  health on track, it is time to take the next big step, it’s time to focus on my personal life.  I know that I am going to have to get over a lot of things that personal scare the heck out of me, but if I can make it though the Vermont Beast, I can make it though 10 dates!

The other one that has me real nervous is the skin reduction surgery,  I have an appointment with a plastic surgeon on January 9th to talk about my options.  From what I have been told in the past I will be looking at a full body tuck, and we they estimated that they would be removing 30 to 50 lbs of skin.   I am hoping that we can find a way to donate the extra skin to a burn center, instead of just discarding it.  As far as paying for the surgery,  I am hoping that my insurance company will help cover it, but if not, I will find a way to raise the money required to make this happen.

For the first time my life, I am looking forward to the new year with excitement and wonder to see just what 2013 going to bring my way.

Spartan Race: 2012 Fenway

I can remember sitting in Spartan HQ, when Joe started talking about doing a race inThe Green Monster Fenway Park, I knew at that moment, that no mater what happened  I was going to find a way to go to this race.  Why would this race be so important to me?  Two words… Green Monster… I can remember my beloved Detroit Tiger playing games in Fenway Park, and I fell in love with the Green Monster.  So getting the chance to see it in real life, count me in!

When I arrived into Boston, and stopped by to see my good friends over at Inov-8.  I Inov-8had not see them since the Vermont Beast, and I needed some advice on what shoes I should get next, to help me transition into a more natural shoes.   After some discussion we agreed on the Road-X Lite 155.  They are designed for roads and well maintained trails, they are a lot thinner and lighter then my trail shoes.   The other thing we noticed is the size 13 we just to big, so we tried on a pair of 12, and they fit like a glove.   This is the second time in my weight loss journey I have had to change my shoe size, I use to ware 14’s when I weight 696 lbs.

When I arrived at Fenway Park, it was like walking into a magical place.  I could not stop Welcomemy self from walking up to the building and putting my hand on the brick wall… I could not believe it, I am really here.  I walked around to the back gate and went in, this is where it helps being a staff member for so long.  After checking in.  I started to walk around the park and I could just feel the energy that the stadium gave off, I have never experienced anything like it before.   My heart started to race, and I could not stop my self I headed straight to the stands.  That is where I had the biggest omgwtf moments… I am really here.

After sitting there for a bit, I saw that the door to the warning track was open, so I ran back into the corridors and headed over the gate, I could not believe it was open so I The Green Monster 2walked down and onto the warning track.  This was the first time I have ever been on an actual professional baseball field.   I can admit, I stood there and took a deep breath, and took it all in.   I could not believe I was actually standing on the field, as I looked over to my left, there it was as big as life…. The Green Monster!   It is so much larger in real life than on TV.   As I started to walk over, I found my self looking at the small details, like the dents from all the baseballs that had hit it over the years.  I can not tell you how long I just stood there.  It was completely overwhelming.

On Saturday, I got to spend the morning with my friend Leah Hilton, we meet back in August at the New EnLeah Hilton and Chris Davisgland Spartan Race.  Since then, we have become good friends.   We spent the morning walking around the stadium cheering people on and just hanging out talking.   I am very lucky to have met her, as she has become one of a small group of people, that I turn to when I am having a bad day.   People ask me all the time how I have been able to keep going even on the bad days, Its simple, I have great friends that support me, even when I want to go back to the days of hiding behind a keyboard and monitor.

For this race, I decided I was going to try something different.  Instead of running the normal spartan race, I was going to help out with The Biggest Looser Run/Walk Off Road Challenge heat their whole purpose is to get people out and to try something new.   For most of these racers, this will be there first experience trying an obstacle course.  To help these first time racers out, the rules are a little different than a normal heat.   First off obstacle are optional, but we encourage everyone to try, Biggest Loosers especially if you think that it is scary.  Second, there are no timing chips,  this heat is about completing the course, not how look it took you.  So it is a perfect fit for me, because I have fallen in love with helping first time races find a way to get across the finish line.  That is what I am really good at.  So I meet up with Dan Evans from Season 5 of The Biggest Looser, and we headed off.  I stayed towards the back of the group and helped keep everyone motivated, and looking towards the finish line.  There were a couple of people that wanted to quit, especially during the sand bag carry, but we were able to get everyone who started across the finish line.

Looking back on this race, It is a real turning point for me.   This was the first race where I went out not to race for my self, but to help get others across the finish line.  Other than the Vermont Beast, this was one of the most rewarding races, I have ever experienced.