In January of this year, I got two new clients — Megan and Julie — from an existing client. Little did I know that these two women would quickly become Daniel and my close friends. Mid-summer, Julie asked if I had done a race in South Dakota yet for my 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge, and invited me to run the Mount Marty College 5k on August 18 during Riverboat Days in Yankton, her hometown. Julie had completed a few races before, but she was now down more than 35 pounds. She really wanted to compete well in her hometown 5k, so we decided to run the race together. I love 5ks … so why not?!? Needless to say I was intrigued by the whole “Riverboat Days” thing.
Megan had surgery in May on her left ankle and was recovering nicely, so she and Daniel decided they would come support us and participate in the 5k walk. It was a nice change of pace to travel with our friends, plus they helped pay for gas, which is always good! Thank you to Kristi Tacke and Mount Marty College for all your hard work to make this event special and for your generosity in putting us up at a great hotel.
We figured since it was August in South Dakota we’d be having nice weather, but oh boy were we wrong! The morning of the race was raining, thundering and lightening and cold! Lightning … this is a new one. Do you run in lightning? We had no clue. So, we got ready for the race (without jackets) and headed to the start. We checked in and were told that no, you do not race when it’s lightning and the race would delayed for a half hour to see if it would clear. The walkers got pushed back a little, too. The lightning let up, but the wind and the rain did not. The beginning of the race was quite interesting but by the middle the weather calmed down and we were able to finish the race without being completely drenched. I was nursing a strained Achilles that I injured the week before doing hill sprints. Julie got lucky and I allowed her to take a couple of walk breaks because my poor left ankle was in no mood to push too hard. We still finished under 40 minutes. I’m SO PROUD of not only Julie’s weight loss, but the changes she’s made in her life in the last seven months. Julie is proof that if you just step out in faith to get the weight off, you discover so much more that you want in life is possible.
So, what is Riverboat Days you ask? It’s like a state fair, an art festival, and a flea market had a baby on the side of a river! Great fun, music, people-watching, food, the works! It was a lot of fun and I definitely recommend going.
Stay tuned next to find out how I liv’ed Giant. Intrigued? The new blog will be out soon.
The Pacific Northwest … have you been? Well, I had prior to these races back in 2006 with my family (Mom, Dad, Sister) so returning was a real treat for me! Especially since Daniel was born in Port Angeles, Washington, but has not been back since he left as a little baby!
Portland and Seattle are not crazy far apart, so when I decided to do these states for my 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge I thought: “Why not get them both done in one weekend!” As you may have noticed there is an ever-ticking clock until I turn the Big 3-0. So, I have to check states off the list and still “experience” them as quickly as possible.
The two races I decided on were the Go Girl 10k Trail Run in Portland, Oregon, and the See Jane Run 5k in Seattle. This time driving was pretty much out of the question … so by plane we went!! Luckily, we were able to stay with past “Biggest Loser” contestant Jesse Warnum from Season 11. He and his son Arthur live in Portland and with Arthur moving that weekend Jesse was kind enough to offer us his spare room! Past “Biggest Loser” contestants are like family or sometimes more like a fraternity, because no matter what the differences are between seasons, all the contestants have been through similar experiences that not many other people can understand.
We arrived into Portland on very little sleep, so after we got our rental car our only priorities were food and sleep! We did some searching and remembered that Pok Pok is located in Portland! Pok Pok is this cool little place that is doing some big things with South East Asian cuisine. Seriously amazing and two thumbs way up! After eating, we went straight to Jesse’s house and crashed!
Since my last two races were half marathons I was excited to be doing a 10k … but I happened to forget it’s a 10k trail run in OREGON! For those of you who don’t know, Oregon is covered with mountains and forests, so trail really means trail! Luckily, we got to this race early enough to check in and have enough time for me to help kick off the first couple of waves. When it was my turn to jump in, Wave 4, I headed onto the trail and it was SO AWESOME! It was beautiful … and hard! Just a quarter mile into the race we were climbing steep inclines and jumping roots and sliding on rocks. Only the elites could run the whole thing and this girl could only jog. I realized this was not a PR race, so I decided to walk/jog the hills and enjoy the scenery. People knew me from the kickoffs I did at the Start line so it was like running with a big group of friends. I got to hear some stories from amazing women while my calves and lungs were burning from the steep inclines. Toward the end, I was keeping pace with a group of women who were all over 50 who power walked. Much to my dismay, I only managed to stay just ahead of them the whole time. But, we got to talk through the race and they told me they started racing for a friend’s 50th birthday and have been racing ever since! Just like me, they had caught the race bug. Finishing the race felt really good. Some 10ks don’t give medals and this one stayed true to form, but I did get a cool mug! I also got to meet the race director, Paula Harkin, and her son, both really nice people. Daniel was there to cheer me on, but didn’t participate since it was an all-girl event. (He’d have loved it thought, he loves pretty scenery.)
After the race we cleaned up and headed over to Arthur’s house for a healthy BBQ! We called it an early night, though, because my Seattle race was the next morning and we had to drive three hours to get there! Thankfully, Jesse kept us to our schedule like any good dad would do. We rose super early and made the drive to Seattle. There was a 5k and a half marathon, but we misread the start time so we arrived an hour early! We’d have loved the extra sleep but were thankful to not be running late. Bonus: we got to participate in the fun, jazzy, wiggly, crazy, and famous See Jane Run pre-race warm-up twice. I was excited to do the See Jane Run race series because it was started by Lori Shannon who woke up one morning and decided she wanted to run a marathon. At the time she wore a size 16 and decided to get a training schedule and become a runner. Once I learned this and that the company was inspiring women to race no matter their size, color, ability, or anything, I was in! These people understood why I run. It was right up my alley to be a part of something that celebrates what I believe in.
I was in a bright yellow top for this race and apparently got some attention, because it was so great to be told by some women after the race that I had inspired them to finish strong and kick it in at the end of the race. If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you know I like to finish fast! The best part of the race was the champagne and chocolate for all of the finishers! Daniel and I met some really cool people with whom we felt like instant friends. We stayed and talked to them for an hour and exchanged contact info.
Seattle is certainly a city we’d love to visit again. All over the Pacific Northwest it seemed like everyone we met was friendly. I decided to take Daniel to the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle and he loved it. He even got recognized by one of the fish mongers who I recognized as a guy from “Real World.” Daniel just looks like a shrunken version of the boy who was on TV in 2009. I love his face when people recognize him. He touched so many people just by showing his journey on TV … after all, he is the only contestant to have been on two seasons. Remember how I told you that Daniel was born in Port Angeles? Not only is Port Angeles the city made famous by “The Twilight Trilogy,” but it is the birthplace of my soon-to-be husband. The coolest part about going to Port Angeles from Seattle was we got to take a ferry … with our car! A drive-on ferry! We had SO MUCH FUN! After getting to Port Angeles we explored to see if we could find the house Daniel was born in. But, after driving up and down the same street for hours we determined it had become a subdivision. We ate, checked out the harbor (which takes you to Canada by the way), and started the long drive back to Jesse’s. The long drive back seemed to blur into our travels, because after a little sleep we hopped on our flight back to Kansas City, picked up Daniel’s car and drove in the middle of the night back to Des Moines. Apart from the crazy travels we put our bodies through this trip has been one of my favorites. Inspired? Don’t wait until it’s too late to do the things you want to do. Make the time to save and travel and see the beauty and diversity this country has to offer. The Pacific Northwest was unique and exciting. Get out there and do a race!
Catching up … it’s mid-June!
So, after my renewal of faith in Oklahoma I found my next race VERY appropriate. It was by complete accident I ended up choosing The Big Run for the One in Allegan, Michigan, June 14-16. I was just looking for a race to do in Michigan, because that’s where my Aunt LaRue and Uncle Paul live. We picked Allegan because my Aunt and Uncle live just 30 minutes southeast in Kalamazoo. Little did I know I was picking a race organized by The Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I love having family close by when I race. It sure helps with travel because it gives us somewhere to stay … and the added support is phenomenal! When I let my Aunt and Uncle know about the course they said they would bring their bikes and would join Daniel in riding while I ran. This half marathon course was going to be a hilly one, but I was up for the challenge! I was so happy I would have my family there to cheer me on!
The race started at 7 a.m. My Uncle Paul wasn’t that excited about getting up early on a Saturday, but delicious food and a nap were promised to him, which seemed to wake him up a bit! Daniel and I checked out The Big Ticket Festival the night before to pick up my packet, so we had an idea of where the race started (which was nice because sometimes we get lost, as you know if you’ve been reading my blogs so far). Even so, we arrived just minutes before the race start! This was the smallest race I’ve done yet, with only 100 or so participants. The course was … well … “Pure Michigan.” The first part was uphill. I’m made for hills. I just love my hamstrings burning (I’m crazy, I know). At about the halfway point, a bug bit my arm and in swatting it I knocked my bodybugg® watch off my wrist. When I saw Daniel and my Aunt and Uncle I yelled and told them to “Find my bodybugg, find my bodybugg!” They were on their bikes so they turned around and went looking for it. Thankfully, the shiny side was showing and my Uncle Paul spotted it. (I’m so glad too because you know I gotta know how many calories I’m burning!)
Usually, I hate miles 6 through 9 of a half marathon … and this race was no different. The last several miles were all on gravel!! That’s right, gravel! My pace went down the tubes … I was shuffling! Once I got past that it was back to the pretty Allegan countryside and quaint neighborhoods. By this time, my pace was shot and I just couldn’t regain what the gravel had done to my feet and legs. I was determined to finish and make sure that the woman I’d been leapfrogging all morning didn’t beat me (she didn’t). Finally, the last mile was downhill and I was excited to finish the race at the foot of the large wooden cross in the grandstand. Unfortunately, the motocross event after the race started too soon and they had to redirect the runners left instead of right! I missed this however, and ran a little extra to the right before cutting back when I saw my Aunt running at me and waving her arms. I decided to cut across the field rather than run back the way I came and finish that way.
It was exhilarating to share my experience and my renewal of faith with Maurice Holbrook, the race director, after crossing the finish line. I’ve been nervous to share my faith and he encouraged me to talk about it because it’s very real to me and my life and it’s worth sharing.
Overall, this was an amazing trip! We got to spend some quality time with my Aunt and Uncle (who knew they were so much fun), run a race with great purpose, and enjoy some really fun aspects of Michigan. Daniel and I got see some really fun things this trip. Have you seen the Michigan tourism commercials that say “Pure Michigan”? The slogan is on a lot of the signs in Michigan and Daniel and I got a laugh every time we saw one. It makes sense though. Michigan really has its own unique feel. If you’re ever in the area, here are a few places you should check out:
- Crane’s Pie Pantry: This is an orchard that has the best apple cider I’ve ever tasted! I think it has fiber in it because it made me full! Of course, Daniel wanted to try the pie and since apples were in season, I decided to try a piece. I don’t like apple pie, but I heard Rachael Ray say to try it with a piece of cheese over the top so I did and it was delicious! We wanted to give my Aunt and Uncle something and share this great place with them so we got them a blueberry pie. It was yummy, too. Remember, it’s about moderation. Having a piece here and there (especially after a race) is not going to hurt your weight-loss or maintenance efforts.
- Meijer: While visiting this part of the U.S. I have to make trip to Meijer. Not only is it a different spelling of my last name, but it’s a big super store of awesomeness. It’s a time warp! It sells everything from groceries, to picture frames, to kayaks, and even clothes — so much stuff that you lose track of time just taking it all in.
- Perrigo Outlet Store: Perrigo is the world’s largest manufacturer of over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals. In Allegan, they have an outlet store where you can find off brands of OTC medicines for extremely low prices! If you’re ever near Allegan, be sure to stock up! We got the essentials, you know, muscle rub, Advil®, Excedrin®, all the things this everyday athlete needs!
Needless to say, Daniel and I loved our Michigan trip! Stay tuned, because the next blog is all about our trip to the Pacific Northwest … WOOT!
Still catching up, but closing in on present day …
Daniel and I were trying to figure out if we wanted to plan a race over Memorial Day weekend. Wait, Memorial Day is usually the last Monday in May right?!? So, I flipped open my planner and was instantly flooded with memories of one of the happiest times of my life. Let’s go back … to May 2009 …
- May 3: My Dad’s birthday … the day I came home from Los Angeles not knowing if I’d made it on “The Biggest Loser.”
- May 8: Dave’s (soon to be brother-in-law) birthday and also the day Bob Harper called my cell phone and told me I was going to be on the show!!
- May 10: Shay’s (fellow BL contestant from Season 8) and Davis’ (one of the Bluth kids I nannied for) birthdays, not to mention Mother’s Day (2009) and the day I flew to California to change my life FOREVER!
- May 14: Brian and Amy Bluth’s anniversary and the first day filming on BL … I ran a mile (tried to) and started competing in my life!
- May 18: My little Viva Bluth’s birthday (another one of “my kids”).
- May 20: The day I blew up tons of orange balloons for a guy I hardly knew or liked, so he would feel at home on his birthday … did I mention it was my soon-to-be-husband Daniel Wright?
Crazy, awesome couple of weeks, right? That May 2009 was so life changing for me. I thought, let’s do it again May 2012; let’s go be with family! Where better to go run a race than with the Bluths in Oklahoma? But, you’re also probably wondering at this point, “Who the heck are the Bluths?” The Bluths are one of the families I use to nanny for before Loser. They became my extended family from the very beginning. Having them so far away is really hard, but thankfully Daniel and I love a good road trip. What’s 10 hours in a car, right!? The Bluths live about an hour from Oklahoma City so I chose the Andy Payne Memorial Half Marathon and continued to train! (A huge thank you to Don Garrett, the race organizer (DG Productions), for his generosity and help on this leg of my 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge.) I had not done a half since the Women’s Running Magazine Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, Fla., in late November 2011, which, because of weather conditions, was a rough race. FUN but humid! I learned my lesson, but I have to tell you I was slightly terrified at the 100+ temperatures I’d seen reported for Oklahoma City! I was so sure it was going to be a scorcher, I trained for a scorcher! I planned my long training runs in the hot of the day so I could acclimate my body to rough weather. I even threw on my calf sleeves while running to add an extra layer! The Wednesday before the race I had my final eight-mile run and it wiped me out! Daniel said “Babe, why are you wearing those socks you don’t have trouble with your calves when you run, right?” Well I really didn’t; I was only wearing them for an extra layer. So I replied, “Nah, I won’t wear them for the race.”
Cardinal Rule of Racing: ALWAYS WEAR WHAT YOU TRAIN IN!!!!!!!!!
EARLY race morning I ate my normal natural peanut butter on a bagel and did all my normal supplements, got the right amount of water on board and had my gear checklist all ready! I was nervous. I’m not sure why, but no matter how many half marathons I do I always get a little nervous. It’s like my first half — the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon 2009 — all over again! We got there in time to check in, get my bib, and stretch. Next thing you know I’m off … I clicked start on my Garmin and I’m doing this AGAIN … 13.1 here I come!
I’m rocking out to my new playlist of Pitbull and Kelly Clarkson with some serious power songs and to my surprise it was rather cool that morning. DUH!!! I somehow forgot that Oklahoma, “where the wind comes rolling down the plains …” Well, I was running around a lake and it was trying to blow me over! I’ll take a little wind over humidity ANY DAY!
But the next thing I notice, about a mile or two in, was my calves were on fire!!!! I was kicking myself for not wearing those damn socks and I started to cry. I didn’t know how to handle this … who could help me? Then like a ton of bricks it came to me … I should pray. In my head I thought, “does God really care about my calves?” I didn’t know but I was so overwhelmed by this pain I was having, I thought, “why not?!” Right there, running alone in my time of need, I offered it all up to Him! In that one moment I gave thanks for all I am, all I’ve accomplished, and I asked for help to get me through this pain and help me push on. It was that day, that moment in time, I was and will be forever changed! I experienced the Holy Spirit and I was given the strength to push through. From that day forward I knew in my heart the verse I had heard a million times Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
I just kept running, slowing only a little at each mile where they had water stops to get some Roctane™. Normally when I run I keep my head down and concentrate on the task at hand, but not this course. It was a loop up and back and I was seeing people all along the way. I couldn’t stop and share my news with anyone so I just smiled. I smiled for 2½ hours straight, even when my body wanted to stop I had the ultimate tool to push through. I could not wait to finish the race to share this with my best friend/fiancé, because after all, his faith was what attracted me in the first place!
It was so nice to come back to the Bluths house and get to share my experience, because they are people of faith, too. I don’t know if I can explain how important Amy was in me finding the real me. She was one of the few people who just saw me for me when I was going through some rough times from 2007-2009. She gave me so much support and love. Their kiddos Davis, now 9, and Viva, now 5, were “my kids.” (The also have another son, Truman, who is 2, but I never nannied him.) I used to spend so much time just hanging out with them. After the race Viva grabbed my had and said, “let’s go hot tub!” I was ready … and somehow got convinced into swimming in the pool. Who knew it would be such a great post-workout?! Daniel and the Bluths were food for my soul and the water was nice on my throbbing joints.
Thank you Bluths for always opening up your home to me! I love you very much and I’ll see you at my wedding!
This breakthrough in my faith and in my running has helped me accomplish so much since then. Up next? Michigan!!
As you may have figured out by now, I like to pick races for my 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge that will help me knock off states. This, however, is not the main goal when I choose a state and find a race … it’s actually secondary. Usually, after a night of training clients, I find myself sitting on the couch Googling races. I start with a state search and then I try to find one that sounds challenging or different! In this case, I am writing about Nevada. I start thinking “Do I want Carson City … Reno … nah, let’s just go for it and see if there are any Vegas races!” And sure enough, it is not just any race, but the Las Vegas 5k Presented by Pinkberry (true joy … explanations to follow, I promise)!
May 12, 2012. I know what you’re thinking: May in Las Vegas … isn’t it hot there? The answer is “yes,” but hey it’s only a 5k right!?! My handy dandy publicist/manager sleuthed a little, contacted the race organizers at Ryno Running, and signed me up (more on Ryno later)!
I booked my flight, but if you are from Des Moines, Iowa, then you know flying out of our “international airport” is a bit touchy, so I decided to save a couple hundred bucks and drove Ruby to Omaha. Thankfully our fellow BL family/friends Amy and Marty Wolff live there, which meant I could rest a couple hours before boarding!
My layover just so happened to be in Salt Lake City. While looking for the bathroom, my jaw dropped. There, to my surprise and extreme delight, was a Pinkberry® Frozen Yogurt! It was 8 a.m., but who cares? Healthy frozen deliciousness was going to replace my pre-packed breakfast!!! A good omen forecasting the beginning of a great trip!
Thanks to the generosity of Ryno Running, I stayed off the strip at the Silverton Casino Hotel. If I can, I like to stay where the other racers stay just to be in the middle of all the action (plus having the expo an elevator ride away was too convenient). The hotel gym was great and the pool was even better. I really enjoyed my mini-downtime before the race to just relax and take it all in!
On race morning I had my checklist of running gear set out and was off! I headed down to get my car to drive to the race start, and, of course, I was running a little behind. Thank heavens I had met one of the valet drivers the day before and he got me on a shuttle to the race! The driver had to almost hop a curb to get me there, because they had already closed several of the roads to get there. Thankfully I arrived safely and in enough time to stretch properly before the race!
For those of you who live in humid climates and are not aware of the difference when running in the desert let me explain. The desert, like you’ve seen in the movies, just sucks all the water out of you when you run!! I was, however, prepared for this because I first learned how to run in Calabasas, Calif., in the summer of ‘09 on “The Biggest Loser!” Even so, there still is nothing like the first few minutes of the just-rising sun to zap your body’s H2O supply! Luckily there were frequent water stops (thanks Ryno)!
Now the debate was do I stop for the infamous photo in front of the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign or do I try for a great finishing time? I opted for the photo, which is one reason why I have a Garmin. (Recurring 50 in 50 by 30 themes: late and/or lost!) After all, I will know my time and can go for my personal record at another race. At the race finish we were met with smartwater® (replenishing those electrolytes is important), plus all sorts of other post-race goodies. The best for me was the Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt. They were giving away free samples — teeny-tiny ones — but samples nonetheless!
Also, kudos and a shout-out to all the professionals at Ryno Running who did such a wonderful job organizing the spectacular post-race expo. I found myself staying for quite awhile! And, I’m thrilled to say that Ryno Running will be my official running apparel sponsor in 2013. I’m super excited to help spread the word about their products and races.
Now, a story about the best moments I have wherever I travel.… While I waited for the post-race shuttle to arrive, I met a couple — John and Jane — from Nova Scotia. They both ran the 5k and were in town on vacation. After chit-chatting for a while, I found out John had suffered a heart attack not six months earlier and it was a blessing that he was even there that day. He now is active with Jane and their kids, because he — like me — got a second chance at life and was going to live it up!! Oh, yeah, I find ‘em everywhere. Connecting with people like John and Jane is why I race. Their stories inspire me and also help me to motivate others. They keep me going and hopefully someone out there may read this and find the FIGHT, DRIVE or MOTIVATION to be present in their life. When you do, give me a call and I’ll run with ya!
Stay tuned for my next blog about Oklahoma. It’s a tear jerker … especially to those of FAITH!
The Kent Island Metric Half Marathon. Oh, yeah, you read that correctly … METRIC Half Marathon. Aren’t you too enticed? I know I was. Want to know the difference? When I got home from “The Biggest Loser,” a very close family friend (Shari Turner) informed me there are 13.1 miles in a half marathon and 26.2 miles in a full marathon. Okay, got it. But then I caught wind about the metric marathons! A metric half marathon is 13.1 kilometers, which is 8.15 miles. Which means a metric marathon is 26.2 kilometers or 16.3 miles. I’m IN!!
You know me. If I’m traveling for my 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge, I’m going to work hard to combine one or more states on the trip. So after The Gristmill Grinder in West Virginia, Daniel and I JUMPED in Ruby and flew to Maryland. We had to get to Annapolis quickly to make it in time for packet pick-up at Fleet Feet in Annapolis. Fleet Feet is a running store that features a special fitting process for each individual to find just the right shoes. Daniel and I already have our favorite running shoes, but we got to hang out with the helpful staff and pick up some much needed gels and a handheld running water bottle. The volunteers at packet pick-up were very kind and welcoming, getting our Maryland experience off to a great start!
Kent Island is across the Bay Bridge from Annapolis. The Kent Island Running Group was kind enough to put us up in Annapolis (thank you Trudy Humphreys). We just love the Courtyard Marriott, they’ve been a great hotel for us at various stops; they always have a fabulous fitness center. They also have their “TV Board of Fun,” which lists the calorie counts for all the food they serve at their on-site bistro. I love knowing the calories; it lets me know I’m in control. I always make it a point to seek out delicious local Italian restaurants to carb load the night before any big race. I love me some stored glycogen!
Early Sunday morning we made our way across the beautiful Bay Bridge to Kent Island. The race’s start and finish were in Matapeake State Park. The race director, Trudy, was fantastic and truly made us feel welcome. The race itself is only in its second year, but it is really well-managed and put together. The full marathon started 8 a.m. and us “halfers” got to start at 8:10. The course was relatively flat, which most runners would absolutely love. I, however, am not like most runners. I learned to run at home, on the south side of Des Moines, Iowa. For those of you who don’t know, it’s mostly hills! Perfect for a little push to make those hamstrings work and the much-worked-for-reprieve of a downhill to loosen those legs. It may be masochistic but hey, I loved Boston. Anyhow, it was 90 degrees and the course ended up being a little long at 8.9 miles so I was, as they say, pooped at the end.
What better way to recover than with an ice cold beer! If beer is not your post-race workout “meal” of choice, no worries here! They had everything from oranges and coconut water to pizza and beer. My kind of post-race chow, because I like everything and in between. I met lots of great people with inspiring stories and I was honored to be a part of this metric half marathon. Take it from me, if you’re curious about what a race entails, why not try it? As Jillian Michaels once said to me, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I say, “You finish.”
Oh, wait! Our trip doesn’t end here. We didn’t have to be home until Tuesday. One of the best parts of the 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge is that I get to take Daniel to places he’s never been before. Like here, in Annapolis. We missed the last tour of the U.S. Naval Academy so we decided to go have a nice healthy dinner on the water. After dinner, we got to see my cousin Devon and his wife Mandi who live just 45 minutes away. But the fun really started on our way home.
Daniel and I were craving Pinkberry® Frozen Yogurt and saw on GoogleMaps that there was a Pinkberry in Georgetown on our way out of town! For those of you who don’t know, Georgetown is where Daniel and I stayed while in Washington D.C. for “The Biggest Loser.” It’s also where Daniel says he fell in love with me. Needless to say, there were plenty of fantastic memories walking up and down those streets. Only this time, we were engaged! We got to be tourists again. We walked and stopped in lululemon, Pinkberry of course, and had a bite to eat. On our way back to the car, we found that Ruby was not where we left her!! Freaking out, we saw that Ruby had been “relocated” to the other side of the street! Relieved to find her, we accepted the tickets and headed home. Wait, that’s not all. Leaving Georgetown we noticed our tire pressure warning light coming on even after Daniel and filled the tires correctly, so we found a MINI dealership on the way out of D.C., and one new tire and $317 dollars later, we started on the 17-hour trip home, safely.
Lastly, a bit of food info. If you’re looking for a healthy snack while traveling on the East Coast, we found that WaWa and Sheetz® have fresh fruit and tons of healthy options for even the pickiest of consumers. Have fun! Get out there and try a race you never even knew existed. I did … and had SO much FUN!
Like most Iowans, I look forward to the Iowa State Fair every year! Another 10 days of foot-long corn dogs, funnel cakes and — new this year — a chocolate MOOSE! But, this year was again very special because I teamed with the Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP) for the second year to help Iowans learn a little bit more about what their state actually provides, not only for us, but the rest of the country.
This year the people of the Iowa FFP decided to take it “Back to the Farmer,” paying true homage to the 1980s flick “Back to the Future” with an out-of-this-world canned food sculpture: a DELOREAN!!!! Make no mistake, this “time traveling” car was not fueled by a plutonium-powered nuclear reactor; no, no … the opposite actually. It will help fuel thousands of hungry Iowans, because all of the great and healthy non-perishable food items are being donated to the Iowa Food Bank Association.
The Iowa FFP exhibit was a frenzy of activity both days I was there in the Varied Industries Building. They had a spinning trivia wheel where people could answer questions about agriculture in exchange for chicken, cow and pig potholders. Iowans crack me up — people really loved those potholders — they waited in long lines for a chance to spin the wheel! I overheard the volunteers from the Iowa Food Bank Association ask fairgoers, both young and old, questions about who leads the country in the production of pork, soybeans, eggs and CORN??? I knew the corn question! It’s IOWA of course!
While I was there it was my extreme pleasure to hang out with the partners and producers who work with the Iowa FFP, and to get to know some great fans who came by! I signed quite a few autographs, but I also had time to chat with many of the visitors (like my new friends Leah and her little brother Brock, both big fans of “The Biggest Loser”) and share with them the tons of ag knowledge I have been learning from the Iowa FFP. Like the fact that, as Daniel and I travel all across the United States for my 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge, chances are the turkey in our sandwiches from Subway® was produced right here in Iowa.
That’s just one fact you should know. Since most Iowans live in a city these days, it’s important we know, respect and understand the connection we all have with the hardworking Iowa farmers who really feed the country. I encourage you to take a minute and read a little more Iowa farmers.
Some of the visitors I met at the Fair also shared with me details about their personal weight-loss journeys. Like Ron Foronato, a fellow Des Moines south-sider, who is down some 40+ pounds. After all, that’s what I do. Life after “The Biggest Loser” has meant starting a personal training and weight-loss coaching business with fellow BL alum — and fiancé — Daniel Wright: FitnessWrightNow, LLC. We specialize in helping others figure out why they are where they are. My hope is that the people I met start fighting FOR — not against — themselves! Meeting and helping inspire others is a huge part of why I do what I do, whether it’s through FitnessWrightNow or the Iowa FFP.
There were so many other great people I met and I am so thankful to all of you for sharing with me and making my days at the Fair so memorable! Like little Gregory, who’s a fellow Giants fan!
This blog wouldn’t be complete unless I sent a huge thank you to Cory and Greta for hooking me up with the Iowa FFP again this year. I just love working with you because you are so passionate about what you do! Keep up the great work. And thank you to all of the vital partners of the Iowa FFP: Cate Newberg, the Iowa Soybean Association’s director of marketing; Lindsey Haley, the Soybean Association’s district coordinator; Jordan Vernoy, the state director for Iowa Food Bank Association; and Ben Carlson from the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Lastly, I have to thank all of the other volunteers I met. Thanks for all your hard work. Without you, there would not be an Iowa Food & Family Project!
Until next year, eat healthy, and next time you’re at the grocery store, think about the agricultural heroes — the Iowa farmers — who produce the food you put on your table!
Catching up … close to present day …
It’s always a little bit of a chore trying to figure out which states to run in next. I decided it was time for a change of scenery and a road trip to the East Coast. The Gristmill Grinder made me stop when I was looking for a race in West Virginia. It sounded interesting, so I looked up the race location: Babcock State Park. The photos were enticing (so lush and beautiful) and I thought … FUN! Thanks to race organizer Donnie Hudspeth, and everyone else involved who were excited to have Daniel and I participate, they made this “off-road” 5k an event to remember. Our host even set us up in the most amazing cabin I’ve ever stayed in! Wait … let’s rewind a little.
Daniel and I packed up Ruby (my MINI Cooper for those of you who are new, or don’t remember) and headed out EARLY Friday morning, April 13 (yep, Friday the 13th). That’s right, we drove my MINI Cooper from Iowa to West Virginia (very comfy ride)! We packed my lil’ car full of balanced snacks, prepared meals, a cooler full of water and, of course, a little caffeine (it’s 14½ hours)!
At the first stop on our adventure, besides the usual pit stop (I have a small bladder), we tried to warm up our food at Starbucks with no luck, but we did get a great cup of coffee! That’s when we remembered most gas stations have microwaves to warm up those bad-for-you 700+ calorie burritos, but they can also warm up our 400-calorie, home-cooked meals. SCORE! None of the gas stations on our trip had a problem with it, especially since we were buying gas. Awesome!
Hairpin turn, after hairpin turn, we finally reached our cabin at Opossum Creek Retreat. We highly recommend this to anyone who wants a different vacation experience. The cabin was stocked with everything we needed to have dinner that night and breakfast the next morning. There was even a hot tub! I have to say, even though it was only for one night, Daniel and I felt very relaxed and almost at home. Even better, a retreat!
The next morning we packed up and found Babcock State Park. Daniel, who loves to look up our various destinations, found that Babcock is home to The Gristmill. It’s the most photographed spot in West Virginia, a fully functioning mill made from pieces of different mills from all around the state.
We arrived ready to race and — yet again — I had misread the info for the race. It was a 5k fun walk, not a run. There was a half marathon trail run I really would like to have done, but alas, not today, since I was less than a day away from running more than 8 miles the very next day in Maryland (have to make use of those road trip miles). Cooler heads prevailed and I decided to stick with the fun walk, which meant Daniel and I could walk it together! Enticed by the 13.1 mile trail run, we are seriously considering returning to the beautiful hills of West Virginia for that event in the near future, since we are discovering we really love trail runs.
The walk turned out to be a great experience. We got to meet and talk to several great people. It’s awesome to learn there are people who are just trying to get active and are using events to get out there and get moving. For those of you reading this who haven’t experienced races, be sure to look up trail runs and fun walks. There is so much your state has to offer and what better way to start getting healthy than in your community with your friends and neighbors.
West Virginia really is wild and wonderful and I hope to be back sooner rather than later. Next … onto the Atlantic Ocean coast of Maryland!
On March 15, 2012, Daniel and I headed out in Ruby for Virginia Beach. I can’t believe that in two years to the date my 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge will be over!! I’ve got a lot of racing to do! We decided while looking for plane tickets that it was spring break for a lot of people and flying to Virginia Beach was almost out of the question! So, why not make it a road trip?!? We stopped to sleep for a couple hours that night at my very good friend Jenny’s house, which is just outside of Champaign, Ill. After a few good hours of sleep, we got up at 7 and away we went! Daniel and I had recently started reading “The Hunger Games,” so after a few hours of music and talking we decided Daniel should read the book aloud to me (since we’re in Ruby, I’m the driver). I know what your thinking, “reading aloud sounds silly,” and I actually thought that, too, but he has such a great reading voice. After a couple pages or so I was hooked! It was even better than a book on tape! The only issues were keeping my “narrator” hydrated and supplied with throat lozenges … it was more than a 20-hour drive!
This trip seemed to sneak up on us so we found ourselves without a whole lot of snacks. Luckily there was a Trader Joe’s on the way so we stopped to get some healthy snacks: nitrate free beef and turkey jerky, 110-calorie kettle popcorn bags, packs of assorted nut blends, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, hummus and veggies. AND we discovered Naan bread, a yeast-raised East Indian flat bread. Naan with some wasabi mayo for turkey sandwiches was YUMMY!! Once we had our snacks and a cooler full of water and a couple low-carb energy drinks, we were set!!!
If you’ve been following my 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge, you know I’m always trying to conserve money during our travels, so when looking for races in March (had to be warmer) I started asking family and found out Daniel’s aunt and uncle lived in Virginia Beach and would love to have us visit! Then I found the TowneBank 8k, which was part of the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon on St. Patrick’s Day … WOOT! For those of you who have not been introduced, Yuengling is “Americas Oldest Brewing Company.” They make some SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS BEER! I was introduced to this refreshing libation with Daniel in North Carolina and have been a fan ever since (in moderation of course!). Sadly, we cannot get it here in Iowa, but whenever I am on the East coast I have to check around for Yuengling!
Now, back to the actually racing … I was intrigued by the concept of an 8k. How many miles is that anyway? I, of course, had to Google yet again — 8 kilometers is 4.97 miles! Ok, I can do 5 miles; sounded great to me. Especially when I looked at the course map (I do that now because of my adventures with the 10k in Missouri) and found out the last kilometer or so was on the ocean boardwalk!
We didn’t get into Virginia until late Friday night. The race was early Saturday morning, so we had to sleep fast! When I woke up, I remembered that not only would I have Daniel there cheering me on but his Mom Denise, stepdad Jim and sister Deanna, who had come up for the weekend to see me race and spend some time with us. As I shared in my Texas blog, my checklist of “gear” was all on … except this time I was not going to be racing in a pink tank. After all, it was St. Patrick’s Day and I needed to get in the spirit (and I didn’t wanna get pinched) so I wore a green lululemon racerback tank. The weather was a little colder than I expected, but thank heavens Denise had an extra jacket I could wear until the raced started.
This race was fun even though it was flat. I like it when you get to run through a downtown you don’t know because it gives you something new and fun to look at while you wind through the streets. The next thing I know I was coming up on that stretch of beach I mentioned before. I could see the flags flanking each side of the finish banner! I was SO CLOSE … this one was going to be a fast finish. I don’t know if I’ve told you but ever since my first race (the Des Moines IMT Half Marathon in October 2009) I always make it a point when I can see the finish line to drop it into fifth gear. “What’s fifth gear?” you may be asking. Well, I believe all runners have gears. Rodney Filer, my at-home trainer during the show, used to talk about my gears and how even when I said “I’ve got nothing left!” he could provoke me into a fifth gear. It’s that last bit of gas we all have inside of us that I believe is powered by our own sheer WILL! In this moment, that is what I was going to use to finish this race. There is nothing better than the sound of bystanders cheering you on and saying “Whoa! Way to finish runner!” It is possibly one of my favorite parts of racing, especially when I surprise even myself!
This race taught me maybe I should run with my phone. There were SO many runners and supporters there I could NOT find MY PEOPLE!!! The next thing I see is Deanna riding on Daniel’s shoulders looking for me!! We all had breakfast and I of course had to have a Yuengling with mine. It was a cold, perfect post-workout treat … really!
After the race, since it was my birthday (kind of got overlooked in the frenzy to get from Des Moines to Virginia), back at the house I was surprised by Daniel and his fam with presents and cupcakes from my soon-to-be sister and mom.
The rest of the trip was filled with family time, boat rides, and laughter. It was a nice little get away from everything. Next thing we knew, it was time to head home. I was actually really excited about a 20-hour car ride, because we had “The Hunger Games” book No. 2 to read!
It seems like only yesterday that I was hanging out at the Iowa Food & Family Project’s (Iowa FFP) State Fair exhibit. But that was last year. I am SO excited that they’ve asked me to be a part of it again this year. I will be there on Sunday, August 12, from 1-5 p.m. and Wednesday, August 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Iowa FFP is a “young” group that’s only been around for about a year. So if you’ve never heard of the Iowa FFP, or not very much (have you been paying attention to my fact-filled Facebook (or second Facebook) and Twitter posts?), let me introduce you. Their mission is to inspire positive relationships between farmers and consumers through personal engagement and advocacy to the benefit of human vitality, environmental quality and economic prosperity.
One thing you cannot miss at the Fair is Iowa FFP’s canned goods sculpture: Back to the Farmer. It’s top secret what it’s going to look like (no, they haven’t even shared that with me), but it’s going to be something you’ll want to see. I know this girl is excited. Watching the volunteers build the sculpture last year was pretty amazing! Plus, did you know that all the canned food used will be donated to the Iowa Food Bank Association (IFBA). Stop by to see if you can figure out what they’ve made. If you can guess how many cans they used to build it, you can win a $250 gift card from Hy-Vee! While you’re there, you can “buy” a can of food for the sculpture for only a $5 donation (of course you can always donate more) to the IFBA to help feed hungry Iowans. If you are one of the first 2,000 to do this, you’ll get a FREE T-shirt and they’ll put your name on the can! You also can test your knowledge on our great state’s agriculture in quizzes and you could win FREE Casey’s pizza for a year!
Last year, I got to spend some quality time with the people who make the Iowa FFP and the IFBA so great. Before that 2011 State Fair gig, I thought I was relatively knowledgeable about Iowa’s agriculture and production, but oh boy did they drop some serious learnin’ on me! For example, did you know that approximately 98 percent of Iowa’s farms are family owned? Or, how about that when you eat at any Subway® (one of my faves!) in the U.S., there’s an 80 percent chance that you’re enjoying turkey provided by Iowa farmers! So, if you’re looking for more than just a sick stomach from the Iowa State Fair, drop by the Varied Industries Building to see me, and find out that The Iowa Food & Family Project isn’t an organization — it’s a movement — one that celebrates the miracle of food and the men and women who provide it!