hitting rock bottom…and going up (or down, depending on how you look at it) from there

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heading back from diving near cape town – june 24, 2014

Whilst in South Africa, I was able to go diving. If you’ve read my blog over the past few years, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of diving and go as often as I can. So, this trip was a great opportunity and I had high hopes of seeing lots of sharks (which I did, although no great whites as the sea was too rough the day we were hoping to go see those), but not really the point of this post.

So, I did go diving and, while I do love it, since I started getting back into it, it’s been a bit of a love/hate thing. I love doing it, but there’s a lot of stress leading up to it because of my weight. I’m capable of doing it, but there’s always a question of whether they’ll have a wetsuit that fits me (my first trip in Okinawa, they did not…it was fairly depressing), how much weight I’ll need, etc, etc.

Well, Cape Town presented a new challenge: diving from a large zodiac with no ladder. Before even leaving the dock, my thoughts were already preoccupied with how I was going to get back onto the boat after diving. And those thoughts continued throughout my first dive. And I was worried with good reason. While none of the divers in the group could get themselves in without help (it requires a lot of upper body strength), I was the only diver that required two people to help me. And I looked and felt ridiculous as I got hoisted back into the boat. In fact, it was so bad that I seriously considered sitting the next dive out.

Of course I didn’t do that, but something clicked at that point. While I’ve always struggled with my weight, it had never interfered with my experiences in life the way I felt it did in that moment. It made, what should have been, an incredible dive something different. My weight was stealing my joy. This experience combined with not finishing the marathon earlier in the week was just too much for me. I sat quietly on the boat as we drove to our next dive site, closing my eyes, and doing my best to hold back the tears. I had hit rock bottom. In that moment, I determined that this would be the last time I would feel exactly like this. I didn’t know how I was going to change it, but I knew it was time.

A week later, I was in Indiana camping with my brother and his family and a bunch of our mutual MBA friends. My sister-in-law commented that one of those friends had lost a lot of weight. I had seen this friend very recently while she was visiting in Japan and she looked the same is I remembered her (prior to that, I hadn’t seen her for a couple of years), but apparently work travel had been rough on her and when I saw her, she’d already lost most of that weight, so I didn’t know any different. Anyway, we got to talking about how she’d done it and she told us she’d been using Isagenix.

Now, I’d heard of this product before because my sister-in-law had used it, but I’d never been tempted to do it (I didn’t know much about it and I’m totally leery of anything direct sales related). However, in that moment, both my sister-in-law and I decided we would do it together and we committed to starting as soon as my vacation was over.

I had another week left of traveling in the U.S. and my final stop was Arizona. While there, I went to the doctor to get some blood work done. In the process, I was officially weighed and tipped the scales at my highest weight ever. Higher than even my fattest time on my mission. While this could have been disastrous, I already had a plan, and this moment was all I needed to ensure that I stuck to it.

So, I got back to Japan on July 13th and the next day I started on Isagenix with my sister-in-law as my long-distance buddy. I started seeing results on the scale right away. Unfortunately, in the first month, I also remembered just how obsessive I can get about my weight and the reason I stopped weighing myself a few years back. Over the course of the first 17 days, I lost consistently except for one day. Yes. Only on one measly day did I see the number on the scale go up at all…but that was enough to put me in a bad mood for the entire day. I was discussing this with my sister-in-law, and she suggested that I stop weighing myself daily, so I did. I stopped on day 18 and then weighed myself again on day 30 for a total loss in my first 30 days of 18.4 lbs!

When I began month two, I was also connected with my friend, Aubrey, who’s an Isagenix distributor and coach, and I committed to myself and her and my sister-in-law that I wouldn’t weigh myself at all throughout the month, This was HARD! But it also meant that when I had a day here or there where I indulged a bit, I wasn’t beating myself up. And, rather than weighing myself, I started tracking calories.

While Isagenix is laid out really well, I had also really started back into exercising quite consistently, and for the first time in my life while trying to lose weight, I wanted to make sure I was eating enough. Such a difference from the past. You see, prior to this, I’ve never lost weight in a truly healthy way. I went through bouts of starvation and laxative abuse in high school and college, I tried Atkins in my early 20s, HCG in my early 30s. Weight Watchers was the closest I got to “healthy” in that I wasn’t starving myself, but even with Weight Watchers it was all too easy to continue eating junk (just a lot less of it…still a fan of the program if you do it in the right spirit). But this program…this lifestyle…is different. I can maintain this. It works with my life.

During my second 30-days, my body really started to feel different. And I was excited to exercise every day. I was getting ready to hike Mt. Fuji, as well, and was excited about the prospect of doing it with at least 18 lbs off of me. It’s not that I hadn’t been exercising before, but weight makes a big difference. My running times were improving. I was feeling great. When I got to day 60 (after conquering Fuji, which was incredible), I almost didn’t want to weigh myself because I knew I was still losing and I was feeling so good, but I also felt like I needed to have that number just as a point of reference for the future, so the morning of day 61, I got on the scale. Another 16.5 lbs down for a total of 34.9 lbs in 60 days!

10407731_10154608402915389_3834516360543429790_n The last three days, I’ve been in Okinawa for work and had the chance to spend Monday scuba diving. What a difference 34.9 lbs makes. This was a totally different experience than my trip in South Africa. I didn’t have to get the largest size BCD and hope that it would fit. I got a Large instead of an XL and it was actually a little big. I enjoyed every minute of the experience. I wasn’t the fat American. I was just the American.

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post diving in south africa – june 24, 2014

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post diving in okinawa – september 15, 2014

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can you see how happy i am in this moment?!

Now, I still have a long way to go to my goal…not quite halfway there…but I have confidence that I can get there. In the past, whatever I’ve been doing has been so hard that I’ve wanted to lose as much as I could as quickly as possible because I knew it wouldn’t last. This is different. This is a lifestyle change. This is me giving my body what it needs to be healthy and strong. It’s not about being skinny (although I do love how I look with the weight gone). It’s about experiencing my life the way I want to experience it. It’s about being able to be the person I am on the inside because the outside of me isn’t an obstacle.

There have been some bumps (the business trip to Okinawa has been one…still figuring out how to break old habits), but nothing has devastated me. I know the weight loss will slow down, but I don’t doubt that it will continue, or that I will continue to feel great in the process. I’m reaching new fitness goals. I’m shrinking out of my wardrobe. Really, this has changed my life and I wanted to document it. And here are some before/current photos (not all labeled, but before is always on left and now is on the right) to capture this in images because I think it’s so valuable to see not just the difference in my body, but the difference in how I feel that you can actually see through these pictures. It really is amazing.

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so, basically, this dress that required spanx and a careful consideration before wearing is now too big for me, which makes me sad because I love it…but not enough to do what I would need to in order to continue to wear it.

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please don’t judge me for the socks i’m wearing on the left…i had boots on that day, but in true japanese form, i don’t wear shoes in my apartment, thus the polkadot socks. 😉

unnamed unnamed Note: While I am still not a fan of the whole MLM thing, I do get why this is sold in this way…you get great attention and coaching. I’m not trying to build a business, but I do love these products and, if you are interested, let me know.

ETA: Oh, and how could I forget my phenphen phase; best results ever…and I was a complete nightmare to live with/be around. Good times. Good times.

and i failed

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our cute little hut for the week

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sunrise, the morning of the race

South Africa was amazing, but the reality about the marathon was that I was undertrained and unprepared for just how difficult the course was going to be.

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before the race

Even had I not rolled my ankle multiple times and fallen twice, I would have been picked up by one of the cars because I wouldn’t have made the first cutoff. I felt better having tripped and fallen. Kind of sad, but true.

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In any case, even with the fall at around mile 10, and another one only about a quarter of a mile later, I still managed to complete half and got a medal for it.

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anne and me with our half-marathon medals

The trip was still amazing. Now I just have to figure out when to go back so I can conquer that beast. In addition to the amazing game drives and attempting that race, we also went down to Cape Town after where I got to go diving and see more of the country.

No regrets. And now I’ll know better in terms of how to prepare for next time. Yay me.

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failure is a possibility

“You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try – you don’t take the risk.”
-Rosalynn Carter


I’ve been posting all kinds of stuff on my instagram feed about this upcoming marathon I’m running in South Africa. While running a half marathon in Burma last November, I overheard a number of people talking about it and that it was super hard. I’m not sure why I didn’t actually look at the elevation graphic before agreeing to run this thing. Or, you know, before three weeks ago. But I didn’t. I wasn’t overly worried about it either because, I thought, “I know I’m not fast, but I have endurance and strength on my side.” Well, endurance and strength are great things…but when there’s a time limit, they may not be enough.

big_5_elevationOver the past three weeks, since discovering both the difficulty and the time limit, I’ve seriously contemplated just running the half marathon. And please let me be clear when I use the term “just” accompanied by the words “half marathon.” I realize that a half marathon is still a long distance and I am both blessed and amazed that my body (a body that I often dislike, sometimes loathe, and is between 60 and 80 lbs overweight, depending on the chart you consult) can complete a half marathon. In fact, during the Tokyo Marathon, the body carried me, running, the entire first half without a single walking break. But, the point is, I signed up for a marathon. I set out to run this marathon. So, it would feel like a “just” to me.

But here’s the thing. I do not like to fail. Well, nobody likes to fail. I suppose that’s not news. But I rarely do. And you want to know why? (That’s rhetorical. I don’t actually care if you want to know. I’m going to tell you.) Because I rarely (and I mean, I can probably count on one hand the number of times) try to do anything if I’m not 95% confident that I will be successful.

I was much better about trying things when I was younger, not because I wasn’t afraid to fail, but because I had a mother who would say, in response to my fear, “Well, if you don’t try, you definitely won’t make it (in reference to cheer tryouts, choir auditions, etc), so why not try. Worst case? The outcome is the same as if you hadn’t have tried. Best case? You make it.” This little thought got me to audition for one of my college choirs and I’m so glad I did (incidentally, I almost failed…I have serious audition anxiety), because I made it. But it hasn’t always worked that way. And while my mother was absolutely right, there is pain in failure. More pain, sometimes, than not trying. There’s embarrassment. There’s shame. There’s disappointment. It is not fun.

And the risk, with this marathon, if I can’t finish under the time limit, is that I will not be a “Finisher” of anything. Doesn’t matter that I will have completed at least the half marathon in the process. There’s no medal at the end. And there will be massive amounts of disappointment. So, you can see why the half marathon is tempting. It still is.

In an effort to prepare in what little time we have left before this race, my friend, Anne, and I took to the mountains outside of Tokyo to do some hiking. (For a minute, we thought about “running”…and then we started up the mountain…and laughed heartily at the thought.) It took us 6 hours to go 10 miles. To be fair, we were not racing and we made three longish pitstops. But still. 6 hours. I have 7 to complete 26.2 in Africa. At elevation. With almost a mile long hill (a full mile!) at a 22.3% grade. And before we got up that hill, we have to come down it, which, while easier on the heart, is killer on the knees, ankles, quads, and toes. If you aren’t sure what 22.3% means, to put it in context, most gym treadmills max out at 15%. This is not minor.

Am I building the case for why I should probably opt for the half marathon? Yep. Am I crafting my defense in case of the very real possibility that I don’t finish? You better believe it.

But I am determined to try. I might fail. I really and truly might. And I do not like failing. And I’m actually pretty scared. Everyone I know (basically), knows that I’m going to Africa to run a marathon because I’m completely addicted to social media (I like to justify that it’s how I stay connected to America and my former life, which is true, but I was pretty addicted before I moved to Japan) and have posted a gazillion things about bit. (I’m sorry to those of you who are not at all interested.) And as a slow runner, it’s really hard to know that there are people I know (not talking elite athletes, but people from my normal life whose job is not running) who can finish a marathon in HALF that time, and that I might not make it in 7 hours. Never mind that I’ve not once worried that I couldn’t finish the distance without stopping (which is pretty incredible). The point is, I have a choice.

As I said in an email to my running buddy for this race (race against the clock, that is) in an email last week:

“I’m trying to not be too stressed about this marathon, but I’ve realized that what I decide is really a commentary on the person I want to be…and I want to be the person that’s willing to take the risk when there’s a possibility of failure vs. playing it safe and always wondering. So I’m planning to go for it with this marathon.”

Here’s hoping. Well, more than hoping. In my fear, I’ve created a pretty solid race strategy and, if I can follow it (which is a big “if”), I think I might make it. But if I don’t, I can always try again.

unnamedWill it suck if I don’t finish in time? Yes. But not as much as wondering if I could have finished in time.


“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
-T.S. Eliot

tioman island

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One of the coolest things about my company is that we really do have offices all over the world, so when my friends, April and John, moved to Singapore, I knew I had to visit them and that it would be possible because I could work from the office there.

In planning the trip, though, I knew I wanted to spend at least a couple of days scuba diving…I searched for locations, but all of them required an additional flight which, with 24-hours of ground time post diving (so you don’t die…or get decompression sickness), was going to make my dream of a weekend dive trip a bit of a challenge. But, before I lost all hope, I decided to message my Malaysian diving friend on FB (you make some good friends when you’re out on a live aboard for a couple of days in the Similan Islands) and see if she could give me some tips.

As it turned out, she had an awesome suggestion…and thus a trip was planned and executed that did not require any additional flying. Turns out you can take a bus, and then a ferry, out to Tioman Island. The logistics were a bit of a challenge (trying to book bus and ferry tickets from Japan was not so easy…), but I managed to get it all worked out and off I went.

IMG_1506 IMG_1505 IMG_1504IMGP0205Anyway, the trek to the island was a bit long, but well worth it. The island was basically all about divers, so it was super chill and low key. And I got to eat some amazing seafood, too, including stingray which I’d never had before.IMG_1508

I got in four amazing dives and was even able to bust out my underwater camera for a couple of them. And while I saw a lot of really cool things on these dives, I have to admit…I’m kind of obsessed with anemones and anemonefish. They’re not that exciting, I guess, but I could watch them for hours. I just think the anemones are so beautiful.

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IMGP0179 And no underwater photo session would be complete without a selfie, right?

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“Let me take a selfie.”


And I have to give April and John a huge shout out for welcoming me at 2am and making sure I got out the door to the bus just three hours later. They are THE BEST.)

tokyo marathon 2014

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In February (yes, I know it’s April) I ran my second marathon. My friend Caroline came over from New York and we ran it together. If she hadn’t have been coming, I don’t think there’s any way on this earth I would have run. Prior to January, the only training I’d done was the half marathon I ran in Burma/Myanmar…for which I was also incredibly undertrained.

With five weeks to go before the race, I did the best I could to prepare…starting with a 16-miler. Go big or go home, right? My friends, Anne (with whom I’ll be running a marathon this summer in South Africa) and CoyLou joined me for some of my long runs, making them much more enjoyable. And somehow, even with the little training I’d done, I got to the marathon feeling like I was going to survive. And knowing that I’d finish before the cutoff (7 hours from the start time).

It’s an amazing thing to know that your body will be able to complete 26.2 miles, even when you’ve only trained for five weeks. I know I talked about this in my post about running in Burma, but every time I do a long race, I am in awe of what my body can do.

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While Caroline had come over to run the marathon with me, we weren’t exactly going to be running together. She’s much faster than I am (she’s a triathlon-ing nut) so we weren’t even starting in the same gates. I’ve never run in such a large race that there were gates, but with approximately 36,000 people running, gates there were. Seriously. 36,000!!!

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Caroline and I said goodbye to each other and headed off to our respective gates. The beauty of the Tokyo Marathon is that you have two out and back legs, so there was a chance I’d get to at least say hi to Caroline along the way.

This was the first race I was going to be running with my new toy: a Garmin Forerunner XT. I’d just started to do heart rate training and was excited to try this marathon with a focus not on pace, but on heart rate. Unfortunately, I never got my heart rate monitor working (I was so annoyed…the monitor left me both literally and figuratively chaffed!). Fortunately, I’d done enough HR training that I knew roughly the pace I should be running at the beginning.

I did a pretty good job (I thought) keeping my pacing down so I would burn out. As it turns out, though, while my heart was pretty content, my body was not so much by the end. But the happy news is I had my fastest half split I’ve had in over seven years. And my second fastest ever. I was pretty happy about that, even if the second half was pretty pathetic in terms of pacing.

It was an amazing experience. And what really helped me in those last miles was thinking about how lucky I was, as I saw many, many runners along the way at medical aid stations or stopped along the course nursing calves/shines/ankles/feet, just to be able to finish without having to stop and get medical attention.

The other major help was my darling friend Anne (pictured in the collage below)! When I ran the St. George Marathon almost seven years ago, I was doing it with another darling Anne. She was actually running with me, which was a huge boon! But on top of that, her awesome family had traveled down to St. George to cheer her and, by extension, me on.

If you’ve never run a distance race before, it’s hard to explain the support that comes from those cheering you on…the spectators in Tokyo were awesome, but having Anne there along the way made a HUGE difference! She trekked all over the course and I got to see her four times along the way. Every time was like receiving a little shot of energy! (Unfortunately, I busted my phone in Singapore a few weeks ago and in the transition to a new phone, I lost all of my pictures with Anne. Sad face. )

The last three miles were complete torture. While the marathon course in Tokyo is relatively flat for the most part, the last three miles consist of a series of bridges…bridges that are engineered for strength, and therefore are bowed…which means “hills” for a runner. To add insult to injury (or injury to insult, as it were), somewhere along the way I’d developed what I could tell was a ginormous blister on my right big toe in addition to a shooting pain at the base of my second toe due to the chip being too tightly attached. If I walked, I was okay. If I ran, every step hurt. So, there was a lot of walking.

IMG_1517The last miles of a marathon are also mentally challenging for me because I want so badly to be done that I do my best to force myself to go as fast as I can…but I just can’t go that fast. And it’s so difficult to not just give up. But, somehow I pushed through and the it was over. My goal was to finish under six hours (chip time), which is not fast at all…but was going to be a good finish for me given my lack of training and that I weighed about 20 lbs more than when I ran my last marathon. I came in at 5:58:20.

IMG_1513Of course, with a half split that would have put me in at around 5:30 had I maintained it, I was slightly disappointed, but then I remembered that I had set my goal based on reality and managed to feel pretty awesome about it when I thought, yet again, at how amazing it was that my body could do what it did.

Post marathon, I went through the finishers area and met up with Caroline for the most amazing foot soak ever (I wish every marathon had this!) and then met up with Anne, who was patiently waiting to congratulate me. Because of where the finish is, she wasn’t able to be at the finish line, but it was awesome that she had come all the way out to the end!

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Soaking my feet…this might be how my blister got infected and why I had to see a doctor for antibiotics, but at the time, it was worth it.

And that was that. Marathon #2 on continent #2 completed. And now I’ve begun training for marathon #3 on continent #3 which will happen on June 21st. Not sure what I was thinking signing up for two marathon’s in one year, but now the bug has bitten and the goal is to run a marathon on every continent, culminating in Antarctica in 2017! I’m both terrified and super excited!

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Elevator selfie with our medals after dinner and a movie.