A get-reaquainted jog with the dog

After spending most of Saturday in a car without cruise control, my right leg frozen in “press down that gas pedal” mode, my legs were almost as stiff and sore as if I’d just run a marathon.


Loki and Knox on Rowan’s balcony.

Which led me to think that given a choice between 12 hours of driving and 12 hours of running, I might honestly choose the latter. If my muscles are going to hurt, I’d rather it be because I was using them instead of pretending they don’t exist.  


Of course, 12 hours of running doesn’t get me very far along the route to visit our oldest daughter in suburban Charleston, S.C., so that wasn’t an option. I unkinked my legs on Sunday by taking Rowan’s husky, Loki, for a get-reaquainted jog.


We put a harness-style leash on him and he did much better in terms of not yanking my arm out of my socket, like he used to do when they lived with us. Oddly, I feel like this time I was the one who would’ve liked to run farther. Though it cools off at night down here this time of year, it was already warming up again by the time we headed out around 9 a.m. and it wasn’t long before he was panting.

Maybe when they come home for Christmas I’ll get to take him out for a longer run. In the meantime, he’s getting plenty of exercise with his buddy Knox, the German Shepherd mix adopted by Rowan’s roommate Jessica.


Grandma and Grandpa drove down Sunday before their stay in Gatlinburg, so we did a  little sightseeing at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston. Sad that the original plantation house was burned … and that my great-great grandfather may have been carrying one of the torches as a member of Sherman’s Army. (Not sorry the Union won, just sorry all these grand old homes were destroyed.) 



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One runner’s triumph after ‘miracle rescue’

I got goosebumps when I heard Phil Amburgey’s story during last month’s Parlor City Trot Half Marathon.

Even now, 18 months after his rescue from a traumatic trail running accident, Phil –– who says he’s a religious man – believes it was nothing short of a miracle.

Imagine lying all alone in the woods, cold and wet with a broken leg and a shattered ankle, fading in and out of consciousness, knowing no one is going to be out in this weather, kicking yourself for forgetting your cell phone. Finally you force yourself to crawl – in agony the whole way – half a mile to the edge of the woods.

You think you see three figures in the distance, so you scream for help.

Let’s pick up the story from my column in today’s News-Sentinel:

The figures moved closer. But Amburgey thought he must be hallucinating: It looked like his older brother Craig and his two boys.

“I honestly thought I was seeing things,” Amburgey told Runner’s World. Under the circumstances, that made more sense than his brother, who lives in Huntertown,  just happening to come to the park for the first time in years – and on a cold, rainy morning at that.

“There were a lot of things that had to come into play for him to have been there at that specific time,” Amburgey said.

I ran into Phil again last weekend at the starting line of the Fort4Fitness Marathon, his first since the accident. It was fun and rewarding to write about how his “miracle rescue” has changed his life, and I can vouch for what he says in the column about being more “outwardly focused” now, more intent on helping new runners and being a contributing part of the running community rather than just pursuing personal goals. I know he’s definitely inspired me.

Not that he’s abandoned having goals. Fired up after finishing the F4F Marathon – not as fast as he hoped, but without too much trouble, considering he still has a broken screw wedged inside a leg bone – Phil’s signed up for a spring marathon in Kalamazoo where he hopes to PR.

And as I write in today’s column, he’s also inspired his older brother, Craig, who found him on the edge of the woods that day.

After always thinking Phil was nuts for running, it turns out Craig is now giving it a try himself.


Phil Amburgey makes his comeback from a traumatic trail running accident in the Oct. Fort4Fitness Marathon. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A 23-minute marathon PR – running without a watch


I guess it’s not surprising I knocked more than 23 minutes off my marathon time, running outdoors for the first time after two previous indoor marathons. Instead of grinding away the time and the miles, I felt like I was going somewhere, gaining on people, feeding off the energy of hundreds of supporters and thousands of other runners.

A major confidence boost from running with a faster pace team during last month’s Parlor City Trot Half Marathon surely played a huge role. I knew, having fallen off with a couple of miles to go in that race, that there was no way I could keep up with Joe and Stacey for the duration of  Saturday’s inaugural Fort4Fitness Marathon. Their 4:40 pace group was the slowest option offered, and my previous best marathon time was 5:31:05.

As we lined up before sunrise outside Parkview Field, I really had no idea what my strategy would be. I was secretly hoping to aim for 5 hours, but I hadn’t been able to find the charger for my son’s running watch and have never gotten around to buying one of my own, so I wouldn’t necessarily know my pace at any given time without asking another runner.

The Old Fort cannon fired, and I glumly watched Joe and Stacey’s group move off without me. But a few blocks in I heard a guy who’d apparently run several marathons tell somebody that he intended to maintain an 11:30 pace the whole way. That would put him right at my 5-hour goal. I fell in near him for the first 3-mile loop, but didn’t want to appear to be a stalker. I also wasn’t crazy about getting roped into 5 hours of conversation with someone I didn’t know. (Previous experience has taught me that while this can be helpful, if the person turns out to be irritating it can be a huge energy drain.) I fell behind the guy when I walked through the water station back at the stadium, then passed him shortly afterward.

Loop 2: The 10K


Some runners didn’t care for this 4-loop course, which had us bumping into runners from other races, but I loved having the illusion of passing people almost the whole way and taking repeat passes through the most supportive neighborhoods. 

I was getting warmed up, feeling strong, with no sign of the calf twinge I’d noticed earlier in the week. As we rounded the corner near the starting line for loop 2, I could see a swarm of 10K runners a few blocks ahead.  Some marathoners had griped that the last three loops of this race would have us essentially following the courses for three other races being run the same day – a 10K, a half marathon, and a 4-mile run. It was a bit tricky to navigate a path through the 10K stragglers, but I got a huge energy boost from passing people. After a while I found myself following the weaving patterns of another marathoner, and I asked her pace.

“I’m aiming for 11:10, which would give me a 4:50,” she said. “But right now, trying to get around all these runners, I’m more like 10:50.”

She wasn’t pleased. But I was having a blast. I was also hatching a strategy on the fly. I decided I’d run as fast as felt good at any given time, but then walk through each water station, from wherever I picked up my drink to the last trash can. My goal was simply to stay ahead of that 11:30 runner, whom I hadn’t seen in a while now.

We finished the 10K loop, winding through incredibly supportive neighborhoods that had decorated for the race and were out in force, cheering and offering candy, the occasional beer shot or even Kleenex. At the corner of Bass and Fairfield, just before heading back downtown, we passed a cute boy band. They’d started playing before sunrise on our first loop through, and they were still going strong.

Passing by the stadium I got another big energy boost when Beth, a friend from our homeschooling days, handed me a water.  She was manning the aid station in the marathon lane. Each time we’d be coming around now, the runners in the other races would be peeling off, heading into the stadium to finish, but we marathoners would head out for another loop.

Next up: the half marathon.

This was actually the prettiest loop, taking us onto the southern route of River Greenway, then through Foster Park and some of the city’s ritziest older neighborhoods. I could see the stragglers from the half marathon off in the distance, and I couldn’t wait to start reeling them in. This was a long loop, but it was easy to chunk up in my mind. Get through this one, and there would only be one 4-mile loop to go.

I probably felt the best of the entire race going through Foster Park, passing not only an endless stream of walking half marathoners but a few people I recognized from the marathon as well. I had no idea what my time was. All I knew was I was somewhere behind the 11:10 runner, whom I could no longer see, but apparently well ahead of the 11:30  runner.

By the water station coming out of the park, though, I realized how much I was relying on my short walk break. This time it was a little harder to get going, but I started off at a slow jog and then worked my way back into a better (yet unknown) pace. I tried not to focus on the mile markers, just thinking about working my way through each neighborhood, soaking up energy from supporters as if it were Gatorade.

It was getting tougher, but I wasn’t in any serious pain. If I could just keep up some kind of decent running form between water stations, I felt like I could make it.

As we made the turn into Oakdale, where we greeted by a hearty Santa Claus, I saw the 11:30 runner. Was he still on pace? I didn’t have the energy to ask him, didn’t really want to know the answer. I fell behind for a minute as I walked through a water station, then resolved to catch him.


The water station in the historic Williams-Woodland neighborhood.

I did, within a block or two. And then, as the 4-mile racers poured onto our course, I once again fixated on them, locking onto stragglers I could pass. Once more through historic Williams Woodland, where a guy on a microphone welcomed me for the third time that day. His neighbors offered shots of Heinken. One guy in historic dress rode around on one of those old-fashioned bicycles with the enormous front wheel.

Once more past the cute boy band, still going strong even if I wasn’t.  Once more past the stadium, as the 4-milers and a few half marathoners made their way to the finish. Once again I gratefully accepted a drink from Beth. Last loop. Four miles to go.

The final four

It was just us marathoners now, and the streets were much lonelier. There were still people out cheering, though. I passed a woman who called out to me, “Hey, Bluffton!” She’d recognized me from the Parlor City Trot, where we’d both hobbled in together the last mile or so.

“Why is that everytime I run into you I feel like crap?” I joked, struggling to get the words out.

She and her friend were struggling worse than me, though, because they didn’t try to keep pace.

I was still trying not to walk except at water stations, but it took a mighty effort. I focused on my running form. One marathoner passed me, but he wasn’t the 11:30 runner. Did that mean, could I possibly hope, that a 5-hour race was still in range if I could hold it together? Or was he struggling, falling off pace?

As I turned onto Indiana Avenue, I was stunned to see there were still some half marathoners out on the course. Not as thick now, but it helped to focus on someone other than the marathoner who’d passed me. Once more through Williams Woodland.

All day long I’d gratefully accepted people’s support, not caring that they had no idea what race I was running. But now, in the thinning crowd, it was easier for people to pick out what our bibs said.

“Go marathoner!” someone cheered. “You’ve only got a mile left! You can do it!”

“Sure you don’t want a beer shot?” someone else asked.

I managed a weak smile. “Not now,” I said, “but thanks anyway.”

The cute boy band was packing up. They’d been playing for hours. Was it noon yet? I tried not to think about it. Just turn onto Fairfield, one last uphill. No more water stations. I refused to walk it.

Then, rounding the corner onto Baker Street, I picked up steam. I couldn’t see the stadium yet, but I could see the parking lot. Could hear the announcer.

I passed mile 26 just before turning into the stadium. The soft turf on the warning track of the Tincaps’ outfield felt like heaven on my tired legs. “Hey, I never hit the wall,” I thought.

But what time was it? I looked around, but couldn’t see a clock anywhere.

Finally I jogged down the first base line toward the finish line and saw the clock: 5:08 something.

My official time, I’d later learn, was 5:07:45. I’d missed my goal, but crushed my previous best time by more than 23 minutes!


You jog a lap around the outfield of Parkview Field to get to the finish line near home plate. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Oh no, I forgot to taper! Shushing the pre-marathon monkey mind …

So it turns out that my mileage last week, which should’ve been the start of the tapering process for this Saturday’s Fort4Fitness marathon, wound up being exactly the same as it was for the previous week: 40.6 miles.

That wasn’t my intention, but hey, it happened. Before my Inner Nervous Nelly gets all wound up about not giving my legs enough of a break, I’m going to summon my Interior Devil’s Advocate to put that and a few other blossoming marathon anxieties in perspective. Then I’m going to dump them all in a big box and shove them in the sinkhole of forgetfulness that seems to be taking up a greater chunk of real estate in my mind.

Here’s how that conversation goes…

NN: I didn’t cut back on mileage! We are doomed!

DA: Look, 40 miles isn’t exactly high mileage for someone who’s ostensibly training for a marathon. Your body’s used to that kind of thing, and you cut out the longer runs (nothing over 10 miles this past week). It should be fine, especially if you take it a little easier these last few days.

NN: Ack! Lap three of this race is an entire half marathon all unto itself!

DA: True. But look at it this way: This race is only four laps instead of 204, like the indoor marathon  you ran in February. Besides, that 13.1-mile loop is the most scenic part of the course. One of those laps is bound to feel endless anyway. At least you know in advance which one it’s likely to be.

NN: I never got around to buying a new pair of shoes, and now it’s probably too late – I wouldn’t have time to get used to them!

DA: So get a pair of those sport shoe inserts. They’re pretty comfy and make old shoes feel like new again, or at least that’s been your experience in the past.

NN: I’m getting a blister!

DA: So break out the duct tape. Remember how effective that was during the 90in9 project?

NN: The way I’ve been eating, there’s no way I can waddle 26 miles!

DA: You have been somewhat of a pig lately. But this is no time to go on a diet. Look at it this way: you’ll be carrying plenty of built-in fuel.

NN: We were going to borrow Ben’s GPS watch for the race, but we can’t find the charger!

DA: When was the last time you actually USED a running watch? If you tried to use one now, it would probably drive you crazy anyway.

NN: Do we even have a strategy? Should we run with that fun 10:30 pace group as long as possible, then limp to the finish? Try a run-walk pattern to avoid late-race leg drain? Or just run a slow, steady pace throughout?

DA: At this point, see what feels right on race day. The main thing is, just have fun. This will be the biggest race you’ve ever been in, and the crowd support is supposed to be fantastic. This is not the Olympics. There is nothing at stake. Just try to enjoy yourself for once!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Dreaming up a DIY runner’s port-a-john

Some distance runners keep their minds busy by composing music or designing houses on long runs. During last week’s 20-miler, I was dreaming up a do-it-yourself runner’s port-a-john with components that could be stashed in your trunk and assembled at a discreet location on your favorite route.

If you’re a guy, you can simply step into the nearest corn field to relieve yourself. But it’s harder for women to pull off a potty break without making the rest of a multihour run highly unpleasant.

My idea revolved around using a toddler’s practice potty as a lightweight seat/receptacle that you could perch on a small stool to achieve the desired height. (As the miles pile up, even bending down to grab a drink from a cooler can be painful.) The problem, of course, was location. I suggested the sparsely populated gravel road my sister and I happened to be running down at the time. It only has two houses with extremely long driveways, and we’ve very rarely encountered a vehicle there.

“We could have a big beach towel or something to wrap around ourselves for cover if anybody came down the road,” I suggested.

Traci, who works in a hospital, thought a bedpan would be more practical. And she suggested the first leg of our route would be superior because even though there’s often a car or two, there are more places that could provide natural cover.

“What about the cemetery?” she suggested. “You could go a few feet into the woods and be completely out of view.”

We were pretty much just fantasizing. I mean, we probably already make ourselves way too much at home in this neighborhood we’ve been running in lately. In recent weeks we’ve taken to setting coolers at opposite ends of a road that connects one segment of scenic rolling hills with a  segment of dull but joint-cushioning dirt and gravel. We grab drinks, towels and the occasional snack from one cooler and drop them off at the other.

It’s a great arrangement during hot humid weather, on a 5-mile base route that can easily grow to 10, 15 and even 20 miles with repetition. Though I’m sure the local residents are sick of our presence, they’ve never come right and said so.

Last week’s 20-miler – my last mega-mileage run before the Oct. 1 Fort4Fitness Marathon – went surprisingly well, with the only real discomfort coming from the lack of public restrooms along these rural roads.

Maybe the next time I train for a marathon, I’ll search the attic to see if we still have my kids’ old training potty and toss it in the trunk – just in case.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A visit to a pizza farm


Dad checks his phone messages while waiting for our pizzas to emerge from the screened-in brick oven at Hawkins Family Farm near North Manchester, Ind.

We went to a pizza farm over the weekend. It’s basically an old fashioned family farm that on Friday nights serves up pizzas made mostly from food produced on the farm. You put your order in outside the screened-in brick oven behind the farmhouse and then spread your blanket or set up your chairs on the front lawn, overlooking the chicken and duck runs and the herb garden.


The sausage and pepperoni are made from hogs raised on the Hawkins Family Farm, though they were so far out back behind the barn we didn’t walk out there to see them. (There was plenty to investigate on the front half of the farm, and it seemed like we’d no sooner set up our dining space than our pizzas were ready.)


The pizzas were about the size of a dinner plate, so we got one of each so we could try them all. Luckily we got one of the Guest Chef Specials before it sold out.

There was a guest chef for this night, which was the last Pizza Friday of the season, and she served up a gourmet pie of balsamic glazed pork belly with German butterball potatoes, carmelized tomato and shallot sauce and olivade. If Ben had been back from college he probably would’ve enjoyed that one, but my mom and I were the only ones who were interested. It was a tangy combination of flavors, though I wouldn’t ordinarily want to eat something called “pork belly.” Colleen, who’s a vegetarian, liked that the cheese pizza wasn’t just called “cheese” but was named after the fresh oregano it was topped with (and that we’d seen growing in the nearby herb garden.) It actually was kind of light on the cheese but was very tasty with plenty of flavor.


The crust was kind of plain tasting, with scorch marks from the fire in the brick oven. If we’d been sitting in a restaurant we might have said the crust was boring compared to all the flavor-explosion crust varieties at even the cheapest pizza places. But how can you not appreciate a crust made from locally grown and milled wheat that you just saw extracted from an outdoor brick oven? As my mom said several times during the evening, “it’s not so much the food but the experience.”


I have no idea where everyone looks so glum in this photo, because everybody kept talking about what a fun experience it was to eat homemade food in a farmyard.

The stately old farmhouse behind us had two front doors side by side, which my dad said was identical to the style of home his grandparents had on their farm. At his grandparents’ place, one of those doors led directly into a bedroom while the other one was more of a public entrance. Another similarity was the outhouse, though this one was  almost certainly more stylish than the one he remembered:


bigchickeniswatchingJeff Hawkins, who took our order, said they can’t call their farm organic because they don’t follow every regulation to the letter. But they don’t spray their veggies or give their animals antibiotics unless they’re sick. Their chickens and ducks looked extremely robust scrambling around their poultry runs. Colleen had a lot of fun taking pictures of the menacing looking roosters, which led Dad to tell her about the mean old rooster who used to chase him and his brothers when he was growing up.


We had a lot of fun, but I couldn’t help feeling bad that we hadn’t known about this place while Rowan was still going to Manchester University just a couple miles away in North Manchester. We were always complaining about the dearth of restaurants for a college town, little realizing that we could’ve taken her to the Hawkins Family Farm for pizza.


This weekend was the last Pizza Friday of the season. They will start back up in May 2017.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

An unexpected half marathon PR


The group that pulled me along to a half marathon PR: From left, Karen Sorg Louis, 10-year-old Taylor Louis, Joe Beier and Stacey Hartman, who turns out to be my second cousin. 

I was both nervous and excited as we lined up for Saturday’s Parlor City Trot half marathon.

I’m several pounds heavier now than the last time I ran this half,  and my recent training in the heat and humidity had been disastrous. With a break in the weather my sister and I had finally gotten in a 15-miler. Now, just three days later, I had no idea how my legs would respond to a followup 13.1.

On the plus side, I’d blundered into a running group who’d invited me to join them, though I knew it would be tough for me to keep up. I was planning to write about Fort4Fitness marathon pace team Stacey Hartman and Joe Beier, who will be aiming for a 4:40 marathon on Oct. 1. They were running Parlor City to practice their target 10:30 pace, around 90 seconds slower than they would ordinarily run. Back in 2011 I ran this half – my only half – at an average pace of 11:11 en route to a 2:26-something finish. I was fresh off my weight loss and felt like I was running on air. Since then, my fastest pace in two indoor marathons had been 12:35 a mile.

My plan was to stick with their group for as long as I could, conduct a little on-the-run mini interview, then jog the rest of the way.

An amusing side note in all this is that Stacey, whom the marathon PR folks had given me as an interview subject, turns out to be my second cousin. I didn’t really know her, given that she’s quite a bit younger than I am and part of the “Fort Wayne” contingent on my mom’s side, while I grew up in rural Bluffton. But I know her grandma pretty well. In May I wrote a newspaper story about Doris’ Alley Kats dance group. Then 90, she’d been a member for something like 34 years and was in fantastic shape. But she’s run into some health problems lately, and so I got the details on those in the early going of the race.

The pace was actually pretty comfortable, despite the fact that Joe kept announcing we were clocking 10:20 a mile rather than 10:30. My sister Traci and I had been doing quite a bit of speed work lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I was able to talk comfortably at this pace. But I doubted I could keep it up for more than a few miles.

Also in our group was a 2:00 half marathoner who was running with her 10-year-old daughter. Both Karen and Taylor run like gazelles. Though Taylor’s previous longest run was 7 miles, she was happy and confidant (and, I might add, consistently at the front of our little group).

The only thing I could add to our ensemble was familiarity with the course, and so from time to time I played tour guide. As we approached Ouabache State Park, I described how last year a long line of Amish buggies decked out in balloons had entered the park the same time I did. I was running the 10K then, and reminded myself that I did that in just under 10 minutes per mile. Since we were going about 20 seconds per mile slower, maybe I could stay with these guys most of the way through the park. If I had to struggle after that, so be it.

Stacey and Joe did a good job of keeping the conversation going, whether it was recounting tales of favorite races or just the occasional silly remark from Joe. They see that as their most important job next to staying on pace – keeping people’s minds off dwelling on distance or hardship. It was fun hearing about Stacey’s “triple crown” in last year’s Fort4Fitness, when she ran the 4-mile, 10K and half marathon one right after the other. She’d agreed to meet her mom and other family members for a Colts game afterward, and riding for so long after running 23 total miles proved problematic. “It took me half an hour to get out of the car,” she joked.

Coming off the lake we were caught by a runner Joe and Stacey knew who turned out to have an incredible tale of being rescued after a serious injury in the woods. (It’s too long to go into here, but you can read about Phil Amburgey’s saga at runnersworld.com.) Needless to say, that kept me going despite the fact that we were now 8 miles in and I was starting to struggle.

I held on as we wound back through the park, but at the water station by the Gatehouse, with three miles to go, I began to drop back a few yards. Stacey, who’d stopped for a potty break, encouraged me to keep up as she rejoined the group.

“I’ll keep you guys in sight,” I said, “but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hobbled in from this point.”

Could I have kept up with them if I’d really tried, if I hadn’t been so familiar with the course that I felt comfortable heading in alone? Hard to say. Once I fell back, I immediately began to perceive the struggle that I was able to ignore as part of the group. I did keep them in sight, but as we crossed the White Bridge and entered the Greenway for the final two miles, I slowed up more and more, finally joining forces with another woman runner who was struggling as well. I finished nearly 2 minutes behind Stacey and Joe’s group at 2:16:54, but still managed to shave nearly 10 minutes off my 2011 time.

And there was this consolation: At 10:27 per mile, I actually finished ahead of Stacey and Joe’s target pace. They’d come in a bit “hot,” as Joe put it, perhaps because of 10-year-old Taylor’s enthusiasm. She won a plaque for second place in the women’s 19-and-under division, just the first of a zillion more likely headed her way. What a natural! Afterward, she was all smiles and barely looked like she’d broken a sweat.

I was a sweaty mess, but deliriously happy. I’d been pulled along to a time I never dreamed I could do, and had a great time getting to know a bunch of cool people in the process.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

How Rowan lost 40 pounds this summer


Even from 700 miles away, I can see my oldest daughter shrinking before my very eyes. The evidence is there on the workout pics she posts on Facebook.

She gets a lot of exercise on her new job as a mental health tech at a facility for troubled kids, but there’s more to it than that. She’s really embracing this opportunity to get in shape and has changed her diet as well. The other day she called to say how things she used to enjoy – a Reese cup, or boxed mac n’ cheese, or Mountain Dew – just don’t taste good anymore.

Rowan doesn’t have a scale at her apartment in suburban Charleston, S.C., but she reports that the last time she had a chance to weigh herself she was down nearly 40 pounds. Naturally, everybody in the family is wondering how she’s doing it. Here’s what she had to say:

Mom: So you said you’re eating chicken, turkey, cheese, spinach and fruit? What made you decide to go with those foods? Did you set out to go on a diet where this was what you ate, or did it evolve into this?

Rowan: While I didn’t decide on any explicit diet plan per se, I decided to go with those foods because they’re things I can generally eat for a long period of time without getting tired of them, and I am aiming to cut out highly processed foods. However, when my current supply of cheese runs out I am not buying more — I’m cutting that out.

M: What about eggs?

R: I haven’t been eating many eggs just because I haven’t been to the store recently but in general yes they are part of my diet.

M: So what would your meals/snacks look like on a typical day? And when would you typically eat them? And how do you keep from getting bored with such a limited selection?

R: I generally eat one meal in the morning when I’m home from work (she works third shift), one meal around 2-3p, and two snacks throughout my shift at work. My meals consist of some combination of protein + plant, and as far as my snacks go, it just depends on what I can easily grab and take to work. I have been using a wide variety of seasonings to keep from getting bored — and worst case, I’m pretty content with anything smothered in hot sauce.

M: What about alcohol?

R: I very, very rarely drink these days. I’ve had maybe two drinks since I’ve moved here.

M: Good for you – assuming you’re not just telling your mother what she’d like to hear! But I believe you, especially because you couldn’t be dropping all that weight if you were drinking much. Now, what about exercise – how much of that is working out and how much is all the steps you’re getting on your job?

R: I would say it’s probably 70-30. I have never gotten less than 10,000 steps at work, and often it’s more like 17,000. On top of that, I get exercise from restraining people, pulling them off each other, etc. However, I still try to work in at least an hour of exercise in addition to that.

M: Do you typically exercise after work? How do you get yourself to do that day after day – aren’t you exhausted after your shift?

R: It just depends on how the shift went. If the patients were acting up a lot and I’m extremely tired and stressed I go to bed right away, then work out later when I’m refreshed. If the shift wasn’t too crazy and I still have some energy, I get it out of the way in the morning.

M: What about walking Loki? (Loki is Rowan’s dog, a young husky).

R: Yes, I do get exercise from walking Loki every day. We also make a point of visiting our new downstairs neighbors — they have a little girl who loves petting the “snow dog”.

M: Which came first, the diet or the exercise?

R: The exercise came first, but my diet was initially not very good and I wasn’t fueling my body enough. So I picked natural, unprocessed foods that would give me the nutrients I needed.

M: So what about this new women-only gym you said you joined? Sounds interesting!

R: It’s called Ladies Choice. There’s several in the area but I don’t know if there are any outside of South Carolina. The equipment is a little outdated, but the staff is great and the services they offer are pretty cool: Sauna, dry heat sauna, aromatherapy room, personal training, fitness assessments, and a bunch of different classes. I worked out today (Friday) and enjoyed it for the most part.

M: Some people might look at what you’ve done and say, “Yes but that’s unique to her situation — she has a job where she gets a lot of steps,” or “She’s single and doesn’t have to cook for others, so she can just buy what she wants to eat,” or whatever. So what would you say that people reading about your experience should take away as the lessons they could incorporate, regardless of their situation?

R: People could definitely say that I have a situation that easily facilitates weight loss, but it’s not really that simple. I could go home and sit on the couch all day after work. I could go to McDonald’s instead of taking time to make meals. No matter what your circumstances are, it’s up to you to make healthy choices. If you really want it — I mean, REALLY want it — you will make it work, regardless of what it takes.

M: Well, it’s really awesome what you’re doing and we’re really proud of you. Anything else you want to add?

R: Can you please post a link or mention of my Instagram because I post a lot of progress/motivational/fitness stuff there? My username is rowankiller.



Rowan and Loki on the balcony of her apartment in Summerville, S.C., when we visited her back in July.



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A formerly fat person’s guide to avoiding long-run weight gain

You might think that training for a marathon means built-in weight loss. But I’ve learned that if anything, I have to watch what I eat MORE closely on a long-run day. My tendency is to overeat, thinking I’ve earned a splurge. It’s ridiculously easy to eat more calories than you burn on a long run, or at least it is for someone who likes to eat as much as I do.

Here’s what I’ve learned this time around that’s helping me dial down that impulse, or at least channel it in a way that helps me avoid the maddening (yet all too familiar) feeling of weighing MORE the day after a 15-miler:

*Hydrating is huge, especially as humid as the weather’s been here lately. As a reformed Diet Coke addict I try to not keep a stash of soda of any kind around the house, and as a former fat person, I haven’t drunk juice in years. But if I don’t have something appealing to drink besides water in the hours after a 10+ mile run, I’m much more likely to go into binge mode. Being able to indulge in a couple of Powerade Zeros or a sparkling water feels like a treat that gives my body what it’s really hungry for: moisture.

fruitpizza*Laying in a stock of fruit helps immensely. When I was following the Weight Watchers Points Plus diet a few years ago, fruit was considered a “free” food that you didn’t have to count. Sometimes I’ll revert back to that method on long-run day and allow myself as much fruit as I want in the hours after a long run, provided I control my intake otherwise. A big bowl of fresh berries with a couple of fat-free Greek yogurts and a couple of bananas are a hugely satisfying postrun feast that helps me “win the day” at the scale.

*If I really must eat something ridiculous, I’ve found that I can get away with consuming half a carton of Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom ice cream – but ONLY if I follow a specific dietary  regimen otherwise. This is a nutritionist’s nightmare, but one menu template that I follow every once in awhile when I’m feeling a junk-food impulse on long run day is to have a pre-run PBJ with banana made with Healthy Goodness bead, one serving of Combos during the run, half a carton of the aforementioned low-cal/low-fat ice cream afterward (Bunny Tracks is my favorite, but even vanilla will do the trick), then two bags of 94 percent fat free microwave popcorn with as much Powerade Zero or sparkling water as I want the rest of the day.

heyerly's*One of my favorite long run routes is an out-and-back with the turnaround point at Heyerly’s, a local small-town bakery. At 13.6 miles (going the long way), it’s just a tad over half-marathon distance. I’ve found that I can get a Gatorade and one doughnut (almost always the fried cinnamon, aka a caramel roll) without consequence – and even weigh slightly less the next day – provided I hold myself to 1,200 calories otherwise. Because I’m so hungry on long run days, this means filling up on veggies and lean proteins. There is no room for any other junk, or I inevitably pay a penalty at the scale the next day.

*When my long run doesn’t take place until the afternoon or evening, the challenge becomes how to stay fueled without overloading. (I once took off on a 15-miler with the remains of half a dozen bakery-style cookies in my gut, and suffered enormously for it. You’d think I’d know better – and I do – but a delayed run can make me anxious and when I’m anxious I’ve got to battle the impulse to eat.) The best way around this problem for me is to limit myself to 25 carbs every three hours. In the hours leading up to the run, I might have something like 1 T of peanut butter with lettuce on 2 slices of Healthy Goodness 35-calorie bread, a fat-free Greek yogurt with 1 T of dry rolled oats or an egg and 1 oz of cheese on 2 slices of Healthy Goodness toast. After the run, if I have two more 3-hour segments left in the day before bedtime, I load up on a big salad with lots of lean protein in the first segment and then allow myself one 25-carb treat in the second segment (for example, one slice of the garlic toast I really wanted earlier). Another option: 1 McDonald’s vanilla cone (24 carbs) and 1-2 plain hamburgers with no bun or carby toppings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Donut run disappointment leads to Keg Bike 1 discovery

With no breakfast bar in our hotel, and not wanting to grab a boring pack of peanut butter crackers from the car, I decided to take a dollar bill along on a recent run in Wabash, Ind., thinking I’d make a pit stop at a donut shop I’d seen marked on a local tourism map.

We’d been on an old-fashioned meandering “Sunday drive” of a road trip,  ostensibly scouting out material for a regional travel feature I write periodically. Bob was amused contemplating the oddball stuff you come across in small towns – a giant fiberglass Indian standing guard over a defunct business, a collection of vintage  riding lawn mowers lined up in some old fart’s yard – but I was having trouble staying in the moment, fretting about how, without smartphones, we were driving blind, possibly missing much more interesting things that we didn’t know existed.

Determined to have a more structured exploration on Day Two, I got on my laptop and found a 4-mile mapmyrun route that took me along the Wabash River. Conveniently, I’d pass the local donut shop twice, heading out and coming back. But with only a single dollar bill in my possession, I knew I couldn’t go overboard.

I was curious how this Wabash River Greenway would compare to the one I usually run along the same river 40 miles east in Bluffton. I was also anticipating that donut. But before long I found myself at the river without ever having spotted the donut shop. Hmm. Maybe it wasn’t quite where I thought it was. Oh well, I’d just track it down on the way back. If I had to run a bit out of my way to find it, that would just make for a better run.

This section of rivergreenway was in a more industrial part of town, opposite the city water treatment plant. But the river itself was wider and more interesting than what I was used to. I was curious to see what the bridge on this route looked like. The answer was: a hilly one. Not only did the bridge cross the river at an upward angle, but the road on the other side climbed a much steeper, longer hill than any on our “hill training route” back home. I made myself jog all the way up, remembering to lean forward and take short steps.

I wasn’t entirely sure of the route on the other side of the river, so here’s where I allowed myself to explore. There wasn’t anything terribly exciting, just some neighborhoods that had seen better days. But it’s always nice to give your eyeballs something new to see, even if it’s not necessarily scenic.

Finally I swung around and headed back, glad this time to be hitting the bridge on the downhill. I wondered if I should take the same streets back, presuming I simply overlooked the donut shop, or take a different street, in case I misjudged which road it was on. In the end, I did both. But the donut shop was nowhere to be found. Disappointed,  I headed back to the hotel, where I later learned the donut shop had gone out of business.

In the long run, missing breakfast that morning turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I’d just been talking with a local dietitian for a “travel diet tips” column about how important it is to plan your eating schedule when you’re on vacation. But Bob and I hadn’t yet discussed our dining plans; he was still asleep when I headed out for my run. If I’d gotten an unscheduled donut, that would’ve used up my “fun” calories for the day.

Instead, we wound up having lunch at a funky cajun place in the neighboring town of Peru. When I asked the bartender if had anything “halfway local” on tap, it turned out that he’d just received a delivery of a new regional brew – via bicycle.



Riders representing Goshen Brewing Company on their 170-mile journey to Indy. 


He told us what he knew of the expedition of Keg Bike 1, a customized cargo bike with a built-in bar that stopped by during a 170-mile journey to an Indianapolis craft brew festival. Then when we got back home I tracked down the owner of the Goshen Brewing Company who instigated the trip, as well as the guy at Winona Bike Works who dreamed up that beast of a vehicle. It was quite the adventure tale, which you can read about here in today’s Adventures in Food and Fitness column. They also made a short video which you can check out here.

And I never would’ve heard any of it, or met a bunch of interesting people along the way, if I’d had that donut.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment