I could hardly breathe at 340.
That was the way I felt nine months ago when I was out in Utah. You may think it was because I was running or exerting myself in some way and just another case of trying to adjust to being “at altitude.”
What if I told you, instead, I was driving a car on cruise control. I was lying down trying to go to sleep. Watching television. Things that require the most minimal of physical exertion.
A couple of people over the last couple months have asked me why I started to focus on my health, a journey that led me to the base of Spruce Hill Saturday, March 22, competing in the 34th annual Doc Lopez Run For Hope’s 13.1-mile half marathon. Seriously, from not being able to breathe watching television to running up a very steep hill, which was only two of the total miles.
Well, that “Lovely Deseret” experience really was the point where it happened. Before I headed out to Utah in July of last year, I weighed 340 pounds. I know I didn’t get any lighter out there, just more out of breath. It’s something that I have told no one until now, not even my wife. Although she is the one person who gets to hear me breathe up close.
That’s when I decided I could no longer live like that and I needed to make a change. It had to be serious and committed. I had been walking and talking about this with former Denton employee and current Lake Placid News editor Andy Flynn, who has also been tracking his weight loss journey in his respective newspaper, but I was never able to kick it into the next gear, not until that trip to Utah.
One thing that helped was an addition we made as a family right before we went on our vacation. Every morning from late July until December, you could find me walking the streets of Westport with my son’s new best friend, Rooney, a rowdy mutt we adopted from the North Country SPCA. During the summer, we would often walk twice a day, in the morning and again in the evening. While the walks got more sparse during the coldest weather of the year and are now becoming frequent again with the spring, the fact remains that the dog has to be walked every day and it benefits all six of our legs.
Lunchtime walks also became more frequent and more intense. I would walk from work to the footbridge and around Elizabethtown every day I was working out of the office. There were even days where I would take the dog for a third walk when I went home for lunch.
As those walks progressed and the scale numbers started with a 2 instead of 3, one walk a day turned into a run. Not too far at first, but gradually building.
There was the classic setback known as the holidays, where the scales tipped the wrong way for about a month, which is why, as I was walking past the Essex County Public Health Department building one day, I decided that I needed a new goal, a big one, and the idea was born to participate in the Run For Hope.
So little one mile runs became three mile runs. Then four. Then five. Times also started to go down. On my treadmill, I got to where I could do five miles in an hour (I’ll let you figure out the speed - I told my daughter this equation once and she gave me a blank stare for about one minute until it sunk in). I then kept that pace for six and seven miles.
After my treadmill decided to have “issues,” and the weather started to be above single digits, I got back outside where I learned a few things like running north on Camp Dudley Road stinks with constant uphills but running south on it always means a 20-mph head wind. However, that also meant a 20-mph tailwind on Stevenson Road. I also learned that I could do that nine-mile loop in less than two hours, another time that kept getting lower.
Then came the big day last Saturday. I really had two main goals. The first was to always be jogging, while the second was to cross the finish line in less that two hours and 40 minutes. I never changed my pace (although it did get slower on the hill) and finished in a time of 2:27:23 (check the results page! Top 10 in my age division! I know it was out of 10, just give me this moment). My pace was under 12 minutes per mile, quicker than my goal pace on the treadmill. Mission accomplished.
So now, my family is getting ready to go back to Utah in three months. I will again hardly be able to breathe in the lighter air, but this time it will be while I am running The Timp half marathon in Lehi or working out with my daughter as she prepares for BYU soccer camp.
For those other activities, I plan to breathe a little easier.
Oh, and if we were to leave today, I would also be doing it at 240.