Goodbye to 2014 & Hello to 2015: goals met and remade

At the start of this year, I set out with the inauspicious goal of losing 10 pounds and reading 21 books. The 10 pounds isn’t bold because I aimed for 20 pounds last year and didn’t get there, so I assumed that resetting the goal might make it happen…or at least put me closer to the target. The 21 books idea was based on the notion that I should continue my attempt to stay literate, even as my commute makes it impossible to focus on anything but driving.

I’m proud to say that I was able to make it happen on both counts; my last weigh-in of 2014 (on Sunday) was 10-1/2 lbs lower than my first weigh-in of the year, and as of December 30, I managed to finish 22 books! I can’t describe how happy I am to have been able to meet these goals, not just because it’s nice to have met specific numbers, but also because they’ve gotten me closer to where I want to be.

First, the reading.

I love to read. No, let me restate that: I LURVE to read. If I could spend whole chunks of a day ignoring the world, curled up on the couch with a cuppa and a book, I’d be happy to do so. Driving to and from work, often surrounded by drivers who consider motor vehicle operation laws as mere suggestions, I can’t even consider audiobooks; I’d never be sure that I could pay attention enough to absorb the material. I turn NPR up to keep my road rage down, and if I have to ignore Morning Edition or All Things Considered while I deal with the crazy drivers, I can always read it online at some other point – assuming it’s a story or piece that I really wanted to hear. Audiobooks are a whole other issue and, frankly, it may be all the commuters focusing more on their audiobooks than the road that keep me from listening to them myself. *cough*

This Fall, I did manage to resolve my e-reader angst and bought an iPad Mini 2; I’ve been devouring Kindle books like there’s no tomorrow ever since, and I have several Kindle-d friends who gave me tips to help add to my tally. Great suggestions: the Kindle Daily Deals email list and the Kindle First email list; the Daily Deals are Kindle books offered at steep discounts, some just for that day and some over the course of a week or month. The Kindle First list gets you one copy of an unreleased Kindle book the month before it becomes available to the rest of the world, and if you have Amazon Prime, the book is free. (I got sucked into a free trial of Prime during the Christmas shopping season and now I’m totally addicted…DANGEROUS.)

I know that buying a tablet HAS altered my printed book-buying pattern; I’m becoming far more selective about what I buy in print now. On the other hand, we’re currently in a storage crisis in our library, and with the impending room shuffle (to get ds out of his miniscule room into one that’s larger), the fewer items we acquire to go on already overstuffed shelves, the better. Once things have settled into their new homes, more paper books can be bought. And, frankly, some of the ebooks I bought I wouldn’t have considered buying in paper form. Others…YES. The links below are to the versions I read (paper or plastic).

The list of what I read in 2014:

Then, the weight loss.

Weight has been an issue for me perhaps my entire life. It seems that way, at least. The fat kid with glasses turned into the chubby girl with contacts turned into the chubby woman who’s gone as high as 230 lbs (when pregnant) and has been as low as 140 lbs (senior year in high school). None of that range matches with what the federal guidelines for BMI indicate are “healthy” for my height, but BMI can kiss my fat ass. Seriously. At best, it’s an imperfect measure to help identify when someone gets too heavy, but since BMI for can be completely inaccurate as a health assessment for elite athletes, I know it’s not nearly as good a measure as body-fat composition or total weight. Since total weight is the easy one to measure, that’s the one I’m focusing on.

I started this year just over 214 lbs, and I’m finishing it just south of 204 lbs, for a total loss of about 10-1/2 lbs. And sure, that’s still damn heavy, but I’m fitting into size 14 jeans far better than I have in ages, and some of my size 16’s fall off me. My shirts are looking better…and, as dh will tell you, I’m constantly fussing at my wardrobe because so many styles acquired over the past few years of gaining have been designed for covering up, so now they look like balloons on me. It’s a good problem to have, I suppose!

People ask me how I lost the weight, because when you tell people you lost weight, they instantly want to know the trick. Did I drink shakes? Do some plant-only diet? Do a carb-free diet? Go gluten-free? Work out six days a week? Do this-or-that workout?


Here’s what I did:

  • I walked or worked out when I was able to make it happen, including weekly training walks of 7-9 mi.
  • I ditched the sweetened tea that I drank during dinner as soon as it was possible to start brewing sun tea, and I drink that with dinner rather than just drinking water.
  • I stocked the house with York Minis, because a handful of those is full of satisfaction and lower on fat & calories than some other desserts. It made it possible for me to have dessert on any night – without dessert always being as heavy as my beloved “ice cream o’clock”.
  • I switched out my afternoon lattes or mochas for hot/iced coffee with milk and sugar (or, if at Starbucks, their “classic sweetener”). Pumpkin Spice Season was a little tough, not having Pumpkin Spice ALLTHETHINGS, but my hot or iced coffee never made me feel deprived – and I still was avoiding the faux sweeteners that I don’t like to consume.
  • When I traveled, I worked out at least one day of each trip (sometimes two or three times, depending upon the length of trip). Walking, walking, walking. I was all about it. I ate my way through BlogHer and STILL lost weight!

What’s on tap for me for 2015?

As much as I’m possibly setting myself up for trouble, I’m going to keep the same weight goal – taking off another 10 lbs – and upping my book challenge to 23, to beat where I ended this year. Follow along at Goodreads, if you want to get in on the challenge; I love to see how my friends are doing!

This isn’t a resolution; these are goals, things that I want for myself. If you have goals that you want to share, feel free to comment below. And if you don’t have specific goals, that’s fine, too. I can say this, though: complaining without action rarely yields results. So, if you want to hit even the barest minimum of goals, the barest minimum of action will be required.

What action are you willing to take?

My 3rd walking marathon

I’m still not entirely certain that it’s sane to walk 26.2 miles but, if I’m not altogether there, at least I’m in good company. On Sunday, I walked my third marathon in support of The Jimmy Fund – the fundraising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. That part is completely sane…so sane, in fact, that I’m super-proud to say that I made “Pacesetter” again this year (which, this year, meant raising a minimum of $1,500).

The day started early enough: my alarm was set for 4:00am. Since I get really edgy when I have my alarm set for very early times, I slept fairly poorly and woke up a few minutes before the alarm went off. DH and I crept out of bed, got dressed and headed out the door at 4:30am, heading to Copley Square to park the car. The theory is, if you park the car in Copley, you take the shuttle bus to Hopkinton and walk back to your car. And so, we repeated what we’d done in the two prior years, making great time to Copley and boarding the first bus we were able to get on. After a quiet drive out the Mass Pike and a quick pit stop at the registration area for dh’s hat, we grabbed a bagel (thanks, Dunkin Donuts!) and hit the course at 6:18am.

I know this sounds like I’m just making it up, but the first 9-10 miles are always the easiest. You’re excited. You’re enthusiastic. You’re fresh. We took a couple of stops along this part of the route, pausing to change socks at the 8mi “refueling” station (the first of three such changes I’d make during the walk), and then on we went. It was at this point that the bursitis I’d been fighting all week – and that randomly, rather cruelly hobbled me for DAYS preceding the walk – started to come into play. Following the advice from the nurse practitioner I’d seen earlier in the week, I iced my hip at the 8mi point, while we stretched and rested, and I took 600mg of ibuprofen at the start and partway through the walk. It helped, but it only really took the edge off and never really made the discomfort go away entirely.


Welcome to Ashland…town #2 along the route

I felt like I ate my way through the course, though really all I ate on the course pre-lunch was a peanut butter and honey sandwich. My breakfast was a hardboiled egg eaten in the car, along with a granola bar, and half of a wheat bagel (dry, untoasted) before hopping on the course. Mostly, I tried alternating between water and Gatorade, just to try to stay hydrated. Lunch was a turkey and cheese sandwich, some chips and a couple of brownie bites. It was a fantastic balance of carbs, protein, sugar and salt to refresh myself. I only snacked minimally after that, although I have to say the Ritz Bits cheese sandwiches I had when we turned onto Beacon Street were all kinds of awesome.

The weather was rather lovely for the start – brisk without being chilly, and cloudy to a fault. But then, once we were about a third of the way through the walk, the clouds started to give way to the sun, and things started to warm up a bit. When we stopped in Natick, I changed my shirt from the long-sleeved “2012 Pacesetter” shirt to a tank top. I teased dh that I was probably challenging town decency laws, but he shrugged it off as, “Enh, you see more skin in a Target flyer.” Touché.

Joel & Jesse

An institution for NINETEEN YEARS, they follow the walkers along the route

The latter portion of the middle third of the walk was probably the toughest. When we were deep into the hills of Newton – which are steep and tall – there was virtually no cloud cover and the trees were spaced out enough that there was very little shade to be had. Worse still, there was almost no breeze. For the last two years, our arrival at the Boston College refueling station was where I would hit a wall that I’d have to climb over. This year, I started to feel a bit out of it while climbing one of the last hills in The Heights (the area that includes BC), but I only needed a few minutes to sit in the shade and rehydrate to get myself back on track.

The Orange Guy

Manna from heaven…and The Orange Guy

Then, up I went..and up WE went. My slightly awkward gait from the bursitis flare-ups, combined with sweatier feet from heavier padded sneakers, led to a couple of blisters atop the balls of my feet. These managed to pop – or something – as we were making our way through the five miles from BC down to the finish, but I didn’t really mind. Fortune smiled on us during the last portion of the walk and most of the final stretch was done in shade and with a cool breeze blowing on us. I was loving every minute of it, while dh was actually complaining that he was getting chilly. I suppose it’s the few extra layers of fat I have on him that probably meant I’m better in cold than he is.

Finish Line


Regardless, right around 4:20pm – nearly 10hrs to the minute  from when we walked across the official start line in Hopkinton – we crossed the finish line in Copley Square. This includes about 1-1/2hrs of stops and breaks along the way, so we still made fairly decent time (averaging about 19-1/2mins per mile). We flew through the early miles, but the ones in Newton were much slower due to heat and hills. (I’m utterly convinced that the person who designed the Boston Marathon course loved hills and hated people.) In reality, the time we made is a little better than that, since we walked MORE than 26.2 miles (the finish line of the walk is a good block farther down Boylston than the official finish line of the Boston Marathon, and we start our walk from the official start line of the Boston Marathon, rather than the slightly-farther-down walk start). No womens tee here, folks.

Anyway, it was a great day…so great, in fact, that I did a post-walk, post-stretch plank, just to prove that I could. We had so many great supporters along the way, like Joel & Jesse, and The Orange Guy, and there were so many others who were new or regulars that clapped, cheered, gave us MOAR COWBELL and all that, and it was phenomenal to know that there are others out there who were helping us along the way.

Mile 19 marker: Keira

Why we walk…


I dedicated my walk to four people whose lives were directly affected by cancer. One year ago as of Saturday, we lost my dear, sweet aunt to lung cancer after a lengthy fight. Jackie had breast cancer twice before, and this was her second occurrence of lung cancer (most likely from having been a heavy smoker for years). Just a handful of weeks ago, we lost our friend Tim to mesothelioma after a battle that didn’t even last a year.  He will always be remembered as a sweet, kind, funny, and wonderful person. Within the last few months, a friend’s mother – Rosette – began her own battle with brain cancer. Rosette is another sweetheart, and she’s been quite perky in her updates as she has her appointments at the “Dana-Farber spa”, as she puts it. Clio is the only one of the four I haven’t yet met; she’s the young daughter of my sister’s neighbor, and she’s been fighting cancer for more than a year. It’s unfair that kids should have to deal with this crap. It’s bad enough that adults have to deal with it. If anyone ever asks me why I walk, why I’d be nuts enough to walk a marathon and spend a day on my feet, I can answer easily enough: because my marathon is nothing compared to that of a cancer patient.

I’ll leave with this quote, from a sign left to cheer on a walker up one of the nightmarish hills in Newton, because it made so many of us smile. It’s so true.

Your feet hurt because you're kicking butt!

Gearing up for marathon #3: Music Matters

I can’t imagine trying to walk an entire marathon without having some kind of distraction – someone to talk to (like dh) or some music…and sometimes both. I remember that during my first marathon, when I was starting to have trouble moving along, I put on my headphones (which I’d kept nearby but hadn’t deployed) and told dh that I just needed music to get my feet moving properly.

Music has always been a big part of my life. Growing up, I listened to a lot of late 70’s/early 80’s soft rock, then new wave, followed by punk & electronica, followed by grunge…and on and on and on. In other words, I have fairly eclectic tastes. The only music I just can’t deal with in quantity is country music, although I appreciate that it’s extremely popular. Growing up in the Washington DC area, rap and go-go music were staples while I was in high school, alongside all of the Bon Jovi, Guns’nRoses and various other late 80’s bands. Again – eclectic.

When I was lucky enough to win an iPod shuffle from MyKindaRain two years ago, I put that little pink cutie into circulation right away. I had gotten a new iPod (regular size) earlier in the year, but the shuffle has the distinction of being extremely compact and clippy: you can just clip it on whatever you’re wearing and it tends to stay put. Naturally, I loaded up the pink cutie with fun stuff and adjusted my playlist as I had the time and inclination. I actually have a bunch of new stuff that I need to put on there (including Passion Pit’s “Take a Walk”, which has the double-whammy of being a local band AND a song that’s totally thematic for a walking marathon).

On yesterday morning’s training walk – a brisk 5.1mi jaunt around the town’s lake – I got an interesting mix. And yes, there were several repeat artists, but that just speaks to the fact that the pink cutie knew that I was in the mood for some extra Muse. (lol)

  • “Every Me, Every You” – Placebo
  • “Help I’m Alive” – Metric
  • “Believe What You’re Saying” – Sugar
  • “Supermassive Black Hole” – Muse
  • “Assassin” – Muse
  • “This Time Is Ours” – The Bravery
  • “Newborn” – Muse
  • “Teeth” – Lady Gaga
  • “Left To My Own Devices” – Pet Shop Boys
  • “Boys Boys Boys” – Lady Gaga
  • “Seattle” – Public Image Ltd
  • “Get The Message” – Electronic
  • “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – Jeff Lynne/Eric Clapton (Concert for George Harrison)
  • “A Forest” (Tree Mix) – The Cure
  • “So Hard” – Pet Shop Boys
  • “Pablo Picasso” – David Bowie
  • “I’m Still Standing” – Elton John
  • “Push It” – Garbage
  • “Evil Woman” – ELO
  • “Hollaback Girl” – Gwen Stefani
  • “Don’t Bring Me Down” – ELO

Of course, not all of those songs have the perfect beat to walk to, in terms of setting a specific pace and keeping a beat. However, I have songs mixed throughout with that type of pace setting (like some of the Lady Gaga, Metric, etc.), and even songs like “Don’t Bring Me Down” have a strong beat that allow you to walk in time. This may seem a bit silly to a skeptic saying, “But that’s not a good walking song!” Well, I counter with: sure it is. The reason why is this: any song that allows you either to keep a good pace OR to distract you from how you’re not feeling so fantastic in those moments when your calves, hips or knees aren’t fully cooperating is TOTALLY doing its job. And, ultimately, any music you bring with you should match what you like to listen to.

So, that’s one sampling from my playlist. There’s tons of other stuff on there, and I have a bunch more that needs to get loaded up before September’s walk. If you have your own favorites, feel free to share! Or, if you’re looking for something specific (say, an electronic song with a strong beat that you can walk or run to), let me know and I’ll see what I can suggest from my catalog (or the inventory of music in my head) that might get you on the right track.

<pleading>Lastly, if you’re interested in sponsoring me for my walking marathon, you can donate via my Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk support page. All donations are tax-deductible and your donations support the cancer research and treatment provided at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. </pleading>