How I Lost 70 Pounds and Ran My Fastest 5K — With a Fractured Pelvis

100 08301 768x1024Post written by Susan Lacke.

Maybe I can’t be an astronaut, but at least I can run like one.

When Alter-G asked me to give their anti-gravity treadmill a whirl, here’s how they described it:

Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmills use patented NASA technology that allows for precise partial weight-bearing running, unweighing up to 80% of the your body weight. Simply put — it’s like running on the moon.

An invitation to run on the moon — how could I turn that down?

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Be Proud to Come Up Short Again (and Again)

Post written by Susan Lacke.

I’m headed to the Deuces Wild Triathlon tomorrow. I really, really, don’t want to do this <bleep>ing race: it’s at elevation, with 60-degree water, monster hills, and now, 20-mph winds. <Bleep>. <Bleep>. <Bleep>ity<bleepbleepbleep>. I DNF’ed last year, and said I was going to come back and make it my bitch. <Bleep>.

If I die, please write a very nice memorial on the site. Lie if you have to.

Matt saved this little gem of an e-mail I sent him a few weeks ago. As you can see, I was really looking forward to that race.

iStock 000014047443XSmall 300x225Walk out or be carried out

When I wrote about the experience of my first DNF (“did not finish”) at the Deuces Wild Triathlon 2010, I conjectured that almost every triathlete has taken a DNF at one of their races, whether they chose to walk off the course or had to be carried out on a stretcher.

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The Anti-Diet Success Story

Post written by Susan Lacke.

You won’t read this post and discover how a vegetarian “diet” will help you drop weight.

iStock 000010507412XSmallYou won’t learn how many miles you need to run every day to lose weight, gain muscle, or otherwise alter your body. There will be no shocking before and after photo, nor will you unlock the secrets of dropping ten pounds in one week.

I can tell you I used to be a lot heavier than I currently am, but I couldn’t tell you how much of a difference there is between now and then – I haven’t stepped on a scale in months.

I spent most of my college years trying to find a balance between my desire to be a size zero, my “need” to drink beer and eat pizza, and my lacking motivation to drag my hungover ass to the gym on a regular basis. Since I wasn’t willing to give up the booze, junk food, and sedentary lifestyle, I resorted to other measures:

  • A week on a diet that consisted solely of diet coke and apples.
  • Laxatives.
  • Phases of 500 calories of food per day and 1000 calories of beer at night.
  • Diet pills.
  • A relationship with cigarettes that began when one of my (very thin) friends told me smoking burns calories.

Listen, I said I was in college, not that I was smart.

These poor choices affected me not only physically, but mentally. When I found one thing wrong with my body, the floodgates opened to criticize other parts. I was tired. I was hungry. I was frustrated. I was fat.

I was a lot of things — but happy wasn’t really one of them. By defining myself by the shape of my body, I had been cursed with a serious case of the “not enoughs:” I wasn’t thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or good enough.

Enough of ‘not enough’

I’m not really sure what caused my shift in thinking, but one day I decided I was tired of “not enough.” It was time to make a change. Even though I wasn’t sure I was capable of running three miles without stopping, I signed up for my first 5K race and started training.

I ran. It was hard.

I ran some more. It got easier.

I did a 5K, then a half-marathon, a marathon, and an Ironman triathlon…and with each race, my body changed.

But this isn’t a diet success story.

I didn’t sign up for my first race because I wanted to lose weight — I signed up because I wanted to cross a finish line. By being “enough” to accomplish one goal, I was “enough” to accomplish others. There’s a certain sense of empowerment that grows with each mile run and each finish line crossed.

The weight loss was a happy byproduct of this process. Though I’m thinner now, running and triathlon didn’t give me a waif-like, model-thin body, or even a ripped, muscular one.  I have a little cupcake belly, not a six-pack.  You won’t see me on the cover of Competitor Magazine, unless my editor decides it would be a hysterical April Fools’ joke.

But — and this is a big but (not butt) — I’m happy.

Running helped me see my body in a different light. I no longer get frustrated with my body for how it looks, but instead am in awe of what it can do. My little cupcake belly is the fuel tank that gets me through training and racing. My legs, which TV tells me can never be quite small enough, are what I trust to keep powering me up hills when they have every reason to quit.

My body may not be as chiseled as most of the athletes I race with, but it has the power to cover the exact same course as they can. And though I’m not cover-model material, I don’t really care. For the first time in my life, I’m happy with who I am and confident in what I can do. I finally feel like I’m enough.

This isn’t a diet success story. Stop looking for one.

When a person stops focusing on how the body looks and starts truly appreciating what it can do, it becomes obvious how those thoughts of ”not enough” have limited the release of so much potential, in so many ways. It’s as simple as using the body you have to accomplish what you think it can’t. Exercise can change how the body looks, sure, but the effects on the mind, self-concept, and confidence can be so much more powerful.

There is no magic pill. There is no secret diet. There is no miracle that will get you to a perfect body.

There’s just you and what you’re capable of doing.

And that’s more than enough.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In addition to serving as No Meat Athlete’s Resident Triathlete, Susan Lacke writes a monthly column in Competitor Magazine and a new blog post every Thursday on Competitor.com. She likes carrots…especially those found in carrot cupcakes. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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How to Survive Your First Open-Water Swim: 8 Tips for The New Triathlete

Note: This is a post from No Meat Athlete Resident Triathlete and Triathlon Roadmap author Susan Lacke.

Runners often tell me they’d love to check out the triathlon scene, but they can’t (or won’t) swim.

They say swimming is hard, the mass start looks scary, and open water just gives ‘em the heebie-jeebies.  And I’ve got to admit, they have a point.

OWS 300x225

Susan Lacke in the swim start of Ironman Wisconsin (she’s the one in the wetsuit).

Most of us log our swim training in the pool. When it comes to our first open-water swim start, we get a reality check when the starting gun goes off.

I wish someone had warned me of this — in the first 5 seconds of my open water swim, my mind rushed with a frenetic string of thoughts:

  • Why are these people so CLOSE to me?
  • Where’s the black stripe on the bottom?
  • Why can’t I see my hand in front of my face?
  • What is that thing floating up from the bottom? Is that a lake zombie?
  • I can’t breathe. Am I going to die?

In spite of all the pool hours I had put in, three minutes into my first open-water swim I was flipped over, doing the backstroke, and gasping for air.  I’m sure the spectathletes on the shoreline were thoroughly amused.

As for the zombie, turns out there was no creature of the undead in the lake — just a stick.

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You Have to Fight

“Stage four cancer.”

Three words. That’s all it took to send everything into a tailspin.

Canyon 300x225

Author Susan Lacke with her friend and thirteen-time Ironman, Carlos

The man sitting in front of me, one of my closest friends, didn’t look sick. There was no way he had cancer.

I had been so certain Carlos was invincible; this kind of thing didn’t happen to people like him. No way.

The story itself seemed surreal.  Carlos woke up one day, seeming perfectly healthy and ready to race a half-Ironman in California. The next, there was a tumor in his colon, spots on his liver, and a whirlwind of doctors and nurses and IVs and surgeries and fear.

“I do all this stupid Ironman shit, and look where it got me.”

Carlos is a thirteen-time Ironman, a model of health to everyone who knows him. For as long as we’ve been friends, people have called him a lot of things for his healthy lifestyle — mostly some variation of ‘crazy’ — but have also admired his dedication and tenacity.

I’ve never seen Carlos question anything. He’s always been confident — sometimes to the point of being just a little bit cocky. It’s something I loved about him the first time I met him. But in that moment, discussing his cancer diagnosis, I thought I saw a glimpse of self-doubt.

I should have known better than that. When I reached out to take my friend’s hand, he looked into my eyes:

“I’m going to fight this with everything I have.”

It’d be easy (and forgivable) for him to lament — he spent all this time and energy being healthy, and for what? Why did he bother with so many vegetables when he could have eaten something deep-fried every day? What was the point of exercise if it didn’t keep him healthy? If this disease has such a low survival rate, what’s the point in fighting?

But for as long as I’ve known Carlos, I’ve known he’s incapable of such a mindset. When there’s a 99 percent chance of failure, most people hope and pray to be in the 1 percent of success.

Carlos neither hopes nor prays.  He forces his way into that slim margin and owns it.  Told you he was a little bit cocky.

He’s a fighter, and expects others to be, too. No matter the opponent, he’ll tell you to get in there and give it everything you have. If you’re going to lose, you damn well better go down swinging.

So I fight, too.

He’s fighting people who say they’re pulling for him, but secretly wonder if he’s really capable of beating such advanced cancer. I can silence my insecurities and self-doubt.

He’s fighting the exhaustion of telling his emotional story again (and again) when yet another person asks, “What happened?” I can deal my overflowing e-mail inbox.

He’s fighting a tangle of doctors and treatment options and medication regimens with optimism. I can be kind to the Starbucks barista who screwed up my drink order.

He’s fighting the pain of surgery and chemotherapy. I can pound out another hill repeat when my legs say “no more.”

He’s fighting the fear that if his treatment fails, his children will be without a father. I can stop using my busy schedule as an excuse to not have dinner with a friend.

He’s fighting fatigue to keep his promise to attend as many of my races as he can. I can give him everything I have to make him proud.

Be a fighter

We take so much for granted.  Every so-called struggle most of us encounter pales in comparison to what Carlos is facing.  We make so many assumptions that our lifestyle choices somehow imply invincibility, and yet just like Carlos going from Ironman to the operating room, everything can change at any time.

For as long as Carlos has been a part of my life, he’s been a profound influence. This circumstance is yet another example of that influence. If he can fight, so can I. Hoping and praying simply isn’t enough; even the biggest of fires can’t start without a spark.

Be that spark. No matter what it is you’re doing, you can’t just work at it halfheartedly.

You have to commit to making it happen.

You have to own every part of it.

You have to be just a little bit cocky.

Most importantly, you have to fight.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Susan Lacke, NMA’s Resident Triathlete, also writes for Competitor Magazine and Competitor.com.  Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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How @Twitter Can Make You a Better #Runner

I’ll admit it: I only got a Twitter account to shut Matt up.

Since I began writing for No Meat Athlete, he’d been trying to get me to join Twitter, emphatically stating the networking opportunities were endless.

Talking with strangers? Noooooo, thank you. I remembered seeing an after-school special about that when I was a kid.

There was no reason for me to be sharing my random thoughts with people I didn’t know. Besides, they really didn’t care, right? Twitter was for self-absorbed a-holes. If anyone wanted to know what I was having for dinner that night, or the news that my niece was finally potty-trained, they could friend me on Facebook.

And really, I thought, who needs another “thing to check”?

Matt was relentless, though, suggesting that Twitter would do a lot for me as a writer, a runner, and a triathlete. Besides, everyone (and their uncles, their dogs, and their uncle’s dogs) had a Twitter account. Tired of being called a technological neophyte, I caved.

My first tweet:

I was on Twitter. I was a twit. I tweeted. I had tweeps. It made me feel all twingly inside. What a twip.

Originally, I thought it would take a long time to get the hang of using Twitter, but it really wasn’t complicated.  (You get used to the @ and # stuff right away.)

And after poking around for a little while, it wasn’t long before something amazing happened: I met a lot of really cool people.

Through Twitter, I was able to connect with fellow runners, triathletes, and writers from around the world. I could stay up-to-date on my favorite friends, athletes, and columnists without having to do time-consuming searches; receive news headlines as the news was actually happening; and have real-time conversations with people from around the world about any topic my heart desired… all in 140 characters or less.

Why we want you to tweet, too

It’s been said that your Facebook friends are the people you went to high school with, while your Twitter friends are the people you wish you went to high school with. It’s true, in some respects.

While I love Facebook for the ability to stay in touch with people I know, Twitter gives me the opportunity to connect with people I probably would never have met otherwise.  Even people that are otherwise inaccessible can often find the time to respond with a quick tweet.

Just a few examples of cool stuff you might do once you take the Twitter-plunge:

  • Next time you’re struggling to find the motivation to train, post it on Twitter — almost instantly, someone will tell you to quit whining and get your workout done.
  • When planning your training for a race, send a tweet to people who have done that race to pick their brain.  Often people “tag” their tweets about popular topics by using the pound sign so you can easily find them — for example, doing a search for “#IMAZ” will show you what people are tweeting about Ironman Arizona.
  • Give a shout-out to your favorite writers (ahem, @NoMeatAthlete and @SusanLacke, ahem) to let them know you liked an article or want to see coverage on a particular topic.

Okay, here’s why we really want you to use Twitter

One of the coolest aspects of Twitter is the ability to participate in structured chats, so you can make friends with others who are passionate about a particular topic.  In my short time on Twitter, I’ve been known to partake in chats about running, health and wellness, and triathlon. Through these chats, I’ve gained excellent insight on training, nutrition, and gear that I likely would never have stumbled upon on my own.

No Meat Athletes can sometimes be hard to come by in the “real world.” Not everyone advertises their status as a vegetarian athlete, and sometimes it can be challenging to connect and have a conversation with others about the runs-on-plants lifestyle.  We’d like to give you that opportunity.

On Monday, April 4 at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, Matt and I will be hosting the first-ever NMA Twitter Chat.  In Twitter-speak, it’ll be called #nmachat.

If you haven’t participated in a Twitter chat before and are a bit apprehensive, check out Heidi Cohen’s link on How to Be a Twitter Chat Champion.

To participate in #nmachat, you do need a Twitter account.  You can get that here.

How to join us for #nmachat

Once you have an account, all you have to do to participate in #nmachat is follow Matt (@NoMeatAthlete) and me (@SusanLacke) for the prompts on the first question. To follow all responses in the conversation, just search for “#nmachat” (no quotes).  Between 8 and 9 PM Eastern Time, we’ll post a total of 5 questions (all having something to do with running on plants), in which you can answer with your own feedback. You can also see what others have to say, and we can all hang out for an hour and get to know each other.

If you have questions you’d like to suggest for this first-ever #nmachat, use the Contact form to send them to us ahead of time.

Matt and I are excited to have this opportunity to talk with you and connect with you all in real time! If it goes well, we’ll make this a regular thing.

So put on your twitty pants and sign up now. Follow a few people you know, start feeling your way around, and send a few tweets — we’ll see you on the 4th!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Susan Lacke, NMA’s Resident Triathlete, also writes for Competitor Magazine and Competitor.com.  Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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Can Pearl iZUMi Really Help You ‘Run Like an Animal’?

Post written by Susan Lacke.

“We want you to RUN LIKE AN ANIMAL.”

pearl izumi logo. 300x118When I got an letter from Pearl iZUMi with this statement, I had to double-check to make sure it was actually my name in the header. It was. Surely, the company made a mistake. I don’t run like an animal. At best, I suppose I could run like a lobotomized duck, but even that’s pushing it.

I’ve been a fan of Pearl iZUMi’s cycling gear since I began triathlon training. On long rides, I swear by their women’s cycling shorts. Without them, my ability to feel my bum after 60 miles would be non-existent. No other brand will do for me.

In spite of my ass full of gratitude, I was a bit apprehensive when Pearl iZUMi asked me to test out their running gear. Typically, when a company with a strong reputation in one discipline tries to expand into a multisport role, they flounder.

My curiosity outweighed my skepticism. This lobotomized duck took their running gear for a spin. If you want to Run Like An Animal, too, here’s what you need to know.  (Disclosure: Pearl iZUMi sent me this stuff to try out for free.)

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Are You One of These 4 Insanely Irritating Runners?

As far as people watching goes, race day is one of the few things that rivals a trip to Walmart. There are so many different types of runners, it’s an endless parade of entertainment!

With the good, we also must take the bad. In running as in real life, we sometimes encounter people who are absolute tools.

iStock 000010532961XSmall 225x300Are you one of these? If so, knock it the <bleep> off. You’re not making any friends.

The Showoff

We’ve all seen them: Runners who wear a finisher’s shirt from an ultramarathon or Ironman triathlon to a 5K.

Apparently, we’re supposed to be impressed that someone of such high and lofty status is gracing a meager little distance. Bonus tool-itude points if they’re wearing compression to a short-distance race, or if they brag about the shorter race being their “cooldown” from their intense workout earlier that morning.

Don’t Be a Tool:

When I first started running, one of my mentors told me something very, very important about race-day wear: Never dress more than one step up from your event. If you’re running a 5K, don’t wear a finisher’s shirt advertising anything more than a 10K. For 10K, the cut-off is a half-marathon. Catch my drift?

The iRunner

Someone recently told me about a guy who runs marathons while live-streaming the experience through Skype, Twitter, iPhone cameras…I had to jump online immediately to find out more!

Now, dear reader…I’m not one to judge people based on the first time I see them, but when this man’s picture popped up on my computer screen, I instantly labeled him the King of the Tools and wished I could dump a bucket of water over his head.

For something as beautifully simple as running, lately I’ve been seeing an influx of technology during races. People stop in the middle of the pack to take pictures of themselves with their digital cameras to upload on Facebook later. They type up a quick message on their Blackberry at mile 16, because the Twitterverse needs to know how much “my legs feel lk 2 tree trnks. LOL.” Even during my Ironman, I passed an athlete who was walking and talking on his cell phone. During the race.

Don’t be a Tool:

Sure, we’re a wired society. That’s not necessarily a good thing.

Running is a great thing — your body is accomplishing something amazing! Rather than be distracted by all your technology, soak in the experience of your race. Stopping in the middle of a race to take a photo or shoot off a text is not only distracting you from the true race experience, it’s dangerous to the runners behind you who are moving forward when you’re -ahem- not. During your race, delegate the photo-taking-Twitter-updating role to one of your spectathletes.

The Stopwatch

This past December, after two years of trying, I finally achieved my goal of a sub-2-hour half-marathon. Race after race, I was turning in 2:01 and 2:02 times, so to finally get a 1:58 PR was amazing! Nothing could have made me upset. Nothing!

Until the next day.

I was talking with a fellow runner who asked me how the race went. My chest swelling with pride, I gave him my 1:58 time.

“Really?” he asked.

I smiled. “Bet you didn’t think I was capable of it, huh?”

He scratched his head in confusion. With absolute seriousness, he clarified: “Huh. I guess I thought since you did the triathlon and Ironman stuff that you’d actually be, like, faster.”

I think he then proceeded to tell me all about how his first half-marathon (when he was 300 pounds and just starting out as a runner) was actually a 1:50, but I’m not sure. I couldn’t hear much of what he was saying over the sound of my deflating ego.

Don’t be a Tool:

Whether someone’s a 3-hour or 6-hour marathoner, they’re still a marathoner. Whether someone runs a 5K in 18 minutes or 40 minutes, they’re still a runner. You are not allowed to ask “Hey, how’d your race go?” as a way to open the door to brag about yourself. Let them have the spotlight! Give ‘em a high five, smile, and shut up. It’s their moment.

The Bandit

Bandits are building up bad, bad, BAD running karma.

These racers, who participate in the race without paying for it, are stealing. There’s no way to sugarcoat it…it’s theft, pure and simple. Sure, it may seem harmless — the race is already crowded, so what’s one more person? The water’s already there, so who’s going to miss just one cup?

When you bandit, though, you’re taking away from those who have paid for the experience. The people who have signed up for the race have paid for the barricades and police to block off the road, the supplies at the aid station, insurance for the event, and the support in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the race.

Don’t Be a Tool:

If you want to race, pay for it. If you just want to run, then run somewhere else. If you seriously think you’re justified because you can bandit because no one will know, just remember the definition of the word “integrity” — it’s doing the right thing when no one is looking.

Penance for Tool-itude:

If you’re guilty of the above crimes, all is not lost.  You can absolve yourself if you promise to change your ways.  Just say ten “Scott Jureks,” and leave a bowl of chia seeds on the altar of the Endurance Gods. See you at the races!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Susan Lacke enjoys a good avocado. When she isn’t writing for No Meat Athlete, she’s spewing the gospel of running and triathlon for Competitor Magazine and its sister website, Competitor.com. If you see her, please approach slowly and use caution — she’s been known to head-butt when she feels threatened. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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