When I first “met” Susan via email after she ordered a No Meat Athlete shirt, she told me she would be running her first marathon the next day. Afterward, she sent me her race recap and mentioned that a fall Ironman triathlon was next on her list. Must already be an accomplished swimmer and cyclist, I figured. When she told me more, I was so motivated by her story that I asked her to write a guest post to share it with you. If it doesn’t make you want to get out there and move, check your pulse.
February, 17, 2010: A day that will go down in history.
You see, on February 17, the No-Meat Athlete, Matt Frazier, called me “inspiring.” ME. Me who trips over almost everything, sings loud and off-key songs from the 80’s to her dogs, and has a tendency to embarrass herself without even trying. “Inspiring?” Frazier must have been high. There was no other explanation.
If you had told me three years ago that I’d be inspiring to a vegetarian endurance athlete, I’d have looked at you like you were dense. My jaw would have dropped open, probably revealing a half-masticated corn dog. No way would I inspire those filthy-hippie-fitness-freak types. I had so many bad habits, I made Lindsay Lohan look like Shirley Temple.
But that was 2 years and 70 pounds ago. That was the moment I became a vegetarian. I know I make it sound simplistic, like a televangelist preaching the Gospel of Carrots (“Ohhh, praise ‘da swee’ baby carrot! Deliver us from evil pork! In quinoa’s name, a-VOCADO!”). But really, it didn’t start out easy. I had to consciously make healthier choices, but then something amazing happened: once I started a little bit of the healthy lifestyle, things kind of snowballed from there. I gave up meat, started focusing on eating whole foods, and slowly began to get rid of a lot of my vices. I lost 30 pounds in the process.
That weight loss was one major reason I started working out. One lifestyle change led to another: My New Year’s resolution for 2009 was to run (not walk) a 5K, which I did in May of 2009. Of course, once that was done, the momentum was there. I needed another challenge. And then another. And then another.
Did I become a filthy-hippie-fitness-freak-type? Heck, no. I set my alarm every day for 4:30 AM with the best of intentions of working out, but my snooze button is so easy to reach. There are days when I eat potato chips. I often roll my eyes at the gym rats grunting as they bench press. And people, I try to be good, I really do…but if you tell me to give up cupcakes, I will drop-kick you. Don’t even scrunch your nose at my god-given right to drink a pint of good beer – last I checked, there was no meat to be found there.
But…I also look at how far I’ve come in the last 2 years, and that reminds me to stay focused on being healthy. I’ve done some more 5Ks, small triathlons, three half-marathons and lost another 40 pounds. This past weekend, I completed the Lost Dutchman Marathon. Nothing I have ever, ever done compares to the feeling I got when I crossed that finish line. I didn’t do anything impressive. My time was 4:32:31, hardly a Boston qualifier. But I have a swagger in my step that says That’s right. I’m a marathoner. Don’t act like you’re not impressed. Two years and 70 pounds ago, I would never have thought I’d have that swagger.
I encourage you to find what gives you that swagger. It doesn’t have to be related to running. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a goal about vegetarianism. But pick one small lifestyle change; perhaps you’ve thought about giving up soda, taking a Zumba class, or kicking that smoking habit once and for all. I defy you to even try keep it from snowballing into bigger and better things. You just can’t stop it.
Where’s my snowball rolling? Shortly after my first 5K, someone I love finished his 12th Ironman Triathlon, an endurance competition that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. Compared to him, I felt like a chump…and I was jealous. While watching the competition, I saw so many different types of people cross the finish line and began to wonder, “Well, if they can do it, why can’t I?” Naïve thinking? Heck, yes. But I was inspired. I started thinking more…and then decided to stop thinking and just start doing. So I got a coach, got a game plan, registered for Ironman Wisconsin 2010, and dived into training. My friends and family, like everything else I’ve done in the past two years, think I’m absolutely nuts. However, they’re nice enough to at least smile when they say it…and tell me they’ll be there to cheer me on. I’m a lucky gal.
My goal for Ironman is, once again, not to do anything impressive…it’s just to finish. That’s my only desire. When my butt gets to the end, I will swagger across the finish line. And then I will have a cupcake and a pint of beer. After all, I really don’t want anyone mistaking me for a filthy-hippie-fitness-freak type…