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Susan

all the feels about food and body

Taking Inventory

blanknotebook.jpgIt’s humbling to do this. But I realize it’s the only way. I’ve strayed far from the path I was on just a few years ago. I think that after my neck injury and surgery in 2013, I never really got solid after that. That injury was a big blow to my body as well as my self-image.  And then following it was just an endless parade of ailments: I got hit hard by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, then plantar fasciitis, hip pain, rotator cuff injury/frozen shoulder, and general deconditioning. In May, I started seeing my trainer again and I felt like I was getting back on truck. Then, a few weeks later, my mother was in the hospital and self care went OUT THE WINDOW.

So, here I am. Taking inventory. Because I realized that one of the things that really, really helped me become healthy, nine years ago, was starting this blog. Being honest. Being part of a community. (Oh I miss you, Fitbloggin!)

Where am I now? It’s not pretty. But here it is.

  • Diabetes: Um. I have no idea. The last time I measured my blood glucose was January. My glucose meter is MIA. Gotta find it.
  • Sleep Apnea: Also, no idea. I was “going to” purchase my own machine about a year ago, but kept putting it off, and eventually “forgot.” I wrestled and fought with that damn machine so much, I know it was not just about forgetting. I had made a deal with the sleep lab folks that I would lose 15 lbs and then I could get another sleep study to see if I still needed the CPAP machine.  Needless to say, that did not happen. Which brings me to….
  • Weight. I’m 15 lbs over my goal weight. It could be worse, I suppose. But it’s not great. I quit working for Weight Watchers two (?) years ago. I always said that being on staff at WW was great incentive for staying on track. Well, it was. I’m sad that the meeting that I led for 6 years no longer exists. I don’t really want to go back as a “regular” member but maybe that would help.
  • Activity: I’ve been weirdly exercise-o-phobic with all the injuries that have happened over the past several years. I was going to Pilates to deal with my hip and shoulder injuries for the past year, and it really did help, and when I felt healed, I went to my trainer, and then — see above. Fell totally off. I’ve gone to some random yoga and Nia classes and taken occasional hikes or walks, but nothing regular.
  • Headspace: Shame. Shame, shame, shame, remorse, embarrassment, mortification, sadness.

But the GOOD NEWS is:

  • I’m writing this blog post!! Which I really believe is the start of a good thing. I know it is. It helped me lift up from my first diabetes diagnosis in 2008, and I believe it can help me again now.
  • I’m signed up for the Mermaid 5k on November 12th. I’m in no shape to run, but I do think I can do a walk/shuffle, which is a start. I do love participating in events, and I’ll be doing this one with some writer friends, most of whom are way younger and in better shape than I am, but hey. I need that companionship, and I’m looking forward to writing my first race recap in years.

 

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The Creature Awakes

This past weekend I attended my 40th high school reunion. One classmate came up to me and said enthusiastically, “I love your blog! It’s such an inspiration!!” Um, what blog?

Oh. THIS one.

(hangs head in shame)

The one I haven’t written in since… I don’t know how long, because it all felt like disappointing news.

When I came home from the reunion, there was a snail mail letter from a fellow fitness blogger. I ran one of my first 5k races with her, back in the (much healthier) day. I feel like I’m in the same place that I was when I first started this blog, only a lot older.

Maybe it’s time to return. Exactly where I am.

Anyone out there?

UnGrained, Again (or, Paleo take 2)

636069190726213870-2082395881_paleodiet2For a month last year, I took a stab at eating Paleo/Whole30. It went pretty well, but not without its challenges. The worst thing for me was giving up dairy. I made the switch to almond milk, but it just was not the same. I got cranky. The first 30 days went well. Then I eased up. Then, I fell off the wagon. I went full all-grain-all-dairy-all-sugar-all-the-time. I told myself I’d try it again. But for the life of me I couldn’t get myself to do it. It just made me too sad.

About a month ago, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was just feeling like crap in every way possible. My blood sugars were veering higher and higher. Every part of me, except perhaps my right wrist, was hurting. I was exhausted. I was overweight. I was having debilitating gastrointestinal “attacks” a few times a week. It all sucked. I walked around muttering, “I feel like shit.”

I had a feeling that grains were probably doing this to me. In fact, this has been
a very helpful go-to visual every time I’m just a little bit tempted. witness5

I made a deal with myself on October 1st. I told myself if I tried to de-grain and de-sugar, to de-alcohol and de-soy and de-legume, I would allow myself to keep one thing on my plate. DAIRY.

When I was little, my mother used to call me “Nezumi” (mouse) because I was so addicted to cheese. Which I still am.

But as it turns out, it’s harder to eat tons of cheese when you’re not also consuming them with some sort of grain. Like crackers. Or bread. Or pizza. Or macaroni. But I can still have cream in my coffee, and cheese crumbles in a salad.

This, it turns out, has made all the difference. I feel like I could do this forever. My appetite is shockingly decreased. It’s not really my appetite, it’s my cravings. When I eat a non-grain item, I’m done. But once I eat anything with grains, whether it’s a spoonful of orzo or a stale tortilla chip, I just want MORE MORE MORE. That’s been interesting.

Since October 1, my blood sugars have taken a dive. I was hovering in the 130-160+ range for my fasting sugars, which is NOT GOOD. (they’re good if they’re near or below 100). It just took a few days and I saw my first sub-100 number in probably a year.

I’ve lost 9 pounds. It’s October 15th. That’s pretty good math. I wanted to lose weight, but my primary motivations were my diabetes and my various joint pains. I started out with a very painful shoulder, hip and scapula. The scapular pain is GONE. The hip pain is much decreased. It’s almost gone. (on a scale of one to ten, it’s maybe a two) The shoulder pain is another story, but I think it’s a more serious issue that inflammation. I went and got a cortisone shot for that yesterday, and I hope that it will kick in later this week, and that it will last a good while.

Meanwhile, though, my second foray into grain-free life has been smoother and easier than I expected. It just takes a little #wycwyc. (What You Can, When You Can). I realized I couldn’t do this without allowing myself the dairy. But as it turns out, there are still big benefits.

I’ve decided to ease up and allow one off-day per week. Today, I had a few bites of orzo salad, one or two crackers at a birthday party, and half of my mother’s leftover chicken pot pie. It was interesting. With each of those bites, I instantly felt like they revved up my appetite. I didn’t want to stop until the plate or bowl was ALL GONE. That just doesn’t happen with other food.

How much do you wanna bet my blood sugars AND my weight will be nudged up tomorrow morning?

 

Pilates: Not Just for Ballerinas

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Myrtle, aka Lovey, aka Miracle Worker!

For the past many years, I’ve been a total Pilates-phobe. First, it seemed like something for ballerinas and movie stars, expensive and exclusive. If anyone mentioned the word, I’d flash back to a class that I took several years ago. I decided to give it a go back in 2012, but instead of going to an individual person, I signed up for a big group class on a hard wooden floor with some yoga mats. All I remember was discomfort and a huge sense of failure. I couldn’t do ANYthing that the instructor was asking. I couldn’t achieve any of the positions or movements. It didn’t feel good, during or after. I walked out, cursing under my breath and swearing that I’d never set foot into anything labeled “Pilates” ever again.

Fast-forward to this summer. I was in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a 10-day writing retreat. On my first night, I fretted to my friend Laura Fraser who is a San Miguel local, that various body parts were really bugging me, and that I felt apprehensive about walking around on the town’s steep hills and cobblestone streets. She said, “You HAVE to go see my Pilates person! She’s amazing! She’ll fix you!”

I shook my head and restated my anti-Pilates stance.

“No, really,” she said. “You must go.”

Her enthusiasm played ping-pong with my skepticism back and forth, until finally I relented and took down the woman’s contact information. “She’s so fantastic!” said Laura. “She screams at you. She’s a total drill sergeant. But she will FIX YOU.”

Oh boy. That didn’t sound like fun at all. Except for the fixing part. I decided to go for it and emailed the Pilates lady, who went by the name Lovey. Or Myrtle. Or both.

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Can you tell that this is almost straight uphill??

I hobbled across town and up several steep hills to get to her studio. Lovey-Myrtle greeted me, listened to my bodily woes (painful hip, mostly) and showed me her own spectacular body. Her abs were impressive, and her energy was off the chart. She got me onto the reformer, or the official Pilates table of torture, and commenced with the screaming almost immediately. I was terrified but hopeful.
“Knees together! Make a Barbie foot! Lower back down! Squeeze! Squeeze!” She was throwing more instructions at me than I could even keep track of. My head was spinning, and I was frantically trying to keep it together. After putting me through a number of contortions, she set into me with some serious bodywork. She massaged/pummeled/ground my feet within an inch of their little lives. What I came to understand, though, was that she wasn’t mean. She really, truly cared about the state of my body. She poured so much attention and energy into it. And at the end of the session, I was so limp I could barely stand up.

But stand up I did, and voila! I felt amazing. I flew across town with nary a twinge of discomfort. It felt like a miracle.

I emailed and reserved sessions for every single day that I remained in Mexico. Some days I was so sore I could barely walk, and other days I felt fantastic. When it was time to come home, I felt like I had only just begun rehabbing myself. I was heartbroken to leave Lovey! I knew I had to find another Pilates person in the States.

I asked my Facebook people for recommendations. I scoured Yelp. Then I got the BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER when Carla gifted me an initial session with Holly of Reactive Movement, just minutes from my home.

The beautiful, carpeted, sleek space was completely different from Lovey’s open-air, Mexican studioimg_7418 in a rooftop garden. And to my complete surprise, there was no yelling involved. Holly turned out to be a gentle, soft-spoken Canadian with a kick-ass knowledge of kinesiology and anatomy. At first I was worried that a lack of vocal energy would mean a lack of results. But, amazingly, I left my session at Reactive Movement feeling just as good as when I’d walked out of the studio in San Miguel.

It goes without saying that I’m a complete Pilates convert. Yeah, it’s super pricey. (unless you happen to throw in a trip to Mexico to get the special affordable rates!) But combined with some recommended bodywork with an astounding sports massage therapist, I feel HOPE for the first time in, like, forever. I feel like I’m going to get better.

I’m dealing with a couple of painful parts right now: my shoulder and my hip. My first goals are to be able to perform simple, everyday activities without pain. Putting on or removing my bra. Getting dressed. Toweling myself off after a shower. Tying my shoes. Getting in and out of my car. Drying my hair. Turning over in bed. Right now I can’t do any of these things without wincing or crying out. Sometimes the pain is so severe I can’t catch my breath.  My second goal is to be able to do any kind of regular exercise without paying a big price in pain. Since both my upper and lower extremities are involved, it rules out almost everything from swimming to jogging or even walking hills. But I have hope. Thanks to these completely different Pilates stars, I feel like I’m finally moving (no pun) in a good direction.

 

 

 

My Nights With the Mask

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It’s been a few weeks of adjusting to sleeping with the CPAP mask for my sleep apnea. I’m not gonna lie. It has not been easy. I was really hoping that after a few nights of using it, I was going to feel super energetic, chipper (“genki” in Japanese) and awesome. But no. The issue is that even though I am breathing better, with fewer episodes of non-breathing, I am sleeping much more fitfully than before.

Before this diagnosis, I was sleeping straight through, long nights, but breathing terribly (which I was never really aware of). NOW, I wake up many times during the night. And I’ve got this THING on my face. Which I do not enjoy. Well, to be honest, sometimes the thing ends up on the floor. The second night I wore it, I apparently fought with it in my sleep and I woke up to find it in multiple pieces on the floor next to my bed.  (not broken, just completely disassembled!)

I took it with me on vacation. One night, I woke up and I was just so dang uncomfortable. I hated the feeling of this rubber triangle covering my nose, and straps around my head. But I thought, just hang in there. I lay there being hyper-aware of every breath and every little indentation into my skin. I was awake for hours.

But the frustrating thing was, I didn’t NEED to wear it for hours while I was awake. The thing with sleep apnea is, it only happens when you’re ASLEEP. So basically I was lying there feeling tortured, for nothing. After several hours of this I was beside myself, so I ripped it off. Then I promptly rolled over and fell dead asleep. Of course.

When I woke up, hours later, I realized that I had spent half the night awake, (with the mask on my face) and then the early morning hours asleep, without the mask. I broke into hysterical sobs. I had been trying SO hard to be compliant, to do the right thing, and ended up doing exactly the wrong thing.

I’ve had better nights since then. I’ve made it sometimes six or seven hours. When I wear the mask, I’ve had fewer than one “breath interruption” per hour, in contrast to the 37+ I was having PER HOUR before. (!!)  So that’s good.

But I’m sort of heartbroken. I feel like this beautiful relationship I used to have with sleep, and my bed, has been shattered. I used to love going to bed, and love sleeping. I was in love with sleep, and I felt so lucky to not have it be a fraught kind of thing. But now it is fraught. It is super-fraught. I dread going to bed. I dread that moment of putting the mask on my head, and trying to find a comfortable position that will allow me to sleep without letting air hiss and leak all over. I’ve found that it’s much easier to deal with if I go to bed when I’m really, really, really tired. (so I don’t have much consciousness or energy to fight it) Which means I’m going to bed super late. And waking up much later than before.

Overall, I admit I’m getting more used to it. I signed up with the website that manufactures my particular CPAP machine and it has all kinds of helpful tips and videos. One woman who appears in several videos said that it took her 3 months to adjust to her machine. Three months!! That was a bit of  shock, but it also encouraged me to not expect it to be all good right away.

One of the most moving parts of the website was a video about “Getting Used to Treatment.” It featured a Woman of a Certain Age who was worried about her relationship with her husband. She was bummed about wearing a mask every night. She was wearing flannel PJs (like me) and kind of looked like a sad elephant. But her extremely kind looking husband leaned over and tweaked her trunk-tube a little, and just looked at her in this extremely loving way (as opposed to, You look like a TOTAL FREAK) and then she felt better and was able to deal with it. My eyes actually filled up when I saw this because this is just how Mr. McBody has been dealing. He’s been very reassuring and supportive and kind. And that is why we are now going on our 28th year together. He’s just like that.

I hope that by the time I get to my 3-month mark, this will just be an automatic thing, no big deal. And that I’ll fall in love with falling asleep again.

 

I’m Baaaaaack Because I Hurt Everywhere And Now I Have to Sleep Like Darth Vader

i-find-your-lack-of-sleep-disturbing-darth-vader-pillow-550

(cough cough) Wow, it’s dusty in here. It’s been a while. But here I am! Remember me? Formerly known as Foodie McBody? I started this blog back in 2009, when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I was freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. I felt alone and terrified. So I started this then-anonymous blog, to express all of my complex and chaotic feelings and thoughts, and to try and find community.

It was amazing to find that community, one blog at a time. My beautiful, supportive, encouraging and inspiring Fitbloggin’ friends helped me on the path to wellness. Over the next four years or so, I managed to lose weight, get my blood sugars into a good range, start running, complete my first 5k, then a 10k, then half marathons , a mud race and couple of triathlons. I filled this rack up with medals. I felt pretty freaking great, and felt like there was only one direction to go – invincible! Iron (Wo)Man!

Then I had the great, weird, freaky misfortune of jumping on a trampoline at my 25th wedding anniversary and rupturing a number of cervical discs. Months of excruciating pain, followed by spinal surgery and a long recuperation. And you know, since then, I’ve never been the same. I had little comebacks but then they were followed by disturbing counts of plantar fasciitis, hip pain, thyroid issues, weight gain, menopausal shoulder pain, YOU NAME IT. I crept away from my blog with my tail between my legs and I was on the verge of letting the domain name whither and die.

But then I remembered why I started this blog in the first place. Because I was feeling alone and afraid and embarrassed about my physical state. I felt like I sucked for “letting myself” get diabetes. I was overwhelmed and upset. And I found that the act of sharing my misery with others helped me manage it. It helped me find a way to health.

In addition to all of the lovely conditions listed above, I recently discovered, through my perceptive and wonderful doctor, that I ALSO have… ta-daa!! severe sleep apnea. Yeah.

This came, like my diabetes diagnosis, both as a shock and as a “wow, that makes some kind of bizarre sense.”

It started when my doctor was reviewing my blood test results and she noted that my hemoglobin was slightly elevated. She emailed me and said that this could sometimes indicate sleep apnea. (WHO KNEW?) And she recommended that I go to the sleep clinic for some diagnostic tests. They gave me a little device like a finger oxygen reader attached to a big watch. I was to sleep with this. They also had me fill out this questionnaire. How long did I sleep every night? 8-9 hours or more. And when was I likely to fall asleep during the day?

  • when reading a book
  • when watching TV
  • after eating a meal that didn’t include alcohol
  • when in a dark room like a theater
  • when lying down to rest
  • Etc etc etc.

Um, like ALL of those times. Seriously. “Doesn’t everyone? (apparently not) Anyway, I checked off all the boxes and gave back the apparatus, expecting that maybe I’d have a mild case.

They called me back pretty quickly and said, “You have SEVERE SLEEP APNEA” and you must come back to the clinic ASAP to discuss treatment options!” Well, I did what any 21st century patient would do. I Googled. I learned that SEVERE SLEEP APNEA, or having more than 30 respiratory interruptions per hour, puts one at a 3-4x higher risk of stroke, heart attack and other bad things. I thought, this must be some kind of mistake. 

Today I went back to get the detailed results of my assessment and to learn all about treatment options. At first, I was excited to consider the possibility that my apnea is caused by a Stuffy Nose. After all, I don’t snore (my spouse swears to this) OR sleep on my back. I have terrible allergies which always manifest in a stuffy or runny nose. Maybe if I just use a Neti Pot and some FloNase, I’ll be good to go! YAY!

(cue: sound of deflating balloon, which is the same as the sound of deflating hope)

Sorry, the respiratory therapist informed me, the NetiPot option alone only works if you have Very Mild sleep apnea. Basically, everyone in the Severe class was destined for the Darth Vader sleep mask. I looked at the plastic model heads, with the nose mask, the full face mask, and the nose pillow mask, and I had to swallow many times to keep from crying. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Please, please, no. Even though some companies are trying to make CPAP look sexy, I’m not 100% convinced.

But yeah. The picture of all the times I stopped breathing during one night looked like a big blue hairy caterpillar. A normal night’s sleep has just a tiny few hairline spikes in that blue, no-breathing zone. Mine was… way more than half the night. I also learned that I spend the vast majority of my night in “light sleep” which is considered non-restorative. It’s stressing my body out, big time, causing spikes in blood sugar, increased high blood pressure and any number of other assaults.

I’m going to try to be cooperative. And calm. Even though my inner me is throwing a total tantrum, I’m gonna do my best to deal. And in the meantime, if there are any other sleep-apnea folks out there, please drop me a line. I’m looking for my community, again.

Love, Foodie McBody

 

 

 

Does Cricket Flour Bug You?

Photo Credit: N@ncyN@nce/Flickr
Photo Credit: N@ncyN@nce/Flickr

Until a week or two ago, I had never heard of cricket flour. Yes. Flour made out of dehydrated, ground up crickets. But then somebody brought some cricket-flour cookies into work and they were passed around the lunch table.

cricket

Hey Mikey! I liked them!

They were actually pretty good. Chocolatey. Like… a cookie. Because the crickets had been pulverized into dust, they didn’t FEEL like crickets. (ie., I could not distinguish any little antennae or cricket-legs as I ate my cookie) There was no discernible cricket or insect like flavor. They just tasted like.. cookies. I had no idea I had stumbled onto a hot new food craze. WHO KNEW?

A company here in the Bay Area produces both these cookies and the flour they’re made of. At first I was thinking, WHYYYYY? but then today I read this article about how my newfound love, almond milk, is sending us deeper into drought-land by the minute, and how we might all end up eating dried insects if this keeps up. Or how maybe we should, anyhow.

According to Bitty’s website,

Cricket flour is a tasty source of sustainable nutrition, packed with protein, healthy fats and micronutrients. We start with sustainably raised crickets, which are slow roasted to bring out their nutty, toasted flavor. Then we mill them into a fine flour that becomes the basis of our delicious, high-protein baked goods and baking mixes.

All our products are free of grains and processed sugar, and are made with coconut oil rather than dairy products. Best of all, they taste terrific. When you’re starting with an ingredient as good as cricket flour, why would you add any of the “bad” stuff?

Crickets are also one of the most sustainable forms of protein on the planet. Last May, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published an incredible report concluding that edible insects may be the key to stabilizing the global food supply.

According to the UN, if edible insects become a part of the mainstream global diet, we can reduce greenhouse gases by 18%, and lower the average cost of food globally by 33%. Check out Bitty founder Megan Miller’s TED Talk to learn more about the benefits of cricket flour.

So what do you think? Would you eat cricket flour products to save the planet?

I’m not quite ready to pop a chili-flavored insect in my mouth, feet and all, but I just… might… be able to start with flour.

What I Can, When I Can

One of the things that I appreciate about continuing to serve as a Weight Watchers leader, is the ongoing conversation that happens with my members each week. Each week, we revisit one aspect of healthy living and get the opportunity to focus on that one small thing. And as I prepare for my meeting, and then reflect on it afterward, I get to ask myself if I’m doing what I can in that little area.

This week, the theme of the week was about making time to move. Specifically, the importance of PLANNING to move, and to know when, how, where and with whom we were going to do it next. On the flip chart, there was a range of options from “I always plan my workouts,” to “Activity? What’s that?” and in between there were some in-between responses. I realized that I have been pretty in-between. I always have these good intentions, but I don’t have a regular schedule for working out these days. Sometimes a friend will spontaneously call me up and we’ll go for a little run. Or I’ll show up at my old gym for a group training. But these things are not hardwired onto my calendar. They’re not my routine, so often they just don’t happen.

This happened once last month, and it was great. But ... once.
This happened once last month, and it was great. But … once.

After this week’s meeting, I looked at the blank spots in my Weekly (our little mini magazine handout) and answered those questions. I did the homework that I’d passed out. I knew that I was going to have to do something easy and accessible. I also remembered that that night, Nashville was returning after a hiatus. I told myself, OK, tomorrow, you have a date on the elliptical with the latest episode! It was that easy. I made a plan.

Next morning, I hopped on the machine all ready. I had a great 50-minute workout because there was no way I was going to stop or step down before those closing credits rolled. It was a great one.

Thanks @nashvilleabc for keeping me glued to the elliptical today! #wycwyc

A post shared by Susan Ito (@thesusanito) on

It didn’t take much. But it did take making a plan. These little things, they make all the difference.

Which reminded me of my friends’ Carla & Roni’s new book that’s coming out SOON: #wycwyc, or What You Can, When You Can. It’s such a beautiful, simple, supportive concept. Can’t go to the gym? Can’t train for a triathlon right now? Well, you CAN hop on that machine in your garage and get some sweat happening while you soak in some tele-drama. YES.

Here’s the trailer for their book. I love the idea of passing the #wycwyc baton, one to another. Check it out on Twitter and Instagram. Let us all know the next time you make a healthy choice, what you can and when you can. Wick-wick!!

AJ: Someone Who Believed In Me When I Didn’t

AJ, Melissa, Izzy and Levi
AJ, Melissa, Izzy and Levi  (photo from AJ’s Facebook)

Back in 2011, when I was training for my first triathlon, I was a terrified, unathletic 50 year old who could barely swim across a pool, and who fell down every time I tried to ride a bike. I was a mess. I was by far the slowest, most struggling person on our team. Every single time we had a workout, I wanted to give up. I always came in dead last, whether it was a run, a swim or a bike ride.

But this was Team in Training, and we weren’t just training for ourselves. We were also raising funds for those who were dealing with blood cancers. Each team has team captains and honorees, or “honored patients” who remind us why we’re doing what we’re doing. Our team captain was AJ Jabanero, and his daughter Izzy was our honoree. I’ll never forget meeting them both at our season Kickoff.

AJ and Izzy
AJ and Izzy (Photo from Katherine Resnick)

During one of our grueling training days, I reached my breaking point. I had had a panic attack in the open water, feeling like I couldn’t breathe. My legs felt like lead during the run. I was spent and discouraged and feeling like the whole thing was an enormous mistake. I pulled away from the team, sat down on the curb and just cried.

AJ came and sat down next to me. He listened to me bawl and snuffle. I told him about how I’d been trying so hard to be healthy, to do something strong and great with my body. I’d made a turnaround after being overweight and couch-potatoish and being diagnosed with diabetes. But maybe a triathlon was just too much.

He listened to me. He was very serious. He didn’t try to cheer me up right away, or give me a big pep talk. He just nodded and said, “I used to be like that too. Overweight. Out of shape. Not able to do much.” I couldn’t believe it. He said, yeah. He had not always been the fastest guy on our team of athletes. He hadn’t always been in this peak physical condition. Every time we had a team run, AJ was one of the front runners, finishing easily and quickly, and then waiting sometimes hours for the rest of us to straggle in. He was an incredible athlete. “Yeah,” he said. He told me that he’d also come a long way. I saw that he understood where I was. He’d been there. He had so much compassion.

Champion.
Champion. (photo from Facebook)

AJ helped me get up that day. He continued to encourage me through the rest of the season, until I finally crossed that triathlon finish line, one of the very last that day.

I was so shocked at the unfairness of life when I learned that AJ had developed cancer himself, after his daughter Izzy went into remission. I was even more shocked and saddened when he passed away earlier this month. It didn’t seem possible.

What didn’t shock me, however, was the incredible turnout at a San Francisco run in his honor. I was so moved to see many of our triathlon teammates there.

ajrun
photo from Facebook

We walked and ran to the Golden Gate Bridge, and there was AJ waiting to give us a fist bump. It made me cry but it also made me smile. Thank you AJ, for believing in me and in so many of us. We won’t forget. #AJSTRONG

The final fist bump, the eternal inspiration
The final fist bump, the eternal inspiration

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