My journey to a healthier me

Tales of my life

Race recap – Pitter Patter 2014

Two years ago I did my first race.  It was a 5k and I walked the whole thing.  I only did one race that year.

Last year, I did three 5ks and one 10k.  The 5ks I did as walk/runs; the 10k, I walked.

Yesterday I ran my first 5k race of the year. (I did this race last year as a 10k walk)

My goal is to do at least five 5k races this year.


Here’s the recap of what happened:

I’d been waiting for weeks for yesterday to arrive.  I was anxious for my racing season to start.

I had 2 goals for the race — 1st, as always, was to cross the finish line.  I don’t worry about my time, I just wanted to finish; and 2nd, I wanted to run it start to finish.

I woke up earlier than I needed to.  I could feel the butterflies almost immediately.

I showered and dressed.  I went downstairs to make coffee and breakfast.  I opted for oatmeal instead of my normal smoothie.

I sat at my computer, as I normally do in the morning.  Time seemed to be crawling by.  I really wanted to get to the race.

My friend Karen picked me up. She was running it too.  Karen is a great runner.  Some of us have given her the nickname “Legs”.

We got there and completed our registrations, get our bibs, etc.  Nerves were even worse.  We saw other people we know.  Nice to chat with others before we begin.

Then it was about half hour before the race.  I tried distracting myself with a Twitter chat, but I couldn’t concentrate.  By this point I was shaking because of my nerves.  I’m not sure why I was so nervous.

I took the last of my ENERGYbits.  (I received a sample a while back.  They are pretty amazing.  I tested them on 2 of my practice runs, but saved some specifically to take for this race.  You can read my review of ENERGYbits here:

I went outside to pace around while I waited for the start.  Finally others came out too.  A couple ladies recognized me from the indoor track.  We chatted a little bit.

We got final instructions, then off we went! FINALLY! The nerves seemed to disappear almost immediately.

I was at the back.  I was trying not to pay attention to the others.  Everyone else is so much faster than I am.

I had my music playing to help push me along.

I heard Tyler’s voice in my head offering encouragement.

I did my best to keep a steady pace — not too fast.  Going out was relatively easy.  Coming back will be harder because there is a  hill to contend with.

I was not even to the turnaround (halfway) point and some runners were already on their way back.  They offered encouragement; I offer it back.  A few gave me hi-fives; I happily accepted.

There were volunteers all along the route.  Each cheered as I passed by.

As I neared the turnaround, I could see the photographer taking pictures of some of the runners.  He watched me approach.  When I got closer, he snapped a couple of me.

There was a water station at the turnaround.  I paused briefly for a drink.  Then I turned around and headed back.

The route is along the road.  For the most part, the cars were courteous, driving by slowly, moving over.  A few were not as courteous.

I made it to the hill.  I had to dig deep to get up it without stopping.  I was running into the wind.  Not very easy.

Most of the runners have passed me by now, but that’s okay.

I made it to the last turn.  As I head up the lane, I remembered it was a long, low hill.  I needed to dig deep again.

I skipped over some of the songs playing until I get to the theme from the Rocky movie.  Perfect way to end a run.

As I neared the finish, one of the other runners greeted me, giving me encouragement to finish strong.

As I got closer, everyone started cheering, even those who didn’t know me.

I crossed the finish line.  The attendant took the tag from my bib.

I turned to walk away, but then turn back to ask my time.

He says “53:20”

I walked away tired, but proud.

I did it.

I ran my first race of the year.

And I ran it start to finish, just as I wanted to.

Although I wasn’t concerned with my time, I was pleased that I finished in well under an hour.

I headed in for a post-run chocolate milk and some fruit.  And a coffee.

I sat and relaxed, chatted with other runners.  Eventually they gave out the medals.  My friend Karen won first in her age group.  So proud of her for that.  I didn’t win one, but didn’t expect to either.  The first 3 in each age group won medals.

Everyone who registered for the race got their name entered into a draw for prizes.  They gave those out after the medals.  My friend Karen won a gift certificate.  I didn’t win anything, but I’m okay with that.

A couple people asked me how I did in the race.  I said my time, said it wasn’t a PR but close.  Many said how proud they were of me.

Karen drove me home.  I had some lunch and then took a nap.  A very long nap.  Well deserved, in my opinion.

When I woke up, I was still tired, but feeling good, feeling proud of myself for doing what I set out to do.

I ran my first race of 2014; ran it start to finish.

Then I looked up the results of the race I did in November of last year, the last race I did.

Only then did I realize, my time was a new PR!  WOW! I was so excited!!  I didn’t expect that!  Made it so much better.

What a day!!


Until last year, I couldn’t run.

When I did start running, I couldn’t run a minute.

I just ran my first race start to finish.

Amazing how much can change in a year.



Weekly Food Prep or How I stay on track

When I tell people my story, one of the things I get asked about quite often is how I stay on track with clean eating.

And there are always 2 things I tell them.

First, keep a food journal.  I have kept one for 2 years now.  And let me tell you, it works!  I write down what I eat, what time I eat it, and the calories.  The only things I don’t include are water and coffee, because neither has any calories. (I drink my coffee black.)  At the end of the day, I total the calories.   I thought I ate pretty good until I started doing this.  It really makes a difference.

When I first started keeping my food journal, I carried around a little notebook with me at all times.  Now I just type it in my phone, in the notes section.  If that doesn’t work for you, there are many free apps out there you can use.  I’ve tried a few, but haven’t found one I really like.  Do what works best for you.

Second, I do weekly food prep.  Different people do this differently.  Again, do what works best for you.  In my case, once a week I cook up big meals that I divide into lunches and dinners for myself for the week.  It could be anything really.  I might make a large pot of turkey chili.  Or a big pot of homemade soup.  I might make a giant turkey meatloaf or a big batch of turkey meatballs.  Whatever I feel like making.  Sometimes I make 2 or 3 different things just to mix it up.  My husband and I do our grocery shopping once a week, so before we go, I know what I plan on making for myself for the next week.

In addition to making up several lunches and dinners, I put together healthy snacks for myself.  I buy a bag or box of granola and divide it into small portions.  I buy a container of cottage cheese and portion it out too.  I take plastic bags and put together snacks for after my workouts.  These often include fruit, cottage cheese, and granola.   I also put cut-up veggies into little baggies so I can just grab and go.

I almost always start the day with a smoothie and some turkey bacon.  And I almost always make the smoothie the same way — milk, plain Greek yogurt, dry oatmeal, protein powder, and frozen berries.  I do a few things ahead of time to save time in the morning.  I buy a large bag of frozen berries (can be any kind, I usually get a bag of mixed) and I divide into smaller portions for my smoothies.  I also put portions of dry oatmeal and my protein powder together.  I will often buy the small containers of yogurt because they are already pre-portioned for me.  I also will precook a whole package of turkey bacon, so all I have to do is take a couple pieces out at a time.  Doing these few things helps to make making breakfast a lot faster.  Perfect if I’m short on time in the morning.


That may seem like a lot of work to some people.  But it’s really not.  I usually do this on Sundays; sometimes I divide it over both Saturday and Sunday.  It really doesn’t take that much time to get it all done.  And it saves me oodles of time throughout the week.  The best part is by doing this, I have no excuse for not eating healthy meals.  The work is already done.  The meals are just sitting in the fridge waiting for me.

Now this does take a bit of pre-planning.  I have to decide what I want to make, what ingredients I have and what I need, how much to make, do I have a recipe or is it something I can just throw together.  Luckily, I love to cook, so it’s not that big of a deal for me. But if you’re someone who doesn’t like to cook, or maybe you’re not really comfortable in the kitchen, it might be a little daunting.

Maybe you could get together with friends and have a cooking party.  Decide on who’s house to cook at, each person makes a dish, and you share what you make among the group.

Another suggestion would be to use a slow cooker.  Personally I have 2 and I love them! I make tons of different things.  They are so versatile.

You can do an online search for recipes for anything and everything.

I also use Pinterest a lot.  If you don’t already use it, you’re missing out!  It’s a great resource for so many things, not just cooking.

I’ve not always been in control when it comes to food.  It has often controlled me.  My food journal and weekly food prep helps me take back some of that control.

Do I always eat at home?  No, I love to eat out.  But taking control of what I eat at home has helped me take control of what I eat out.  I’ve learned to pay attention to the ingredients used, the cooking methods, the add-ons.  Almost every restaurant has healthy options, it’s a matter of looking for them.

Do I always eat clean?  No, but I do my best.  I often follow the 80/20 rule — I eat clean 80% of the time, and 20% of the time I indulge.  Am I perfect at it?  No, but again, I try my best.

And probably the most important thing I’ve learned is to take it one meal at a time.  Don’t beat yourself up because you ate pizza at a party.  Or maybe you had a few too many appetizers.  Or maybe you decided to have dessert.  Just do better at your next meal.  And remember, it’s okay to indulge once in a while.


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In honour of Boston

Before I started this journey, I never really paid much attention to races, not even during the Olympics.  It was just another sport.

When I did my first 5k race, I still didn’t quite get it.

But now that I’m running, I get it.

There is something empowering about running.  And even though I call myself a turtle-pace runner, I feel it every time.  It’s almost magical.

And the “runners’ high” you hear people talking about?  It’s real.

Today is the 118th Boston Marathon. (Sometimes also referred to as “Marathon Monday”)

A year ago, the race was cut short because of bombings at the finish line.  Some had already finished, but many were unable to.

I remember being shocked and horrified as I watched events unfold on tv.

And now that I’m a runner, I’m even more shocked a year later.

I may never be able to run a marathon.

But those that do, inspire me greatly.  More than I can really explain.

So in honour of those running in Boston, I set out to do a special run of my own today.

A little background first.  I have a fear of bridges.  Actually, it’s not really the bridge itself that scares me.  It’s the height.  I’m usually okay if I can only see out across the water.  But if I can see down, see just how high up I am, I’m scared.  Just driving over a bridge can freak me out.

There is a bridge near where I live.  It’s not super high, but high enough.  In 2012, I walked across that bridge with Tyler and Joe.  I was terrified, but I did it.  I even wrote a post about it.  You can read it here:

Last year, to prove to myself I could do it, I walked the bridge by myself.

This year, I decided to run it.  That’s right. I DECIDED TO RUN THE BRIDGE.

I wanted to do something special.

Something I was scared to do.

Something that would take everything in me to do.

So I picked today, Marathon Monday to do it.

To honour runners everywhere, but most especially those running Boston.

So this morning, after my breakfast and my morning coffee, I took my racing outfit out of the closet and put it on — grey pants with a hot pink stripe down the side, and a hot pink shirt.  Put on my yellow hoodie and my magic hat (that’s what I call the hat I wear for races).  Laced up my sneakers.  And headed out the door.

As I neared the bridge, I started to get nervous.  The doubts started echoing in my head.  I tried shutting them out.  I didn’t want to listen to them.

I got to where I planned to start my run.  I plugged my earbuds into my phone, and opened my running app.  My heart was pounding.

I hit start and off I went.

The wind was blowing hard.  Traffic whizzing by me.

I started good.  Then had to dig deep to get up the hill.

I could hear Tyler’s voice pushing me along, encouraging me.  (He’s really good at that)

I’m breathing hard, but I’m not stopping.

Don’t look down! Keep looking forward!

Finally, I was getting near the top of the bridge.  I pause very briefly to take a couple of photos.


Finally going down the other side!

Have to pause to let a bike go by. (The path is not very wide)

I’m down the other side.  Pause to turn around and head back up.

You got this, Coleman! You can do it!

I’m trying to enjoy the view as I’m running.

Another runner passes me.

I’m at the top again, heading down towards where I started.

The runner who passed me is down by the park below.  She sees me up on the bridge and waves.  I wave back.

I make it back to my starting point and decide to do it again. So I turn around and head back up the bridge.

Come on, Coleman! Dig deep!

Back up I go.  And down the other side.

Turn around one more time and head back up.


Up at the top again.  Down the other side one last time, back to where I started.

I did it!

It took me a little over an hour.  And my total distance was just over 5k.

I am so proud of myself!

In honour of Boston, I threw myself out of my comfort zone and did something I never thought I could do.

In honour of Boston, I dug deep and pushed myself hard.

In honour of Boston, today I ran.


When I got home, I posted on my Facebook that I had completed my run.  And that I was writing a blog post about it.

And I got this comment from Tyler:

Way to go Coleman! I received an early morning text from Jim Langille who saw you crossing the Bay Bridge!?!! He sends his best. Looks who’s running to new heights, literally! So proud of you. Did you know it was Boston Marathon today as well? (Probably). There are a lot of inspiring stories in this world Jenn, you should count yourself among them! I’m going for my first run in two months this morning since injury my knee in that 1/2 marathon #soexcited! Don’t ever stop, girl! You’re running for more than just yourself… T

I’m not sure if he realizes just how much words like that mean to me.  He is a great inspiration to me.  And for him to say how inspiring I am is just beyond words.  When I read those words, I cried.  Copying them here, I cried again.

Today is a great day.




The bridge.  (Not the best picture of it)


The view going up the first time.


The view coming back the last time.


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My quest for proper running shoes

Most of my adult life, it has been very difficult to find shoes that fit properly because I have very wide feet.

If I wanted dress shoes, I had to wear flats because heels were too difficult to walk in, even small ones.  And I usually had to buy a bigger size than I really needed because I needed the extra width.

I could never find boots that fit, not even in the winter.

When I bought sneakers, I had to buy men’s because women’s were never wide enough.  At my heaviest, I wore a 6E width sneaker.  And only 1 company made them that wide (at least that I could find).  And they only came in black or white.  I was a little jealous of people who could buy cool looking sneakers in fancy colours and designs.  All I could get were black or white.

When I started losing weight, I was surprised to find that my feet were shrinking too.  It wasn’t too long before my 6E width shoes were too big.  Now I was down to a 4E width.  I was making progress.  I still couldn’t buy the cool looking sneakers, but I was getting there.

About this time last year, I was in desperate need of new shoes.  I went to the store, but was a little overwhelmed by the choices.  I had started running, and knew that I would need shoes for that.  The ones I had were NOT made for running.  I learned that the hard way.  I also needed shoes for my every day workouts.  I didn’t know if I needed 2 pairs or if 1 would do both.  And I didn’t even know what size I wore anymore.  The clerks at the stores I went to were not helpful.

Tyler had recently bought new shoes, so he said he would go with me to the store.  He helped me find some shoes that fit and would work for what I needed them for.  They were great!  They were so much lighter than my old shoes, they felt like slippers on my feet.  I called them my magic shoes.  They were the first pair of fancy sneakers I ever owned.  I was so happy.

After having these “magic shoes” for about 3 months, a hole developed in one of them.  I tried taking them back to the store, but was told they could not take them back.  After speaking with customer service, I was finally able to exchange them for another pair.

Around this same time, I strained the arch on my right foot.  It was stupid.  I tried pushing myself too fast too soon.  Lesson learned.  After a few weeks and getting custom orthotics, I was on the road to recovery.

Winter approached and I started shopping for boots, unsure if I would even find any to fit.  To my great surprise, I found some really nice ones.  They would be the first winter boots I owned since I was a little kid.  I was a little giddy about it.

As winter wore on, I noticed my sneakers were starting to hurt my feet a little.  Not all the time though.  When I started running on the track, I noticed that my toes started to cramp up at about 2 miles.  I figured it was time for new shoes again.

Ideally, the place to get running shoes is at a running store.  But my town doesn’t have one.  The closest one is about half hour away in the next town, which is not that far, except that I don’t drive.  So I went to the stores we do have.

Again, I felt overwhelmed by the choices.  I wanted to make sure I got proper running shoes.  I tried on probably 15 different shoes.  None felt right.  My foot is wide at the toes, but short in length.  Women’s sneakers didn’t seem quite wide enough; men’s shoes were too long.  I went to another store.  They didn’t have as many choices as the first one.  I resigned myself to buying the same shoes I was replacing, just this year’s version.  They seemed okay.

Walking in them seemed fine.  I ran around the track in them.  They were a little tight, but I figured that was normal since they were new.  After a few runs, I decided these shoes were not right for me.  While okay for walking, I really needed them for running.  When I ran in them, my toes felt cramped.  And part way through my run, it felt like my toes were falling asleep!  Not good.

As I had only purchased them the week before, and only wore them indoors, I took them back to the store.  They refused to take them back.  I was livid.  The lady I dealt with was rude.  When I got home, I called their customer service department and complained.  About the fact that they wouldn’t take the shoes back.  And about her.  Customer service wouldn’t do anything about it either.  That is the LAST time I shop in that store.  I contacted the manufacturer.  They wouldn’t do anything either.  I’m angry.  Partly at them and partly at myself.  I shouldn’t have bought them in the first place.

Anyway, about  a week later, I got a phone call from the store manager.  He left a message on my voice mail.  I haven’t had a chance to call him back yet.  That should be an interesting conversation when I do.

My husband was going out of town for a meeting.  Sometimes I go with him, sometimes I don’t.  I hadn’t gone the last few times he went.  But I decided to go with him this time because where he was going had a running store.  I was praying I would be able to find shoes there.

I arranged to meet with a friend who happen to live there.  And there happen to be a running store near her home.  She had never been in one before, so she was curious as to what they had there.  The lady at the store was very nice.  And she seemed to know what she was talking about.  After watching me walk, she recommended a neutral shoe.  I tried a couple different sizes on.  They fit nicely, my toes did not feel cramped at all.  The size I needed she didn’t have in stock, but she checked other stores in the city and found one that had them, and she asked them to hold them for me.  I was really excited!!

I decided to test them out at the track the next morning.  They felt good!  My toes never felt cramped.  I was even more excited!!  I tested them a few more times and decided they were perfect.

Finally I had proper running shoes!

For those wondering, they are by New Balance.  They are not crazy colours, but I’m okay with that.  The important thing is they are comfortable and my toes are no longer cramped.  I’m considering getting some crazy shoe laces for them.

And now I’m considering getting a couple more pairs as regular workout shoes and backups. Because you never know when you’ll need another pair.

My old shoes have been downgraded to everyday sneakers.  They still have some wear left in them.  They are just not good for running.  At least not for me.

That’s the thing.  Everyone’s feet are different.  What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for someone else.

And that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned.


So now I’m a runner

For some reason, last year I made the decision to start running.

I don’t know why.

I don’t know where the idea came from.

But somewhere in the back of my brain I decided it was a good idea.

The weird thing is I’ve never liked running.  Ever.  Not even as a child.  I hated when we had to run in gym class.

So the idea of me becoming a runner is a little crazy.

I can hear the old me … the extremely overweight, couch potato, junk food loving, old me … saying things like “you are insane!” and “what the hell are you thinking?” and “you’ll never be a runner!”

But I’m not listening to her.

The new me … the healthier, active, good food loving, new me … thinks this is a great idea.  It can only help me along my journey.  Already I’m feeling more motivated, more empowered, better in general.

What I didn’t realize when I decided to do this was just how much there is to learn about running.  Proper shoes, proper technique, proper breathing, the right gear.  So much to know.  So much to learn.

I used to have super wide feet, and I could only find 1 shoe that fit.  And they were not proper running shoes.  I discovered that the hard way.  My feet have shrunk as I’ve lost weight, which is a good thing.  And it has taken a while, but I finally found shoes that work well for running.  (Look for a post detailing that story soon)

When I started running last year, Tyler helped me with technique and breathing.  I think both have gotten better.  At least I hope so.

When I started running, I was doing it on the treadmill.  The first time, I lasted 30 seconds.  Then I got to a minute.  The first time I ran 5 minutes, I was so excited! And so exhausted!  And this was before I got the right shoes.  I ran outside a couple of times, doing one minute on/one minute off.  It was hard! Most of the running I did, though, was on the treadmill.

Near the end of summer, I injured myself.  I was pushing myself hard, trying to make myself go faster than I was ready for.  I strained the arch on my right foot.  After getting custom orthotics, and taking a few weeks off from running, it started to get better.  It’s the kind of injury that can take a long time to heal.  I was lucky.  It was too severe.  The orthotics did the trick.  I always have them in my shoes when I’m running.  And if I’m going to be walking long distances.

I eventually got my treadmill time up to 20 minutes.  I was so proud of myself for that.

But I was just itching to try running outside again.  The problem, of course, was the snow and ice Mother Nature bombarded us with this winter.  It seemed like it was never going to go away.  The last time I had done any running outside was in November at my last race of the season.

Lucky for me, our local wellness centre has an indoor track for walking and running.

So I started going to the track.  At first, I just walked around the track, doing 5k.  My time was getting better and better.  So I decided to try running.

That first time around the track was hard.  But I figured it probably would be.  I even wrote a post about it.  You can read about it here:

The first time I ran the entire 5k without stopping, I felt like I was on top of the world!  I was tired and a little achy, but it felt so good.  I was so proud of myself.

I kept running around the track.  Not every day, but pretty close.  And my times were getting faster.  I was really amazed.

As much as I was enjoying my time around the track, I still badly wanted to go outside to run.  But Mother Nature kept pounding us with winter.  No fun.

Finally, a little over a week ago, I tried my first outdoor run.  We’re lucky that the city put in a path along the water where we live.  It’s a great spot for walking, running, biking, even just sitting on one of the many benches.  I used the walk to the path as my warm up.  I started my running app, which has my running playlist linked to it, and off I went! It was slow, but I expected that.  It’s one thing to run around a track, it’s another thing to run on uneven ground on a winding path.  I was so proud of myself when I was done.

This is what I posted as my Facebook status that day:

I went a little out of my comfort zone today.

I laced up my sneakers, put on my sunglasses and magic hat, and did a 5k run along the waterfront. All running, no walking. It was a little slow, but I’m okay with that.

Then I walked to the coffee shop for a post-run coffee, which is, of course, the best coffee of the day.

After sitting and chatting a while in the cafe, I started the walk home. As I was coming up the hill on Bridge Street, I couldn’t help but reflect back on the first couple of times I walked up that hill and how difficult I thought it was. And today, I walked up it like it wasn’t even a hill.

As I leisurely walked the few blocks to my house, I noticed a little swagger in my step. And again, couldn’t help but reflect on how difficult of a walk I once thought that was. And I smiled.

Amazing how times have changed.

What a great day. — feeling awesome.

It really was a great day.  One of the best days ever.

Here’s another update I posted this week:

A few things happened on my run today:

For some unknown reason, my phone died a little past the halfway point. I had a full charge when I left my house, so it shouldn’t have died.

When my phone died, I didn’t stop. I kept on running. Even though I no longer had music, nor a way to tell how far I was running, nor how long I was running. I kept right on running, only stopping once to wait for a light to change, until I got to the coffee shop.

After my post-run coffee, as I was heading home, I RAN up the hill on Bridge St. Yes, the hill I once had trouble walking up. The hill I once thought I’d never to used to. Today, I ran up it.

Today’s run was a good one.

Since then, all my runs have been outside.  I’m still slow, but that’s okay.  I know I’m adjusting to a new running environment.  

Anyway, now I’ve got the running bug.  I’m slow, but I’m still running.  And that’s what matters.  A mile is still a mile, no matter how fast or slow it is.

Look for more running related posts soon!



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