It has been sitting in the back of my mind that I have not updated this in a very, very, very long time. Last year I updated it at least once a month about the various amazing or not so amazing goings-on in my life as retrospectives. I haven’t done one since December.
Frankly, my life has been, for lack of a better word, awesome. I have done many amazing things, and changed my life in many different ways. I’ve met new people, started new jobs, and done new things. I wouldn’t change a single thing that has happened this year, nor do I think I can fit almost an entire years events in a single post. So, instead, have a list (that is in no particular order)!
That’s just a small list of some of the events of the past year. I’m sure I’m forgetting important one and not-so-important ones alike. But the general concensous is…well, life’s been pretty great. I owe many thanks to many people, because I would not be where I am today on my own. It took the help of many great friends and family. Thank you all.
I did this around the same time last year. I wrote a blog post reflecting on 2010. After rereading it, that was truly a bittersweet year. As much as I would like to say that this year was all sweet, no bitter, I can’t. There was good and bad, like all things in life.
This year was attributed to four great things and one terrible one, as follows.
Last year I made the resolution everyone makes: start going to the gym, lose weight. I wanted to try new and interesting forms of activity that were not available to me at the time. I made certain that I knew I wanted to become physically fit and didn’t concentrate on “losing weight,” because I knew that would come with it. With the help of having a personal trainer, working out 3-4 times a week, and eating right, I have achieved a level of physical fitness I have never known and, as of 1/1/2011, lost about 90lbs weighing in at 277lbs. I have rock climbed discovering that, while I have no issues with flying, being 10 feet off the ground scares the shit out of me. And more importantly…
In May I ran my first 5k, after training using the Couch to 5k program, finishing in just under 40 minutes. It was hard as hell, but it was an accomplishment no one can take away from me.
It later prompted me to want a bigger challenge; I needed a new dragon to chase. I wanted something that, by the end of the year, would be such a big jump in progress that it would feel like I bit off more than I could chew. In August, I joined Team Challenge, a group of people who train and run half marathons in order to raise money and awareness for Crohn’s and Colitis. Every week I trained with an amazing group of people, made new friends, and constantly achieved personal records in distance running. I even got my first athletic injury, spraining my ankle.
(note: I WAS going to add a picture of said sprain, but I opted against it, you can see it on my Facebook page here)
This went on until December when we flew to Vegas and proceeded to run 13.1 miles at night along the Vegas strip. This was an amazing experience regardless of the flaws with the course. If you ever get the opportunity to do this, I highly recommend you don’t pass it up. I achieved three personal records that night:
I will never be able to completely describe how it felt to cross that finish line, but suffice it to say, it might have been the happiest moment of 2011 for me.
Coming in a close second would be my first adult vacation to Seattle, Washington at the end of August. I was invited to stay with a few college friends and go to PAX (Penny Arcade eXpo, a video game convention) Prime. Instead of going just for the weekend, I decided to make a full vacation out of it, staying for a week.
I immediately fell in love with the area. My friends live about 20 minutes away from Seattle in Redmond, which has many spectacular views, and is quite peaceful; it is easy to get lost in the landscape. As amazing as Redmond was, Seattle was that much better for me. I love big cities, the amount of life and energy in them feeds my senses. I spent a lot of time near Pike Place near their Publish Market, taking as many tours as I could. I have never had better seafood, and am extremely jealous of all the amazingly fresh local produce they get.
Seattle seemed like it was going to make me like it or die trying. I ran into Conan O’Brien on my first day and made a new friend, from Boson, the second. I got to go to PAX and play and view some amazing video games third and tour Valve the fourth. It was an amazing time, and am considering going back this August. I could easily see myself living there in 3 or so years.
The last one is perhaps the strangest…or, at least, a year ago I would have thought so. While at PAX, I was introduced to the 4th generation of My Little Pony, called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic which is written by Lauren Faust, known for her other amazing works from when I was growing up such as Powderpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. This show’s intended demographic is girls from 8-10; however, picked up an interesting and unforeseen demographic: men and women from 18-32 years old. Myself included.
While I won’t go into complete detail as to why this show affected me in the ways that it did (if you’re really interested, I wrote a detailed post here), let it suffice to say that it did drastically influence me. I’ve reconnected with an ex because of, met my current girlfriend and new friends through, and gotten through the roughest part of this year in small part by the help of this show and it’s amazingly artistic and creative community.
For every positive, there is a negative. For every sweetness, there is a bitterness. For every light, a shadow. The week of September 12th was the shadow of a bright and amazing year. This was the week I experienced my first death of a family member, before my eyes. This was the week my grandfather died after battling with Burkitt’s lymphoma for almost a year. While I am glad I was able to spends his last moments with him, I am still occasionally haunted by them from time to time, but I’ve spent plenty of time writing about this already this year, so I won’t do anymore. Instead I will leave it to this quote:
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”
That was my 2011, and I wouldn’t change it, given the chance.
I meant to write a blog post before going off to Vegas, but never got around to it, so my November retrospective is a little different.
As most of you know, I have been training since August to run a half marathon: the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon: the largest half marathon (this year with 44,000 participants). Well, during the month of November I did my longest training ever of 12 miles, and felt well prepared for what laid ahead.
Spoiler, spoiler, I completed the race, and in a better time than I set for myself: 2:50. I won’t go into a rant here, but I was on track to go sub 2:30; however regardless of circumstances, I am happy to have done as well as I did. I achieved many great personal records: I ran the furthest I’ve every ran in a single blow, 7.5 miles. I’ve ran my fastest mile, mile two 9 minutes 39 seconds. Most importantly: I have finished a half marathon.
To truly understand why this is so important to me, I have to tell you a little story. When I was twelve (I think EDIT: I was eight, thanks, mom), I got my very first bike for my birthday. My aunt took me outside to teach me how to ride. I fell on my first go around…and I never got back on. It set a very negative precedent for my life: if you’re not good at it at the first go, it’s beneath you, and there’s no point in doing it. I’ve missed out on a lot because of that.
This whole year, I have been reversing that train of thought; the moment I crossed the finish line, I pounded the final nail in the coffin. There is nothing I can’t do; really, there is nothing any of us can’t do. Every time someone tells me “A half marathon, wow, I could never do that!” I want to take them by the shoulders and say “yes, yes you can!”
Because you can; with the time, training, support, and force of will, you can.
So, on the wings of a 2.4lbs weight GAIN last week, my highest gain since starting my fitness and health lifestyle change, I decided to behave extra good. It paid off big time. After my 9 mile run I weighed myself to find that I lost 5.9lbs; this is, on the other side of the coin, my largest weight LOSS since starting (previously it was 5lbs). So why is this such a big deal?
I dropped below 280lbs, my next milestone, to 279.5lbs!
The reason 280lbs was my next milestone was simple: in all my time of cracking the whip to lose weight in college, I never got below 280lbs. I don’t remember what it is like to weigh under 280lbs.
Between here and 365lbs, I knew what I looked like, the weight, as a number, was nothing I hadn’t experienced before. Now that has changed. Everything from here on in is new… inexperienced by myself for a VERY long time; what’s more, the amount of muscle gain I have in comparison to previous attempts is several times higher (I never did strength training before January).
So here we are, I’ve lost 21.5% body weight from my heaviest, and made my 280lbs milestone. Next stop, 250lbs milestone.
From this point on: here be dragons.
Fun fact: I wrote a whole blog post for my retrospective on the month of September, but never published it. Ultimately decided not to, but to keep it for myself.
September was a very rough month for me. My grandfather’s fight against Burkitt’s Lymphoma came to an end, and he died. As I have never lost someone close to me before, let alone seen it happen, it has been a very chilling experience; one that I know has rattled the family dynamic. In some ways, almost two months later, I’m still just going through the motions of day to day life; however, I am trying to get past that and find a new normal that includes fun and new things.
October has been a whirlwind of a month, I hardly believe that next week is November. In terms of my fitness, I feel like I’ve gotten very complacent with where I’ve been. While in September I bench pressed my highest amount of weight (235lbs) and ran the fastest I ever had (15mph), I struggled greatly with certain things during this month: especially planks.
You see, before I left for Seattle, I accomplished a 2:23 plank. Ever since, it hasn’t been so good. I have had trouble getting any further than one minute. I wasn’t necessarily tired or couldn’t go further, mentally it was just difficult for me to keep going. Thankfully this past week I broke through that, and did a 2min plank with my trainer hopefully breaking out of a long standing funk.
A week ago, I also turned 25. I have been dreading this birthday, honestly. Birthdays, for me, mean time to be with family; this is something that I normally look forward to. While I by no means disliked my birthday, it was very…different, very quiet. Like I mentioned earlier, my family’s dynamic has changed noticeably, and reasonably so. This was the first thing the majority of my family all got together for since my grandfather died, and it was just very…weird. While I knew that September 12th 2011 was “the day everything changed,” this was the first time I’ve seen it first hand.
On a more positive note, I am excited to say that I am officially going to be in Las Vegas to run my very first half marathon in December. I received Avery generous donation from a UW-Oshkosh alum that helped me reach my donation goals. His donation came just in time, as I planned to not go through with it, and was very frustrated and disappointed with myself for not doing better. Instead wallowing in self-pity, now I will be running down the Vegas strip, and enjoying a three day vacation in Las Vegas. A fitting end to my first year of fitness.
There is lots to look forward to in the next few months. Breaking even more personal records in running, completing my first half marathon, going rock climbing another time (since that was technically my end of year goal), and more. I’m even picking up more hobbies I never thought
I would be doing. I’ve recently taken up doing vector trace art, converting regular images into infinitely scalable images. It’s a little monotonous, but extremely relaxing, and something that isn’t programming, or gaming, or fitness. It’s something completely new, and I think I needed that.
Here’s to a wonderful and fulfilling November, full of fun, happiness, and Christmas music. :)
I have been rather secretive this week about what has been going on in my life. Only three people outside of my bosses and family were privy to what happened (my trainer, and two friends). It was a very personal and private matter, that I only shared with very few other people for words of comfort.
Monday at work, I received a phone call from my mother saying that she was coming to pick me up, and we were going to my grandparents’ house to see Jim (my grandfather). I proceeded to spend the last remaining 20-30 minutes of my grandfather’s life at his bedside with every other member of my immediate family.
To say, as I have multiple times this week, that those moments will haunt me, the more I mull it over in my head, is incorrect. Those moments will forever be etched in my memory, and I am very grateful to have those memories. Their level of pain and distress will ease in time.
I have spent many hours and days, in the past year, and even more so over this past week, trying to come up with the right words to say during his funeral service on Thursday and, subsequently, here as well. Every attempt was futile, and ended in frustration. Instead what I chose to share with everyone then, and with all of you now, was my biggest regret and my greatest lesson learned. These are the final words I wanted my grandfather to know before he passed, but wasn’t able to share:
“My grandfather was a very caring individual. He loved all of us, and we all loved him. I loved him. Even though we regrettably rarely ever said it to each other, it was known.
He taught me a great number of things critical to life. A fraction of which include:
Most importantly, my grandfather was much more than just a grandfather to me. As I have never known my own, he was like a father, as good as my father, in my eyes.
He taught me what it takes to be a real man. I am the man I am today, because of him.”
I am extremely grateful for all of the times we spent together, and all he was able to see me achieve in life; especially this last year. He was able to watch me graduate college, start my journey toward physical fitness, and finish my first 5k. I am grateful for him to be my grandfather. I know he was proud, and would be proud of everything I’ve accomplished.
I am very lucky, as I keep telling myself, that I have not known death until now. No one in my close family (which consists of my mother grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins…yes, it is a lot) has died in my lifetime. That said, I now find it very hard to move on. While I know that my feelings have been felt by many people over the course of many generations, they still feel unique to me. I am trying to figure out how to cope. I am trying to figure out how to continue. I am trying to figure out how to not feel lost.
I am figuring out how to continue to be the man that he helped me become, today.