2017 – A Retrospective

Looking back, 2017 was a pretty darn good year. Sure, there were challenges but what year is perfect? Some epic stuff happened because we took the steps to make them a reality. 2018 is going to be even better and taking a look back is important in order to move forward, so here we go!

The year started out tough. My mom was early in her breast cancer diagnosis and my sister had emergency surgery. Reflecting on this time, I wasn’t doing well. I was way more worried about my mom than I was willing to admit. When my sister had her surgery, which turned out fine and actually helped her get diagnosed with Crohn’s disease which she can now control, it seemed like the year may be pretty darn rough.

During this time, I was trying to get back into running. I was failing, no excuses. Well, I despise the treadmill but that’s for another post and is no excuse.

Toward the end of February, I was having lunch with my kids at Noodles & Co. and told them I really wanted to run a sub-30 5K. The very next day, while on a run, I listened to a Runner’s World podcast (now called Personal Best) and heard Ted Spiker interviewed about a group he started called the Sub-30 Club. What are the odds? I joined the club on Facebook the next day.

What came next is nothing short of a miracle to me. I know, hyperbole, but that is what it feels like to me. I was lucky enough to get to know Ted a little bit and took a run with him on the Chicago lakefront. Ted is a humble guy which makes the force of his motivational abilities more powerful. This alone would have been enough to help me get moving in 2017. Luckily, the rest of the Sub-30 Club is a collection of motivational beasts!

While my mom went through treatments, I slowly became a runner. The Sub-30 members, and eventually another online group, TeamE4E, became beacons of hope for me. I could see people that started running not long ago doing amazing things. I watched as people my size or bigger conquered distances and speeds I didn’t know were possible. Having a big mouth and never short on opinion, I participated from day one sharing both triumph and struggle. There was a post early about podcasts that really helped me feel like I fit in and I was hooked.

If you run alone, like I do, the Sub-30 Club is an invaluable community to join. The positivity and “No Subber Left Behind” mentality is life-changing. That isn’t to say they won’t kick you in the butt when you need it because they will. I know this from experience and am better for it.

This group really helped me understand the importance of the journey of getting to the starting line. My brother has told me this for years and I believed it. It is finally clicking and I have my online community to thank for helping push me in that direction.

At the beginning of April, I did a half-marathon. I wasn’t really prepared but was in good enough shape to finish, even with that one hill in Springfield that I’ll never forget.

As my mom kept fighting and going through chemo, I finally started to feel like I could look at myself as a runner. Mileage started increasing a bit only getting derailed by vacation in July on our Alaskan cruise. In August, I got right back on track.

I was aiming for another half-marathon in late October and had my highest mileage total in September. This time, I would be ready. I wanted this, and nothing was going to stop me.

Then, I was in pain. A pain in a not so nice place that was unbearable. I’d never felt anything like this before and hope I never have to again. You know when a doctor asks, “What is your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?” Well, my pain scale moved significantly. What I would have called a 10 before is now closer to a 5. Seriously, it was that bad.

I was put in the hospital and had surgery in mid-October. Five weeks later, I was able to get back to pounding the pavement. Slowly, my fitness has returned. I did 45 miles in December and plan to slowly increase that total. I’ve even engaged a coach to put together a personalized training plan for my April 28th half-marathon in beautiful Champaign-Urbana, IL.

In the middle of all this, after returning from our cruise, my wife, Gretchen, and I radically changed our eating habits. We decided to go the Banting route and give up the vast majority of sugar and grains. We’ve done well overall with weight loss and it has given us a ton of energy with our new fat adapted lifestyle. I’ve lost over 30 pounds and Gretchen over 25. We plan to keep that going into the new year until we hit our goals.

Also, on September 13th, Gretchen and I took this blog to the world of podcasts and launched the FatMan Chronicles. Our audience remains small but the impact on our lives is enormous. We’ve gotten several notes on how we’ve helped move people to a healthier life and are making an impact. We are simply having an open and honest conversation recording in our basement and putting it on the Internet for others to hear. The fact that anyone listens is crazy. The realization that people look forward to it, insane. That we impact people is humbling in a way that defies words. Thank you all for your support.

Finishing up 2017, our family was so much better off than when the year started. My mom is done with treatments and it looks like she has kicked breast cancer to the curb. My sister, after her second surgery, is on the mend and has a better understanding of her health. My brother continues to be a beast of a runner. Our kids are happy, healthy, athletic, bright, funny and amazing. (No bias, you’d agree.) Gretchen has become healthier and is committed to more movement in 2018. I’m over my health issues and determined to continue losing weight and becoming a better athlete.

Finally, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t do this life thing alone. That’s the opposite of my nature. I tend to want to just do things myself and not bother people. My instinct is that they have their own worries and why in the world would I matter? That’s not a “whoa, is me” thing, it is how I’ve looked at life since I was a kid. I’m well aware that I’m a tough guy to tolerate a lot of the time. I’m opinionated and believe I’m smarter than I really am. This year, I became much humbler.

I get that others are needed to really succeed. The relationships formed in Sub-30 and TeamE4E have become invaluable. While I still can be opinionated to a fault, I am listening and taking in information more than ever. I’m still vocal but quieter than I’ve ever been which is ironic considering we started a podcast. Thank you all for helping move me forward in life to become a better person. I know 2018 is going to be epic. Happy New Year!


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