Here's the skinny: I've been near 300 lbs. for years and need to lose weight. I'm married to a wonderful lady, and we have a family. One of our boys often asks if I'll run with him. I've always had to tell him, "No." In August of '09, my wife learned about a couch-to-5k running program, and I agreed to try it with her. This blog chronicles our progress on that training program. I hope I'll soon be able to surprise my son by telling him, "Yes, I'll go running with you!"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chaska Turkey Trot - Completed!

Well, it's official.  The secret is out and our race is run!  After the race and some recovery time on-site, we took a little road trip to the family's favorite Chinese restaurant in Buffalo, Minnesota.  We just got home a little bit ago, and the results are already online.

My name is Andrew, but you know me here as FatManRunning; on, I go by AFatManRunning.  My wife's name is Marie (known here as Mrs. F) b.  We live in Winsted, Minnesota, about an hour west of Minneapolis.  Today was our first 5k, the Chaska Turkey Trot, in Chaska, Minnesota. I finished below 45 minutes, and was not the final one on the course.  Mrs. F also better than she hoped, coming in below even the 38 minute figure I guessed she could make. Some of our friends was there, and they took some pictures and video. We hope to be able to post some soon.

Our surprise came off very well, though we were not able to keep it a complete secret in the moments leading up to the race. When we arrived, our eldest son, who was registered to run, got out of the van right away and headed in to the registration table.  As soon as the other nine (9) kids were out of the van, we made our way in. [Yes!, we have 10 kids.] Mrs. F three of our youngest four settled in the childcare room (what a nice service!), but we opted to leave our special needs child with our eldest daughter.  She was instrumental to our being able to complete the Couch-to-5k program, as she was the one we got up at 5:30 AM on our training days so that we could fit in our workouts. [As it turns out, she's bummed that we have been running during the afternoons, because she had been using the early wake-ups as opportunities to catch a shower in the morning.]  Our youngest girl just turned one, so we needed to have someone on the main floor who could respond to her if she started crying, which she did on more than a few mornings. Thanks, K!

I had prepped before we left, and just work overclothes to hide my running gear.  Mrs. F opted to change on-site.  So, after we were sure our son was checked in, and Mrs. F had the youngest kids in childcare, we sent the remaining kids out to find a place to park for the race.  While she was changing, however, two of our middle boys came back in to complain about their sister (who was now in charge).  They approached me as I was going through my running packet, and I could tell that one of them saw my race number.  I tersely ordered them outside (likely creating a wonderful little pre-race show for some of the others around me), and went on working to get ready: chip zip-tied to my shoe, and number pinned to my shirt.

When Mrs. F came out, I informed her of our likely discovery.  There was nothing we could do about it, so we kept on getting ready. Once we finished, we headed out towards the main entrance, but Mrs. F noticed our eldest son coming into the building and headed our way.  We quickly turned around and made our way to one of the sponsors' booths so as to stay out of sight.  When seemingly enough time had passed, we again headed for the door.

Everything was going well.  We stopped not far from the door as we made some final preparations--hat, gloves, etc.  I had just zipped my vest up over my number when our eldest son found us, and saw the number on Mrs. F's windbreaker.  He was shocked, but pleased that she was running.  I expressed dismay that she would sign up for such a race! After all, hadn't she just complained about how horrible her two minute run was (the one she owed our son due to his great race time).  She played along, and he bought it.  It didn't strike him funny that I had ditched my warmup pants and was standing there in my tech tights, shorts, running socks, and running shoes, or that my legs were clearly wrapped under the tights.  He was too enamored of learning that Mrs. F was running to recognize the signs that were in front of him.

The call came out to head toward the starting line.  Since J, our eldest son, now knew about Mrs. F's running, they headed off toward the start together, along with our friend, Amy.  I commented that I was a bit cold, and headed off to the van to swap my vest for a windbreaker.  It was not too cold out--in the 40s °F--but the wind was quite chilly.  When I switched into the windbreaker shell, I moved my number to that shell where it was visible to all.  As I approached the starting line, I realized that we would be running the opposite direction I expected, so I tried to stay to the outskirts so that J would not see me.  I made my way to the back where Amy and Mrs. F were waiting. They had found themselves a position behind a group of ladies who had also completed the Couch-to-5k program.  It felt good to know that we were not alone in our newness to running.

When the gun went off, it took us probably 20 seconds or more to get across the official starting line.  The fast ones, including our eldest son, had been in the front of the pack, and they were all jockying for position.  I just switched on my mp3 player and started running.  It was slow going at first, as I made my way through the pack of runners and walkers, passing some and passed by others.  Amy, Mrs. F. and I were bunched close together as our path began its way in front of the school.  We noticed our eldest daughter, K, watching the race those in her care.  The look on her face when she saw us running there was unforgettable.  He mouth was literally drop-jawed, and she seemed stunned.  We smiled, waved, and kept running.  Amy and Mrs. F began pulling ahead of me.  I could feel the adrenaline compelling me to run faster and to keep up with them, but I let rational thought prevail and I settled into my pace.  Mrs. F was clearly running faster than her regularly pace (most likely to keep up with Amy), since she pulled ahead much faster than usual. Soon, though I was still surrounded by others, it was just my music and me, and what still seemed to be like a Herculean labor ahead of me.

The line of sight was clear as we came downhill from the starting line.  We were going further downhill, turning a corner, and then yet further downhill before starting the first climb.  It was no short little rise and was certainly no long, gradual grade.  It was a full out hill that went up to a corner, turned and went on further.  Thinking about the hill seemed daunting.  It started about a quarter mile into the race and seemed to go on forever.

As I made my way up that hill, I remembered the advice Haselsmasher provided us: take baby steps.  That advice seemed to help.  I also remembered advice some of our sons' cross country teammates had provided: lean into the hill and swing your arms loose and low.  I found that advice useful later on.  At this early point in the run I had plenty of energy, so my baby step burst served me well.

On the way up the hill, I heard honks and shouts, and I saw some familiar faces and waves.  Other family friends, the Andersons, were arriving and noticed me as they drove to the school.  They turned around somewhere behind me, driving past moments later with more shouts and waves.  I caught up with them at what I thought was the top of the hill, at an intersection.  As I turned the corner, I told them that Mrs. F was up ahead. With that, they drove off. The trail continued uphill, and that caught me off guard.  I had really been hoping for a level stretch, but this was the second corner where the trail continued uphill.   I next saw them some distance later, where they had pulled off the road and were standing there to give some support and take some pictures.  It felt really good to have friends who took the time to share the day with us! The trail did level off somewhat, but it continued with a set of rolling rises and falls.

About the time I saw our friends again, I saw the first mile marker.  I considered taking a few walking steps, but reminded myself where the one mile mark was on our trail back home, and I opted to continue running.  I wasn't "in the zone" or anything like that at this point.  The long uphill had been pretty tough, but I was still moving.  I passed a few and was passed by others.  There was a threesome with which I kept leap-frogging through most of the course.  I would pass them running, but they would run past me on the downhills, and I would pass them again on the uphills.  All in all, it became a bit annoying, but I could deal with it.  After about the third exchange, one of their number paid attention to where I was and started moving to one side.  At least then I didn't need to run off the trail, which was, in a few spots, a fairly steep decline.

The second mile marker seemed further than I expected.  The ups and downs continued. At one point, the return route came within a few dozen feet of the outbound route.  I watched for any sign of Mrs. F--I figured our son was long gone--but I did not see her. I did, however, see a set of gloves and a hat discarded near a sign.  They looked quite familiar, and I wondered if they were our son's.  It wasn't the only discarded clothign I saw along the route.  It seemed that a number of runners opted to discard items that left them too warm, rather than carrying them along for the journey.  When I reached the marker, I again considered some walking steps, but now I was feeling fatigue, and I feared that slowing to a walk would keep me from resuming a run.  Instead, I opted to slow my pace a bit more, so that I could breath easy and regain a bit of strength.

Around that two-mile mark, the trail started spending more time going down than up.  It wound behind a building system (perhaps another school?), and began a serpentine path back to the finish.  As I got behind the buildings, with so few immediately around me, I felt the desire to give up and walk.  I had developed some discomfort in my knee, and a few landings toward the outside of my right foot caused that shin to become tender.  I fought off the desire and ran on.  As the downhill segment began to bottom out, those walkers passed me again.

[Given my weight, I was holding back on the downhill segments.  I did not want to legthen my stride and use gravity to my advantage.  I could already feel the impact through my left knee and even in my left hip.  I figured that the extra impact force of me going faster would most likely increase my chance of injury, so I did my best to manage my pace accordingly.]

As the return route brought the outbound route into view, it was clear that there were no runners yet coming up that far behind.  Whatever was left of the pack was now behind me somewhere, but I did not let myself look back (verifiably anti-Penguin, I guess).  I passed that group of walkers on a short uphill segment.  Then, to my surprise, I saw our eldest son.  He was running toward me.  Yes, those items I saw were indeed his, and he was running the course backwards to find them.  He had already heard that I was running from his sister, so he gave me a big high five as our paths crossed.

A few minutes later, after I progressed perhaps another qaurter mile, he caught up to me and started encouraging me, telling me that the end was not far ahead.  Then, he sped off toward the finish, leaving me and my music to finish the course much as we began it--surrounded, yet alone.  Reaching the bottom of another hollow, and starting my way uphill, I found myself in a bit of agongy.  It was not a specific physical pain, but more of a combination of extreme fatigue alongside the aches I was having in my knee and shin.  I could not imagine going on, but yet I knew I must be getting close to the finish.  I kept watching for third mile marker, or at least something to announce the final 1,000 meters.  I had been holding back a bit for a reason--I wanted to be able to finish strong.

Unfortunately, there was no third mile marker.  As I rounded a corner of the high school building, I could hear and then see that I was near the finish line.  From the corner of my eye I saw someone starting to a sprint, so I called up my reserves and gave it everything I had.  I did finish at a full sprint, but the other runner was able to pass me.  My final time was 42:13, a 13:36mm pace.  Given that the course was more like a roller coaster track than the trail on which I practiced, I was tickled with the time.  I was neither last (I finished 423rd out of 445 runners) nor the first on an ambulance.  Mission accomplished!

Mrs. F had a good run, too.  She finished 389th with a 35:28.  Our son finished 22nd overall (5th for the sub-16 age group) with a time of 19:01.  The kids were definately surprised, and our eldest son was ecstatic! Oh, and yes, one of our boys had seen the number and figured out that we were running too, but he kept it to himself and didn't spoil the surprise for anyone.  Way to go, Z-man!

Mrs. F just passed me our daughter's camera, so I have photos to upload.  Our friend Amy's husband apparantly edited some video of the finishes, and they called to tell me that it should be sitting in my inbox.  Our friends, Todd and Ruth Anderson, also tooks some pictures, but I don't know if they were using a digital camera.  I'll be sure to ask them tomorrow at church.

Anyway, I yet have four chapters of reading to do and I need to start writing another essay, so I really must go.  Thanks for all of your support! We'll post photos and more when we can.  We'll also formalize our plans (still leaning toward 100 Pushups and One Hour Runner) and post the details here, too.


  1. What a great story and great day for you both. The video is just fantastic. It's been really fun to read your chronicles of doing the program. You had a great idea to not only do it in the first place, but surprise your kids as well.



  2. Mr. F., Andrew, CONGRATULATIONS! You and Mrs. F. have been the most inspirational. I started the C25K program about the time you did at 280lbs. I have followed your progress and whenever I have felt like quitting, my running partner and I say, "Mr. F. did not quit." Good luck on your journey from here.


    Yes, man, You dit it.
    It was brilliant!

    The moment of your finish line, as we could see, was emotional for me too. I know that all visitors of the blog were cheering for both of you. It brought tears to my eyes too.

    Please, don't stop writing and Keep Running!

    Best wishes, from Brasil.

  4. I'm glad to have friends like each of you out here in the virtual world! Thanks for participating in our journey.


Curious? Surprised? Have some good tips? Please leave a comment for us here. We especially would love to hear about your successes, or to hear your words of encouragement. Knowing you're out there will help us to keep at it!