Tech Tuesday: Fitbit #Sponsored Review

Welcome to what I hope becomes a new feature here at ‘lil Burghers, Tech Tuesday! I’m a techie mama (my day job is in the IT Department) and I’ve been asked by some “fans” to write about how I use technology. Why not share finds with you weekly? 

Last month, while I was at BlogHer ’13, I ran a 5k. As part of that, I received a FitBit to track my distance. Today’s Tech Tuesday feature is going to be about my experience obsession with it.

Disclaimer: Best Buy provided all participants of the BlogHer 5k with a Fitbit. While I was not asked to write about it as part of my participation, I chose to do so. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

When I signed up for the BlogHer 5k, I realized that it was highly unlikely my plane would land before the registration began the night before. I pulled a few strings and got an earlier flight (props to Southwest’s no change fees) and was able to be one of the first to go through registration for the 5k. Let me be clear, there was never a line for the registration. I just saw “first “xxx” participants will get a Fitbit” and I had to be there. I haven’t owned a body monitor in the past because of the mere fact that I hate armbands; however, I’d heard about the Fitbit and thought it would work for me.

Oh, was I right.

At registration, I had to draw a ticket to get my Fitbit. There were three choices, and essentially my ticket matched the one I’d get. Either a Flex (a very easy to use/remember bracelet which you have to sync to see how you’re doing besides the lights that show your daily progress), a Zip (which hooks to your clothes and smiles at you when you’ve met certain goals), or a One. I got the One (which I’ll tell you more about here). At first, I was disappointed. I really wanted the Flex (turns out many of my co-workers have this version). Mom brain sets in, I forget my stuff. Proud to report, forgetting the One has not been an issue and I’ve actually fallen very deeply in love.

Fitbit One
Source: Fitbit.com

So, why do I love the One? Let me count the ways…

  1. The color. It comes in black or maroon. I got maroon, which is a great color on me. It’s adorable.
  2. The stats. I am a metrics person, so by the push of a button I can see how many steps/miles/calories/flights of stairs I’ve taken in a day. It’s also now my watch (which is usually my cell phone).
  3. It tracks my sleep. Admittedly, I am not the best sleeper. Even after two weeks in, I am still tracking my sleep (with a wristband that I don’t love and has gotten stuck in my hair) and seeing I am very restless at night. And, I don’t get enough.
  4. It syncs with my computer (via a USB adaptor) or the iPad. If I had a Galaxy, it would sync to that via the app, but I digress.
  5. It talks to me, greeting me with a fun message and a “Hi Becky” when I pick it up.
  6. It charges quickly and for a long time. In two weeks, I’ve only charged it once. It took about 30 minutes connected via a USB dongle to my PC and showed me right on the One how much it was charged. Vroom.
  7. It’s challenging me. In the last week, I’ve averaged just under 10,000 steps a day. I wish it was higher, but on my rest days and yoga days, it’s hard to get those 10,000 steps. Also, many of my co-workers have the Fitbit, so they are my friends on the app. I get to log in and see who has passed me for the day and cheer them on (or taunt them if I want). (Have a Fitbit and want to be my friend? Find me here.)
  8. Arianna loves it. Truly. She keeps me going, always asking to see how high my flower has grown for the day. “Mama, let me see how good you’ve been today”. (She’s told me my flower looks sad and I need to get up and move it, move it.)
  9. The dashboard. I can see everything I’ve done and go back through history. It tracks my weight (manually added in), steps, and I can even add in food consumed to balance the calories burned.The fact that it wirelessly connects is a huge plus, too.
  10. Badges. I earn badges (like my 20,000 steps “best in a day” badge). These motivate me like you wouldn’t believe.

For the price and convenience, the Fitbit has blown me away. In the two plus weeks that it’s been part of my life, I’ve dropped almost 2 pounds and stepped many steps. it’s definitely a big part of my life, and I’d love to connect with those of you who feel the same. It’s become an addiction, I have to have my Fitbit and I have to make sure that I am up at the top of the social ladder. A challenge and a fun way to lose weight? Wins!

If you are interested in getting your own Fitbit, you can purchase one at BestBuy.com or through Fitbit. Prices start at $59.99 for the Zip and $99.99 for the Flex and The One. 

Fitbit One
Me wearing my Fitbit One at the Best Buy Blogher 5k

Kid Bullies

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Me, post run!

 

It is a steamy evening in this ‘lil suburb of Pittsburgh. An evening when I needed to go home, get a workout in, and be done with another Wednesday.  But, kid bullies got inside my head and frustrated me.

First, a few weeks ago while I was training for the Half Marathon, one of the neighborhood hoodlums yelled out to me, “Way to go, Fat Runner #42!”. This irritated me a bit, but I kept on going. I wasn’t going to let some kid (who was just sitting on his porch) tell me what kind of runner or person I am.

Fast forward to this evening. Today was a weigh-in day, and I am (not kidding) 0.2 pounds away from having lost my 100 pounds. Couldn’t even shake that off. When I met with my dietitian, we set a nice, accelerated goal for the next two weeks, getting me below the 100 and into a new “10”. So, it was clear to me that there will be no “phone in, take it easier” workouts these next few weeks. Across my Pinterest came this nice “100 Workout“:

100 Workout

 

It was a good butt kicking, lemme tell you. So, it’s about 90 degrees in our house, and I had on short running shorts and a tank top, not thinking about the whole running 10 minutes outside. When I hit the porch, I saw the neighborhood announcer outside, so decided I’d do my ten minutes in the back alley (bonus points because it has hills). No sense giving the kid bully fodder.

At 8 minutes in, I heard, “Hey, you, why do you jiggle?”, but I kept running. The question continued, “I asked why you jiggle, huh, why do you jiggle?”. I turned around at the end of the block and went back, right into the question, “Why do you jiggle?” The ‘lil kid (about 10 years old) met my eyes and asked again, louder, “WHY DO YOU JIGGLE?”. I knew there were so many things I could do, so many things I couldn’t do, and I chose to keep running and ignore these taunts. My ten minutes were just about up, but he got in my head for those last two. I ran .8 miles, 12:33 was my pace (yuck)…it would have been in the 11 minute of my new normal pace, but I let him win.

When I got back to the house, I told Greg. Being my protector, he decided to take Shadow for a walk and seek out the hoodlum, the kid bully. Lucky for all of us, he wasn’t outside. He wasn’t going to do anything to the kid, but ask to talk to his parents. That should have been me taking action, trying to change things. 

Because kid bullies shouldn’t be allowed to treat anyone like this.

Because this kid bully is going to end up being a senior when my daughter is a freshman and he’ll surely bully her–maybe for having a mixed brother and dad, or for her own jiggle.

Because this kid bully could be my kid one day, mis-treating other kids.

Because everyone deserves respect.

Because hell yeah, I jiggle. But I also run and sweat and eat healthy and have lost 99.8 pounds and am doing so many things to not jiggle anymore.

Haters, kid bullies, get off my lawn and out of my head, mmm k?

Race Shirt Transformation

While preparing for this year’s Mud on the Mountain, clothing was the last thing on my mind. Until the day we left, because of course that’s the day to pack for a race.

It wasn’t a wise choice, not picking out clothes because the ol’ closet didn’t have much to offer that wasn’t brand new (seeing’s how most of my running clothes are). I pulled out a pair of leggings that had started to loosen and grabbed my loose long sleeve then decided to just wear my shirt from last year’s event. It would all work out, right? Besides, it’s in the Race T-Shirt Etiquette to wear your first year shirt at subsequent races, to prove you aren’t a rookie n’at.

The thing I forgot? The shirt, even 50 pounds ago at last year’s race, was huge. When laying out my clothes, I realized I’d made a mistake…but there really was nothing I could do. Ah, but there was. I had a pair of scissors with me to apply K-T tape, so I got to work googling. There weren’t many t-shirt tutorials that explained what I wanted, so I whipped out the handy camera and will share this no-sew shirt technique with you (as I am sure I am not alone in the whole lose weight then try to wear your veteran shirt in the years after club).

My apologies for not taking a “before” photo, but by the time I realized it, I was in a pajama state (in other words, not safe for the blog). You’ll just have to trust me that it was a men’s XL shirt and way too big.

First, I laid my shirt flat and put my 2013 MOTM (women’s large) shirt on top of it. I grabbed a pen and noted where I should cut the sleeves and bottom. I noted where the sides needed taken in, too.

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Next, I cut on the lines then cut up the sides on the hem, but I did not cut to the side trace.

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To make the sides fit, I cut several 1/2 to 3/4 inch strips from the edge to the traced line.

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Now it was time to get comfy on the bed and tie tons of ‘lil knots up the sides, tying the front to the back of each slit. This is much like making a fleece no-tie blanket and wears on the fingers, but it’s worth it for no-sew.

The knots were pretty, and made the shirt fit quite a bit better. Here’s a close-up of the knots and one of the shirt when it was done:

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And the finished product on the morning of race day:

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I have to report, it held up throughout the race and made it through the hose off and two washes that it took to get the mud out. I’d call that a no-sew success!

Mud on the Mountain 2013

Earlier today, I glanced down at  my knee and realized I still have several “active”, red bruises on my knees from this year’s Mud on the Mountain…which promptly reminded me I forgot to give you the breakdown of how it went this time around.

The Friday evening before, Greg and I headed up to Seven Springs to get a good night’s sleep. Luckily, one of us (him) looked at the weather and made sure we packed some long sleeve clothes. The temperature on Sunday for the Half Marathon had been perfect, low 70s, but the forecast was not looking swell for Mud on the Mountain…snow was even a possibility in the early morning.

We checked in to the hotel (which I wasn’t excited about–I do NOT like the rustic feel of the resort) and were told we were on the 10th floor, the top floor. When we got to the room, I could have jumped on the bed. The place was gorgeous, clearly renovated, and made me very happy. As much as I liked the room, it didn’t take much to convince me to go down to the swimming pool for a ‘lil bit. Greg, as usual, took an opportunity to dive (the number of pools we’ve been at that are deep enough for this could be counted on one hand). I had a first time experience of diving. Sure…it wasn’t beautiful, but it happened. When we got back to the room, we set out our clothes and got rest.

In the morning, my nerves were up. Maybe it’s because I kept going out on our porch and watching the Elite Runners come down the icy, snow hill to the finish line.

There really was no turning back, though, and we got dressed in our 2012 MOTM shirts and checked our bags and headed to the start line with a good 3 minutes to spare.

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It was frigid, but not raining…until the exact moment of 10:30 as we crossed the start line.

This year, I actually jogged up part of the first hill and got to the top before a good 10 other people (versus being next to last the first time). And this is when the rain really mattered. Planning at the first obstacle was awful. We hit the back of the 10:15 wave trying to cross the first wall. The rain came down harder and the wind picked up. I stood shivering and decided I wasn’t doing the wall, wanted to keep moving. But, you see, this is very much a team event and I needed to wait for Greg to get his chance to climb the wall. He didn’t get to do so until after the 10:45 wave had been standing with us for about 15 minutes. So…calculate that. We essentially waited 30 minutes to cross one set of boards. Ugh.

By the time we got moving again, I really couldn’t move. There was so much mud this year, which is exactly what I wanted…but my legs were frozen. I warmed up a little and moved from the mud to the grass and then back again. My knees were not liking the mud, feet sliding left and right. At the cheese grater, Greg flew down the obstacle and I got a burst of energy and jumped into a fast lane, too. Little did we know the bottom of the grater was full of a few feet of cold water.

The next few miles were tough, but not unbearable. I loved that we actually had granite to scamper over for a good portion of the woods, and the added crawling obstacles were fun (until I hit my knee and had to crawl on my hip–ouch).

Greg was enjoying it, but I could tell I was holding him up. We got to an obstacle I know I couldn’t do–inclined monkey bars. Greg was incredible at this one. After that, it was waiting about 20 minutes at another wall. We traversed some more mud, I got mud and rocks places that never should (including some cuts), and we had some good laughs. There was one point I definitely sat down and said I was done, but my motivator kept me going.

And then…we hit the nail biter. The volunteer told me I couldn’t go in the side I picked, she wanted me to go on the easy side. I wasn’t having it, and powered through this one. It was a wall with itty bitty foot and hand holds. What I did not realize? The ground below got lower as we got to the end. Greg had gone through another one, and I could see him jump a good distance off the wall. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and an anxiety attack promptly ensued. I had to go to the other side of the wall to let others come through. My knees and hands shook. I cried. Greg eventually convinced me to jump into his arms. I told him what happened at the beginning, and I had to convince him not to go run his mouth. We moved on after my breathing returned to normal and a fellow runner tapped me on the back and said, “You got this”.

Our Trout Line strategy was to have me go on a line with other women my height while Greg went with taller guys. This worked well…until a man jumped on my line and was swaying it. I felt stretched so far that I couldn’t move. Tension released and I was able to finish it…only to be greeted with the need to pick up a log and walk up a ski slope. I took the equivalent of a twig and had to drop it at the top–my arms were jello. Greg made up for it and carried a log that was probably once a tree trunk.

Next was the final up-hill, marked with the 7-mile marker as we approached it. Apparently only 0.7 was left. I don’t believe this. That last hill kept going and going. The obstacles at the top weren’t crazy, but I was exhausted. We met up with one of my co-workers and her sister and started down the snow. I sat on my butt, lying down at one point, and froze. Mt. Everest wasn’t a bad climb this year, but my muscles were mush. As we descended this last part, we realized we had to hit some ice cold water before getting our medals.

A few photos, a banana, hard bagel, and watered down lemon lime Gatorade then off to hose off and get warm. This was not an easy task, considering my whole back side was near frostbite from my decision to sit versus try.

All in all, it hurt a bit, was physically and emotionally exhausting (more so than the Half). Would I do it again? Probably. Even if it was after running a half 6 days before? Maybe. We’ll see. I mean, this is definitely worth it:

mud on the mountain

(Especially when you compare last year’s photo!)

Half Marathon Emotional Dump

This post is pure emotion…a dump of my thoughts post Half Marathon. What a day!

Kids, I hope you can look back on a day and can say it was the best day of your life, even if that day changes throughout the years. Maybe right now the best day of your life was the day you were able to try real ice cream (Arianna) or the day you were able to wear Thomas unders 24/7 (Evan). But for me, that day would be yesterday, May 5, 2013.

It sounds cruel, as a mother and a wife, a college and grad-school graduate to say that a random Sunday in May could surpass your births, our wedding day, the days I graduated, or even the days I got my first job…or started at my current company (which, by the way, I totally forgot my 4 year anniversary was last week, I was so wrapped up in this day). I know it sounds awful, but I hope one day you will understand.

One day, you’ll look at what your Mama did and know that this day was a big one for her. Your Mama carried a lot of weight, both physical and emotional over the past 6 years. I went through some things I never want you to go through, and I needed to find a way to deal with that and move on. I found my healing in running, and set a goal to run a Half Marathon.

Saturday I was a complete mess, laughing, crying, snapping, doing everything wrong, doing everything right. My emotions were crazy, I was scared. My goal was just around the corner.

Greg and I went downtown on Saturday and he ran the 5k with my friend Steffani. They did awesome, it was her first 5k and I was so proud to watch it.

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Then we went to the Expo and met a pacer who gave me a temporary tattoo to wear and a goal of 3 hours. (When I left my office on Friday, the goal was 3:30 and not to get swept.) I was pumped, I could do this. We went to lunch. We shopped for too long. I was exhausted and a wreck. Sleep came way too easily, albeit after eating my first entire Subway footlong in 2 years (shame? none.).

Sunday morning, the big day arrived. You were not with me, I decided it best in case something crazy happened. Instead, you watched the TV from Grammie and Pappy’s for me. (Arianna, you claim you saw me, but no one can confirm as you were alone at the time.) We headed downtown, my arms and legs branded in motivations.

#BostonStrong *USA* today I run for…Wendy, Tracy, Aaron, Genre, & Dad. #CancerSucks

I was ready, but I didn’t know it. Greg held me for what seemed like forever after we exited the T in a mass of participants. I didn’t know if I’d see him again (my emotions went that crazy) and I wanted to enjoy every last second. He took a picture of me, we stretched my hamstrings, we hugged goodbye and he wished me luck. I was thrown into a sea of E-Corral pacers.

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The National Anthem played. I bawled. I saw a voicemail from Myrtle Beach friends–I got to listen quickly before the start, it was ‘lil runners wishing me good luck. I cried, I laughed.

My friends were with me throughout the race, although I ran it (physically) alone:
-Greg and I saw a shooting star above the city just before the race–a sign that for me has always been Wendy letting me know she’s still here, looking out for me.
-They played Renegade just before my start.
-They played Don’t Stop Believin’ as I crossed the starting line.
-A blogger friend was live blogging from the crowd–I saw her, but didn’t realize it until the race was over.
-A pair of runners dressed as Mario and Luigi and had the theme song playing from a phone
-Evan and Arianna–a harmonica player was playing “You Are My (Sunshine) Mommy”

Here’s my mile by mile reactions:

Mile 1:
-Really fast, for me, but felt good. Around 12 minutes.
-Why are people already lined up for the bathroom? I swear to my self I will not stop.

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Mile 2:
-Wow, here already? Another fast one, 2 miles down in just over 24 minutes.
-Didn’t grab a water, hope the next one is before mile 6. Gatorade cups are slippery!

Mile 3:
-The clock is broken. My time is going to be incredible if I keep this up. One bridge down.

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Mile 4:
-Where the hell is the clock?
-Where the hell is Greg? I’ve crossed two bridges, he better be on the third one.
-Mile 4 is a freaking long mile to get to. (I never saw the mile 4 marker.)
-So glad I saw Greg on the bridge. He looked so cute sitting up there, cheering for me.

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Mile 5:
-Oh, already at Mile 5? Where was mile 4???
-Greg and Steffani got to run down that hill yesterday, lucky ducks.

Mile 6:
-Almost halfway. I’ve got this in the bag. If I keep this pace up…wait…I’ll be under three hours. There’s no way. No way.

Mile 7:
-Will I ever get to Mile 7? West End bridge and the hill after were tough, but tougher is ahead. Keep your head up, keep swimming.
-West End neighbors are awesome!

Mile 8:
-Wait. Where was mile 7 (again, never saw it).
-Gulp the water, oh!

Mile 9:
-Furiously looking for Greg. He finds me, I realize even at fluid stations I didn’t walk, just ran through to get my water. I yell, NO WALKING I AM A BEAST! He jumps to the side of the course to reach out to me, I never have felt more love.

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Mile 10:
-GU is an amazing invention, can I have more???
-I have never full out run this far.
-How the HELL do I get on that hill with those runners [to my left on the hill district]

Mile 11:
-Time to say goodbye to the marathoners and make the Birmingham Bridge mine. I got this.

Mile 12:
-That hill is a mother, forget the bridge.
-If I pass out on this hill, no one will be able to get me…oh crap. Keep going, don’t walk.

Mile 13:
-They said it was all downhill from 12. What is that hump before the finish line?
-Finish line in sight. Find husband, make sure he’s watching.
-Cry. Cry. Cry. This is so awesome.

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Finish Line:
-3:13. I did it in just over 3 hours. OMG. Wait. That’s the gun time. I started 20:50 after that. OMG. I did it in under 3 hours. I can’t do math right now.
-My knees won’t stop moving. Ouch.
-I need a picture. I need a heat wrap. I need the glory.
-I need water, lots of water. No medic needed, I am walking!!!

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Post Finish Line:
-Find Greg or bathroom? Bathroom wins. Greg finds me first. He had to hold me so I wouldn’t fall over.
-How the hell can I pee if I can’t bend my knees anymore?
-OMG. There’s a medal around my neck. I finished. No cart sweep. Cry, cry, cry.
-My phone is dead. I can’t share this with anyone but Greg, but that’s okay right now.
-I need to stretch. Don’t let anyone step on my head.
-Results tent. “Did you have a goal for under 3? Cause, uh, you killed that.” 2:52:55? ARE YOU SURE THAT’s ME??? “Yes, that’s you!” OMG.

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Sunday was an amazing day for me. It marked leaving things on the pavement, fighting off fears, meeting goals, remembering what got me to here and where I can go now. It was an amazing experience, and I am so proud to say I did it. I am a fighter, and I won’t give up.

5/5/13, the best day of my life (so far).

(More photos on Flickr)

Three Days

One of these days, I will be back and regularly sharing stories with you. For now, I am in final countdown mode. In three days, the goal I have been training for will be met. I will have completed the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

I will be celebrating Genre, thanking my supporters for helping me raise money for Kids With Cancer.

I will know my kids are cheering for me from a safe distance with my parents, understanding that Boston changed our plans but didn’t take our spirit.

I will probably not know what to do with myself, because my training will be complete and my life will be “mine” again.

But…I will not forget a moment from today that proves I have changed.

Me: I will be back soon, it is only three miles. That’s not far!

Greg: Cool, we will be here.

Me: Wow. Only three miles! A few years ago, that would have been, “it is okay to go off this exit, the Ponderosa is only three miles off it”.

Change is good.

Hopefully you will cheer me on. Whether from afar or along the Half Marathon course. You have all been great so far. And for that…I thank you.

Willis Family at the Park

#PrayingForBoston

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Yesterday’s bombing in Boston had us in a bit in shock. I seriously sat on the bed and cried for several minutes. Greg stared at EPSN instead of eating a juicy burger. It was my rest day, and I wanted to run (but I didn’t, I feel some guilt!). Runners everywhere have to feel the heaviness we are. When I did the Warmup on Walnut on April 6, I realized how awesome the running community is. We won’t let this get us down, but we will band together and grow stronger. Saying some extra prayers today for Boston, and runners everywhere.

Run For a Reason: I’m IN for the Half (And Need YOU!)

Okay, you guys. I am seriously shaking.

Today, I decided to bite the bullet and register to “Run for a Reason” for the Pittsburgh Marathon’s Half Marathon. My mind and body fought, but after attending an event where the Race Director (Patrice Matamoros) spoke about why people do the marathon, I couldn’t just sit there and say “I wish I had done that, I had it in me.”

I lost 88 pounds. I lost my best friend to cancer. I ran 2 5ks. I did Mud on the Mountain. I birthed two babies. I was a single mom. I moved every 3-4 years as a kid. I moved to South Carolina on a whim and prayer. I moved home on another whim and prayer. I have no freaking excuse to not be able to do this. I can take this half and kick it.

Right? But here’s the thing. I really, really need your help. If I don’t raise the $350 for Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund, I am going to have to foot the entire $350 registration fee myself. Those are crazy scary odds. Scarier than me worrying about finishing the half.

But what is even scarier is being a kid and having Cancer. Genre’s Kids With Cancer fund seemed like the most logical charity to run for. Genre fought and won against cancer, and now this young man (12 years old, he was 8 when diagnosed in 2009!) is doing more for others. Helping get sick kids toys and games to pass their time at Children’s Hospital (where Wendy was treated) and keep their mind off the c-word. Helping parents with the financial burden of traveling for treatments. Helping everyone to spiritually deal with the impact of cancer. It’s just such good stuff, that I can’t NOT do this for him, for the sick kids, for Wendy.

Source: Genre’s Site

If every person who read my “ONEDerland” post gave just $3, I’d have this thing beyond in the bag.

If every Twitter follower gave $0.50, I’d be above and beyond my goal.

If every Facebook friend gave $1, I’d be there.

For some reason, I think my network, my CROWD, could put this in the bag for me this week. Right?

We together would raise a ton of money for kids with cancer. But I know my friends, family, and network. You guys have pushed me. You’ve held me when I’ve fallen. And you can help me raise this $350 in no time. No pressure, but I need half of it by the end of this month!

So, how are you going to help me? Who is in to be the first to give to my goal? And even more importantly, who is in on Cinco de Mayo to join one of the neighborhood festivals and stand along the race path and cheer me on?

I’ve got this, right?

Help me to help the kids (and to cross that finish line). Visit my CrowdRise page and donate here: http://www.crowdrise.com/genreskidspghmarathon/fundraiser/mrsgregwillis. If you’d prefer, Email Me to donate privately or via cash/check.

Have a few extra moments? Check out Genre addressing the crowd at the Marathon Press Conference. Trust me, it’s worth your time.