I want to start real quick by thanking everyone who entered the Stella and Dot giveaway! Seriously, you ladies are amazing and I would make you all winners if I could!! So thanks for taking the time to make this giveaway so fun. Reading all your comments made my weekend! Stay tuned at the end of this post for the winner…ok, onto the good stuff!!!
I’m so excited about our Marathon Monday story today. Jim…aka Fyrfytndaddy is here to tell his story. I’ve been following Jim and his sweet wife Carolyn(aka Fyrfytnmomma, don’t you just love them already??) on Instagram for a while. We had connected over training for Chicago and they used the same training method I used last year for Dallas. Anyway, I pretty much think they are amazing. They are both firefighter’s(hence their IG names). Not only are they a picture of health on the outside, but on the inside as well. It’s so refreshing to see a couple working to improve all aspects of their life, family, health and marriage. So, enough chatting from me!! Please welcome Jim…..
I have always been what most people would look at and consider healthy. I am 6 feet tall and generally right around 200 pounds. Being a firefighter and paramedic, I have always tried to stay in shape by doing some cardio and lifting weights off and on. I have also always tried to eat “healthy.” Although my outward appearance was generally showing one thing, my health has always been an issue.
At the age of 18, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. There is extensive family history, and so I was just next in line to get this diagnosis. I was in good shape back then as I was just getting out of high school, playing sports and working out all the time. In fact, the reason I went to the doctor in the first place was to get a sports physical so I could play football in college. My diet was never even thought of as a reason for the high blood pressure. I started taking medications for the high blood pressure and after trial and error of several different meds, we found one that somewhat controlled my pressure, keeping it around 140/90. That is not even a good pressure, but it is what we could get.
Over the next 21 years I would go through several tests trying to figure out a cause of my high blood pressure. All tests have been negative for any problems. It was just assumed that I have high blood pressure because of family history. Over this same amount of time, more medications were added and I was up to taking 3 medications for my blood pressure every day. One of those meds I had to take twice a day. Even taking 4 pills a day for the blood pressure, 140/90 was about as good as it got.
Another medical condition I developed over the years was high cholesterol. Now, as I said before, I have always tried to eat what I thought was healthy. I ate lean meats, chicken, or fish along with a serving of vegetables and rice or something similar. Of course much of the food I was eating was processed or had added fats that I didn’t really pay attention to. Also, as I have now learned, even though I thought the lean meats and chicken were healthy, they truly are not. My cholesterol hovered near 200 and I was put on a medicine to control it. So now I was up to 4 different medications every day and 5 pills total.
As if those two things were not bad enough, the thing that bothered me the most were the migraine headaches I would get. The headaches started out very infrequently. I would get one every few months and it would last a couple of days. I could take an over the counter medicine and it would be controlled for those couple of days. They were bad, but nothing I couldn’t deal with. These headaches, like everything else, progressed into something worse. I began getting them more and more frequently to the point that I would get them at least once a month. The headaches would last for 3 days every time, and no pain medicine would make them go away. I tried several different very strong prescription pain meds and I would get no relief from any of them. I went to a neurosurgeon who put me on an anti-seizure medicine that has been shown to stop migraines. Now I was up to 5 different meds every day and 6 pills total.
In order to control the migraines I knew it was time to change my diet along with the new medicine I was taking. Working out when I had the migraines was not even an option and my weight had also climbed to 220 pounds. This was the heaviest I have ever been. I know for some people who weight may not seem like a lot, but for me it was and I could feel it. I researched several different migraine diets and started eliminating things like MSG and more processed foods. I was still eating meat, dairy and cheese because I thought it was OK. I never even considered eating vegan at this point. I did start losing weight which was good, but my blood pressure and even worse the migraines were still there. I was at a point where I could not tolerate the migraines any more. They were that bad!!
In January my wife brought up the idea of eating vegan. My immediate reaction, like everybody else’s that I talk to was: “I can’t do that.” I work in a firehouse where we all eat together and meat is always on the menu. Where would I get my protein??? All the things I get asked all the time by my meat-eating friends ran through my mind as well, but I was willing to try anything to get rid of the migraines!
We sat down together and watched “Forks over Knives”, “Food Inc.” and a couple other documentaries and we were sold. We also bought the “Engine 2 Diet” book and read that. It suited us well because we’re both firefighters. It also gave us something to follow. We started out by trying to do a 28 day challenge and just see how we felt. After a week of eating a whole-food, plant-based diet we knew this was not going to be the challenge we thought it would be. Our plates were colorful and very tasty!! We ate more vegetables in the first week than we did over the last year. We also started bringing our own food to the firehouse and eating on our own. Of course we got lots of ribbing from the guys, but it was a decision we made to get healthy. Within a few months my weight was down to 180 pounds and my cholesterol went down from 200 on meds to 141 without! Carolyn had similar results and lost 14 pounds.
We were both feeling better and I decided I would put my name in the lottery for the Chicago marathon! Carolyn thought I was crazy, and I kind of thought it was crazy too! We would run occasionally together, but only a few miles at the most. I think I also figured my name wouldn’t get picked in the lottery. Well I was picked and training began! I followed the Hanson plan which has you running often and a lot of miles every week. For the shorter runs we ran together as much as we could. Before long I was up to running 50 miles a week. I would say things like I am ONLY running 5 miles today. Running was making me feel amazing! It was a time I could get out enjoy the fresh air, clear my head, and just enjoy how good I was feeling. I also was no longer taking any medications, and felt better than I ever had in my life. I still had doubts that signing up for a marathon was a good thing.
October came along and it was time for the Chicago Marathon 2014. We made it a family thing like everything we do. We spent the night downtown. The kids made signs for the race that they could display while they watched the race. It was a fun time for everyone. I was able to see them twice while I was running and I felt great when I got to see them. The race went good until about mile 20. From then on it was a struggle. I was caught up in the atmosphere and ran way too fast early. I made it through with a lot of walking and running those last few miles.
One thing that got me through was thinking about my father who had passed away a year previously from heart disease. Thinking about him put a smile on my face and I was able to briefly forget the pain in my body. I also was thinking about seeing Carolyn and the kids at the finish line. When I finally crossed the finish line it was one of the biggest feelings of accomplishment I had ever had. Not only the feeling of accomplishment of finishing a marathon, but the fact that at the beginning of the year I was taking 6 meds a day and just generally unhealthy. Now I just finished a marathon, I no longer had migraines, and had to take no medication. It’s a tremendous feeling!
I wanted Carolyn to feel this and so I talked her into signing up for the Chicago Marathon 2015. She thought I was crazy, however watching the marathon, and being in that atmosphere also got her thinking about doing it. We signed up and we were both picked in the lottery again. We trained together as much as we could. I love running with her, and just being with her in general, so it was great getting to share this journey with her. Much as I had done the previous year, she went from running a few miles to being able to run long distances. We ran a 20 mile race together 3 weeks before the marathon and it went great! We ran a faster than expected time, and we weren’t tired at all. We both figured the marathon was going to be no problem.
We ran the first 10 miles or so of the Chicago Marathon feeling good. We were enjoying the race, the signs, the people, and the whole atmosphere of it. Then around mile 11 Carolyn’s hips and legs started hurting really bad. It was a struggle to maintain a good pace. To go another 15 miles was going to be a huge struggle on legs that didn’t want to go. We stayed together and finished up the race.
We maybe didn’t get the time we wanted, but we completed a marathon together! A couple of years ago we thought anyone wanting to do a marathon was crazy, but now I guess we are crazy, and we are crazy together. I think Chicago will be in our plans every year from now on. At this point I feel like I can run all day, and even signed up for 2 ultramarathons! One of them is a 34 miler in November, and then a 50 miler in December.
None of this would have been possible if we both didn’t decide it was time to take care of ourselves, and do it together. Supporting each other through eating, running and in life has made everything in our lives better. It has also made us better firefighters as we are in so much better shape than we were just a short time ago.We have been together for 22 years now. We have always been happy together, but now we are also healthy. Plant based running for sure has saved my life, and has made hers much better and healthier.
Thank you Jim and Carolyn for sharing your story with us!
Do you have a story you’d like featured on the blog about the race that changed you or your journey to better health? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THE STELLA AND DOT GIVEAWAY WINNER IS….
Congrats girl! Just shoot me an email so I can forward your email and info onto my stylist Jody. Redheadontherun1@gmail.com
Thanks again to all those who entered!! Feel free to continue shopping all my favorite finds to snag your own by following this link