Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Talladega Heartbreak

If the Space Shuttle sim run was the moment that started all this, another embarrassing moment a few months before paved the way.

I had set up an opportunity for a couple of friends to do the Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure at Talladega, the biggest and baddest NASCAR track of them all. I was going to do a run as well ... but the driving suit that I had worn several times before would not fit. I pulled on the zipper, sucked my gut in ... everything. It would not zip.

Looking back on my sad desperation, it hurts to bring the memories back. I went to Wal-Mart and bought Ace bandages, hoping to fashion a sort of girdle for myself. They just bunched up and didn't come close to working. Then, in a final burst of frustration at the track that morning, I jammed the zipper in place and sat down.

The seat of my suit split wide open. In nearly one motion, I jumped up, unzipped the suit and tore it off. There were tears in my eyes, livid with myself. I had done DJ's school at Talladega nearly two years before, and it was hands down THE most memorable experience of my career.

Once I got over the shock of being on the track at Talladega, my foot pressed the accelerator snugly against the floorboard and never lifted. My average lap speeds were consistently in the 163-164 mph range, and at the end of the backstretch, my top speed was just shy of 178 mph.

And here I was, too fat to do it again.

Monday, January 24, 2011


The water pump went bad at Jeanie's parents' house this weekend, so I was drafted into service to help repair it. Don't know how much help I was ... the plumber said I was the best pump puller-wire taper-light holder he'd ever had.

That said, after the first night's work, I headed inside and took a seat next to the kitchen bar. I look over ... and there's a container of peanut M&Ms. What's two or three gonna hurt? Nothing really. Just a taste is all I need. That would've been fine ... but nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

I emptied the container. It wasn't full to begin with, but it wasn't nearly empty, either. I. could. not. stop. myself. I don't know how many calories and fat grams I downed, and I don't want to find out.

This is very, very hard.

I've determined, though, not to beat myself up over it. I worked out this morning, and it was tough. That's the way, I guess, it should be.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Love-Hate Relationship

I've decided to have a love-hate relationship with the scales.

Typically, I don't weigh very often. I don't want to get discouraged if I've not lost as much I think I should have, which has sometimes gotten the best of me in the past. At best, I'll weigh in once every few weeks, and even then, it can only best be described as "a process."

First, I don't eat on the morning I plan to go weigh in. Food, after all, weighs something itself. I go work out as hard as I possibly can. I go to the doctor's office, where their grain scale won't creak and groan as I step on board. I kick my shoes off and take everything out of my pockets. On one memorable occasion, I did an honest to goodness striptease right there in the middle of the doctor's office.

I wear shorts when I weigh, and now that it's cold outside, I wear jeans or track pants over them. This time, I caught myself dropping trou in front of ... oh, I don't know ... five or six women. Sadly, nobody tossed money in my direction. Maybe if I lose a few more pounds, that might be a career option ...

Monday, January 17, 2011


I don't think I'll ever be an exercise machine like some of the folks I'm seeing these days at the Y. I enjoy walking, working out and especially racquetball, but let's not get crazy, OK? If there's a picture that best summarizes my true feelings about exercise, it's this one, taken as I crossed the finish line in my first 5k here in Yadkinville on Nov. 20, 2010.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

During ...

You've seen the "before" picture and now the "during ..." Hopefully, this is a process that lasts for the rest of my life, so there will be no definitive "after" photo!

Before ...

Turning Point

Take a long hard look at this picture, because I can't.

For those of you who know me, you know that I am a HUGE fan of the human spaceflight program. I have dreamed of being an astronaut since early childhood, and the moment captured in this photo was as close as I will ever get. I was about to do a run in the Space Shuttle motion-base simulator at Johnson Space Center in Houston, alongside STS-127 pilot Doug Hurley.

It was one of the most exciting moments of my life, and THE most embarrassing. Because of my size, I could get only four of the five safety belts fastened, no matter how hard I tried. Astronauts in their pumpkin suits and with parachutes on their backs can do so without a problem, but not me. There I was, trying desperately to jam the belt in place, with an honest-to-goodness astronaut standing over me, trying to help.

More than six months later, I still shudder at the memory.

Luckily, we proceeded with the sim run. Over the next 90 minutes, I was an astronaut training for an upcoming Shuttle flight. Doug was seated on the commander's side of the cabin, and me on the pilot's. We did two launches and five landings at both Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Edwards Air Force Base in California. It didn't take long to figure out that as a Space Shuttle pilot, I make a darn good journalist.

Words cannot truly express what being able to do that meant to me, but for all that excitement, I walked away from the sim building very discouraged. I had been too fat to buckle that harness. That knowledge hurt, and I knew that as hard as it was going to be, I had to make a serious change. I had to lose weight.

Since that day, I've lost 53 pounds. I started walking on a half-mile track behind our local Y, at first a lap and then two. I did two miles and sometimes three. I walked in one 5k race, and then another. I've started lifting weights in recent weeks, and I play racquetball as often as I can.

I don't know that I'll ever be considered "skinny," and I don't really know that I would want to be. All I'm sure at this point is this.

I'm trying.