Tuesday, September 26, 2017

10k race on hold during health recovery

I'm spending more time this week recovering from a health scare that sent me to the hospital for nine days, six in Burlington and three in Saranac Lake. Needless to say, walking the Lake Placid Classic 10k race on Oct. 7 is nowhere near possible and not even on my radar right now.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 6, the Saranac Lake Rescue Squad transported me to the Adirondack Medical Center emergency room in Saranac Lake while I was on deadline for the Lake Placid News. At the hospital, they found multiple pulmonary embolisms in my lungs and a large one closer to my heart. The ambulance then transported me to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, where the doctors treated me with blood thinners. That caused bleeding somewhere above my left kidney. I had returned home on Monday, Sept. 11 before the general location of the bleeding was realized. With a blocked left kidney on Wednesday, Sept. 13, I was taken off blood thinners, treated by Dr. Lieb for the blockage and bleeding, and Dr. Roland placed a filter in my inferior vena cava to break up any blood clots that may travel from my legs to my lungs. That's when I was admitted to AMC Saranac Lake, where the bleeding finally stopped. I was released on Saturday, Sept. 16, and I have been home ever since recovering and following up with the doctors.

There are more challenges yet to come. Once cleared by Dr. Lieb, I can go back on blood thinners, and once safe from any bleeding, Dr. Roland can take out the IVC filter, possibly in November. The blood thinners should take care of any potential PEs in the future. That's the plan.

In the meantime, getting enough rest, losing weight and moving my legs more are high priorities. Walking a 10k is not. Yet I hope that races are in my future. For now, I'd be happy with getting back to a normal schedule.

Thanks to all the people who sent me well wishes and visited me in the hospital.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: I had another 'Are you OK?' day

After losing 80 pounds three years ago, I walked the roadways training for the Lake Placid Half Marathon, and a number of people said, "Good for you."

Now they're saying something different: "Are you OK?"

"Good for you" was said from the heart, and I always took it that way, but it also irked me because people would never say that to a skinny person walking down the street. They just wouldn't. It's only because I'm morbidly obese, walking in public, exercising, that people say, "Good for you." They were being condescending without knowing it. In my mind, I heard, "Good for you. Glad you got off the couch and decided to walk among the rest of us, fat guy."

After gaining all the weight back, whenever I walk the roads just trying to lose a little weight, people stop in their cars when I'm resting and ask, "Are you OK?" Last summer, it happened three times, and now that I've begun training for the Lake Placid Classic 10k race in October, I'm hearing it again.

Just this morning, as I was resting during my 1-mile walk on Ampersand Avenue, a woman in a car stopped and asked, "Are you OK?" She was worried because it was getting warm out in the sunshine. I told her I was just taking a break, and I was fine. I thanked her, and she drove away.

I actually like "Are you OK?" I prefer it to "Good for you" because people are showing genuine concern, as they would for anyone who may pass out on the side of the road, no matter their weight.

I wasn't about to pass out, but she didn't know that. I was just taking a breather. After walking a half mile on Monday around the Lake Placid High School's track at the horse show grounds (in the rain), I failed to walk again until Friday, when I walked my first mile in a long time on the Ampersand Avenue route, starting at my house on McClelland Street. It's pretty hilly, so I am getting a good workout.

After walking 0.7 miles during Week 1 of training, I tallied 2.5 miles during Week 2. I also weighed in at 450 pounds on Tuesday, July 25, a loss of 2 pounds since beginning my training. It's a small improvement, but at least I'm going in the right direction.

Only 10 more weeks to go.

Although I want to lose weight and get back to the Lake Placid Half Marathon, I'm not looking forward to the "Good for you" days again. I've flirted with the idea of making a training T-shirt that says, "Good for you," throwing it back in people's faces, but I've decided against it. Instead, I may get one that says, "Yes, I'm OK."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: Here's my plan to get out more

A week ago, as I lamented the fact that I feel like a prisoner in my own home — due to the shame of being so overweight — I began coming up with a realistic plan to get out more. My solution is to compete in this year's Lake Placid Classic 10k on Oct. 7.

After the treatment of leg ulcers in the winter, my legs lost a lot of strength, and it's taken this long — many days walking with the aid of a cane — to get enough strength back to walk without a cane. Now I believe I can take a slow approach to getting back to walking a half marathon next year. My first stop, a 10k (6.2-mile) race.

One of my problems, for the first month at least, is trying to find a place to walk away from the public. There really aren't too many options, other than walking in the woods, which I don't want to do right now. I want to train on the same surface as the race, or as close to it as possible.

Therefore, I've decided to spend the first month training on outdoor school tracks in Saranac Lake or Lake Placid. It's far enough away from the public, I'm around other athletes, and I can stop more frequently if I need a break. In the car, I've packed walking sticks for support and stability and a folding chair so I can sit in between laps. Right now, I take frequent breaks, about four or five every lap, but that will change as I get stronger.

I ended my first week of training today with a half-mile walk at the Saranac Lake Central School outdoor track. It was not a good opening week. On the first day, I could only walk up the street and back, about two-tenths of a mile. But it was better than nothing, which is what I did the rest of the week.

Only 11 more weeks to go.

I'm looking forward to getting back on the road, working toward a goal and meeting it. I enjoy the physical challenge and being around the running/walking community in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

I'm also looking forward to losing weight. As I've learned in the past, the training can only be effective if I lose weight as I tone up and get stronger. On July 18, I weighed in at 452 pounds, so I have a long way to go. I'm expecting major improvements on the scale if I am going to succeed on Oct. 7. That, however, is a battle in itself.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: I'm a prisoner in my own home

There are so many things I can't do because of my excess weight, and more and more, one of those things is to go outside and be in public.

I feel like a prisoner in my own home.

One of the worst things I can do is look at myself in the mirror. I hate what I see. I'm embarrassed at what I see, and it's difficult for me to be out in public. When I look at myself in the mirror, it can take days to recover from the feelings of shame, embarrassment, depression and hate. Yes, it's at those times I hate myself the most, for what I've done to myself and for how I look.

I don't expect everyone to understand what I'm talking about, but there are more people who feel this way than will admit openly. This post is for you.

Just today, I was looking at a sunset boat tour on Lake Champlain. It would have been a perfect way for my wife and I to spend our 20th wedding anniversary, but I can't do it. Not because of my embarrassment about being in public, but because it is a boat and I weight 450 pounds. As I looked at a photo of the tour boat, I envisioned the difficulty of trying to get in and out of it, finding a seat that would fit (they are usually too small) and hearing the staff orchestrate the passengers in a way that would prevent me from tipping the boat to one side.

You laugh, but I've experienced that firsthand. When I took the pontoon boat shuttle to Chapel Island one time, the boat driver asked me to stand in the middle so I didn't tip the boat. That, my friends, was seriously embarrassing. While I understood, from the perspective of physics, I was outraged and will never take that shuttle again.

It's situations like this that I want to avoid, so the safest thing is to stay home. I have a hard time walking these days anyway, and I often have to use a cane. That's embarrassing enough, especially when someone asks if they want me to have them open a door for me. No! I'm not an invalid. Or am I? I certainly act like one sometimes.

Things have to change if I'm going to get out there again and start doing things in public. After all, that's what I want. There are so many things on my want-to-do list, things I haven't been able to do in years and things I've never been able to do.

I'm hoping today will be the start of a new chapter in my life, one that will lead me to freedom from these walls I've put up because of my weight.

Friday, March 31, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: Miracle on Ice inspiration

Start date (Dec. 22): 480
Last week: 452
This week: 452
Total lost: 28 lbs.

For fans, the most emotional moment of this week's Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp in Lake Placid came at the beginning of the third period during the gold-medal game on Wednesday, March 29.

Mike Ramsey's Red Light District was up 2-1 against Ken Morrow's Gold Rush in the same rink where Ramsey, Morrow and the rest of the U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the Soviet Union 4-3 on Feb. 22, 1980. The game was dubbed the "Miracle on Ice."

Over the sound system came the haunting voice of 1980 coach Herb Brooks, who died in 2003, channeled through actor Kurt Russell playing Brooks in the 2004 Disney film "Miracle." It was the famous locker-room speech Brooks gave to his players to inspire them against the heavily favored Soviets.

"Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world," Russell said.

1980 player Mark Johnson, who scored two goals during the Miracle on Ice game, looked up at the LED scoreboard in the Olympic Center, where the scene from the movie was being shown. Johnson was sitting on the Red Light District bench, wearing a blue jersey and helmet, left arm stretched out with a gloved hand on the board, listening to the speech and waiting to play.

"You were born to be hockey players, every one of you," Russell continued. "You were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It's over. I'm sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw 'em. This is your time! Now go out there and take it."

Cheers erupted from players on the Olympic Center ice and benches, pounding the boards with their hockey gloves and slapping the ice with their sticks. With two quick whistles, the third period began.

The Red Light District would be triumphant that day, scoring four more goals to beat the Gold Rush 6-1 for the gold medal.

Even 37 years later, the Miracle on Ice continues to inspire new generations of Americans, not just hockey players but anyone feeling overwhelmed because they are facing a more powerful force. It is the quintessential underdog story. David versus Goliath.

The 1980 team certainly inspires me. I was lucky enough to cover the 35th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice at the Olympic Center for the Lake Placid News two years ago, plus the fantasy camp last year and this year. But I don't have to be interviewing 1980 Olympians to be inspired. Every time I walk into the Herb Brooks Arena, I am inspired by their story, their Miracle game and the fact that they went on to beat Finland to win a gold medal in 1980.

I was 10 years old at the time, watching the Miracle on Ice game on TV at my grandmother's house in Tupper Lake, and all that emotion comes rushing back when I think about what these guys did for America and what they did for me. They gave me hope. Every time I'm feeling down, feeling as though there is no way I can get back on my feet again, all I have to do is think about the 20 young men who beat the Soviet Union that cold February day in Lake Placid, and my spirits are lifted. It gives me energy and the courage to keep trying.

On Sunday morning, I woke up with another acute attack of gout, this time in my left foot. But I didn't let a little pain stop me from covering the Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp for three days this week, Monday through Wednesday. I took my pain medication, grabbed my cane and hobbled over to the Olympic Center with my laptop, digital recorder and camera, and I went to work. At the end of each day, I could barely move because my muscles were so sore and my foot was in pain. But these guys gave me the inspiration to get up the next day and keep moving.

Thanks, guys! You are a national treasure and an inspiration to humans everywhere.

Friday, March 24, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: Learning to walk again

Start date (Dec. 22): 480
Last week: 452
This week: 452
Total lost: 28 lbs.

This week, I'm learning to walk again.

After five weeks of treatment for the open wounds on both of my legs, including almost two weeks of gout and three weeks with Unna boots, my body needs adjusting. The treatment included spending most of my time in a chair with my legs propped up so they don't fill up with fluid.

Plus, with a week of shoveling the 3 feet of snow out of my driveway, dog's yard and pathway to the backyard, my entire body has been extremely sore over the past 10 days, and I've needed to use a cane to walk around.

The good news is my open wounds have closed up, so the treatment was a success. But that does not solve the problem of my edema, or swelling of the legs, which is caused by my excess weight. Once I get the weight down, I won't have to deal with that problem as much. In the meantime, keeping the swelling down is a priority. And that's what I'm struggling with now.

On my last day at the Adirondack Health Wound Center, the doctor prescribed compression stockings, which I have to put on my legs when I first get up and keep on until I go to bed. They go from my knee all the way down to my toes. They are extremely tight and difficult to put on, and when I first took them out of the box, I ripped one trying to pull it up my left leg. The pair was $50, so you can imagine how I felt pissing away that money with one fell swoop on the first day.

Still, I put them on again the next day, rip and all, and they were cutting off circulation around my ankles. So I went back to the looser compression stockings I had for the treatment of my wounds, doubling them up for added effect.

That's where I am today, learning to walk again — now without the cane — and learning to live in a way that I minimize the swelling in my legs until I can lose enough weight to keep my legs from swelling up in the first place. It's tough to balance these health issues and still maintain a normal life with work and family obligations, but it's something that must be done.

When I finish my next half marathon, I'll look back on this time knowing that I never want to go through this kind of recovery again. The Lake Placid Diet journal is a way to document difficult chapters in my life and motivate me to get healthy and stay that way. So far, it's working.

Friday, March 17, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: Having a dry St. Patrick's Day 2017

Start date (Dec. 22): 480
Last week: 450
This week: 452
Total lost: 28 lbs.

Yes, I want a drink today, but I've decided not to indulge.

Although I only made one New Year's resolution this year — to survive — I also made one big promise to myself. I would not drink alcoholic beverages in 2017.

This promise is being put to the test this week in a big way. St. Patrick's Day my favorite holiday of the year, as I've made it a tradition to have some Irish whiskey and Guinness stout with my corned beef and potatoes, listen to the Clancy Brothers and watch "The Quiet Man" to help celebrate my Irish heritage. Plus, this week's nor'easter — dumping about 3 feet of snow in my driveway, which I am still trying to remove — makes me want to drink even more.

Alas, I've been a good boy. I've refrained from succumbing to the temptation of the drink since New Year's Day, knock on wood. Yet with weeks like this one, I can tell it's going to be a long year.

"But you don't have a drinking problem," one person said to me.

No, I don't. I like to have some beer and liquor once in a while (I'm not too keen on wine), every couple of weeks, but I rarely get drunk. In my 19 years of marriage, I've been drunk less than a handful of times. At 47 years old, when I have a couple of drinks, I'm usually ready for a nap.

I may not have a drinking problem, but I certainly have an eating problem, and drinking alcoholic beverages makes my eating problem worse. Alcohol makes me hungry, and I can't control my hunger after a few drinks. That's why I've decided to stay away from alcohol this year.

My challenge is to find ways to deal with everyday stress and periodic celebrations in a different way, other than splurging on alcohol and junk food and overeating. I've found it's a great exercise, one that I hope can carry over to help deal with my eating problem. Since I am a stress eater and love to splurge on junk food when I'm celebrating — holidays, good news, etc. — there are correlations between alcohol and junk food. I've found that the triggers are similar, if not the same, and the fact is I don't really need either one to survive. I need to eat and drink, but I don't need to eat junk food or drink alcohol in order to stay alive. I hope this is a good learning experience for me, one that will have positive lasting effects on my relationship with food.

Meanwhile, I visited the Adirondack Health Wound Center for the last time on Thursday. After five weeks of treatment, my open wounds are healed! Although I'm glad to finally take a shower after three weeks of "bird bath" washing (the Unna boots on my legs could not get wet), and I'm happy that I'm finally healed after eight months of open wounds on my legs, I will miss visiting the Wound Center staff ever week. The nurses, receptionist and doctors are amazing. I even got a chance to meet a couple of registered nurse students. Overall, my Wound Center experience was extremely positive and I have no complaints.

There is one lasting effect on my time at the Wound Center. I will have to continue wearing compression stockings on my legs to keep them from swelling, at least until I can get my weight down enough to where it is not an issue. There's another motivational factor for my weight-loss program.

As far as my gout, it finally cleared up in time for the big snowstorm. With no chance of exercise during my 10-day gout attack, I now have plenty of exercise on my schedule. I began shoveling snow Tuesday night. As of Thursday morning, I had dug out Dawn's car and my car was still buried in the driveway. Once my car is removed, I still have to shovel a path to the backyard, shovel the dog's yard and rake the roofs I can reach.

I my not be having my whiskey or stout on St. Patrick's Day this year, but at least I'm getting a lot of fresh mountain air.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: Kicking a man when he's down

Start date (Dec. 22): 480
Last week: 453
This week: 450
Total lost: 30 lbs.

Last Thursday — a day after I had my Unna boots replaced by another pair (the wounds are healing nicely, by the way) — I felt as though the wrapping on my right foot was a little tight. That was the first sign of a much bigger problem.


It was bad enough spending most of the previous three weeks with my feet elevated — and that I now have to take "birdbath" showers because I can't get the Unna boots on both legs wet — my gout had unexpectedly returned after more than a year.

It was strange, since I was doing everything my doctor recommended to lower the uric acid in my blood: take medication, eat low-purine foods, stay away from alcoholic beverages. Stress, however, can elevate uric acids levels and cause an acute attack of gout. That's probably what happened, although I can't say for sure.

Stress? Yes, on top of the everyday stress of work, finances, etc., going through the process of healing the wounds in my legs has been stressful, mainly because I've been limited with my mobility and it's starting to drive me nuts.

When I returned from my shopping trip to Price Chopper in Lake Placid on Friday, my foot was bothering me even more. "I think I overdid it," I told my wife. I still though it was the dressing being wrapped too tight, and I walked around the house using a cane to ease the pressure in my foot.

"Maybe it's your gout," my wife said Saturday morning, as my foot/ankle discomfort had turned into pain.

She was right. I could barely walk on Saturday, putting aside the cane for a pair of crutches. Saturday night was the worst. The foot pain was so bad that I had to cut a few inches off the Unna boot over my foot to ease the pain a little. Still, I couldn't place a blanket on my foot because it hurt so bad. By the evening, I finally found an over-the-counter pill that lessened the swelling and eased the pain. My foot throbbed most of the night, and I couldn't get comfortable. I slept two hours at the most, on and off between 3:30 and 6:30 a.m. Sunday (the Watertown PBS station has some good programming that time of night).

Over the next four days, the gout slowly got better. On Monday, I traded in the crutches for the cane, which I am still using. The pain isn't 100 percent gone yet.

Needless to say, I have not been able to get any exercise since Friday; just walking around the house has been difficult. I feel a little better every day, and I can't wait to start training again for a 5k walking race.

While it's been a difficult week — and I've felt like someone decided to kick me when I was down — at least I was off from work this week, taking a "spring" vacation away from the newspaper business. So, if I was going to choose a time to have a gout attack, I couldn't have picked a better week.

There's always a silver lining, right?

(GET MORE INSPIRATION. The book "Lake Placid Diet: How the Olympic Village Saved My Life" documents the first 18 months of Andy Flynn's weight-loss journey, in which he lost 80 pounds and successfully walked the Lake Placid Half Marathon twice. Purchase the book here.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: Power of visualization

(Author's note: This is a sample of a chapter in Andy Flynn's book, "Lake Placid Diet: How the Olympic Village Saved My Life." It was originally printed in the Lake Placid News in February 2014. The photo shows Andy Flynn finishing his first and only marathon on May 19, 2002 at the Paul Smiths VIC, age 32, weight 370 pounds.)

Sometimes when I’m in bed at night, I try to visualize a time when I was younger and more fit, hoping that the memory will either speed up my weight loss or keep me in the right frame of mind to guide me to my goals. So far, I’ve had no luck.

I simply can’t remember a time when I was fit, so I can’t transport my mind back to a place in time. Looking at my fifth-grade school photo, I see that I’d started looking a little chunky by the time I was 10 years old. My face and arms were puffy, and I was beginning to get a gut. I hadn’t ballooned, but I wasn’t skinny. I don’t remember any obesity problems earlier than age 12, but that was too long ago to create a mental time stamp.

So those nights in bed, straining my memory banks to find an inkling of inspiration, have been fruitless. But I’m not one to give up, so I’m creating a visualization plan to coincide with my weight-loss goals.

There are a lot of mixed messages out there about setting weight-loss goals. Some fitness experts and doctors say we shouldn’t set an overall goal because thinking about that big number can get overwhelming and depressing, and it will lead to failure due to the loss of motivation. Instead, they teach us to set small goals, which are repeated over and over, and that will eventually lead to a bigger number.

But I’m not afraid of a big number. In fact, without it, I wouldn’t have a motivational system to keep me going.

My big number is 220 pounds. That’s where I’d like to end up after this weight-loss journey ends. If I get lower than that, it would be nice, but I don’t have my heart set on it. The main reason is that 220 is a time stamp for me, and I can’t remember a time when I weighed less. I weighed 220 pounds when I left for college in August 1987, losing 30 pounds that summer after high school graduation. Even though I worked at McDonald’s, where the temptation to overeat junk food was constantly in my face, I remember eating a lot of grapefruit and playing a lot of tennis at the Municipal Park in Tupper Lake. I was active, and it felt great. Yet it was so long ago, and I was still technically obese, so I’ve lost that feeling of being 220 pounds. All I know is I’d like to get there again someday.

In order to reach my big number, I’ve created a series of smaller goals. How long will it take to lose 250 pounds? If it were up to me, I’d say a year, but reality always trumps ambition. I know losing 250 pounds in one year is not realistic, so my answer is that I’ll get there when I get there. Rest assured, I will definitely get there.

I’ve set aside my small goals in 5-pound increments, for the most part. Along this goal line, I’ve written time stamps and medium-sized goals in order to keep me motivated and help me attempt visualizing healthier times in my life.

(The book "Lake Placid Diet: How the Olympic Village Saved My Life" documents the first 18 months of Andy Flynn's weight-loss journey, in which he lost 80 pounds and successfully walked the Lake Placid Half Marathon twice. Purchase the book here.)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: These Unna boots are made for walkin'

Start date (Dec. 22): 480
Last week: 457
This week: 453
Total lost: 27 lbs.

When I saw the doctor at the Adirondack Health Wound Center last week, she recommended that I wear an Unna boot on my left left to speed up the healing of the open sore on my shin, technically called a venous ulcer. I said, "Why don't we put the Unna boot on both legs?" I also have an open sore on the right leg, on my calf. She agreed.

So, for the past week, I've had Unna boots on both legs to speed up my recovery.

What's an Unna boot?

Simply put, it's a form of compression therapy. In 1896, German dermatologist Paul Gerson Unna invented a "boot" consisting of low compression gauze bandage with 10 percent zinc oxide paste, gelatin, glycerin and water. That's wrapped around the leg first, followed by other wrapping to keep the boot in place. It needs to be changed every seven days. In essence, it's like a soft, temporary cast — a semisolid mold.

The main drawback is that I can't get it wet. I've tried various methods of covering my legs with plastic in order to wash my body in the shower; however, I am unable to do that because of the way my fat is distributed in my legs. Therefore, I rely on a wash cloth for my daily body cleaning. Its a small price to pay for quicker healing.

The other drawback is that I have to keep my feet elevated whenever I sit, and I can't stand still for periods of time. The doctor wants to make sure I do what I can in order to keep my legs from swelling. My job at the newspaper requires me to sit for long periods of time, so I've had to work from home, writing, editing, laying out the newspaper, etc. with my legs elevated. I can't travel in my car for long periods, but I can make quick trips between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid to take photos and conduct interviews for the Lake Placid News.

The main benefit of using an Unna boot is that I don't have to stay in bed the entire time in order to keep my legs from swelling. Another benefit is that my legs are protected from potential scraping or bruising while they are covered with the Unna boot.

The doctor recommends walking. The Unna boot provides high pressure when the muscles are contracted, pumping excess fluid out of my legs, and small pressure while at rest. So the more I walk, the better.

When I woke up the morning of Monday, Feb. 20, I looked at the calendar on my phone, and it read, "Start Training for Half." That's shorthand for "Start training for the Lake Placid Half Marathon." I forgot I wrote that on my calendar a couple of months ago. I was being optimistic at the time. With my weight and ability at the time, I knew it would probably not be realistic to compete in the June 11 event this year, as I had done in 2014 and 2015, but I decided to start training anyway.

So, two days before the doctor put Unna boots on my legs, I headed to the Olympic Center to walk around the 1980 Rink in the Herb Brooks Arena. I surprised myself by walking 1 mile that day. That was the first day of training, not necessarily for the Lake Placid Half Marathon, but for some 5k in the late spring somewhere and a future half marathon, possibly in the fall, maybe the Lake Placid Classic. I can't wait to get back into competing in these races — walking, not running. Eventually, I'd like to get back to the Lake Placid Half Marathon. I'm emotionally attached to it because it was such a big part of my weight-loss success in 2014 and 2015.

On Wednesday, the nurse at the Wound Center took off the Unna boots, and my sores were healing fast, so the doctor prescribed another week with the Unna boots. She was hoping the smaller wound on my right calf could heal by next week. Fingers crossed. I figured I'll be wearing Unna boots until my sores heal.

In the meantime, I'm walking when I can. Last week, it was three times, including a half mile at the Saranac Lake High School track Saturday when the temperature was in the 50s (walking around goose poop and patches of ice). This week, I'll just keep plugging away, walking then resting, walking then resting. After all, these Unna boots are made for walking.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: 'Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes'

Start date (Dec. 22): 480
Last week: 465
This week: 457
Total lost: 23 pounds

Last week, I mentioned winning a "Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes" contest 21 years ago, but I never explained the history behind it.

In the spring of 1996, I had transferred from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise as the Saranac Lake reporter to the Lake Placid News as the staff writer, and I was getting involved with the community I was calling my new home. I lived in the Olympic Village, in the back apartment above the News office on Mill Hill, from 1996 to 1998.

By July 1996, the American Red Cross was hosting the second annual "Mega Blood Drive Challenge" in the Tri-Lakes, pitting the Lake Placid, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake communities against each other. The goal was to see which village could donate the most amount of blood in one day.

In 1995, Saranac Lake Mayor Tim Jock challenged Lake Placid Mayor Jim Strack and Tupper Lake Mayor Mark Arsenault, and Saranac Lakers came out on top with 145 pints of blood.

In 1996, Strack posed the same challenge to Jock and Arsenault ... this time with a twist.

In order to encourage more donors, they adopted a "Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes" contest in which all the donors would get a chance to vote in this friendly competition among the three mayors, media representatives and other Tri-Lakes VIPs. Since I was covering the blood drive and "Best Legs" contest for the newspaper, I decided to enter this male-only competition. The other contestants were Jim Rogers of WNBZ, Bill Kush of Radio Lake Placid, Chuck Damp of the Saranac Lake Kiwanis Club, John Ellis of Tupper Lake and Clarence Perry of the Tupper Lake Knights of Columbus and Lions Club.

The "Best Legs" contest had first been held in the region in Glens Falls and was subsequently picked up by the Tri-Lakes chapter of the American Red Cross. I wrote about the "Mega Blood Drive Challenge" in 1995, donating blood in my home town of Tupper Lake, so covering the challenge in 1996 seemed to be a natural fit.

Before the blood drive, the nine "Best Legs" contestants met at Lily Rose's restaurant in Ray Brook so our legs could be videotaped. Each of us walked down a runway, while music was playing, to show off our gams and we each gave a unique dance to woo the voters. During the blood drive, donors watched the video and voted on the best legs. In all, 244 people registered to donate blood, and 212 pints were collected to boost the low summer supply.

I tied for first place with Lake Placid Mayor Jim Strack. It was probably my fancy dance moves, not the sexiness of my legs, that helped put me in contention.

Thus ended my leg-modeling career for charity. Today, that would be impossible because my legs have been scarred by leg ulcers and are currently being treated by the Adirondack Health Wound Center in Saranac Lake. Two weeks ago, I began visiting the Wound Center doctor to treat an open wound on each leg, one on the front (left leg) and one on the back (right leg).

Treatment this week included double-wrapping my legs with compression stockings to decrease the swelling and promote healing. The ulcers — cuts that did not heal because of swelling and poor circulation — have been open and "weeping" since last summer. Weekly visits with the doctor include scraping dead skin out of the wounds to promote healing. If that sounds painful, that's because it is painful, even with a topical ointment to lessen the pain.

Needless to say, I have to elevate my legs as much as I can to get the swelling down. I deal with the pain and discomfort all hours of the day while the doctor and I work on the healing process. And I began walking last week to get the blood circulating in my legs. It will take months to heal, and then I'll probably have to wear compression socks for the rest of my life.

I wouldn't have these leg problems now if I hadn't gained all the weight back after losing 80 pounds a few years ago. It's clear that losing weight this winter and spring is more critical than ever ... for my health today and for the rest of my life.

Working hard to recover from my leg ulcers, and looking at the reality of the situation, I know I'll never get back to my "Best Legs" days. But that's OK. All I want are healthy, functioning legs so I can get back to a normal life, a better life. I'd also like to start training again for road races, with my eyes set on competing in a third Lake Placid Half-Marathon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: He's got legs

Start date (Dec. 22): 480 pounds
Current week (Feb. 9): 465 pounds

My legs have never been sexy, and I've never tried to sculpt them into chick magnets, yet I did win a "Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes" contest 21 years ago, back when I was 26 years old and not ashamed of wearing shorts and showing some skin below the knees.

That all changed about six months ago when I scraped the back of my right leg getting out of a car and the front of my left leg doing something else (I forgot what). Those scrapes have not healed since July, and they were getting worse before I saw my doctor two weeks ago.

Poor circulation in my lower legs runs in my mother's side of the family. The veins simply have a hard time pumping the blood back to my heart, so my legs, ankles and feet swell up. It's bad mainly because I am morbidly obese. Now, with poor circulation, swelling and thin skin on my legs, I have what they call venous ulcers — open wounds that "weep" fluid down my legs and take a long time to heal.

I've had leg ulcers before, and they healed on their own, creating scar tissue and discolored skin on the front of my legs. Then in 2014, I lost 80 pounds while writing the weekly "Lake Placid Diet" column for the Lake Placid News and my legs were finally healthy again. With the weight loss and all the exercise I was getting training for 10K and half marathon races in Lake Placid, the swelling in my legs, ankles and feet went away. And when I got scrapes on my legs, they healed quickly. I hadn't felt that good about my body — and my legs — in years.

Then I gained back the 80 pounds in 2016, plus 10 more pounds for good measure, and my leg troubles returned. Now I'm just fighting to walk, never mind compete in a half marathon again. I get around with a cane. When people ask me why I need a cane, I just say, "old age," and quickly change the subject. At 47 years, old age is not my problem, and that's why I've been too embarrassed to share my story.

Until now.

The main reason I lost 80 pounds in 2014 was because I held myself accountable by writing a weekly journal in the Lake Placid News each week, sharing my struggles and successes with weight loss and exploring the community approach to losing weight. I took off my mask and was open and honest about my struggles. Since I was recording my weight every week, I was obligated to lose weight to get healthy. And it worked, at least until June 2015 when I walked my second half marathon. After two years, though, it all fell apart.

Essentially, I went back to my old habits of overworking and overeating, and that's why I gained the weight back.

Even though I really want to keep my current struggles private, I've finally decided to share my story again on my personal blog. Maybe it will help again. After all, the Lake Placid Diet never really ended. After 18 months, I published the highlights of my newspaper column in the "Lake Placid Diet" book. Like I said at the end of the book, the journey continues.

After gaining back the weight — three years after the Lake Placid Diet began — this new chapter of the Lake Placid Diet is the story of healing and recovery.

Part of that recovery was wrapping up my legs Saturday, Feb. 11 so I could co-announce the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Gala Parade with NCPR's Brian Mann. We had a great time! Listen HERE.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Helping the Hohmeyers with their cookbook

It's been 10 years in the making, and Hungry Bear Publishing publisher Andy Flynn is pleased to announce that the Hohmeyer family's "Common Roots Cookbook" is finally printed.

"Congratulations to Cathy and Ernie Hohmeyer at the Lake Clear Lodge & Retreat for putting together such a fascinating cookbook," Flynn said. "This book has much more than recipes. There are cooking tips, stories and poems from the Hohmeyer family, beer and wine pairings, photos from the Lodge property and family members and history of this unique place in the Adirondack Park."

The book is a family project. While Ernest and Cathy – the chef – are the main authors, stories and poems were written by Ernest’s parents, sisters Cornelia (Hohmeyer) Tiemann and Grita (Hohmeyer) Schneck, and daughter Gretchen while some of the photography – including a Lake Clear sunset on the cover -- was taken by their son Yurgen.

At 144 pages, the book retails for $19.95. Purchase here.

A book-signing and tasting event will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Lake Clear Lodge & Retreat. For more information, contact Ernest and Cathy Hohmeyer at 518-891-1489 or visit online at http://lodgeonlakeclear.com.