Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge

gastric bypass dischargeLast week, I visited the Bay Area for the first time. I’ve been to southern California many times, but never north of Fresno. When I had travel plans to go to San Jose for SMX West, I decided to go to San Francisco for 2 days of sightseeing. I did tons of walking, and saw all the sites possible. I did a double-decker bus tour of the city, and noticed all of the bikes around. I saw the signs to ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, and I immediately knew that I wanted to do it.

As I looked into the various bike tours, I realized that it wasn’t just riding a bike 1.7 across the bridge. It was going to be a significant physical event. I ate a very yummy lunch at the pub at Ghiradelli Square (eggs Benedict with brisket on homemade cornbread) and got enough protein and carbs to last me for a couple hours. I packed some snacks…some jerky for protein and peanut butter M&Ms for some quick sugar.

I rented my bike from Blazing Saddles, and picked it up near Fisherman’s Wharf. They offer rentals by the hour, or for a full day. It was $27 for a 24-hour rental, and they gave me the map to get to Sausalito. Everyone gave a little different account of how hard it would be…and how many miles I’d be riding, so I just geared up for a very long 9+ mile ride.

I rode along the bike trail along the Presidio, through the wetlands at Chrissy Field, and enjoyed a gorgeous, sunny day in San Francisco. While I was attempting awkward selfies with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, I met a girl named Cat who was also trying to do the same. We took pictures for each other, including the picture above. We hit it off immediately, and decided we’d ride the bridge together. There were some pretty wicked hills to get up to the bridge itself, and I had to walk a fair amount of the hills. Once we were on top we were ready to ride across one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States.
golden gate bridge biking collage
It was such a sensory experience to ride the bridge. First off, I was sore from the 4+ miles of bike riding I’d already done at this point, and was surprised that it was actually an incline for the first third of the bridge. We were on the far left of the bridge, riding in a narrow lane that also had bikers coming from the opposite direction. So I was sandwiched between other bikers, and oncoming vehicle traffic coming on the right (only separated by an inadequate fence). I had to concentrate to keep up my speed, avoid running into other bikers, but still enjoying the gorgeous view of the bay. It was emotional to see the pure beauty of the misty bay, with my heart racing from the physical exertion, and realize I was in the process of doing one of the most exhilarating things of my life.

Once at the opposite end of the bridge, Cat and I took pictures together. We were so happy to enjoy the experience together. She was on time restrictions, so we parted ways after our pictures. She rode back across the bridge toward Fisherman’s Wharf, and I continued on to do the ride into Sausalito.

When I picked up my bike, the people there said “And then it’s just a 3 mile easy ride down to Sausalito.” Oh, how wrong they were! I was not downhill like I expected.There was a steep and curvy portion to get down underneath the bridge, and it was flat to drive into Fort Point. But then the next 3+ miles were on an incline. And some pretty steep inclines. I found this course on MapMyRide, and as you can see…the elevation rises were pretty significant. Had I known that I’d be doing such tough biking, I would have thought twice about the full ride. And against doing so much additional riding around before I crossed the Golden Gate.

Once I finally got into Sausalito, I was TIRED. And hungry. I just barely missed the ferry back to Pier 39, so I decided to get some dinner and catch the next ferry. I found the bike parking near the ferry, and walked around to find a place to eat. I misread the ferry schedule and missed it by about 2 minutes, which meant I had to wait another 75 minutes to catch the last ferry. Even though my legs were on fire, I walked around Sausalito more until it was time to board the ferry.

The ferry ride was 30 minutes, and I was so worn out I dozed for a lot of the ride. We passed Alcatraz and watched the LED light show on the Bay Bridge. As we were docking, I realized that we weren’t going  to Pier 39 like I thought, but all the way over to the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero. That meant I had an additional mile-plus ride to get back to the bike shop. At that point, my legs were so rubbery and tired I could hardly ride. Especially in the hillier portions of the city. By the time I dropped off my bike, it was after 8 pm, which meant I’d been on a bike or walking for over 7 hours. I returned my gear, hopped the trolley, and got back to my room as quickly as possible. I was totally asleep within 10 minutes of hitting the sack.

Like learning how to ski, riding this course was something I never would have attempted before losing weight. It felt so awesome to be able to enjoy such a physically-taxing activity. My butt and legs were sore for days (even to the point it was hard to stay seated at SMX), but it was so worth it.

Learning How To Ski

park city mountain resortI’ve been embarrassed about something for many years. I’ve lived in Utah for half of my life, but never experienced “The Greatest Snow On Earth” on skis. This all changed last week when I learned how to ski at Park City Mountain Resort.

Now, in full disclosure, this was not my first time on skis. I went skiing, but did not learn to ski. Back in 1999, before I married my crazy ex-husband, he talked me into going night skiing in Idaho. There were a few problems with the situation:

  1. I did not know how to ski
  2. It was night skiing in Idaho, and it was -6 degrees
  3. The mountain wasn’t snow, it was ice
  4. I wasn’t wearing the right clothes
  5. My ex was not a good teacher, and thought that he’d just take me up the lift and teach me to ski at the top

Needless to say, it was an awful experience. I didn’t know the basics of how to actually keep myself upright on skis. I fell when getting off the lift. I fell trying to get to a place to learn the basics, and he still didn’t do a good job teaching me. As soon as I started to move down the hill, I always fell within 30 seconds. I fell and fell and fell. I didn’t know the proper way to take off my skis or get up after falling. I fell so much that Steve got bored and took off down the hill to have some “fun” before dealing with me again. I made it about halfway down the hill in 45 minutes, flagged down the ski patrol guy on a 4-wheeler, and asked to be driven down the hill. With an experience like that, and years of  poor health, I didn’t expect to ever actually learn to ski.

nicole on the slopesMy “learning to ski” outing was a part of a retreat for Social Media Club of Salt Lake City board members.  I said that I’d love to go skiing, but didn’t know how, so our fearless leader Krista set me up to take the Never Ever Half Day lesson. I came prepared, unlike my first time skiing. I had the proper layers, ski pants, socks, goggles, gloves, hat, and jacket.

I arrived at PCMR around noon, got set up with my rental for boots, skis, and poles. I hobbled outside in my boots, found the area with the instructors, and found my group. I learned to ski with a girl from northern California and 3 people from Chicago. I can’t lie…I felt a little embarrassed to be the only one living in Utah who had never  learned to ski.

We started out with “babysteps” – gliding around a flat area on one ski, figuring out how to turn around, and how to balance. Once the second ski was on, it started to feel like something I’d be able to do. We practiced maneuvers in an area that wasn’t too steep or busy, and hopped on these cool conveyor belts to take us back up to the top of the practice area. After about 90 minutes of instruction, we were finally able to hop on the ski lift!

park city never everAfter being on my feet for a while, it was nice to relax for a few minutes riding the lift. And of course, the view was amazing. I lucked out by going on a day with gorgeous blue skies and puffy white clouds. It was windy and cold, but not too cold.

At the top of the hill, I felt inspired to quote the ski scene from one of my favorite movies – Better off Dead.

“Go that way. Really fast. If something gets in your way, TURN.”

The group followed our instructor to a part of the hill that wasn’t too busy, and our first run went well. When I was at the bottom of the hill..I couldn’t believe that I made it down the hill without any epic crashing nor burning. I did it!

During the day, we made 5 runs down the mountain as a group. Surprisingly, I  wasn’t the worst skier in the group, and I was comfortable skiing faster by my third run. But because I was getting ahead of the group, I stopped for a moment to let people catch up. I was admiring the scenery, taking in the mountain air, and then suddenly I was on the ground. I lost focus just long enough for my skis to cross and fall over. It wasn’t easy on my pride to fall over, but at least I only fell once. And I knew the proper technique to take off my ski and get up on my feet.

Skiing is a lot more physically taxing than a regular workout. I typically work out 3-6 times a week at the gym, but skiing just trashes your muscles. Around the 3 hour mark, I was tired. And thirsty. And began feeling symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia. I had plenty of food and drinks in the car, but not with me on the slopes. I asked the group if anyone had food on them, and a girl dramatically whips out a banana and says “I’ve got a banana in my pocket!” I had a few nibbles, and took a break at the bottom of the hill. My instructor had some almonds, so the group took a breather and I gobbled down my snacks. Between the rest and food, I was feeling refreshed enough to do one last run.

At the top of the hill, I had to take a good photo of myself. Victories like this don’t happen everyday.

nicole bullock skiing

I’d like to say “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” But that’s not quite true. If you’re going to learn to ski, make sure that you’re in the habit of being physically active. If you’re fairly sedentary, you probably will get tired quickly and your body will hate you. I’m in the habit of frequent activity, and I was in AGONY for days. For the first two days, I did lots of stretching, loaded up on protein, and guzzled as much water as possible, but there was no way of getting around the pain. Especially because I can no longer take NSAIDs because of my gastric bypass. Tylenol only works so well on inflammatory muscle pain.

If you’re in Utah and want to give skiing a try, I’d love to go with you. Now I feel like I have an essential Utah activity in my skill repertoire.

Now to try snowboarding…

Top Ten Non-Scale Victories of 2012

2012 has been an incredible year for me.

I have accomplished so much, and achieved goals that have previously seemed impossible. Obviously, the weight loss has been the highlight of my year. I weigh over 120 pounds less than I did going into 2012. But beyond the total pounds, there have been a lot of other non-scale victories (also known as NSVs in the weight loss community).

Some of my favorite NSVs:

  1. Having the energy to walk 10+ hours a day with my family in London
  2. Fitting into jeans and dresses that haven’t fit since I was newly married to my husband
  3. Being able to go on airplane flights without a seatbelt extender…and having extra slack on the seatbelt when I pull it taut.
  4. Seeing my collarbones again. And my knee bones. And my wrist bones.
  5. Acquiring an amazing support network, both online and offline, by sharing my story
  6. Meeting Beth (aka Melting Mama) and many friends from Bariatric Bad Girls Club
  7. Having the confidence to go on TV and be featured as KSL’s Blog of the Week 
  8. Being able to cross my legs comfortably
  9. Tossing aside my giant beach towel and using a regular-sized towel for bathing
  10. Looking at myself in the mirror…and seeing the real Nicole that I know has been there all along…

Here’s to an amazing 2013!

Breaking Through My First Post-Op Plateau

Losing 50 pounds was my first big goal in my weight loss journey, and I achieved it with  pretty consistent weight loss. But once I hit 50, I had my first plateau. I even gained 2 pounds! *Gasp!* I blame part of it on travel…I’ve been traveling like a maniac the last few weeks. First we went to southern California for Easter weekend to stay at my in-law’s beach condo in Ventura County. Last weekend I joined my husband on a long layover in Dallas.

Let me tell you – it’s HARD to eat the way you need to when you’re traveling, especially airline travel. I can’t take the foods I would like to pack through airport security, and the stores within the airports don’t sell them. I was subjected to taking protein powder for shakes, nuts, and other dry items. Also when traveling, I tend to eat out at a lot of restaurants. I typically share a meal (or even a kid’s meal) with my husband or daughter. Those are my most likely reasons for the weight gain and plateau.

The good news is that I got right back on track as soon as I got home on Sunday, and I was pleasantly surprised that the scale showed I not only lost the 2 pounds I’d gained, but I was down a bit more. I weighed in at 318.5, which is a total of 54.8 pounds lost. Another good thing about traveling is that I’m much more physically active than usual. Between walking down airport concourses, sightseeing and shopping, my stamina seems to last a lot longer. With all of the flight bumps and cancellations coming back from Dallas, I’m sure I walked at least 3 miles in airports on Sunday.

A happy non-scale victory I did have while traveling was being able to fasten the airplane seatbelt without an extender. This is a HUGE victory for me, because I do travel so much and I have felt so much shame in asking a flight attendant for an extender. I also could put my tray table down about 95% of the way (which before I’d just avoid it because it was nowhere near flat). When I travel with my husband or daughter, I often put the airplane armrest up so it’s not digging into my thighs. This time I tried to put down the armrests…they’re not as bad as before, but I think they will soon be a problem of the past.

This week I’m amping up my physical activity so I can be ready for the Color Me Rad 5k on the 28th. I probably could use some new running shoes, but I don’t want them to get all gross and stained from the rainbow powder. I’ve been sticking closer to my diet guidelines and avoiding eating out this week. Lately I’ve had a daily craving for tomato soup, so I get my comfort food fix that way.

Scale Victory – 45 Pounds Down!

nicole 45 pounds downI’ve had a bathroom scale for a few years that has a capacity of 328 pounds. When I purchased it in 2008, I was right around the 300 pound mark. The scale has been just on the edge of it’s capacity several times, as my weight has fluctuated between 350 and 325 for the last three years. It hasn’t worked for me in 18 months, and it’s been a mini-goal of mine to be able to weigh on that scale.

For the last two weeks, I’ve stood on the sale almost every day, just hoping I might actually get a weight reading other than “ERROR.” Yesterday morning I weighed myself before my shower, and IT SHOWED NUMBERS! I weighed in at 327.5, which is a total loss of 45.8 pounds since I started my pre-op diet on January 30th. 45 pounds in 8 weeks is pretty dang awesome!

I had a hard time deciding what to name this blog post. In Weight Watchers, which I was enrolled in 8 times, we talked a lot about “Non-scale victories” (NSV). Sometimes in the weight loss process, you know you’re doing everything you need to, but the scale isn’t showing the progress. Non-scale victories can be inches lost, addictions overcome, or anything else that is promoting your journey to better health. In my case, I really DID have a scale victory…I had a great loss AND I can use my bathroom scale. I don’t have to weigh in at the doctor to know where my progress is at.

A few people have asked why I haven’t been putting my food diaries lately. My main reason is that I’m not blogging every day, and it gets a little tedious to remember back more than a day. But for those who love my food diaries, here’s what I ate today:

  • Simply Gogurt yogurt tube – 2 ounces
  • String cheese – 1/2
  • 1 TB peanut butter
  • Refried beans with melted cheese and salsa
  • Cinnamon banana protein smoothie – 5 ounces
  • Skinny Cow light ice cream bar

Down A Dress Size

nicole little black dress

When it comes to non-scale victories (NSV) this week, I had two. I fit into a pair of jeans a size down (24, instead of 26 or 28) and I fit into this black dress than hasn’t fit me well for over a year and a half. It’s a size 22, and I was wearing dresses (with stretchy elastic) in size 26. I was still self-conscious about my tummy bulge in it; but, I look forward to being down a little bit more so I can fit into the largest size of Spanx.

I posted this photo on Facebook, and got a flood of positive comments. It really made my day! I don’t think I’ve ever got 80+ “likes” on a photo. Ever. I’ve also been getting random friend requests and message from friends-of-friends saying that they are “inspired” by my story. Every time I hear positive feedback, it makes me happy that I decided to publicize my journey.

nicole bullockToday was a busy Sunday for my extended family. My cousin Jayna’s adoption was finalized this week, and she was blessed in sacrament meeting today. It was also another cousin’s missionary homecoming. They were held within minutes of each other, and I had to zoom across the valley to catch Elder Parry’s report. I knew I’d be exhausted today, so I laid in bed for most of the morning so I’d have energy for the festivities.

After the meetings were over, my aunt and uncle hosted a luncheon in honor of my cousin. They always put on a great spread, but it was hard to pass up the stuff I love like fresh veggie trays and croissant sandwiches. Instead, I got a scoop of chicken salad, a little bit of cheeseball and ate it with a few wheat thins. My aunt makes delicious mint brownies, and I had a hard time taming my sweet tooth. I took the tiniest chunk piece on the place (about 1in by 0.5in), licked off the mint frosting, and let the fudge melt in my mouth. I didn’t eat the actual brownie, but it was nice to get the taste of a favorite dessert.

I sputtered out around 4pm (after 5 hours of family fun) and went home. I got straight into my pajamas and rested all evening. It’s frustrating to be completely drained of energy like this, but I know that adequate rest is key to my recovery. I need to be patient with myself, even when it’s not fun. I’m hoping to get up to 6 hours of work per day this week.

Food diary:

  • Light yogurt
  • Half a string cheese stick and a few pieces of deli meat
  • 3 TB of chicken salad, 3 crackers, and some cheese spread
  • Mint topping off of a brownie
  • Sauce, cheese, and a meatball off a leftover Subway sandwich
  • 3oz apple juice
  • Protein shake made with coconut milk and Syntha 6 mix