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A promise to stay active in the Adirondacks

July 3, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 395 lbs.

Last week: 400 lbs.

Start (Dec. 17): 470 lbs.

Total lost: 75 lbs.

The last time I saw my friend Randy Lewis was New Year’s Eve. With a scarf on her head, she told me about her battle with cancer. I had no idea it would get worse. I had no idea that would be our last conversation.

Randy recently lost her fight with cancer, dying the evening of June 18 at her Paul Smiths home surrounded by family members. She was one of my favorite people, inspiring me to be my best, always there with sage advice, a smile and encouraging words. She was a writer who wasn’t afraid to be honest with the public about her emotions and life’s challenges, writing about her life’s journey in the “Actively Adirondack” column that ran for years in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Randy’s husband, Neil Surprenant, said her last lucid day was June 8, the day of the Lake Placid Half-Marathon, and she told him how proud she was of me for finishing the race. I wish I could have told her that my finish wouldn’t have been possible without the support of friends like her.

The last time I saw Randy was at the Stewart’s in Saranac Lake. I was looking for tortilla chips to make nachos for dinner. I was two weeks into the Lake Placid Diet and had lost 13 pounds, but I was determined to enjoy my New Year’s holiday, so my wife and I were having nachos for dinner to ring in 2014.

Randy and I had a good chat in the potato chip aisle, catching up on each other’s lives, ending our conversation with a big hug.

Randy had struggled with her weight for years, and we had many conversations about the battle of the bulge. She lost a lot of weight one year, and it inspired me to try and try again. When she thought about a particular food she liked — ice cream, for example — she stayed away from it, saying, “It will still be there when I’m done with the diet.” I liked that line of thinking. The food isn’t going away forever; we’re just taking some time away from it for a while.

With my tortilla chips in hand, she kept glancing at the bag, hinting that I shouldn’t buy it. She wanted me to buy healthy food. Little did she know that I had all the fixin’s for nachos in the car, along with a pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and other junk food. She didn’t need to know all the details. In her eyes, the tortilla chips were bad enough.

I was feeling uneasy and got defensive. After all, it wasn’t the end of the world or the end of the Lake Placid Diet.

“Don’t try to make me feel guilty for buying these tortilla chips,” I said. “I’ve already lost 13 pounds, and I’m taking a small break for the holiday. I’ll be back on track in two days.”

That didn’t phase her.

“I’m going to make you feel guilty,” she replied with a motherly tone.

It was quintessential Randy, always caring and honest, always looking out for my best interest. Now I can’t buy tortilla chips without thinking of her.

Actively Adirondack

I first met Randy around 2000 when she was the copy editor at the Enterprise. I was managing editor at the time and quickly became a fan of her writing and editing skills. We kept in touch after I got a public relations job at the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths in 2001. Several years later, she tried to peddle the idea for an “Actively Adirondack” book to publishers but failed to gain traction. I had already self-published a couple of “Adirondack Attic” books by this time, so I said, “Let’s publish it ourselves.”

I felt strongly that Randy’s story needed to be available for generations of Adirondackers to read. It’s a story of an Adirondack woman — wife, mother and daughter — one that rarely gets told in book form in our region. It’s unique, heartfelt and honest. So that’s what we did. In June 2007, Randy self-published her book, “Actively Adirondack: Reflections on Mountain Life in the 21st Century,” through my company, Hungry Bear Publishing. It won the People’s Choice award at the Adirondack Center for Writing’s 2007 Adirondack Literary Awards.

Randy had been living in the Adirondack Park since 1972, and she felt a deep connection to the natural wonders of this land. Her columns were filled with observations from her daily walks in Paul Smiths, much of it spent in the forest. And she didn’t always need to go into the woods to experience the wildlife; sometimes, it came to her. She tells a story in the book about her house being trashed by a black bear while she was out of town.

As I continue my journey on the Lake Placid Diet, I wonder what my life will look like when I’m no longer in the fish bowl of Page 8 of the Lake Placid News. This column has a lifespan of a year, two years tops. What happens when it’s all over?

When I think about my weight-loss success, I have to give credit to the exercise that’s taking up a lot of my time. I’m more active than I’ve been most of my life, and it’s making me healthier. It’s only logical that in order to stay healthy and achieve my Lake Placid Diet goal — making the transformation from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one — I need to keep exercise a priority. I need to remain active ... forever.

That gets me thinking about the title of Randy’s newspaper column, “Actively Adirondack,” and how that could be a theme for a healthy lifestyle. It would be the perfect tribute to a beautiful woman.

So I’m ready to make a pledge, in Randy’s memory, to stay active in the Adirondacks well beyond the lifespan of my newspaper column. It’s what she would have wanted. As I embark on my hiking excursions this summer, I think about all the positive vibes Randy has sent me over the years, and every time I take walk in the woods, I feel her spirit alongside me. It’s comforting to know she’s still there, active as ever.

As for the tortilla chips, I’ll just have to live with the guilt.

Active bucket list

When I launched the Lake Placid Diet, I gave this weight-loss experiment a timetable of one year; however, some people have asked if I’m continuing the column for another year. The short answer is, “I don’t know.”

Obviously, I will not reach my overall goal of weighing 220 pounds within a year (a total of 250 pounds lost), so I’ll definitely have something to write about in 2015, but I’m not sure where I’ll be emotionally in December.

In the end, I just want to lose enough weight to live a normal life, one without seat belt extenders or using the handicapped bathroom stall. I want to put on my own socks again. I want to pee without sitting down. I want to do more than sleep in the bedroom, if you know what I mean. My excess fat is keeping me from being able to do normal things in life, and I am sick of it.

There are so many things I want to do once I get my weight down. I’ve already made some strides, like walking up and down stairs without holding on to a railing. But now that I’ve achieved some exercise goals, like finishing the half-marathon, I want to do more.

For example, I’d like to get back on a bicycle, but I have to get my weight down to at least 300 pounds before I can ride one that’s not custom made for people who are morbidly obese.

Below is a list of outdoor activities I’d like to sample at least once when my weight is down. As I continue my journey, I’ll check them off my list.

-Road cycling

-Mountain biking




-Whitewater rafting



-Stand-up paddleboarding

-Completing a full marathon (again)

-Completing a triathlon (even if it’s a mini tri)

-Horseback riding


-Climbing a tree




-Having fun on a trampoline

-Taking photos of the High Peaks from a scenic flight

-Fly fishing in a river


-Downhill skiing

-Cross-country skiing


-Ice skating

-Ice sailing

-Taking a bobsled ride

-Taking a luge ride

I’m afraid of heights, so I’m not sure if I’d be able to do these activities: skydiving, parasailing, rock climbing and ice climbing. They sound like fun, though.

Some people have suggested I work toward being an Adirondack 46er, but I don’t have the desire to climb all the High Peaks. My heart’s not in it. When I get my weight down, maybe I’ll change my mind.

And I have no interest in the following activities: snowboarding, skeleton, hockey, rugby, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, kickboxing, football, gymnastics, wrestling, ultimate fighting, base jumping, diving, water polo, polo, backcountry skiing, ski jumping, bungee jumping, surfing, windsurfing or posing for the Lake Placid Garden Club’s nude calendar.


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