Thursday, December 23, 2010

I need a nap!

I made it!!!! 195 pounds this morning!!! Now I did have to use my fail safe. When I woke up and weighed in I was 196, but after a 5 mile run outside (finally ran outside again!) I snuck in under the wire at 194 and some change. I cannot believe that I did it.
I thought after completing such a tremendous fete I would feel exhilarated, but in all honesty I am exhausted. I ran 18 miles over the past 3 days, and that is not including Monday's ramped up workout. I am also fighting a bit of the stomach flu that has ravaged our household for the past few days, and I am just beat.
I think after I get some rest I might feel better about the accomplishment, and I am very excited about getting a jump start on fighting the holiday bulge. Winning something in the fatcyclist competition could certainly help make me feel better. But for now I just really need a nap.
I get off of work today at noon, and do not return until Jan. 3 (SWEET!). In the meantime, we have several holiday festivities that will make working out difficult, if not entirely impossible. If I continue to watch what I eat, I should be able to maintain this weight into the new year, when I can really start dropping some pounds.
Merry Christmas to all, and may your New Year be happy and healthy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Run, Brian, Run!

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was participating in a contest on to lose 10 lbs before Christmas. If a person loses 10 lbs before Christmas they are entered into a drawing to receive some really cool prizes from the website, including a new hybrid bike from Trek and some other really cool biking gear/miscellaneous items. The competition has been a constant reminder to watch what I am eating over the busy holiday season and for the most part it has definitely helped me to avoid the holiday bulge. Initially, I thought it would be easy for me, but multiple holiday parties and get-togethers have served as meaningful obstacles to my goal. On Monday morning, after a weekend celebrating Christmas with my family, I weighed in at 201 lbs. A little disappointing because I slipped back over 200 again, and additionally challenging because I was 6 lbs from my goal weight of 195 for Thursday morning.

The good news is that Thursdays have consistently been my best weigh in days; typically slightly better than my Wednesday weigh-ins with my "weight watchers" group. The weekends have been brutal for my weight, but I can usually recover during the week. So I have that going for me. Which is nice.

But timing alone was not going to solve the 6 lb issue. So, I have also decided to ramp up my workouts. I ran an extra 3 miles on Sunday. I ran for 30 minutes on the treadmill yesterday, lifted weights for another 30 minutes, and then walked for another 30 minutes over my lunch hour. This morning I ran 6 miles and I plan to walk another 30 minutes over my lunch hour (it might just be nice to stretch out my legs after that run this morning). Tomorrow I will replay the Monday routine, 30 min. run, 30 min. lift, 30 min. walk. And hopefully by Thursday morning I will be golden.

It already seems to be working. When I weighed in this morning, I was at 198 and some change. I do have another fail safe. I lose a tremendous amount of weight while running, probably in water weight. As I said, I weighed 198+ this morning before my run. After running 6 miles, stripping my clothes, and toweling off, I weighed 196+. So if I don't hit the mark prior to Thursday run, I am sure I can hit it afterwards.

To do all of this extra running I have had to wake up a little earlier, 4am instead of 4:30am. Katie asked a couple of times this week already what I was doing. And maybe it seems a little crazy to her and probably others, but really it is just a few days of punishment for the possible reward of significant weight loss and some really cool schwag.

Wish me luck; I will let everyone know how I do on Thursday!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Observations from Hell

Update on my health: I went to Iowa City on Tuesday to follow up on some tests that were ran in November. All the test for biliary dysfunction came back negative. The doctor explained that all other blood tests and indications lead him to believe that have fatty liver disease. He advised me to continue to lose weight, eat less fatty foods, stop taking Tylenol, and drink less alcohol. I will abide by his advice as best as I can. I may still have the occasional burger, and most definitely will have a beer from time to time. However, I will moderate both of these with more discretion.

When I woke up this morning determined to run outside, I noticed that it had snowed 3 inches and running on the streets would be nearly impossible. So I was resigned to run on the treadmill (or better known as Satan's plaything) once again. While I run on the treadmill, I watch Sportscenter. As I stated in my last post, watching is one thing, but hearing the show over the noise of the machine is nearly impossible. So I am forced to make up the commentary to the show just by what I see on the screen. And maybe not commentary as much as mental observations of of the visual stimulus. Here are a few of my observations:

1. The 2 guys in the new BMW commercial could not look more Aryan. Seriously, they look like German soldiers from WWII films. They are both tall with blond hair and blue eyes. Wouldn't a German car company be wise to avoid this stereotype as much as possible?

2. Though a much better player, Joakim Noa is the ugliest player in the NBA since James Edwards of the Detroit Pistons in the late 80's. Actually, I see some physical resemblance between the two. Enough that I think a paternity test is warranted.

3. Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb are hated by more back up quarterbacks than anybody else in the world. It is time for both of these gentlemen to pack it in.

4. The Boston/New York game and the San Antonio/whoever game were both settled with last minute shots. And in both games the shooter pushed off before hitting the shot. I hate it when the refs put the whistle in their pocket to end the game. A foul is a foul no matter when it happens; blow the darn whistle.

5. Ohio State has a better basketball team than Duke does, yet Duke remains to be the unanimous number one team in the country. This situation completely typifies my disgust with the ranking systems in college basketball. The entire college press is so enamored with Duke that it clouds their better judgement. And don't even get me started with the commercials during March Madness. How that is not a recruiting violation I will never know!

6. Kobe Bryant was not mentioned in today's Sportscenter until the second half hour of the show. Which I find completely amazing, because since moving the show to LA, all things LA are pushed to the forefront. In fact, I think Mark Sanchez owes Sportscenter millions of dollars for bumping up his draft stock when they covered this one particular Southern Cal player everyday for the two weeks leading up to the draft. It was pathetic!

...and I really like this show. Imagine if I had to watch Oprah while I ran on that damned thing!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 Satan

For those that are not aware, it is frighteningly (after spelling that word, I am questioning if it really is a word) cold outside. When I got up today for my run, I checked the weather. It was 4 degrees actual with a wind chill of -9 degrees. While I have dressed for similar conditions recently, I was not sure that I was up for it today, and had truly resigned to running indoors as of last night. So it was with great anticipation (sarcasm!) that I jumped on our family treadmill.

We got our treadmill at a garage sale in town for $75. That was 3 years ago and darn thing continues to operate as it should. When I started working out a couple of years ago, I solely walked/ran on said treadmill every morning. It wasn't until May 2009 that I actuially ventured out-of-doors to run for my cardio workouts. Since that time, I have wondered why I ever ran on a treadmill at all.

Please do not get me wrong. The treadmill does have its good points. Take this morning for example: the treadmill saved me from freezing to death on a 4 mile run outside. But overall, running on a treadmill seems like some devious form of torture. I am pretty sure Dante wrote about sinners running on a treadmill in the fourth circle of hell in the Inferno. A person runs and runs and runs and they go absolutely nowhere. At least you get to watch TV, right? Sure you get to watch TV, but good luck trying to hear the damn thing. You have never seen me so confused as I am trying to decifer what Brett Favre is bitching about on Sportscenter, while I can see that he has his hands down his pants (taking more pictures of his junk?) for most of last night's game. When I run for 30 minutes outside, time seems to go by relatively quickly. When I run for 10 minutes on a treadmill, I feel like I have aged 40 years and need to shave the hair growing out of my ears.

I really hope that the weather settles down in the next couple of weeks; I just don't know how much more I can take of that treadmill.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

See ya later, 200! I hope I never see you again!

Work is killing me right now, so I only have a couple of minutes for this post. The big news...I weighed 199lbs this morning!!!!!! I am so excited. Breaking the 200 pound barrier had been a big goal of mine for awhile. When I weighed in for the support group on Wednesday I was hoping to see a sub-200 number. Sadly, I didn't make it on Wednesday, but I worked hard all day long and low and behold, I made it this morning!

There are a couple of problems with all of this. First, I don't know that I really weigh under 200 lbs. Our scale is old and often weighs lighter than other scales. Especially the doctor's scale, which sometimes can add 7 pounds to my girth. Second, it is going to be extremely difficult to stay below 200 lbs in the next couple of weeks. I have an office party on Friday, 2 parties plus a beer tasting this weekend, I am on the road all day on Tuesday, and then several successive family holiday gatherings. Good, delicious, fatty food will be readily available at all functions, and nothing packs on the pounds like a few brews. I am nervous! However, I am more acutely aware of my eating than I have ever been in my life. I really want to keep losing weight, even during the holidays. I hope this motivation is enough to dissuade my urge to pig out!

Time is up. Gotta go.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just Do It!

I remember when Nike came out with the slogan, "Just Do It!". I remember that the slogan stuck with me; I even stenciled it on a project in shop class. There is certainly the marketing aspect of the slogan, which has often times steered me towards the Nike brand, but there is a deeper meaning to the words, and I have always understood it. No excuses, no fear, no more "I'm gonna try", just get your butt out there and do it already!

I think about those words when I hear people complain about working out. I thought about those words last night, when my Dad said I was crazy for even thinking about running outside in single digit temps. I could think of a hundred reasons why I shouldn't work out, the good thing is I only need this one simple reason I should.

Check out this video:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do these pants make me look fast?

I weighed in with my support group yesterday; 201 lbs, down 2 lbs since last week. I am very excited because this past weigh in included the Thanksgiving holiday. I was disciplined throughout and managed to lose some weight. Yippee!

I went for a 4 mile run this morning. When I got up the wind chill was 16 degrees. For those who don't know, that is freaking cold. I geared up with some lined workout pants and a sweatshirt, and it all worked well. But the whole time I was dressing for conditions, I was thinking to myself, "I really could use one of those nice running jackets, with the reflective stripes and slot for my iPod." The whole run and much of today I have been thinking about "things" I would like for fitness gear. I signed up on another website to possibly win a bicycle jersey, and last week I was talking to Katie about these sunglasses that have interchangeable lens for bike riding. I know it's Christmas time and that really seems to put everybody in the consumer mindset, but sometimes it is depressing to think about how much stuff I think I need to get fit.

And that is the crux of the matter. I don't need any of these things to get fit. I was born with everything I need to run. But something inside of me tells me that if I had these shoes, or this jacket, or that HR monitor, that somehow I would be faster or the experience would be better. I can ride any bike with 2 wheels to get fit, but if I had a carbon fiber, lighter than air road machine I would be so much more fit, right? My parents basement has an old DP rowing machine and Airodyne exercise bike in it collecting dust. Millions of other folks have nordic tracks rotting away in their homes.

And suddenly I realized something...working out sucks! It is difficult. It is hard to get up at 4:30 every morning to work out. Running in sub-freezing temps is not fun. Biking on a heavy ass steel frame is demoralizing. But no piece of equipment or attire is going to change all of these things. But I do feel better having lost weight. I like having goals of losing more weight. I like the idea of being healthier. It makes me happy to look at my skinny wife. And maybe for me all of the latter NEEDS outweigh the former ones...

...but Santa, I still WANT those sunglasses with the interchangeable lens.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again!

Holy cow! It has been almost 2 whole months since I posted to the blog. I have plenty of excuses, mostly related to available time or lack thereof, but I really don't want to hear them either. Instead, I will spend some time updating everyone on my health and fitness status (What a concept!)

Update on my health: I have been going to Iowa City to see a specialist in biliary dysfunction. We had thought for sure that there was something wrong with my pancreas, bile ducts, the area formally known as my gall bladder. Alas, all tests have come back negative. Yet I continue to have some elevated liver enzymes during my blood tests. No one seems too concerned, as though this may be a life threatening situation, but the specialist (and others) have suggested taking care of my liver. They have recommended losing some of my belly fat, eating foods lower in fat and cholesterol, and avoiding any alcohol. I am starting back with some visits to my primary physician. I am going to ask a few questions about other tests, possibly a liver biopsy, and see what he thinks about supplements such as milk thistle to aid in the regeneration of the liver. (Apparently, the liver is the only organ in the human body that can actually regenerate healthy cells.)

Update on my fitness: So keeping the doctor's recommendations in mind, I have set out to finally, really, truly lose the weight I have been talking about. I have gone to a low fat diet. I am back to turkey sausage, egg whites, and other foods pretending to taste good. I have rededicated myself to my workouts, even extending some of my runs to 4 and 5 miles. While still lifting weights, only heavier and more often, 3 times a week. I have also began walking 2 miles during my lunch hour 3 times a week. I have even recruited a few friends and family to participate with me. Every week, a few of us our weighing in and sharing that figure to the group. We are discussing our weight loss goals, complaining of the difficulties,and sharing ideas and support. It's like weight watchers, without the weekly fee and all the advertising. So far it has worked pretty well. I think everybody has lost at least a couple of pounds, and others have lost a small child. I am down 5 lbs (starting at 208) and feeling really good about my numbers for this week. I have also committed to losing 10lbs before Christmas on one of my favorite blogs, Check out the challenge here. I figured losing 10 lbs before Christmas was not a bad idea, and why not commit to a challenge where you have a chance to win some pretty cool biking gear.

So that's my story in a nutshell. What have the rest of you been up to?

One more thing, I know the doctor is smart and everything, but there was no way that I could continue to live without the occasional beer (or 6). So, while I am drinking much more infrequently than I used to, I still sneak in a malty beverage. I am human after all!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My friends Tigger and ...

A quick update on my health: I don't know much. I have had scopes crammed down and through every place on my body. I have had enough radiation from x-rays and scans to give me cancer, and enough blood drawn to feed Dracula for month. And the end result is they can't find anything wrong with me. Yet, I continue to have the "attacks" that sent me to the doctor's in the first place. My doctor is leaning to a diagnosis of IBS, yet both he and I are uncomfortable with that diagnosis for a couple of reasons. First, the suddenness of the onset (it basically started one day in August), and second, the acuteness of the attacks (they are quick to come on and sometimes severe enough to send me to the ER). So while I wait for some radiology results about a possible swollen spleen (neither he nor I are real worried about this, it is probably a result of all the testing), the doctor and I agreed that a second opinion was needed, but it seems that I can't get in to see the second doctor until Dec. 16, and lord only knows how long of a process that will be after more consultation, more testing, and more results and diagnosis. Honestly, I am kind of tired about talking about it. So I thought I would write a post of a lighter nature.

So during all of my health concerns I have not worked out much; maybe walking on the treadmill every so often. After some exhausting and fruitless weeks with the doctors, I decided to start working out last week. I have been taking it easy, running only a 2 to 2.5 miles at a time, and dropping the weight on my strength workouts. And it has gone pretty well. I lost all the weight I gained with not working out (209 lbs. this morning; it is weigh-in Wednesday). And it feels good to be out trying to do normal things again. Now for the funny part...

(Warning: if you are sensitive details of bodily functions, read no further and take second to think about if you take things a little too seriously)

I was out for my morning run at 5am on Tuesday. It was dark and cold out. The morning was very quiet; I could hear the hum of the street lights. I had just finished my first mile (8:10, not bad) and was turning back north on Buchanan, when suddenly I heard it...nature was calling, and it was an emergency!

Just to give you a little history, in a former life I was as regular as the mail. In the past typically, I would spend 5-10 minutes in the morning relieving myself of any discomfort before heading out for a run or workout. Occasionally, I would be surprised by a second bout of discomfort while I was out on a run, but that always occurred quickly, and I am fortunate enough to have a Hardee's open at 5am within the first half-mile of my run. I can stop in there real quick and the good thing is the bathrooms are in the foyer, so I do not have to really enter the building to use their facilities. Now, some people think that it is disrespectful to use the bathroom of a retail establishment without buying something from said establishment. I, however, do not subscribe to this particular moral. But I digress...a drawback to my current health situation is a lack of regularity. It's not that I am constipated all the time, though that is the case occasionally. The real problem is that I never know when I am going to have to go, and sometimes the urge to go comes on very quickly. The other day I was walking into work (I have to park some 10 blocks away from my building) and the urge cam on so fast and so feverishly that I had to run into one the building that I pass by and use their restroom. Other times I feel like it takes a few hours for my bowels to really wake up, then when they out!

So anyway, I woke up this past Tuesday morning, went through my normal routine of getting dressed, turning on Sportscenter, stretching, and making an attempt to cleanse my colon. Nothing doin'. I tried and tried, but nothing was to come. I figured everything was cool and I could hit the road running. The thought did cross my mind that the situation could get dyer, especially as I passed Hardee's in the first half-mile and still didn't have to go. And then it hit me, just like I said at the top of the story. The onset of this urge was quick and the desire to relieve myself was growing vigorously. I immediately planned the quickest route to Hardee's in my head (down Buchanan, left on Livingston, across the post office parking lot and I am there). But the urge kept rising. I am not sure if you all know this, but it is very difficult to run with your butt cheeks clinched like a vice. However, the thought of not running and taking longer to get to my goal was excruciating. It is sad to admit, but the thought of stopping and pooping in some one's yard crossed my mind more than once. It was sheer willpower and the thought of having to move from town if I was caught (I hate moving, it is my least favorite thing next to classical music performances) that kept me going.

Finally, I could see it; the door of Hardee's was near. As I reached the door, I grabbed the handle...the urge surging up deep inside of me...I pulled was LOCKED!

Just kidding! It was open. I did my business, did not buy anything (don't worry moralists, I spend plenty of money at Hardee's, just not while I am running), and finished my run. The end is lacking in excitement, but I am telling you the build up was palpable. Easily the most exciting 5-7 minutes of my week so far.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Is there a doctor in the house?

So I got a call from the GI doctor's office about my consultation for my endoscopy (you know, to grab those pesky stones in my belly) and they said I couldn't see anyone until Sept. 29. I am not real good at math, but that seems like a long time to wait to talk to somebody just so I can schedule the actual procedure, and Lord only knows how long I will have to wait for that. I did ask the nurse to expedite the situation, and she said she would see what she could do. That was yesterday morning and I haven't heard a thing yet. It is not looking good.

In the meantime I am suffering. I have an upset stomach every single day. Sometimes it gets really bad; like I have sharp things trying to poke their way out of my belly and even through my back. Every time I eat I feel nauseous, and sometimes it hurts so bad I can't even think about working out. Yesterday, it was raining when I got up and I really didn't feel like running. So, I walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes. The good thing is that I am so turned off by food that have actually lost a couple of pounds. I am planning on riding my bike tomorrow, weather permitting, and I would like to make the ride a little longer since we don't really have any place to be. We will definitely have to see how I feel.

I just can't believe that it is going to take a month to get in to see the doctor. Like s/he doesn't have 30 minutes between now and then to talk to me about the procedure and get it scheduled. Is there a shortage of GI specialists? Is somebody going on vacation? Are there thousands of individuals with digestive health issues clogging up the calendar? What is the deal?! It would seem that my best hope for relief is that my pain and suffering get to a critical point where an emergency room visit is the only answer. Oh, by the way, ER visits cost $200 a pop on my insurance. Maybe if I pass out or puke in the waiting room somebody will take this shit seriously.

I know this post has almost nothing to do with fitness, but it has everything to do with my health. This "problem" consumes my every thought. Sometimes I am fearful of eating, I am completely disinterested in working out, and all I really want to is curl up and go to bed. Unfortunately, if I have to live with this for the next several months, hiding from my everyday life is the last thing I can do. Seriously, is there a doctor in the house?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What is the gall bladder's favorite band?

(The title of this is stolen from a text that my friend sent me; thanks Matt)

Today's weight: 209 lbs

No weight lost, but none gained either. I am okay with that. Why? Because I have been sick. After the four year old birthday party I started to feel kind of yucky. I had a lot of abdominal discomfort and some heart burn/reflux. I attributed all of it to overindulging on food and beer. But the belly discomfort began to turn to belly pain. Sometimes a dull ache and sometimes a sharp, localized, stabbing, kind of pain. I also had the feeling that I was constipated. I hadn't had a satisfying poo in a few days. A couple of days later the pain started to be in my back, along the sides. I thought for sure I had a kidney stone. I called the doc and went in for a look. The diagnosis: no kidney stone, but I was the proud parent of a gall stone. The problem with this is that I had my gall bladder removed 3 years ago. Then, I found out that gall stones can still grow in the remaining bile ducts, and continue to cause many of the same symptoms and problems that the original gall bladder attacks used to give me. That sucks! The next day after I talked to the doc, I went for a run, and I don't know if it was mental or what, but I did terrible. I only ran 2 miles, I was in a lot of pain,and just struggled in general. Maybe I just used it as an excuse. When I was talking to my doc, I told her that I had been having a lot of heart burn when I was doing my long runs for the half marathon training (another reason I stopped training). It started while I was running and would continue for much of the day. She told me that was probably an indication of this particular issue. If I had only known then...

What's next? I will actually have to go in for a procedure where the doctors will snake a scope down my throat, through my stomach, and into my small intestine. When they reach the bile ducts, they are supposed to be able to see and remove the stones while they are in there. It is supposed to be a "simple" procedure, but we shall see.

Until such time, I will remain in frequent pain and discomfort. My biggest concern is my health in general. Sometimes I feel like since I turned 30, I have had some pretty serious health issues. And here I am in some of the best shape of my life and I can't go 2 months without a trip to the doctor. Between these "gall" stones and the epididymus inflammation, it has been an annoying stretch. I guess I am just hoping that I can get through this thing and get back to normal.

Friday, August 27, 2010

May the Force be with you!

Soooo...things are actually falling back into order. My eating has been under control. I have indulged, like drinking a few beers after work yesterday and having a scoop of fake-fried ice cream with my wife last night, but I have also been much better with my choices of food and portion control. Wednesday night we were in Champaign to see our new nephew and we were there late enough that we needed to eat out and went to the Courier Cafe. I ordered the salad bar, but was still careful with my portion of potato salad. Last night ,we pooled our dinner together with some neighbors and I was conscious of not going back for seconds until I gave my first plate some time to digest. I have had a couple of salads at lunch and overall things are going pretty well.

On the topic of exercise, I had the fastest 4 mile run I have had in weeks yesterday morning. I ran 4.082 miles in 30:36; that works out to be a gnats hair under 7 1/2 minutes per mile. I was stoked! And oddly enough, it never really felt like I was killing myself during the run. I could not have been more excited about it. I am also excited about riding my bike tomorrow morning; it is going to have to be early and fast because we are leaving the house at 8am to go to Chicago.

And that brings me to my last point, I am nervous about going to Chicago and over-indulging. We have a party for some friends that are getting married. the invite says that food, wine and beer will be provided. When food and beer are free, I have a really hard time not taking advantage of that. Plus just being with friends and socializing is a great reason to drink 12 beers. We plan on meeting some friends and my sister for brunch on Sunday. Breakfast at a restaurant is a very dangerous situation for me. Breakfast foods can pack a ton of calories especially if you drench them in sausage gravy (mmm...). So, I guess I will do my best monitor my intake. Maybe have a water (chased with some scotch) between every beer, just to cut back a little on the calories. Or maybe I can use the Jedi mind trick on myself? "These are not the potato skins you are looking for." Who knows?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Now that's just embarrassing!

This week's weigh-in: 209 lbs

What the [eff]? I spent all last week talking up a storm about how I was so committed to losing weight and blah, blah, blah...and what do I get? The exact freaking opposite. I went out and gained weight. I feel like such a schmuck!

There are no real excuses for this hypocrisy. I just went out and was completely undisciplined. I already talked about my delicious BBQ ribs on Thursday. Those were followed on Friday with a dinner out with my wife and some friends. I had appetizer, soup, lamb chops, and quite a few bites of a dessert. Does that even sound like a guy trying to lose weight? It sounds more like a Joey Chestnut (see above) warm-up. Followed up on Saturday with a 4 year old's birthday party. I had a burger, beans, chips, dip, cake and about 10 beers to wash it down. Again not exactly the Seattle Sutton menu. On Sunday, I was hungover like a big bear's ass. Those 10 beers had killed me. I didn't even feel well enough to eat until well into the afternoon. Luckily, Sunday afternoon was our annual block party. No beer, but I did have the brisket, the beans, half a brat, cucumber salad (w/ sour cream), baked macaroni and cheese, and topped it off with a couple of cream puffs.
Seriously, I should have weighed 250 again. It was ridiculous. It really makes me question what deeper issues I have that food serves to mask? Why do I find so much comfort in food? And why can I not be more disciplined with my eating?
So I guess that is certainly a goal for this week. I am going to be more disciplined with my eating. One day at a time, right?
"Hi, my name is Brian, and I am addicted to food..."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Riding and Ribs

While not quite as entertaining as this story, I do feel it necessary to talk about both riding and ribs.

First of all, I have had the chance to get back on Roxanne for the past 2 Saturdays. I have gone for quick 20 mile rides and have had so much fun. I take a great route the takes me around Allerton Park, and most of the time it's like you are not even in central Illinois. There are trees, hills, and the occasional pond. The whole time I am on the ride I have about 1500 acres of forest on my right hand side. And just like always you never know what you are going to see in the way of wildlife. My first ride back I was cruising down the road, and had come up on a stretch of downhill. I decided to push it just a little and was cranking pretty hard when I came around a curve and right there in the middle of the road was a mother deer nursing her 2 babies. When I did come around the corner, I don't think either mom or I was prepared for it. We caught eyes and I hit the brakes; she took off into the woods. And for a moment the youngins were left wondering where breakfast had just run off to. Then they saw me as well and they ran off too. It was pretty cool to see and I know that this was not the busiest road in the world, but it still seemed like a strange place to be breastfeeding.

On the second ride, I had just finished a tough climb up a hill from a creek bed and was catching my breath when I looked up and saw a bunch of "things" on the side of the road. As I got closer I saw they were birds and I initially thought it was a gang of turkey vultures. No relation to an actual turkey, but they have the same coloring on their heads, and they are everywhere at Allerton. But when I got closer, (and I had to get real close to tell the difference) I realized that it was a family of wild turkey hens. No toms, but I had never seen so many wild turkeys in one area; there must have been ten of them strolling through a little grove on the side of the road. they seemed very disinterested in me, but they certainly were not frightened either. I guess I thought turkeys were more jumpy.

It is certainly cool to see so much wildlife on these rides again.

The second part of this post is far more serious. It's about ribs. Now I know that I said I was going to be more disciplined about my diet, but I had to make a trip back to Galesburg for a visitation. And I had the good fortune of having time to stop by my favorite bbq rib place in the whole world, the Bar B-Q Rib Shack. Now, when one is faced with this kind of opportunity, discipline flies out the window. Especially, when one is the first person in the dining room like I was, and the good people there provide with a free, heaping pile of onion rings. the order of o-rings is so big that I shared with 4 other tables in the restaurant, plus I didn't want to fill up on rings when I still had the main course. I ordered a regular order of ribs, add spicy sauce, with beans, slaw, and fries. It was amazing; everything I remember them to be. I would put the rib shack up against any ribs in the nation (trust me I lived in North Carolina; I know these are fighting words). It was simply an amazing experience.

What does any of this have to do with fitness? If I had been running the half marathon this weekend, there is no way ribs would have fit into the program, and I would have been missing out. I don't have any guilt. I know that in a couple of days the pounds from that decadent meal will be gone, and I still had the joy of the experience. Simply, I am glad that I made the decision to step back, enjoy my fitness more, and not take things quite so seriously. Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-in

So I thought I might throw in one more post a week, this one based solely on my weight loss goals. I mentioned months ago that I thought I would weigh less than 200 lbs. any moment. Well, that hasn't happened. In fact, some weeks I have been further away from 200 than I really care to talk about. Again, there are a number of reasons why this is the case, but the most influential reason has to be a lack of discipline. So in the hopes of finding some accountability, I have decided to let the whole world, or at least the portion of which reads this blog, know how much I weigh on a weekly basis. I would appreciate any encouragement you may have in the comments, and when its called for, a little critical motivation. Please understand I do not have a digital scale, so don't look for a ton of accuracy, but I expect to lose more than a pound a week. My ultimate goal: 185 lbs.

This week: 206lbs

Friday, August 13, 2010

A weather report

Note: One might have noticed that I have not been very diligent about posting to this blog. I have to say that my excuses are limited, but I can assure you that my time has been extremely limited over the last couple of months. I do think a big part of my apathy was grounded in the idea that I wasn't really enjoying my fitness experience with training for the half marathon. So, as part of my re-dedication to my fitness, I am going to rededicate myself to this blog. Time is still in short supply, so the only thing I can promise right now is one post every Friday. I know, that doesn't seem very dedicated, but that is what I can offer right now. Truly, this is just a a shameless ploy to be the Blog of the Week on the Friday Round Up.

Thank you for that report, Roosevelt! While I have not been stationed in Poontang, I couldn't agree more with your assessment. It has been freaking hot!!!! Katie just got back from her run, and I ask her how it went. "It's HOT!" And at 4:30 in the morning, much like Roosevelt's evening, it is hot and wet. I can't even imagine what it would be like to run at 2:00 in the afternoon. I have to walk about 10 blocks to and from my car at work (That is no exaggeration. Parking on campus is not easy, you gotta work for it), and by the end of that stroll, I am miserable.

The heat index has been near 100 degrees or higher for a week straight, and the last 2 days it has been closer to 115 degrees. That is just ridiculous. There has been a bunch of recommendations on the news about what people should do when the weather is so hot (spoiler alert: Stay inside) and Dave Wallach gave some ideas about how to keep working out when the weather gets so miserable. I hope they translate to Russian, because this heat wave goes all the way over the Iron Curtain. It was 99 degrees actual in Moscow this week. And Kenya is experiencing a heat wave as well (how hot does it have to be for an African country to call it a heat wave) It is almost like something, I don't know what, is causing the temperature to increase globally. Weird!

Seriously though, it's hot. If you have to be outside, be careful. If not, enjoy the beautiful indoors. I hear the Bachelor_Pad is a riveting show.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Am I a failure?

Let's just get straight to the point: I have decided not to run the half marathon on Aug. 21.

I know, I know! All that crap I had been spouting about my enthusiasm for running and sense of accomplishment looks like a bunch of BS now, but truth be told it probably was a bunch of BS. But I feel strongly (right now, anyway) that I have several valid excuses for bowing out. The biggest of which is that training for a half marathon had taken all of the fun out of running. I was stuck on what I believed to be this rigid training schedule. Every run was mapped out and measured. After a run was over, I calculated my total time, distance, and pace. If i missed a run, I felt tremendously guilty, and if I finished a run I scrutinized my pace and performance. All of this rigidity, analysis, and scrutiny turned running from something I enjoyed doing, a hobby, to something more like a job. It sucked!

Another reason for bowing out: it's fucking HOT this summer. And not like a normal "Wow, it's warm outside!" hot, but a "Holy shit! I feel like I am standing on the surface of the sun!" hot. I heard recently that this summer is shaping up to be one of the hottest summers on record (maybe Al Gore wasn't full of shit?). This morning it was 76 degrees at 5 am, and the heat index was around 451 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity is so bad, when I step outside it feels like I have a hot tub in my jockstrap. And I am not cut out for running in these kind of temperatures. Again, it sucked!

And another reason: I am not educated on the ways of long distance running. Specifically, I am bad about nutrition for these kind of things. For a typical 3/4/5 mile run, I will get up at 4:30am, put on clothes (that's right ladies, I sleep in the buff!), stretch, hopefully have a bm, and go out and run. I may drink few ounces of water, but I never eat anything before I run these distances. Anything further and I try to eat a little something about an hour before I run. Usually like a whole wheat bagel or english muffin with peanut butter and a piece of fruit. Typically, that would be more than enough food. Except when I ran an 8 mile route on a Saturday, I noticed some of the telltale signs of low blood sugar about 7 miles into it. My lips started to tingle and my thought processes were not real clear. I drank some gatorade and a kashi bar when I got home, but it had me really worried. Another nutrition problem was that when I wasn't running, I was eating everything in sight. My appetite was insatiable. It got so bad that I actually started to gain weight during this program. So I dieted...wrong idea! When I went out to run the next weekend, I had no energy at all. I barely made it 5 miles, and I even had brought a water bottle of gatorade with me. I read up on some nutritional info for marathon training, but I found it to be somewhat confusing and definitely not appropriate for me. Most info said that hydration was important, but a runner only needs to eat about every 2 hours. Hell, I couldn't make it 45 minutes without feeling like I might pass out. if I should try anything like a half marathon again, I believe I would look into some nutritional and physical training.

And another thing: I was so dedicated to my running, that I had not ridden my bike in over a month. Now I have two problems with that. First, I invested a lot of money in that bike. too much for it to just be sitting in the garage collecting dust. Second, I really like biking. Sure riding any kind of real distances takes a lot of time (time that is in short supply in my life), but riding is very liberating and comforting to me. I enjoy riding because it doesn't feel like a workout, and I really missed that feeling.

So, what now? Well I have rededicated myself to running (what?). Except now I am running some shorter distances (no more than 4 or 5 miles) at a pace where I don't feel like I am having a heart attack. I have also started some weight training again, and I am going to watch what I eat. Which is much easier when I am not dying for food after running. I have also gotten out and ridden Roxanne again. I had a nice ride last Saturday around Allerton Park and back into town. It was really fun. So, if time allows, Saturdays will be my riding days.

I thought about it today on my 4 mile run...when I started working out I needed the goal of a race to really get me moving. And that first 5k was really fun, but now training for the half marathon was more like a job. I actually missed working out for fun! Maybe I don't need a race goal anymore, or maybe I just wussed out. I am not too broken up about it, but I have to ask. Am I a failure for dropping out of the half marathon?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Has it really been a month?

Seriously, I cannot believe that it has been a whole month since I last posted. Where does the time go?

The family and I have been incredibly busy during that time. Alaric had a couple of t-ball games, and I have been helping coach. I ended one job and started another. We have been busy in the yard and around the house (we have actually had 2 minor floods in our basement during this period; one of which we still have not fully recovered from). We took a 4 day trip to the Wisconsin Dells with my parents, sister, and her boyfriend. And I have continued to train for the half marathon in August.

There have been a couple of set backs on the training, but I think I will still be ready to go come August 21. The first setback has been balancing my work/home/fitness lives. When the family is busy running around the house and the Midwest, it can make it pretty difficult squeeze in some workouts. Katie and I both got some running in while we were in the Dells, and let me tell you, running in other regions of the country is a whole different experience. The hills that we ran in Wisconsin were extremely taxing. The worst part was that the worst hill was the last 200 yards of the run back up to the cabin. It was horrid. The hill was so steep, that I was nearly at a walking pace to get back up. Then when I finished, I still had to cool down on the tremendously steep grade!

I have missed a couple of other runs, including one of my long runs. I am not entirely sure that scheduling was the reason for missing them. I think a part of me was pretty tired from work, and the Bike MS ride. Another part of me began to question the wisdom of running a half marathon (Katie still thinks I am crazy for trying to run a half in August). But I have a new found resiliency for the act of running. I am not saying I enjoy every last minute. In fact, some of the time I am trying to convince myself not to quit, but I make it through and when I am done I have a pretty good sense of accomplishment. Every Saturday is a new personal record for distance for me. This last Saturday I ran 8 miles and this Saturday I have 9 miles. Each week I struggle with the idea of running those kind of distances and then when I am done, I couldn't feel better about running it. It is all very bipolar, but it has worked for me so far.

I did have another situation that has not cost me any of my runs, but it certainly threatened to, and if the doctors had their way (what do they know , anyway), I still wouldn't be running. After four days in Wisconsin, Katie and I went over to the neighbors for some drinks and conversation. At some point early in the evening, I came to the realization that my right testicle really hurt. I blew it off for awhile, but then my wincing was noticed by one of our friends. Since I was born born without humility, I told them the situation. Everybody chipped in with their diagnosis, and in the end I went home and put on my jockstrap that I got after my vasectomy and everything seemed to feel better. I got up the next morning, ran my eight miles (with the jockstrap on) and jump in the shower. It was at that time that I noticed a significant amount of swelling and pain in my right testicle. I suggested to Katie that maybe I should have somebody take a look at this. After several hours at the ER and a sonogram, I was diagnosed with an inflammation of the epididymus and a dilation of the blood vessels in that particular region. Normally, this kind of thing happens in men that are still whole (sans vasectomy), so near as they can tell I must have had some sort of injury to the area. Between running, biking, and waterslides, I figured that a nutshot or two was not out of the question. They gave me some pain killers and anti-inflammatory meds. I scheduled a follow up with the urologist, but the er docs ask me not to exercise for awhile. I went home and took the meds and immediately began to feel better the next morning. so by Tuesday I was running again, and I have felt fine. There is still some discomfort, but until I have any real pain, I think I can keep running (I am gonna stay away from biking for obvious reasons).

So in a nutshell (pun intended) that is how my last month has been going. How was yours?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bike MS, Part II: No Pain, No Rain

My teammates and I got another late start Sunday morning; again we started our ride at about 7:20am. I'd like to blame it on the fact that I was riding with a bunch of women, but I am not for sure a bunch of guys in 3 different cars coming from 2 different sites, both about 35 minutes away, could do any better. In the end it really didn't matter.
A few of my teammates were going to ride the 35 mile route; Cathy, Natalie, and I were going to tackle the 75 mile loop. Cathy would have to leave early because of another committment, but she wanted to ride with the big dogs as long as possible.
The ride was relatively uneventful. The weather was just about perfect; approximately 70 degrees and overcast, and we rode through some beautiful woodlands around the Kishwaukee river. Obviously, I do not know what Saturday's route look like in its entirety, but I don't think it was quite as picturesque as Sunday's. My teammates and I enjoyed each others company and conversations. When we got to the lunch rest stop, we were all feeling pretty good, and we took a nice long break to enjoy our sandwiches, fruit and cookies.
Sadly, Cathy would have to leave us and take a SAG vehicle back to the Convocation Center, but I am holding her to next year's ride in its entirety. Natalie and I got back on our horses and rode out for the remainder of the trip.
Back at the Convocation Center, Katie and the kids had shown up to cheer on the riders as they arrived.
They were there when our friends Rachael, Molly, and Alicia finished their 35 mile ride.
Elsewhere, Natalie and I were riding along, talking a lot about our fitness goals and home lives. We stopped at one rest stop that was inside an airplane hangar solely for the use of the local residents (and of course, on that day, a bunch of bike riders). And slowly the miles kept ticking by. Eventually the NIU campus came into view and we knew we were close to the finish line. Which was great, except that we got word that some bad weather was moving in again. We made a turn to the south and the wind was really hitting us in the face. That particular leg was only about 3 miles long, but it was a tough 3 miles. I tucked into my aero bars and hammered it out as much as I could. In the process, I got a little ahead of Natalie. So when I turned back towards the finish, I stopped and waited for her to catch up. I had ridden all day with her, there was no way I was going to race ahead of her at the finish.
We finally turned onto the driveway for the Convo Center and there were quite a few people cheering us on for that last hundred yards. Most importantly, Katie and the kids had their signs and homemade noise makers waving in the air to welcome me home. It was definitely a highlight of the weekend.

Natalie and I snapped a quick finisher photo before she headed off for a free massage.

The medals (the ones with the orange ribbons) were being handed out by a gentleman who would say "As a man suffering with MS, I want to give you this medal and say 'Thank you!'" It really struck a chord with me.

Katie and I grabbed a quick lunch, changed clothes, and started to pack the kids up when another downpour ensued. With the help of some volunteers and an extra change of clothes we finally got back on the rode to home.

The Wrap-Up: There are a few things I need to say before I finish this post out.

1. I am extremely disappointed that I did not get to ride the full 175 miles. Over the weekend I still road about 110 miles, which is a great accomplishment. However, because of the rain-shortened Saturday, I never road over 75 miles in a stretch. Considering that I had a training ride of 80 miles, I did not have the chance to set a new personal record. And considering the time committment that a ride of this length requires, I have no idea when I will be able to do it again before next year.

2. This whole thing started out as a personal fitness challenge to myself, but somewhere along the way it became bigger than that. I really began to consider the charity that I was riding for, and it gave me a tremendous amount of pride to be contributing to the fight against multiple sclerosis. I achieved my fundraising goal for this year (thank you so much to those of you who contributed to my efforts), but I think I will challenge myself with a greater goal next year. And given the time, I may consider more charity rides.

3. I have said this many times before, but I will say it again. I have the most amazing, loving and supportive wife I could ever ask for. Katie did so much for me this weekend that I could never thank her enough. She volunteered to cheer on the riders in the "Spirit line", she and the children made personal signs and noisemakers, and they made homemade chocolate chip cookies for the snacks a the tent. She also brought games and a pool for the tent. She entertained, fed, and enriched our children, while I spent hours out on the road. I truly beleive no one does anything all by themselves, and I could never have achieved what I did without the love and support of my family. That is why this blog is called Racing Home. Thank you so much! I love you with all of my heart!

And now with this chapter complete, it is time to move on to my next challenge. I have already decided what it is: a half-marathon in August!! (Seriously, August! Do you know how hot it is going to be?) But with the love and support of my family and friends, I know I can do it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bike MS, Part I: Rain, Rain Go Away

Note: So I figured out how to get my logo onto the blog, and I customized some of the layout; doesn't it look awesome! Thank you again to my wife and her friend, Kathy, for such an amazing logo!

The day had finally arrived. After all my training (not as much as I should have), all my fundraising (again, not as much as I should have), and all of my carb loading (way more than I should have), the Bike MS: Tour de Farms had finally arrived. Some of my teammates and I had stayed at the Murray mansion in St. Charles, and we got started a little later than we had wanted to. I had checked the weather report before we left and it appeared as though we were clear of any rain until about noon or 1pm. When we arrived at the NIU Convocation Center, headquarters for the Bike MS ride, they announced the big start of the race at 7am while we were still in the parking lot. No worries, we had all day to get our 100 miles in.

We got started about 7:20am, and there were plenty of riders just taking off with us. I was riding with 2 teammates, Cathy and Nat. This was my first time riding in a group, and I have to admit it was really fun. Having conversations with others can really make the miles go by quickly. We started off at a good pace, and we passed a few riders and we got passed by some others. By the first rest stop we were moving right along. We snacked and refilled our bottles, and were off again.

At this point, we came across a rider that was obviously a more skilled and experienced rider, and being the competitive person that I am. I took the opportunity to pick up my pace and learn a little bit about cycling. The other rider tucked in behind me, to draft off of me for a while. He rode just off to the left of my back tire and benefited from me breaking the wind. A short time later he returned the favor by taking the lead. He pointed out where I should be riding and little hand signals to indicate when and where he was moving. It was a very cool learning experience, one I would like to do again. And while I was learning these little bits about riding in a group, the other rider and I were flying; just about 20mph for several miles. Eventually I did hang back to rejoin my teammates, but it was very cool nonetheless.

Throughout the ride, we travelled on roads that were open to regular traffic. Many of the intersections were monitored by volunteer staff, to ensure the safety of riders while out on the road with other vehicles. When we came up to one such intersection, I could have swore I heard the volunteer say that the course was being closed because of bad weather. I questioned a few other riders to see if they had heard the same, but no one really knew for sure. When we got to the next rest stop, a volunteer had held up the entire group and was announcing that the ride was being paused do to some severe weather coming in. the volunteer said that we would be transported by bus to the next rest stop, where there would be more shelter (this particular rest stop only had 3 pop-up tents). Cathy, Nat, and I waited patiently for our turn to load on the bus. But soon the rumor began to surface that the race was being cancelled for the day, and the buses would be taking us back to the start line. None of us wanted to do that, so we decided to ride for the next rest stop, 17 miles away.

Ten miles into that leg we came to another intersection. The rest stop was to our left, but the volunteer was stopping all riders and telling them to go right and go as fast as you can back to the Convocation Center. The storm was only a couple of miles away and it was BAD! As i looked up you could see the wall of black clouds that had descended on the farm land to my left. Later I would ask my teammates for their forgiveness, but I just leaned over my new aero bars and put the hammer down. I was riding well over 20 mph the whole time. To start the storm was at my back but when the temperature dropped suddenly, I knew it was very close. It started with a few drops of rain, then the winds really picked up. I when I say picked up, I mean they were blowing harder than I have ever felt in my life. I struggled mightily to keep Roxanne on the road. Riders were falling off their bikes all around me. Fortunately, safety vehicles were there to attend to them, and I kept pushing. Then the rain started to come down in buckets. Eventually it was more than I could take, and I came upon a townhouse development that had a privacy fence. I ducked into the ditch behind the fence to get out of the wind. I could see a shopping center a couple of blocks away, and I called Katie to let her know I was okay. After couple of minutes, I ran with my bike on my shoulder to the shopping center and found shelter in a Goodwill store (the name was especially fitting for me at that point). I hunkered down in the foyer of the store for about an hour while the storm passed and called Katie a few times to let her know I was okay and to find out where my teammates were (thankfully they were safe as well). Here is a picture of the rain from the safety of the Convocation Center.

After about a half and hour, the storm had cleared enough for me to ride the last 2 miles to the Convocation Center. My family was there to greet me, and the place was full of people with stories about where they were and what had happened.

We waited around other riders to come in and we attempted to entertain our children. Eventually the organizers announced that riding was cancelled for Saturday, and lunch was being served in the atrium. A few minutes after that the beer tent opened up and my day of riding had officially come to a close. Here are a few of us sitting down for lunch.

I was disappointed that I did not get to ride the full course, but I was ecstatic that my teammates and family were safe; it was a truly harrowing experience. Riders had found shelter all over the place. My teammates found an open garage, others took shelter in a farmer's barn, and even others actually made it to that third rest stop. For those that remained out on the course, many of the volunteers continued to monitor their posts, so riders were able to get in a few more miles. But for me, making back to my family in one piece was victory enough for the day (and did I mention the beer was free), so I remained at the team tent for some camaraderie and got mentally prepared for the ride on Sunday.

Before closing, I must give a special thank you to the residents in and around DeKalb, who sheltered so many riders during the storm, and an extra special thank you to the staff at the Goodwill on S. Annie Glidden Road,, who gave me shelter, rags to dry off, and ziplocs to protect my gear for the last couple of miles; your care and assistance was invaluable to me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Wife is AMAZING!

I know its been awhile since I posted last. Things have gotten really busy between work (I found a new job; I start July 12), Alaric's t-ball (I help coach 11 four and five year olds once a week), Amara's second birthday (a 2nd birthday shouldn't be that big), and socializing (a wiffle ball tournament, a trip to the lake and 2 impromptu parties with the neighbors). I have hardly found time to train for the MS ride this weekend. I have however gotten in a 60 mile and 80 mile ride in preparation.

After the 80 mile ride my back was a little stiff and throughout the ride I found myself wanting to be a little more bent over the handle bars. I knew the perfect solution would be a set of aero bars, but I began to feel conflicted.

For those of you who know me, you know I try to live a relatively simple life. I try not to weigh myself down with material items (Roxanne, my bike, is the biggest personal purchase I think I have ever made, and she was pretty cheap in comparison to other bikes) and if I do make any purchases, I usually do them second hand. But this fitness kick has started to awaken the consumer in me, and in doing so I have become very conflicted. The more I ride and run, the more I think about new fitness toys and upgrades. Not just aero bars either; to enrich my riding experience I would love to have a GPS computer for Roxanne. I also need a sleeveless jersey for those summer months, and a new helmet wouldn't be so bad. I am seriously considering a half marathon in August, and I am going to need a new pair of running shoes and a couple of running shirts before then (my old ones are getting kinda smelly). The Nike+ sports kit is pretty darn cool, and would be great motivation and tracking for my run progress, and so on and so on. I have hardly taken a breath and I just racked up a thousand dollars in fantasy purchases. You can see how these fantasies may conflict with my desire to keep things simple. Truth be told, these are simple sports that I am participating in, they should really not conflict with my core beliefs. In order to run all you really need is shoes, and some folks do even believe in that (check out Born to Run by Christopher McDougall); to ride a bike all one really needs is a bike. But somewhere along the line, the thought creeps in that these things will somehow make me a faster runner or a better cyclist; maybe they can keep me more motivated over a lifetime of fitness, and the conflict grows...

I have expressed the desire for some of these items to my wife, and she is a great sounding board for my distress, especially when she opens the checkbook and shows me how little money we have left until payday, but she is also very supportive. She found a couple of running shirts at a garage sale and pick them up for me. They don't fit perfectly, but they're great for training, and better yet, they were cheap. Then she dropped a bomb on me last night.

My wonderful wife went out and bought me a brand new set of Bontanger Race Lite Aero Bars.

Don't they look like they were made for Roxanne. Katie went to the shop, talked with the sales staff, and found me the perfect set of aero bars for my long ride this weekend. Can I pick 'em or what?! And that is not all. With the help of some really good friends, Katie made personalized running shirts for the whole family; they come with a new Racing Home logo and everything.

They are awesome!!!! Her friend Kathy, who is a graphic designer, designed a logo for the website (as soon as I can figure it out, I'll have it permanently posted on the header to the site), and our other friend Lydia has a sister that works for Custom Ink, so she got them printed up.

Father's Day came early at our house yesterday, and I cannot be more thankful for my wife, our children, and the wonderful friends that we have. Thank you to everyone that helped out, and a special thank you to my wife. I love you so very much. Thank you for the incredibly thoughtful gifts!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What the Hell am I Doing?, Part III: The Ride

When I got up Sunday morning, I felt pretty good. My legs were a little shaky, but considering I had just run farther than I had ever in my life only the day before, I was feeling alright.

The weather report was not promising for the ride. They were calling for a high of 55 degrees with intermittent rain throughout the morning.

Katie and the kids came outside to see me off.

Considering my physical condition and the weather outlook, I decided to take a laid back approach to the ride. I had initially intended to ride 46 miles, but if it really started to rain or my legs were not feeling up to it, I would just cut it short. I also promised myself I was not going to push real hard. I wanted to keep my pace about 15 mph.

From the start, you could tell that the weather was keeping some folks away. The registration tent was nearly vacant and there were very few riders out on the course. A couple of miles into the ride, a father/daughter team from Mahomet came riding up. They were nice and we rode together to the first rest area. We talked about the route (I had probably ridden this stretch 10 times), and checked out each others gear. They were riding hybrids, so I wasn't too envious, but they did have GPS computers on their rides. I thought that was pretty cool, but when they told me how much they cost, I knew it was only a pipe dream.

When we reached the first rest stop, I got off to use the potty and get something to eat; the couple kept going. I evaluated how I was feeling and to tell you the truth I was feeling great. My legs had loosened up and I figured the food would keep my energy up.

When I got out on the road again, I took a turn towards the east, and the wind was picking up. I quickly caught up with the couple form Mahomet, who were wearing rain jackets. The wind was really slowing them down, as it caught their jackets like a parachute. When we reached the first cutoff for the 16 mile ride I knew I had more in me. The couple stuck it out for another 2 miles or so then called it a day. It had started to sprinkle a little and I think the daughter was not prepared for the ride.

So I continued to ride alone for the next 5 miles or so. I ate a kashi bar and drank a little Gatorade. I eventually caught u with an older gentleman that was taking a very leisurely ride. we chatted a bit and I continued on. Very soon i came to a Y in in the road, and the sign the riding club put up said to go right, but the painted arrow int eh road said to go left. A kid in one of the yards said the a couple riders had just gone left. I was very unsure if that was correct, but i went with it any way. Soon I passed another rider that looked like they had packed for a weekend trip. She had a saddle bag the size of a carry on tied to her bike and all kinds of "stuff" clipped on to her handle bars. she seemed overly prepared, but suddenly I began to think maybe I was under-prepared. I passed by her with a "Hello" and kept on riding.

When I came to the next town, I knew I had taken a wrong turn (darn kid was probably back in his yard laughing at me). No longer were there any signs about which direction to go, and I was coming up on a pretty busy state highway. I took out the map and got oriented; I waited for the rider that I just passed, in case she did not know her way either. We got back on the right track and eventually I left her pretty far behind.

I had been maintaining a pretty steady 15 mph, inching closer to 16 every so often. I did notice that it had been 20 miles since the last rest stop and I needed to pee. Finally, at mile 30 I reached the next stop. I used the potty again, and ate another banana and bag of trail mix. I refilled my water bottles, stretched my legs and was ready to go.

I only had 16 miles left and physically I was feeling great. So I decided to push it a little bit for the last leg. And when I say a little bit, I mean I buried the needle. I rode as hard and as fast as I could go. The rain began to pick up a little, so I was glad I was nearly done.

When I finally finished, I was very pleased. I had ridden 46 miles in a little under 3 hours. Overall there was nothing really that exciting about the ride, but it was fun.

And for the weekend, I could not have been happier. I completed my goals, in times that I was very comfortable with, and I had a lot of fun doing it. For the next few weeks I will probably stop running and focus solely on riding, since the 175 mile MS bike ride is less than a month away.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What the Hell am I Doing?, Part II: The Run

I had planned to get up at 5:00am on the morning of the race, but I was so nervous about the race that I finally just got out of bed at 4:00am, before my stirring woke up Katie. I could not get the thoughts of not finishing out of my mind.

I spent the extra time watching SportsCenter and doing some extra stretching. I spent at least 30 minutes stretching and another 15 minutes rolling around on the IT roller. I then had a good healthy breakfast with yogurt, granola, a banana, and some turkey sausage. I ate around 5:00am to give my nervous belly some time to digest. Katie got up about 5:30am, and after she got ready we began stirring the children. Before the babysitter arrived, the kids wanted to do some extra stretching with Mommy and Daddy.
Then Katie and I got ready to head over to the start line. Here's the happy couple!

We walked ten minutes up the road to the starting area. I did a few warm up exercises and peed before we lined up. I am very proud of our little community; there were over 600 participants between the 5k and 10k races. We knew a few others racing that day. Our next door neighbor D was running the 5k, as was my wife. I really started to second guess my decision to run the 10k. The idea of having this thing done and over with as quick as possible sounded nice.

Katie and I walked over to the start line. We put ourselves in the middle of the pack, and started getting our iPods ready. Suddenly, Katie was having trouble finding the correct spot in her playlist and we panicked. As the starter was giving his last minute instructions, Katie and I were struggling to get her iPod working correctly. Finally she said, "Forget it!" and the starting cannon shot off. The start of any race from the middle of the pack is somewhat anti-climactic. The cannon has gone off and the folks in front of us slowly begin to move forward. After a couple of yards, I realized that I was in the wrong section of the pack. The pace was excruciatingly slow and I had way too much nervous energy to be sitting in this crowd. I said to Katie, "I love you, but I gotta get out of here!" And with that I hit the side of the road and quickly worked my way up the pack to a more comfortable pace.

I wasn't 200 yards into the race before I realized that my leg felt great! And for the first couple of miles I was Mr. Friendly. I thanked every single volunteer I passed for helping out, I was thanking every cop for being there, and I was waving to my throngs of adoring fans (my kids and a couple of neighbors). Here I am telling my kids I love them.

And I realized something during those first few miles: Races are kinda fun. At least way better than running at five in the morning, in the dark, by yourself. I was doing great hitting my mileage goals, just about 7:30 per mile. As I reached the turn off point for the 10k, I was wondering how many of the people in front of me were running the 10k versus the 5k. I knew there were only like 120 runners signed up for the 10k, and I could see probably 20 people in front of me. So I figured maybe a handful would be turning right and continuing on the 10k route. Wrong! Probably 15 people turned off for the 10k. I know I should only be racing against myself, but I immediately thought, "That's 15 people I am already losing to!" As I turned the corner myself and hit the 3 mile mark, a lot of the fun went right out of me. Suddenly, the crowds on the streets disappeared and I knew I was behind quite a few other runners. Fortunately, the leg continued to feel great!

I got into a pack of other runners moving at about the same pace. We would trade off leads, sort of drafting off one another, but there was one girl in particular that did not want to be in the group. I'll call her Laimbeer, because with the way she was throwing her elbows around she reminded me of Bill Laimbeer (I also questioned if it was appropriate to be writing this blog in my head while I am still running the race). It seemed like every time somebody would get close to passing Laimbeer, she would start grunting loudly and her elbow swinging became more vigorous. And as you can tell from my less-than spectacular depiction, that my Mr. Friendly attitude was turning not so friendly; it was even difficult to turn on the charm for the volunteers. Eventually, the pack that I was running with got passed Laimbeer, but our pack began to dwindle as well. By mile 4 it was just me and another girl, Pinky (she was wearing a bright pink shirt). Pinky and I had a pretty good rhythm going, but I noticed at mile 5 my pace had slowed a bit.

I was starting to really feel the lack of training runs, and my legs didn't hurt, I couldn't feel them at all. Completely numb, and I thought, "I'm glad my legs know what the hell they are doing?!" When we hit the home stretch of the race, I was pretty well spent, and the last quarter mile is completely uphill. Pinky started to pull away from me, but there was nothing I could do about it. Finally, I got to where I could see the finish line, and all I could think about was just getting to it. I saw Katie and D cheering at the last turn, and D says, "Just turn the corner and you are there!" I told him later that was about all I could think about, "You're there! (Just don't die)" I was so gassed I got passed in the last 100 yards by somebody that I hadn't seen in 2 miles. But when I hit the finish line I felt really good, 6.2 miles in 47:49.6. Works out to be 7:42 per mile. That's a little more than my original goal (7:30 per mile), but considering some of the obstacles I had faced, I certainly feel great about it.

As soon as I finished some volunteers were asking to have my timing chip. I was so beat, I had to ask them to wait a minute while I recovered. Katie and I got some water and food and waited for some of the results to post. Katie had a great 5k herself, 5k in 29:59, and D finished his 5k in 21:39. In the end, I finished 30 out 134 runners, and 3rd in my age group. Here's the trophy:

Mission accomplished. Eat some food, get some, rest, because I have 46 miles to ride tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What the Hell am I Doing?, Part I: The Injury

In my last post, I talked about giving the leg some rest and feeling good with my first 5k in several days. Then Wednesday I biked 30 miles, Thursday I ran 4.5 miles, and Friday I biked 43 miles. When I got up on Saturday for my last long run before the race, my legs felt tight and I stretched for a good 30 minutes. I was scheduled to run 6 miles. It was cool outside that morning, so I threw on some extra layers to keep my legs warm. Nothing mattered. I hit the road and at first my legs just felt tired, but as I continued my left leg began to really tighten up. I stopped just after I finished my first mile to do some extra stretching. But when I continued, the leg was still really tight. Finally, at the 2 mile mark, the leg felt bad enough that I was noticeably limping, and rather than risking another injury from bad form, I just started walking.

On the walk home, I felt demoralized, but more than that I began to worry if I would be able to finish the 10k race the next Saturday. I had not ran further than 5.5 miles and that was back in April. I was determined that I had to get another long run in. So I decided to rest for the remainder of Saturday, on Sunday I did some goood stretching and I would try again on Monday.

When I got up on Monday, I was not feeling good. While I was stretching, I could tell my leg was really tight, and nothing I did seemed to get to it. The IT Band had gotten so tight near the top that it felt like I had fallen right on the point of my hip; it was sore to the touch. After stretching for what seemed like forever, I went outside. I knew on my first step that things were not right. My leg was so tight that I was already limping, and I had not gone 100 yards. I started to get panicked thinking about what I should do. I thought about trying to push through it, I thought about turning around and walking home, and I thought about what the hell I was going to do if I couldn't run next Saturday. I got so panicked that my breathing went haywire, and everything fell apart. So I stopped and walked. I walked for another 100 yards, then tried to run at a much slower pace. As I shuffled my way down the road, I considered if I could run a 10k at this speed. I certainly did not want to but, if that is what it would take to complete the run, so be it. Finally even shuffling my way down the road wasn't working. My leg continued to tighten up and even started cramping. I finally decided to turn around and walk home.

On the way home, I formulated my new race week plan, and in the end, I decided to do nothing. No running, no biking, and very little walking. I would stretch every single morning and night, and I would pray to God that I would be able to run more than a few feet on Saturday.

Have I mentioned that I have the best wife in the world?

I limped through the day on Monday and Tuesday. My hip still felt like I had fallen on it, and my worries persisted. When I got home my beautiful wife brought me a present. She had been so concerned about my leg that she did some research with her teacher/runner friends, and bought me an IT roller. Actually she was so concerned that she bought two, so I could do a little comparison shopping. My wife is wonderful. For those that do not know, an IT roller is a very hard foam cylinder. You put the cylinder on the ground, then you lay on your side on top of the roller, and just roll back and forth over the hip/thigh/knee area.

I had heard that the experience can be painful at first, but as a guy I figured "Really, how hard can this be?" (It's a foam roller, for gosh sakes) Holy shit, it was some of the most pain that I have been in recently (and I recently had a vasectomy). I did not cry or scream out or anything like that, but I wanted to. After a couple of days of use the pain was not as intense, but it was still painful.

So for the entire week (or more) before my big race weekend, I did almost nothing. I stretched, I did my IT roller, and tried to eat a little healthier (only a couple of Oreos). And I was nervous as hell about being able to do what I had set out to do.

To be continued...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Get On Your Bike and Ride!

I am truly sorry that it has been so long since I last posted. Life has gotten extremely busy the last couple of weeks. Injuries, training, work, and kids can make it difficult to get one's blogging done. Whodda thunk it?!

I will have a complete summary of my final week of training, the 10k, and 46mi bike ride coming soon, but before that I have a very important subject to talk about.May is National Bike Month, and this week is National Bike to Work Week. I would encourage everyone, as much as is possible given distance, weather, etc., to bike to their respective jobs. If you can't bike to work, go for a ride in the evenings with a special friend or by yourself. Go for a ride in a park or through the city. Whatever you do just get out and ride; you will never believe how great it can feel.

If you are interested, check out the League of American Bicyclists website; it's full of great information. If your bike has fallen into disrepair, take it to your local bike shop. For a reasonable fee they can get most bikes up and moving again.

This is the year, now is the time, to get back on your bike and go for a ride! Have fun.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again!

After my little injury last Thursday, I had decided to take a little bit of a break to give my legs some much needed rest. Finally, today I decided to get back out there and test the waters. My leg had been feeling pretty good, and I have been stretching regularly to try and keep limber. I got up a couple of minutes early this morning to give myself ample time to stretch and warm up. When I did finally get outside, I was a little nervous about how I would do. I had tried the leg out last Saturday and was only able to run about 2 miles before my leg tightened up and I started to get pains in other areas, probably because I had changed my form to favor the bad leg. When I hit the road this morning, I told myself to take it easy and listen to my body. In the first half mile, the leg was kind of tight but began to loosen up. My breathing felt good and I thought the pace was working out. When I checked my watch, it read 3:40. I thought to myself, "That's pretty good." I was actually slightly ahead of my normal pace.

As I got into the second half mile, I tried to stick with a good form and really concentrate on my length of stride; the leg was feeling pretty good. When I hit the first mile I was shocked, 7:20. I was ahead of my normal pace and I felt like I was taking it pretty easy.

Over the next mile there were a couple of little twinges in my leg. I thought about calling it a day, but the feelings never lasted and I started thinking about really how little time I have left before the race, 11 days. I needed to get out and run a few good distances before the race. So I stuck with it, and kept thinking about good form. I also tried to find a good line to run on. One of the causes of IT band syndrome is running on pitched surfaces, and in this town that is about all we have. The roads have a pretty severe crown and each side really falls off to the curb. There is usually a relatively flat surface about 2 feet to each side of center; sometimes it shifts. So I worked really hard to find a good flat surface to run on. When I hit the end of the second mile I was shocked, 14:30. I was 30 seconds ahead of my normal pace and feeling great.

I don't even really remember much of the rest of my run. My mind started to do the math. How fast was I going? At that rate what should my time be? What is my best 5k time? What kind of time would I have in the 10k at this pace? To be honest, I don't think I was able to calculate a single one of these answers, but I knew I was really moving. I tried to give it a little extra over the last 300 yards, but there wasn't much left in the tank. However, when I crossed the finish line I was pretty excited, 22:40. I am pretty sure that is my best 5k time ever.

And the leg still feels great. I will continue to stretch this morning, and probably get back on the bike tomorrow. The tough part is going to be rearranging my schedule to accommodate for the time off over the past couple of days. But I am sure I can figure it out. The best part about all of this is that just getting out and running this morning has really picked up my spirits today. I am sure it has something to do with endorphins, but some of this good mood can be attributed to the feeling of getting knocked down, but having the drive to get back up and get moving.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What a May Day!

I have been taking it easy; sort of nursing the leg along and giving it a good break, so hopefully I will feel a little better as we come into race week. I was however complete amazed at the wonderful weekend that I had.

On May 1, 2010, I was filled with inspiration. There were so many events going on I could hardly keep myself together.

On Saturday, May 1 was the second annual Illinois Marathon. Katie, the kids, and I headed into Champaign to sit on a corner near mile 17 of the marathon and root on a few of the runners. And I have got to tell you it was such a great experience. When we got there at 9:30am many of the faster runners had already passed, but there were still hundreds more to see. We began cheering and encouraging the runners to "keep it up" or "you are doing great". I had hoped to see a Team_Cubicle shirt, but apparently the shirts did not arrive in time for the race. Dan and his team did have a great race, and I am sure that I unknowingly cheered one of them on their way. Katie and I did see a couple of people that we knew. Katie's college friend, Courtney, was running the full marathon with her sister, and I saw a high school football coach, Coach Willy, running in a relay with his family. Katie and I took the kids for little runs up and down the sidewalk. the kids would cheer for a particular runner and every so often one of them would smile or wave back. I think the kids really got a kick out of it. The whole time I was watching, I began thinking to myself that I could run a marathon. I know it seems ridiculous, since I am challenge by a relatively short 10k, but when you are there and watching the event, you really get swept up into it. Katie did bring me back down to reality and on the way home we agreed to run as part of a relay team in next year's Illinois marathon. So if anyone is looking to run a few miles with Team Fulton, please let us know.

When we finally got home, I raced to the computer to check how Fatty was doing in his first Ironman triathlon. I have to compliment Ironman for their website; if you have any information on an individual in one of their races, you can easily check on that racer's progress. Immediately, I noticed Fatty had blown away his swim goal of 2 hours, and he was really moving fast on the bike portion of the race. I checked on his progress periodically and I watched a few of the finishers cross the line on the live video feed, and I must tell you again, these athletes are soooo inspiring. It's almost enough to make me learn how to swim.

I have not checked on his progress but my hero, Jeff, and his wife were supposed to participate in a charity walk to benefit pancreatic cancer. Knowing them they probably ran the darn thing.

When I sit back and think about all of this, I can't help but feel like the paradigm is shifting. People are really starting to care about their health and well-being. People are getting out and moving. Many of them are doing it in combination with charity fundraising. Hell, ABC is putting advertising dollars at risk to put Jamie Oliver on the TV to say "Stop eating that crap!" People are caring about themselves and others. In a world filled with so much pessimism and pain, all of this work is a real antidote, and just another reason for me to be so inspired.

May Day is often associated strongly as a socialist celebration; a call for unity amongst the workers of the world. On this May Day 2010, I believe that it was a call for the people of the world to unite for a healthier, happier world.