Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Jog to My Memory

Saturday was scheduled to be my long (7 mile), Zone 2 run.  Since we were in Galesburg at my parent's place, I mapped a nice long run down Memory Lane.  I had run a couple of times before in Galesburg, oddly enough over ground that was completely new to me.  Which was strange as I had lived in that town for 15 years.  However, this particular run that I took on Saturday ran right through my old stomping grounds.  There were a few new editions to the areas, but the most exciting part was reliving the memories of my youth.

The first stretch I ran up Broad Street to Carl Sandburg Drive (Carl was born in Galesburg).  I passed by Russell Fox's old place.  I remember that it had a baseball field in the backyard.  The Little League Blue Jays practiced back there, and I even got to play a couple of scrimmage games on that field.  Next, I ran by Todd Fox's old house.  I remember the night that Sean Hanlon rang the doorbell and when Todd's dad came to the door Sean sprayed him with Silly String.  Steve (Todd's dad) grabbed Sean by the top of the head and the crotch of his pants, lifted him into the air, and slammed him down into the flower bed.  It was hilarious at the time, but now that I am writing it, I wonder how it would be viewed today.

Next, I turned on Carl Sandburg soon enough I passed by the Sirloin Stockade and I remembered how just a couple of years ago my grandfather fell outside of this place.  I was not with him at the time, but my 2 and a half year old son was, and he still recounts the story of Grandpa falling, seeing the blood, and the ambulance coming to take him to the hospital.  I wonder just how long Alaric will remember that event.

Soon I passed by the YMCA.  I went to this place a lot.  I remember playing basketball while my mom swam in the pool.  I remember playing games with my dad coaching.  I also noticed that the Y has put on an addition and added a ton of parking and put in 3 new soccer fields.  Galesburg is struggling economically, but it is good to see that they are putting money into the community youth activities. 

My next turn was on Losey Street and this is where the memories really came flooding back.  I lived from 1980 'til 1990 at 2013 W. Losey Street.  I passed by the house and remembered fondly the time I spent growing up there.  The house still looks exactly as I remember it.  There used to be an empty lot next to the house that all the neighborhood kids and I used for football, baseball, and any number of things.  The lot has a house on it now, and it makes me sad that the kids in the neighborhood will never know it the way I did.  I remember Chad Belfour, Eric Wilander, CR Smith.  I remember playing until all hours of the night under the street lights.  I remember building a snow fort in the "alley" across from my house.  One of my best friends in the entire world lived just down the street.  Matt was one of the first friends I remember going out and intentionally trying to have as a friend.  Matt's family became an extension of my own, I grew up in his house as much as I grew up in my own.  I still talk to Matt and continue to count him as a best friend.  I was lucky to have grown up so close to him and his family. 

Next, I turned on King's Canyon.  I passed by CJ Ramage's house.  I remember playing basketball in his driveway for hours.  After one such marathon, I remember we went inside of his house and ate an entire loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter.  Where does that metabolism go?

Then I turned on North Street and I could see the back of Wes Corzette's old house.  Wes was a long time friend and he ran with the neighborhood quite a bit.  He was always up for a game of flashlight tag, and when we were in eighth grade we shared a birthday party at the VFW.  Wes died from aplastic anemia when we were sophmores in high school, and it still makes me sad to think that he is gone.

As I continued to run down North Street, I ran past what used to be Nelson's, the candy store that we went to all summer long.  Next I passed by the store that used to be the Schwinn shop.  I got my first BMX bike here, a Predator Nighthawk; I thought it was the coolest.  Then I got my first skateboard there and I thought I was even cooler.  Finally, I got my 10 speed bike there.  My friends and I road bike for miles when we were kids, all over town.  The shop is now a kitchen and bath appliance store.  I wonder where kids get there bikes in Galesburg now?  Probably at Wal-Mart.

Finally, I turned back onto Broad Street.  I ran past half a dozen remodeled Victorians that look amazing.  Then I passed by Jaci Humes' old house. I couldn't really remember if hers was the one on the corner or second from the corner.  I had a huge crush on Jaci when she moved to that house.  We had Algebra together and I would damn near do the homework for her.  Sadly, I just moved into the "friend" zone from which there is no escape, but we stayed friends for a very long time.  Then I passed by Seastedt's house.  Brian is another best friend that I still have to this day.  His parents still live in that house, and I fondly remember spending a lot of time with them, as well. 

Pretty soon I made it back to my parent's house.  The run was awesome.  I loved running through my life in this fashion.  I made the time fly, and it probably took longer for me to write about it then it did to run the whole thing.  But it was a lot of fun to do both.   

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Roadblock Explained (or at least Rationalized)

Today was the second day of running with my heart rate monitor.  I was scheduled to run a Zone 3/4, "tempo" run.  What does that mean?  Well, I shall try to explain it to the best of my abilities.  Tempo basically means faster.  Some people would say that this is their race speed or faster.  However, I chose to avoid the speed concern and stick with the HR zones that have been laid out for me.  The layout of this run is to run 2 minutes in Zone 3, then bump up to Zone 4 for 1 minute, then bring my heart rate back down and repeat.  This is what's known as interval training.  The barrier between zones 3 and 4 is known as the Anaerobic Threshold (AT).  The AT is the highest heart rate in which your body still burns, albeit a small percentage, of fat for fuel during exercise.  Beyond the AT your body strictly consumes carbohydrates, either from food that you eat and/or muscle mass, because this is a more efficient source of energy needed at this more strenuous level of exercise.  Simply put, this is not a weight loss exercise.  This exercise is designed to strengthen the heart, lungs, and muscles, and hopefully increase speed as well.

Over the first half mile of my run I struggled to get up to my Zone 3 heart rate.  I am certain this comes from the fact that I do not warm up before I start running in the mornings; I simply stretch for about 10 minutes and go.  Once I finally did achieve my zone 3 heart rate, I ran for 2 minutes and picked up the pace to increase to Zone 4.  At first it seemed difficult, but after just a few seconds I was comfortable again. Then the problems really started when I struggled to get my heart rate back down to Zone 3.  To do so, I felt like I had to dramatically slow my pace, especially when it came to hills.  I struggled with this heart rate tug-of-war for over the first 3 miles.  Then came the stretch of the run where there are no streetlights and no way for me to see what my heart rate is.  I was nervous because I had not gotten comfortable with what this pace "felt" like as far as pace, breathing, etc.  I think overall the run ended up fine.  I was still shorted over a quarter of a mile by my sportband, and the pace was much slower than what I have been comfortable running at.

This is the part where I think I can explain why I wasn't losing any weight earlier this month.  In the past, when I ran, I ran pretty hard.  Now having worn the HR monitor for a couple of runs I realize that I was running near the peak of my fitness ability with a very elevated heart rate, well above my AT.  At these paces and at these elevated heart rates my body was not burning fat, strictly carbs.  And because I was not eating enough food, the carbs were strictly fueled by my muscle mass.  Therefore, I was not burning any of the fat during exercise and, because I was destroying lean muscle mass, I was actually impeding my body's ability to burn fat while I was at rest.  My friend Mira said this would sound funny, but basically to lose weight I need to not workout as hard and eat more food.  What a plan, huh?

Now, Jeff, the trainer, said this program will improve my speed and help me to lose weight.  I am leery because my running paces have declined so significantly, but I am going to continue to work at it.  I meet with the nutritionist for the program on Monday.  I will have to let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Running with an HR monitor, Day 1

Yesterday, Katie text to tell me that my heart rate monitor had arrived in the mail.  When I finally got home I was so excited to open it!  Fortunately, the set up was super easy and I was able to use it this morning for my 5 mile "recovery/Zone 1" run as prescribed in my fitness evaluation.

I ordered the Polar Wearlink+ transmitter that works with my Nike+ sportband, in order to save me the headache and cost of purchasing another apparatus to wear while I run.  As stated in an earlier post, there are a few things that i find deficient with my sportband.  One of which is the inability to see the display in the pre-dawn hours in which I run.  I was very leery of this going into the run.

I was also nervous about the pace of my workout.  I was scheduled to run in Zone 1, which for me is between 129 and 139 heartbeats per minute.  I wondered what kind of pace this would work out to be.  How I would feel if it was a slower pace?  What if this pace felt comfortable, how would workouts in higher zones feel?  As you can see, I was somewhat nervous and had a few things to obsess about during the run.

As I got started, I immediately toggled my sportband to read my heart rate constantly.  In the first few hundred feet I realized that there are more than enough streetlights for me to get a consistent gauge on my heart rate.  I know this because I looked at my heart rate under each light, which must have been 2000 times in the first mile.  My excuse for earlier complaining about not being able to read the display is based on the fact that there are not any streetlights where I want them, only where the city sees fit to put them.  I also realized the pace was pretty slow.  Which wasn't too bad until I started going uphill and had to almost walk to keep my HR in the right zone.  I slipped over the threshold a couple of times, but I averaged 136 beats per minute, right in the "heart" of the zone (pun completely intended).

Two things that I noticed/bother me:
1.  There is a .75 mile stretch between miles 3 and 4 where it is nearly impossible to see the sportband display because there are no streetlights.  This again was concerning, but I feel like it helped me listen to my body more closely.  I had gotten comfortable with how my body felt in the first 3 miles, and tried to stay in that "feeling" while I could not see the display.  The whole process is not too difficult, since that stretch is probably the flattest terrain that I run on.

2.  The Nike+ sportband SUCKS!!! for tracking a run at a slower pace.  I ran a measured (many times over) 5.06 miles and the sportband logged less than 3.5 miles.  I completely understand that the sensor is measuring things like stride length, blah, blah, blah, and all of those things change when I run at a slower pace but it is extremely frustrating to lose miles that I know I have run.  I also know that I am supposed to be able to calibrate my sportband.  However, I cannot change a run until it has already been downloaded which is then too late to change it on the web page.  Then the next run is at a different pace and I have to do it all over again.  This whole thing seems complicated and some further investigation is certainly necessary, but I find it very frustrating nonetheless.  On the other hand, I am going to try and not let it get to me too much.  While I have some goals for miles run and such, the real goal is to get in better shape, lose some weight, and improve my overall health.  The HR work is more important to that end, so that is what I will focus on.

We will have to see how Thursday's Zone 3/4 workout goes! 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's like Crack for a Fat Guy

WARNING- Should you see this girl, DO NOT APPROACH HER.  She is to be considered armed and very dangerous to your health.

That's right!  It is that time of year again.  When seemingly innocent little girls begin selling their wears, knocking on doors, and pushing their goods on every street corner like its Cabrini Green in the 90's. 

I saw a den mother just the other day, selling boxes of this junk out of the trunk of her car, like Biggie Smalls dishing out mix tapes from the back of his Impala.  People were clamoring around, making sure they got all the cookies they paid for.  I actually overheard the woman say, "Don't worry, I got enough cookies for all of you."  Sadistic bitch!

And look at this bunch; all wearing their colors and throwing up signs.  Look at the one on the right, she looks like she is ready to do some damage! Oh wait...

...she already did.

No one is immune.  I received an email from a friend in my weight loss support group.  The following is an excerpt:
"[Thanks]for selling me those girl scout cookies, Somoas- WARNING - THEY HAVE HIGHLY ADDICTED CRACK IN THEM!!!"
These cookies are so bad even the crack is addicted to them! As a side note, when did Samoas become Caramel Delights?  Were the Samoans really that upset about the name?

Does the Pope hand out special dispensation on Girl Scouts cookies?  If not, it is quite nefarious to be handing these things out during the Lenten season.

Anyways, be careful out there.  It is a dangerous world we live in.  You never know who's going to be knocking on your door.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A "Fit"ing Birthday Present

Saturday evening while opening birthday presents at my parents house, I received a wonderful surprise.  Katie had done the planning and my parents paid for it.  And when I opened the gift I learned that I was having a fitness evaluation performed by a local company. 

Following my post about my difficulties losing weight, I had several discussions with some trainer friends.  During these conversations, it became glaringly obvious I had very little information about my body's chemistry.  I had no idea what my percentage of fat was, nor what my base metabolic rate was, nor what my VO2 max (don't worry, I still don't know exactly what this means either) was.  This evaluation was going to measure all that, plus give me dietary instructions and a 12 week fitness plan to follow.

I was excited to have this evaluation performed, but I was also very nervous.  I had not been very mindful of my fitness during my birthday celebrations, and I was very concerned  that my gluttony would somehow give a false estimate of my current physical fitness.  Oh well, the appointment had been made, so there was little I could do about it now.

In the end, I had nothing to be nervous about.  The evaluation went swimmingly and I left with valuable information about my body and a new found enthusiasm for the work that I have been doing.

Some statistics:

My basic metabolic rate is 1807 calories.  That means if I did nothing but sit in the recliner all day I would burn 1807 calories per day.  I found that to be pretty impressive, and somewhat concerning as I will explain later.

My percentage of body fat is 18%.  I thought that was kind of high, but Jeff, the trainer explained that it was in the "good" range, and with a little tweaking to my exercise and diet could come down a few points.

My VO2 max, which is described as the "'horsepower' to my metabolic engine", is 62.9 ml/kg/min.  I still don't know what any of that means, but Jeff says that puts me well above average for men of my age.  I liked the sound of that.

After the tests had been completed, Jeff gave me more information about the results and later sent me the 12-week fitness plan for running.  The plan is overlaid onto my current running program and deals mostly with running within some different heart rate zones.  Later this week, I will meet with the dietitian to go over a meal plan to help with my fitness fuel and weight loss.

Things I learned:

With my running, all I had ever known was to go out and just run.  If I felt good, I would run harder.  If I felt sluggish, I would slow down.  I figured over time, just from experience, I would get faster and lose weight. Jeff helped me to see with great detail how working within these heart rate zones can improve my body's fat burning potential, help to recover, and increase my body's ability to perform faster and longer.  I found the information to be extremely valuable.  I have ordered my HR monitor and cannot not wait to get started.  Again, I am a little nervous because the treadmill test was excruciating.  Jeff had me running 6mph at a 12% grade for almost 2 minutes.  If he had not stopped the test, I would have.  But if my peak workouts are anywhere near that level, I am in for some pain!

I do not eat anywhere close to as many calories as I should.  I typically consume between 1400 and 1800 calories a day.  That amount of food does not even satisfy what I burn at a base metabolic rate (sitting in a chair all day).  When you add in all of my workouts and just going to work on a daily basis, my calories burned in a day can reach more than 3000 calories.  I had always thought that a calorie deficit was good, and if a small deficit was good, a big deficit would be even better. WRONG!  My body has been so starved for fuel that I have been burning my lean muscle mass, even while I am resting!  During my resting metabolic measurements, Jeff said there was an indication of protein being burned.  That means that after fasting for 12 hours, my body was burning my muscle for fuel while I just sat in a chair.  Apparently, this is a learned behavior and I can teach my body to use other sources of food, but first I have to start providing it.  I am anxious to meet with the dietitian and I have already started looking up high calorie, low fat foods.  All in all, I think learning that I need to eat more food is a good thing to learn.   

The evaluation was a wonderful experience and so completely necessary.  Thank you so much to my parents and Katie for providing me with this opportunity.  I love you all!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Super, Extra Special Friday Edition

Changes to workouts and adjusted schedules have allowed me the opportunity to have an additional post this week.  In honor of this special occasion, I have decided to share a little bit about an amazing superpower that I have discovered.

How To Gain 5lbs in a Single Day

Last December, I shared with you how I managed to lose 10lbs in one month. Did you read it?  Amazing, I know.  But equally as amazing, I have learned that I possess the power to gain half as much weight in a 24 hour period.  That is right, I have learned to harness the power of my body and mind to gain 5 pounds in a single day.  How did I learn such a spectacular feat? Although I have been advised otherwise, I will now share with you this ancient Chinese secret.

First, I awoke yesterday morning and laid in my bed.  No rushing off to run 5miles or lift weight for an hour.  Nope, I just rolled over looked at the clock, smiled, and rolled back over in the silence of my bedroom.  Then, I had breakfast delivered to me right there where I lay.  I did manage to raise to the seated position, but I moved as little as possible to avoid any excessive caloric burn.  I then proceeded to eat an amazingly large bowl of cereal, and equally large slice of toast with butter, and 3 slices of bacon.  Without moving too abruptly, I opened several presents from my family.  Unfortunately, I did have to go to work, but I very carefully trudged my way to the bathroom to clean up and slowly returned to my bedroom to change.  At work, I moved from my desk as little as possible, although I was annoyingly called away several times to attend to business matters.  To counteract this movement, I ate an orange.  Next, Katie surprised me with a birthday lunch on campus.  In order to continue my drudgery, we drove rather than walk the 5 blocks to the restaurant.  I ate an incredibly large bowl of stir fry from the Flattop Grill and downed it with 2 Diet Cokes.  Upon returning to my office, I ate an abnormally healthy portion of the peach crisp that Katie had made me, and topped it with some of the home-made maple cream sauce.  After Katie's departure and my return to work, I began to feel very uncomfortable.  I again drove to the convenience store and downed 2 tablespoons of Pepto-Bismol to ensure that I would be constipated throughout the evening.  For dinner, I ate a piece of chicken drenched in butter and coated, again in cereal.  On top of that, I had a pile of mashed potatoes and some sweet peas.  For dessert, I had a Dairy Queen blizzard.  And just to be sure that I completed this amazing effort, I downed some chips and salsa just before bedtime.

When I woke up this morning, BAM!, I had gained the full 5lbs.  Though you may be encourage to try this at home, I do not recommend it; I am an expert.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

That's right, it's my birthday!  So, I hope Mark Parisi is alright with me borrowing his image without his permission.  Thanks Mark!  Cool cartoon!

I am proud to announce that I successfully achieved my goal of weighing 185 lbs. by my birthday.  Yeah!  I will now follow this success up with about 2 weeks of splurging on cake, pie, and dinner out as we celebrate 4 birthdays in 11 days.  Sheesh!  It's okay.  I am sure that I will gain some weight over this time, but I will continue to workout as much as possible, and I have all the confidence that I will be able to get back to this weight and lower.  But I am going to have a great time blowing my diet when I get the chance!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Counting my blessings

I find it shocking sometimes how selfish I am.  Don't get me wrong, I worry about others, especially my family and friends, and I have concern for my fellow man.  But all too often I find myself consumed by my own concerns, i.e. I'm not losing weight, I can't run outside because it's cold, etc.  Writing a blog about "me" does not help the situation any.  However, on three different occasions this week I have been smacked in the face with events that make me realize just how trivial my concerns can be.

1.  Last Friday, a distant cousin passed away very suddenly.  The cause of her death is still to be determined, but that matters very little.  Hillary was family, she had a husband and young children, and she was only 28 years old.  She had a whole life in front of her.  I am sad that I did not know her better.  I am terribly sad for her parents, husband, and children. 

2. One of the blogs that I regularly follow had not posted in some time.  I wondered to myself "Where has Dave been?"  Then yesterday I got my answer, he had died.  By the miracle of medical science, he was saved, but for a short time the man had actually "shuffled off this mortal coil".  It would seem that this incredible endurance athlete had been ignoring some of the signs and doctor's advice for him to take things a little easier until finally he had a reaction to some of his medication and actually flat lined for a few moments.  In reading the post it would seem that Dave has used this occasion to re-evaluate some of his life's goals and priorities, and it still serves as a wake up call to many of us.

3. This morning I received a phone call from a co-worker.  Anita has been battling cancer for almost a year and a half, and was thought to be on the mend.  But recent illness and tests have proven otherwise.  Her cancer has spread and she has a long and arduous fight ahead of her.  She is a fiercely independent and strong woman; I am sure she will fight this new occurrence with zeal.  But, I am still sad to see her have to go through it all.

To see, read, and hear about these events makes me re-evaluate my own concerns and priorities.  My concerns and complaints are nothing in comparison to what these and so many other people have to deal with on a daily basis.  I also use these reminders to re-evaluate my own priorities in life.  I am glad that I chose to live a healthier lifestyle.  But no matter how healthy I think I am, life is uncertain and each day should be treated as a gift.  One of the greatest gifts I have ever received was the opportunity to meet and marry my wife.  We got engaged 8 years ago today, and I could not have been more blessed (I love you, Katie!).  I am very lucky to have two healthy children, and I hope that I get to live a long life watching them grow up and start families of their own.

I realize that I am lucky for the things that I have, and I will not worry so much about the things I do not.  I will continue to count my blessings.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

An Update and Some Changes

So the drought is over!  I lost one pound this week and I am back on track to weigh 185 by March 10.  I am excited to have lost a pound.  While I would like to weigh 185 by next week, I am trying not to focus too much on the scale as I adjust some of my eating and exercise regime.

In the past, in order to lose weight I would deprive myself even when I felt like I was starving.  The worst was Tuesday nights before my weekly weigh in.  Katie and I had said that we would not have our "us" nights on Tuesdays because I would be so hungry and tired that all I wanted to do was go to bed, wake up, and weigh in so I could eat something.  I am not going to do that anymore.  I have had a few extra, healthy snacks during the day this past week, and Monday evening when I was absolutely starving, I ate some trail mix and drank some water; it honestly helped a bunch.

Last night, I was exhausted.  Getting up at 4:30am every morning to work out usually means that I am missing out on some sleep.  So I made the decision that I would sleep in this morning and not go for my normal 5 mile run.  I also realized that I had worked out everyday for 2 whole weeks.  When I started swimming on Sunday mornings, I had deprived myself of a day of rest.  My body and mind were paying the price for it.  It does feel weird to have not gone out for a run, but I feel a bit more rested than I did yesterday.

In some ways I feel like I am starting over, and there will certainly be an adjustment period, but I think if I continue to eat well and listen to my body, my goals of weight loss and fitness will come with time.  At least I hope they do.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I have long been a firm believer that no one does anything entirely by themselves; no success comes without the help of others. And the same goes for my success with my health and weight loss.

I receive a tremendous amount of love and support from my family.  Katie has been my partner and biggest cheerleader through everything.  She has also been the biggest promoter of my blog.  Our parents have been tremendous financial and moral support with donations to our charity races and coming to watch some of our races.  Our kids are always our biggest cheerleaders and sometimes our training partners running races through the house or going for bike rides.

My weight loss support group has helped me to be accountable to others and the support they provide with their kind words or encouragement has been invaluable.

Most recently, after a simple blog post about my struggle with weight loss, I was blessed with some great advice and encouragement from friends and relative experts on the subject of health and weight loss.

After reading the post, Katie immediately emailed these friends of ours, and just as quickly they responded with comments to my post that included a lot of information that I desperately needed.  Mira, an tremendous athlete in her own right and HUGE Queen fan, had some really good advice and difficult questions for me to think about.  After a phone conversation with her the next morning, I had a really good education about my health and nutrition. Jeff, a world renowned blogger and thespian, provided me with some much needed grounding about my weight goals.  Jeff's wife, Dee, a personal trainer and glowing mom-to-be, gave me much more food for thought.  When I look back at their advice as a whole, I came to some stark realizations:

1.  I have a lot to learn about my health, fitness, and athletic training.
2.  Sometimes our goals are irrational and need to be adjusted.
3.  I am so very happy to have such good family, friends, and teammates looking out for me, giving me advice, and in general being there for me when I need them.

Thank you very much to all of you!  I still have a lot to work through as far as how I exercise, how I eat, and how I measure my success, but I know that I will be successful with a team like you on my side.