Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The System

I went to open gym for basketball again last night.  I arrived a little bit later than usual and was the last player to shoot for teams.  No warm up, grabbed a ball and hit the free throw right off the bat; I had a good feeling.  I ended up on a really good, "young" team.  We had a big player that I had been forced to play against a few times, so I felt good that one, I would not have to guard him and two, he was on my team.

My team was first on the court and we had enough players that we could play 5 on 5 the whole night.  While this did mean that I would get plenty of playing time, I would also not get any breaks and the floor was really crowded.  The team started off really hot.  Several players made outside shots and I even had a couple of lay ups myself.  Before long my team figured out that we could really run the floor.  We started to get a ton of points off the fast break and most of our offense was in transtion.  We won the our first 2 games and then got our chance to sit one game while others played. 

While we sat on the sideline, the team talked about the number of points that we had made off the break.  When we went back out for the next game, it was as if Paul_Westhead was coaching on the sidelines.  Teammates were grabbing the defensive boards and players were immediately making a break for the other end of the floor.  It was like perfect harmony, rebound, release, outlet pass, drive, dish, lay up.  The points were piling up before we even knew it and we won our next 2 games in record time. 

We had time for one more game, but by this point most of us were pretty dogged.  The running and pace of the earlier games had taken their toll.  We ended up losing that last game, but it mattered very little because we had had so much fun in those first four.  I had not run like that in a competetive basketball game for 20 years, and it really did feel like we were playing System basketball.  It was a lot of fun.

I am really feeling the effects of last night's basketball today.  I took it really slow on my run this morning and my legs are still really sore now.   I am hoping to recoop enough to go for another swim this evening.

One thing that I have noticed while I am attempting to run 3 extra days a week, play basketball, and swim from time to time, is that I am starving!  My appetite is way up.  Which makes perfect sense considering the extra calories that I am burning.  However, I have yet to find that perfect balance where I am losing weight consistantly.  I may lose a couple of pounds one week, but I seem to be putting them back on the next.

 I do believe that I am gaining some muscle.  I have not been able to replicate my 5 pull_ups, but I do believe that has more to do with the weight training that I have been doing.  I have been able to do more reps with more weight and I feel like there is more mass and definition. 

Or I could just be a complete narcissist making exaggerated claims of success when really I just can't stop stuffing my face.  Only time will tell.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Can't Really Think of Anything To Write About

So, I started to YouTube some videos when I came across this one:

Holy shit!  Was that guy throwing up while riding his bike?!  Can anyone tell me what is wrong with us, that we would actually consider doing these things?  And it is not like I am innocent of fantasizing about an Ironman, but videos like this make me think twice about it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Marathon Week

Sometime around Friday I started to calculate how many miles I would be running with this new schedule of running over my lunch hour.  I was shocked when I realized that if I ran my normal 8 miles on Saturday, I would have completed approximately 26.2 miles of running for the week!  I was awed by that calculation; to think that in one week I will have done a full marathon!  To those who have run and/or trained for a marathon, I am sure that this does not seem too impressive.  To me it seemed monumental!

The lunch hour runs went really well.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I ran  3 miles each day and still had time to talk to Katie and eat a full lunch.  The route is fairly simple and the most difficult challenge has been the wind coming out of the south.  Champaign is a little bit more hilly than Monticello and on Friday when  I altered my route and ran on St. Mary's Road, the terrain was much hillier than what I am used to.  But I took my time, kept my form, and had a good run.  My Tuesday 4-miler went well considering that I had run on Monday, and played basketball on Monday night, and my Thursday 5-miler went without much incident. 

I was a little nervous when I went out to run on Saturday.  I knew that my legs had been feeling the extra miles all week, but when I hit the road everything felt pretty good.  The first 3 miles clipped by quickly.  I was even running at a faster pace (7:35) than I had been in some time.  My fourth mile takes me along a packed gravel bike path over the Sangamon River.  It was still pretty early in the morning, about 6:30am, and the sun had not fully risen.  I looked down the path and saw a couple of objects moving down the path towards me.  At first I thought it was a couple of squirrels or bunnies.  Then they looked a little too big and I thought they were dogs.  As i got closer I said to myself "Oh, they are foxes."  Not a completely usual sighting in our area.  But then I thought to myself about how foxes don't usually roam in groups; they are almost always solo.  Then it hit me, "Oh shit, they're COYOTES!"  Having never come across a coyote in the wild, I was praying that they were more afraid of me than I was of them.  But when you think about coyotes preying on the slow and the weak, a slow, middle-aged runner nearing his twentieth mile for the week might just make the perfect breakfast.  Thankfully the former turned out to be true and the coyotes scittered off of the path.

I continued on with my run, but by the time I finished mile 4 I was feeling the extra miles that week.  My legs began to burn on a few of the smaller hills, and I slowed my pace quite a bit just focusing on finishing the run.  I was mindful of the difference between sore and pain, but thankfully was able to avoid an sort of real injury.  When I finished, I was extremely pleased with myself.  I stretched really well and as I showered up before breakfast, I started to formulate this post.  I ran a marathon last week and I feel damn good about it!  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I've Been Robbed!

Something very dear to me, something I have worked very hard for, has been stolen from me.  I am not for sure when it happened, but only now have I become aware of the theft.  At some point this fall or winter, someone or something has completely stolen my speed!

Early this winter, I guess I had started to notice a lack of speed.  I was running as hard as I felt comfortable and I was only pulling 7:30 miles.  At the time, I had chalked it up to the colder temps and extra clothing, but it was still very upsetting.  I also considered that I had taken a very nonchalant attitude towards working out as I did not have any upcoming races to prepare for.  But recently, I have taken a renewed enthusiasm towards working out hard.  I have added the extra miles running over lunch, I have been going to basketball, and I have been doing my weight training with more intensity.  However, on Monday during my lunchtime run I had pushed myself pretty hard, but my time was 22:50 for an almost exact 3 mile run.  Immediately, I thought that I had misread the mileage of my run, or taken the wrong route, or anything other than the fact that I had just averaged 7:37 over a 3 mile run!  Seriously, that is a slower pace than my very first 5K more than 2 years ago.  Yesterday, I ran over lunch again and it was even worse.  I had purposely taken things a bit slower as I had done my leg workout that morning, but I was almost a full minute slower than Monday.  Finally, this morning, I ran my 5 mile route and huffing and puffing to get in under 8:00 per mile.

I understand that my legs have been working harder this week and the extra miles are taking their toll, but for the first time in a very long time, I felt SLOW!  But still I find myself attempting rationalize my lack of speed, coming up with excuses for my slow pace.  The real problem is that I don't want to be slow.  I want to be fast!  I want to run a faster half-marathon this year, I would love to run a sub-20 minute 5K.  But if I keep running at these rates, I will be lucky to even beat my first 5K time!

I don't know who stole my speed, but I want it back...immediately...please?!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

3 Pack Abs and More

So I decided to pick up the intensity and frequency of some of my workouts.  The biggest decision that I have made is that instead of walking 2 miles over my lunch break on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I am going to run 3 miles on campus each of those days. It actually decreases the time I spend working out by a few minutes, but definitely increases the intensity of the workouts.  Yesterday was the first day that I did so.  One big requirement for this process is that I need to bring all of my running gear to work with me three days a week.  Which also means that I need to wash my running gear more often as to not offend any parties with my intensely manly odor.  It also means that I am changing all of my clothes in my office twice on those days and the potential for literally getting caught with my pants down is greatly increased.  You may ask why I don't change in the bathroom stall, but as I stated before, the cockroaches in the bathrooms at work are of an intimidating size and therefore prohibit me from going barefoot for any amount of time.  The run went very well.  It was a bit windy out and kind of cold.  I pushed the pace a bit, but did still not run at a speed that I had hoped.  In the end though the experience went very well and I am going to continue.

Throwing an extra workout in yesterday has put my body in a bit of a tizzy.  In a 25 hour period I had lifted weights for 30 minutes, ran 3 miles, played basketball for an hour, and then ran an additional 4 more miles this morning and did my pull-ups and dips on the playground.  Needless to say, I am pretty tired and my body is a little sore.  Last nights basketball game had a bit more physicality than other nights.  I have a bruise on my right bicep, two scratches on my face, and a jammed finger.  And I loved every minute of it!  It will be interesting to see how my legs hold up to a leg workout tomorrow morning and 3 more miles over lunch.

I know it is early, but I am going to claim that the extra effort is already starting to show some results because strangest thing happened when I looked at myself in the mirror this morning.  Since losing 60 pounds, I have been able to see the start of two ab muscles just under my rib cage.  Mostly these are just propping up the pad of fat that resides over the rest of my belly, but I was proud of them nonetheless.  And then today I noticed a third ab protruding out of my stomach!  I made doubly sure that there was no dirt providing the the shade for an optical illusion, and felt around that it was not some sort of tumor.  After much inspection I feel fairly confident that it is in fact an abdominal muscle.  Sure it still has a layer of fat insulating it during these cooler months, but it is definitely an ab!  I am proud to say this day that I officially have 3-pack abs!  Eat your heart out, Situation!  Three more of these little things and I am going to be ready for bikini season!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Super Bowl Shuffle

Every year for the Super Bowl, I try to go to Benji's house to watch the game.  He always has a fun crowd of people, gambling, and a ton of food.  It is great to catch up with a friend that I only get to see a handful of times a year and I always enjoy myself.

I went to Benj's place again this year and as always a good time was had by all.  I went a few hours early this year to watch the Illini game beforehand.  Even though I had just eaten lunch, I still started snacking on the chex mix almost as soon as I got there.  By the time the big game started I had begun to dip into the shrimp cocktail, bacon wrapped wienies, and cheese plate.  By the end of the first quarter, I had an Italian beef sandwich with queso dip for good measure, and then by the second half I found this dip at the end of the counter that was so delicious I could hardly pay attention to the game any longer.  When you count the beer that I had, I believe I had consumed more than 10,000 calories.  For good measure, I stopped by Avanti's and grabbed 2 Gondola's for lunch and dinner on Monday.

By the time I got up to run this morning, I felt like I was carrying an elephant in my stomach.  I was tired, sluggish, and felt completely overloaded.  When I got out on the road, my legs were heavy, my right hamstring was tight, I was having trouble regulating my breathing, and in general I was out for more of a "shuffle" than a real "run".  When I got to the playground for my pull-ups, I did not do 5 pull-ups in a row.  After my arm exercises at the playground, I finished off the 4 mile run.  I felt good that I went out and move my ass, but I was not at my peak performance.

I have no one to blame but myself.  However, it is all a little disheartening because I have not had great success losing the weight that I gained over the holidays and I swore that I was going to increase the intensity of my workouts to aid in that effort.  Unfortunately, my indiscretions with food consumption have only compounded the problem because I am taking in extra calories and feel so full and tired in the mornings that my efforts in working out have been lackluster at best.

Now that it has been a whole month since the holidays and the spring running and biking season are quickly approaching, it may be a good time for a re-evaluation and assessment of my routine.  And maybe I don't even need that much thought on the matter.  I know what I am doing wrong and I know what I need to do to get better.  Simply put, I am lacking the discipline to do the right thing on a consistent basis.  I need to be more disciplined!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Michael Phelps, I Am Not

So, in order to knock myself down a couple of pegs after accomplishing my goal of 5 pull-ups, I decided to go swimming Tuesday night after work.

I have made it known that I would one day like to compete in a triathlon.  I would like that day to be this year, but as I have also stated previously, I am not the world's best swimmer.  I have gone to the pool after work a few times and swam a few laps.  Sometimes I seem to have a good run and will complete several lengths in a row, but no more than 150 to 200 meters at a time.  It had been a little while since I had taken a trip to the pool, so I was not expecting my best performance.  However, Tuesday night went really poorly.  I could not complete more than a 100 meters before I felt as though I was gasping for air.  My left foot started to cramp up and overall I felt so uncoordinated.

I try very hard to focus on my form when I am in the pool.  Sadly, I don't really know what that form should feel like.  I see other swimmers doing something in the pool and I think to myself, "Oh!  I should try that next time."  Then I do try it and I fail completely or it just doesn't seem to work for me.  Example: I feel as though I bring my head too far out of the water when I take a breath.  So, I see someone taking a quick breath and snapping their head right back into position.  Then I try it and I find that I am taking in water on my breath or not getting enough air and I feel like I am suffocating before I can turn to take my next breath. Another Example: Sometimes my arms come down to the water all at the same time.  By that I mean my hand, forearm, elbow, and bicep all seem to strike the water simultaneously on the down stroke.  I get out of the water and see a person sort of slicing their hand into the water, followed quickly by the remainder of their arm.  So, I give it try and seems to be working well, but then I realize that I have focused so much on my arm that I have forgotten to breathe.  This is a bad idea.  I have definitely learned that breathing is the most important part of swimming, or any sport and life in general.  Note to self, "Breathing is important!"

And don't even get me started on what to do with my legs.  I have not a clue what to  do with them in the water.  Sometimes they just sort of flip at the ankle, other times they are making long, drawn out kicks through the water.  I don't know when I should be kicking which leg in conjunction with the motion of my arms.  I would love to see what other swimmers are doing, but their legs are generally submerged the whole time, and I don't think staring under the water at other swimmers is appreciated or even permitted.

When I finally called it a day and started to pack it in, I took the time to watch other swimmers in action.  Some people are so impressive with their swimming.  I was half tempted to ask a couple of them if they would consider giving me lessons, but again I am not sure how that may be perceived.

I am kind of stuck on this one.  I sure could use a lesson, but I feel a little silly being the middle-aged guy (ouch, that kinda hurt) asking for swim lessons.  But if I don't see some improvement, I am going to have trouble finishing a triathlon with a swim of any length.  It is truly a tough spot.  Does anyone have any suggestions?