Thursday, March 29, 2012

New York State of Mind

For Christmas this past year my sister surprised Katie and I with a HUGE gift.  She bought us a trip to New York, including a hotel stay and Broadway show!  I know, I know, I have a very generous sister, and no, you cannot have her; she is mine.

Since receiving this gift I have been fairly preoccupied with the planning of the trip.  We are just there for the weekend, so time is of the essence.  Our sightseeing will be constrained to just a few highlights, Times Square, Empire State building, Ground Zero, etc.  But mostly I have been concerning my self with two important affairs.

The first being food.  For a formerly fat guy such as myself, food continues to be very important to me and New York is a great place for food.  There are all kinds of celebrity chefs with literally dozens of restaurants, as well as any number of just great places to eat.  I will make the effort to get to Katz's Deli and possibly convince Katie to fake an orgasm (see When Harry Met Sally), but for Friday night we chose 21 Club in the heart of the theatre district.  "21" is an old speakeasy that continues to be a hot New York spot.  We have to eat early because of the show (The Book of Mormon, super excited!), and because of that we will be eating off the prix-fixe menu (read "short and quick"), but I am excited to eat here nonetheless.  Dinner for Saturday night was a much more difficult decision; which chef do we go with?  I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, but Les Halles did not seem to fit our ideas.  I despise Tom Collicchio, but I here Craft is really good and therefore ridiculously expensive.  Wylie Dufresne's food seems a bit haute-y for me and again expensive.  So we settled on a downplayed Daniel Boulud establishment called Bar Boulud.  The menu looked exciting and I hope it lives up to my expectation.

With so much emphasis on food, I knew that exercise was going to be necessary.  So, I will be going for a run in Central Park.  This was actually my first idea before any other thing on the agenda.  When am I ever going to get the chance to run in Central Park again?!  I figure it will be a great way to see the park, and while I don't have a bucket list, I am pretty sure this would be on it.  The problem now is the weather.  While it should be great weather back here in Illinois, they are calling for 35 degrees Saturday morning with a chance of rain.  I am certainly concerned about this affecting our planned activities for Saturday, but I am most concerned with what to wear for the run.  I just got off the phone with Katie and asked her to pack my hat and gloves "just in case".  I am also curious about the route to take.  There are several running routes recommended online, the longest one being about 6.5 miles.  the only problem is that I don't think I can convince Katie and my sister to run that route with me.  I may have to vale the idea with something about, "we wouldn't want to miss seeing anything, would we?  what if there is something really cool on this end of the park?" Do you think that will fool anyone?

Anyway, I am super excited for this trip and I expect to give a full report of my run through Central Park, when I post again next Tuesday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Winds of Change

On Friday, I made the announcement to my weight loss support group that I would no longer be reporting my weight to the group.  This was a very tough decision for me and one that I had been going over in my head for some time.  The group was initially and for a long time critically important to my fitness goals.  Reporting weekly to the group kept me accountable for my actions most of the week.  I used that accountability to lose a significant amount of weight.  It has been rewarding to see other participants lose significant amounts of weight as well.  The encouragement and support that I received was very helpful along the way.

However, I believe that I have changed.  Working out and eating healthy are more of a habit for me then ever in my life.  Certainly I have indiscretions, but for the most part I acknowledge those moments and commit to working a little harder or longer to account for the extra calories. I have also changed physically.  I have significantly more muscle than I have ever had in my life thanks to my commitment to strength exercises.  The problem with this muscle is that it most definitely weighs more than my former fat and the scale had become a source of frustration.

My mood for nearly the entire week would be based on what the scale read the previous Friday.  When I lost weight I was happy, and when I gained weight I was distraught.  There were a couple of weeks with significant swings dependent upon if I had indulged on a Thursday.  These reading were not indicative of my overall health, and simply pointed out that I had eaten or drank a few extra calories Thursday evening.  However, I was despondent nonetheless, and the following week when I did not have any treats on Thursday I was elated to have a big loss.  But again, it probably was not a loss at all, but rather an indication of where I had been all along.

So, I decided to stop reporting my scale readings to the group.  As I said it was a tough decision, but one that I think was necessary to take.  I will still be weighing in, but using it as one of many indications about my overall fitness and health.

After I reported to the group for the last time, I went for my lunch hour run.  I went out with the mentality that I would just run and see how I feel.  If I wasn't up for it, I would not push myself.  But when I got out there, I felt great.  For the first time all spring the wind was not blowing at gale force, and I felt rested and ready to go!  I blazed through my 3 mile route (I still need to get my bike's odometer on this route because I would still swear it is longer than 3 miles) at 22:08, or about 7:23 a mile.  Normally that would be nothing to write home about, but considering some of my run times, it constituted a significant improvement! 

I took Saturday morning off because my niece and nephew had stayed overnight and I assumed that extra help would be needed in the early morn, and I did my long run on Sunday.  It was my first long run in a month, as other family commitments had taken precedence, and I decided to bump it up to nearly 10 miles (9.56) and strap on my new Crush Fuelbelt loaded with Carborocket for some in-race nutrition.  The run went outstanding!  The Carborocket flavor and sugariness, as well as the "bounce" of the belt, take a little getting used to, but I would say that overall both the belt and the fuel worked exactly as they are supposed to.  I made it back home in 1:16:09, just a hair under 8 minutes per mile.  I could not have been more pleased!

So the winds of change have arrived, I just hope they bring some nice "weather"!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I May Be Over-doing It

Mondays are my most difficult days.  I lift weights in the morning for 30-45 minutes, then run 3 miles over my lunch break, and finally play basketball in the evening.  This past Monday I through a couple of extra movements into my weight training.  I hadn't worked my chest much recently, so I threw in some bench presses and incline bench presses for good measure.  The extra maneuvers had a big effect on my ability to finish all of my reps as I neared total muscle fatigue.

My midday run was without incident, and when I showed up for basketball there were only 8 players so we played 2 straight games of 4-on-4 for an hour.  When the final game ended and people started heading home, I was a bit disappointed because I felt like playing a little bit more.  However, when I got home I was exhausted!  Then I started to feel really "out-of-sorts", like I could not get my thoughts together and was sort of wandering around.  I figured my blood sugars were pretty low after the exercise, so I drank some energy drink and ate a bagel with cream cheese.  I felt somewhat better, but was still not back to normal. 

I went to bed that night and when the alarm went off the next morning I was ready to skip my Tuesday workout.  Immediately, the guilt began to set in and I was out of bed a few minutes later getting ready to workout.  I jumped rope for 10 minutes, jogged a mile to the high school track, did 15 broad jumps, ran three 200m dashes, ran the stadium stairs, did my pull-ups and dips, then jogged the mile back home.  Again, I was tired but did not experience the same disorientation as Monday night. 

It was Bubba's birthday and I had taken the day off of work to help celebrate. So I immediately began preparing breakfast, ate, showered, and soon we were on the road to Bloomington for some family activities.  By 1 o'clock, I was exhausted again!  I was yawning so frequently that Katie asked if she should drive home.

I switched up my routine and just did abs Wednesday morning, just give me a bit of a break, and ran my 3 miles  over lunch.  After returning home from work and working on the new garden with my neighbors, I could hardly keep my eyes open last night.

So, I looked up "exercise fatigue" today, and it turns out that I may be overdoing it.  I am at least showing some of the signs of fatigue.  I had complained earlier about my lack of speed, and that trend has continued throughout the spring.  That is one symptom.  Exhaustion is another.  I haven't check my heart rate or blood pressure, but since the slower speeds feel just as strenuous, I can assume I am probably experiencing a bit of an elevated heart rate.

I have mostly been focusing on fueling my body during workouts, but the articles that I read indicate that muscle recovery with rest is vitally important as well.  And that is the tough part for me.  Exercise has become habit for me, and some of the new experiences like basketball and cross training have been successful and extremely entertaining.  I can't imagine slowing down on any of them.  In fact with a few bike rides on the schedule, I figured on throwing more cycling into the rotation.  A friend of mine said that he runs 6 days a week and completes more than 40 miles a week when he is not training for any races; his mileage bumps up to 60 or 70 miles a week when he is training for a marathon.  I am not anywhere close to that kind of time or mileage.  How come I am having so much more trouble than he?

Life is always a balancing act, and I feel like a do a good job of dividing my family time with my exercise.  My fitness time is some of the only time I get for personal endeavors.  I don't want to give that up, nor do I want to feel exhausted much of the time.  I have to find that sweet spot where my workout are increasing my fitness, but not overly taxing my body.  I am not sure where that sweet spot is, nor do I know if I will ever find it.  But I can tell you for sure that I could really use a nap.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Schedule

Everything is starting to fall into place, as far as my rides and races for 2012 go.  So, I thought I would take the time to write down all of my events.  As I was starting to go over this post in my head, it really felt like a lot of things.  let's just see how it look when I am done, shall we:

April 28- Illinois Marathon Relay
This is the second year that I will be running in this event.  I love the team aspect of this race.  it is an experience that you can only get in an event of this size.  The full list of team members is still being decided, but there is sure to be more about this in event in the near future.

May 12- Kirby Derby (Bubba's first 5K!)
This is my third appearance in the Kirby Derby, but my focus will not be on my performance this year.  We will be running as a family, in full support of my 5 year old son, as he participates in his first 5K.  I could not be a prouder papa!

May 20- Sangamon River Valley Bike Ride
This will be my second foray into the SRVBR.  I again plan on riding the 46 mile course.  I hope for better weather this time around.  It is a beautiful ride and I plan on using this as a good training ride for events late in the year.

June 3- Galesburg Half Marathon Express
I have no idea why they are calling it an "Express", but this is a new race organized by a friend of mine from Galesburg, my home town.  This is a race of redemption for me as I attempt to avoid the sufferfest that was my first half.  Currently, I will make no claims about beating any Olympic athletes, but I certainly hope to improve my overall performance!

June 23 & 24- Bike MS: Tour de Farms 2012
This is again my second attempt to ride 175 miles in one weekend.  The last time out I was thwarted by rain, but I am hopeful that the weather gods will be on my side this year and I can complete a big goal I have.  Reminder: this is a charitable event, and if you should feel so inclined, please make a donation on my homepage here.

October 7 (or thereabouts)- Tri the Illini
My first attempt at a triathlon will come after a much needed break from competitive events.  My biking and running should be up to snuff, and hopefully my swimming will keep coming along as I prepare for this event. The event is run by a local University club of triathletes, so the date is yet to be determined, but it usually goes off about the first weekend of October.

October 28 (or so)- Allerton Trail Run
Last year's race was such a great experience and the location is so beautiful, that it would be impossible for me to pass up another chance at this event.

Okay so my assumptions were correct; that is a lot of darn events.  Thankfully I have a loving wife and family that supports me in these ventures, and every once in awhile will race with me!  Would anybody else like to join me?!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Ability to Defy the Laws of Nature

I had a crazy intense week of workouts before my last weekly weigh-in on Friday.  The previous Saturday I ran 8 miles.  On Monday I lifted weights in the morning, ran 3 miles over lunch, and played basketball that night.  On Tuesday I ran 4 miles in the morning with pull-ups and dips then swam for about 45 minutes that night.  On Wednesday, I lifted weights in the morning and ran 3 miles at lunch.  Finally on Thursday, I ran 5 miles in the morning.  My appetite had increased with the extensive workouts along with my portion sizes and I indulged in some cookies and chips, but nothing like I used to do.  When I got on the scale Friday morning I had gained 5 pounds in one week!

The science behind weight gain (as I know it) would tell me that I had consumed 17,500 more calories than I had burned (3500 cal/lb x 5 lbs).  Although I did increase my intake, I can promise you that there is no way in hell I consumed that many more calories than I burned.  I cannot even fathom the luxury of consuming that many calories in a week where I never worked out at all!

So the gain was a complete mystery to me and I was pissed.  I communicated with my accountability group about being less passive about reporting and suggested logging exercise and/or food.  The response has been mostly positive, as a few others have expressed some frustration and complacency.

I wish I could tell you that I turned over a new leaf immediately, but that would not be the truth.  Friday at noon was cold and windy with the threat of rain, so I chose not to run over lunch.  I was unable to run on Saturday as we had a family engagement to attend early that day, and while away for the weekend I indulged as if I had lost 5 pounds the past week.  I recommitted myself on Monday morning and lifted weights, ran 3 miles over lunch and played basketball that night.  I watched what I ate and was conscious of the foods I was eating. 

I stepped on the scale this morning just to see where I stood, figuring that I would either be the same or maybe even have gained considering my sloth-like behavior over the weekend.  Nope.  I have lost 3 pounds since Friday!  Holy crap!  This makes no sense to me, and it all seems to defy the laws of nature.  I can work my ass off for 7 days, eat a little bit extra and gain 5 pounds, or I can eat like shit for 2 days, workout for one, and lose 3 pounds!

My friend, Mira, has mentioned in the past that sometimes one should workout less and eat more, which she admits sounds counter-intuitive, but I think my experience over the last few days serve as a fine example of what she was talking about.

I really want to be focused on weight loss over the next few weeks.  I have about 15 weeks until the Bike MS ride on June 23 and 24.  I would really like to be down to 175 by that time.  Mathematically it works out to 1.33 pounds per week, or burning 4655 calories more than I consume.  We will see if the laws of math work out better than the laws of science. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Michael Phelps, I Still Am Not

But that's okay and thanks to the advice of some friends, I am getting better.

After my last post about my difficulties swimming, Mira and Jeff again came to the rescue with their comments!  Both agreed that I should check out some instructional videos on YouTube and Mira advised slowing down a bit.  So, I checked out a couple of videos and came across one that had shots from all different angles, and I came to realize that I had been kicking way too much.  My legs were moving like I was in a 100yd dash and my arms were trying to run a marathon.

So with this new found wisdom I headed off to the pool Tuesday night.  I was very concerned about my performance because since Monday I had lifted weights, ran two different times, and participated in a fast paced game of basketball.  My body was pretty sore and I was very tired.  I entered the water having no expectations, which was probably a good thing!

I started off very slowly.  I took my time with my arm strokes and I focused on kicking less frequently.  I was able to find a good rhythm within the first 100m, and as I became more tired I was able to focus on taking a good breath and maintaining good form.  Everything was going swimmingly (pun very much intended).

My original goal was to swim 300m without stopping, which is the distance of the swim portion of a triathlon I would like to do next fall.  I made that mark with little difficulty and decided to keep going.  I just wanted to see how far I could go.  By about 600m I was definitely starting to feel fatigued, but I got it in my head that I wanted to do 800m, or approximately a half mile, before stopping.  At 750m another swimmer joined my lane and I got a little nervous about being overtaken, but I just kept moving.  I finally finished the 800m  and I thought I would go just a bit further to see what would happen.  I finally decided to end the session at 900m!  I looked up at the clock just to estimate how long that had taken me, about 20 minutes! It felt awesome!

I noticed that a few of the other swimmers had already started taking breaks, which made me feel good because usually I am the one leading the charge in break time.  I watched the other swimmer in my lane and took note of a couple of techniques he was using.  When I went back to swimming I attempted to replicate some of what I had seen.  But suddenly it was like I couldn't swim again.  I was doing only 50m at a time and each time ended up gasping for air.  That was when I realized that I had completely lost focus of what had led to my earlier success.  I was attempting to swim like someone else, and that didn't work for me.  I realized that I needed to swim like me, just a little slower.  So I refocused once more and went back out.  Unfortunately, this time the extended effort and exhaustion caught up with me and my foot started to cramp.  However, I did complete another 100m before I called it a day.

Overall, it was a great experience and I think I learned a lot about myself.  I also got really geeked out about the possibility of not embarrassing myself in a triathlon!  I don't get to swim very often, but I hope to keep throwing these opportunities in every once in awhile, and hopefully by the time of the triathlon in the fall I will be ready to have a good showing!