Are we THERE yet?

March 19, 2014

Little_GirlsWith two and a half weeks left to go in the biggest loser competition with the local triathlon club, it’s time to take stock of what has happened and what to do about it.  For me, this has been very successful.  I have, thus far, lost about 35 pounds.  Moreover, I feel like if I keep the same routine, I can continue to lose weight until I hit my target weight of 165.  I hope to do this by the Chicago Triathlon in August.  Currently, I have about 15 pounds to lose.  Funny… at that point, for the first time in my life, I will have a BMI of what the government considers “normal”.  All this work just to be “normal”.  Currently, for the first time in several years, my BMI is what the government considers “overweight”.  Which is down from “obese”, where I have been living for the last 2 years.

I don’t give much credence to BMI as I think it is just one (and a blind one at that) measure of fitness.  It does not take into account things like muscle mass, bone density, etc.  I have a friend who played pro football as a running back and is now a powerlifter.  Dude is a ROCK.  You can see every muscle and vein.  According to the government, he is obese and has actually been turned down for life insurance.  Ludicrous.

Regardless, it’s just one measure.  And I don’t have the money to pay for displacement testing, etc.  So it is the free ones I go with.  It used to upset me.  Now I think it’s funny.  It really all depends on how I feel.  Currently, I feel good.  I’ll take that.

In an odd twist, I am actually concerned about appearing to lose TOO MUCH weight.  At least, according to the competition.

What I mean is, due to the day we weigh in on, I may have a problem getting an accurate weight.  See, I’m trying to get an accurate weight.  Hydration plays a big part of this.  It’s easy to lose a couple of pounds by just going out and running for an hour before you weigh in.  And it also depends on what you had to eat.  Lots of salt and you retain water/weight.  These aren’t biggest loser strategies, just reality.  However, what I don’t want to do, for the purposes of the competition, is lose too much weight in one week, because that is not sustainable.  I’m more concerned about NEXT weeks weigh in than this one.  And this is all because I’m running a half marathon on Saturday.

I’ve been really good so far this week with eating and exercise.  My goal is to lose 2 pounds this week.  That will officially put me at 179.  My fear is, with the half marathon on Saturday and a long trail run on Sunday, I could actually lose, or “appear” to lose 5 pounds or more.  Which would look great this week, but as I rehydrate normally, next week, even if I lose 2 more REAL pounds, could appear to be a GAIN of a pound or two, just because of hydration.

So I’m trying to lose weight properly, and not be affected by two long runs.  So, eat and drink “enough” but not too much, or especially too little…

Oh good grief… who gives a crap?  I mean… really?

Why am I worried about this?  If I’m off 10 pounds Sunday I will know 3 things.  First, I’m dehydrated.  Second, I will probably owe the biggest loser some money for pounds gained the next week.  Third, 10 POUNDS, that would put me close to 170!  I’ll take it as long as I can get it!!  Regardless, this kind of fluctuation is normal (within reason).

I have come too far to by just relaxing, eating right and exercising to get obsessed about all of this now.  Whether I win or lose the competition means little.  The bottom line is I will be 35 pounds (plus) lighter than when I started!  My knees don’t hurt.  I don’t huff and puff going up stairs.  I’m not drinking anymore.  I sleep better.  I’m faster.  I have more energy.

That, my friends, is the win I was looking for.

Training Menu Change

March 14, 2014

Sure signs of spring:

  • Spring Peepers
  • Thunder (without snow)
  • 5Ks everywhere

Never have I been so excited to punish myself on a bicycle…  But after 3 months of diligently attending spin classes and going NOWHERE… fast… it was so refreshing to generate my own wind instead of relying on the ceiling fans.  Yes, it was breezy.  Yes, it was cool.  Yes, it was AWESOME.

I was sadly disappointed that of the 250+ members in our triathlon club, only 5 showed up (plus a Big Tree guy, a Walt’s guy and a guy that shows up for everything ride related but I can never remember his name…).

For my part, I went out a little too hard, blew up a couple of times and kind of limped home, but for the first hard ride of the year… I’ll take it.  Things I noticed on my ride:

  • The spin classes helped.  My cadence was good.  Really good.
  • The hills (not that there are any REAL hills on this route) seemed much flatter.  Probably because I’m not towing a beer keg around anymore…
  • I still think my seat is a bit too low and I have a pronounced hitch in my pedal stroke.  Definitely something to work on.
  • I’m running out of gears on the downhills.  May need to bump up to a 52 or 53 tooth chainring in the front.  It will keep me from spinning at 120-130 on the downhills so much.

One of the hardest things for me to do in triathlons is find a balance for my training.  I always seem to be neglecting one sport for another.  For instance, I think I have been swimming pretty consistently but as soon as it warms up I immediately abandon the pool for the bike.  I know part of this is the normal cure for gym fever we all get when spring finally arrives, but I don’t want to make it a habit and lose what little I have gained in the pool.

I also know that now is the time to start working on speed.  I have a half marathon coming up in 2 weeks but after that I’m not going to do anything over a 10K (except in training) until after club nationals.  While I will be sad to not go on all those long runs and rides with my friends, 4 hour rides and 18 mile runs don’t do me much good.  So my focus will change to intervals, hills, speed work and intensity.

My workout week will look like this:

Monday: Pool

Tuesday: Morning Run, Afternoon Bike or spin

Wednesday: Morning track workout, afternoon bike hills

Thursday: Morning run, Afternoon bike intervals

Friday: Lake Swim

Saturday: Long run, short ride (or brick)

Sunday: Trail run or MTB, Lake swim

menuThis is the basic schedule.  It looks like a lot and I realize there are no break days in there, but with my work schedule, I’m realistically only trying to get 2 workouts of each type in per week.  If I get them all in, great.  But that rarely happens.  And I will probably rotate one week a month where I don’t do one of the sports for a week, just to give those muscles a break.  The other thing about this schedule is that except for the long run day, everything else is short.  My longest ride this year will be 50 miles and I will only do a few of those.  No more than 2500 in the water.  No more than 10 on the run.

See, my problem in the past is that I “trained” for “triathlon”.  Which meant I basically did any and all workouts I could.  My first 2 seasons I would routinely go out on 60+ mile rides… but I was only doing sprint distance races.  Yet I did NO speed work.  So at the end of my 15 mile bike ride in a race, I would be frustrated because I didn’t go any faster… but I felt great!  Same thing on the run… and the swim…

So this year, I’m switching to short, intense, hard workouts (for the most part).  Hills, speed, fartleks, and other fun stuff are on the menu this year!

Goldfish files

March 12, 2014

You notice things when you are on a 45 minute continuous swim in a 25 yard pool…  Things like… I have a very slow stroke compared to everybody else in the pool.  When I passed or was passed by someone today, they usually had a furiously fast and high stroke count.  And I wondered.  Who was doing it right?  Me or them…?  Do I need to increase my stroke count?

goldfishI also noticed little things like there is a tile missing from the far end wall.  I seemed to find it just about every lap with my little toe.  And that the clock on the wall is 3 minutes off of the lap clock.  And I wondered where the lifeguard had been walking in bare feet because the bottoms of them were dirty.  And that I seem to have developed the habit of getting to the end of a lap and dragging my fingernails up the wall to the pool deck for no other reason than it makes a neat noise.

And I noticed and wondered all of this simply to keep me from going BAT SHIT CRAZY WHILE SWIMMING 45 MINUTES CONTINUOUSLY IN A 25 YARD POOL!!!!   GAHH!!!!

That was painful.  Mentally and emotionally.

Physically it felt great.

Had it not been for the fact that the lake still had ice in it yesterday as the temperature hit 80…

…I’ll let that sink in…

…I would have put on my wetsuit and jumped in.  I’m really tired of smelling like chlorine.  And did I mention the pool is only 25 FRICKIN YARDS?  …like a goldfish doing laps in his bowl.

Ran into my first real “fat guy losing weight” problem today.  I had to stop halfway through my first lap and cinch up my shorts because they were really loose and headed to the bottom quickly!  Might be time to look into a smaller size…  Last I checked, the city frowned on “clothing optional” lap swims at their facilities… and besides, I’m not that pretty on a good day…

Not that this losing thing (losing weight, not losing shorts) is bad.  I’m pretty excited about it.  I know the hard part starts after the Biggest Loser competition is over because I lose that accountability, but it feels different this time.  Like I finally might get how the whole thing works.  I would really like to hit Chicago at 170 or less.  And as the season starts and the days get longer and warmer, hopefully those bigger workouts will help.  I have a lot of friends doing an Ironman race this summer and if I can tag along with them for some long stuff that will help.  But the big thing is maintaining my regimen of pushaways and putitdowns.  Being honest about portions and staying away from beer.  That has help as much or more than any workouts I have done so far.  And at some point, my training plan will diverge from their long workouts and have to focus on faster, more intense workouts since my races are short.  But for a while I can follow along until they drop me and then go do hill repeats someplace as punishment.  I’m so excited!

Race report and weight loss update

March 9, 2014

Between work and workouts,  I haven’t posted much lately.  I knew that would happen from time to time.  But, here’s a race report!  …and some other stuff.

AdventureMax 10K Race


10K of hills and fire roads.  The weather was cold but dry.  Temp was about 30.  Very little wind.  Cloudy.  This is always a well run event.  It’s always a bit small, mostly due to the fact that it’s an early season event.  And a long one at that.  Most people aren’t in 10K shape, much less for the half marathon at this time of year.


The 10K and half marathon start out at the same time.  The course is set in the confines of Innsbrook resort.  A little gem of a property resort about 50 miles west of St Louis.  Nestled in the hills and trees of east central Missouri, it is full of lakes, hills, fire roads, hills, trees… and hills.

This is the toughest course I have ever run.  After the first 3/4 mile, there is never more than 1/4 mile of flat ground.  You are either going REALLY up or REALLY down.  We probably crossed 5 dams and EACH was bracketed by a hill.  I LOVE this course.  Pansies need not enter.

My race:

I got to the site on race day and was one of the first 5 in the parking lot.  I got my packet and trotted back to my car.  Too cold to mingle and they didn’t have the fire pit up and going yet.  So I sat in my car and debated what to wear.  I brought everything in my closet.  I finally settled on medium weight everything and this was about as good a choice as I could make.  I did put on a wind layer and a long sleeved shirt (only) and that was the right combo to keep the wind out but keep me warm.

I got out of my car and warmed up for a mile or so past the stables and corrals.  Pretty place!  I thought I had timed it better to get back to the start as the gun went off but I was a few minutes early, which was just enough time to get cold.  I was really glad the announcer kept the witty banter to a minimum and just let us go.

The first 3/4 mile s flat on a dirt trail and all the runners are on it at the same time.  Made me glad we didn’t have more runners because it got a little tight in spots.  Since it has been AGES since I ran a 10K I just tried to push the pace the whole way and back off just before I blew up.  This worked on all but one hill and I had to really back it down to get my heart rate under 500, but I recovered quickly.  I knew I was running pretty well as I kept the leaders in sight most of the way through the first 2 miles.  The fun was over at the 3/4 mile mark when we went up the first of 6 significant climbs (more than 1/4 mile each).  Again, I just pushed the pace as much as I could.  WE split from the 1/2 marathoners around mile 2-3 and then I was alone.  I got passed once in mile 3, passed 3 people, and that was it.  I could see the leaders until about this point and then the course started to wind up, down and around the fire roads.  I had one man and one woman in front of me and I just kept an eye on them.  The man faded around mile 4 and I passed him.  The woman faded about this time and I passed her on an up.  She then jumped in behind me and followed me for a while, then re-passed me.  I stuck with her the rest of the race.  As we came down to the finish, I could have kicked hard and passed her, but why?  We weren’t battling for age group or position.  If I had sprinted I might have taken 30 seconds off, but who cares?  I was having FUN.  I just caught her and asked if we could run it in together.  She was happy to come along and we finished at the same time.

My knees barked at me on the downhills more than the ups. But the pain was tolerable.  I really wish it would go away, but as long as Advil dulls the pain, I’m fine.  I ended up 10th overall in the race but funny enough, only got 4th in my age group.  Figures.  Still, I was very pleased to run 8:20 miles for that race.  Pretty strong for that course, this early.  I didn’t stick around to get my fourth place medal… :)  I just packed it in and went home.

In other news, I’m down to 183 pounds!  That’s 33 pounds during biggest loser and 39 pounds since December 19.  I’m trying to keep this positive and not be mad at myself for GAINING that weight in the first place… so I will just say I feel pretty good right now!  We have 3 weeks (ish) to go in the biggest loser competition and I REALLY want to get below 180.  If I can be in the 175-180 range by the first of April, that will be a HUGE win for me.  Personally, I could really care less who “wins” the BL competition.  Anybody that loses weight wins.  My goal was to try to lose 36 pounds.  I’m 3 pounds away from that and I have until April 6th.  I’m not going to change anything about the way I’m working out, eating or anything else.  The “Make good choices 1 second at a time” philosophy is working.

…but, MAN… would it be cool to finish up biggest loser in the 170s…

Like a shark

February 24, 2014

Last week was more awesome (fitness wise) than it should have been.  Conferences are my nemesis but this is conference season (this year I present at three in the spring).  Too much food, too many opportunities to party and not enough healthy people around to provide adequate peer pressure make it difficult to stay focused.  I successfully avoided booze, ate marginally well and got a couple of workouts in.  I guess that’s all that can be expected.  When I got home on Saturday, feeling guilty about eating two pieces of pizza instead of 1 and having more meat in one sitting than I usually have in a week, I decided to go for a “pay the piper” run.  I missed my scheduled run, spin class and 2 swims (but only managed 45min on a spin bike and a 4.5 mile hill run at the resort), so I wasn’t going to miss my long run.

Long runs are an enigma for me.  They either go really, really good… or really, REALLY bad.  No rhyme or reason.  I almost think it’s a mindset thing.  This one was no different.  I started playing head games with myself even before I left.  In my defense, the weather for this one was a challenge to predict.  A frontal boundary was RIGHT over us and it was predicted to drop 10-15 degrees behind it, so depending on when I got done…  but when I walked out the door, it was 48.  The weather report called for partly cloudy skies… so, of course, it was raining.  So.  Long sleeve shirt, shorts with pockets, skull cap and light gloves.  I was clueless.

I knew I wanted to get in at least 10 but I have been entertaining the idea of running a half marathon in mid march so I left open the possibility of 12.  The course is dead flat for the most part, so it was just a matter of being on my feet for more than an hour and a half that was new (to this year, anyway).

I will spare the mile by mile descriptions.  I ran as comfortably as I could in the rain, wind and dropping temperatures.  I was more than likely under dressed.  My lungs and legs felt fine.  My times averaged about 9:15 on the way out, which seemed a little slow but I went with it.  At the turn you run around a big group of settling ponds (or whatever the heck they are) that, this time of year, are LOADED with waterfowl.  This made the two mile section that goes around them a bit more fun (and LOUD), because by the time I got out to it, the temp had dropped about 10 degrees and now the wind hurt.  I put on my gloves, which are really just designed as a wind layer (no liner).  This warmed my hands up enough not to hurt.  Good enough.

The slow pace on the way out bugged me.  Oh, and yes, I did go the extra 2 so I could actually get in 12… :)  I just felt like it was too slow.  So I decided to try to run negative splits on the way back.  Before I knew it I was running 8:15 and even though I was breathing harder, I still felt good.  So I hung on to that pace to the end.

The most impressive part of the run was that I could hold a faster pace on the back end of it… on my longest run in a year and a half.

Once I got home I discovered at least some of the reason why.  Even though I thought I ate like crap and didn’t get enough exercise in, my weight had dropped to 189.  The first time for that in a year and a half as well.

OK, look.  I don’t really believe in myself much.  Most of the time I’m focused on my own warts and can’t see much past that.  But something is different this time.  I’m not sure if the haze of the alcohol is lifting or what the deal is, but I really think I can do this.  Lose the weight, that is.  I had my doubts at first (and probably will have for some time) but these simple changes are WORKING.  I’m losing 2-3 pounds a week and now I have 19 pounds to go.  Six weeks.  Mid April.  170.  Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is going to happen.  That is a different way of thinking for me.  So uncomfortably positive I fear I’m being manic…

Regardless, I have 19 pounds to go.  This week the weather will be marginal but doable.  Everything I’m doing is in house this week so no travel.  I’m going to make this a big training week.  3 swims, 2 bikes, 4 runs.  Time to pound on it a little and see what happens.  Next week is another conference so I will have to ease up.

I told my wife that once I jumped on the scale and saw 189, I felt like a shark.  I can smell blood… and I’m hungry.

Break the cycle

February 18, 2014

This blog has over 700 entries.  There were a few more on the blog I started with but I lost them all when it crashed (thanks Microsoft).  The one thing I have never done is gone back in time and re-read the blog from the beginning.  I took some time and did that this morning.  It left me more frustrated than I thought it would.  Because even though it helped me remember some things like when I started with the Tue/Thur running group (June 14, 2007) or when I met people, or when I did a certain race.  What I saw on a broader scale was a pattern.  A very disturbing pattern.  And  a pattern that I am in the middle of again.

See, when I started this mess in the first place it was because in 2006, when we got to Columbia, I finally looked in the mirror.  I mean, REALLY looked in the mirror.  And I hated what I saw.  At 240 pounds, I was a mess.  So I started running.  This is where the pattern starts.  The weight slowly came off, my times and distances improved, I did a few races, set some goals, made some mistakes, did an “A” race (KC Marathon), etc.  That was the up side.  Then I got hurt, tried to keep going, fell off the wagon, tried to keep going still, got diagnosed with a bad injury (broken pelvis) and then faded to black.  In all I lost 60 pounds,  then gained 30 of it back.  That was through 2009.

Then I took up triathlon, slowly lost some of the weight again and stayed pretty steady for roughly 2 years. Then, in 2012 I went on the up side again, set an “A” race (Redman Half Iron) and spent the summer undertraining for it.  The result was predictable.  The stress and strain on my body ultimately lead to another injury and the down side was 2013.

The reason I see myself in the middle of that pattern again is because of the last 2 months.  I restricted my intake (note: I didn’t say “DIET”), cut out alcohol and sugar, pushed through the pain of starting all over again and the results have been good.  My weight is down 24 pounds, my times per mile are back at or below 8 minutes.  My swim times are improving.  I feel better.  I set an “A” race again…

But I need to break the cycle.  I need to flatten out the curve.  I know it will always cycle a bit, but there has got to be a way to make it flatter.

Is cutting out and cutting back enough?  A goal I have stated for a long time is “I won’t race (insert race name here) unless I am at or below 170″.  But it is one I have never achieved.  Both of the big races I have set as goals were done at a much heavier weight than I wanted.  I still believe that for me, competing heavy is dangerous.  My body has rebelled against it both times so far.

I think I have been taking it for granted that as long as I put in the miles, I could pretty much eat/drink whatever I wanted.  This is a mistake.  And oddly enough, I could go back in time to those big gaps between posts where I just gave up and tell you exactly what I was doing.  I was binge eating, swilling beer and sitting on my butt watching my pants get tighter.  Of all the places I never want to be again, it’s there.  But my history shows that this is what I turn into when the going gets tough.  It’s happened 3 times in the past 6 years.  Those are the bottoms of the curves.

So I know what the bottom looks like, I just need to figure out how to avoid going there.  Or at least making it a bit more shallow…?

I really think managing my intake and making that the most important thing is key.  I have never really done this.  I always used the runner’s excuse “Eh, I’ll just run a few more miles” when I overeat or fall off the wagon.  I know it doesn’t work that way.  What I need is a year of setting a base caloric intake of about 2000 calories per day.  More if I’m really training hard, less if I take a day off.  And staying diligent with the “no alcohol or sugar” thing.  If I can do this for a year, maybe it will become the new “normal”.  If that’s what my body expects, maybe it will be easier to deal with the food side of things.  Of course I will keep exercising as usual and focusing on “training” more as the season progresses, but with the results I’m seeing from a renewed emphasis on intake, I think it should be my number one goal for the year.

Actually, I think my new lifetime goal should be trying to level out this cycle a bit.  I’m OK with the peaks, but I need to fill in the valleys.  And not with pizza boxes and beer cans.

Optimism Vs. Euphoria

February 16, 2014

I signed up yesterday for the Club Nationals triathlon that is a part of the Chicago Triathlon.  To say I’m excited about this is a mild understatement.  After ZERO races in 2013… to even be able to THINK about a big race is exciting.  And to feel good enough to be SERIOUS about it is even MORE exciting.  I’m just trying to temper that enthusiasm with some reality, but it’s hard.

Last year as I struggled with physical issues I tried to tell myself that I didn’t need big races as motivation.  That “just training” was good enough.  That big races just put too much pressure on me.  Yet as I looked back at my good years and bad years with fitness, the good ones ALWAYS had an “A” race as a part of them.  But I also looked a little closer at the bad years too.  What it really boils down to is pushing too big a mileage at too heavy a weight.  In 2007 I did a marathon.  I did too many high mileage weeks, had a poor result and ended up with a stress fracture of the pelvis that kept me out for 9 months of 2008.  I was able to get back into it in 2009 and get my weight back under control, had some good races and a lot of fun from ’09-’11, but then made the mistake of bumping my mileages up too much in 2012 trying to get up to half Ironman distances.  I never got there, trained at too heavy a weight, had a poor result and ended up hurting my knees.  Which led to me being out all of last year.  Can you see the pattern?  Too much weight + too much mileage= injury.


Like an idiot.

I signed up for the “Triple Challenge” in Chicago.  See, there are 3 races that weekend.  A “super sprint” on Saturday (375m/10K/2.5K), and then a Sprint (750m/22K/5K) and an Olympic (1.5K/40K/10K) on Sunday.  And if you do the Triple, you do all of them.  On Sunday, you go off in the first wave (6am) and do the sprint, then you run from transition right back out to the water and do the Olympic.

What could possibly go wrong?

So as you can see… I’ve done it again.  I let my optimism about feeling better turn to a cloud of euphoria and when I came out of the haze I was signed up for… what?

I. Regret. NOTHING.

Here is how I look at it.  Even all three races, if done back to back… to back… still don’t equal a half Ironman.  And with one race on Saturday a few of those miles come off the top for Sunday.  I also like how it breaks up the event(s) so that you are not on any one sport for hours.  I’m also starting off the year with a better attitude, base and plan than in years (read: foolish endeavors) past.  None of the mileages scare me and now it’s a matter of getting stronger at each one, not “getting to” each one.

What I have to be careful of is overtraining or over competing.  I need one or two sprints and an olympic between now and August.  I will do some other stuff, but that is really all I “need”.  I also need to focus on weight.  I am VERY close to 190 now (192 by my scale).  Ideally, I should be racing between 165 and 175 (obviously, the lighter the better).  If I shoot for the middle, I have 6 months to lose 20 pounds.  This is a very reachable goal.  I feel pretty confident that (if the snow ever melts) I can do this.

So, for the first time in a couple of years, I have a real goal.  An achievable goal.  And I feel good, all at the same time.  I’m not going to Chicago to win anything (except a club championship!).  I’m going to get my money’s worth and compete though…!

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