Saturday, January 30, 2010


01/01/2010: 337 pounds
01/30/2010: 322 pounds

That's 15 pounds lost in 30 days. 

I could downplay it, but I can't and won't do myself that disservice.

I earned every single one of those 15 pounds. Sweat equity, as they call it in the housing market.

From gutting out the 10k in Lowell, to the hard pedaled miles on the bike tonight. Every yard swam, every lap run led to this drop. I'm not going to adjust my goals because of this. I'm still shooting for 10 pounds each month, and if they all turn out like this one, so much the better. 

So tonight, hockey, (light) beer and pizza.

And tomorrow, back to work. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Product Review: h2oAudio Capture waterproof case and headphones

As has been previously noted, I'm a big nerd. I geek out at the prospect of new gear coming out, but especially when it's gear I get to use. So you can imagine my disappointment when my first set of h2oAudio  waterproof headphones turned out to be defective. Thankfully, their customer service was terrific, and got me my replacement quickly and without hassle.

So, I received my replacement headset on tuesday, and took the unit to the BU FitRec pool on wednesday night, and again today.

The Capture case is a new waterproof case for the 5th generation iPod Nano. They make cases for the various iPod models, but since I have a Nano, this was the one for me. This new case supports the Nano's built in video camera and enlarged screen. It's made of a completely clear plastic with a strong hinge, and the locking mechanism is foolproof with pictures on the front to differentiate between locked and unlocked. The iPod slides into the opened case, and down onto a built in 3.5mm audio plug. This completely insulates the iPod from the earphone connection.

The waterproof headphones come with 5 extra sets of earplugs providing a range of sizes to fit different sized ears. The headphones use a standard 3.5 audio plug, but have a huge rubber casing protecting the attachment of the jack to the cable. This is used to ensure water can't get in around the headphone connection point. The audio plug connects to the audio jack of the headphone case, located inside a short sleeve at the bottom of the case.

Once i was actually in the water and swimming with the unit, I realized two important things:

  1. The armband that comes with the case doesn't cut it for swimming.  It may work well for smaller users in a running environment, or perhaps for surfing or boating, but certainly not for anyone of a larger build or with a decent amount of bicep muscle mass, as many swimmers do. And in my view, definitely not for swimming.
  2. The ear buds need to be worn with the cord coming behind the back as opposed to in the front. Swimming freestyle or breast stroke with the cords being worn in front, the motions can be strong enough to cause the ear buds to pop out. 
Aside from the waterproof aspect of the Capture, the most important point is of course the sound quality. I found the sound to be superb. Considering all of the technical requirements of building a waterproof system, I wouldn't have been surprised to hear the audio quality take a back seat. Thankfully not only is the audio crisp and clear, but it doesn't seem to distort, even at higher volume. I am not sure the ear buds produce enough bass for my liking, but that will take additional testing to determine. There's no tinny-ness to the sound, and the quality is at least comparable to standard headphones. The only weird thing is that if you don't have the music very loud is that you can hear the sloshing of the water around your head as you swim.

I know that I'm not the only user who has has these issues, as another swimmer (a normal sized guy) came up to me afterwards with his own h2oAudio unit (and here I was thinking I was the coolest guy at the pool), and was asking me about the earplug adjustments and how I was doing with using the unit. He was having specific problems with one earplug not fitting right, and with the fit of the armband. I mentioned getting the various sized earplugs wet, and that I had abandoned the idea of using the armband while swimming, and simply clipped the unit to the waistband on the back of my tri shorts, which worked perfectly for me.

In closing, I have to say the h2oAudio system lived up to what I thought it would, and more really. It took me a couple laps to get used to having it on, because it's a bit different to have headphones in while swimming. After a couple laps, I hardly noticed I had them on, and just enjoyed the music.

Note: I purchased the h2oAudio system reviewed above at a discount through my sponsorship deal with the company. I was under no obligation to review the unit or provide any feedback whatsoever. I do these reviews with the purpose of providing real world experience regarding items triathletes might want to buy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oooooooh..... Big Announcement!

Today, Apple Computer will announce it's rumored new tablet device. It's an announcement the entire tech world is waiting for on the edge of their seat. Usually, a company coming out with a new product in an existing market isn't such a big deal. But Apple is well known for it's ability to revolutionize a marketplace with a product release. BASF has a slogan "We don't make your (product X), we make it better." Well, Apple both makes products and makes them better. The iPod and the iPhone are just a couple of recent examples of Apple taking over a market with initially just a single product.

And it's not just the product with Apple. Part of what makes the new product announcements from Apple so special are the announcements themselves. Steve Jobs is a master of planning and showmanship. He crafts his presentations to the features of the new products, and has his entire company in lock step with him, helping to limit leaks and keep the anticipation building towards the climactic moment when the announcement occurs.

Building anticipation, drawing out the moment with a keen sense of timing... that's what makes for a truly great announcement.

Rachelle and I have been training formally since late December, and truly began to focus just 4 short weeks ago with the Lowell 1st Run. With my season of triathlon experience, our combined road racing experience, and Rachelle's knowledge and skills as an athletic trainer, we felt like we could craft and follow a training regimen that would build through the year and prepare us for our big race. So far we've been rewarded with some early gains in speed, strength, and most importantly to our seasonal goals, stamina. 

But we feel like we can do more, and be more, so we're taking our commitment to training and our triathlon season even further by joining Wheelworks Multisport Triathlon Team for the 2010 season. We've been looking into a team for a few months, initially with the idea of getting to know some folks in our new city, and finding support for my racing. We zeroed in on Wheelworks Multisport (WWMS) because they are local, they are successful (6 time repeating and current state club champions) and because they're some really terrific people. We submitted our applications last week, and while the team lineup hasn't been formally announced yet, I've gotten word that we're in.

This opens a whole new realm for Rachelle and I. WWMS builds a list of focus races for each year, allowing us to closely match our slate of races with those of our team. We have training partners and unique opportunities for clinics and lectures that we previously wouldn't have. We now have the support of teammates, additional new sponsors, and most importantly, new friends to share our love of the sport with. 

And thankfully for me, Sunny, the president of WWMS isn't as vindictive as Steve Jobs when it comes to leaks. 

Monday, January 25, 2010


Now that my anger at people taking advantage of clydesdales and athenas has been sated with a late night post, I can get around to a bit of housekeeping:

  • h2oAudio was kind enough to renew my sponsorship for the 2010 season. They were unsure as to their sponsorship plans for non-professional athletes following some staffing changes, but have made sponsorship available for the calendar year. The discount is generous, and the customer service has been exemplary. I'm still waiting on my replacement headphones before I know how well the product works. They're due to arrive tomorrow, and I can't wait to get them in the pool and give them a go.
  • The wife and I are closing in on finalizing our triathlon schedule for the upcoming season. I'll be posting this in the next few days.
  • There's also that other announcement I hinted at last night, which I will be free to let out of the bag any day now. 
  • Finally, I haven't made a lot of progress in lining up products to review from the folks I met with at CES. I think it's time I send out second contact attempts. A lot of those vendors get bombarded after the show, so tenacity is a big part of the effort. 

Doing things the "right" way...

I am a Twitter user (@techknowgn).One of the reasons I like it is that I've met a lot of triathletes and learned a lot about triathlons, cycling, training, etc. through people I follow. I talk about video games, my life; anything. Shamefully, I must admit I even use Twitter to advertise the blog on occasion.

I've gotten plenty of spam followers. I've seen everything from women offering adult services to "master" internet marketers who are trying to follow every person who opens a Twitter account.

But today I saw something different, something I'd never seen before

 I got a "tweet" from a company (I'm not going to list their company name or twitter account) offering weight loss services in combination with triathlon coaching services as well. At first I thought, "Cool, these people get you can be overweight and still want to do triathlons. And they even support you in your journey." Then I read some of the details. They ask $350 per month for the weight loss and coaching service. Then I thought "Ok, this is expensive, but maybe they offer a lot." They do have a professional staff with a couple of registered dietitians and have experienced triathletes/coaches doing the coaching.

Then I looked at their other services, and that's when my thoughts about this company changed.

The full service plan for a triathlete who is not looking to lose weight is "only" $295 per month! This plan includes weekly calls and emails with the coach and/or dietitian, while the coaching/dietary help for the weight loss plan only includes weekly emails. Further, the coaching for the weight loss plan is actually their lessor "Victory" (I quoted their name for this plan because I found it to be unintentionally funny) plan, which offers far less coaching support all the while charging $55 more per month for the combined lessor services.

Feeling fairly disgusted with what is certainly taking advantage of Clydesdale and Athena triathletes, I sent a message to the company telling them I thought the only people who should be spending that much money on training and weight loss should be pros.

While I was bothered with this company's approach, I was just going to let it slide; figuring no one in their right mind would pay that much anyways. But then I got a response to my tweet:

"Not for everyone, we agree. But if you want to do it right..."

Do it "right"?

There are tens if not hundreds of millions of people in the United States this very minute struggling with a weight problem. We are a fat country, and Earth is becoming a fat planet. Companies and people all over the world, but particularly here in the US have been talking about theirs being the "right" way to lose weight for damn near 75 years, maybe longer. And it seems each time a new contender steps in the weight loss ring, it comes with a higher price tag than we've seen before.

Do you want to know what the "right" way to lose weight is? Because I can tell you, and I won't charge you a damn thing to do it.


Yep, the right way is whatever gets you to lose weight while still eating and exercising in a healthy way. And the right way doesn't have to cost you $350 a month just for occasional email responses from a coach or dietitian.

Here's an example, and it's an example I know well; because it's what works for me.
  • Gym membership - $35/month. Gym membership prices fluctate, but in this economy I get month to month memberships offered to me all the time for around $30-40 a month.
  • Triathlon Team membership - $65/year. You feel like you need coaching and support? Join a team. Nothing like having a bunch of people to cheer you on, talk about our chosen sport, and have someone you know already at most of the races you do. I'll talk more about the team thing later this week as part of an announcement I'm really excited about.
  • Find a training plan online - free. There are literally hundreds of triathlon training plans online, in the magazines, available in books, etc. I recommend looking online because it's faster than going to the library, and odds are you can find someone who has used it before to give you some feedback. The one we're currently using can be found on TriFuel in their training section.
  • Join an internet community - again, free! There are a bunch of sites on web (Beginner Triathlete, Slow Twitch just to name a couple) that are communities for triathletes. Many have beginner sections, clydesdale and athena specific boards, and even support groups where you're assigned an online mentor who works with a group of athletes each season. All Free!
  • Make friends with the folks at your local multisport shop - Free! Ok, well, technically, you'll probably wind up buying a bunch of equipment, so it isn't completely free. But you'll be doing that anyways, and this way, you get a group of folks who can usually provide you with some pretty sound advice. Because the multisport market is a niche, they cant afford to be pissing off customers by upselling them or providing bad advice. 
Again these are only what has worked for me, and you might want more help than that. If so, more power to you. But if you decide to go a more formal route, use your head and don't let someone take you financially just because you're bigger than their other clients. As a suggestion, look for a registered dietitian on your insurance plan. Find a local coach recommended by friends or competitors. Either way, remember that the right way for you is what works for you.

I just hope it doesn't cost you $350 a month.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I made some goals... at Burger King

The biggest part of portion control is knowing whats in your food, or at least the caloric, fat, and dietary fiber content in order to figure out the Weight Watchers points. That's why it's easier when counting points to eat at a major chain than a mom n' pop restaurant because most major chains publish the nutritional information of their food.

So, on my "cheat day", the one day a week I pick to use the 35 extra points each person on the plan gets to use , I usually look for places where I can get my junk food fix without exceeding my points for the day and my extra points combined.

So tonight, there I was in Burger King, a couple of those loss-leader Double Cheeseburgers on my tray and a "medium" coke to wash them down with.

It was as I was in the middle of my second one that I realized aside from finishing Timberman and losing weight, I needed to come up with some more concrete plans and goals in order to be successful. I think my thought process was naturally timed to coincide with the ingestion of all that "greasy goodness" (Am I overusing quotes? Nope, I didnt think so).

So I started thinking about it as I finished my meal and went home to rest. I was still thinking about it 2 hours later as a packed my bag full of workout stuff, put on my new Tri shorts, grabbed my recently arrived tube of That Butt Stuff, and headed off to the gym. Just because I got to eat like crap today doesn't mean I got to take the day off from the gym. Recovery day was yesterday.

1100 yards takes me a little less than 35 minutes right now, including the slower warm-up laps. Between that time in the pool, 20 minutes on the bike, and 20 minutes on the track, I came up with a few high level goals to augment the ones I had already set:

  • Make working out more than just about Timberman. As part of my "This is who I am, not what I do" approach to exercise and healthy living, I need to focus on the idea that this is a lifelong change, not just a countdown to a goal date
  • Be able to drive past McD's, BK, KFC, etc.and not feel like it'd be awesome to go in, every time I drive by. Seriously, do they put crack in that stuff. Sometimes the cravings can be overpowering!
  • Be able to do 50 situps in a row. My belly fat is my biggest health risk and my biggest competition detriment.
  • Be able to do 1 pull up/chin up. Because seriously, I don't think I can even do 1. After I do one, we'll set a larger goal.
While a couple of them are very much mental things, a couple are physical ones I can tackle as part of Ironman training. I need to spend some more time coming up with an approach or plan to reach those first couple goals.

The sad part was, when I got done at BK, I was full, but I regretted immediately having eaten those burgers. Maybe I'm catching on faster than I thought.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

h2OAudio to the rescue; or you can tell a product by it's support.

It's commonplace these days that as consumers we hear tons all the negatives that go on with products, whether they be technological/mechanical defects (this Mavic wheel exploding during a criterium because of design defects) or severe issues with a management process (The Tonight Show dumping CoCo). So I wanted to take a moment to point out one of the bright spots of dealing with a company when a failure does occur.

Just before the end of 2009, I purchased a waterproof case and ear buds for my iPod Nano G5 from h2OAudio to use as part of my triathlon swim training. I received them the day before I went to CES, so I didn't get a chance to try them prior to my trip. Upon return, I plugged them in and followed the instructions for getting started with the new kit. Because of the pressurization the earphones undergo, there are directions to let them play a half an hour at a high volume in order to make sure the drivers are producing sound properly.

Unfortunately not only were not not producing sound properly, they weren't producing sound at all.

After the preparation steps and a short email discussion with their support team, it turns out my headphones are defective, and need replacement. Thankfully, all I had to do was email my invoice to the support department, and my replacement unit is on the way! I don't have to send back the originals first, cover shipping and handling, or deal with any of that other bunk in order to get a functional product.

Anyone who has ever swam a significant number of laps on a regular basis can tell you how useful these can be to make the mental aspect of training less difficult.

In order to comply with the full disclosure doctrine I'm following with this blog, I have to mention that I was sponsored by h2OAudio for the later part of 2009, and I purchased these headphones at a discount. But my support experience was done through their normal channels, so I received no special treatment by the support professionals who handled my claim.

I can't wait to get the replacement buds in and really give them a thorough testing at the BU pool.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Could've been the whiskey, might have been the gin

"Could've been the whiskey, might have been the gin.
Could've been the three or four six packs I don't know
but look at the mess I'm in."

- The Rovers

Ok, so there was no whiskey or gin, and the six packs were actually just 2 Bud Light Golden Wheat, but I still feel like crap today.

Rach and I went to a bar last night with a couple of her friends to enjoy a rare night of socializing here in Boston. We don't know very many people here, and so our opportunities to go out other than just the two of us are rare. We hit Harry's Bar & Grille for trivia night. We had a great time, but at a cost. I made the fatal mistake of using a chance to socialize as a chance to eat. I had already had dinner when we went to the bar. I would have waited to eat had I known we were going, but it came up last minute.

The two beers themselves aren't what did me in. It was the fact that everyone else was eating, and I felt compelled to join them. So instead of drinking water and having maybe a beer; instead I wound up having a cobb salad, a side of fries, and sharing some mac and cheese with Rach.

While this didn't move the scale much in the wrong direction, I felt incredibly lethargic and slow in the pool this morning. While I did manage to get myself out of bed at 5:30, knowing I'd be spending my time in the pool without Rach, it was one of the toughest workouts I've had from the mental aspect in a long time.

It reminded me that effort and new outlook aren't enough to really make all of these changes, it's also about conviction. Conviction that being a triathlete isn't what I do, but who I am. That I am the master of what I eat, and not the other way around. And that I can do this, even on the days when my body clearly doesn't want to.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The tattoo to-do

Foreword: This may seem off topic at first, gentle reader, but please do follow it through to completion.

In the current day, tattoos are regarded as little more than personal choice by most parts of society. They are no longer the exploits of drunken sailors, motorcycle gang members, or society's less desirables. In fact many of todays elite sport 'tats' or 'ink', and people think little of it. However, there are still times where a tattoo has more effect than just to darken a spot of skin. 

This is one of those times.

My wife, like myself, is a certified hockey nut. Working with and around hockey players who sport hockey related tattoos has only served to further encourage her to follow a longtime want of getting a tattoo. While I feel she was perfect as she was, and required no alterations, it wasn't my choice to make.

Last night, the deed was done.

Hence, I give you: Hockey player on a foot.

The tattooing process did not injure my petite wife, nor do I find it as distasteful as I had hoped (I am fine with tattooed people, just didn't plan on being married to one). However there is a factor that was not taken into account as my wife leaped before looking: she cannot work out for most of a week, and cannot swim for at least 2 weeks.

While to most folks this would seem almost a relief, I have been in a tizzy due to the loss, albeit temporary, of my training partner. Will I have the strength of will to continue on with the grueling regimen chosen for the next two weeks? Will I be able to force myself out of bed for a 6 AM pool session? Will I start finding excuses to join Rachelle on the couch?

Today was the first day of my solo training, and the results have been encouraging. I put myself through a 1 hour biked ride, including an 11.2 mile time trial (as hard and as fast as you can go over the chosen distance). I followed that up with a run of more than a mile.

This was only day one; I guess we'll see if my willpower is as permanent as the ink that makes up Rach's new little friend.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Becoming Timberman(.com)

Evidently, the blog felt left out. Since I am becoming Timberman, it wanted to as well. So, now the blog is

I feel like blogging about blogging seems self-important and makes more out of something that a lot of people are doing, and that I'm really doing for myself, though I am thrilled that there are some people out there reading it. But now that the domain name is in place, and the basic theme is in place, I'm done talking about it... Except to say there will be a few more minor changes and improvements ongoing, but nothing that will affect those who come just to read the blog. Anyways, I'm done talking blogging for real this time.

So, on to a real topic for today: two-a-days.

In my very short middle school football career, I participated in the dreaded summer two-a-days. If you don't know that term, it simply means a period of preparation for a sport in which you have two practices a day.

I thought I was done with this type of mental and physical torture when I chose marching band over football; clearly I was mistaken. As we are now a few weeks into serious triathlon training, we've advanced to a stage of occasional two-a-days.

This morning it was a 1200 yard swim. Either I didn't go hard enough, or swims of ~1000 yards are starting to slowly get easier. i didn't take a break until 450 yards in. And I finished the second full 500 without a break.

Tonight, it's an hour of running. I may have mentioned it, but running is not my strong suit in this sport, so I can definitely do with an hour of track time. I will just have to pretend the blisters from walking around Las Vegas have already healed.

Or I can take the route I usually take, and just whine about how much it hurts the whole time. Sounds like a plan to me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A new (out)look

A new look can come about in a lot of different ways. You can buy new clothes, get a haircut, or change the way you grow your facial hair (this is especially effective if you're female). Of course, the change I've been working towards is more substantial, and ideally more permanent than buying a new shirt.

I've been approaching my body makeover and triathlon training project as one and the same. But they're really different. That "next triathlon" will always be off in the distance, but I ask the question: how does one maintain that enthusiasm for personal health and continued improvement on a daily basis?

I follow Mark Oakes on twitter (@MarkOOakes), and I found one of his personal mantras to be something that I've really started to believe: It's not what I DO, it's who I AM! This type of thinking internalizes behavior, making it more a part of you, rather than just a series of actions to predicate an outcome. I am not a fat guy working out to try and lose some weight so I can have a better finish in a race; rather I am a triathlete and health conscious person doing what it takes to improve myself on a daily basis. It really makes all of the effort so much easier to understand when you put it in the perspective of not changing how you look, but focusing on who you are.

While we're on the topic of new looks, a quick aside: readers will be noticing a few changes to the blog over the next few weeks. I've decided to modify the template to reflect the theme of the blog, and I bought a domain name (, so that over time the blog will be more secure in it's footing on the web. Especially as web services change, having the ability to make your work portable is so key. More on this later.

PS. I've been saving this nugget, but I've now lost 10 pounds since 1/1. I'm not "dieting" or being unhealthy in any way. I'm merely watching my portions/points, and exercising in an intense but sustainable and smart manner. This puts me at 327 this morning. While it's pure science this amount of loss can't be sustained indefinitely without moving to nearly constant exercise or reducing calorie intake to an unhealthy manner; I'm certainly happy with my progress to this point.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back from Vegas

I'm still several hours light on sleep, but I wanted to take a few minutes to provide a few updates:
  • I lost weight and won money in Vegas; I'm not sure this combination of events has ever happened to anyone visiting Sin City before. I ate less often, but was less hungry. While my food choices weren't always ideal, the portion sizes were good. I even went to a buffet and only made one trip. No formal exercise, but at least 25 miles walked, maybe more.
  • Sleep is something that we all need, except in Vegas. It's almost like that particular law of nature is suspended; I slept about 12 hours all trip.
  • There are some interesting products coming out for triathletes over the next couple of months that I'm going to try and get review units for so I can take a look at them for those of you out there who are considering some tech gear purchases this year. Specifically I'm hoping to get some more details on a new competitor to the Garmin GPS watches to be marketed under the Nordic Track, and a GPS unit designed for real-time location tracking. Of course, I'm hoping to get my hands on the new Garmin 505 or perhaps one of their other cycling or running GPS units.
  • We took the day off of training today to do some post-Vegas victory spending. My Blackberry crashed in Vegas, so I took the plunge and ordered a Nexus One from Google.
  • Back to the plan tomorrrow with a good long swim, 1800 yards. Looking forward to getting back to work.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Conventions: The next endurance sport?

I'm writing from brightly lit Las Vegas, Nevada. My home for the next few days is a hotel room at the Imperial Palace as I partake in the annual right of passage known as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). CES is a 4 day electronics trade show, the worlds largest I might add.

Getting around Vegas effectively is mostly about walking. If you're leaving the strip there are taxis or buses, but for moving from casino to casino, nothing is more effective than travelling by foot. However, when you're here for leisure, you walk from one casino to another, then you sit down for a while to gamble. When you're here for a conference, you walk from casino to casino (or the LV Convention Center), just to walk around some more once you get there.

It can be grueling, standing in line for nearly everything you do, constantly on your feet in temporary booths with carpet no thicker than a kitchen rug. There are very few places to sit, and most are taken by women or the people working the booths. It's also mentally draining, because there is no place you don't wait, except maybe in your own room. Very little happens quick with a convention this big.

That's why I'm so glad for my triathlete training and experiences. We triathletes know how to suffer. It's part of what we do and who we are. It's in there, the ability, and sometimes even the need to suffer in order to achieve. And talk about mental toughness, I know no one mentally stronger than a triathlete. You can't suffer as hard as we do for as long as we do without a resolute mental fortitude.

So, while I lumber on towards the end of my trip, and I keep a keen eye for the next big technology, I'll also be looking for anything I can find at the show or from my experience here that will help me continue to grow in my ability to handle suffering.

But for now, I'm off to soak my feet in the giant soak tub I upgraded my room for.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I LOVE swimming

When I was a baby/toddler, my parents took me to swim lessons at the YMCA. I evidently loved the little plastic frog they had to play with there, but disliked the diving board (I once displayed my displeasure by pooing on it.) I feel like I enjoyed swimming from a very early age.

When I was a kid, I used to swim quite a bit. We got a pool when I was 13, the hottest summer I can remember growing up. Prior to that I would swim at the neighbor, who had an in-ground pool. There were the occasional visits to campgrounds, other friends, YMCA trips, and the times at summer camp.

Summer camp was Camp Tawanka. I went 3 different years, and my favorite time of each trip was at the waterfront, swimming. During my trips as a teenager, I was a strong enough swimmer to be allowed in deep water, and even completed the lake swim. Back then it seemed like a long swim, easily the longest swim of my life. When I pull up Marr Lake on google maps today, it turns out that swim was roughly 2/3rds of a mile, round trip.

This leads up to last night. Rachelle and I have been working off an Ironman training plan she found online. Because we're doing a 70.3, we've been cutting the training plan roughly in half. Our training plan is fairly aggresive, I think it's written for someone already in excellent shape, or with previous Ironman experience. I've been careful to back us off when I think a workout is too much this early in our training.

But last night called for a 1600 yard swim. And I was READY. I can't say I was super fast, but I did it. Under an hour, and some of the time was spent on slower strokes (breast stroke), or doing pulls (where a small float device holds your legs up and you swim with just your arms).

It felt fantastic, and not only is it one of the 3 primary triathlon disciplines, but it's a fun way to workout. You dont get all sweaty, and it's tremendous exercise for the whole body, plus cardio. And it's an area where just getting in the laps and building strength I can definitely make some strong improvements.

I just can't wait for summer to start swimming outside at Walden Pond again.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sticking it out

Yesterday was interesting in that I woke up in fear of the scale. Not because of anything I had done to get away from the plan, but rather because I had such a big drop the day before, I was afraid somehow I'd given some of it back by taking one more recovery day to build back up from the effort that was the Lowell 1st Run.

The good news was that not only did I not give any back, but I was down another pound! Totaling now 7 lbs since just the 1st of the year is making for quite a week of positive results. This was not a result of luck, but rather of sticking to the plan I'd made and eating the right foods in the right portions.

Our exercise regimen for yesterday was a good 50 minutes on the bike, at sometimes challenging but not overpowering levels.  Then a quick 15 minutes on the track before we were done for the night. Rachelle was craving dessert, and we have this wonderful place, Berryline, right down the street. Their primary product is a frozen yogurt that has all the trappings of soft-serve ice cream, but retains the tangy taste of yogurt. It's also a mere 25 calories per ounce, with no fat. Plus they offer as many healthy topping choices as unhealthy ones. AND they had free apple cider yesterday to boot.

So, after a great day at work, a good day at the gym, I got to have a healthy snack (I opted for strawberry flavor with blueberries for a topping) and 12 ounces of apple cider. All that for a mere 7 points. Well less than I'd burned off that evening at the gym.

While I had a few extra points, I stayed inside my exercise points earned, stayed within the plan of eating healthy foods whenever possible, even as snacks, and making sure my calories in for the day do not exceed my calories out.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The magical, mystical recovery day

I lost five pounds overnight.

When you read a statement like that, it sounds like the kind of claim made by any of a hundred different weight loss product infomercials.But it's true. I lost five pounds last night.

When workout plans talk about recovery days and rest, I originally assumed it was strictly to provide tired muscles some rest in order to avoid overuse injuries. But today I remembered reading about what happens when muscles wear down during exercise and the amount of energy they use in recovering energy stores and proteins that are actually broken during exercise.

5 pounds.

It sounds like a lot because it is. It's about 1.66% of my body weight. Sadly, it's both impossible and extremely unhealthy if I were to sustain a rapid weight loss at a daily level like that. But that loss allows me to feel a lot better about the Lowell 1st Run, and reminds me that there's another contest I'm in. The one against my weight.

And I'm not going to come in dead last in that one.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dead Last on the First

Rachelle and I regularly race on major holidays. With the exception of Christmas, there isn't a holiday that isn't suited for racing. Over the past 3 years, I've raced on Memorial Day, July 4th, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Sure, it's easy to stay home, watch sports, have a couple beers, and eat large portions of food. But if I'm going to change my lifestyle to allow the change in health and weight I want, these are the kinds of days I need to limit.

Yesterday being New Years Day, we participated in the Lowell 1st Run. It's the first edition of what they're looking to make an annual event. They had 5k and 10k race options. We competed in the 10k distance. It was a well organized event with custom bib numbers, great finishers medals, a challenging course, and they even gave away "heat sheets" (they look like giant pieces of aluminum foil) to keep runners warm after the race.

In all, it was a great day except for one thing: I came in last in the 10k. With the 5k and 10k starting at the same time, this means I was the last person on the road.

Last, as in Dead Last.

I like to think that the first time the saying "dead last" was used, it was about some sort of race where the competitor who came in last crossed the finish line and promptly died. It may sound morbid, but at least the deceased wouldn't have had to know the ignominy of hearing that phrase uttered about them.

And even when no one says it, it doesn't mean it doesn't come into your mind when you're in that position. I've been last before.

This is actually the 3rd time I've finished last in an event, and the 8th time I've been last in my agre group. You would think that having it happen before would prepare me. When you're last, there's a feeling of failure that creeps in to mute the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing the race.

While I have finished last now 8 times, I have also won my age group 5 times over the 37 races I've done. I know the feeling of looking back and seeing my nearest competitor struggling to keep pace with me, and not being able to do so. I know the elation of having no one ahead of me. It makes the race seem shorter, the pain seem less, and it makes you feel like you can go even faster.

Knowing what it's like to win makes losing that much harder. Instead of feeling faster and stronger at the end of the race, each step forward is an effort, and the areas that hurt simply won't be ignored. My first two miles were a little slow, but each mile after that was essentially at a speed I have walked in the past. And I was running this event. My end result was over 2 minutes slower than the person who finished ahead of me. I came in at a less than respectable 1:32:23. This was my second slowest 10k, behind only my first ever event.

With all the dark thoughts and disappointment, there are still some positives to take out of the event:

  • I ran the entire race. It may have been a slow shuffle sometimes, but I didn't walk a single step. This is the first time I've run a whole race, and it took far more effort than walking.
  • I hadn't properly trained for this distance. I've been running 1 to 3 miles, with no recent longer runs due to the holiday travel.
  • My nutrition was a mess. I had only an early morning bowl of cereal before the 11 AM race. I know better than this, and was hungry by the end of mile 2. This is not an excuse, merely something that I know I need to rectify if I'm to post better times. 
This is just the first race of many for the 2010 season, and I know I will look back on this in a few months with much better times under my belt.