Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No place to hide

As I stated when I started the site, I never really thought about my weight until that day my seatbelt didn't fit very well. I guess I used to hide from the fact that I was gaining weight in video games, in work, in my relationships; in anything that would let me. It wasn't until I couldn't hide from it that I did something about it. Nowadays when I'm having a rough time of things, I hide in the metaphorical gym. Whether it's on my bike, in the pool, or out for a walk/jog/run, I use this time to get out frustration, anger and anything else bothering me in my daily life.

About the time Rachelle was deciding where she was going for grad school, we found out that her cousin Rebecca (whose family lives here in New England) was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. She was a high school senior at the time and decided on Assumption college to pursue her degree. She started at school this past fall, but the cancer and the associated treatments forced her to return home not long into the semester.

Over the past few weeks, things had deteriorated to the point where they had stopped treatment due to the toll it was taking on Rebecca. Just last week she was feeling better and went home, but had to be admitted again a few days ago.

We'd been planning over the past few days to join her family for family dinner to celebrate easter. Rachelle's dad even scheduled a flight to come out and stay with us for the weekend (It's his brothers daughter). Last night, only a few hours after Rachelle's dad confirmed his flight; Rebecca ended her fight with cancer.

Aside from the beauty her life gave to her family and friends, she also left a lasting impression on those she got to know during her stays at Mass General Hospital. She started raising funds under the name "Cure with Hope", and raised over $3000 for the pediatric wing of the hospital. She sold bracelets, t-shirts and other items; with plans for more in the works when her illness overtook her. I don't know what's going to happen with this now that Rebecca has passed, but even in the few short months it has existed, Cure with Hope made a difference in a lot of lives.

While Rebecca can finally rest, there are people who fight daily in the hopes that someday no one else will be lost to this disease. Folks like the Lance Armstrong Foundation, American Cancer Society and others do a lot of work to help the doctors and researchers fight the various forms that cancer takes. (I'm not asking anyone to give any money, as each person should choose to fight in their own way).

What this brings me back to is that where do you go, what do you do when something like this happens? The gym? Video games? food? What helps you hide from the pain and the loss, when nothing can help you get away from it.

Times like this also make you think about yourself and your own mortality. Obesity is one of the key indicators linked to cancer. I smoke the VERY occasional celebratory cigar, and have a family history of cancers. The cigar is on a yearly basis, and certainly isn't much of a risk factor; where the weight is something that is a large risk factor and something I need to work to control.

In the end, I just have to keep working, even when there's no place to hide.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A successful weekend

It's funny how we as people measure things. Months, pounds and inches are all arbitrary decisions we use to determine the size or length of something. Success and failure are just as flexible in their use. With that I am going to put my own spin on the meaning of success in terms of how my weekend went.

No, I'm not going to stretch it that far
In case you missed it before the blog went down for a couple days, this past weekend was PAX East. PAX East is a video game convention being held right here in Boston. Being that I live here, 3 of my buddies from Columbus came and crashed here and we spent 3 great days at the conference. It was only the first year for the convention, but it was a lot of fun, sold out for all 3 days, and had a lot of great panels, discussions, displays, and freebies. 

Of course conventions mean a lot of very slow walking, even more standing still, and deafeningly loud sound effects and music. It also means only eating at home once all weekend, drinking beer, and consuming about a salt lick worth of sodium. There's the mandatory morning caffeine, pizza lunches, and the pizza dinners to follow it up. Thats the way it usually works. But not this year.

This year I ate controlled portions at every meal. This year, I only drank real soda when no other choice presented itself. This year I had breakfast at home twice, plus dinner at home Sunday. This year I had pizza just once the whole weekend. This year, I tried to avoid sodium whenever possible. This year, I did great. Even at Rachelle's birthday dinner (shout out to the hot lady who turned 23 yesterday), I only had 2 Mc Ultra's.

In the end, I gained a pound; 316.2 as of this morning. It's likely salt and the fact that I didnt have any meaningful workouts beyond the slow walk. Rach and I had a good hard swim tonight so hopefully I'll be faring better tomorrow morning when I get on the scale (I had a piece of leftover birthday cake after dinner, so maybe not).

Just 2 more days until the first morning of the new month. Gotta drop those last few pounds to get back to 313 or below before then.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The site was down and now its back up

For being a technical person, and someone who used to create websites (back in the day when knowing HTML was all it took), I am fairly average at the technical aspects of maintaining the blog.

Out of the blue on Thursday, the site stopped working. I didn't change anything; but it just stopped working. I didn't notice, other than the fact that the visit numbers were very low. I assumed it was because the weather was nice and I didnt have anything new.

Thankfully, Derek noticed that the blog was down and emailed me. I was able to work with Google and my hosting company to learn what was wrong, and they fixed it.

I'm enjoying my weekend, and I hope you're enjoying yours.

I'll be back monday with an update as we close in on the end of the month.

Sneaking one in

I awoke early to a steady snow this morning. As a point of reference, it was 65 here yesterday, sunny and beautiful. My friends are here for the conference, two of them sleeping just a few feet from where I type this.

The past two days I have been feeling a bit down about my weight loss progress. Setting aside that I'd lost 20 lbs so far in just a few months, I was frustrated with the fact of how simple it is to put pounds back on. I was worried that a weekend like this where it's essentially one big party with friends, food, and beer; that I'd wind up back where I started.

Thankfully, both my wife and my willpower started to kick back in yesterday, with a hard core bike interval workout. 17 miles in 1:05; with some real hard sections. The workout I find to be the most difficult is what Rachelle calls an ILT, which involves pedaling with one leg for 20 seconds, both legs for 10 seconds, and the other leg for 20 seconds and so on. We do 3 sets of 3 minutes each, and by the end of that, my legs just want to run away. After those segments Im all to happy to do hard segments that involve both legs.

The good news from sneaking that workout in last night amongst all my other tasks is that I saw 315 on the scale this morning. Obviously, this gives me some courage for the rest of the weekend. I'm still shooting for 312 this month, and I think I can get there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bad news and bad news

Wasn't sure which to start with, so I'll start with the bad news:

Folks, I won't be around much the rest of the weekend. I have friends coming into town and a video game convention to attend. I'm going to work seriously on maintaining or losing weight this weekend, but I'm facing an uphill battle. My wifes birthday celebration, entire days away from the house without access to home cooked meals, and my arch-nemesis for the weekend; beer.

I'll be covering the events of the weekend over at Gaming Nexus. I'll try to pop in here with little updates, especially if I can get blogging from my Nexus One working.  If not, expect tidbits on Sunday evening.

The other bad news is that I weighed in at 318 this morning. This is a full 5 pounds up from last week, and I'll be darned if I can make sense of it. I know I wasn't counting points properly, but man it sure was a quick jump from where I was. Back to work I guess.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The heart of the matter

The great sage Don Henley once spoke:
"I've been tryin' to get down to the heart of the matter 
But my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter"
The rest of the song is some whining about heartbreak and forgiveness. But these are the two key lines for today. 

After the weekend of fun I described in my last couple of posts, even with some good hard workouts; I was still up several pounds. I was actually higher the other night than I started the month even. Granted, most of that weight was transitory salt weight, but I still was up.

Last night, I rode 17 miles in an hour on the bike, and still had a good bit of leg left. A year ago I'd only dream about being able to do that. Two days ago, I swam more than 1.2 miles in an hours time. Last year, I struggled to get through 800 yards. I can run...  ok, well, I can run a little which is still more than I could do a year ago. 

At this point most of that extra weight is gone, and I'm hopeful to reach close to 310 by the end of the month. But when you get down to the heart of the matter, it's still (and may always be) about how much, or even just what I choose to eat each day that makes the difference in my weight loss.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What I did this weekend: Part 2

Yesterday I spent time talking about my Friday and Saturday. Today's post is about my Sunday fun in the sun from the back of a bike.

We have laundry machines in our building, and one of my weekly errands is to get the quarters we need to do the laundry. Normally, I do that when we get groceries; but the sun and this particular errand gave me a good excuse to get out on the bike.

Whats great about where we live is that there's so many interesting things going on. The 400 lb. gorilla in the room neighborhood is of course Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. The grocery stores we visit most are in the Fenway neighborhood, so I headed out in that direction. I figured I could use the trip to get quarters to determine if I was dressed appropriately for the weather. Plus, I promised the professional photographers that follow my blog (all 2 of them) that I'd take some pictures of Boston while I was out. (note: this was all done with just my 5 megapixel camera phone; I'm all about the high quality equipment).

After I got the quarters I decided I was warmly enough dressed, and figured I'd get some photos of Fenway on the way back over to the river.

The Sox have yet to retire my number
I wasn't the only one out enjoying the sun; I saw a group of bikers with their oriental road machines who went out for a ride and a motorcycle show broke out.

These bicycles are really loud and look too heavy to pedal up hills
It's amazing to me how diverse these neighborhoods are. Literally right across the street from the motorcycle guys (and their requisite biker groupie), there was a woman painting a portrait of a portion of Fenway Park from the outside.
No snarky comment here; this is 100% cool
A local artist, she's been capturing several different slivers of Fenway for a while. If I had to guess she was in her early 70's, but her hand moved crisply and based on just this one sample, her eyes are sharp. Her art is on display at the Fenway Studio along with the work of greater Boston area artists. I don't know what it will cost, but I'm definitely going to go see what her similar pieces run.

The roads and buildings around Fenway sort of cocoon around it, with the road we take the grocery parallel to the road running along the stadium behind the Green Monster. I took the opportunity on the bike to spin down that road and join the tourists taking pictures in this area.

What baseball stadium? All I see is a sexy blue bicycle
At this point, I'd done more exploring than riding, so it was time to stick my phone in my bag and get some real riding in. That means heading over to the Charles.

The only safe place to really get in a good hard ride is alone the Charles River. There is a trail connecting a series of parks for miles and miles along the river. It's completely beautiful, and on a slightly chilly day, not very busy. This allowed me to really open up in sections, and stretch the legs. I wound up doing several miles, stopping just once to get a shot of a university boat house. These big, awesome structures dot the river in spots, adding a distinctly New England feel to the beautiful well maintained nature areas on both banks. 

Boston University Boathouse, home of the doggie paddlers
As i rode my way up the path at darn near lightspeed 16 MPH, I realized while shifting gears my bike wasn't doing what it was supposed to do. I had to overshift, wait for the rear dérailleur to adjust, and then shift to the right gear, hoping it would stay where it's supposed to. 

As I've mentioned in the past, I can do plenty of the standard maintenance, but I am not very good with some of the more delicate adjustments. For all of the components involved in shifting, it usually comes to minute adjustments that I haven't quite mastered (even though there are the very non-technical barrel adjusters on each end of each cable to make easy changes). This meant stretching my ride a bit west to International Bicycle on Comm Ave in order to have them take a look. 

Yes, I was riding on the sidewalk for a minute. Shoot me.
International Bicycle Center is where I bought Rachelle's bicycle/wedding gift and I've been going there ever since for fairly cheap maintenance. They were kind enough to charge me a mere 12 dollars for a couple turns of a screwdriver and a couple minutes tinkering with barrel adjusters. They took my $10 and a couple dollars worth of laundry quarters, and off I went.

Home is basically downhill from IBC, so I did the last couple of miles at a nice pace, able to switch freely between the two gears I actually use most of the time. In the end I did a little over 8 miles, and all of this, including stoping for pictures and bike service took about an hour. Not a very hard workout for the most part, but sometimes you just want to get out and ride.

Attention thieves, our apartment is NOT the second window up

Monday, March 22, 2010

What I did this weekend: Part 1

We had beautiful weather here in Boston for basically this past weekend, and we made sure to take advantage of it. It was such a full weekend that I don't want Sunday to get lost further down the post, so I'm breaking the weekend into two pieces.

Friday night we celebrated 6 months of wedded bliss by visiting a nice restaurant and then heading to the pool for a good hard swim. Why is it I have to keep learning the same lessons over and over? Eating a 8 oz steak and mashed potatoes or any other heavy meal, even with a good amount of water and veggies will only lead to horribly slow times in the pool and feeling like I have a rock in my gut. Sure enough, it happened again. I hadn't exactly eaten great on Friday, but I would have felt better without the giant dinner.

This was just one of those times that you have to write off how you feel during the workout because of the value of the workout itself. It's not like every special occasion meal for the rest of my life will be completely healthy. Plus, I think it's better to do the workout and maybe not feel my best than to just not do the workout.

In the end it was a tiring 1300 yards, and I figure I can take steak off my pre-race nutrition list.
Saturday was the Multisport World Expo at MIT in Cambridge. As a nerd/geek/dork, I have always been intrigued by MIT, and having any excuse to be on their campus would have been inviting. Now that I live literally across the river from MIT, I was far more excited about the weather and the festival. So excited that we walked instead of riding over.

A view of rowers practicing in the Charles River from the Mass Ave/Harvard/MIT bridge 

You'd think that because I remembered to take some photos of what was going on outside that I'd remember to take some pictures of the festival, right? Wrong. Being overstimulated sort of short circuits my usefulness.

None the less, the festival was terrific. We got to see a few members of our triathlon team, take a look at some races we either had never heard of or hadn't considered, and take a look at some of the newest technology and clothing. A couple of wetsuit companies were there, which was nice we're still looking for a wetsuit for Rachelle. While we didn't wind up buying a wetsuit, we did take advantage of the many discounts being offered on last years products. Rach got a new tri top and I got my first pair of bike shoes at the insane price of $25 each!

For those not into cycling, bike shoes are used in combination with special pedal/cleat combinations in order to generate more power throughout the whole pedal stroke. They're normally a pretty large expense for a pretty limited use, but they're a lot easier to use than the clips and straps for regular shoes, which is what I currently have. Considering the price and that I actually found something that fit me on sale, I didn't think I could pass it up.

We learned a little bit about Chi Running while attending a demonstration by Newton Running. I understand they are selling a product that supports a position they believe in; but they are selling a product none the less. Sure, I think running barefoot is most natural, but I also believe the environment I live in is not conducive to that style. Further, as a big guy, I go through shoes about twice as fast as normal sized folks, and I can only imagine the number of miles I'd get out of a pair of Newtons. Definitely not worth it for me.

Because we weren't inside the first 1000 to register for the event, I didn't think we'd win up getting one of the goodie bags the event sponsors put together. Thankfully, the sunny weather lured a few folks away, so we were able to each get a bag. Aside from the usual sale prices and coupons, they had some good sports nutrition samples and some training DVD's that we'll definitely watch.

We enjoyed the rest of the day shopping on Newbury and Boylston streets; and I went home with a much needed new pairs of bike shorts and workout shoes. My Nike Vomero +3's seem to be the root cause of my heel and Achilles pain, so they were replaced with a pair of Brooks that better suit my feet. And I had to throw out last years bike shorts a few weeks ago as they were falling apart. The new ones are stronger and have a gel pad that really seems to make a difference in my comfort level (more on that tomorrow).

Obviously we weren't the only folks out on this gorgeous day

We ate a lot better Saturday, and it showed in my workout Saturday night. 14 miles on the bike in 14 minutes. I was able to spend much of the time at a real high cadence (around 100 RPM) at a good resistance setting from the bike.

Tomorrow I'll tell you all about Sunday, the first long outdoor ride of the season, and how nice it is to see Boston from the back of a bike.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fridays News and Notes

  • I've taken the last couple of days off from working out. Between some serious workouts and generally not getting enough sleep, I was feeling pretty worn down. I enjoyed my St. Patricks Day, and even ate a little more than planned, but still within reason. 
  • Weight was up a little bit, 314 (point something). It's that transient weight from too much salt the past couple days. 
  • 6 months ago today, Rach and i stood in a small church outside Toronto and said our vows. We're celebrating this mini milestone (In Hollywood, this would be our golden jubilee; here in real life it's a footnote) by getting in a good hard swim and following it with a salad from Cheesecake Factory.
  • The weather here today is gorgeous but work and scheduled workouts are getting in the way. We'll definitely be outside as much of this weekend as possible though.
  • Tomorrow is the Multisport World Expo and I'm excited. Missing out on the gift bag stinks, but I'll bring a backpack, and hope to build my own from walking the show floor. There will be tons of things to see and learn, and I expect to come out of the event both smarter (and poorer).
  • I'm starting to slowly look at new bikes again. I might not be budgeted to buy one right now, but some of last years models can still be had for far cheaper than retail.
  • You may have heard by now that Tony Kornheiser is a Jackass. I'm not going to waste much time commenting on this; Tony knows sports but he also knows the taste of his own shoe leather. I'm a pro-cycling person (obviously) but I also own a small SUV and believe fully in the "Share the Road" concept. I think over time, between better urban planning and increasing attempts to live in harmony with our planet will prove the benefits of cycling as a method of local travel. Until such time, there will be idiots whose opinions we'll have to hear and ultimately change.
I hope everyone enjoys their weekend and gets to spend some time running, swimming, or on the back of a bike in this beautiful weather.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patricks Day

Good morning and Happy St. Patricks Day!

Being that it's a holiday of major religious drinking implications, I'll be over-indulging like most every one else: by drinking 1 or maybe even 2 Bud Light Golden Wheats; and enjoying a day of rest.

We had another strong workout last night, 55 minutes on the bike followed by 30 minutes on the track. Though I walked most of the time on the track, I did start running again. My plantar fascitis/Achilles heel has been responding to the stretching, so I figured I'd give it a go. So I started working on a couch to 5k program to get myself running. My previous running was more like a jog/shuffle. This time I'm looking to actually run. I'm still trying to find a middle ground on effort that lets me run, but doesn't feel like sprinting. I'm shooting for 12 minute miles initially, hoping to eventually get to 10 minutes.

And I woke up this morning to 313 on the scale again. 2 days in a row is proof that it wasn't a fluke.

But all that is for tomorrow, today I'll be relaxing and resting up for another day of hard work tomorrow.

Some other notes:

  • Coach Buxton was kind enough to drop an email with some kind words on my post regarding her nutrition presentation and wanted me to add a couple of things that she usually speaks to during the show:
    • That she too believes that nutrition is a VERY personal thing.
    • That you have to practice nutrition leading up to race day. It's too easy to forget something, or worse try something new with disastrous results on race day
  • The Multisport Expo is coming to Boston this weekend. Rach and I are going, and excited to see all the new gear and learn some new techniques. Further, the tri team is having a social afterwards, which will also be a good time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March: The halfway point

Last night, Rach and I hit the pool for a 1800 yard workout. This isn't the longest distance I've done, but it's the longest I've done since totally remaking my swim stroke at the swimming clinic. The reason being is that this new stroke makes me a faster and more powerful swimmer; I haven't really figured out how to breathe properly yet. Between keeping the core tight and thrusting with the hip on each stroke, it feels like it's pushing the air out of my lungs.

I'm getting better though, as I can go 50 or 75 yards now and keep my speed relatively constant at or below 30 seconds per 25 yards before neeing a break. In fact, I managed to sprint out 25 yards in 25 seconds during the middle of last nights workout, and was still around 30 seconds in last 25 yards. Which is significantly faster than I was in December, on average about 5 - 7 seconds faster per 25 yds.

It really feels good to be able to see improvement. In fact, during our workouts, while Rachelle was able to swim for longer distance without stopping, I continually was able to beat her from one end of the pool to the other. (But don't tell her I brought that up, OK?)

The other news for today is that I've been really sticking to my points lately. Packing lunch every day, avoiding most deserts and liquid calories. We've also been eating at home a lot more, with only the occasional venture to a fast food or sandwich place.

This brings me to the real point of todays post. March has 31 days, making the 16th the midpoint of the month. You may remember back at the beginning of the month, I was frustrated by the fact that I had just missed losing 5 pounds in February by a single day. Well last months lack of loss is this months gain loss.

When I got on the scale at the gym last night after the swim, it said I 314.2. The gym scale is of the high end digital variety. Our home scale is of the cheap digital variety. The gym scale is usually a little lower than our home scale; to the point where Rach and I both have lamented that we can't bring the gym scale home with us. This is why I was a little surprised to see 313.2 as the result of my morning weigh-in today. I knew I had blasted through last nights workout, and I knew that I was feeling the effort during the process. And I knew I'd been losing weight after most of my hard swims. But I had no idea I was going to see such a dramatic loss from it.

I've been drinking appropriate amounts of water, so it isn't just water loss. While I find myself pretty hungry before each meal, I don't feel like I'm anything under where I'm supposed to be. I'm not hungry to the point of serious craving or urges to binge. I've been counting my points pretty well and watching my portions. As the workouts have increased in intensity, I've even eaten a couple of late night snacks in order to feel satisfied enough to sleep. And I've kept the late night snacks to sensible things like half a peanut butter sandwich or the like.

Honestly, it feels really good to be having such a successful month following one that was less so. Now I just need to keep plugging away and be mindful of the temptations that the big events at the end of this month and the first half of next month will bring.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm (not) ready for the season...

So, now that we've gotten some great nutrition information from Coach Buxton, and I relayed the overwhelming drama whined about the Morning of Temptation; lets get back to getting ready for the season. Last we left our hero, he had just finished breaking his wifes new bike computer mounting. Hoping to make amends, I went back to working on the bikes Wednesday night.

I went through all of the things you need to spend time on (tires, chain, brakes and shifters), and got both bikes ready for at least the first few rides of the season. Sadly, the weather and my schedule didn't cooperate until Friday afternoon. I went into work early specifically so I could get out early for some daylight riding time. 

As soon as I got home, I gave the bike a quick once over, got dressed, and headed out.

This bike is the kind of accessory that could make anyone sexy.

Ok, I may have oversold the bike a bit.

It only took about 1/4 of a mile for me to realize I wasn't ready for the season.
  • I forgot my bike gloves. After riding nothing more than a stationary bike for months, a simple mistake like this could be excused, if it had been just this. Still, riding without gloves is kinda like riding without bike shorts. Any place where parts of you stay in contact with the bike you want protected.
  • I forgot to put on my Took under my helmet, and it was bone chilling cold. The thermometer on my car lied when it said 51 degrees. My bike thermometer said 43, and it felt more like 35. I've ridden in all seasons, even in snow, and this is the coldest I've ever been. Not whole body cold, but my ears and face felt like they'd frozen solid and fallen off. The wind along the water is cold
  • After all the time on the trainer, my bike feels small. For a tall guy, I'm not very long legged, my bike isn't terribly tall. This would be fine except I'm long (and wide) in the torso so getting down into the bike felt strange. I definitely need to look at a new bike later this season, and for now will need to make adjustments  to better fit the one I've got.
  • No amount of virtual grading can take the place of pulling my fat butt around on real roads. The miles on the trainer weren't a waste of time, but I'll be making the adjustments to the bike ASAP so I can start getting road miles in.
I wound up doing only about 3 miles in 15 minutes. I felt fast to open, getting up to 20 MPH without much effort, but couldnt sustain it for very long. Part of it is getting the proper fit on my bike now that I've ridden enough to understand what that should be; the other part was the damn cold. Maybe being inside all winter has sissified me a bit. But there's a reason why the professional triathletes are all currently taking road trips to warmer climes in order to get used to being outdoors again.

I had planned on some nice scenic shots of the Charles and surrounding areas, but it was gray and bleh out, so I'll save those shots for later this week when my hands are warm enough to use the camera.

On top of the cold, it started raining not long after I finished my ride Friday afternoon, and will continue to do so until some time tomorrow. 

Maybe it's ok that I'm not ready yet; right now that stationary bike is looking awfully good.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Morning of Temptation

It has come to my attention that I don't spend enough time talking about my wifes role in the Becoming Timberman process. And no, it's not because she said something. She's actually out of town again this weekend as her BU Terriers take on the Mercyherst Gonna-Lose-to-Terriers's (I don't know their actual mascot, so I made up one that fits the occasion) in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women's Hockey championship. Actually, it came to me this morning how important she really is in this process as I ate my second bagel of the day.

I don't talk about my day job much, mostly because it doesnt usually play a direct role in my training or racing; plus I like that I have it, and I don't want to lose it. It's a good job that affords us the wonderful life we have. But I have a love/hate relationship with this place come Friday morning. At most jobs, Friday is the best morning, but here it's the Morning of Temptation.

The Morning of Temptation (yes, it is bold and capitalized) is the day each week where the company springs for bagels for all of the departments. They take their bagels seriously too; several different varieties from a major name brand of bagels, plus all the "fixins":

I showed the boxes only, the bagels are too powerful for the naked eye.
The bagel processing station

When you're fat and like food, temptation is everywhere. But the temptation is worse when it's free and considered a benefit by the company. It's sort of the opposite of smoking, drinking, or doing drugs.  You generally don't see employers offering their employees free cigarettes, free booze, or some crack to start the day. While they are difficult addictions; people have successfully quit them and lived. I don't know anyone who has quit eating entirely and managed to live. I'm no food addict, but clearly there are some interesting comparisons to be made.

Now that I've relayed the crux of the Morning of Temptation; let me share how I usually slay this dragon: With a nice big bowl of shredded mini-wheats and the help of my wife. Mini-wheats are sort of the oatmeal of summer; filling and slow-burning. Most mornings I can get by until lunch with just a bowl of cereal and some juice (and the obvious jolt of caffeine). This morning, I opened the fridge to a near empty milk jug, so it knew it was going to be a bagel for breakfast.

I could have tried to go without, but it's even harder being hungry and knowing they're there; waiting for you to come eat them. So I came up with a bold and ingenious lazy plan. Since I was probably going to eat one anyways; I brought the turkey and miracle whip light i use for my lunches with me to turn the bagels into breakfast and lunch sandwiches. With the exception of the toaster, I successfully avoided the "bagel processing station", and had a healthy-ish breakfast sandwich. According to Dotties Weight Loss Zone (one of the best sites on the web for those looking to lose weight), plain Panera bagels are a measly 6 points each. A mere 2 ounces of creme cheese almost doubles the points, so turkey is a great substitute.

Unfortunately, I followed that sandwich up with a second just like it. When my discipline fails like this, my thoughts usually turn to my wife. Weight loss by yourself is nearly impossible. No matter how hard you work, no matter how disciplined your eating; if you don't have someone to stand in front of and say "today I weigh X which is X pounds more or less than last week", you're going to slide at some point. This is when having someone who cares about and supports your progress really pays off (and why group based weight loss systems why Weight Watchers are effective).

When you're away from that person for a while, thoughts start to pop into your head. Thoughts like "It was only 8 points so far today, another 8 still gives you plenty for the day", and "She won't be back until tomorrow. You're going to work out tonight, you can work it off then".  Then there's the real role she plays. When I don't feel like doing it for me, and the thought of gaining and having to tell someone isn't enough to keep me away from the snacks; I think about doing it for her.

There's a movie coming out called "She's out of my league". I get to live the real life version of this comedy every day with Rachelle. When I need motivation I look at my smart, funny, kind, gorgeous, and athletic wife. I got her, and that tells me I can do anything.

Back off fellas, she's spoken for.

Even if that thing is surviving the Morning of Temptation.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Eat and run

(Note: I know many of you were waiting breathlessly for the resolution to my bicycle maintenance saga, but I have something far more useful for you today. Don't worry, I'll relay the results of the process, and the ride that follows in my next post.)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a few of my thoughts on what to eat prior to working out.

Since being linked by Fat Cyclist, readership has grown. That readership has also started interacting with the blog via comments. This is highly encouraged as it makes me feel like people are getting value from my writing famous and important. I've even gotten a couple of emails, one of which was from Derek. Derek informed me that he had recently attended a presentation on race day nutrition taught by Coach Karen Buxton, and he wanted to share that content with me. In turn, I wanted to share it with you; as I feel there is significant value to this information with race season approaching so quickly (our season opener is 2 months from today).

Coach Buxton is a USA Triathlon Level III coach, one of about 20 currently certified as such in the world. This compares to about 300 Level II coaches and 1200 Level I coaches worldwide (ballpark coaching figures courtesy of a quick call to USA Triathlon HQ this evening). Basically she's an experts expert when it comes to training triathletes from newbies on up to Kona qualifiers. She's also an Expert-Level coach according to USA Cycling, and a published author (my dream job) to boot.

I am always amazed by people who are members of such elite groups, but Karen has an even stronger pedigree behind her in terms of race experience. Her competitive resume is long and impressive, but the two items that struck me as especially awesome were completing the 2002 RAAM (Race Across AMerica) and winning her age group in the 2007 US Duathlon Championship. She's also finished Ironman Hawaii and done a bunch of other generally amazing athletic events. To top it all off, she has corresponded via email with me, so I assume she now feels truly accomplished.

In short, she knows what she's talking about. On top of that, she's also kind and gracious and has allowed me to share her nutrition presentation with everyone who reads the blog. I'm going to break down, summarize, and offer my $.02 on the presentation; but I want to start by providing a link to the full original presentation.

Simply follow this link, and then click on the download button to get the Powerpoint file.

This one of the best presentations I've ever seen on nutrition, especially from my perspective as a larger athlete. What I like about it in no particular order:

  • It offers guidance, but with flexibility. The best nutrition information recognizes we can't all eat the same
  • There's some math for when you fall outside the guidelines: The talking points at the bottom of slide 5 provide a nice formula to help you determine how many grams of carbohydrates (CHO as they're referred to in the presentation) you should consider taking in prior to the race. (ie. 0.5g of CHO x 315 = ~157 grams x 4 cal/g = 628 calories)
  • Several options are presented to meet each intake need, so you aren't pointed in a single direction that might not work for you (ie I will not drink Boost or Ensure; I'm a fat athlete, not a septuagenarian)
  • For me, Timberman is in the range displayed on slide 9, in terms of time spent on the course (4 to 12 hours), and that slide provides a nice starting point for laying out a race nutrition plan.
  • The basic cause and effect lists on slide 10 also give great points on how to adjust intake based on how you're feeling

In general, I think the presentation is excellent. There are probably some places where I'll have to make alterations to the recommendations, as would other larger athletes. Much as people who have trouble with having anything in their stomach during exercise need to make special plans, those of us with too much in our stomachs need to do the same.

Additionally, sports drinks are discussed; but energy drinks are not. Most 70.3 races and above offer de-fizzed soda, so caffeine is not fully discouraged. While I'm not a fan of Monster or others of it's ilk for race days, I have found that a 5 Hour Energy shot does help me get past the "bonked" feeling I get at the end of almost every swim.

In conclusion, I hope this information is as beneficial (or at least interesting) to you as it was to me. Prior to reading this, I hadn't a clue as to how I would tackle on-course eating, other than a big bag of Double Cheeseburgers energy bars. Thankfully, most of the thought has been done for me and I can now focus on finding a way to store all that stuff on my bike.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bicycle mechanics 101

With the exception of some rain this weekend, the next 10 days worth of weather in Boston is looking quite nice. It's gorgeous out today; sunny and 50's. It's great cycling weather if you've got some decent wind gear. I'm anxious to give my That Butt Stuff jersey a go, and see how much the winter on the stationary has improved my riding.

I'm hoping to start mixing in at least 1 day a week of outdoor cycling into our workouts. In anticipation of this, I began the annual tune-up process. I spent several months enhancing my bicycle mechanic skills at Third Hand Bicycle Co-Op in Columbus before we moved, so I am more than capable of handling most standard repairs... or so i thought.

I bought Rach this Topeak cycle computer as a Christmas present after inadvertently being too lazy to remove her old computer mounting from her mountain bike before we sold it. After a winter of letting my bike mechanic skills rust, I figured it would be best to start small and work my way up.

Installing a bike computer should be relatively simple. You attach the computer to the handlebars (or cockpit in the cycling vernacular), run the sensor wire down the fork and line it up with the spot where you put the magnet on the wheel (this is used to track rotations, and in combination with wheel circumference; speed of the bike), install the battery and you're done. 

Clearly, I'd forgotten that almost everything about a bike is made of cheap plastic for the lowest possible price. In this case, the mounting assembly attaching the computer to the "cockpit". There are no warnings in the instructions about over tightening the small post bolts, leading to breaking the joints in the mechanism. So now Rach has a nice computer and no way to use it. I couldn't even rig it with pull ties (the bicycle answer to duct tape), so I'm going to have to stop at the cycling store and see if they have the mounting available separately from the computer. 

Tonight I'm going to attempt to lube chains inflate tires, and adjust brakes. These should all be simple tasks, less daunting even than mounting a computer.

Pray for me if you would that tomorrow both bikes are still functional. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

I thought I knew how to swim...

So bachelor weekend went great. Other than Friday, which apparently is now "all meat, all the time day" in terms of my eating, it went exactly as planned. Rachelle's BU team won their league championship (she's on the far left of the pic in the red coat) and are heading to next weeks NCAA tournament. And I got a nice relaxing couple of days with some good workouts and some good work around the house.

The best part of the weekend was Saturday was the Wheelworks Multisport swim clinic. One of the members is a swim coach, and a group of newbies like myself and some team vets who wanted to work on technique got together to learn and practice.  For two hours, Pat took apart and rebuilt the idea of body position, stroke, recovery, etc. 

Normally, when I'm done swimming, I'm tired and my arms are sore, but the rest of my body has plenty of juice left. I learned Saturday that swimming should make use of your whole body, with an emphasis on pushing forward with your hips and using a tight core to rotate through the water. 

It was amazing how much easier it was to move through the water this way. Between rotating the upper body and driving with the hips, there was a lot less emphasis on the arms. Even little things like using the turn of the head to force the shoulders to swing the arms over reduced the amount of overall effort on the arms. Swimming this way allows your arms to recover during the top of the stroke and do most of their work during the pull. 

Of course the drawback to all this is that my core is my weakest part (as is evidenced by my recent picture). To say that I was sore from hips to shoulders after the class was evidence both of how good the class was, and how much work I have to do to be able to swim properly for a full 1.2 miles.

Breaking down technique, and using examples outside of swimming reminded me again of Karate Kid, especially with the way the hips and balance were used to describe how the freestyle stroke should be built. Plus, our teachers name was Pat... same as the actor who played Mr. Miyagi. 

Coincidence?... ok, maybe, but at least it means I get to post this picture:

Pat, is that you?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bachelor weekend

Rachelle and the fine ladies of the BU Women's hockey team are off to the final weekend of the Hockey East tournament. She'll be gone through tomorrow evening, and if they win tomorrow, Sunday evening. (Go Terriers!)

This leaves me to my own devices for at least 36 hours. Back in the day (and by this I mean last fall, or any time she's traveled in the past, or before I met her); bachelor weekends meant pizza for perhaps all 3 meals of a day, two liters of Mt. Dew, and very little movement.

Nowadays, I still make sure to enjoy my time apart, I just do it smarter. I'm planning a 2 hour swim and gym tonight, followed by watching hockey and playing video games to relax. Tomorrow starts with cleaning, a swim lesson with the triathlon team, going to see a train layout and cleaning.

The challenge when I'm alone is just being sure to mix in healthy foods, and in appropriate quantities. I've spent a majority of my extra 35 points for the week today, so I am looking to earn a few back tonight. I'm jonesing for some Berryline, a low calorie frozen yogurt thats just awesome, covered in fresh blueberries or strawberries. It's something that is easy to mix into a healthy diet and still lose weight. 25 calories per ounce. If only all food were that way.

If Rach comes home sunday, it's back to the usual routines. If not, I'll spend sunday relaxing and cleaning. If the weather turns as predicted, I'll be getting bike out for the first time. I'm dying to put some use to my Project Rudy gear and see how the rear wheel I had built last fall holds up under a good hard ride. I didn't put it through too much last fall, but it's going to see a lot of action this year.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Product Review: That Butt Stuff

Note: this post may make use of the terms "butt", "rear", "fanny", "derriere", "buttocks", "couch attachment", "caboose", "bottom", "tail", "arse", "badonkadonk", "can", "duff", "fluffernutter", and specifically for fans of Digital Underground; "biscuits".
If you are offended by any or all of these terms, please stop reading now and return immediately to the 1820's whereas you may go sittith on thine "ultimatum".

I am a big proponent of names that easily identify a product. For example "double cheeseburger". The name is simple, straightforward, and of course yummy. After many years of trying to find creative ways to uniquely name things, marketing "geniuses" started going completely the other direction and named things for what they were. The pinnacle achievement in this vein was the aptly named "That 70's Show" . Not recognizing they had struck literal and comedy gold with this naming convention, they went a different direction with the spin-off "That 80's Show". Had they followed the original thought process, "That 80's Show" would have been more appropriately named "Poo on a stick".

This probably explains why one of the first sponsors I found on Loop'd (now Hookit) was That Butt Stuff. I read the description and said "now that's a well named product". I was getting ready to order a trial pack when Adam (owner of TBS) announced that he was going to order jerseys, and a 6 oz tube of TBS came free with each jersey ordered. And if you know me, you know I'm all about free stuff. Plus, picture a fat guy on a bike, racing with the word "Butt" in big letters across his chest and back. That thought alone was reason to place the order.

I was very excited when I got my jersey, because it was the first (and still only) bicycle jersey I've ever owned. I was at least equally excited to try TBS because I knew I'd be doing a lot of riding and running to get ready for the season. Plus, as a big dude, I tend to generate more friction than most riders in my "nether regions"; so an anti-chafing agent was going to be key to my success.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been ridden about 85 miles. Each time I got on the saddle, I applied TBS prior to the workout. I feel like I've got enough experience with the product that I can provide some honest feedback.

Before I apply a product to my body, I want to know whats in it. You should really don't want to see the amount of time I spend in the shower reading the long words on the back of shampoo bottles. I don't have my tube in front of me as I write this, but I'm going to quote from the TBS web site:
"That Butt Stuff contains: Oils of Olive, Avocado, Sweet Almond & Shea Butter. Water & Vegetable Glycerin. Preservative does not contain parabens, formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasers. The ingredients on the label that are difficult to pronounce are the preservative and the emulsifier which are the most friendly versions available at this time and still provide an affordable product for you"
It's important to me that what I put on my body is friendly to environment; and especially to my nose. I don't know what a formaldehyde releaser is, but I can only imagine it smells bad. I smell bad enough while working out, I don't need anything that makes me smell worse.

Thankfully, TBS smells good. Actually it took me looking at the ingredient list to understand what made it smell the way it does. The almond and shea butter are the stronger scents in the mixture, but even those are mild. It's not the kind of smell that would have the guy next to me on the bike look at me funny. And that's important to me, because I get enough of that as it is.

Applying anything to your "heiney" and associated areas is an interesting process and different products handle it different ways. The only product I had used prior to TBS is BodyGlide, which handles application via a deodorant like stick. Because of the application method, BodyGlide is easy to store and apply to the inside of the legs for running, but getting the "biscuits" and "fluffernutter" area properly covered for cycling takes a lot of maneuvering.  TBS on the other hand, is a cream that applies easily, anywhere you can reach (If you can't reach an area, you may have bigger problems than a little chafing). No clumps, doesn't get runny or separate under normal conditions, and feels like a skin lotion when applied.

As for how well it works, honestly, I've been very happy. I have 2 pair of tri shorts, one of which is beginning to wear out. The edges of the padding in the shorts are getting stiff and causing some rubbing. I apply the cream to areas where the pad hits plus the rest of "the usual suspects". (And no, I dont mean Kevin Spacey). It offers a lot of flexibility that BodyGlide doesn't.

In terms of longevity, I didn't perform any viscosity or thermal breakdown tests (See what you learn watching commercials for motor oil?), but to this point I've worn out before TBS does. Some reviews I've read say the user should reapply every 4 hours, and that just seems to make good sense. BodyGlide hasn't lasted me even that long during my half-marathons. My only concern would be re-application during a race. But when I get to that point, I'll let you know.

In the end, I can safely recommend That Butt Stuff to anyone looking to reduce friction while riding or running. Just be prepared to get some funny looks if you buy the jersey. Frankly, I don't know why they didn't do shorts first....

Final Note: Normally here I put my "I got this free" disclosure. While I did get this product free, I paid full price for the jersey it came with. So I don't think this falls under the "free from a sponsor" guidelines.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Deadline Day

I don't know if it's been made clear previously, but I'm a big hockey fan. Long before I got into triathlons, I was watching and playing hockey. I still watch, though I haven't played in a year due to the move, the wedding, and financing all of those things.

Anyways, today is the NHL trade deadline. By 3PM ET today, the teams in the league have to get a majority of the maneuvering done for the players they plan to use for the playoffs, or as is the case for my team the Columbus Blue Jackets, the guys who will play out the string.

You're probably asking yourself what this has to do with weight loss or triathlons. I know I would be. (Then again you might be used to me wandering off course and just ignored it).

In sports, just as in life, there are all sorts of deadlines. Some of them are real, like having to complete Timberman in 8 1/2 hours from the start of the last wave (or else you're disqualified). Some are artificial, like my 10 pounds lost per calendar month. Sure the weight loss is important, but at first glance the monthly goals and deadlines seem very artificial considering I lost 4 pounds all last month, but 3 pounds in just the last 3 days (yes, you read that right: 315 today). Missing the deadline last month doesn't seem as bad when you're suddenly very close to the prior goal, just past the deadline.

What that type of view doesn't take into account is that missing that goal last month is what motivated me to work so hard at the beginning of this month. While the deadline is arbitrary and therefore artificial, it means something to me anyways because I know what the big picture looks like. Breaking it into manageable goals makes the big picture seem easier to tackle.

Just like on a day like today, when you want your team to pull off the big move (Get that 1st rounder for Torres, Mr. Howson!), I want my personal deadline days to be successes.

But even when they aren't that doesn't mean that you can't take something from it and apply it to the next "deadline day".

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A day late and ...well, just a day late

We hit the pool last night for 1900 yards of intense swimming. I'm finding I can currently pace myself to about a 21 minute 800, which sets me up for a ~50 minute 1.2 mile swim pace right now. 

And that's when I'm just pacing for a long swim. My sprint has made huge strides. Im running around 22 seconds per 25 yards when I'm really going. Ideally I'll be able to harness more and more of that power as we continue to train. And I did all that without my H2o Audio setup. I noticed I miss it when I don't have it though. Music while swimming is really nice.

The day late refers of course to the fact that I hit 317 pounds this morning, a day after deadline to hit this adjusted goal. The fact that I'm down 20 pounds only 1/6th of the way into the year is a great. Even better is that I'm 18 pounds from being under 300 lbs for the first time in several years.

As an added bonus it's 43 degrees out, with light wind and no rain...

... time to inflate the bicycle tires and get outside!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ending the month on a down note

As in down 4 pounds. 318 as of this morning.

1 pound a week is pretty easy at my weight, and shows I didn't put in the necessary effort on my food intake. I took too many opportunities to snack, too many days where I counted on exercise to kill extra points; too many days of doing less than I should expect from myself.

I missed my monthly goal of 10 pounds by 60%. That's not a great percentage, except in baseball. Thankfully I have the big cushion I built from last month (15 pounds lost against a 10 pound goal); so as of today, I am only 1 pound off against my goal for the year. Next month I won't have that kind of cushion, so if i fail and fall, it'll be right on my face.

I'm not going to let that happen.