Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Objects in the mirror can be better than they appear

In returning from the longest break I've had since starting the blog, I expected to have much worse news to open with. Thursday morning I ran the Inaugural "I don't have a Thanksgiving Race" 5k run on the Charles River Eslpanade. While I managed to take the overall win, and do so in a fairly quick (for me) 39:30, I managed a muscle in my thigh and hurt my left knee on the way to victory. Though it was worth the effort to push myself to make up for the race I couldn't do; I then proceeded to go 4 days without even a modicum of exercise, while at the same time consuming roughly my own weight in Thanksgiving dinner along with other various and sundry meals. 

This of course led to a bout of "what the hell am I doing??" depression about how I wasn't actively working to lose weight and was in fact going entirely the opposite direction. This of course led to more eating, and even less desire to do anything physical. Thankfully, Thanksgiving dinner is followed by the beginning of Christmas shopping and we did a good bit of walking around at the outlet mall on Thursday (yes, Thanksgiving night at midnight is when shopping starts here), and at the regular malls on Friday and Saturday. 

Retail therapy is sometimes how I chase the blues away, but it wasn't so much the shopping as it was just the walking that made this weekend much less of a disaster than it was looking to be. I wound up gaining only 2 pounds this weekend, and while I definitely didn't gain any fitness, I feel fortunate not to have gained any more weight.

This all would have been shared yesterday, but I was home sick, and didn't feel much like posting. Now that I'm back up and about, we're going to the gym tonight to start working towards a semblance of an offseason program.


- Famous Friday is moving to this weeks post, and should be a fun read
- 20 pounds, 32 days. yikes!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The best weight loss announcement yet...

I have always been close with my mom. This is not to say my dad and I aren't close, because we are. But from a young age, my mom and I have always had a ton of shared interests; computers, reading, writing, etc. while my dad and I talked mostly about sports. Over the years, the relationships have of course evolved and while I've definitely grown closer and come to admire my father even more for all the sacrifices he's made for our family, I'm still pretty tight with my mom.

And so it is with much pomp and circumstance that I am thrilled to announce that in just a few short weeks of Weight Watchers, my mom has lost 18 pounds. Thats about 8 pounds more than I've lost in an entire year of training for races. Clearly, someone has been controlling her food intake, while I have been... uh, eating. I'm definitely going to use my moms effort as an example of how I can do better than I have.

So while we all enjoy our thanksgiving rituals (or for the readers outside the US, the holiday you call Thursday) remember that Thursdays turkey themed feast becomes Fridays fat.  Normally, I'd be running a Thanksgiving morning race, but with Rach's practice schedule it doesn't fit the schedule this year. So I'll do my own 5k out on the Esplanade. I'll push myself as hard as I can for hopefully less than 40 minutes, then enjoy the rest of my day cooking the majority of a turkey, along with the usual fixings.


- 37 days, 18 pounds.

- I've had a few missed posting days lately as things have been pretty busy at work. I'll be back Friday for regular posting after taking tomorrow off and should be back on schedule.

- Monday night we biked and lifted at the gym, and I woke up Tuesday morning with sore elbows. Rachelle told me I must have had poor form and that I had strained my ulnar collateral ligament. She wanted to swim Tuesday night, and I wasn't sure about it, but by the time work ended, I was feeling really jazzed about the pool. I only did 800 yards, but it felt really good. I was sore after, but the good kind.

- Fridays post will be the first in a series of "Famous Fridays", where I tell you all about my exploits with my new famous friends. It'll be a hoot, or something like a hoot.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Race Report: America's Hometown Thanksgiving 5k 2010

When I started this blog, I must have thought making major changes to my body and my life were going to be easy as a walk in the park 5k by the ocean. My first race report was for the America's Hometown Thanksgiving 5k 2009, which is race put on in Plymouth to benefit the Plymouth Fragment Society, which is the oldest continuously operational charity in the United States. In that report, I offhandedly mention:
My official time was 39:06. That was a PR by 2:15, with my previous best being 41:21. I was expecting this to be better because of the running I've been doing.
What's funny is that this PR has held up for now a full year, and only on occasion have I gotten even close to that time in either standalone races or as part of triathlons. Yesterday was one of those times where I got close, but didn't match or break it. The fact that it's held up for a year is a combination of a few factors:

  • I spent the better part of my year training for distance on the swim and the bike, and I basically ignored my running most of the year, assuming I'd have to walk the half-marathon at the end of Timberman anyways.
  • Not enough road races on the schedule. prior to this year, I ran a minimum of 7 road races a year from 2007-2009. This year, I'll likely have 4. This is mostly a result of my race entry fees going towards expensive long distance triathlons and having to find somewhere to take it from in our budget.
  • I've been lazy about working on my running until last month.
I figure I do well in the fall races because the cold helps keep my body temperature down so it takes me longer to overheat. I was able to run 1 1/2 miles yesterday at a good pace before I had to walk for a bit. When I took my first walk break, I was at 19:40 almost exactly at the halfway point.

Unlike previous 5K's instead of slowing down a lot in the second half, I only slowed a little, and ran in with an official time of 40:33. (Edit: Full results are here) A bit more than a minute slower than my PR, but still my second fastest ever 5k. I wound up taking 2 more walking breaks, without which I would likely have PR'ed.

My time and effort wasn't the big news yesterday as Rachelle, who won the Women's Collegiate division last year, repeated as champion for the division this year. It's the only race she's ever won her division, and she was super excited. Unfortunately, they didn't give the winners baked goods in home made 1st place pans this year, but they did give away super nice custom wine glasses that say "I was on the Podium" America's Hometown Thanksgiving 5k. 

Rach modeling her race t-shirt and winners glassware
To keep her from getting a big head about winning, I also took the following picture of Rach prior to the event:
You can't take yourself too seriously on a day you posed as a lobster
  • 18 pounds, 39 days to go. I had a bad weekend for food, but made up for it with a magic recovery day on Saturday and a hard run on Sunday.
  • When I say yesterdays race was well run, I mean in a small race sort of way. The timing is done by digital stopwatch and number recording at the finish line, to eliminate the cost of timing chips. Plus, it's run by an experienced group of racers, Team Pegasus, which bolsters two world class elite triathletes in Tim and Cait Snow. In fact, Cait actually did the work to compile the results, and I got a picture of her working through the results with some folks who think theirs need adjustment.
Professional Triathlete and part time race-timer Cait Snow

Friday, November 19, 2010

A fun day

Yesterday was fun.

I spent the better part of the day giving myself a few well deserved over congratulatory pats on the back for being able to tell people about my life for a year. Then following a quick dinner with the Mrs. I attended a swap meet put on by the Back Bay Cycling Club. I was already in a celebratory mood when I got there, and I have to say it was pretty cool.

The location where the swap meet was held at The Record Company, a soon-to-open non-profit recording studio. So far, it looks more like a recently abandoned warehouse, but you can see where they're going with it, and the condition only added to the feel of the event. It was crammed full of bikes, bike parts, clothing, accessories, and people. I've seen bike shops here in Boston with less good stuff than this.

Along with everyday cyclists "pedaling" their wares *rimshot*, were local boys Adam Myerson and Jesse D Anthony, who are professional cyclists and all around good guys. I went in looking for perhaps a pair of bike shoes in my size that would work with the SPD pedals I got from my friend John, and maybe something cool that caught my eye (another jersey for the collection, perhaps?).

I made my way around the room once, and on my first pass, didn't see anyone who was tall enough to have feet my size (or jerseys my size), so the shoes were out. But I did sign up for the raffle. A couple of the prizes were new bike shoes from a bike shop, so I hoped maybe I'd get those.

After the raffle I made my way back to the start of the room where I noticed a couple of petite ladies with a table of their own and some jerseys. The more I looked, the more I liked. Hey, get your mind out of the gutter! I meant the jerseys! They had some really rad stuff. At least one, and perhaps both gals (whose names I'll have later) have raced for all-female cycling teams. I wound up picking up two jerseys for Rach, giving her the beginning of her own jersey collection.

After giving up on finding shoes I got the idea to look for pedals. My Look Keo Easy pedals were on my bike when it was stolen earlier this year. I still have the shoes that work with those pedals and if I found pedals that worked with them, it would allow me to give Rach the SPD pedals, and get her shoes to work with them.

During my second pass around the room, I found 3 sets of Look pedals, and I wound up buying a pair of unused 2008 Look Keo Sprint pedals for $15. They're an upgrade over the Keo Easy pedals I had previously, because the release tension is adjustable to provide a more secure lock between the cleat and the pedals. I picked up a pair of socks for Rach and I from Adam with his Cycle-Smart logo on them and split. Rach had spin class at 8:30, so I had to leave a bit lot earlier than I wanted to (like 2 1/2 hours earlier).

The goods

When Rach got back from spinning class, she wanted to go back over and look at some more stuff, but by the time we got back there, most everyone was either closing down or gone. But when we stopped by the raffle table I found out I won a little gift pack from Newbury Comics, a local media store. I got a $25 gift card and two pair of awesome cycling socks.

not bad for $6

- The only bad part about yesterday is that my legs were just shot. I've been doing short but challenging running or riding workouts every day for a week, and my legs are beat. I managed a mere 8 minutes last night on the rollers and had to stop twice. This on the heels of being completely pooped after running 13 minutes on Wednesday and with a race on Sunday, I'm going to take it easy the next two days to get some recovery time in. I'm taking today off, and probably just doing a light spin outside on the bike tomorrow.

- Rach liked her jerseys so much she wanted to model them, and so the pics of that are "BONUS FRIDAY CONTENT":

Is she a cyclist or a NASCAR driver?

Do you think maybe she loves this jersey?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Hi, my name is Ben.

I'm STILL what you'd call... fat.

I'm 6'2" and as of this morning weigh in at 318.4 pounds. It's a mere 8 I'm still built like an offensive lineman, but now with a bit more muscle under the fat. And I'm guessing I could outrun most of those big fellas in a 100 yard dash now too.

When I started this blog 1 year ago today, my goal was simple: I wanted to use the blog to be my journal, my mirror, the place I go to celebrate the good, and persevere through the bad. I wasn't sure if anyone would read it , and at first I didn't care. But as someone who has considered myself a writer since I was around 9 or 10, the idea of an audience was really appealing.

And boy did I luck out there. Early last week, we passed over 10,000 unique visits, and we're closing in on 20,000 pages viewed. Those numbers just blow my mind. And while sometimes you have to sacrifice quality for quantity, that's certainly not the case here. I have been blessed to have some of the most amazing readers who have found the perfect balance of encouragement and keeping me honest in those times when I'm making excuses. So, thanks!

While the weight loss goal is still a work in progress, there has been a lot of success. I finished Timberman, which was the big goal for the year. I got stronger and faster on the bike and in the water, and I got experience at longer races. I learned a lot, and saw that I really could improve with hard work. Plus, I met a ton of great people both in person and over the web. On top of that, they just added Club Nationals to the USAT Rankings, and it brought my score up to a 46.54, which is a 4 point improvement over last season. Considering how much more difficult this years schedule was, I'm really proud of that.

If you thought the first year was a yawnfest exciting. the second year is going to be even better. A half-ironman in june with MASSIVE climbs. An Ironman in September, back in Ohio. Oh, and did I mention we're doing the Ironman for charity? Yep, more details on that in the next couple weeks as Rev3 gets the details ironed out.


- I ran tonight, but didnt get past the end of the first mile. I didn't have the legs to do the rest of the 25 minutes, so I turned around and walked back. I learned earlier this year that on the nights you don't have it, it's best not to push it. I did put in a sub-13 minute mile, so I'm pretty happy with that. A year ago there's no way I could have run that.

- USAT Northeast region announced the state and regional championships. The Regional will be in June at Quassy. and the Massachusetts state championship will be at the Greenfield Lightlife triathlon in early August. Both races are Olympic distance, so we'll try to fit at least one of those in. It's good that we didn't sign up for the half at Quassy because we wouldn't be able to do regionals otherwise. I'll have 2011 schedule laid out this week.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Picture Pages N-1

If you like me are a child of the 70's and 80's you may remember a program called Picture Pages. Picture pages was a very short program that was part of Captain Kangaroo, and later other programs where you purchased an art book to follow along with the show. I remember fondly doing these puzzles and drawings, but being EXTREMELY disappointed pissed off (especially for a child) when the Mortimer Ichabod Marker that came with my book didn't make cool "space noises" like the one on TV did.

So what, you may be asking does this have to do with anything? Well, I'm going to be starting my own Picture Pages effective today. My Picture Pages will be a little different though, as they will literally be a page with pictures. Sometimes I get behind on posting photos related to previous events, and when they finally become available, it doesn't really make sense to go back and add them to the post.

First, a couple of shots of me at Paddy's. For a mid-October day, it was really quite warm. The thing that stands out to me the most is I look very fat in these pictures. It will be really interesting in a few months to be able to see the drastic difference in how I look running with the weight off.

My hair looks like it's exploding out the top of my visor

I simply loathe this picture. Fat everywhere.
And today's final picture: The long awaited picture of me on rollers. it was taken last week on the night I did 15 minutes for the first time. Compared to running, I don't mind how I look on a bike. I do need a way to get the fan higher as even on high at that height it doesn't do much to keep me cool. 

Getting somewhere by going nowhere
- Last night I did Day 2 of Week 5 again. 5 walk, 8 run, 5 walk,  8 run, 5 walk. The best part is that I'm getting more out of the running sections. I did a bit over 2/3rds of a mile during both runs. I've got runs scheduled tomorrow night and Friday before Sunday's race, and I'm going to do Day 3 both times. If I complete it both times, it's on to Week 6 next week.

- Tonight, it's back to the rollers, and maybe a swim too, if I can fit it in around cleaning. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Award Winning Weekend

This morning: 321#; 22 pounds & 46 days to go. I went a tiny bit backwards over the weekend, which is obviously not the ideal situation. But for once I feel completely justified in the reason behind it.

This weekend was Wheelworks Multisport year-end party. We celebrated by getting together for food and drinks at a bar here in Boston. Other than the very occasional Friday evening beer while sitting on the couch watching hockey, I've been abstaining from alcohol. Not that I'm a big drinker when I got out anyways, but I like beer, and so it is something I sacrifice as part of the training and weight loss process. But this weekend was special as it was an opportunity to look back fondly on a season full of special events.

Most importantly, we got to do it with the people I've come to consider friends. Some of them we've trained with, some we've raced with, and some we just stood around, drank a beer and complained about how much training sucks with. But it's still great to see them, and having an opportunity to enjoy the year we spent together was nice. I also had a terrific Belgian white ale, the name of which I didn't learn. And did I mention there was cake? Normally I don't like raspberry, but whoever made this cake made it just right, and the chocolate cake combined with the raspberry filling was the perfect balance.

Now, that award I mentioned. We do team awards every year at the year end party. Some of them are serious, like our "Mr & Mrs. Triathlete" awards, or the awards for the folks who spend all year leading training rides. Some are less serious like our "Best Cheerleader", or "Person most likely to stop you from swimming the wrong way across Walden Pond". Though it was rumored (and for once, it was not rumored just by me) that I was nominated for multiple awards; the club was kind enough to give me "Most comfortable in their own skin" award.

I believe this is the inaugural year for this award. It was given in recognition of being out there, racing at my current level of fitness and well, fatness. Apparently, they think it takes courage to race at the size I am. And I agree, it does take some courage to toe the start line, at any weight. Every athlete who dares themselves to train, to push themselves outside of their comfort zone, and to give everything inside them on race day to realize the goals they train for is someone with courage and dedication.

I will admit that to race at my size you have to make an agreement with yourself that you might not be suffering the most, but you might be suffering the longest. I think it does take some courage to make that bargain. But to be completely honest, I'm fueled far more by fear than by courage. Fear of being this fat for the rest of my life. Fear of health problems that either impede me from enjoying my later years, or worse maybe even killing me. Rachelle is already 13 years younger than me, and women outlive men by about 5 years on average here in the US. I might not be able to do anything about the age difference, or our genetic pre-dispositions to reach a certain age. But I'll be damned if I'm making her go through 18 years at the end of her life without me.

I was really honored to receive any award, let alone one that was so personal. A nice cap to my year. Now, back to training for next year.


- While I ate and drank in celebration on Saturday night, I didn't throw away the whole weekend. I took Friday as a recovery day, as my legs have REALLY been feeling my return to exercise since being sick. Saturday afternoon, I got my front wheel fixed and got out on the Esplanade. I have to say I think the roller workouts are paying off already. I did almost 40 minutes of pedaling time in a 50 minute workout, and averaged over 15 MPH. There are a lot of starts and stops, and places where you have to slow due to road crossings, path congestion, etc. Usually, we'd average around 13.5 for an interval of that size. I was able to get to cruising speed much faster, and was spinning my way out of my middle chain ring. I wound up spending the majority of the ride in my big ring, even when on the short inclines. Cruising speed was around 17 MPH, and felt pretty easy.

- Sunday, I went back to day one of week five of my Couch to 5k plan. I'll be running that same workout this evening, and then moving through the rest of the weeks plan to finish with a 25 minute run on Friday. This coming Sunday Rach and I are racing the America's Hometown Thanksgiving 5k in Plymouth. This is the race where I set my PR last year, and I'm hopeful to better that time this year on a fast and flat track.

- In other news, I have volunteered to join the club board as the person responsible for PR and Media. I'm not sure what the position fully entails, as it's a new position. I'll be helping with the sponsorship newsletter, and maybe getting notice out to outlets on club events. It'll be nice to give back in a way I am easily comfortable with.

- Oh, and I still have pictures to post of me on the rollers. And somehow the title of this post doesn't mention rollers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I will not mention rollers in this title... oops

Just notes on a busy day:

- Comments should now be working. The new template was a little grumpy about them and is currently set to use a pop-up to enter them. I prefer inline comments. Remind me why i changed the template again? *sigh*

- Im down to 318.0. 19 pounds, 50 days. I don't know how my math was screwed up previously. 19 days left in November, 31 days in December = 50.

- Last night I did almost 15 minutes on the rollers. I learned the fan needs to be on a chair, and the speed needs to be set higher than "low". Without those two aspects, it isn't very helpful. It's still hard but I'm getting stronger. Once I'm actually using the fan effectively, I'll probably be able to keep cool enough to go longer.

- Looks like our November run schedule is being dropped down to just the America's Hometown Thanksgiving 5k. Rach has practice Thanksgiving morning, which eliminates both of the races we were considering for that day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rolling away

Can you believe I am still milking the fact that I am using my rollers for cheesy titles? Seriously, even I am amazed at the length of time I am able to beat this dead horse. While I am hysterically historically known for my ability to draw at least a smile from my wry and witty awful puns, this is really pushing it.

Last night I got back on the rollers as my first workout following my weekend of cold recovery. I'm now up to about 10 minutes of being able to keep my balance while riding the rollers straight through before I need a break. By need a break, of course I mean am drenched in sweat and am wobbling all over the rollers.

I reached out to the fine folks in the Clydesdale section of Bike Forums with the question as to why riding the rollers is so challenging. I completed a 56 mile ride this fall, certainly I shouldnt be working so hard to ride just 10 minutes. I was informed of a few things that made obvious sense, but that I hadn't really stopped to think about.

- Rollers require you to pedal constantly for motion and to maintain balance. When we ride our bikes on roads, once we get enough momentum, we can mix in some coasting time, especially on extended flats or downhills. I know I've done it in every race, and on a lot of training rides. I've been told I'll see a huge benefit from riding like this because it will build my pedaling endurance.

- When we ride, we're cooled by the air travelling around us. When on rollers, there is no air travelling around me. That means I get no relief from the mid 70's temperature of our apartment, and that's just the starting point. All the extra heat I generate has nowhere to go so it just builds around me. The BF folks suggested I put a fan in front of me (duh), which will also give me a focal point to ride towards.

- Being new to rollers, I'm nervous about my balance. Nervousness causes us to tense up as we ride, grip the bike tighter, clench abdominal muscles, etc. Spending time with the rollers will allow me to relax, relaxing will allow me to spend more time on the rollers. Sort of a catch 22/vicious circle there, but gutting through the nerves will eventually pay off.

The end result was that I rode for 10 minutes, sweated a ton, replenished with water, and woke up down 2 pounds from yesterday. This morning I started the day at 320.4, so I have 21.4 pounds to lose and 48 days in which to do it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New look, same outlook

The past few days I've really made sure to take it easy and use the time to recover from being sick. I am finally feeling dramatically better today, and I am looking forward to getting back to working out tonight. I had planned to yesterday but still was really tired by the time I got home from work. So I made the decision to take one more day away from physical activity and went to bed early.

I haven't been wasting all of that time sitting around though. Much of that time I spent looking at new blog layouts, getting ready for next year. I found one I really like, and have implemented it. There are still a couple of the old features I need to re-add as well as some new ones I will be adding. In addition, the picture at the top is a placeholder until I can get the image I want ready.

I try not to spend too much time talking about the actual act of blogging, because it isn't something everyone cares about. But I know that many of my readers have their own sites, and take the time and effort to care for them. I'm probably a bit more involved with mine than some other folks are because I created web sites as part of making a living in the early and mid 90's.

I don't put the effort in to write much HTML anymore, but I do from time to time feel the site needs an upgrade. The changes this week were prompted by the fact that I'll have been blogging for a full year as of next Friday. Originally I was going to wait to unveil the new site until then, but I wanted to get all the kinks out and new features in place so that they'd all be ready by then.

While the look is changing a bit, my outlook hasn't I'm strong in my resolve to focus clearly on the path to the big races we're doing next season, and of doing those races as a thinner version of me. My eating of recent save one meal on Sunday has been very good since last week. And now that I'm feeling better, I'll be back into our off-season workout plan tonight.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The 3 R's: Rest, Relaxation, and... Running?

While my motivation has stayed high, and my eating has been slowly improving, I still wasn't feeling really healthy this weekend, so I took my doctors (and my bosses) advice and took it easy this weekend. Basically, I watched some hockey, slept a lot, got groceries, cleaned, and took a Sunday morning walk with Rachelle.

Along with the rest and relaxation, I mixed in some running. Not running of my own mind you. Rather, I watched the majority of the ING New York City Marathon from the comfort of my couch. My favorite marathoner (Ryan Hall) didn't participate, and last years male winner Meb K-somethingorother was just top ten. On the womens side, an American finished 2nd, and she has the looks and charisma to transcend the sport. Did I mention this was her first ever marathon?

The reason I bring up the running is something I saw at the start of the race. Actually make that "starts" of the race. There were so many people running the race (45,000 regular folks, not counting the pros, celebrities, and sponsor slots) that they broke the start into 3 different waves, 15,000 or so in each, starting I think about 15 minutes apart. They did a starting ceremony for each wave so that to the runners it didn't matter when they went off, it was like they were all getting the same experience.

The part about that experience in particular that made me think was when the gun went off and folks were crossing the starting line; the amount of excitement they showed to be starting a 26.2 mile run sort of boggles my mind. I know I get pumped to do my little 5k's and 10k's, and I've lined up for 3 half-marathons, including one at the end of Timberman 70.3. I've thought more than once about signing up for a marathon, especially after learning I have a cousin (Matt Folk) who is elite at the distance.

But I've come to realize that for me, long runs probably won't ever be met with the kind of joy that so many of the folks showed yesterday. Maybe when I'm skinny and faster it'll be more enjoyable, because the suffering that I do will be closer to the level that people of more normal weights go through in these events. In the end, to me a marathon is just how far I'll have to run to finish an Ironman.

At least for now.


- Pardon the mess, but I'm redoing the site layout to get ready for next season. The template on the site today is a temporary one, because the one I want to use was giving me some grief in regards to the color of quoted text. I'm planning on having the site template change completed tonight, and the rest of the usual features of the site back online sometime in the next couple of days along with the 2011 schedule.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Spinning my wheels

Sorry for no Thursday post folks. I posted late Wednesday night, and I wanted some of the thoughts and feelings I had to sink in. I wanted to let myself get clear that this new determination wasn't just something I felt out of anger at my stagnation due to being sick and on the low end of my willpower. Apparently, it isn't because I woke up yesterday feeling the same way, and even with still being sick and tired, I went with Rach to sit in on a spinning session with the BU Cycling Team.

I have to admit that Rach and I have an ideal situation for our triathlon training where we live. We've got the Wheelworks team to learn from and train with. The membership has been incredibly supportive and we're getting even more involved this winter (more on that in the notes). And for training, we have the Esplanade in spring, summer, and fall, and FitRec in the winter.

FitRec has a lot of little rooms designed for specific classes and one of them is a room with about 20 Spin bikes in it. The BU Cycling Team gets an hour each week on Thursday nights to hold it's own class. Each week someone takes a turn as the leader, creating a workout and putting together a mix of music to help motivate the folks that show up.

The advantage of a spin bike is that with a quick twist of the resistance knob, you are on entirely different terrain without having to travel to a different location. It's much like the standard stationary bikes in the main part of the gym, but really designed for more advanced work. The bikes even have clips for the SPD cleats if you want to wear your bike shoes.

Last night, the leader put us through what I can only call a grueling workout. We started with a series of sprints, resting between each with just a slight increase in resistance. The sprinting on a spin bike is all about turning over the pedals as fast as you can. I only wish they had a cadence counter on these bikes, because while all the rest of the folks in class probably outclimbed me, I am certain I outsprinted all of them.

The climbing was the part that really felt like I got a lot out of. We did climbing intervals where we were advancing the resistance as we got further up the hill. We even did a full set of climbing intervals where we stood for each section of climbing. It felt awkward at first but eventually i got the hang of it, and was smiling through the last couple sets even as my legs started to burn. I spend far too little time out of my seat when I climb on my road bike. I believe I have it in me to be a much stronger climber with the right training and understanding of the right way to climb.

At the end of the hour and ten minute session I was covered in sweat and my legs felt like Jello. And I was smiling. Because even though I went spin class, i wasn't just spinning my wheels anymore.


- USA Triathlon has an offseason training competition for it's clubs called the National Challenge Competition. I mentioned this to our team president and superheroine-in-residence Sunny, and she asked if I would be willing to take the lead on getting this going for the club. I'm doing it as yet another way to keep myself motivated throughout the winter. Also, there are prizes, and if you have been reading this blog for more than 5 minutes, you know I am all about prizes. The NCC starts in december and has multiple contests within a contest including a monthly focus on one of the three disciplines (Swim in Dec, Bike in Jan, Run in Feb). It's a good way to make myself get out of bed in the morning in December to hit the FitRec pool.

- I have taken on an apprentice. I don't want to spill the beans on this quite yet as it's a bit early, and deserves a full post, probably sometime next week.

- I'll be doing some cleaning and reformatting of the site this weekend, so if it's down at all; fear not. It won't be for long.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You are what you think you are, and I'm an athlete, damnit

I've been having a lot of problems with my healthy lifestyle lately. I have not been fully committed to working out or eating healthy. I have good days, but more often than not (at least 2 or 3 to 1 right now) I have bad days. I've been feeling tired, I've been sick, I've been in need of a break from the heavy training; a break that I've already been taking basically since the day after Club Nationals. I have told myself that keeping 60+ pounds off for the past few years is an awesome accomplishment, so it's OK if the next 100 take a long time.

I have been making a lot of excuses about what I have been doing and why I have been doing it. I have been jealous of a friend who has made a more dramatic change (100 lbs lost) to his weight (and life) than I have in less than a years time. I have seen folks finish their couch to 5k's with a 30 minute race (sub 10 min/mi pace) and I felt sad, and even depressed when reading about their success. I have been reading triathlon forums of such profoundly talented athletes that I even began to minimize to myself what it meant for me to finish Timberman.

To say my state of mind hasn't been good is stating it mildly. My weight, which has a major impact on what I am going to be able to do in the races this year has been creeping back up. It's really been a struggle lately, and pardon my language but I'm about fucking sick of it (Sorry mom). I am tired of feeling like I can't win this battle, that it's ok to be the weight I am, even one more day. I'm tired of making excuses to myself  that sice Rach married me when I was fat, and saw me, not the fat, that it's ok to still be this size when she works so hard to keep herself in good shape.

I've been feeling pretty down about all this for a while, but sometimes it takes seeing or reading something to really bring it to the surface. When I got home from work tonight I was doing my pre-dinner pass through Facebook, when I saw a couple of postings from earlier today on the Nissan Master the Shift Page that I follow (mostly because of a Lance Armstrong related contest). It sort of just snapped in me that while I'm putting in at least some effort to workout, it's really the mindset around the exercise and the eating control that has been causing me problems.

Paige Dunn, a freelance writer who specializes in sports psychology, wrote this post regarding in essence the power of positive thinking:
What is your cycling identity?  How do you think of yourself as a rider? The way you think about yourself as a rider or athlete can have a direct impact on your ability. What do others say and think about your riding ability?  After a group ride or race when someone pays you a compliment do you deny or accept this information?  Sometimes we are so caught up in the identity that we have created for ourselves in past experiences that we don’t allow ourselves to let our identity evolve. And for most of us, identity evolves with time and life experiences.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “you are what you think you are” and this can certainly apply to your cycling performance. If you think that you are terrible at climbing, then chances are you are limiting you ability when you are climbing.  If you think you are a great sprinter, then chances are you are going to be confident and strong when going in to a sprint.
I had the opportunity to work with a tremendously talented cyclist who grew up overweight and borderline obese.  He transformed himself into an athlete over the years with a lot of hard work and dedication. He realized he had quite a bit of talent and potential as an elite cyclist. However, he limited his performance ability at times when he got caught up in his cycling identity that had not evolved.
He had trouble acknowledging that he was not that fat, slow cyclist anymore. He needed to change his mindset and accept that his current cycling identity was one of strength and talent.  This took a lot of work for this rider but once he came to terms with who he currently was as a rider, his talent was unleashed and he is riding strong.
So ask yourself what your cycling identity is and then ask others what they think of you as a rider.  Sometimes this is a good indication of whether you are being realistic and need to change that outlook at all to make the most of your cycling ability.

Tara Stiles, a yoga instructor with a line of popular videos also posted about a healthy state of mind. The sections that specifically stuck out to me:
We already know what we need to be healthy. Our bodies are incredibly smart. Often our minds get in the way of health.
Diets usually fail because we are holding back, mentally fighting urges, desires. How stressful must it be to count every calorie.  I knew a girl in my ballet days that counted out her allowed almonds. Yoga reminds us of our natural instincts to be healthy. It puts our intuition back in charge. We want to eat wholesome foods when we are hungry, and stop eating when we are full. What is very simple often gets complicated by the mind.
The tricky part of “eat whatever you feel like” doesn’t work if our unresolved psychology gets in the way.  “Oh, I just feel like eating a McDonalds big mac,” isn’t really what your body is asking for.  Listen.  Keep listening and you’ll know what to do.
Talk about reading something just when you really need to. I found a lot of truth in both of these posts. The cravings, especially fast food, are usually a signal for something else, and I just need to fight off the craving long enough to figure out what it is I am actually needing.  I need to stop making excuses for my behavior and start thinking of myself as an athlete for who what I've accomplished is just the beginning of what I can accomplish. I need to be serious in my belief and effort to lose weight and get fit.

I've looked at where I am, took stock of how much time is left this year, and I am determined to weigh no more than 299 on 01/01/11. It will take effort and commitment, but I've had that before, and can again. As I read this post again, I have it now, but I need to manifest that desire, that intense need to continue the change I've been making to myself. There's plenty of time, and we're not going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it's really up to me to make the most of these last two months of the year, and hit this first goal I've been after for quite a while.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Tuesday

Dear Readers,

It's election Tuesday and you can take that couple of ways.

First, I highly encourage you to vote. As most/many of you are active athletes who use parks and roads for training and racing, they're important things to have. Almost every race I've done has been held mostly on public lands and raced on public roads or paths. I encourage you to vote for the officials in your districts who make supporting infrastructure and public spaces a key issue, regardless of their (or your) political leanings.

Second, after you've done something for your town, state, and country, elect to do something for yourself. Whether it's an easy jog around the neighborhood, or a lock yourself in the basement off-season torture session on the trainer, go have some fun. I say fun and trainer torture session in the same sentence, because I know some of you are there really are into that.

Personally, I'm hoping to do something, ANYTHING tonight as I was simply too tired and still too sick to do anything last night but sit around on my rear. I'm hoping to run, and if not at least I'll sit on the rollers for a little while. All depends how I'm feeling. I guess I'm just glad this is happening now instead of later. If there's a time of the year I can afford to be sick and miss some training, it's right now, with lot's of time to catch it up later in the winter.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Race Report: Oak Scare 5k

I'm sure you've heard the saying "Feed a cold, starve the flu". It comes from common sense home cures for the two most common kinds of illnesses. When you have a cold, eat; it will give you the energy to feel better. When you have the flu, don't eat. I don't think this has as much to do with energy; I'm guessing it has more to do with the fact when you have the flu whatever you eat is coming back up anyways. 

The new piece I've added to the puzzle is "Feed a cold, stave the flu, run with acute sinusitis" (A part of the official diagnosis from Fridays visit to the doctor). I know it wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done, but Rach and I both had been looking forward to doing the 5k on Saturday. It was held to benefit youth programs at a YMCA, and was 3 miles from the house. And to be honest, I wanted to judge how my running was progressing. 

The YMCA hosting the event is pretty close to Boston College, and is along one of the routes I sometimes take home from work. I knew the area was hilly and would be a good challenge, which is why I was looking forward to doing it. Plus I knew if I could manage to throw down a good time even when I'm not feeling well, it should help me see how I'd be doing if I could breathe and sleep properly.

After catching a break with some super warm weather for Paddy's Road Race, It was a bit cold and windy at the start of the race, which served as a reminder that fall road race season is here for real.  331 people turned out to participate, many of them wearing Halloween costumes. I have got to get better at remembering to take pictures of these events, especially as I took my phone with me for the race (more on that in a bit). I did find a blog of a local runner who has some pics.

I started near the back as i guessed my ability to lie somewhere behind The Hamburglar (who was hanging out around mid pack), and in front of the 2 little kids dressed as bees that I'm positive Rachelle would have kidnapped adopted had she been given the opportunity. I was also pretty far behind the guy dressed in an inflatable bull costume. I figured that while I was safer behind the bull, I wished someone else had worn a bull costume so I could have checked "running with the bulls" off my bucket list.

The first couple miles were mostly uphill, and I managed to run the first 6 minutes before stopping to walk. Stopping to walk was a recurring theme for the day, but i managed to keep the walk breaks short for the most part. My first mile time was 12:25 which I was very happy with considering all the hills. 

The second mile was far less successful, as there was a very big hill that I wound up walking the majority of. I wound up with around a 14 minute mile for the second mile as the hill, the chill, and my cold got to me pretty good. I was bummed but I knew that stamina is still the area I need to improve the most, and that I was going to be a bit weaker than normal. 

Thankfully, the third mile had a downhill and it was a bit sunnier by that point. I managed a 13:30 third mile, and gave everything I could in that last .11 mile to bring home a decent time. That time turned out to be 41:50, which while not particularly good, was still my 2nd fastest 5k ever.  I managed to beat around 40 people overall, including one guy in my age group. With a race like this, it's hard to know who was running versus who is out just to have a good time and walk with friends. 

I have to say I definitely felt more capable in sections, and my recovery time is getting a lot better. Most of the problems I had with breathing were due to the sinus problems. I've been working on belly breathing (breathing with the diaphragm and not just the lungs), which provides the ability to pull a lot more oxygen into the system. More oxygen == better running. On a flatter course I probably would have been better, but most courses aren't pancake flat like the section of the Esplanade I use for training. Once I get to where I can run for 30 minutes, I'm going to start training on hillier sections as a next step.

In the end I was pretty happy to see progress, and because of my cold, I'm tempering my feels on the final result. It's a hilly course and was only 2 1/2 minutes slower than my best time ever. We're doing two races in late November, after which I really start training full bore for Mooseman.