Friday, December 31, 2010

The end of 2010 and the XTERRA Chubsmas Challenge powered by H20 Audio

Here we are the end of another year. Actually, that's only partially true. This isn't just another year. It was the year I went to Europe, it was the year I finished Timberman. It was the year we settled in and lived our life on the east coast. Our first anniversary and our first Christmas on our own. It wasn't perfect, and with my current memory problems, it doesn't end on a completely positive note. But it was great, and it was amazing, and it's over.

I got stronger, I got faster, I got smarter, and I got lighter. Last year on New Years morning, I was 337 pounds. I weighed in this morning at 313.8 pounds. That's over 20 pounds I've lost this year. It's not enough, but it's progress none the less. I've dug deeper inside and found a strength I didn't know I had on more than one occasion. I've also come up short at times, like in the MA State Triathlon.

There are a lot of things I learned about myself this year, and while I've changed a lot this year, some of that change was really just me becoming even more the person I already was. I did a lot less underachieving this year, even when I came in last. I still have a lot more learning and growing to do in the year ahead, and I'll be pushing myself further and harder than even what I did this year.

I've got a lot of goals for this year, most of them I've already laid out in the blog, but the most important ones are to be healthier physically and fiscally next year. Rach and I are lucky to live the life we do and I want to ensure we continue to live that life. Rach graduates in a few months, and will enter the working world. That might entail a move to another city, but we hope to get to stay right where we are. To help take the stress out of our move, I want to sock away some money, and be as healthy as I possibly can by that time. 

Our big athletic goals are looming a bit, but they're still plenty of time to prepare for them. Mooseman is 6 months out, and Rev3 is 9 months out. We're going to have our hands full with that, but it's going to be an awesome ride. I've dreamt several times of crossing the finish line at Cedar Point with my parents waiting for me on the other side. 

So as the last piece of business for the year of 2010, I leave you with the results of the Chubsmas Challenge:

Chuck: 255- 249.5 = 5.5 pounds lost
Ben: 321.5 - 313.8 = 7.7 pounds lost

So, I won by 2.2 pounds. It took a really strong week to do so, and I think Chuck really kicked ass. We're going to do a longer challenge next year, but in the meantime Chuck will be warming up his pipes for the Lady Gaga video we're all excited to see.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

relief and disbelief

Yesterday was a rough day for me, having all sorts of problems with my memory, and with some guidance from the nurse at my Dr.'s office, I decided it was time to get a look at the inside of my head. Unfortunately I couldn't find the crowbar, so instead I went to the ER for some electronic imaging. In a little less than 3 hours later, I was out of there test results in hand.

The good news is that they said there aren't any obvious problems going on that can be seen with a CT scan. They still want me to get the MRI on 1/2 because it provides clearer pictures in case there is something minor going on that can be seen on imaging. Plus, I'll probably have a follow up with a neurologist, as not seeing a cause for symptoms doesn't mean there isn't anything going on.

The thing that none of my friends will believe is that my brain looks completely normal.


- Finally, I am actually going to post that H2O Audio Flex earbuds review tomorrow.

- I didn't even go walking last night as I spent the majority of my evening in the ER.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Back to work, but not back to working out

This morning in the shower, I had another memory misstep. I simply could not remember the name of the college at BU that Rachelle is attending. I was thinking about it because of an email I'd read before I started getting ready for work. I kept coming up with Archer and other similar names that had a prominent A sound in the first syllable and a softer a or e sound in the second syllable. It took me about 10-15 minutes to remember "Sargent College". I drive by the building on average once a day. Plus I hear or talk about it often enough that I've never had trouble recalling the name before.

It's almost like I'm hearing a faded echo of specific memories but it takes a lot of effort to find the actual memory. Almost like my brain is making the effort to find a new path to it, like the old path is broken or blocked. It literally feels like there's a roadblock between the active thinking part (the processor and RAM in computerese) of my brain, and the storage (hard drive) part of my brain, like a cable has been snapped. I have to admit, I'm now more worried than I was a couple weeks ago. It just doesn't seem like it can be related to the header I took during Landmine because I had none of these symptoms a couple months ago.

Today Rach is swimming and riding right after she gets off work. Me, I'll be walking around the track. I guess it's something, but it's not much, and it's really frustrating that I can do so little. Especially as we approach 6 months from Mooseman, when I really need to start training.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Back to reality... almost.

The long holiday weekend is over for most, but Rach and I each have the day off today. It's a good thing too, because last night Boston got blanketed by 16 inches of snow thanks to a "wicked bad Nor'easter". It's gorgeous and snowy out, so Rach and I ventured out for a walk to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to make use of our gift card, and for me to try out my new Garmin Forerunner 305!

Rachelle took this picture
It took me a little while to get the satellite connection as we had started walking so as not to freeze in the 30 MPH wind gusts and snow/sleet mix. But once it going a couple blocks from our house, it seemed to work pretty darn well as the following graphic shows:
The Forerunner 305 has all of the features I've been looking for, including the ability to add workouts to the blog with just a couple of minutes work. I really like the layout of the data as well. It's simple to setup and use, and you can upload your workouts to the Garmin Connect website, meaning you can access your workout history from any computer. It even lets you enter personal profile information to help determine maximum heart rate and training zones.

I took a few days off from training to hopefully reduce some of the symptoms I've been having with my memory. I have been feeling better, but it's difficult to tell if that's due to reduced stress from time off work, more sleep, or the lack of heavy physical activity. Part of what makes it difficult to tell is that my brain hasn't been tasked nearly as much as it would be over a few days of work. 

Because of this, I carefully monitored my eating over the holiday. By monitor, I mean look at everything I put in my mouth. The result of that monitoring is that I determined I ate too damn much, and decided to put a stop to it right away. Yesterday I was straight on with my points, and today I have been as well. In fact I should be under today if all goes according to plan. Not only have the points been sharp, but I'm making very healthy food choices as well. The worst thing Ive done the past 2 days is been right up against my reccomended daily sodium. 

The blizzard seems to have closed FitRec, so I'm going to do some light cardio with the Wii, put the Wheelworks year end newsletter to bed, and watch some hockey.


- The Wheelworks Team has been kicking butt in the National Challenge Competition, currently sitting in 31st place out of 68 active teams. There are some monster teams, much larger than ours with more than 10 times the number of miles we have. In our division, we're currently 5th overall and closing in on 4th. Plus, we're 3rd out of the 5 MA teams competing, and closing in on 2nd

- The H20Audio Flex review will run tomorrow as I just didn't have time to get it formatted yet.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Think about what you have

Yesterday I was more than a little frustrated with the fact that I'm really on the bench for the first time since getting into triathlons 2 years ago. Several readers were kind enough to give me encouragement through comments and via private communication, and to remind me this is probably just a little bump in the road, and they're right. With all the positive things going on around me, I got down a little too easy, and I want to thank the best people in the world (the readers of this blog, natch) for reminding me of that.

In fact, I decided since I can't train for the next few days I'm going to have a little extra fun. I won't be able to have any beer for most of the next 9 months, but for the next few days, a beer a day sounds like fun. Just 1 mind you, and I'll be exploring the Trappist beers of Belgium, and sharing them with Rach. Usually, I roll with the punches pretty well, but these past couple months I've been blowing small things out of proportion. So, I'm gonna do my best to get my cheery disposition back in place, especially now that the "blahs" caused by the change in seasons should be over.

Plus, I got some good news from the doctor as well. As an additional step, they ran the standard set of cholesterol and diabetes tests on me when I went and visited her to prep for my MRI next week. Everything came back either good or very good:

HDL (Good cholesterol): 39. 40-60 is the normal range, so I'm just a bit low; but for HDL the higher the better. Last year I got a 43, so this has gone down a bit. I have fish oil pills but haven't been taking them. I will now, as this continues to be a bit lower than I'd like.

LDL: (Bad cholesterol): 78. 0-138 is the normal range, so I am in awesome shape for this test. In fact, my bad cholesterol dropped from 102 last year, so this has improved 3 years in a row.

Triglycerides: 153. This is the tiniest bit high, but because I wasn't fasting when the test was taken and my numbers are in general good, she said not to worry about it. My number last year was 109 when fasting, so that's probably closer to the mark.

Hemoglobin A1C: 5.5 Any number under 6.0 is a good number. It means I don't have diabetes, and that is something I do have some concerns about as my father is Type II diabetic. His is under control with medication and diet, so it's not like we have a big family history.

There were a couple other tests to check my thyroid as a potential cause of the memory issues, and to test my kidney function, along with the standard metabolic tests, and everything came back normal. So while I might not be in very good shape yet, my blood already is.

And of course what better way than Christmas with my family, even if it is through Skype, to get infused with a big dose of holiday cheer. When I was growing up, we spent Christmas Eve night at my maternal grandmothers with my moms big family exchanging gifts and eating a big meal. Then we'd do gifts with just my parents, my sister, and I on Christmas morning. After my nieces were born, that changed, and now we do Christmas presents on Christmas eve morning as the girls spend Christmas with their dads.

Presents started at 6:30 and between a run to the bagel place for Rach and I's breakfast, and 2 hours of watching my family open presents, it's been a full day and it isn't even 9 AM as I type this. In fact, Rach is already back napping. Between my parents, my sister, the 2 girls, and one of the girls boyfriends, it's a full house there, so doing it remotely wasn't terrible, though they're going to enjoy one heck of a lunchtime meal today. And there's nothing like being home for the holidays, even if I have been looking forward to spending this Christmas with just Rach.

Of course, we didn't just watch my family open gifts, we opened what they sent us, and both of the gifts my parents got me are ideal for my mission over these next 9 months. First, I got an electronic kitchen scale so I no longer have to guess at the weight of my portions so I can properly measure the calories included. The big gift though, was a Garmin Forerunner 305!!! It was the #1 present on my list, and I love it already. While I won't be able to run or ride hard with it for a while, I already have it charging and will take a very light and easy ride out in front of the house today just to see it in action. I'll walk a very flat, slow, and easy couple of miles just see how it performs. I'm super excited to have this awesome training device. I'm going to find a way to track a majority of my workouts with it, and hopefully be able sync them up to the blog.

So maybe I can't really work out right now, and I'm having trouble remembering a few words here and there as I rest up from whatever it is that's causing these memory issues, but I can enjoy the holidays, and whether or not I get anymore gifts (the giant pile of presents under the tree indicates I will), I already have a great many things that don't come in wrapping paper that make my life great.


- I'm taking the weekend off as usual, so Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and if not... Happy Saturday! If you're celebrating anything this holiday season, or just celebrating life, enjoy this time time.

- Just because I'm going to have a few beers doesn't mean I'm giving up on winning the Chubsmas Challenge. I'm going to be walking a lot the next 7 days, and if I'm feeling better, my is hopefully to still race on 1/1.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not feeling like much of a triathlete

It's a tough break that my memory issues seem to be related to the strenuousness of my workouts and that in order to get the symptoms to subside, I need to stop training. To be a triathlete, you're either racing or training; right now I'm doing neither and it SUCKS. Rach has always told me her athletes are basically a combination of pissed off and depressed when they can't play due to injury, and after 2 days, I'm already starting to see why and my races aren't for months.

I can't train, so I can't eat. Even setting the Chubsmas Challenge aside, that's the biggest blow I'm feeling right now. I'm working from home today, which is good because I'm sure I'd have a crap day at work feeling like this. Rach and I are shopping for our Christmas dinner and my plans for that dinner are being dramatically reduced. Sure maybe it's a bit healthier this way, but I really wanted to enjoy that meal.

Then there's the idea that I'm getting all these Christmas gifts related to our hobby sport obsession (my training socks, wetsuit, and potentially other stuff) that I have no chance of using anytime soon. It's not much fun to get christmas gifts you can't use.

The last thing is that I just can't work out. When it's cold and windy I don't usually want to work out, and I get lazy, or I gripe and make Rach drag me to workout. Now, that I can't work out, I'm thinking about every day I was too tired or not in the mood to work out, and how much I wish I could now. I've never had a real injury  until now that has stopped me from training until now.

I guess even when it comes to working out, you don't know what you have til it's gone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The H20Audio XTERRA Chubsmas Challenge Week 3 Weigh In: Powered by fat!

Each year as the holiday season seems to become more and more commercialized, the warnings about the mass consumption of consumer goods seem to grow louder and louder, with most of us growing increasingly deaf to them. I know the economy is in the dumps, and so it honestly gave me a clear conscience to spend as I felt like for this holiday season. Knowing I was helping a sagging economy as one of the lucky ones who is gainfully employed made me feel good for reasons other than the traditional giving of gifts to love ones.

Where I should have headed the warnings was in regards to physical consumption. Between 2 work holiday parties, dinner out a couple nights, and the dozens of cookies my wife baked, I was hopelessly sunk this week by the lack of willpower against the food around me. I did more than my fair share of working out, and I even got in some pretty hard workouts.

Chuck ran into very similar problems, and had the added difficulty of dealing with an all-you-can-eat night at the hockey game last night. They have the best food at those games, including unbelievable Skyline Chili cheese dogs. Sooo yummy. I'd have walked out of there up at least 5 pounds, so I'd say Chuck deserves a medal for his performance against such overwhelming odds.

Anyways, here's this weeks less than spectacular tally.

Ben: 316.5 + 1.5 = 318
Chuck: 251 + 3 = 254

Total lost:

Ben = 3.5
Chuck = 1

We've now got just a week and a half to go. And with Christmas and New Years Eve in the mix, it's crunch time. Even worse, I have a new wrinkle on my end. My memory problems have been getting worse so the plan is for me to take a few days off from serious workouts in order to see if the symptoms get better in response to the rest. It's potentially post-concussion syndrome as a result of the header I took during the Landmine Classic.

So while I'm taking it easy, with little more than some walking to burn fat, Chuck will be headed south to spend time with his family where the gravy flows, but walking the dogs is as much a part of the holiday as the mistletoe is.


- The memory symptoms have been bad enough that I've also scheduled an MRI to be safe. Talk about nervous, my memory is a huge part of my job, and while my work hasn't been suffering yet, I've really had to work hard to overcome the holes in my recall in order to keep things moving.

- While I talked about the food as a big part of the struggles this week, I think we all know the real problem: Lack of a new sponsor for the week 3 weigh in. Remember, company representatives, we have week 4 and the finale weigh in left. Wouldn't your company benefit greatly from sponsoring a weight loss competition between to late 30's fat computer folks on a blog that has almost as many readers as your local NPR station has listeners?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'm not ready yet

It seems that my body is still under the impression that December is the off-season, and that I shouldn't be ramping up training right now. For the past few weeks, Ive been slowly playing catch up to the amount of training Rachelle's been doing. She seems to be a bit more prepared for the build up this year than I am. That's not to say I'm not getting through the workouts, I'm just really having to push to get through some of them.

Last nights workout was particularly grueling, the kind of workout that you know will make you better and stronger, but flat out sucks while you're in the middle of it. It was another bike workout, which I normally love, but this time we had a heavy focus on one-legged pedaling. We've done some of this before, and in short sessions it's ok, but we had 2 sets of 12 minutes of single leg pedaling, and it was freaking brutal. I have a bit of a hitch in my pedal stroke with my right leg, it's less smooth than my left, and it makes doing this exercise really tiring. And really, really good for me and my riding.

The past few days I've been complaining about working out. Not in the real "I don't want to do it" way, but rather in the "If you leave me alone, I'll wind up doing some workout, but not the one we had planned, but if you nag me a little, I'll go with you and do the one we have planned". These are the days I'm extra thankful to have a truly motivated person like Rachelle in my life. Yesterday was our first real snow, and I've just been really tired lately between work, Christmas prep, early darkness, and hard workouts. I wanted to stay inside and nap, but when I tried to Rach wound up being the one getting some rest. It's just not fair, I say.

All of this isn't real complaining, it's just kind of musing on the fact that things will be much harder in terms of the races we're doing and we need to work that much harder to prepare and my body is giving me a little push back right now. I think once Christmas has passed things will get easier to mentally overcome the resistance. Because when I get out about 80 miles into our big race, I need to have a really big reserve to dig into.


- Tomorrow is weigh in day, and I'm thinking I'll be flatlining this week. Just have to hope Chuck doesn't take too much of a lead going into the last week and a half.

- Thursday I'll be posting my review of the H2O Audio Flex earbuds.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oops! Did I just eat that?

So, To put it mildly my time in Food Central didn't go exactly as planned. Thursday night I had 3 beers, a plate of dinner, some appetizers and dessert. Sure, not as bad as I could have been, but not as good as I'd have liked. Friday, I fell straight into the trap that a pot luck holiday is and didn't leave until I had a rather full plate plus some seconds. While I had avoided fried food for a week, I didn't do so hot on Friday, including my boss bringing McDonald's fries and another co-worker making hamburger wrapped hot dogs with cheese. I didn't even know that was a food! It was really good though. Rach & I's cannoli's went over really well, and I only had a small one.

But then my friend Jim Zubkavich (aka Zub) was in town for the weekend, and long story short we had an awesome time on Friday which included a midnight trip to McDonald's where I ate not 1 but 2 sandwiches. I don't know that many people in Boston and though I have met some really great people, I'm not all that close with them yet, so it was nice to have a friend I've known for a long time around for just a few days. He'll be back in March for PAX East, along with Chuck and a crew of writers from Gaming Nexus.

I am happy to report that Saturday and Sunday went significantly better. Saturday, we went to the gym for a bike and swim, and found that there have been high end exercise cycles in the gym since late summer that we didn't know about. Using the X-Dream system, these bikes essentially act as a mountain bike simulator as opposed to an exercise bike. We had an hour bike workout planned, but the head to head racing was so hard, we did four different 5 minute races and were flat exhausted. It really kicked our butts. It felt far more like being on a real bike than any other cycling I've done in doors except my rollers. Then we got in the pool for around 55 minutes and I got in 1600 yards. Other than a box of sno caps and a hot dog while watching Tron on friday night, I ate pretty carefully as well.

Sunday I ate great, did a 4 mile run in my new shoes (just a new pair like my old ones), and really worked hard on making good choices. Because we aren't going to any other parties. it should be fairly easy to avoid overeating the rest of the holidays.


- I'll be finishing up my review of the H20 Audio Flex headset in the next couple days, and they're definitely worth a go if you ever run in the rain. Right now, they're on sale at 2 pairs for $50 at Just add 2 pair to your cart and the price drops. No codes or anything needed to get the deal.

- I'm really get excited for Christmas. Not that it's triathlon related, other than I'll finally get to unwrap my wetsuit again and get my tri stuff organized. I probably should have moved a Garmin 305 to the top of my list, but if I don't get it, I can always buy one in the spring before racing season.

- We don't yet have a sponsor for Wednesday weigh in. If no one steps up, I may have to get creative.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Food Central

I am halfway through the period of time I'm calling Food Central. We had Rachelle's work party last night, and mine is in an hour. I will cop to having 3 beers, and a decent amount to appetizers, but I only had 1 serving of lasagna and 1 small slice of desert tart with blueberries and strawberries on it. When we got home Rach and I made 45 cannolis for my work party today. It was a 48 cannoli kit, so 3 were eaten between us. In my defense they were small cannolis.

Today there will essentially be 5 or 6 different meals at the same time of various themes to choose from. I am giving myself free reign to try multiple things from multiple meals but nothing bigger than a couple of fork fulls.

I didn't get on the scale this morning and won't again until tomorrow, but I am running this afternoon between work and hanging out with a friend this evening. I'll weigh in tomorrow and get back working on the challenge the minute this meal ends. I had red meat last night, so I'll effort to avoid that today, and I have successfully evaded fried food all week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The six disciplines of triathlon

Triathlon is commonly thought (and even referred to in this blog) as a 3 discipline sport; swimming, biking, and running. That's what people see on TV or at races, and it's what entices us to get into the sport. It's where the attention is focused, and what people associate with winning and success. But for folks who participate and take the time to think about what they're doing, there are at least 6 disciplines to triathlon. For the purpose of this post, I'm going to skip those 3 disciplines and talk about the 3 you might not think about: transition, training, and eating.

For those who don't know, transitions are the part of the race where you switch from swim to bike or bike to run. Most triathletes I know think about transitions in a way we think about our morning commutes; Get going early and you can avoid all the traffic. But some folks are about more than just shaving a few seconds; folks like a former professional and transition specialist who once famously said something to the effect of "Why worry about shaving a few seconds off your bike or run when you can shave whole minutes off your transition?" It takes a lot of thought and preparation to create a good, fast, and organized transition area that will allow you do to what you need to do quickly and with a minimum of fuss all the while staying out of everyone elses way. Based on my times from most races, it's something I really need to work on, and something that i find myself at odds with almost everyone around me on. The towel goes on top, folks.

The next discipline is the one I share most about here on the blog, and the one that takes the most work for the majority of triathletes. Putting yourself through proper preparation that will just allow you to finish a race is one thing. That's what I did last year, train to finish the race (and just barely enough it would seem). It's a great goal for first timers, and is the bare minimum. Training to be competitive (something Ive admittedly never done) or just reach a time goal (something I'm doing now) is a whole other level and requires a lot of dedication. I don't mean to make triathlon seem like some intense struggle, but I'm not sure people have haven't prepared for races like this really understand what that much training is like. Heck, I'm only seeing the tip of the iceberg right now, and I'm starting to realize how much you really have to put in. Especially if you're starting where I'm at.

Lastly, there is the discipline that I struggle with the most, and that's eating. Triathlon training, or hard physical training for any athletic endeavor, requires properly supporting your nutritional needs; aka food. There's really two sides to that as well; eating properly in order to get or stay fit, and then also eating to feed your body's needs during and after the race. Not surprisingly, I have eating during a race down pretty well. If it involves food intake, I'm good at it. Ive never had a problem during a race that was caused because I didn't eat enough. There have been times where I wanted to drink more, but didn't have more fluids available until the next aid stop. And that's only because I drank it all already. In fact, i drank so much during Timberman, I had a full bottle on my bike when I got to transition 2, because I simply couldn't drink any more at that time.

My problem clearly comes with dealing with how to properly limit my intake, whether I'm training hard or not. I'm getting better though. Last night I had a lot going on so I decided not to exercise. However I ate properly and lost another pound. It's still a challenge sometimes but it does seem to be getting easier of late. Tonight it's Rachelle's work party and tomorrow is mine, so it will be an interesting 24 hours.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The XTERRA Chubsmas Challenge powered by H20 Audio: Week 2 Weigh in!

First off, welcome aboard to the fine folks at H20 Audio as sponsors of the contest. They were kind enough to send along a pair of Flex waterproof/sweatproof headphones for my review, and sending free stuff during December gets your name on the challenge.

Anyways, so instead of making everyone "weight" around for the numbers *zing*, here they are:

Chuck 255-251 = 4 pounds lost in 2 weeks
Ben 321.6 - 316.5 = 5.1 pounds lost in 2 weeks

Thankfully we're doing this on Wednesdays as both Chuck and I have had tough weekends and had to burn off homemade holiday cookies or excess food at the hockey game. The challenge really ramps up this week as I have 2 holiday parties in the next 48 hours plus a friend in from out of town on Saturday night. The hardest part of me is that my responsibility for one of those parties is to provide a dessert. Seriously, how is that fair? I'm bringing Cannoli's for the party because my groups theme is Italian. I should have volunteered to bring something I don't at all like, say Raspberry flavored Italian ice with raspberries on top.

Chuck has some stuff upcoming as well, so it will be interesting. That last week of the year in particular will be a challenge because the Blue Jackets have 5 home games between now and the end of the year. I don't know how many of those Chuck has tickets to but I'm guessing it's a couple. Maybe I should send him some more tickets and food vouchers for the games to boot.

What's not fair to Chuck in this contest is the 60 pound starting weight difference, because while I've lost 1 more pound than he has, I've actually lost only the smallest percentage points more of my body weight. Chucks lost 1.568 percent, while I have lost 1.585 percent. So even with percentage I'm winning, but it's SUPER CLOSE. Maybe I should get him a subscription to Wine and Cheese of the month club with rush delivery.

When we were shopping for the Cannoli's at CostCo the other night, I saw a box of frozen veggie burgers and decided to pick it up. A little known fact about me is that I was a vegetarian for 3 years in my late teens and early 20's. I figured it was better for me and better for the animals. I still managed to gain weight during that period, but I did eat fairly healthy, and one of the things I ate then were Boca Burgers. They're tasty, non-fat, vegan, and only 2 points per burger. With the sandwich thins ketchup and a slice of cheese, its a grand total of 7 points. A couple healthy sides and I got a good meal under 13 points.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's cold, so it must be time to go outside!

It's been really cold here in Boston these past few weeks, and while I generally have some issues with the decrease in sunlight, I've always been relatively OK with the cold. This year, however, I've been a giant wuss about it. Most of my workouts since mid-November have been indoors. It was really rainy leading up to Thanksgiving, and I don't like training in the rain unless it's right before a race.

But with just a few weeks left until the Lowell 1st Run, it's getting to be the time when I need to be adapting to the weather. I have the clothes I need so it's not a real matter of physical preparation; merely the mental process of consciously deciding to go outside in the cold. I usually race better in the cold so it's an easy decision on race day, but on training days it's a lot harder to motivate myself.

Last night was a scheduled run, and i wanted to make sure I got it in considering the weight gain this weekend. Rach also had a run, and because it was after dark, she ran with me due to safety concerns. I'm always happy when she runs with me, right up to the moment about 2/3rds of the way into the run when I'm getting tired and she says "It's hard for me to run this slow". Ouch. But it's always worth it to know she's safe and to get to have her pace me.

We wound up doing 2.65 miles and without stoppage time or a walk break we did around that distance in 36 minutes. Not super fast, and not super slow. But I did almost 1 1/2 miles before stopping to walk. We walked less than 2 blocks out of the nearly 3 miles, and I finished strong.

I had music last night thanks to the H2OAudio Flex earbuds I started using last night. It didn't rain or even mist while we ran, but I sweat a good bit, and the Flex seemed to hold up fine to that. I'll be putting them through their paces the next few days as part of the review process.


- I dropped most of the weight I put on this weekend, and am on target for a good day, and hopefully managing to be down a little bit for tomorrow's weigh in.

- I just finished signing Rachelle up for the Hyannis Marathon in February. While not thinking she'll be able to qualify for the Boston Marathon in this race (a future goal for her), she does have a goal of 4:30 on that day. I'll probably wind up signing up for the 10k, but with Christmas almost here I have plenty else to pay for.

- False Chuck Fact of the day: Chuck once shot a man just for snoring too loud. Ok, actually that's a line from a Time Life book series commercial, but he probably almost did shoot a man (me) just for snoring too loud on a road trip in 2005.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A little too much is still too much

A couple of years ago, I joined Weight Watchers at work, lost 40 pounds in 10 weeks and have kept it off. But I continue to lose the same 3 pounds only to regain it again a few days later. On Wednesday, I was 319.6, and feeling like I was on top of my food intake and focused on doing the right things.

By this morning I was back to 322.6, and feeling completely frustrated about how I'm doing. And it wasn't like I went out and ate like crap and did nothing all weekend.

Friday I was close to right on with my points, but I didn't have time to work out. I had a roast beef sub for dinner, and on Saturday morning, I was 320.6

Saturday afternoon, I spent 30 minutes doing cardio with the new snakebyte Wii Premium Fitness Board I am reviewing for Gaming Nexus. I followed that cardio time up with 15 minutes of core work, and by the time that was over, I was beat.

Saturday night , we had tickets for the Springfield Falcons game, and usually I am not on my best behavior at hockey games when it comes to eating. There's so much temptation, and very little available in the way of healthy options. I had a chicken caesar wrap, a side of fries, and a bottle of water for dinner. Then as a treat, I had a small serving of ice cream. I thought that was pretty good for a hockey game, but late in the game I gave in to temptation and had a mountain dew. Though it was less than 20 oz, it's still more calories than I had planned. 

Sunday Morning I was 321.6 and right back where I started a week and a half ago. I was determined to eat healthy on Sunday, and I mostly did. Oatmeal for breakfast, the lunch sized cobb salad at Cheesecake Factory, and some soup with bread for dinner. But I ate a bunch of the bread & butter they give you at cheesecake factory before the meal. And then following my bike workout in the evening (I did 4 miles on the rollers), I had a couple fiber bars and a glass of chocolate milk for recovery. Sure, I needed something after that really hard ride, but I didnt need as much as I had.

So, it's time to be a bit more regimented. I clearly need some rules to follow about my eating between now and the end of the year.

If it's fried, I'm not eating it. 
Other than lean roast beef, only 1 meal per week with red meat.
1 desert per week.
Every day, including Christmas and New Years eve, must be within my points totals
No sugar or high-fructose soda

Those four rules ought to make it easy to follow and yet give me enough leeway to not feel like I'm sacrificing everything. Now I just have to implement it in such a way that I can re-lose the 3 pounds from this weekend and at least get back to where I was before Wednesday.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Famous Fridays 2: Bloggin' it up

The term "social media" bothers me. Because all media is social, so either they could just call it media, or even better, they should just call it being social. because it's really just sharing about yourself, or things you find interesting. Technology has always increased our ability to share. Think about the telegraph, the telephone, the television; all of them are forms of "social media". Media is the plural of medium, which is simply a way to communicate. 

Last week the kick-off of Famous Friday was focused on twitter, because, well, the most famous people I've connected with has been through tweets. Twitter isn't really the core of my sharing, which of course is here on the blog. Because of that sharing, I've gotten a boatload of sponsors (ok, a boatload for my level of skill), and while I'm not an expert on triathlon by any means, I've even taken on an apprentice who I'm helping get started in triathlons. I wouldn't presume to call myself a coach by any means, I'm merely giving him the benefits side-effects of my experience.

Most people think that sponsorships are all about what you can get someone to give you. Sure, it's about that trade off of product or money for what amounts to free advertising, but it doesn't really work if all you're doing is talking about something you got free. People can see through that. You have to be smart enough to ask for or accept things you really want, and give honest reviews to each product even if you risk losing the sponsor. 

For example, take my review of the H2OAudio Capture case and headphones. I bought the case at a heavily discounted price via a sponsorship from the company. I got it specifically for the purpose of using it for swim training, but unfortunately it's not really designed for that. It's still a great product for its designed purpose, and the earphones really do live up to their waterproof statements. While my review wasn't a raving, "go buy this product right now" kind of review, it was an honest one which my rep at H2OAudio appreciated. So when they recently announced their new Flex all-sport earbuds, they wanted to see if I'd like to take a look at them, which I quickly agreed to. 

I hadn't been running with music for a while in order to get used to race conditions, but now that I'll be training for a marathon distance, I need the music for all the extra running. When I got done with my run the other night using my H20Audio Surge earbuds, I was thankful I had waterproof headphones. I had... how do you say... perspired heavily.... during my run, and my phone and earbuds had both taken a bit of collateral damage. 

Flash forward to earlier this week when the Chubsmas Challenge became the XTERRA Chubsmas Challenge. Finding a simple picture of me in their wetsuit prompted XTERRA to send us some mesh backpacks. I would have thought seeing me in their product would have prompted them to lose their lunch, but hey, any press is good press I guess. 

I hope this doesn't sound like I'm patting myself on the back. I do that all the time, but I'm not posting  to sound self congratulatory. There are people who have gotten much more recognition out of their blogs, and do so with a lot less talking about it. Mandy, a reader here and fine writer in her own right, just got accepted to Team Trakkers, with whom she will kick much ass this season.

My point was blogging can make you famous. Even if it's the Perez Hilton kind of famous.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wait, what? Diet is more important than exercise? ZOINKS!

My mother, who I may have mentioned has been rocking the weight loss these past few weeks sent me an interesting article the other day. In a Time magazine piece on the value of exercise in the weight loss process, they point out an important fact to remember: Exercise stimulates hunger.  So instead of making it easier to lose weight, regular strenuous exercise can actually make it harder to lose weight.

Well, duh. Working out hard drains you of salt and fluids, and causes you to need to repair the tired muscles. Plus, the glycogen we use up wants to be replaced, and the fastest way to replace it is with sugars. So not only are you tired and hungry, your body is crying out for salt and sugar. And a lot of folks, myself included, often find themselves either eating things they normally wouldn't or simply more of things they would, because they think "I just burned 500 calories".

Here's the part that really hit home with me:
You might think half a muffin over an entire day wouldn't matter much, particularly if you exercise regularly. After all, doesn't exercise turn fat to muscle, and doesn't muscle process excess calories more efficiently than fat does?
Yes, although the muscle-fat relationship is often misunderstood. According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a Columbia University team in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns. Which means that after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle — a major achievement — you would be able to eat only an extra 40 calories per day, about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight. Good luck with that.
Going forward, I am going to be smarter about not eating too much because I just worked hard. I'm as susceptible to cravings as the next person, especially after a hard workout. Proper preparation can help a lot with this. Take a salt pill during a long sweaty workout will reduce the bodies craving for salty foods. Taking a 60 calorie gel during a workout should help kill the desire for a big milkshake after. It will still be important to get the right amount of protein and other recovery foods, but doing it in a healthy way is key.


- Last night a 3 mile run. Rather, three 1 mile runs. I had decent stamina through each mile and walked a little less than 1/3rd mile between each run. I was pretty slow the last half of the 3rd mile, but I like that I got through all 3.

- Tonight, I'm shooting for 5 miles continuous on the rollers. It would be my longest session by 2 miles, so it if winds up at 4 miles, thats still progress.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The XTERRA Chubsmas Challenge: Week 1 Weigh in!

What a difference a week makes. Last week at this time, Chuck and I were just throwing back smart ass ideas to do a weight loss contest. Now here we are a week later, and we have a contest, stakes for winning/losing, a name for the contest and even an (un)official sponsor.

Chuck chose the name of the contest, dubbing it the "Chubsmas Challenge" which is wonderful in both it's humor, and the fact that it gives me something to call it. This is important because not having a formal name makes it hard to write about. Then, as noted before, the stakes: If Chuck loses he'll perform Lady Gaga's Bad Romance as a sing along with Rock Band in a fashion similar to this video from "On the Rocks" a participant in last nights episode of NBC's Sing Off.

Of course, Chuck's version won't be as good, but it will be entertaining, and that's the whole point. If I lose (which won't happen), I will have to dance along to the Ke$ha tune "Tik Tok". Like I said, I'm not gonna lose, but that does sound kinda fun anyways. I'm mostly shameless, if you don't already know that about me.

And then last night, one of the fine folks from XTERRA Wetsuits was kind enough to add a comment saying thanks for talking about the wetsuit I bought and wanted to offer Chuck and I each something for being part. So now, though they're just giving us backpacks and it has nothing to do with the outcome, I am hereby dubbing this event the XTERRA Chubsmas Challenge.

Further, I'm now inspired to get more sponsors. Do you work for a company that wants to sponsor this death food defying challenge? I've got a great idea, in that I'll simply add your name to the title of the contest either at the front of the back of the title. Ideally, by this time next week it'll be the Bentley XTERRA Nike Chubsmas Challenge sponsored by Diet Mt Dew, GulfStream and Playstation Move. Or something like that. Hopefully with more of a triathlon feel, but you get the idea.

So now, you've read this far and you're thinking "where the heck are the weigh in numbers?" Well, they're right here:

Ben: 321.6 - 319.6 = 2.0 pounds lost
Chuck: 255 - 254 = 1.0 pounds lost

Both contestants lament a week of missed opportunities and a couple of poor meal choices but still managed to lose some weight. We both have a lot of work to do if we're going to hit at least the 10 pound goal set forth in the Fatty Challenge. The good news is that week 1 is always the hardest, but we still managed to drop.

Next week will be much better both in terms of results and stuff to share as we also tie in some of our favorite motion based gaming and exer-gaming products into the contest.


- The 18 folks from WWMS competing in the USAT's National Challenge Competition are off to a great start! With just a few members times in so far for the first week, we're already 5th in our division in overall miles and 6th in terms of swim miles. Nationally, we're 33rd, and we're not even 1/2 done getting in our first weeks results.

- I got home pretty late last night after the BU Women's hockey game, but I got on the rollers for a while anyways. I guess that shows how much I want to beat Chuck. I did 3 miles consecutively other than 1 balance check where I had to put my foot on the chair for about 10 seconds. It was a far better ride than I had done in about a week on the rollers.

- I've gotten a little wussy about the cold weather here, but I am going to go run tonight and every other 2nd night between now and 1/1.

- Untrue Chuck Fact: Chuck once walked an old lady the wrong way across an intersection in the freezing cold, just because he wanted to.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What a little motivation will do

I don't know why I didn't think of joining a weight loss contest sooner. Apparently, my competitive nature is way stronger than my regular willpower. We're 5 days into the contest, and I'm down 2.4 pounds already. Plus, I've been doing a much better job than in recent days of avoiding temptation.

A couple weeks ago, I directed Rach to a local restaurant (b. good) for a free pumpkin shake being given away at their truck in front of the store. Something went wrong, and there were no free shakes to be had. I complained to the PR person for the company via twitter, because Rach had passed up other free smoothie options to get this one. They delivered in the form of a free burger and fries coupon via mail.

b. good uses mostly locally grown meat and vegetables, and they bake their fries instead of frying them. Rachelle really just wanted her pumpkin shake, so I got the baked fries and the turkey burger covered in healthy stuff (and some cheese, cause it isn't a cheeseburger without cheese). Not only did the coupons make up for their free shake problems, but they make some darn good food, and pretty healthy food.

Our other trip out for the weekend was to use a BuyWithMe we'd purchased to PJ Ryan's. Irish pub's are usually a tough place to make a healthy choice, but Ryan's had a lot of healthier choices. I wound up with a pasta dish in a tomato sauce that was different but good, no cheese or heavy fats. All the rest of my meals the rest of the weekend were homemade and fully portion controlled.  

With just less than a month before the Lowell 10k, I've got 13 more runs running every other day from tonight through the 1st. This schedule lets me not run on Christmas, and keeps me on an every other day schedule. Plus it gives me a chance to add enough distance over almost 4 weeks to have better stamina in my first 10k since last year.

I tried to get in a full swim on Friday, but the lap pool was closed, so I only managed 400 yards in the rec pool before I got frustrated and gave up. BU needs to do a better job of not scheduling classes during open swim in the lap pool, and providing better updates for the availability of the lap pool. But for the price I'm paying, I can't complain too much.

Last night, Rach and I did 30 minutes on the stationary bikes, with a difficulty pyramid and sprinting. Not the longest workout ever, but a challenge. Especially because they had the heat on in the gym and I was directly below one of the vents. The only time I've been hotter on a bike is during my roller sessions.


- If you're looking for discounts, along with ByWithMe, Groupon is another site we use a lot.  I got Rach $50 to American Apparel for a dress to take to Vegas for $25. Between those two sites, there's always something I wish I was buying.

- We had our last board meeting for WWMS last night, and it was the first one I attended as a member of the board. I'm going to be doing the quarterly newsletter, and working to help with marketing/sponsorship on top of running the National Challenge Competition for the club. It's going to be a fun way to give back.

- 19.2 pounds, 26 days. Progress being made, but it's gonna be tough.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Famous Fridays

My wife often says things that make me laugh so hard that I can't breathe. Just last night, as we were talking about seeing shows on our upcoming trip to Las Vegas she said "You should take me to see the Chipmunks!". It took me a minute to understand what I heard, and laughing hard I asked her "You sure you want to see the Chipmunks? Wouldnt you rather see the Chippendales?"

While that was unintentional, she often says hilarious things by choice such as "I think I'm Freddie Mercury's long lost love child" or "I would do drugs just to go to rehab. Look at that guy, he's living the life!". The one I want to share specifically today was "Not many people know you yet. But stick with me and I'll make you famous, Benny". I've taken to putting these quotes on my facebook profile so I don't forget them.

That last quote prompted Rach to start thinking about how people get famous and posting a humorous guide on how to do it on her blog. Since she's been busy with school and hasn't had a chance to do it on her blog, I decided I'd do a little bit on the topic here. Each Friday, I'll highlight some aspect of this and how it applies to my life and cycling/triathlon. Today's topic is focused primarily on Twitter, which seems to be the easiest way to interact with an honest to goodness famous person.

Since starting this blog I've become world famous. Well, ok, maybe not world famous in a Kentucky Fried Chicken way, but I've become a household name if just in my own house (finally!). I've had my name in a magazine, I've gotten way more readers than I deserve (and am grateful for every single one of them), and I've mingled with sports glitterati. Maybe mingled isn't the right word. More like had deep meaningful discussions on the meaning of life, and how we all fit into this crazy universe. One such example is this tweet from world renown triathlete Juan Pelota:

He only uses as many syllables as he has pelotas.
So now you're saying to yourself "I've heard of TechknowGN, but who the heck is Juan Pelota?" Well, when you spend your days fighting cancer and cycling for a living, sometimes it helps to have an alter ego (as if his first ego isnt big enough). Yep, @juanpelota is none other than Lance Armstrong. He started a second twitter account so he could tweet about his triathlon training and racing without flooding the million plus followers with the details of preparing for his first multisport season in many years. In his primary account he references Juan Pelota as a different person which makes it even funnier. When I recently asked "Juan" what it was like having Lance's Ranch named after him, he responded:

It takes some "ball" to post so humbly

Now if the depth of conversation with Lance doesn't impress you, perhaps my conversations with his chief lieutenant Levi Leipheimer might. In world full of danger and intrigue, you have to protect your pets. And while I made the point that pets can be implanted with microchips for identification, Levi counterpointed with the following:

A word to the wise. Don't let your pets leave home without it
In a world this dangerous, Levi's right; your pet should never leave home without at least 2 forms of ID. Now you may ask, where did Levi come up with such a profound piece of knowledge. Well I'm happy to say he got it where we men get all of our valuable information the back page of Playboy magazine his wife:
So much knowledge in just 140 characters
I actually knew the breakable collar part, but it's good to see that professional athletes worry about such things too. Now, I just need to find a breakable collar small enough for Rachelle's hamster, Lil' Wengels (aka Puffball).


- Last night I did 5 miles on the rollers. It's the longest total distance I've done in a day. The more I use them the more I'm finding how tough the rollers really are. I had to break the distance up into 1-1.5 mile increments. I'm hoping to be able to gut through 5 consecutive miles soon.

- Tonight is another swim, as I want to really see how much I can contribute to the teams swim mileage this month.

- 21.4 pounds, 29 days. Too much salt yesterday. I need to take a recovery day this weekend while watching my intake and I should drop a couple/few pounds.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Fatty Challenge gets personal

Meet Chuck:

Doesn't Chuck look thrilled? It's the kind of look a guy who doesn't enjoy taking gratuitous pictures makes when he's asked to take a picture in shorts and a T Shirt for his best friends blog. But it's his own fault, and if I have my way, it won't be the most embarrassed he'll be to appear on this blog.

You see yesterday, after reading about the Fatty Christmas Weight Loss Challenge, Chuck issued a challenge of his own. I quote:
Want to make it interesting?  Want to see who can lose the most weight by 1/1?  I need to drop about that amount just to start feeling better and I figure if we make it a competition it will make it that much more...enjoyable (we're both competitive).  It might be enough to get you out of your funk and to get my fat ass off the sofa. 
A few things about this:
  1. Chuck's an incredibly mild mannered, polite guy who is easily the first person I would call if Rach and I were trapped somewhere and needed someone reliable to help us. When I asked him to be the Best Man at my wedding, I told him "For you it isn't a job, it's simply a description". But when he says he's competitive, he isn't kidding. He owns several unofficial penalty minute records in the Columbus Adult Hockey League, and when he's getting beaten at video games (a rare feat for me to accomplish, unless it's an NHL title), he could easily be replaced by a 10 year old kid and you wouldn't know the difference.
  2. His "fat ass" is not nearly so fat as my ass.
  3. I simply cannot resist a challenge like this.
With Christmas fast approaching and each of us saving for out of state trips in early 2011, a large financial bet doesn't make sense for either one of us. Besides, I don't want his money; I want to see him make a fool of himself. Being mild mannered and all, Chuck isn't known to make nearly the fool of himself as I am (often at the drop of a hat). But at the occasional get together at his house, Chuck has been known to put together an epic sing-along performance of say Blondie's "Call Me". Our mutual friend John was kind enough to send me the link to the above mentioned performance in order to give everyone a taste:

As you can see, This is YouTube gold, and the ideal prize for when/if he loses this challenge. I've chosen Lady Gaga as the artist and Rachelle will pick the song this week. I'm thinking it's going to be Bad Romance or perhaps Poker Face, but there are a couple other choices. If only Disco Stick was available as a DLC for Rock Band 2, that would be truly awesome.

So now you're wondering what happens to me if I lose? First, you shouldn't worry about that because it ain't gonna happen. But if as in a scene from one of the Saw movies, Chuck opts to cut off a body part in order to win, I will be forced to record myself dancing along to Ke$ha's "Tic Toc" from the game Just Dance 2.

I too was supposed to take my own Tshirt & shorts photo (cue the singing of "T-Shirt Time" by those whack jobs on Jersey Shore), but it just so happens that I got an even better photo op last night. One of my Christmas presents for this year arrived yesterday; a new XTERRA wetsuit for our 2011 racing season! It's going to be wrapped up and put under the tree, but I wanted to try it on and see how close I was to being able to wear it.

When did Sea Lions learn to take pictures of themselves?
Now I don't expect the suit to fit properly by 1/1. I need to lose more than 20 pounds to even get it to zip up, I'm sure. But the fact that the Neoprene stretches as much as it does means that I'll definitely be able to lose what it takes to use this suit for the season opener. 

For our official first weigh-ins, I was a stout 321.6, and Chuck was a sprightly 255. We've already both started off with good first steps; Rach and I did a mile in the pool last night, and Chuck walked his dogs a combined 3+ miles this morning. We're going to try to incorporate using our Wii Fitness boards as the official scale of our contest for easy sharing of official weigh in pictures, but I'm waiting for mine to come in before we can do that.

It's going to be a fun month.


- 54:43 seconds to do 1700 yards in the pool last night. I did it as a series of 200 yd reps, with 30 second to 1 minute breaks between. My first long swim in a while and I wasn't really sore after.

- After 1 day, Wheelworks Multisport is leading the Div III clubs in the NCC. I've put it Rach and I's swim totals from yesterday, and that's it so far. Will be interesting to see where we are next Wednesday.

- We ALMOST got up to swim this morning. Need to start heading to bed sooner. I'm not sure whats on the schedule for tonight, but whatever it is, I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fatty throws down the gauntlet

Two days ago, as I was sitting on my couch wallowing in my displeasure at not having done much over the Thanksgiving break, when I saw a post from the Fat Cyclist. He wanted to reverse his annual trend of gaining weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so he's giving away a bunch of stuff for people who want to participate in the process with him. He's just trying to lose 10 pounds before 12/25. A pretty manageable task, really, if you watch what you eat, exercise, and avoid the temptation of comfort food when your body tends to crave it most.

Lately, I've been pretty well motivated (barring Thanksgiving weekend, of course), but seeing as Weight Watchers hasn't jump started my progress, and I've been sort of mired on a plateau for a while, I figure this couldn't hurt. Twice before as part of weight loss contests I've shed weight. Both times I shed enough to win or come very close, and the second time I kept it off as part of my overall weight loss to date. Having a contest I can't lose, but can't win is a little different, but it still gives em something realistic to shoot for. My personal goal is still 299 by 1/1, but any progress at this point would be a positive step.

It must be tough if it has Challenge AND Competition in the name.
It also just so happens that today begins the National Challenge Competition. I've mentioned previously that USA Triathlon has an annual competition for it's clubs (and individual athletes not associated with a club) in order to help us all focus on our off-season training. Clubs are pitted against each other for a series of prizes over 3 months time. Each month will have a focus discipline (swim, bike, run; in the same order as a triathlon), with which special goals and extra incentives are associated. We've got 14 or 15 members of Team Wheelworks participating, including Rach and I. As the teams manager for the contest, I've gotta make sure my results are enough to be a real contributor to our cause.

I got a good start last night, even though we can't count it. 35 minutes on the stationary bike at FitRec with Rach followed by another half hour spent lifting. I didn't do as much weight this time, but more reps, and my arms aren't killing me today so I must have done a better job. I tried a couple of new things, and while there are still a few machines that I don't really understand, I've found enough I know how to use that I can get by for now. I wish the gym had some of the Concept2 ERGs we used in training class. I might wind up needing to join Community Rowing to get in some rowing time.


- 21.6 pounds, 31 days.

- This month is supposed to be swim intensive from a NCC standpoint, but I also need it to be run intensive from a Lowell 1st Run standpoint.