Saturday, December 19, 2009

What a difference 10 degrees can make...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I dislike running on the treadmill. But I tolerate it... And you want to know why? It's because I HATE the cold! It's like my own personal kryptonite... And so it was totally out of character for me when I decided to man-up and try to tough out a run through the cold two days ago on Wednesday.

I figured: I'm a runner now, I'm strong, I'm tough, I've ran 26.2 miles non-stop, I ran hill workouts in 106 degree weather this summer, I CAN DO IT!!! So I put on my gear (1 pair tights, 1 pair warm-up pants, 2 pair sock, 1 long undershirt, 1 t-shirt, 1 hooded sweatshirt, stocking cap, and mittens A.K.A. 1 load of laundry) and headed out into the 26 degrees of winter cold for a nice four miler.

It didn't go so well. The first mile I was freezing. I thought to myself "You'll warm up as you keep moving"... WRONG. I just felt like I was getting colder... and colder and colder. By mile 2 I was starting to get tin-man knees and there wasn't an oil can in sight. My mile 3 I was running on popsicle sticks. By mile 4 I felt like the Encino Man (I'm talking about the part where Pauli Shore finds him frozen in a block of ice, not the part where he's dressed up super cool and riding on a skateboard).

So bottom-line: it was miserable. I was running along and hating it. It was the type of run that made me question why I was doing this in the first place. Made me question what's the point of any of this... That was Wednesday.

Friday, I decided to try again (good thing us runners have such short memories). This time it was 36 degrees instead of 26 degrees but I gotta tell you... What a difference 10 degrees can make! I guess it's the whole freezing point thing... you know, under 32 degrees F, where water vapor freezes like ice-cubes in your lungs, and icicles form on your mustache (if this happens to any of my female readership let me offer my condolences right now). Below freezing, where the body (which is made up of over 50% water), begins to turn into a block of ice. Below freezing, where you can slowly feel yourself dying from hypothermia every step you take... (did i mention that I hate cold).

But 36 degrees. Man! How toasty! I felt great! I whipped out 6+ miles at an 8:05 pace with my heart-rate at 78% of MHR. No treadmills, no El Gordo the trainer, no naked old dudes to avoid... just me and the open road. So I just gotta remember... I HATE the cold, but I LOVE running. So I just got to power through. Keep building that base. Keep working that core. And if I can stick with it, then come spring I should have a frontier of speedy-fast races within my grasp just waiting for me to PR them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Final Weigh-in of the Weight Loss Challenge

Last night I went in for my final weigh-in... 6 weeks of hardcore dieting, excessive exercising. 1 week of eliminating all sodium from my diet. 1 day of hardcore working out in two layers of gym pants and 3 layers of sweatshirts... and it all came down to this :

Week 0 (Nov 2nd): 179.4 lbs, 22.4% body fat, 30 BMI
Week 1 (Nov 9th): 173.6 lbs, 20.2% body fat, 28.9 BMI
Week 2 (Nov 16th): 168.8 lbs, 18% body fat, 27.3 BMI
Week 3 (Nov 23rd): 167.7 lbs, 16.6% body fat, 27.1 BMI
Week 4 (Nov 30th): 166.1 lbs, 16.9% body fat, 26.8 BMI
Week 5 (Dec 7th): 162.9 lbs, 19.8% body fat, 26.3 BMI

Week 6 (Dec 14th): 157.4 lbs, 15.4% body fat, 25.4 BMI

A total weight loss of 12.25%. All in all not bad, but still not enough to win the 500 dollars. Turns out someone had dropped over 40 lbs for an over 20% weight loss. Analyzing my strategy I'm pretty sure i could have squeezed in another 5 or 6 pounds in by adding a little more weight on the initial weigh-in and losing a few more pounds during the 6 weeks, but it still wouldn't have been enough to win.

Also, just to make sure everyone is clear, I didn't actually lose 22 lbs of body weight in 6 weeks. Because first off I "gained" 6-8 pounds on the day of the initial weigh-in by drinking several pounds of water and eating several pounds of food. I Also sweated off an additional 4-6 pounds on the final day of the weigh in... so all in all I lost more like 10-12 lbs during the 6 weeks which is actually a lot more reasonable in terms of healthy weight loss.

I'm a little disappointed I didn't win, but I'm pretty happy about losing the weight. Hopefully I can continue to lose weight over the next couple months. I'm weighing in at around 161 as of this morning, but I'd like to get that down by spring for the sake of my running speed. Judging my before and after shot I'd think I could probably stand to lose another 10 pounds before I get to true running sleekness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nature pic of the month

Totally brief and non-run/exercise related... but I just couldn't resist showing off some of the truly stunning nature photography I captured last night...

just for clarification sake that's my spayed female dog doing the nasty with my spayed female cat... oh man, the fun just doesn't stop around here.

In other news I stepped on the scale at around 162.5 this morning... final weigh-in for the weight loss challenge is tonight. I have all day to sweat off all the extra weight I possibly can (without putting myself into a coma at my wife's request).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tales from the Gym (part 2)

Chapter 2: El Gordo the Fat Trainer

Here follows the second installment of my multiple part "Tales from the Gym"... in my previous entry I discussed my thoughts on the rather liberal nature that some of the older gentleman display themselves in the locker room... (As an addendum to that post I would like to add that they have now taken up dehumidifying their post shower neither-regions with the hair dryers that are conveniently located right next to the locker room scale which I occasionally like to use)...

In this follow up post I would like to change topics and present you with the tale of one of my favorite employees at the gym...

At my gym there is a personal trainer who I call El Gordo (The Fat Man). I call him this because he is obese. Now I don't want to sound fat bias. I've struggled with my own weight from time to time and I can only admire and commend the overweight people at my gym who are working hard to improve their physical condition. That being said, I have to draw the line at fat personal trainer.

How are you supposed to listen to fitness advice from someone who doesn't even follow it himself? Case in point, he is the guy who is in charge of running the weekly weigh-ins and during one of the weigh-ins he was eating a plate of chicken nuggets and fried rice... I mean seriously man? You're eating fried food at a gym while you're supposed to be overseeing a group of people who are participating in a challenge about losing weight?

But what's worse than his obesity is his attitude. I might be able to overlook his portly nature if he brought something else to the table (besides deep fried twinkies, shame on you Good Morning America) but the guy also happens to be the most annoying guy at the gym. He's always goofing around with the patrons, loudly telling inappropriate stories, sitting around on the machines, and stepping out onto the indoor track and conversing with his buddies while people are trying to run. Come on... if anyone should know better it should be a gym employee!

And on a personal note, this is the same guy who keeps telling me I'm overweight because my BMI is over 25, and believes that my body-fat percentage jumped from 16% to 19% in one week even though I lost 4 pounds over that time.

So listen up boys and girls... if you're at the gym running on the treadmill or laying on the benchpress and you here creaking floor boards and a loud and jolly laugh (did I mention he has a really loud and annoying laugh which is nearly constantly erupting from his fat face) you may be in the presents of El Gordo... Be afraid... Be very afraid!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I just got some real bad news.

Okay, lets start with a little back story...

As you may or may not know the country has been going through a bit of a recession and here in Peoria, Illinois where the whole city revolves around Caterpillar it's been pretty hard to miss. Last December I was working for a engineering outsourcing company that dealt primarily with Caterpillar. At that point Caterpillar and in turn the company I was working for began having waves of lay-offs. I remember going into the office everyday, stressed out, wondering if I would be the next one to go. Pretty much all my co-workers felt similarly and lets just say the atmosphere of the office was downright depressing...

Then in March everything changed for me.... One day I came into the office, stressed out, bags under my eyes from lack of sleep caused by anxiety, and I found out that I wouldn't need to come in to work anymore. It was fantastic!!! Not only did it free up about 40-50 hours a week for me to do whatever I wanted but all the stress of possibly getting laid off was lifted... On top of that, the government decided to pay me 10 dollars an hour not to work!

So I decided to start marathon training. Now normally they don't recommend you jumping from 6 miles a week to 40 miles a week in such a short time, but when all you have to do all day is run, stretch, ice, and recover it's actually possible. Over the next few months I improved my running tremendously. I also built a deck, ripped up the carpet in our house and refinished the old wood floors, and remodeled the kitchen. My wife also appreciated how the dishes are always done and the laundry is always clean, folded, and hung.

The marathon came and went so I needed a new way to spend my time. Enter the weight loss challenge. The last few weeks I've been spending about 4 hours a day at the gym doing weight work and cardio circuits and I've been burning upwards of 2000 calories a day just from exercise (not even including the weight lifting)...

Then today I got a call... turns out my dream life is coming to an end.

See a couple days ago my daily routine was rudely interrupted by this little annoyance called a "job interview"... and today I got a call with an offer for a job. I accepted the job immediately and am now dealing with the fact that come January 6 I'm going to have 40-50 less hours a week to exercise and otherwise screw around...

I know you all must feel real pity for me right now... try to be strong (as will I) and we can get through this little set back together.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Road to Recovery

For the last couple weeks I've really gotten serious about doing my ITB stretches multiple times a day, stopping running as soon as I feel even the faintest twinge, and really working the tendon out with a foam roller that I found at my gym (, I'm really falling in love with the foam roller... it hurts like a mutha-f*cka when I'm applying it but the aftermath of feeling my ITB tension release is somewhere close to orgasmic). Still it just didn't seem like it was improving... And just as I was finally starting to let the frustration and self pity of my ITBS get the best of me I received a glimmer of hope in the form of a stellar running workout...

Check it. Today I get on the treadmill ready to try my usual recipe of walking a quarter mile, running a quarter mile, rinse and repeat. So I start running my first mile and when I come to the end of it I realize that I feel great; not even a hint of ITB pain. So I turn up the speed by :34 seconds per mile and decide to try a second mile... finish up the second mile and still not pain so I crank up the pace by another minute per mile and pound out another mile, and then another, and then another... now I'm feeling tired so I back the pace off 30 seconds and proceed to crank out two more miles... for a total of SEVEN MILES!!!!

At that point my ITB still wasn't bothering me, but I was starting to get tired and I figured I had already overdid it by about 5.5 miles so I better stop...

So the tricky part now is to force myself to proceed with caution... I got the ice on right now, and I plan on doing only cross-training tomorrow no matter how great my legs feel or how much I want to run... and after that I have to somehow will myself to take it easy for the next couple weeks. I'm finally on the road to recovery, but I know from experience that it's one road that you don't want to race down.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Week 6 of the Weight Loss Challenge

Last night we once again weighed in for the weight loss challenge at my gym... 5 weeks down, one final week to go.

This previous week did not contain the diet busting temptations of a Thanksgiving feast or the schedule disrupting factors of a 18 hour drive from NYC to Illinois so I expected to have some decent losses. Here's how I did.

Week 0 (Nov 2nd): 179.4 lbs, 22.4% body fat, 30 BMI
Week 1 (Nov 9th): 173.6 lbs, 20.2% body fat, 28.9 BMI
Week 2 (Nov 16th): 168.8 lbs, 18% body fat, 27.3 BMI
Week 3 (Nov 23rd): 167.7 lbs, 16.6% body fat, 27.1 BMI
Week 4 (Nov 30th): 166.1 lbs, 16.9% body fat, 26.8 BMI

Week 5 (Dec 7th): 162.9 lbs, 19.8% body fat, 26.3 BMI

Not bad! I dropped another 3.2 lbs, in spite of the fact that the body fat measuring device tells me that I gained about 3% body fat... I once again told the trainer overseeing the weigh in that their device was completely inaccurate (I tell him this every week) and he once again gave me a dumbfounded stare like I was full of it (he gives me this look every week).

So reviewing the numbers... a 1.9% weight loss for the week and a 9.2% total loss for the competition.

Looks like I'm shooting for under 160 for the final weigh in. During the next week diet is going to be key. I'm going to continue to eat clean, but I'm also going to begin eliminating as much sodium out of my food as possible. I'm guessing that this change alone could allow me to drop several pounds of water weight... looks like I have about 6 days of unsalted boiled chicken breast to look forward to.... groan.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A blog about running???

When I first started this blog I had just finished running the Chicago Marathon. I had just run 26.2 miles straight (no walking, hopping, skipping, jumping) although to be honest there was quite a bit of run-hobbling, grimacing, groaning, and grunting.

My thoughts at the time were: "What's next"... check the URL:

The idea at the time was that now that I had completed a marathon, the next step was to complete another one... except this time I want to do it fast... fast being a relative term of course, but in my case (as for so many others) I'm thinking Boston Qualifying...

And I'm not strictly sticking thinking marathon's either. I want to PR some 5ks, 10ks, 15ks, half-marathons. And on top of that I want to place in my age group. Heck I want to win my age group.... In fact, I'd like to win an entire race (btw anyone know about any obscure races?)

I mean check out my banner... This is supposed to be "the awe-inspiring musings of a midpack recreational runner during his meteoric rise to elite status and beyond!".

I mention all this because I haven't had much to say about running lately. This is because I've been struggling on and off with IBTS for the last 2 months. I've still been getting in some milage (maybe 10-15 a week) but it's been pretty pathetic milage (mostly running a mile or less then walking then running then walking... etc). Mostly I'm just getting frustrated... I really love to run now and I especially love long runs so all this stop and go on the treadmill is driving me crazy.

Fear not though... I realize this is just a shortterm roadblock in a long road of progress and that I'm going to eventually overcome it... just know that I'm looking forward to the days when I can start posting about the killer run I had, or the amusing antidote that happened to me while I was out on the road...

Until then, it's off to the gym for some more treadmill and crosstraining... Blahh!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

One year later...

It's the beginning of December... Significant to me because I suddenly realized that I've been exercising and working out consistently for over a year now. Which caused me to reflect on my epiphany that caused me to exercising in the first place...
It happened on a Sunday afternoon in November. It was one of those brisk Midwest autumn days; the type of day where you just have to be outside. The sun was out and the air was crisp. Sweatshirt weather. My wife and I were out that afternoon enjoying a friendly game of Frisbee golf (my favorite kind of exercise at the time) at Washington Park, near Peoria.

I was teeing off at the third hole. I judged the distance, reached back for a little something extra and let the Frisbee fly. I’m still certain to this day that the Frisbee was sailing on its way to a hole in one if not for the sudden crosswind that caught my Frisbee in mid-trajectory and sent it drifting into that pine tree.

Looking up into the tree I could clearly see my Frisbee secured in the grips of a forked bough about 15 feet up.
“No problem” I thought to myself “I’ll just climb up a couple branches till I get to the one that seized my Frisbee and then shake it out.”

Sounded easy enough. What followed was not a pretty site.

Reaching up I grabbed a low hanging branch and attempted to hoist myself up into the tree. After some extreme and wasted effort I realized that I no longer possessed the strength to pull my own bodyweight up into the tree. No problem though… I next attempted to use the trunk of the tree to walk my legs up to the branch I was hanging from. After some kicking and squirming I was able to walk my legs up onto the branch and wrap my legs around it, all the while hanging on with my hands. I was now dangling from the branch by my arms and legs but still a long ways away from actually climbing into the tree. I spent the next minute squirming and rocking, trying to somehow get the leverage and momentum I need to hoist my bodyweight over the branch and into the tree. Finally I succumbed to defeat. My arms and legs were scraped from the rough bark, I was huffing and out of breath, my self-respect was decimated, and all the while my wife stood by laughing and jeering at me… truly pathetic!

Suddenly I felt old. As a kid I used to climb trees all the time. I didn’t even have to try. I was like a human freakin monkey or something. I even remember climbing a tree or two in college (while possibly being inebriated to boot)… but at some point in my life I had lost that ability. Some unknown morning I had woken up and unbeknownst to me I had lost the physical ability to climb a tree.

It was at that moment as I stood there huffing and puffing, hands on my knees at the base of that tree that I knew it was time to do something about myself. C’mon… I’m about to turn 30! I still have plenty of life to live… but there I was a shell of my formal self… I had let myself become a sedentary, middle-aging, slightly overweight pud… this was NOT OK!!!

Fast forward to today... While I still haven't attempted to climb a tree I'm pretty sure that I could do that with no problem... in fact on somedays I feel like I could probably swing through the forest like Tarzan... But what's really important is how I feel. I used spend my days feeling lethargic, having to force myself to gather the energy to complete even the simplest of tasks. Now I'm full of energy! I'm steadily approaching the age of 31 but feel a lot closer to 21 then when I was turning 30.

I want to say that I feel like a whole new person but really I think it would be more accurate to say that I feel like myself again...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Week 5 of the Weight Loss Challenge

Starting Week 5 of the Weight Loss Challenge... only 2 weeks left.

Thanksgiving provided a bit of a hurdle this week but I still managed to get my cardio in and keep my diet in check for the most part... here's my new stats.

Week 0 (Nov 2nd): 179.4 lbs, 22.4% body fat, 30 BMI
Week 1 (Nov 9th): 173.6 lbs, 20.2% body fat, 28.9 BMI
Week 2 (Nov 16th): 168.8 lbs, 18% body fat, 27.3 BMI
Week 3 (Nov 23rd): 167.7 lbs, 16.6% body fat, 27.1 BMI

Week 4 (Nov 30th): 166.1 lbs, 16.9% body fat, 26.8 BMI

Despite my deep-fried turkey and the literal pound of butter I used while cooking Thanksgiving dinner I still managed to lose some weight although supposedly the body fat percentage went up a little bit??? Still weight loss is weight loss in this competition and I lost another 1% this week and am sitting at 7.4% for the competition...

I have no idea what other people are doing so I'm not sure where I'm sitting but I'm pretty sure I'm really going to have to focus and pull out all the stops for the next two weeks if I want to have any shot at winning the 500 dollar prize.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week 4 of the Weight Loss Challenge

Another Monday, another weigh in... and the results

Week 0 (Nov 2nd): 179.4 lbs, 22.4% body fat, 30 BMI
Week 1 (Nov 9th): 173.6 lbs, 20.2% body fat, 28.9 BMI
Week 2 (Nov 16th): 168.8 lbs, 18% body fat, 27.3 BMI

Week 3 (Nov 23rd): 167.7 lbs, 16.6% body fat, 27.1 BMI

Only lost about a pound this week, a percentage loss of .7% for the week and total percentage loss of 6.5% for the competition. Not bad really considering that I was off diet and exercise for four of the 7 days... Still with Thanksgiving coming up it's important that I really focus the next couple days to at least maintain what I've done so far, and hopefully knock off a few more pounds.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Back on the wagon

It's amazing how easy it is for me to lose focus during a diet. When I'm eating clean I love it... I rarely crave bad foods, I feel healthy and energetic, and I lust for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables... But as soon as I break diet and lets pizza or burgers or chicken wings enter my stomach it turns me all Mr. Hyde and I start drinking out of the deep fryer like a lunatic...

So not surprisingly an impromptu 48 hour adventure to NYC last week caused me to fall off diet hard... It started on Wednesday morning with two McDonald's breakfast burritos (my friend who bought breakfast ate 4 McGridles!!!), culminated with a 12 beer 12 bar Wednesday night tour of lower Manhattan sandwiched between two unfortunate consumptions of unidentified NYC street meat, and ended with a chicken wing and gas station sandwich pit stop. Combine that with a 6 hour Wednesday morning flight, 5 hours of sleep on the floor of a buddies closet sized Manhattan apartment, and an 18 hour partly hungover Thursday morning drive from NYC to Peoria via St. Louis (my friend had extra frequent flyer miles so I flew out to NYC with him to help him drive back a Honda S2000 that he bought on eBay)... Needless to say my body was not happy with me...

I spent Friday recovering physically (laying on the couch all day with my dogs) and Saturday recovering the mental fortitude of the diet (after one last half pound, grass-fed, local farm raised double cheeseburger mmmmm...)

Sunday I finally felt like myself again. In fact with the increased calorie consumption and rest from the daily exercise I felt pretty great. I decided that since I was back on my game I'd head to the gym and make up for some lost time. That's how last nights melee of exercise endurance began...

I started with 1.25 miles on the treadmill with a incline of 3.0 and an 8:34 pace. Then I hoped on the exercise bike for 20 minutes on the random hill setting. I then returned to the treadmill and ran another 1.25 miles this time with an incline of 5.0 and an 8:34 pace. I then got back on the exercise bike for another 20 minute session on the random hill setting. Then I returned to the treadmill and ran 5 miles at a .5 incline at a 8:00 pace. Then back to the exercise bike for one final 20 minute random hill session. And finally capped it off with 3.11 miles on the treadmill with the first 1.61 miles at 7:47 pace and the final 1.5 miles at 7:03 pace.

In the end I had run 10.62 miles, biked 20 miles, and burned about 2000 calories. I was exhausted, my legs were jello, but mentally I felt great! I'm back to craving healthy foods, back on my workout schedule, and back on the wagon... which is crucial because I'll definitely have to hit it extra hard during the next 5 days since I'll be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family this weekend and diet or no diet I'm cutting out all the stops!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Week 3 of the Weight Loss Challenge

Went to the gym last night for another exciting weigh-in... Had the opportunity to literally size up some of my competition as I waited in line to weigh in. There were two ladies in front of me; one a heavier set older lady and one a skinny younger lady. The older lady lost 2 lbs this week even though she "had some bad days". The younger lady went from 127.8 lbs to 127.4 lbs... I think to myself: If this is what all my competition looks like then the 500 dollars is as good as mine!

Then it was my turn to step on the scale... I walked into the weigh in office and El Gordo (the fat trainer) was chowing on some fried rice, cream spinach, and some sort of chicken nuggets... real professional man... but onto my results:

Week 0 (Nov 2nd): 179.4 lbs, 22.4% body fat, 30 BMI
Week 1 (Nov 9th): 173.6 lbs, 20.2% body fat, 28.9 BMI
Week 2 (Nov 16th): 168.8 lbs, 18% body fat, 27.3 BMI

a 2.8% weight loss for the week and a 6.9% total weight loss so far in the competition. Still not confident on the body fat measuring device, but if its even close to right I suppose that it's the real indicator that I actually lost something besides water weight.

So far I've been keeping my diet in the 1500 to 1800 calories a day range and doing about an hour a day of cardio and 45 minutes a day of weight lifting. Up till now the program has been very successful... Yesterday though I finally noticed the calorie restriction and increased exercising starting to take its tole. I started to feel pretty lethargic and low energy as I labored through my workout at the gym... I think that part of the problem is that now that my ITB isn't bothering me anymore I've really upped the running (38 miles last week) and now my body is starting to pay the price.

Luckily I'll be out of town tomorrow and thursday so hopefully I can get in one more good workout today and then use the next two days to allow my body to heal.

There's still 4 more weeks left of the weight loss challenge. I need to continue to lose weight at a fast pace but make sure I don't burn out too early because I know I'll need plenty of reserve at the end for the final push!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Da Great Outdoors

I think I finally turned the corner on my ITBS. I've been running relatively pain free since last Friday. I still feel the reminisce of something going on but it's hard to tell how much of that is real and how much is in my head. Also, I'm not sure if it's a coincidence that the pain went away at the exact time that I started taking Naproxen, but I haven't been brave enough to find out yet by not taking a Naproxen in the morning... I guess I'll save that trial till next week.

But for today's trial... My first attempt to run outside since my walk of shame...

It's a lovely day. The air is a crisp 57 degrees and the sun is out in full force. A beautiful day for a run. I decided to run my 5 mile route; one of my favorites because it's flat and because I ran it so frequently during my marathon training that it provides me with a good benchmark for my performance. I strapped on my Garmin (oh how I've missed you) and headed out the door... The run was fabulous. It was so great to finally run free, away from the constant methodical cycling of the treadmill. I was free to feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I was free to choose my own pace and to speed up and slowdown at will...

Also this was my first real outdoor run since marathon training... and I realized how nice it was to be running simply for the sake of running. I had no concrete goal. No milage I had to reach for the week. No tempo or pace that I had to keep.

I ended up running 5.25 miles pain free and at a good steady base pace (I'm not even going to put how fast it was because it doesn't matter!)...

Sitting here blogging now, shortly after my run I feel exhilarated. I feel that I'm finally starting to get in shape. I'm eager to spend this winter building my base, pushing my fitness, drop some extra pounds, and working my core. I'm excited because my running "career" is just starting and I'm confident that next spring I will be ready to really start competing and setting some PRs!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

MacGyvering the Ipod Sweat Issue

(Quick observation: Don't you think this guy looks a bit like Nitmos?)

Before I start let me just say that I love my Ipod! It has the ability to hold more songs than I'll ever own in my lifetime (My first ever MP3 playing device I owned back in college only held 8 songs). It's orange (go Illini). And it's so damn sleek and cool looking... it's like some kind of alien music playing technology from outer space... or the future... or BOTH!!!! So now that I got that out of the way let me just say...

I HATE MY IPOD... Ever since I got it it's been a pain in my butt. First of all I bought the sports band so I could listen to it while running... Works great except the plastic cover of the band was so thick I couldn't adjust the volume control. Also, the sports band wicks sweat right into the Ipod. Turns out that Ipod's are not intended to be dunked in water and let me tell you... after a run on a hot summer day I'd probably be better off dunking the Ipod in water instead of having it strapped to my sweaty arm.

Luckily my Ipod has not sustained any extreme damage yet... so far the only thing that's malfunctioned is that the lock button doesn't function anymore. Not too much of an issue except that when it gets sweaty the Ipod suddenly goes into permanent lock mode and I can't use it until it dries out.

Another problem I have is with the ear buds. I can never get the apple issued ear bugs to stay in my ear while running. After trying multiple pairs I finally found that the 10 dollar pair of Maxwell brand headphones they sell at Walmart work great for me... only problem with them is that all the jostling and bouncing from running tends to wear out the wiring at the point where the head phones wire connect to the 1/4 inch jack, so after about a month of use either the left side or the right side of the headphones inevitably cuts out...

I've been battling these problems for about 6 months now so I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and called on my inner MacGyver.

First off I took a pair of scissors and cut a circular hole into the plastic of my Ipod arm band so that I could access the volume control. Next I took some electrical tape and reenforced the connection of my headphones before looping the headphone wire back around and taping it in place so as to remove the stress from the joint where the wiring meets the quarter inch jack. Finally I took a zip-lock back and tightly wrapped my Ipod in it. I then cut the bag off to size and used painters tape (only tape I had handy at the time i.e. Macgyver style) to seal the cut ziplock bag tightly around my Ipod.

And like that all my problems are solved... either than or the tape will speed up the degradation of the headphones, the Ipod armband will tear apart due to the hole I cut, and moisture will slowly seep into the ziplock bag through the hole where the headphone jack plugs in and over time will retain enough sweat that my problem will be worse than before I messed with the stuff... on top of that my warranties will all be voided and I'll be out 200 bucks... oh well, either way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

God Bless Naproxen (5.5 miles!)

Huge accomplishment in my marathon/ITBS recovery progress today. I ran 5.5 miles non-stop at 8:20 pace... and I had to stop at 5.5 not because my ITB was hurting but because a tendon in my foot started bothering me. Not too worried about the foot tendon but I figured I better stop while I'm ahead.

I guess it's either healing on its own or it's the Aleve I'm taking... I've always been an Ibuprofen man but it seems like Naproxen might be the way to go.

At this rate I might even get in a couple more runs outdoors before winter (fingers crossed)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Week 2 of the Weight Loss Challenge

A week after the first weigh-in we returned to the gym for our weekly update. I stacked on so much weight last week that I knew that I was in for a big weight loss... in fact I didn't want it to be too extreme so I made sure to drink a bunch of water right before I was scheduled to weigh in... and the results.

Week 0 (Nov 2nd): 179.4 lbs, 22.4% body fat, 30 BMI
Week 1 (Nov 9th): 173.6 lbs 20.2% body fat, 28.9 BMI

a 3.25% weight loss for the week and a 3.25% total weight loss... not a bad start really, especially if the 2% body fat loss were really true (which I question since I still don't trust the measurement device).

Also in a more running related note I actually got 6 miles in yesterday... It was 2 miles run, 1 mile walk, 1.5 mile run, 1 mile walk, 1.5 mile run, .5 mile walk, 1 mile run... although I had to stop and walk to keep my ITB from flaring up it was still nice just to get that much time on my feet... not sure how the interval running compares to running non-stop but I'm really hoping that getting the milage in anyway I can will ultimately help me preserve my fitness. Also since I've been doing all this running on a treadmill (booooo!!!!) I've been taking full advantage of the incline setting. Yesterdays run/walk was all performed between 2%-5% incline so hopefully I'll come off the back side of this injury with tons of leg strength!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Weekend at the IHSA Cross-Country Championships

Over the weekend the Illinois state high school cross-country championships took place in Peoria, Il and since I currently live in Peoria I figured I'd head down to Detwiller park and check out some of the future elites in action.

It was a beautiful day for spectating; 73 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze. Possibly a little warm for racing.

I'm not much for nostalgia normally but being there among all the spectators and teams definitely took me back to my old cross-country days.

I arrived just in time to catch the start of the girls 2A race where the lone competitor from my Alma Mater, Carbondale Community High School, Junior Lacey Gibson was competing. She wound up finishing 47th place with a time of 19:21 on the 2.5 mile course!!! Definitely a great achievement for her and hopefully something she can improve on next year.

Next up was the boys 2A race which turned out to be one of the wildest races of the day. The gun went off and within the first mile the lead pack had dwindled down to about 5 boys. At this point local runner CJ Elward decided to make courageous and unexpected move. He pulled away and created a huge gap between himself and the 2nd place challenger. By the two mile mark he had a 14 second lead (about 100 meters). By the 2.5 mile mark he was still maintaining his lead but was noticeably fatigued. With 400 meters left Elward still had a 10 second lead but by now he was weaving back and forth, unable to run a straight line, and stumbling into fences and trees. With 200 meters left the challenger, Paul Zeman, shot past him and finished strong for the title in a time of 15:09. Meanwhile CJ Elward did all he could just to keep himself upward and moving forward as he was passed by 70 more runners and wound up 72nd place.

Later Elward said that he had blacked out and didn't even remember finishing. It was a heart breaker of a race but also amazing to watch. The poor kid gave it his all, and I have to commend him for his courageous tactics of trying to run away with the state title with 2 miles left in the race. In the end the heat got to him and he fell short of his goal. Truly a heartbreaker and I'm sure he'll be devastated for a long time. Hopefully he'll continue to compete in college and will have some more great races to help him put this day of regrets behind him.

The premiere race of the day was the boys 3A race. The gun went off and similarly to the 2A race the lead runner, Sophomore runner Lukas Verzbicas, had opened up a sizable lead over the competition. However, unlike the 2A race there were no expectations of anyone catching Verzbicas. The real story line was whether or not Verzbicas would be able to break the state course record of 13:50.6 set in 1972 by Olympian and National Champion Craig Virgin.

Lukas took off at a blistering 4:32 first mile but in the end couldn't maintain it and finished in 14:07. Of course he already owns the junior record for the indoor 5k of 14:18, he won the junior triathlon last year, and he's only a sophomore, so hopefully he'll have two more shots to break the record.

Verzbicas is hoping to compete in the 2012 olympics as a triathlete but says he could potentially focus on running if his times improve enough that he'd be able to challenge the East Africans. Either way its going to be exciting to see what this kid can do in the future.

Overall it was an exciting and motivational weekend for me. It gave me some slight pangs of regret that I never had the focus or drive to put in the training I would have needed to get me to the state cross-country meet when I was in high school. I came close to making it twice (5 seconds short as a sophomore after running the race of my life, and 15 seconds short as a senior after running a terrible race) but it never really mattered quite enough to me at the time.

Luckily I still have many great years of running ahead of me and many new challenges. Many old PRs to attain again and many new PRs to set.

I might never be in the olympics but I'd at least like to break 20 min in the 5k again (and then 19 and 18 and possibly 17???)... And I hope that I can someday get that marathon time under 3:30 (then 3:20, then 3:10 and off to Boston, and possibly 3:00???)...

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Dangers of Competitive Dieting?

Competitive dieting: It's the antithesis of competitive eating which makes me the Bizarro-Kobayashi.

Now I think I have a pretty good understanding of how a healthy diet should work. To put it simply make sure that calories in are less then calories out and every 3500 calories you burn you'll lose a pound (I count my calories using's calorie counter which you can find here)... Other tips are to eat smaller portions more times a day to keep your metabolism up and to prevent you from getting too hungry. You should also drink more water which will make you feel full and help your body flush some of the waste your burning. Some diets also recommend focusing on increased protein consumption but as a runner I need my carbs so I pretty much ignore that one...If you want to do it safely it's usually recommended that you aim to lose about 1 to 2 lbs a week until you hit your goal weight.

Now you can throw that last tip out the window because this isn't about safely losing weight... it's about losing as much weight as you possibly can in 6 weeks!!! Hey, maybe this competitive diet thing isn't really the marvelous pathway to a healthy lifestyle that people all around the country believe it to be.

A quick google search led me to this blog that outlines some of the dangers of competitive eating and obsessive dieting.

Like anything, it really comes down to moderation... Obesity may be an epidemic, but when it comes down to it, it's probably much healthier to be a little bit overweight then to be anorexic or bulimic.

Of course I'm a marathon runner so moderation isn't in my vocabulary and I'm going to dominate this competition... in which case it comes down to is limits... I have enough faith in my knowledge of exercise and nutrition that I feel like I can push myself to the limit without going over the line and causing myself any damage. But a lot of people aren't as informed as I think I am and they may fail to recognize the dangers in competitive dieting. I mean when people tune in every week to watch the Biggest Loser on NBC the message they're getting is that rapid weight loss = healthiness and happiness.

On a more local level I'm worried for some of the people who are in my personal weight loss competition. From the weigh in it appeared to be mostly middle-aged overweight housewives who probably are not well educated about what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. Then when the trainer at the gym who's running the competition says that I'm obese because my BMI is over 30 then it really makes me worry (sorry I keep ranting about the BMI thing but ignorance really bothers me, especially when its coming from someone who's supposed to know better... looks like I'm going to have to do a post about BMI). Oh well, hopefully no one gets hurt during the competition.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tales from the Gym (part 1)

It's getting cold and I'm running injured so consequently I've been spending way more time than I'd like to at the gym... now don't get me wrong... I love working out, but my gym is a bit creepy. Unfortunately it's two blocks from my house, cheaply priced, decently equipped, and has an indoor track and racquetball courts so for better or worse I'm stuck with it...

but still like I said... it's creepy... so I decided to write a multipart series explaining why...

Chapter 1: Attention Members:

In my gym, much like in gyms all across America there is a locker room. I try to avoid this locker room for the most part but it does contain the bathrooms, the scale, and the sinks so I do find myself forced to venture in there every once in a while. Now, I think that most male locker rooms contain a fair share of full frontal male nudity... it's pretty much an unavoidable fact of life... I've come to accept that fact... I mean, I'm a mature adult... I can handle a few naked men changing, showering, etc as long as we can all look the other way and mind our own business. Unfortunately some of the members of my gym must have different ideas of what proper locker room etiquette is... for in my gym there is a sign that read:

Attention Members: In respect for our other guests please wear proper gym attire or other attire while sitting on the chairs in the tv room. Thank you.

Now there's a couple things wrong with the sign... First off, why is there a tv room in the locker room to begin with? Do people really need to sit around the stinky locker room just to watch tv? And given that there is a tv room, why do we need a sign asking us to not watch tv naked in the public locker room? Why would anybody do that?... and to the people who do that... Why don't you read the damn sign???

Yes, that's right... More often then not there is some naked old fat guy (or guys) sitting in there in his birthday suit watching tv without a care in the world... What I can't understand is why? Does he tell his wife that he's going to the gym to workout and then hide in the locker room naked and exposed watching tv... I can't even begin to fathom it (or fathom the idea of sitting in one of those chairs after they've been thoroughly slathered by old man balls!!!)

And here's another question... Why does the tv room have to be situated in direct view of the locker room entrance? Needless to say you can't walk into my gym's locker room with out getting an eyeful of the above pictured bird.

I mean like I said, it's an inevitable fact of the men's locker room... and there seems to be an direct relationship between how old and hairy you are and how comfortable you are with your own naked body (and how much you're willing to exhibit that comfort to others).

Oh well, could be worse... and let me tell you how: One time I walked into the sauna of the Southern Illinois University rec center (ok my bad for going in there)... and you're not going to believe this (wait for it)... but there was actually a big fat (like 350+ lbs) black guy (not that it matters if he was white or black but I want to make sure that everyone gets a clear picture of this in their heads) and that guy was shaving his balls with a Bic razor (well some kind of safety razor at least. I didn't actually stick around long enough, or inspect close enough to determine the brand name of the razor)... So I guess I should thank my lucky stars that geriatric exhibitionist television watchers is all I have to deal with at my current gym.

Alright... well that was a lot I had to get off my chest (chestnuts??? Dr. Dre: The Chronic circa 1993). Thus ends the first horrific tale of my multipart series "Tales from the Gym"... be afraid... be very afraid!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I'm a big loser!!!

There's a weight loss competition at my gym and first place is 500 buck so my wife and I figured we might as well give it a shot.

The contest is 6 weeks in length with weigh ins every Monday night and the person who loses the highest percentage of weight wins.

I spent all day yesterday preparing for the weigh in by drinking plenty of water, eating salty foods, and topping it all off with a 1.5 lb steak and giant baked potato. Bloated and ready to pop I stepped onto the scale and weighed in at a robust 179.4 lbs.

They also measured my body fat percentage using this nifty little device.

You use it by holding it in both hands and it sends a small electrical signal through your body and calculates your body fat based on the resistance. It figured my body fat percentage to be 22.3%. The trainer at the gym who was performing the measurements then informed me that my BMI was 30 which means that I'm obese!!!

To be honest, I'm skeptical about that body fat percentage and I've always thought the BMI is a crock of shit. Maybe I'm just in denial.

Anyway, I already exercise everyday but I'm going to step it up even more. More importantly I'm going to start counting calories and cleaning up my diet. I'll post updates every week and hopefully by the end of this whole experience I'll be 500 dollars richer and at a more optimal running weight.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Too hot to handle!!!

This picture just about epitomizes my last week of work outs at the gym... Embarrassing (em-bare-assing), grueling, and just a wee bit homo-erotic. Judging by Lance's facial expression I'm guessing that bike has a banana seat...

Seriously though... being injured sucks. And coming back from injury hasn't been easy. In spite of my bitching and whining though I really shouldn't complain. The upside of my workouts really aren't that bad. In fact I'm starting to get fired up like a dog that ate gunpowder...

I still managed to squeeze in 11 miles of running this week... yesterday I tried a new strategy of running a mile, riding the bike 20 minutes, running another mile, riding the bike 20 more minutes and then running one more mile and it seemed to work ok... Then today I ran 3 miles non-stop on the treadmill increasing the incline by 1 level after each mile so that I was working slightly different muscle groups. This seemed to work as well although as I started my fourth mile I could tell that the pain was coming so I decided to stop pushing my luck before it caught up to me.

On top of the running I've been spending about 30+ minutes a day on the exercise bike and another 30 minutes a day in the weight room. Hitting the abs like never before; I think I might even be developing a six pack somewhere underneath my beer belly.

I've also been stretching like a mad man... hitting every position, angle, leg muscle, and tendon... I'm on that Van Dam shit!!!

So while my running my be suffering, hopefully my overall fitness is improving, and when I finally come back I'm gonna come back leaner, meaner, and a whole lot sexier...

Just try to tell me that ain't hot!!! Word out!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Walk of shame

After my successful 3 miler on the treadmill I decided it was time to take this show on the road.

Its starting to get a bit chilly but its not bad enough that the gym presents the better option plus I was excited to get in my first real run since my marathon.

I wanted to look my best so I geared up in my black striped adidas pants and hooded sweatshirt. Then I laced up my kicks, strapped my i-pod to my arm and queued up some hip tuneage... Before I heading out I did a quick pirouette in front of the mirror... 3 words: fitness jogger sheik!

I stepped out the door and I was off. Like a gazelle I glided effortlessly; feet kissing the pavement with each elegant stride. I floated like a free spirit. About 1 mile into the run I looked down at my Garmin: 7:30 pace... and it felt like a slow jog! I had planned on doing 3 miles but this felt amazing... maybe I'd do 4 or maybe even 5?

About a half mile later I felt it. The tightening of the knee. It gripped my leg and I had to stop. I walked a few feet, did a few stretches, and I felt better. I started to stride again... 5 steps later and the leg locks up again. No dice. I spend my next half mile run walking till I finally concede to the fact that it just isn't going to happen today.

As if on queue the slow drizzle of rain starts... Perfect, looks like I'm gonna have to walk my pathetic ass home in the rain. I pull up my hood and hang my head as I start my walk of shame. The cars speed by me as I slowly amble down the sidewalk. I imagine each driver looking at me in my jogging gear and I-pod and thinking "Guess that guy bit of more than he could chew, ehh?... must of fancied himself some kind of athlete."

As I walk another runner passes me going the opposite direction. I turn my head from his judgmental stare. Finally I'm home. Out of the cold, the rain, and the shame.

I guess I was a little premature about my leg feeling better... looks like I'm sticking to the treadmill and exercise bike for a while. You can't get stranded on a treadmill.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Treadmill running

Good news is I finally got a relatively pain free run in... 3 miles!!! Bad news is that I had to accomplish it on a treadmill.

I know a lot of people aren't big fans of treadmill running... I mean us runners have enough of a hard time explaining why we would wake up early on a Sunday to run for 20 miles and in the end wind up at the same place where we started, but my treadmill issues run deeper than the normal hamster wheel syndrome...

I'm not sure if anyone remembers Jim Carrey impersonating a velociraptor back in his "In Living Color" days but if you do you'd have a pretty good impression of how I look on a treadmill... see simulation below

Notice how the creatures arms are held up high and right in front of its chest? Yep, that's me... See my problem is that I have an unreasonable phobia that at any given moment I'm going to go flying off the back of the treadmill (must of watched too much America's Funniest Videos as a child). To counteract my fear I wind up running as close to the front of the treadmill as possible and because I'm short, 5' 8" (read 5' 6"), if I don't raise my hands up into velociraptor form I wind up banging my knuckles against the treadmill hand grips... The result is not graceful, dynamic, or comfortable!!!

Unfortunately, since I live in the Mid-west and hate going outside when the weather dips below 50 degrees it looks like I'm going to have to overcome my fears... either that or come to terms with my inner velociraptor.

To round out this post I leave you with a Youtube video of my greatest nightmare!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Come on ride dat' train

An unsympathetic A-hole once said “If life gives you lemons make lemonade”… I guess that person must of assumed that the receiver of said lemons was conveniently in possession of a pitcher, ice, water, sugar, a mixing spoon, and some glasses… thanks a lot Marie Antoinette but sometimes making lemonade is not a viable option! However, since I'm first and foremost an optimist, I decided that it was the sentiment that counted...

Recently I've received a "lemon" in my running life in the form of ITB pain. Ever since the last 4 miles of my Chicago marathon I haven't been able to run without my right knee tightening up. The frustrating part is that I just completed a marathon, am in the best shape I've been in for a while, and am hungry to start logging miles and reaching for higher aspirations. But as I said, I'm foremost an optimist, so I figured that instead of getting down about my inability to run I'd instead use it as an opportunity to ride dat' train... the cross-train!

So I dug up my long neglect gym-pass and headed to the gym. As I entered the gym I immediately remembered why I enjoyed running outside so much better (my gym is interesting to say the least... I won't go into any specifics today but I'm thinking that it's worthy of it's own post)... so anyway, I made way to the exercise bike and cranked out a 30 minute workout. I brought along a book to read while I biked (now there's something you can't do while running), I worked up a good sweat, and I got my heart-rate up to about the 70% range (better than nothing)... After that I hit the weight room for some upper-body and core work... nothing to fancy but all in all it was a good experience...

I hope to continue to incorporate cross-training (especially strength training) into my workouts even after I can start running again. I'm hoping to tighten myself up and drop a few pounds to help me increase my pace and I'm thinking that some full-body weight work could really help my metabolism. So I'm riding that cross-train to greatness... All aboard. Next stop Championville!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Running yourself right out of shape…

I just had my eyes opened to a sudden and disturbing realization… I had been living under the false assumption that by running I could get in shape and further more the more I ran the better shape I would be in. And furthermore from all my previous experiences I’ve found this to be more or less true… to a certain point… and that point is 26.2 miles.

18 weeks of training, 530 mile of training, plus one marathon later and I’m in worse shape than I was when I started. For the first couple days after the marathon I was hard pressed to even climb up stairs, a task that I had previously thought I had completely mastered since the age of 3. The following few days I could finally walk again as long as it wasn’t any farther than the mailbox (and it wasn’t easy either, but those Netflix movies weren’t going to watch themselves)…

Finally after a week of whining, complaining, and self-pity I finally get out the door for a run. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is out, the birds are chirping. This is going to be great I think to myself… WRONG!!!! 1.25 miles in and my knee feels all Tanya Hardinged… Come on! My first training run was 3 miles… So now I’m in worse shape than before I even started running.

Oh well, if I can’t train at least I can still say my prayers and eat my vitamins…

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chapter 1: Man on a Mission

Okay… let’s start out by bringing everyone up to speed…

A little over four months ago I started training for the Chicago marathon. Because I was cocky and impatient I decided on using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate program as my training plan even though I wasn’t running anywhere near the suggested base level of 20-25 miles a week when I started (more like 6 miles a week on a good week and zero on a normal week). Despite my lack of initial conditioning I jumped right into the program and after struggling with fatigue for the first several weeks my arrogance paid off and I was able to complete my training regiment (which BTW I diligently documented on my 2009 Chicago Marathon training blog).

After 4 months of training I arrived at the marathon about as prepared as you could expect from only 4 months of training. I started off strong but wilted in the end and was unable to reach my goal time. Although I completed the distance (primary goal) and ran the whole way (secondary goal) the race ultimately left me unsatisfied. I had valiantly battled the monster that is 26.2 but in the end the monster had won.

…Fast forward to now…

I knew when I started training for the marathon that I was starting on a journey. Over the course of the journey I’ve learned a lot; a lot about the sport, about training, and about discipline and determination. I’ve learned something about the virtues of patience and I was taught a lesson in humility.

What I didn’t know when I started my training is that the journey doesn’t end at the marathon; at least it doesn’t have to. I’ve learned a lot about myself but I haven’t yet reached my limits. The marathon left me hungry for more. I knew when I crossed that finish line that I must continue my journey and continue my learning. I must aspire for more! I must fulfill my destiny and become a champion!