Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Of weights and weight loss

More than two weeks into 100 days of weight loss.  So far I have not been able to report any drastic weight loss, I'm basically stuck at around 170, but it could have been worse.  I think the best thing I have done so far is to start logging food intake again on Fitday - I know that in time, considering my exercise frequency and duration, the weight will come off.

Right now I'm hopefully building some new muscle thanks to Frank at Fast Results Fitness.  He has really put me through the wringer lately with some very tough workouts including the '300' workout which was used for the movie of the same name, to get the actors into 100% ripped state.  I can see why it worked; my hamstrings were shredded for nearly 3 days after the workout! All the weight-lifting is helping to bulk up the shoulders and pecs, but it is no good for weight loss.  Will just have to be patient I guess.

Day 17 of 100 Days of Weight Loss is about turning around the old rule of never wasting food by eating everything on your plate.  Rather look at it like this:  every time you eat food your body doesn't need, you are wasting it.  So you can get rid of leftover food by throwing it away or eating it; either way it is wasted.  Of course there is a third option:  keep it as leftovers or freeze it for another day. 

Weight this morning:  171
Body fat percentage:  22%

Dec 27 recap:
5 mile tempo run with the dogs along Buffalo Bayou
50-minute upper body and arms workout with Frank

Bert's Fitday Journal

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Back to work

Well it is back to work in more ways than one.  Back to the office and also back to 100 Days of Weight Loss.  What with family dinners, movie outings, pizza nights and so on, I have not been too diligent the last few days, although I have kept up logging all meals on Fitday.

Weight is stable which is about as much as I can expect right now,  and running is going pretty well despite on-going issues with plantar fasciitis in the left foot.  It does seem to be improving although I don't want to say that too loudly!

Santa brought me another pair of bright orange Saucony Kinvaras - this is my second pair so hopefully the calves have now figured out that the ground is closer than when we ran with the old-school heavy heel support shoes.

Last three days of 100 Days of Weight Loss emphasized the following:

*  Don't skip meals or save up calories for a later meal
*  If you have a problem with late-day eating (me, me!), take a look at what you did earlier in the day. Eat a proper breakfast and eat a snack sometimes around 3 or 4 pm.
*  Taste sensation of food is strongest for the first two bites; you rarely need to eat more than that to obtain maximum value for your taste buds.  The rest is just feeding

Day 16 (today) is about the nurturing  power of food.  When you're feeling stressed or sad or lonely, food seems to make you feel better.  It may calm your anger or anxiety and lift your spirit. What is important is that - just like the taste sensation - you will get maximum benefit with just a couple of bites.  Two bites of a small chocolate chip cookie is likely all it will take to right your emotional ship. You don't really need to scarf down a whole boatload of them. 

To summarize:
10 miles on Saturday, 5 on Sunday and 4 on Monday.
Weight:  171
Body fat percentage:  21%

Bert's Fitday Journal

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fuel or filler food?

My personal trainer warned me that my weight may actually increase due to the additional (4th) session per week and because we are getting into some heavier weights.  I guess he is right; I am up a bit this morning, but bodyfat percentage is the same.  Will just have to see how it goes next week.

Day 12 of the 100 Days of Weight Loss is about checking whether we are taking in quality fuel which provides solid nutritional content with limited amount of fat, sugar and empty calories, or filler which add extra calories but minimal nutrients.

If you do a lot of running and physical training you pretty much 'get' the relationship between quality fuel food and performance.  If I don't get my 1100A carbohydrate snack, I often don't have a good noon workout; I might feel a bit weak, even slightly dizzy.  And of course the same thing on a long run, just much more pronounced.

My problem isn't emotional eating either, I don't think.  Although I must admit to the occasional eating binge when I am stressed or unhappy for whatever reason.  My real problem has to do with the so-called 'fun or filler foods':  mostly sugar in one or other form, bread, snacks (nuts and peanuts) as well as wine and beer.  It is the season and one can't be a total grinch.  So there will be a couple of beers here and there, and a few helpings of snacks.  They will go on the record on Fitday and I will just have to work them off on the long runs!

Weight this morning: 171
Body fact percentage:  20%

Dec 22:
Running:  6 easy miles with the dogs along the Bayou.  Left foot plantar fasciitis still an area of concern.  Going for another Airrosti treatment on Dec 23
Personal trainer:  1 hr fairly intensive workout with bench presses, pikes, shrugs, chest, triceps and abs.

Bert's Fitday Journal

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Back to calorie counting

Don't you just love those diet programs which promise massive and quick weight loss seemingly with no effort.  Lose weight while you sleep, eat all you want, no exercise required.  Sign me up! But wait a minute.  If that is all it takes, why am I still seeing so many overweight and obese people everywhere?  Why are hundreds of thousands of people resorting to extreme measures such as liposuction and even bariatric surgery?   Clearly society as a whole will never wake up to the fact that there is no magic bullet, no little blue pill, no powdery substance and no gadget that gets delivered by UPS, that will shed your pounds for you.  It's all you and only you.  You and your will-power, you and your motivation.  Do you really want to look and feel great, or are you really happier hiding behind an extra 20 or 30 or heavens forbid 100 lbs of fat?  Is it just less effort to give in to temptation and eat the whole packet of chips rather than just a few, or maybe none?

Day 11 of the 100 days of weight loss is a timely reminder for me that one should eat for only two reasons, being to fuel your body and to appreciate flavor.  The author recommends a minimum of three 'fuel stops' per day, with a couple of mini-stops in-between.  Regular planned fuel stops during the day will improve your energy and focus and will help to avoid the deadliest of all diet pitfalls, unplanned snacking.

Although I am committed to seeing this program through, I'm having difficulty figuring out how many calories I am really getting in.  Even the tiniest handful of 'healthy' snacks such as peanuts can bump up a day's calorie count by a surprisingly large number.  How many?  A measly 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts packs a whopping 200 calories. Pita bread and hummus sound like they belong on a serious dieter's plate but watch out: a serving of hummus (2 TB) contains about 70 calories and let's face it, very few of us are going to have just 2 Tablespoons.  Add in a few pieces of pita bread and before you know it there's 400 calories down the hatch. 

The only way to be sure - or at least get an accurate estimate of daily intake - is to count calories on one of the online programs such as Fitday.  It takes a few minutes every day but once you have all your 'regular' foods in the rotation, it is not too much of a hassle.  Rather spend a few minutes every day now than hours of exercise and effort next year and the year after, to get rid of excess weight.

So for the last few days I have been getting going again on Fitday; still not quite there but getting back into the swing of measuring and weighing portions and ingredients.  If you are really curious, there is a link below. 

Weight this morning: 170
Body fat percentage: 21%

Dec 21:
Running:  5 miles with Kathleen and 'the boys' along Buffalo Bayou.  Kath is in week 1 of training for the Boston Marathon which will be in April 2012.
Calories consumed:  1,630

Bert's Fitday Journal

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

There is no luck in being a healthy weight

Day 10 of the 100 Days of Weight Loss is about appreciating good support.  I really don't have a problem with that: when it comes to my weight I am always happy to receive a compliment and to thank the person appropriately.  Only because I know only too well how hard it is for most (all?) of us.  People can sometimes underestimate the effort by dismissing someone's trim figure by saying something silly like " are so lucky to be thin, you never gain weight."  There is no luck involved.  There may be an isolated case here and there of someone with an overly high metabolism but mostly appropriate weight is a result of a healthy lifestyle with good food choices & quantities and plenty of exercise. Consistent small effort, plugging away day after day.  And yes there's going to be an occasional lapse.  But just like any other on-going relationship or even a business endeavor, you just have to shake off the occasional misstep and stay focused on the goal. 

Last night's run was an easy 4 miles with the two Boxers, from the house across Beltway 8 and then along Buffalo Bayou, turning around at Wilcrest.  When it is not wet, I usually take the dirt/gravel trail - much to the dogs delight as it gives them ample opportunity to look for living creatures and to revel in the myriad of smells which they are able to detect. Fortunately my human sense of smell is not nearly as well-developed otherwise the run might not be as much fun.  Too many other dogs around.

Weight this morning:  170

Body fat percentage:  20%
Dec 20:

Running:  4 X mile easy
45-minute gym workout, mostly legs (squats), pushups and bench-presses.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Steady as she goes

Even after just a little more than a week, I am starting to feel a difference.  Body fat percentage is down to 20% and my pants are a little less tight around the middle. Maybe I won't have to go back to the tailor to have them all taken out again... Perish the thought.

Day 9 on the program is about what you want in terms of feedback/support from others.  I guess most people are reluctant to comment on potentially touchy subject such as body weight, but it is the rare person who does not feel good when complimented on weight loss.  Assuming that there is an ongoing relationship of some kind, such as being family, friends or running buddies. Of course us runners can rarely be too skinny: and I'm not referring to just the super elite athletes either.   I am sure if you look around in your own running group, you'll notice that the perennial age group winners, the 'runners of the year', the Boston qualifiers etc have several things in common.  They love running, they log more miles than the rest of us and they don't carry a lot of extra blubber around.

Weight this morning:  170
Body fat percentage: 20% 

Dec 19:

6 mile run with Leopold and Lewis along the Bayou.  They love chasing rabbits - it gets hectic when they are trying to do this while I have both of them on a split leash. The trick is for me to see the rabbit first so that I am not surprised when they bolt after it.

1-hr workout with the PT.  Plenty of upper-body exercises with weights, resistance bands and machines.

Bert's Fitday Journal

Monday, December 19, 2011

One week and counting

Day 8 of the 100 Days of Weight Loss means that one week has gone by:  2 pounds down and a few percentage points lower on the body fat scale.  Not too shabby. 

Of course this is the easy part, the low-hanging fruit.  Things are bound to get tough as time goes by but for now I am happy with the progress and thankful for the support.  Fortunately I have no one around here who will snatch my plate away, give me a lecture about what I can or cannot eat, and so on. 

To the contrary they are quite supportive – my wife is always the first one to hand out a compliment (I could follow her example) and once she figures out that I am on a ‘serious’ streak, she cuts down on the junk food purchases. 

We had a really nice dinner tonight – Ribolita Soup - from 1000 Vegan recipes.  It is a hearty Italian soup with lots of vegetables including cabbage, kale, carrots, red onion and potato.  Hearty because of the inclusion of a couple of cans of Great Northern Beans. It was really excellent – very filling and I am sure not too calorific. 

My diet has been much improved the last few days; keeping track on Fitday definitely helps.

Dec 18:
Weight this morning:  171
Body fact:  21%
Running:  4 miles easy with the dogs

Coming soon:  'before' pic

You can do it

D    Day 7 of 100 days of weight loss is all about motivation and affirmation:  I can do it!  I know I can lose weight – I’ve done it many times before and have gone down to 160 lbs quite often.  That of course, is not the problem.  The problem is sticking with the program.  When you’re on a ‘diet’ you’re doing one the following:        
  • losing weight,
  • maintaining
  • or gaining. 
Gaining is as easy as falling off a log.  Losing can be incredibly hard, even for people like runners who often burn off hundreds of calories a day.  Many of us  come to think that we have a license to eat pretty much anything we like, because of all the exercise. Of course that is not so.  Unless you are an ultra-marathoner who runs 100+ miles per week, you are going to have to watch your intake, otherwise   you will be adding weight.

So my job this week will be to make sure that the intake does not exceed the calorie burn from exercise and day to day activities.

Dec 17: 
Weight 171
Body fat: 21%
Miles run:  15 easy with Striders
Additional exercise:  40 minutes boxing/abs

 Bert's Fitday Journal

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Charlize Theron in Young Adult

South-African born Charlize Theron is excellent  in Young Adult, the new Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody movie which Kathleen and I saw at the recently opened Sundance movie theater downtown, last night.

The Sundance will in future be our default movie theater:  easy and free parking, good seats, excellent sound quality and unlike the old Angelika we were not steaming hot in there either.  I liked being able to buy a decent beer on tap - St. Arnold's Christmas Ale at $6 a pint - before the movie.  Yes the movie theater tickets cost a little more but who needs the crowds and the texting teenagers at the mall megaplexes.  Best feature: being able to pre-book and pay for designated tickets online, print out the 'ticket' and go straight in.  It doesn't make much sense (such as for the River Oaks) to pre-pay for tickets and then still have to go and stand in a huge line and MAYBE get a decent seat.  At Sundance you know in advance where you will be seated. Haven't tried the food yet but it looks pretty decent.

But back to the movie.  Diablo Cody - who broke through with 'Juno' a few years ago - comes up with another bitingly funny script about a depressed thirstysomething ghost writer who gets into one awful mess when she tries to re-connect with an old high school flame.  This is not the movie for your visiting mother-in-law or grandfather.  From observing Theron's character Mavis Gary's rather inadvisable personal habits and lifestyle to being in the middle of an excruciatingly painful scene when she has to confront past and present demons,  this is a rewarding but certainly not fun movie experience.  Both Theron and Patton Oswalt - in the role of a geeky former schoolmate who recognizes right away that Mavis is headed for disaster - deliver standout performances worthy of recognition. 

So yes I'd recommend a trip to your neighborhood art house movie to see Young Adult, but only if you are into pitch black comedy and you can handle your laughs delivered with a bit of bile on the side.

It's all about protection

Day 6 of 100 days of weight loss is about protecting your healthy eating program.  Not depending on others to help you be successful, or blaming them when you fail, but to take responsibility and  to  either evade or manage some of the most common pitfalls on the way to losing weight.

We've all had to deal with mostly well-meaning 'food pushers' who just can't bear the thought that you're not having dessert, or a cookie, or a second helping of whatever is going.  The 100 days program advises to tell them that you may have something 'later', not just now.  They won't notice if you never do.

A perennial problem I have to deal with is family members buying sweet treats and leaving them all over the house,  tempting me with open packets of colorful icing-covered seasonal cookies, chips and other salty snacks.  If I open the fridge, there's a half-consumed container of hummus or guacamole, or some other delicacy.

Often there's even better 'junk' such as the 'churro nuggets' which my DW thought would be a nice post-run treat for our running group.  And so it was, but here I am a week later drooling over a big package of the stuff.  Its #1 ingredient?  Sugar.  Followed by corn meal, corn syrup, canola oil and molasses.  Just one tiny ounce of this sweet, caramel-flavored nothing delivers a whopping 130 calories. 

But no worries, this time I will do what I have to do to protect the program.  I'm having a cup of white tea instead.  Calories?  Zero.

Weight this morning:  170
Body fat percentage:22%

Dec 16:
Breakfast: oats with soy milk, banana
Lunch with clients @ Escalante - burrito de vegetal with beans and rice, diet Coke, about 5 small chips with salsa
Dinner:  Pizza @ Piola's
Running:  zero (off day)

My FitDay journal

Friday, December 16, 2011

Plantar fasciitis continued

I suppose as much as I continue to run I am not giving my left foot enough time to properly recover from the inflamed plantar fascia; racing 5 miles last Sunday probably aggravated the situation.  This morning's session with the Airrosti practitioner helped a lot; he took a lot of time applying rather severe pressure to each of the fascia, slowly moving on as the pain subsided in each spot.  All in all the experience was still extremely uncomfortable but not as bad as the previous session. I will continue to ice with my frozen can of fava beans, roll the foot (squash ball) and work on the tight calves with a hard foam roller.  It will probably be a good idea to reduce the mileage somewhat this week but somehow I don't see that happening.  For one thing the dogs won't like it... 

For Day 5 of the 100 days of Weight Loss I have to write down some of my favorite foods - to remind myself that I don't have to consume them right away just because I am thinking about them.  Rather plan to eat it at another time.  Well of course candy would be at the top of that list - I am going to have to postpone that guilty little pleasure until the end of this program.  My favorite snack is probably a mix of peanuts and raisins; might have some of that on the weekend after a long run. A glass of wine?  Saturday is coming up. 

Weight this morning:  170
Body fat percentage: 22%

Dec 15

Running:  4 miles, quite hot and muggy
1 hr PT, mix of abs, triceps, biceps.  Hurt my left shoulder in the process but should be ok by Saturday.

Breakfast:  oats, soy milk, grapes, slice w/w toast with Marmite
Snack:  soy yoghurt
Lunch:  Brussels sprouts, steamed red potato, 1 vegan sausage
Snack:  small apple, a couple of medjool dates
Dinner: red potatoes, left-over udon noodles with veg, steamed butternut squash, brussels sprouts, chickpeas.
Snack:  1 slice w/w bread with peanut butter & grape jelly.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Luta Continua - New Year's resolutions

As the saying goes, the war goes on.. No not that kind of conflict involving bullets and missiles and drones. The internal kind, fought with will-power, perseverance and lots of good intentions. The never-ending self-improvement struggle from about age 14 until you finally don those big-ass pitch black dark glasses that fit over your regular ones, start up the Buick LeSabre or other AARP-approved automobile and shoot across 6 lanes of the Katy freeway, never looking left or right.  Until that day - when you officially join the ranks of the elderly and declare yourself immune from peer approval or social opprobrium of any kind - you're probably working on something to make yourself better.

It could be what you wear, how you look, feel or think, there is always something just barely out of reach, that will make us all happy and content. Or at least get us close. Overcoming bad habits, losing weight, getting faster, running a Boston Marathon qualifying time, learning a foreign language, completing the new PX-90 workout program, you know the drill.  And of course with yet another new year lurking just one full moon away, our thoughts turn yet again to re-inventing ourselves.

Just not this year, at least not for yours truly.  Come January 1 2012 I will be more than two weeks into the 100 days of weight loss program, so that's taken care of.  I've already washed my car - first time in 6 months - and donated a bunch of slightly used clothing to Goodwill Inc to resell at a huge profit.  Someone is going to get lucky with Hawaiian shirts.  My 1/4 portion of the walk-in closet is nicely organized (t-shirts, short sleeve shirts, long-sleeve shirts, jackets, suits, pants - except for the ones that don't fit right now - and running gear). Likewise, socks and underwear are each in their own little compartment thanks to a long-ago purchase from The Container Store.  Shoes - ditto.

So I am officially declaring 2012 a resolution-free zone.  For once the new me of 2012 is just going to have to be happy with inheriting the old existing me. The physical things that are not organized - did anybody say garage? - will have to wait.  I'll postpone any further attempts at harnessing the stuff below the surface - hopes, ambitions, desires, regrets, whatever until I enter a new age group category in May next year. That will be a more appropriate time to take stock than on a new year's day which has the audacity to fall on a Sunday this year.

Weight this morning: 170
Body fat percentage:  23%

Dec 14:

Miles run:  6
Other exercise: None

Breakfast: oats + soy milk, 1 slice w/w toast
Snack:  baked tofu
Lunch:  red beans and brown rice, fresh orange
Snack:   Banana, grapes
Dinner:  Udon noodles with vegetables + tofu

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Photographs from Cape Town trip, Nov 2011

Do it anyway!

That is essentially the message for Day 3 of the 100 day weight loss program.  To be successful in the long term, sometimes you have to do the things you don't feel like doing.  Exercise.  Eating your veggies.  Not having wine with dinner. Or whatever.  Patently I've never had a problem with exercise.  To the contrary, tend to over do it.  I do have a problem with portion size and with snacking, so at least for today I will be sure to enjoy smaller portions of what I like, to eat it slowly and to avoid any mindless or even mindful snacking.

As I had anticipated, the food at the country club last night (way out in the burbs) was totally blah:  a plate with a grilled sliced vegetables.  Really?  They couldn't think of anything more exciting?  No starch  (I had to ask for some rice), no protein.  Institutional type cooks have no imagination and no clue:  someone is a vegetarian ergo he or she eats vegetables.  The only redeeming feature of the meal: it wasn't drenched in olive oil.  Also the bread roll and salad was pretty good!

This am:  6 miles easy run @ just over 10-minute pace with the dogs
Breakfast:  oats with soy milk, slice of w/w toast with Marmite, small slice of baked tofu.

Weight this morning:  170 lbs
Body fat percentage:  24% - drat

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

100 Days of weight loss - continued.

My trusty Honda Accord (113K on the clock but paid for) was a little dirty but working just fine last Friday.  Then I took it in for some routine maintenance: an oil change and to fix a leaking air-conditioner inlet pipe.  I did not know the specifics in advance, all I knew was the air-con was kaput.  Got it back $500+ later, and now the rather alarming 'check engine' light comes on every time I start up. WTF?  So now I have to take it back there, listen to some inane apology, and have them fix something that was never an issue in the first place.  Shoddy service.  Why is it that one has come to expect it in the American workplace nowadays? 

But back to more pleasant things. 

It's amazing how quickly the body responds to a bit of TLC.  One day of avoiding excess calories from sugar and alcohol, and I'm down 2 pounds.  No I haven't just fallen off a digital scale.  I know it is mostly water weight lost overnight and I will eventually gain it back towards the end of the day.  Nonetheless it is nice to start with a bang!

It is very early days yet but I am 100% committed to make this program work: even went on an early run this morning due to a social obligation this evening!

Exercise for the day:
5 mile easy run with Leopold and Lewis.  High humidity so I was sweating and they were mouth-breathing big time.
45 minute workout with PT:  A few squats and lunges, lots of pushups (4 different types), chest presses, two other shoulder and chest exercises with belt fixed to a stationary resistance machine.  Upper arms and shoulders definitely fatigued. 

Breakfast: Steelcut oats with soy milk, half a banana; 1 slice whole wheat bread with Marmite.  For the B-12, of course.  Easiest way to prepare steel-cut oats?  Pre-toast 2 cups of steel-cut oats aka groats (not too $$$ when you buy it in bulk from Whole Foods) in the oven for 30 minutes or so and then cook it with plain water and 1 tsp salt in the pressure cooker for about 25 minutes. Voila.

Mid-morning Snack:  left-over edamame and corn
Lunch: Brown rice and Cuban black beans
Afternoon snack: Baked Asian tofu

Dinner will be at a country club tonight; I might not get much - if anything - to eat.  Maybe salad and rice.  Too many restaurants in this town assume that vegetarians  must have a lot of grease and cheese on anything: salad, pasta, whatever. Put more cheese on it, load up on the olive oil. Oh and don't forget the bacon. 

100 Days of weight loss: Day 2
Weight this morning:  171
Body fat percentage:  22% ugh

Monday, December 12, 2011

100 days of weight loss

Having whittled down the pounds to 160 by late summer, I let things slip a bit, and then took a long trip to Africa (hardly any running!), with predictable outcome: back to 173 pounds, body fat percentage way up there.  I don't even want to look at the bodyfat measuring calipers right now.

So we are essentially back where we started in early April this year.  Nice, real nice... :-(

I guess the only way out of this is to get a jumpstart on New Year's resolutions by starting a 100 day weight loss program today.  Nothing like the present.  So here goes with Day #1. 

Pretty decent nutrition with raisin bran for breakfast, a veggieburger for lunch, some leftover udon noodles and edame for a snack, and Cuban black bean stew & brown rice with some steamed corn for dinner.  Just white tea and water otherwise. 

Plenty of exercise.  One hour session (mostly arms, chest & some abs) with the personal trainer and 5.44 miles running (approx. 10 minute pace) with Leopold and Lewis.  It is almost a resistance workout running with those two; they are constantly dragging me in the direction of other dogs, rabbits or squirrels.  Fortunately not under a bus yet. Have to do something about Leopold's dog-agressive behaviour.  He is such a sweet animal, just adorable but must have had a bad experience with another dog sometime in his past.  Where is the dog whisperer guy when you need him.  I haven even seen him on TV lately.  Been watching too many episodes of Dexter. 

100 days of weight loss, incidentally, is the title of an e-book I found on Amazon/Kindle. 

 One of the things you have to do is to write down 10 reasons why you want to lose the weight.  Ten might a few too many but I can think of 5:

1)  To improve my running speed.  In about 5 months I will be entering a new age bracket and it will likely be my last best chance to do some damage in the age group competition. But not if I look like Jared when he was still wearing those big big pants.
2)  Fit into my clothes.  A couple of years ago I had a bunch of my pants taken in by 2 inches or so.  I can't very well go back to the same tailor person now and stupidly ask for them to be taken out again.  So suck it up buttercup and drop the elbees.
3)  See my abs one last time.  Yeah there comes a time when abs disappear for good: unless I uncover them pretty quickly they will go the way of the Edsel and the manual typewriter, or join Jimmy Hoffa in an undisclosed location, never to be seen again.
4)  Be able to run without a shirt next spring/summer.
5)  Maintain good health.  Too much blubber around the middle and my cholesterol is bound to increase beyond acceptable levels, and I definitely do not want to have issues with borderline high blood sugar levels again. 

Weight today:  173
Bodyfat percentage:  In denial, will check tomorrow.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hudson Mohawk in the rear-view mirror

A little late now to belabor events of early October this year, so suffice it to say that I struggled mightily at the Mohawk Hudson Marathon:  barely made it in under 4 hours, well off my target time of around 3:45.  How come?  Mostly stupidity on my part.  You'd think 20+ years of long-distance running would have taught me a lesson or two but I guess not. 

My biggest mistake was probably to not adjust my goal pace to the higher start temperature.  Start temperature was nearly 60F (why does this race have to start so late!) and 4 hours later it was nearly 80F.  Even so I stuck with the 8:35 goal pace from the word go and never made the necessary adjustment until it became impossible to maintain.  Fatal error. 

Even more stupidly, I failed to hydrate properly, despite steadily rising temperatures and sunny conditions. At every water stop - every two miles - I would take just  one cup of water and gulp it down on the run, not stopping at all until I was forced to.  The sane thing to have done would be to have ingested at least two cups of water every 2 miles.  One measly half cup was clearly totally inadequate. Should I have known better?  Of course.  I brought my own Cliff Shot Bloks and chewed one down every 2 miles.  Having done this on many training runs it ought to have worked, but didn't... Simply not enough liquid intake. 

End result?  A fast half marathon, a pretty good 30K and a dreadful last 10K.  Significant dehydration started to set in around mile 18; by mile 20 I was in a death march and it was all I could do not to quit right there and then.  I stumbled my way to the end, rallying a little bit towards the end in a futile attempt to sneak in under 3:55 (my BQ time), but it was not to be. 

From there things went really south.  For the first time ever, I ended in the medical tent with severe cramping, headache, dizziness etc.  All classic dehydration symptoms.  Nothing much they could do for me (a cold Gatorade and some ice) but 20 minutes or so later I felt better to the point where Kathleen and I walked back to the hotel, about a mile from the finish point.  To be honest, I did not do a lot of walking; it was more like shuffling, mostly just trying to stay upright with cramps in both legs, often at the same time.  Very painful and very annoying. 

Safely back in the hotel room I was persuaded to take an ice bath, but it was not a wise move.  Within less than 5 minutes of sitting in a freezing bath amongst the ice cubes, I had gone from severe overheating to a full-blown case of hypothermia.  When my tongue starting swelling (or so it felt) and my speech started to slur very badly, I knew I was in trouble.  Fearing the worst (a stroke?), we called 911.  Somewhere I had read that slurred speech is associated with a stroke.  I should have checked a few other symptoms first but really wasn't thinking straight by then.

Long story short: back in bed under the covers, my hypothermia symptoms soon abated, I stopped shivering, speech returned to normal and all was well.  Satisfied that I was not going to die on them, the nine members of the Albany Emergency Services team (thank you!!) traipsed out of our hotel room and departed quietly.  They had arrived with sirens blaring and lights flashing.   I am sure that the hotel management was not at all impressed as it is not good PR for a hotel to have 'medical emergencies'.  Fortunately, mine was of fleeting duration and ended well for everybody.  Blood pressure, blood sugar level, electrocardiogram readings, all were fine.  Slightly dented ego but no permanent damage.  A very memorable ending - for all the wrong reasons - to a very poorly run race. 

Next up?  Houston Half Marathon in Jan 2012. 

Bottom line on Mohawk Hudson?  I learned a lot about over-heating, dehydration, hypothermia and symptoms of stroke.  The latter fortunately just of academic interest.  Biggest lesson was that the body performs really well right until and just before dehydration occurs.  A bit like a car that runs perfectly, even with just a tiny amount of gas in the tank. Right down to the last few drops of fuel everything works great.  And then?  Nothing.  It stops working.  So goes the body including the large muscles of the legs.  Until they run out of fuel (fluids and/or glycogen) they feel fine and work perfectly.  I honestly thought I was on pace for a PR, until just minutes before I cratered. How wrong can you be.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Last 'long' run of the training cycle

And so it ends.  Week 17 of the 18-week Hal Higdon Intermediate II Marathon Program is history.  This morning, I joined a few other Houston Striders on a fairly easy 8-mile run from Memorial Park to Jackson Hill and then Sabine Bridge, round-trip.  Ran the last 4 miles at marathon pace of 8:35, just to re-assure myself that I can handle that pace without too much effort, at least for a few miles, in cool to moderately cool temperatures. Which was the case this morning; it was probably in the high 50's to low 60's for the duration of the run.

Barring lousy weather (wind/rain, who knows what) I really should be able to run the Mohawk Hudson Marathon next Sunday in less than 3:55 - which is my Boston Qualifying time.  Five minutes under would be good, 10 minutes under would be ideal, and a new PR of less than 3 hrs 42 minutes would be a bonus. With almost no exceptions, the training cycle went off without a hitch, despite record-breaking temperatures the entire summer.  Today was literally the first really cool day since 'Week 1' more than 4 months ago.  It is about a week out, so things will definitely change but right now the weather forecast for Albany is upper 40s at the start, upper 60's at the end. That would do just fine, although ideally I would like the start temperature to be closer to the mid 40's.  We'll have to see how it all turns out!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

15 down, 3 to go

Weeks in the training cycle.  20 miles tomorrow and the taper starts!!  Probably the best marathon training cycle - so far - in at least 5 years or so.  Of course I haven't run a full marathon since 2009 Boston so not much to compare it with.  Most importantly, no debilitating injuries.  If you are 59 and you've run for 40 years, you are going to have some niggling little issues here and there: a tight hamstring that talks to you every now and then, some lingering Plantar Fasciitis, a wonky but perfectly fine left knee, and what not.  On the plus side of the ledger?  Lots of experience and endurance and pain tolerance - all three pretty handy weapons to have in your arsenal when you are racing 26.2 miles.

The pace run this morning ended up being 10 miles at 8:15, which is a good 30 seconds per mile under my anticipated marathon pace of 8:35.  Really thrilled with that, and felt good right until the end, despite pretty muggy conditions.  I am not used to being 'the guy' who outruns the entire training group, but it has happened a couple of times recently, so I guess I'd better enjoy it while it lasts!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Winning the heat Lotto in Houston

We are keenly anticipating morning temperatures in the 60's after a simply brutal August with an average temperature of 90.4 Fahrenheit, a new record. And it wasn’t even close. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle the probability of such a significant deviation from the historical average in any given year is 1 in 10,000. We basically won the heat Lotto.

Finished up week 13 (of 18) of the Hal Higdon Intermediate II marathon training program. Twenty miles today at average pace of about 9:20, not bad.  Saturday's 10-mile pace run at 8:35 was one of the best runs I've had in a couple of years! For once it was not absolutely stifling out there, and my running partner and I did not linger too long at each of the water spots.  This was the second of three 50-mile weeks on the program.  One more long week - and two not so long ones - and it is taper time!! The plantar fasciitis on the left foot is still present but under control; stretching, icing and the occasional Airrosti treatment (another coming up on Tuesday) is keeping it at bay. 

I am not officially taking a break from my ‘150 or bust’ weight-loss program, but running this many miles per week is making it difficult to reduce calories to the point of additional weight-loss.  I am basically stuck at just over 160 lbs,  not likely to make much progress on losing the last 10 lbs. until after the marathon.  Body fat percentage down to around 15% so at least I’m not regressing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where is the speed coming from?

On Tuesday night at Rice University track I cranked out the first of three mile repeats at a pace of 6:29 which is about as fast as I've run a mile in many years. It was nearly 95F so conditions were not ideal, not that it matters that much just for one mile.  The other two were considerably slower at 6:38 and 6:51 - clearly by then fatigue was setting in.

Even so, I am thrilled with just one fast mile: something is working.  Clearly the weight loss is a major factor but it is not the only one. Strength workouts with the personal trainer is another, as are the Airrosti treatments which include some significant stretching of amongst other the quads.  I'm also starting to suspect that the daily 45-minute walks with Daisy (at a very very brisk pace of 15 minutes per mile) is strengthening my upper legs which also boosts running speed. Pure guess on that one, but having run for 40 years I can definitely feel the difference.  Of course I'm also in the middle of a marathon training cycle so overall fitness & endurance is much higher than it has been for months.

Almost halfway into Week 11 of the Hal Higdon Intermediate II marathon training program.  This will be the first of three 50-mile weeks (week 11, 13 and 15) before the taper starts on week 16.  Somehow or other - mostly with the help of running friends who are graciously supplying SAG support on Sundays for the long runs - a few of us are actually training trough this streak of 100F weather which has now reached 17 (probably 18 by the end of today) days in a row, and a few in July as well.

Weight is the same this week as last - 161 - but body fat percentage is down to 15%. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Airrosti treatment for plantar fasciitis

Had my first 1-hour long session of Airrosti treatment yesterday.  In addition to some diagnostics - I already knew what the issue was so the doc pretty much just confirmed it - it consisted of a very intensive massaging/manipulation of the fascia on the bottom of the foot and also the left calf. Extremely painful in both instances. I was given a small 'stress relief' squeeze ball to hold and I practically poked holes in that thing. 

The good thing about Airrosti treatment?  You do not have to cut down or quit running or whatever type of exercise you are doing.  So I went out and ran mile repeats at Rice:  on a very hot afternoon (around 90F) knocked off 4 miles at 6:48, 6:50, 6:51 and 6:42.  Heart rate in the 150's for each of them, the last two occasionally into the 160's.  On a 1-mile time trial I ought be able to get pretty close to 6:20 or so, need to do that one of these days or enter a 5-K.  Will definitely do that as soon as the worst of the heat is behind us!

By this morning the foot is definitely much improved. Considerably less pain upon waking up and taking that dreaded first step. Considering the stress I put on it last night with the track workout, that is pretty remarkable.  I have to do a few stretches and some icing every day, will go back for a second treatment next Monday. 

Weigh-in Wednesday:  Down to 161lbs this morning.  Total loss since April now 14 lbs, 11 to go to 150.  Considering the heavy mileage weeks ahead - several around 50 miles per week - I probably won't quite make it to 150 by Oct 9.  If I can be at around 155 lining up at the start of the race that morning, it will be fine.   

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week 9 is in the books

Exactly half way there with Hal Higdon's Intermediate II marathon training program, in preparation for the Oct 9 Mohawk-Hudson Marathon.  So far so good:  on Saturday the 9 mile pace run went pretty well, and despite awful conditions I managed an 8:35 minute/mile average pace.  The first 5 miles ended up being just over 8:20 average due to running with a much faster group of runners, Mark Coleman's KatyFit ATP runners.  I will run with them again next Saturday, but will try to keep the mile pace a little more consistent. 

Today's 'long' run was only 12 miles but it was hardly easy.  Our small group of 4 runners took off at just after 0630A and by then it was already in the 80's, with - of course - high humidity.  Fortunately the route was quite shady and we had a sag wagon with cold drinks, grapes, bananas and pretzels every 2 miles.  One worrying note: my left heel is starting to act up with more pronounced plantar fasciitis symptoms.  More icing and stretching ahead and I will be making an appointment with a podiatrist on Monday

The last few days have been rough on the 'diet' front:  too many fun calories, several restaurant meals and a few too many temptations around the house including some really nice peanut butter cookies.  I'm thinking my next weigh-in may not be the best; will really have to suck it up on Monday and Tuesday to mitigate the damage. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Weigh in Tuesday

Body fat percentage is slowly coming down, now at 18% (approximately), which is definitely an improvement on the 25% or so in April.  Quite a way to go to single digits but the long 45-minute walks with Daisy, running 30+ miles per week and working out for almost an hour 3 X per week - not to mention the calorie counting - are having the desired effect. Weight today is no different than last week, still 163.  Hitting a bit of a plateau but some of it is residual water retention from last Sunday's 17 miler. For some weird reason I 'gain' about 4 pounds after any very long run, especially when it is hot.  Just the body's mechanism to protect the bruised/injured muscle cells, I suppose. It takes me a good 4 days or so to get back to normal. 

We are now just about halfway into the 16-week Hal Higdon 'Intermediate II' marathon training schedule.  8 weeks done, 8 to go.  The heavy hauling is right up ahead.  A 9 mile pace run on Saturday followed by a relatively easy 12 miler on Sunday.  From then on I will have to complete 4 more very long runs (one of 19 miles and three 20-mile runs) and three 12-mile long runs, as well as five fairly long mid-week runs (10 miles) and several 9 to 10 mile pace runs on Saturdays.

So far, the best thing has been no serious injuries.  Still some nagging issues with plantar fasciitis in my left foot but keeping it under control with icing.  The worst thing?  Definitely the heat!  It has been relentless.  This evening's mile repeats at Rice will be run with temperatures in the low to mid 90's.

Another great boon has been the support of running friends in our Happy Runners group.  There is no way I would have been able to do some of the long runs without some company and a sag station every couple of miles or so with cold drinks, snacks and a smile!  Thank you!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Less 'fun' calories says the dietician

I received my first feedback from the dietician after having sent her two weeks’ worth of food logs. Everything a-ok except for the percentage of 'fun' calories.  You know, the cupcakes, juice, wine, beer, gin & tonics, Cokes, vegan brownies, lemon bars and assorted other sweet treats, etc.  I am supposed to limit my 'fun calorie' intake to no more than 100 per day.  100?  That is maybe one ultra lite beer (yuk) or a tiny little bag with artificial fruit pellets that even a hamster would frown at.

I have had a love-love relationship with fun calories all my life.  I love them and they love me right back, making themselves comfortable in cozy little clusters around my midriff.  I only have to look down to see quite a few old friends whom I’ve been taking for a free ride since college days. 

In fact, there was a time – my 20’s and 30’s – when I would have been embarrassed to send a food log to a dietician.  Fun calories would have been the dominant ‘food group’ on the list, back then.   Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. At least until I reach my goal weight I am going to have to say sayonara to all those fun calories. Don’t worry guys, your time will come again, after the October marathon.  Maybe in Africa in November. Until then, you will have to make way for some 'serious' protein.  The dietician tells me that I need about 60 to 69 grams of protein per day.  This will help my body recover during training.  So bring on the tofu, chickpeas and beans.  Let’s see how much fun we can have with that.  On the menu for this evening:  grilled tofu with chimichurri sauce. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I beg to disagree, Mr. Higdon

My biggest mistake I ever made running was to try to run hard all the time.  For at least one season a few years ago, I turned training runs into races, never ran easy ever  and hardly took a day off.  It worked for a while – I certainly got faster – but then staleness and over-training ensued and I actually had to stop running completely for several weeks to recover. 

So I was really surprised when I saw this on Hal Higdon’s Facebook page this morning:

“TODAY'S TIP: A runner asked how fast he should run on his easy days. Should he run faster than race pace or slower? My answer was, yes! That's the answer--yes--and I was not being facetious. On some days you will feel great and may run fast. On other days, possibly because you ran hard the previous day, you'll feel like toast and will want to run slow and short. It varies from day to day.”
What? Race pace on easy days? I thought the idea with easy days is to take it easy so that you can run fast/race pace - whatever - on 'not easy' days such as track, tempo, Saturday pace runs. If you're going to run race pace or faster on 'easy' days, what is the sense of even having easy days on a schedule?

Hal Higdon is a much revered ‘elder statesman’ of running and his marathon programs are amongst the best; I am actually using his Intermediate II program right now. However, the advice to run at race pace or even faster on easy days is bad. For older & slower and beginner runners, it could lead to injuries and over-training. I think there is a consensus amongst most long-distance running coaches that long runs and certainly easy days should be run at a pace of a minute or more below anticipated race pace. Or if you go by heart rate, at a HR not to exceed your aerobic threshold. Race pace or faster should be used only on tempo runs, track, designated pace runs and races. 

Almost forgot:  The downward trend continues.  162 lbs today, down by one more pound for the week.  Cumulative loss now 13 lbs from the starting weight of 175 and (just) 12 lbs to go to 150.  Of course I know I am going to start running into some serious plateaus one of these days.  The ‘easy’ weight is gone, now starts the hard part, trying to get rid of the tenacious midriff bulge. 

I was not exactly looking forward to last night’s (Tuesday) track run.  Some work issues made me late to start with, and it was still very hot – definitely low 90’s Fahrenheit - by the time I started to warm up on the bright blue artificial lanes at Rice University.  My first fast mile was around 7:40 or so, I think.  After all these years you’d think I can operate the two little buttons on the Garmin, properly.  Think again.  I did get the last two though:  7:10 and 6:58 pace respectively.  Without killing myself, although the heart rate went up to 165 right towards the end.  Not too many weeks ago I battled to run the mile repeats at 8:00 pace, so this is quite an improvement!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eat your prunes

There appears to be credible scientific evidence out there - such as studies done by Dr. Bahram Arjmandi at Florida State University  - that consuming 100g (4 to 5) of dried plums (aka prunes) is a pretty good habit and it has nothing to do with staying regular.  Dried plums are rich in protective anti-oxidants, they contain soluble fiber and regular consumption is associated with improved bone density.  Very important especially for post-menopausal women. Some other foods which Dr. Arjmandi promotes are watermelon (it improves circulation) and flax seeds (reduces plaque formation) as well as dried apple (improved good cholesterol levels).  I'm on the prunes already, watermelon to follow.

Running still going pretty well, although last Saturday's 8 mile 'pace' run was a bit of a struggle in the heat. I took frequent short breaks, hydrated well and took some Cliff Shot gels, and somehow or other managed to eke out about 6 miles close to or under my goal marathon pace which is 8:35.  Sunday's long run of 16 miles turned into a steamy slog here in the Bayou City.  The first few miles (having started off at just after 6A) were not too bad, but from mile 9 onwards it was tough all the way.  In the end I averaged just over 10 minutes to the mile which is not bad, considering the hot, muggy conditions.

It was fun running with several Strider buddies and having a sag wagon with cold fluids, snacks, orange slices and so on, waiting every 2 miles.  Our little Happy Runner group is really jacked!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday weigh-in & marathon training update

Still steadily dropping some weight; down to 163, total of 12 lbs since April.  Additional long (45 minutes) walks with Daisy seem to be doing the trick.  The idea with the walking - at a pace of about 15 minutes per mile - is to increase fat loss without putting too much stress on the leg muscles, bones & joints.  Of course I could also increase my weekly running mileage but the risk of injury goes up exponentially, and intensive aerobic exercise like running tends to burn a lower percentage of fat. Running consumes a much higher overall number of calories per time unit, than walking.  So ergo, if you run for 30 minutes versus 30 minutes of walking, running is by far the most effective weight loss tool.  Up to the point where injuries start being a factor.

Have now completed 6 weeks of the Hal Higdon Intermediate II training program.  So far so good. Long runs still very slow but there's only so much you can do under these extreme temperatures. I try to keep my heart rate under 140bpm on the regular training runs, and close to 150 or so on the Saturday pace runs.  Completed last Saturday's 7-mile pace run at the planned 8:35 pace overall, even though the last couple of miles or so were considerably slower. Struggled mightily with an 8 mile mid-week run on Wednesday morning; seemed to run out of gas after 6 miles. Pretty dreadful.
Coming up?  An 8 mile pace run this Saturday and then a 16 miler on Sunday. At least on Sunday I will be with some other Strider running buddies!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kikoi pants

I bought a couple of pairs of these pants (not quite the same color but just as vivid) in a store in Malindi during a trip to Kenya a couple of years ago.  They are the most comfortable things I own.  Have started to wear them outside the house every now and then lately.  It is summer, after all.  The woman behind the counter at Specs liquor store said that I looked very 'relaxed' when I walked in there on Tuesday.  You betcha. 

Kathleen is very envious of my kikoi pants and she will do almost anything to lay her hands on a few of them too.  We will just have to take another trip I guess. Can't buy them in Zambia or Botswana or South Africa. We checked.  Online?  Never really tried it with clothing.