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.

Wednesday Weigh-in

Just like my weight loss, I am being a bit slow to report... Somehow or other (mostly more running I think!) I managed to eke out one more pound loss last week, so now down to 164.  Starting to generate daily logs to send through to the dietician every Friday.  It wouldn't look good to have donuts, candy bars and Pop Tarts on there, so I am not having any of them...

Whatever do they put in a 'pop tart' that bumps up the calorie count for that tiny little thing to 200?  Sugar, for sure. Which also happens to my dietary achilles heel.

It could be worse; I might have a hankering for old-fashioned hot dogs, the really greasy kind made with an assortment of 'variety meats' and other odds and ends such as nitrates, a suspected carcinogen. Not that it stops people from eating them.

To the contrary.  Increasingly over the last few years, the so-called sport of competitive eating has been rearing its gluttonous head with more and more publicity being given to a series of bizarre contests with 'professional eaters' going at it hammer and tongues to outdo each other in scarfing down vast amounts of whatever is put in front of them.

How far have we sunk into the pit of unbridled gluttony when ESPN feels compelled to add a female category to the annual pinnacle of gross eating, also known as Nathan's Hotdog eating contest.  I am clearly missing something because thousands of spectators (TV audience) apparently think it is amusing or interesting to see how many hotdogs the invited participants can jam down their gullets in a pre-determined time.  Many people have a different take on this and if you find nothing objectionable about this sporting event, so be it.  To each his own. Personally I think it is yet another example of what H.L. Mencken said about nobody ever losing money by underestimating the taste of the American people.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Five down, thirteen to go

That would be weeks in the training program for the October 9 2011 Mohawk Hudson Marathon.  At almost one third into the training cycle, there's some reason for optimism, but not too much.  I really struggled to complete today's 14-mile run - and my average pace dropped from around 10 minutes/mile (first few miles) all the way to 10:30 average overall, with the last 4 miles at a snail's pace of over 11 minutes each.  Clearly it was not just because of my poor conditioning or lack of training to date.  To put it mildy, running conditions were hugely unfavorable with the temperature at about 78F when I set off just after 0630A - and humidity at 91% - and heating up quickly to about 85F by 0930A.

Apparently there is now some scientific evidence that running when it is very hot like this is akin to speed training or hill work, it makes you stronger.  Duh!  

Even so, with 'just' 13 weeks left before the marathon, I am really starting to doubt whether a 3:45 time is a realistic goal.  Right now I can't even hold an 8:35 pace for 6 miles, never mind 10, 15 or 26.2...

On the positive side, I have 5 weeks of pretty sold training in the bag, without any major mishaps, illnesses or injuries.  Left heel still presenting plantar fasciitis symptoms, but not getting worse. Yet.  Will have to do more stretching and foam rolling.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Whole Foods store in Montrose

The brand new Whole Foods store on Waugh has a pretty good-sized bar right smack in the back of the store, conveniently placed near the wine racks and beer displays.  But of course.  Give this a little time to sink in and single women shoppers will have more to contend with than a crowded parking lot, high prices and overly familiar guys with clip boards.  Nothing like having a vegan nursing a wine glass leering at you while you select cucumbers... Not that I would be guilty of such gauche behavior...

I've been there several times already and while I enjoy the fact that they have many beers and 4 wines on tap, the wait for service can be interminable, or at least 10 to 15 minutes.  Could have gotten a haircut in that time. So I don't have a lot of hair left, ok. Give me a break.  But seriously they need to jack up the 'bar-tending', it is not like selling groceries.  Well it would be if you added a 1 or 2 item quick checkout line! If I wanted to wait 15 minutes to enjoy a beverage I can buy it at Specs and drive home and have it. To the waitstaff: your tip starts out at $10.  Seriously the next time I get immediate service there will be a nice cool $10 left discreetly on the counter.

However, should that not happen and you prefer to have someone in front of me try out 4 different craft beers while endlessly discussing the merits of one over the other, where they are from, how limited the supply is an so on, so be it. Just be mindful that I subtract $1 from the $10 'jackpot' for every minute that clicks by from the moment that I fall in line with my little 'Whole Foods' sack containing some over-priced pearled Farro grain ($6 for 12 oz jeez!) and organic broccoli guaranteed to get limp while I sip on my wine at a tiny metal table overlooking the traffic on Waugh. 

All in jest though, we will be back next Thursday after the usual 'hilly Thursday' run.  I need some nutritional yeast.  And maybe a vegan brownie.  Those are the bomb.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weigh-in Wednesday

Despite some pretty significant mileage run last Saturday and Sunday combined (19 miles), with some other exercise mixed in, the scale did not budge this week. No surprise there.  A couple too many pasta dishes on the menu, an abundance of faux hot dogs and hamburgers over the July 4th holiday weekend, not to mention some cookies and St. Arnold's Weedwacker beer.  So I think I was lucky to get away with a 'status quo' instead of going into the wrong direction, this week.

To counteract any 'last minute' diet shenanigans as I approach the 160 pound mark, I'm having a registered dietitian give me weekly feedback in the way of a 'food record review'.  The additional accountability will definitely help keep me on the straight and narrow and I'm sure I will learn a thing or two about tweaking my diet to best effect, in the run up to the Oct 9 marathon in Albany.

Running still going well although I have not quite shaken off the nagging plantar fasciitis in the left foot.  Not bothering me too much (with regular icing) but will have to re-up on stretching and foam rolling to prevent a flare-up.

Week #4 of the training program included a 6 mile pace run on Saturday; I managed an average pace of 8:40, heart rate around 150 and slightly over, another extremely hot & humid morning.  Sunday's 13-miler was quite a slog too, and I had to slow down to an average pace of 10:40 to keep my heart rate at around 130bpm.  Yesterday's mile repeats at Rice University track was done with the outside temperature at 95F, but I eked out 3 miles of 7:52, 7:50 and 7:35 nonetheless.  Again, heart rate mostly around 150 to 155, and over 160 on the last lap of the third mile.  


Week 1: -1
Week 2: -1
Week 3: -3
Week 4:  0
Week 5: -1
Week 6: -1
Week 7:  0

Week 8: -1
Week 9: -1
Week 10: -1
Week 11: 0

Starting weight: 175
Current weight: 165

Loss to date: 10 lbs.

150 or Bust: 79 days down, 94 to go.