Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's Fiesta Time!

At some point during all this multisport endurance phase of my life, I got the notion that competing in races wasn’t enough.  There’s always been a side of me that enjoys owning a project, and directing a race seemed like a fun task to get into.  That opportunity showed up when Kip Sloan (well known as the so-to-speak eccentric director of all things involving running here in Pitt County) offered to turn over directing duties of the Fiesta Biathlon to me back in 2007.  I was a little bit daunted, but as a lover of this great event – the longest running road race in Greenville at 26 years – and even previous 2-time winner, I was excited to take on the task.

Angie and I did it together from the get-go, and our vision was na├»ve enough that we thought we could blow this event up to epic proportions.  Our goal was to bring it back to what it was in the ‘80’s when it would get 200 participants or so, both newcomers and competitive racers (nowadays, a 55 minute effort will easily win the race, but back then it would have only been good enough for top 20!).  We wanted to upgrade the shirts, offer cool, unique trophies, hand out fun prizes, and really pump this thing up.

You gotta understand what we were up against, though.  Back in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s if you wanted to do a 5k or duathlon or triathlon, you might have to travel a couple counties to get to the event.  There just weren’t that many.  Nowadays, even in our little town of Greenville, you can easily pick any spring weekend and find two 5k’s and a duathlon/triathlon all right on top of each other.  The competition has gotten fierce due to the popularity explosion of the sport and all the charities that try to put on events to bring in some support dough.  So, we had our work cut out for us.

All this to deal with, and we still had to make money for our charity (the first year it was Uptown Greenville, but after that and still to this day the event benefits the Mediation Center of East Carolina, which I’ve always joked sends bigger bullies to your kid’s school to beat up on the bully that is pestering your kid).  The previous couple years had not been moneymakers in the slightest sense.  Making money for the charity had to be foremost in our minds if it was going to be any sort of success at all.

If you don’t know this first hand already, here’s the single most important message of my post: it is WAY harder to put on an event than to participate in one.  What a great lesson to learn and a wonderful experience, but man it takes a lot of work!

I can’t say we breathed a lot of new life into the Fiesta Biathlon over the years, but it still is going on strong, and this weekend is its 26th event.  It’s not going anywhere and I’m glad to be able to say that I was a part of its history.  But this is Angie’s and my last one that we will be directing.  We’re turning it back over to Kip.  It’s been lots of fun, but very stressful trying to put it all together on top of a career and all the training I already put myself through every spring.  I expect next year to be a little different for Angie and I, and it’s just the right time for us to turn over the reigns to someone else.

But don’t count me out just yet – I may be there to toe the line at the 27th Fiesta Biathlon to get my old “title” back!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bruce's Top 10 Tips for Eating Healthy (and Perhaps to Lose Weight)

Losing weight and keeping it off is not easy by any means.  There are few of us who are lucky enough to have a metabolism that allows them to eat whatever they want (curse you Phillip Rowan!).  I am certainly not one of those and can guarantee you that if this 160 lb’er were to stop all this exercise and eating right I would swell up like a dog tick to at least 215 lb.  I know that because that’s where I was before I started all this triathlon stuff.

So, I thought I’d share some ideas on how I perceive eating healthy.  I’m not an authority by any means, but I’m a fella that, through discipline and good habits, has consistently been able to go from an already healthy BMI in the off-season to 5-7% body fat by the time triathlon season starts – about a 15 lb weight loss as needed.  I've been accused of not needing to lose weight, yet in my mind I know there's a certain range at which I'm most competitive.....and it's important to me to be there by whatever big race I'm training for at the time.  I certainly don’t claim to have the secret to getting lean, and I would never suggest that any one part of doing so is easy and can be accomplished without discipline, consistency, and hard work.  None of this was invented by me, but perhaps there’s a nugget in here for you.

1.      When you’re hungry, understand what it is you’re hungry for.  Just because you feel like eating something doesn’t mean you should look in the fridge and grab whatever looks appealing.  Maybe you’re low on sugar and need a small grab a piece o' fruit.  Maybe you just worked out, feel low on energy and need some dive into some almonds.  In other words, know the difference between what your body needs and what your brain wants.  Develop a habit of listening to your body and don't eat "what looks yummy" just because it's there.
2.      Develop a daily meal routine with healthy items and stick with it.  You might have to adapt a tolerance for a little bit of monotony, but try to pick something you like and that you think you won't get sick of.  The consistency ensures you always eat what you need to and you don’t create alternatives that are unnecessary.  For me, I bring a mid-morning snack to work consisting of a banana, an almond butter and Nutella sandwich, yogurt, and a Diet Pepsi.  And lunch is always a salad with a side of low-fat cottage cheese.  The bonus for me personally is that when I work out at lunch, I know lunch is the same old thing after I get through, and there's no temptation to cut my workout short so I can get to that plate of leftover bbq ribs my mouth might have been watering for all morning if I had played that way!
3.      There’s no such thing as a “reward day.”  Consistency and discipline are tantamount, so it’s not okay to say to yourself, “I ate healthy for the last 3 days so I’m going to reward myself tonight with a pizza.”
4.      I prefer “actual food” to meal replacement shakes, but I’m not against the latter if you’re the type of person that eats on the go and doesn’t have time for a sit down meal, usually breakfast.  Which leads me to.....
5.      Breakfast is mandatory.  You need it to kick start the metabolism, and with a full day’s effort ahead of you the energy is imperative.  My breakfast is some fresh fruit – usually pineapple – and a piece of wheat toast with Nutella on it.  I wash it down with OJ and a coffee.  An hour later, I usually eat a Lara Bar (love these things for their minimal list of ingredients - pure goodness!) and a piece of fruit.
6.      Try to eat an early dinner.  If you’re like me and exercise late, make dinner as soon as you can tolerate eating after your workout.  In general, I make sure that all my eating is done well before 9 pm (a lot of my workouts push me to eat as late as 8:30, which is later than I wish, but I allow myself the indiscretion in light of a good 3 hour workout after I get off work!).
7.      No calories from drinks.  That means no sodas unless they’re diet, no juices, etc.  I do allow myself an OJ with breakfast (for downing vitamins, getting some additional vitamin C, and the caloric value is still high given the time of day it's consumed) and a chocolate milk post-workout to reap the recovery benefits from its high protein, but that's about the only place where I cheat on this rule.  In general, the point here is no “empty calories,” which many drinks - like sodas - are.  Unfortunately, this rule knocks out the ability to have alcoholic beverages, which I love.  You gotta decide if the sacrifice is worth it or not for whatever goal you’re working towards though.  But it’s really not a hard task to swear off the sodas, substitute a diet soda or two in place, and drink water all day.  If drinking water is monotonous to you, add Mio or some other low/zero calorie flavor additive.
8.      In general, dinner is a piece of lean meat (fish and chicken over pork and beef) and some steamed veggies, and a side of rice or couscous or equivalent if the extra carbs are needed for tomorrow’s workout.  I often add an apple or some sort of fresh fruit for dessert too.
9.      Look for casein protein as a recovery method for your workouts.  It’s in cottage cheese and milk, and is unique as it is a “time released” protein.  They say that’s a good reason to take it before bed – so the protein releases into your system throughout the night as your body recovers from the rigors of the day - but I’ve not tried it that way yet.  It’s available as a mixable powder if you want to try it in that form.
10.  I do allow myself a piece of dark chocolate (not a whole bar!) as a treat as long as I’ve completed my planned workout of the day.  My taste is expensive and I prefer Belgian, which is partly how I justify eating it (ie, Belgians like cycling, they allegedly make the best chocolate, therefore Belgian chocolate is good for cycling!).