Monday, August 26, 2013

130 Miles of Pedalin', Blue Haired Bullies, and Aquajogging Fun

Well, I suppose I made the most out of that weekend.

Saturday: 7.33 Hrs of Training

Long ride.  My goal was to get in 130 miles with some Ironman pace intervals thrown in, then perhaps 20 minutes of running if the knee could hack it.  Some good ol’ Ab Ripper X to finish it up and I would be golden.

Phillip Rowan and Chuck Boulineau were both up for some mileage.  Phillip was being vague about how far he wanted to go, but Chuck was good for a solid 110.  And then the day before, Dave Mirra decided to throw in with us as well, since he had a 3 hr ride planned with short intervals.  So we all headed out together and spun for an hour at a sorta easy pace and then hit Dave’s intervals: 6 x 6 min at 280 watts with 6 min rest in between.  Dave was the only one with a Power Peter so he led us off and I got some practice at maintaining the minimum legal draft gap according to Ironman rules.  Phillip and Chuck tucked in behind me. 

The intervals were fast and went great, but when we were done I was ready to ease into a pace more conducive to Ironman training, especially since I still had 3.5 hours to go.  Dave asked what my intervals would be for the rest of the ride and I said, “Oh, something like 22 to 23 mph for 45 min apiece.”  Then I looked down at my computer and saw we had been going that pace for the last hour.  So much for intervals.

After we split off from Dave we stopped by my place to refuel.  Phillip had enough fun so he took his ball and went home.  Chuck felt great and he stuck with me.  It took me another hour before I started feeling “great” myself.  Right about then, Chuck began feeling “not so great.”  We stopped at a gas station at mile 100 to refuel again and both about bonked when the guy in between us at the counter ordered a cheeseburger.  Man, that would have been great!  I think as soon as we left he probably said to the cashier, “Naaah, I don’t really want a burger.  I was just saying that cuz those pansies in the tights looked starving.”

I got stronger as the ride progressed.  I was tired, particularly in the quads, back, neck, calves, hamstrings, abs, biceps, shoulders, chest, fingers, butt, and left temple…..but otherwise felt great.

I managed 20 minutes on the treadmill with no knee pain, nailed the ab routine and felt a mixture of exhaustion and elation the rest of the evening!

 After that long workout, I was somewhere between these two feelings all evening.....

Sunday: 2.33 Hrs of Training

Well, I knew there was no way I was going to get my 20 mile run that I had planned.  The knee just wouldn’t take that.  But I opted to give the treadmill another go and see if I could take an hour of that since it had a softer landing than the pavement.  I was feeling great, running like a champ with no pain whatsoever, and even planning a second hour on the treadmill……all the way until minute 41 when a shot of pain went through my knee.  Dammit. 

A few hours of ice, Tiger Balm, and nursing my bruised ego and I was reluctant but ready enough to go for a swim and see about this aquajogging thing.  I snuck my sneakers out of the house with me so Angie wouldn’t know and immediately started with the treadmill at the gym first.  I was surprised it didn’t hurt and was hoping I could get the 19 minutes I was short of an hour from my morning attempt.  I got 15 and then the knee flared up again.  Dammit.

I tucked my tail into my jammers and hit the pool for an easy 2000 yards, all the while trying to figure out how I could transition to aquajogging without tarnishing the reputation I surely had with the cute lifeguard for being the most athletic specimen she had ever laid eyes on.  Hey, it’s my story……I’ll tell it my way.  So, I hopped out and asked her where the aquajogging belts were and, without even looking at me (she must have memorized every curve of my chest already), yawned and pointed across the pool.  There they were.  And they were pink.  As if that weren’t enough, they were at the entrance to the girl’s locker room, almost daring me to test if my invisible masculine neck collar would shock me by venturing that far out of the range of the manly side of the pool.

At least I fit in the small size floaty belt.  Sigh.  As I strapped in somewhat sheepishly and hopped in to the non-lap swimming side of the pool I noticed a couple of the grannies doing water aerobics eyeing me with that “fresh meat” look.  “Aren’t you the guy that swims in the lane closest to us and splashes up water that gets our hair wet?”  Uh ooohh…….

I aquajogged for the other side of the pool as fast as I could, but the propulsion one gets from running in deep water surprisingly isn’t enough to even keep up with the pubic hair I saw floating away from me.

Once I had arrived safely out of the territory of the pride of water aerobic grannies I settled into a rhythm jogging back and forth.  Every now and then I checked on the lifeguard to see if she was checking my moves out.  Nope, still asleep.  But I had caught the hang of this thing.  I knew I had probably upset the record for longest aquajog session ever accomplished in the Greenville Aquatics and Fitness Center and checked my stopwatch.  A minute twenty seconds.  You gotta be kidding me!  Back and forth, back and forth, jog jog jog, turn on a dime, back and forth, back and forth, check out the cute lifeguard, jog jog jog, turn on a dime, back and forth,…….

I lasted 45 minutes before I couldn’t stand it any longer.  All told, I had at least accumulated over 2 hours of aerobic activity for the day, escaped an angry hoard of grannies, and my knee felt okay-ish.  It was at least enough to keep me from a fit of depression over not being able to run.  One day at a time.  Suffer today so you don’t suffer race day.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 23, 2013

An Update on My Knee

15 years ago I was a young, know-it-all engineer for Yamaha Waverunner division and thought I could pull off a fancy trick on one while playing in the surf off of St Augustine, FL.  I stuck the trick, then stuck my knee into the deck of the Waverunner.  It swelled up, turned purple, and hurt like hell.  Within a few weeks I was having arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus (that cartilage between the joint that lets those bones move on a cushiony bed).  The surgery did the trick, and so began my affinity for cycling which was recommended as rehab post-surgery (I thought it was a gay sport when the suggestion was made).

It’s funny that ever since then I’ve been blessed without injuries.  Sure, I’ve complained about a pain here and there, but I’ve never really been sidelined before.  When I started taking triathlon seriously I gave myself a rule that if I ever felt any pain in a race or training I would just stop.  I’ve never run through any sort of pain that I thought could cause injury, and I think that’s been a big reason why I stay off the disabled list. 

I suppose, for all of us though, it’s just a matter of time til something breaks down.  And an Ironman every year is probably a good way to accelerate that.

So it seems all these years, evidently, my meniscus has been wearing down some more.  And sometime after Ironman Florida last November I began to feel a slight pain behind my right knee particularly the day after a run.  I backed off the running – besides, Kona was months away at that time so it wasn’t like it was a big deal.  In June, I had it looked at and sure enough the meniscus was a bit frayed.  Another round of arthroscopic surgery is probably what I need, but this is hardly the time.  A cortisone shot would probably do the trick though, at least until after Kona, and if not I could always get another one before the race.  So I did, and it was instantly better.

Training went well through July and most of August until a couple weekends ago I was on a short run after a 115 mile bike ride and darn it if that pain in the back of the knee didn’t come back.  I immediately stopped and went home to ice it, hoping that it was a minor flare up.  But it came back the very next day on my long run stopping me dead in my tracks.  The injection had worn off way sooner than I had hoped.  I’ve been struggling ever since to even complete the shortest of the runs on my training plan. I've been spending more nights with Tiger Balm and an ice pack on me then I wish.  Even the cats ask for a blanket when they lay anywhere near my lap while I chill with my leg in the air.

I’m not eligible for another cortisone shot for 4 more weeks.  I have an appointment with the doctor on Sept 9 and will explore alternatives to get me to that point, but I’m likely out of commission on run training.  I’ll try again on the treadmill this weekend if I think the lesser impact it gives will be enough to let me get some mileage, and if not it looks like the elliptical and deep water running will have to be my alternatives.  I’m also looking into therapeutic options such as A.R.T., glyceryl trinitrite patches, synvisc, voodoo and any other witch doctor shit that might be out there.

If I get the second cortisone shot and it works, I’ll be 3 weeks out from race day which is essentially my taper period.  So I will have no way to prepare myself for the marathon with the kind of run mileage I feel I need but at least that would (hopefully) mean no knee pain during the race…….which would be really convenient so I can concentrate on the pain from the heat and humidity, the soreness in my legs and back, and whatever other pains creep in during the long day that an Ironman is on the body.

All of this has affected my outlook going into the last 7 weeks of training adversely.  I’m no longer as gung-ho to show up as lean and mean as I can once I get to Kona, and I’ve let myself have a few “free” nights to enjoy a little wine or a gin and tonic or two or nine or four rather than hit the sack and give up the fun in the evenings for better training in the mornings.  I’m preparing myself for the fact that the Kona marathon may be a bit of a stroll for me rather than a race, and that’s okay.  Cuz if you’re gonna go for a 26.2 mile stroll, I suppose along the coast of Hawaii is probably a darn good place to do so.

Thanks for reading, folks!

Fat Loss Tricks Anyone Can Do

We are starting a new weight loss program at work and it got me thinking about some of the things I try to do to watch mine. Here are a few tricks that have worked for me if you're looking for any nuggets.....and you don't have to be into this Ironman stuff to do them. Anyone can use these!

1.       Weigh every day.  Every.  Day.  It keeps you close to fluctuations in your weight so you can react quickly.  If you wait til next week to weigh, you might have gained 3 pounds without even seeing it coming!

2.       Weight loss is the wrong term.  We’re in this to lose FAT.  Cut fat and the pounds will come off.

3.       Do it for yourself.  Take yourself out of the group of 10 and focus on yourself and your goals.

4.       Make small goals for yourself along the way.  This isn’t Begin with the End in Mind, this is What can I do Today to be on Target for Tomorrow. 

5.       Stay on a routine.  Plan your meals and hit your weekly workouts when you’ve scheduled them. 

6.       There are no “cheat meals.”  I’m really sorry about that.  Fat loss, fitness, health – it’s a lifestyle change and a commitment.  Save Thanksgiving dinner for Thanksgiving.

7.       Bring your lunch to work and the snacks you need to get through your day – including your workouts – but no more.  The snack machine is NOT your friend and it is not there to bail you out.  There is nothing in there that is helpful to fat loss.

8.       There are no magic pills.  It’s very simple: fat loss equals work put out and fuel put in.  Exercise. Eat right.  Each of those is a step in the right direction, but neither will get you where you want to be without the other.

9.       That said, ALL food is energy IF you use it by completing your workouts. Otherwise, any excess eating you did in the day becomes fat.

10.   Protect your exercise time.  This is a commitment to yourself.  Don’t give in when someone tries to steal your exercise time!

11.   No food after 8 pm.  Try to get dinner done in the early evening.  Your metabolism is slowing down at night, and a late meal will settle more as fat while you sleep since your body is too inactive to use the meal as energy.  If it can’t be used, it has to be stored…..and we are all built with wonderful spots on our bellies and butts to store fat.

12.   I have one exception to that last rule.  Have a couple spoonfuls of lowfat cottage cheese right before bed.  Cottage cheese has a high amount of caseine protein, which releases over time.  So, it’s a good way to get protein over the hours that you sleep.

13.   No calories from drinks.  Drinks are for hydrating not eating.  If you must, choose a drink rich in nutrients and down it when it counts most – orange juice in the morning, chocolate milk after a workout (a good muscle rebuilding protein source).  But absolutely no non-diet sodas (includes lemonade, sweet tea, energy drinks, etc.).  If you do anything, cutting out non-diet sodas is perhaps the biggest step you can make!

14.   Energy drinks like Gatorade are not going to help with fat loss.  They are for getting you through a 2 hr + workout and that’s all.  If you’re not doing that, don’t drink ‘em.

15.   Fat loss isn’t the only goal worth focusing on.  Key in on strength increases, being able to go farther or faster, your belt size, more energy during the day, etc.  Use them all, cuz there will be plateaus and you’ll need the other accomplishments to get you through!

16.   Eat like a rock star for breakfast, a career dude for lunch, and a poor college kid for dinner.  A big breakfast fills you up longer (and when your metabolism is at its best!) so it actually helps you lose weight!  If you don’t have time for breakfast, use a meal replacement shake on the go.

17.   Not “No Carbs.”  Just “Watch Carbs.”  Keep them early in the day when your metabolism is working double time and can convert the carbs to energy, and make dinner more protein based when your body needs to recover from the day’s activities.  You need some carbs to have energy for the exercise you’ll be doing.

18.   Get the bulk of your carbs from fruits and vegetables.  Try not to eat breads at night at all.

19.   Get your protein from lean meats like chicken, fish, and turkey.  You can also get them from legumes (beans) and tofu, if you can hack that stuff.  

20.   Healthy meals are easier when the family gets with the program.  Try to get them to do this with you.  And there are LOTS of fun tasty ways to eat healthy. 

21.   Understand when you’re hungry, what is it that you are hungry for?  Satisfy THAT need.  Need energy?  Fruit, not a non-diet soda or candy.  Need salt?  Nuts, not chips.  Beef jerky is actually very satisfying and high in protein!

22.   Drink lots of water.  Flavor it and you’ll drink more!  Seltzer water even has bubbles that make you feel full! 

23.   Alcohol.  Hmm, tough one.  Just try and moderate it.  Here’s a good way to look at it: EARN your drinks.  Get that workout done and you earn it.  Skip the workout, you don’t earn it.  Wine is probably the healthiest, beer and dark alcohols are the least healthy.

24.   Did you know dark chocolate is okay (75% dark chocolate or more)?  Give yourself a treat of a modest portion every day!

25.   To burn fat you have to get your heart rate up.  Cardio trumps lifting weights.  Get most of your weekly exercise from aerobic cardio activity.  Insert a little weight work to boost metabolism and stay strong and injury free, but curling dumbbells or laying on a bench doing presses is not going to burn fat at a fast enough rate.

26.   It’s odd that “spot training” doesn’t burn fat in the spot you target.  Go for a run and the fat doesn’t come off your legs. It comes off your belly, right where it settles.  That’s just how it works.  So, get that heart rate up and do your cardio.

27.   Think cardio is boring?  Find something you can do and a place to do it that makes it fun!  Running, biking, swimming, soccer, tennis, basketball!  We have a greenway, Boyd Lee Park, etc.  And there are always groups of folks to do it with.

28.   Exercising with friends is much easier than by yourself and you hold each other accountable when you commit to workout with them.

29.   If you get hungry during the day and are about to eat something you hadn’t planned on, come see me first.  Give me a chance to help you find something that will tie you over with a minimal impact on your calorie intake and a maximal intake on the nutrients you need before you dive for that Honeybun!  Ask me about recipes, vitamins, anything.  If I don’t know I’ll find out!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Go-To Swim Workouts and Why Snakes Are Lucky

I have a “go to” swim workout that I use as my fitness gauge going into a big race.  I like to have it in my arsenal as a comparative tool so I know if my fitness is peaking relative to prior trials.  And since swim workouts can get monotonous, inserting one frequently that contains a performance goal gives me something to look forward to.

Credit goes to Frank Fisher (his last name is rather appropriate – Frank is no joke in the water) for pointing me to this main set.  For some reason it just stuck with me:


Main Set:

5x200 on 3:00

100 ez

5x100 on 1:30


Today was the first time I attempted it this season (I have to psyche myself up!), and I’m by no means peaked out yet but I was extremely pleased just to be able to get through it.  Really.  When I started this set a couple years ago, puking was imminent. Today I got through rather easily, but nowhere near the times I am capable of.  For the 200’s: 2:45 to 2:49.  For the 100’s: 1:20 to1:23.  By Kona, I should easily be able to do the 200’s in 2:35 and the 100’s in 1:14.  For you fishes out there, this is probably quite laughable but for somebody as un-amphibious as I am I’ll take it.

So what’s your go to swim test?  Those pool sessions get pretty mundane.  Don’t let yourself get caught up in goal-less laps!  Find yourself a goal and give it a whirl!

On another note, the cortisone shot that I had in my knee last June to alleviate the meniscus pain I experience when running seems to have worn off.  The pain comes abruptly during a run and I never know at what mileage it will happen.  Balancing on one leg to put on my drawers is out of the question.  I’m back to square one it seems with only 8 weeks to go til Kona, and I’m not eligible for another shot for 5 more weeks (3 month minimum in between).  I’m gonna have to get creative with how to keep the legs moving and the brain motivated through this period that I can’t train as much as I would like to.  This does not put my mind in a good place.  Not.  At.  All.  Angie didn’t like the idea about going to a different doctor for a shot and not telling them I recently had one.  Deep water running may have to be part of my training repertoire but I’m struggling with believing that it offers any better run simulation than cycling.  ECU doesn’t have one of those new gravity-less treadmill thingies.  I’m open to suggestions.  Anybody know a good shaman?

Knees suck.  Snakes are so lucky.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Catching the Endurance Bug

When I was a goofy high school wiener back at Seoul Foreign School in South Korea in the late 1980's I found an outlet for myself in running.  There wasn't a lot of that going on at the time there.  We had a cross country team that I ran with, but I don't recall seeing random folks running through the city of Seoul or anything.  Either there were no 5k's or marathons or such or I was conveniently sheltered from that scene being a migook-sadam holed up on a mostly American school compound on the top of a hill.

 Me and some of the guys from the SFS Cross Country Team.  I think this is from 1988.

From my cross country days I had ran several loops on or around the school compound in Yonhi-Dong, and several that went a few miles out into neighboring Dongs and Kus.  Once on a training run during my last year of cross-country I found myself ahead of the rest of the team as I approached the gates of Yonsei University......right as the students were getting ready to clash with the riot police over something like foreign policy, government corruption or maybe just to let out some pent-up steam and throw some rocks and molotov cocktails.  To turn around would have meant a much longer run, so I went for it.....and probably ended up on the Korean news for being the stupid American that threaded his way between molotov cocktail wielding students and cops ready to fire their tear gas grenades.  Coach Fuller was not pleased.

I later branched out looking for longer routes, and was able to convince my folks to let me run home from church on Sundays, which was about a 13 mile course that took me along the newly developed Han River park (which was kind of like a concrete recreational area stretched along the banks of the river that weaved through the city of Seoul).  I remember trying to catch bikers in my Nike Air Huaraches, which were freakin' cool looking shoes back then but probably useless for support.

Eventually I decided to ramp my mileage up into running my own private marathon in a big loop within the city.  I don't know why I never asked my folks if they would let me do a real one the next summer we were in the States, but I guess it never occurred to me to include them in this adventure or trouble them with the burden of supporting me or yanking them to some city that would even have a marathon.  So, I mapped my own out and planned to do it on a weekend.

Now, this was right when spandex shorts had become popular.  The previous summer I had bought a few cheap pair on a trip to the States.  I remember one pair were red with black and white checkers down the sides.  I took them for a spin the day I bought them, running from whatever hotel we were living out of in whatever state we were traveling through at the time.  When I got back I realized the threads had busted in the crotch and my balls were hanging out - for how many miles I ran like that I don't know.  But the run was strangely freeing.

For my Inaugural Seoul Marathon I had chosen a unique pair of spandex shorts I had found that had this weird patch of leather in the crotch.  At the time I had no idea what it was for (and thinking back now it hardly seems like it would have provided any comfort whatsoever on a bicycle either) but it seemed new and cool so I went with it.  I was just a dumb kid. 

The marathon was a flamboyant disaster, and I shuffle-walked the last 10 miles or so in a zombie-like trance just to get it done and be able to say I did it.  And I got a lot of odd looks from the locals.  At the time, an American kid running through downtown Seoul in tight spandex shorts was more than a little odd.  It was far more normal for me to stand there like a good little boy while Korean grannies rubbed my blonde hair saying "eggie epooda!" which I guess was something along the lines of, "what a cute little blonde headed weird looking kid."  But I ran that damn marathon.  I couldn't prove anything and nor did I care to, but I just wanted to own a marathon experience to entertain my own head.  I think, at the time, my parents even thought I was a little weird.  But I liked girls, came home before curfew, and didn't wear makeup so I think they were satisfied.

The leather patch was a horrible choice, as the rough side was the one against my nads which after 26.2 miles looked like they had been pressed against a belt sander.  I bled in the shower like a stuck pig and the hot water felt like I was pouring alcohol on the wound. 

But it was fun!

Anyway, that was my start at endurance sports.  My participation came and went a few times through the college years and into my 30's until I refocused on cycling and finally triathlon, and I may come up with some other avenue before I settle into shuffleboard, golf, or panning for gold.  But that's what got me this far.  Thanks for reading!