Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ironman Here I Come

Today is a bit of a scatter.

First off, I hope you all are having the perfect holiday season whether it be Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, simply time off of work, or anything else.  I got to go home for the first time in a year and it was great to relax and visit family and friends I haven't seen in various lengths of time.

Second, I will be away again for New Years.  For Christmas I was in upstate NY and for New Years I will be in New York City; call it a New York holiday for me.  But I will be back shortly after the new year with PLENTY to talk about. 

Lastly, I am officially registered for my first Ironman event, the Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island on July 10th, 2011.  It's exciting to finally have it scheduled and in the books, but I have a LOT of training to do over the next 7 months!  This will also serve as my first test as to how the full training schedule is going to work out for the complete Ironman lifestyle I've got set up now.  Next year is a full Ironman and I plan on devoting even more time on that training, so hopefully the next seven months go smoothly. 

Here's to health, challenges, and the daily reinvention of one's self. 

QuestionWhat is your New Years Resolution?

I've never had a resolution of my own until after the new year.  So in following tradition, I'd love to hear about your new years resolutions in order to give me ideas of what I could try.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Tips

For most of us, the holidays is a time of getting back together with family, old friends, trips home or away, big meals, time off of work, late nights and completely different schedules.  For some, this can be quite the shake up to either the regular workout routine or simply the personal fitness goals.  Who's going to tell Aunt Betty that you're not going to have a slice of her famous pie this year?  Why damper the holidays by forcing yourself to eat smaller portions than you'd like just because you don't have the time for that long afternoon run?  Don't fret!  This is where some imagination comes in handy.

Whether you're trying to keep those holiday desserts from sticking to your mid-rift or simply trying to find a way to lose a couple extra pounds, the center of that goal should be one thing, Increasing Your Metabolism.  So here's a quick insight on how that works.

Metabolism, for our purposes here, is the rate at which the body uses up energy stores, whether those be immediately available glucose, stored glycogen, stored fat, or protein.  Those of us who are attempting to avoid GAINING weight are looking to burn through the food that we are eating at that time.  Those of us who are looking to LOSE weight we already have are looking to burn through energy the body already has stored. 

The first question you should ask is "How does my body burn up energy?"  The answer is, your muscles.  As your muscles do work, as they move, they use up that energy and of course, the more they work, the greater amount of energy they will use.  The second question you should ask is "How do I burn the most calories in the least amount of time?"  The answer is A) use your biggest muscles and B) use as many muscles as possible.  Think of this as your family.  The biggest person in the family is the hungriest.  My uncle Karl at 6'6" can out eat everyone by two or three plates, but at some point, he's going to slow down.  So while my family definitely wants him at dinner to be sure we get through all the food, we'll also need other people, grandparents, parents, some cousins, aunts, uncles, maybe a couple neighbors.  Finally, those people looking to LOSE weight may ask a third question; "How do I lose weight specifically in one area?"  Unfortunately, the answer is you can't.  Energy usage is global in your body, so doing situps to try and shrink your stomach or bicep curls to try and lose weight on your arms is useful, but extremely inefficient.  Your legs have bigger muscles and they will burn through energy anywhere in your body just as easily.

In the long-term, increasing the amount of muscle you have increases the amount of energy your body in total can burn through.  However, over the holidays, very few of you I'm sure will be looking to do some serious weight lifting.  Heck, we can't even get a half hour by ourselves without little cousin Jonathon jumping into our laps or Grandma handing us yet another cookie.  So we have to look to the short term and be imaginative with the time we have.

In order to increase our metabolism, we have to work our muscles, but we don't have time to get to the gym to do our typical 1-2 hour workout.  So why not split your workout into five minute bursts throughout the day?  While you're in the kitchen helping to cook or set for the meal, use your calf muscles to lift yourself up onto the balls of your feet a few times.  If you're passing around a gallon of milk, do a couple bicep curls with it.  If your little cousin jumps into your arms, swing him around a few times (he's just as good as a dumbbell weight).  If you get a few moments to yourself, do a few squats, maybe some quick pushups or crunches.  You may think it's insignificant, but the little things you do throughout the day can REALLY add up.  You may not burn 1000 calories all at once like you're use to, but burning 30 every 20 minutes over 8 hours burns 720; a vast improvement from nothing.  And this is all a type of what's called "circuit training."

Circuit training is typically very simple exercises done in succession (little rest inbetween), meant to be done within maybe 5-20 minutes in total.  These types of workouts are designed for people that don't have the time to get to the gym.  Typical exercises include various types of pushups, situps, squats, lunges, tricep dips using a simple chair, and tons more.  Very little if any equipment is needed and these can be done anywhere - at the gym, in the office, the kitchen, or in the living room.

The last thing I would want anyone to think is that they don't have time to get in shape, or that it is inevitable that they will lose the shape they've worked so hard to obtain.  It may take some imagination, but workouts are anything that makes a muscle work.  Heck, even focused thinking burns calories.  You don't have to be at the gym to get results, you don't even have to workout every day or change into workout clothes.  All the little things you do throughout the day are tiny little workouts. 

With that, I will wish you all a Happy Holidays.  I am traveling home myself for my own celebrations and will be in and out until the new year, so if I don't make it back on here until afterwards, have a safe and happy holiday.

Stay fit!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Protein Supplements

I got in a discussion today with a couple friends over the uses, benefits, and downsides of using protein powder mixes and I thought I'd share our thoughts.  I've had a number of questions myself that I haven't fully researched or sufficiently closed the case on yet, so I'll follow this up in the future, but feel free to add your own thoughts or comments in a post or message.

As always, I'll start off with my own personal history.  Currently, I do not use any protein supplement, but I recently (few months ago) finished my first and only protein powder jug (GNC AMP 100% Whey Protein), so I have used it in the past.  I always had the position that nutrition from real food was much better for you than supplements.  Supplements are either synthetic or isolated nutrients that are combined in a way that you don't find in normal food; either more concentrated or simply in a combination you don't normally find.  However, when I got into the gym this past fall after my triathlon season ended, I started doing some nutrition research and discovered that it is quite widely agreed that your body is most poised to absorb nutrients (aka, protein) within 30-60 minutes after a workout.  Therefore, in order to maximize your ability to build muscle, you need to provide your body with absorbable nutrients quite soon after a workout.  One option is obviously to eat after a workout, but the food will take some time for your body to break it down to a usable form.  So liquids are the best option.  Therefore, I finally was convinced to give the protein powders a try.  My main rules were 1. It has to be a form of protein that is as natural as possible and 2. Stay away from Creatine.  The first rule was tied to my position that actual food is still better, just one step further.  The second rule is because while Creatine causes very good results, it mainly is water absorption and I wanted to gain actual usable muscle mass, not water stores.  When I finished that pack of protein powder, many people noticed a difference (whether it be simply because I was working out or whether I was using the powder you can go ahead and argue amongst yourselves), but I began feeling like there must be better ways to go about supplementing my workout diet.  Therefore, I am still out of a feesible reason to go back to the powders.

So now onto the arguments.

1.  Protein supplements are unnatural

I agree to a point.  It is much more natural to eat a steak, nuts, a chicken breast, beans, or fish fillet than it is to drink a powder you mix with water or milk.  You don't find protein concentrate in nature, so it is questionable how well our body is designed to deal with it.  However, I have to argue that some forms of protein supplement are simply isolated protein from milk (whey) or soy that we could naturally eat ourselves.  It is still a more concentrated form, but as far as being unnatural, there is nothing synthetic that science may find in 20 years to be cancer causing.  Therefore, as far as being unnatural, if you do your homework and read labels carefully, you can find certain brands that are much less synthetic than others. 

2.  Most people don't need it.

I agree.  This is the second main reason I have not gone back to using protein supplements myself.  The more I read about the details of when you need it, how much you need, and who benefits from it, I began doubting much of what the companies advertise.  First, some basic science.  The protein supplement is meant to help your body rebuild muscle that you've broken down during a workout.  This assumes that A) you have a workout that is causing you to break down your muscle, B) you do not have enough protein in your system already to supply the necessary amount of protein needed, and C) that you need to rebuild.  I would venture to guess that 80% or more of people who workout do so in a way that will not actually cause the breakdown of muscle; that is simply based on my observations of people at the gym.  Breaking a sweat is not required or sufficient and muscle soreness is not sufficient.  You don't need to be a body builder, but think "heavy exertion" and non-endurance types of workouts; running on a treadmill and doing mild weight lifting is not going to build muscle.  Second, most readings suggest that in general workouts any less than an hour do not need protein supplements.  If you know how to do the right workout to break down muscle, this guideline does not apply to you, but this guideline does cut out most people from using supplements (most gym-goers are there for an hour or less total in my experience).  Third, there is a misconception that I cannot stand: Building muscle builds strength.  Technically, yes, but it is not the only way.  I personally spent YEARS increasing my strength but could never increase my muscle mass.  It frustrated me at the time, but it serves as an example of how strength is elementally increased in your existing muscle; extra muscle simply enhances the strength you can build.  This also serves to people who do not want to build muscle, but would like some more strength; it certainly is possible.

3.  Supplements can mess up your body.

Some supplements are very dangerous.  Some won't do anything for you.  Some supplements give you results you want, but in a way you don't want.  Then obviously there are some that do what you want in the way you want.  It is up to you to research the different kinds and the ingredients.  There are always the stories of the body builders who mess themselves up by taking too much of certain things; those are extreme cases.  For the normal person though, I've still heard of plenty of cases where people end up in the ER because they have odd heart beats, they can't sleep, they get reactions to something (eg. allergic), they become severely dehydrated, etc.  My rule for most things is "If there are two options, the one with the more 'In Your Face' label is worse."  Products with simple, informative labels allow the product to sell itself; protein powders are the same.  From what I've heard (and read), the GNC brand is one of the best options.  That is what I used and the label is very simple, no pictures of huge muscles or ripped bodies; just the information you need to know and product descriptions so you can make an informed decision.  Then there are obviously powders out there that will do nothing for you.  These are usually either badly formulated powders that you need to research on your own, or due to a mismatch of your workout with the product (some are designed for certain types of workouts and/or results).  Then there are ingredients that are very misleading.  Creatine is my favorite example.  Creatine builds up your muscles and does so at a very rapid rate which makes it an obvious favorite.  The downside, from what I've read and heard of personal friends, is that it does so by increasing the water absorbed into your muscles.  Therefore, you end up with bigger, stronger muscles, but A) you have to do some pushups to "pump" them up (fill them with water), B) you have to continue working out or your body loses the results, and C) you're gaining water mass, not muscle mass.  Great results, but bad means.

4.  Product "quality" is measured by the absorption of Amino Acids

This is more of a technical and scientific point of my own.  From what I've seen, it seems that most of the protein supplement industry is bent on the idea of making their products more absorbable by the body.  I agree that a main point of taking the supplement is so you have a very fast way of providing immediately absorbable (and therefore usable) amino acids for your body to use in re-building your muscle.  However, how much of the absorbed amino acids get into your muscle?  I don't like that I have not seen a product with information on where that protein goes.  It's great to have a product that is the most absorbable protein powder on the market, but if only 30% of it gets to the muscle, then it becomes a bit ridiculous.  Absorption is the first step, but not the end means in my line of thought. 

Those are some of the thoughts that we had come up with.  I'm sure there are plenty of other arguments to be made as well as other perspectives by which to view these points above.  If you have either, I would be more than happy to hear about it. 

Why I have ceased using protein supplements
1.  I have no immediate desire to build muscle
2.  I feel my workouts are not currently breaking down muscle beyond a point where natural foods are insufficient to supply protein to my body
3.  I've never been 100% ok with the idea of unnatural supplements
4.  I have a nagging gut feeling that there are more natural ways (ie. real food) that are on par with protein supplements (this is my focus for protein research at this point)

 Please leave a comment below or message me with any thoughts you might have.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nutrition and Racing, Part I: Carb-Loading

As you know, I'm a triathlete.
Triathlons come in a large variety of sizes; from Mini-Triathlons which may take a total of 30 minutes to complete all the way up to the Ironman which can span 17 hours for some athletes. 

Most people (in my opinion) would agree that athletes require a slightly different approach to nutrition, let it be that they simply need more calories each day, may need more electrolytes, more protein, more fruit, or whatever.  This set of blogs (I will be continuing this "series" for quite some time I'm sure) is going to explore what an "athletic diet" really is and should be.

My first question to tackle stems from being an athlete in a sport that offers both sprint and endurance races. I've been in races that have taken anywhere from 24 seconds to an hour and thirty-five minutes.  I'm also training for a race that I predict will take me twelve hours to complete.  But in the midst of all of this can I assume that athletic diet suggestions apply both for sprinters AND endurance athletes?  Specifically...
Q: Does carbohydrate-loading work equally for sprint and endurance athletes?

I grew up on the carbohydrate loading method.  The night before my swim meets, my family would always have pasta for dinner.  The goal is to saturate your body's carbohydrate stores, which serves as a primary source of energy; more stored energy on reserve means greater energy available for use come race time.  That seems quite reasonable on the surface.  Where I find this idea to break down is in the answer to the question of "how much carbohydrate can your body store?"

Carbohydrates are broken down in the body and stored as glycogen (a form of sugar; glucose) in the liver and muscles.  The vast majority (75-80%) of the glycogen is stored in your muscles and is used for muscle movement, while the liver, which is in charge of maintaining blood-glucose levels, only receives 20-25% of stored carbohydrate.  Exercise-induced hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, causes fatiguing of muscles, dizziness, light-headedness, disorientation, along with a long list of other variable symptoms.  To various degrees, these are the symptoms of "bonking" or "hitting the wall."

Athlete on a Typical Diet
As far as I've read, it seems an athlete on a typical diet (roughly 50% of calories from carbs) can store up to 350g of carbs and only 20-25% of these are stored in the liver while the rest goes to the muscles.  Therefore, approximately 80g goes to the liver.  As far as carbohydrate usage, I've read that at a moderate workout level, the body can burn through blood glucose at a rate of 60g/h.  This means that the average athlete on a typical diet will begin to be hypoglycemic (burn through the liver's carbohydrate stores and no longer be able to regulate blood glucose levels) in an hour and twenty minutes.  Given my own experience and that of other athlete's I know, this time frame is quite accurate.

Athlete on a Carb-Loading Diet
If however, this athlete is elite and goes on a carb-loading diet, it seems approximated that they could store up to 850g of carbs; 190g to the liver.  This athlete then would last three hours and ten minutes before becoming hypoglycemic. 

From this idea alone, the carb-loading diet seems quite reasonable, wouldn't you agree?  But what happens when an athlete goes beyond their carbohydrate store?  Does that mean that they have to stop racing and refuel?  No.  Anyone who has heard of things called "bonking" or "hitting the wall: or has experience with it themselves knows that you can push through the end of your carbohydrate stores.  Ok, some more science...

Your body in general burns fat and carbohydrates in a certain individualized ratio.  For the sake of this blog, let's assume it's 50:50.  Protein is the third major energy source, but your body does not generally go to that source outside of extreme or specific conditions, so I will ignore that for the time being.  If your body burns fat and carbohydrates equally to obtain energy for general exercise, what happens when you hit the end of your stores?  It's quite simple, your body burns more fat.  

A youtube video by Tim VanOrden who runs introduced me to the idea of altering the way your body obtains energy.  What he explains in the video is how to teach your body to burn fat more efficiently than carbs.  He lowers his carbohydrate intake and goes on long runs.  What happens is he depletes his carbohydrate stores and his body switches over to burning more fat.  Over time, the idea is that your body will begin to start burning more and more fat right from the start.  Now why would you want to do this?  No, he's not trying to lose weight.  Comparatively, your body can run for DAYS on its own fat while you can only run maybe three hours at most on carbohydrates.  Therefore, if you can switch over to fat burning, you avoid hitting "the wall," you maintain your energy, and you can race for much longer periods of time.  This seems like the holy grail for endurance athletes, right?  Any endurance athlete would end up repeatedly hitting "the wall" and over time alter their body accordingly, but altering your diet in order to optimize that change seems quite useful in order to get the most of of each workout.  

Tim VanOrden began this diet because he was training for a marathon and thought it would be helpful.  Given that I am planning on running a marathon along with two half-Ironman races this coming summer, I jumped on this idea and began researching.  From what I've read, the science behind how your body switches from carbs to fat for energy is not well understood, though it is process well recognized to occur through training.  I'm planning on giving it a try come Spring.

So back to my question:  Does carbohydrate-loading work equally for sprint and endurance athletes? I have focused here on the idea of carb-loading and would conclude that it holds the most benefit for sprinters. Therefore, I would answer...
A:  No, carb-loading does not hold the same benefit for sprint and endurance athletes, though I admit that all athletes require carbohydrates for some portion of energy.  However, endurance athletes should focus more on a nutritional system that teaches their body to be increasingly efficient at burning fat. 

As I dig deeper and deeper into the details of carb-loading and various endurance athlete diets, I will add to this series of blogs.  Below are other topics I plan on covering (and the list will of course expand as time goes by). 
- Carb-Loading
- The Science of Carbohydrate Storage
- Energy: Protein vs. Carbs vs. Fat
- During-Race Nutrition
- Training versus Race-Prep Nutrition
- The Dean Karnazas Diet
- Protein Supplementation
- Raw Foods

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!  I'm always happy to answer questions or join discussions.  Please feel free to correct me where necessary; I'm not an expert.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fat Head

I recently watched a documentary by a guy named Tom Naughton called Fat Head (full feature is available on

For those who don't know, this is a documentary that was made in reaction to the much more well known documentary by Morgan Spurlock called Super Size Me.

Tom Naughton is a computer programmer and in watching Super Size Me, felt there were some inconsistencies as well as flat out untruths in Morgan's information.  In his reaction, Tom does what any normal person would do, he goes on his own 30-day fast food binge. 

To make a long story short, Tom does two main things in his documentary.  First, he criticizes much of Morgan's information about the general public's nutritional knowledge, the availability of nurtritional information, and the control & power that fast food (McDs) has over children and their parents.  Secondly, Tom also eats nothing but fast food (70% McDs) for 30 days and amazingly manages to lose weight, decrease body fat content, improve his cholesterol, and decrease his chance for heart conditions.  He doesn't stick to salads, water, and all the "healthier" items like you'd think though; he has all the fatty, greasy food most normal people would have.  His rules are simple - stick to roughly 2000 calories a day and limit carbs to roughly 100g/day. 

At his final check in, the doctor is utterly amazed at what happened - he got healthier

But that's not what peaked my interest.  I got hooked on Tom's analysis of our diet over the generations and how that correlated with cholesterol.  Tom goes into a lot of detail about something called the Lipid Hypothesis which states that total fat and saturated fat will make you fat, increase your cholesterol, and lead to heart attacks and other conditions.  During this whole fast food binge, Tom eats much more fat and saturated fat than is recommended and manages to improve his cholesterol.  How is that?  Tom explains that we crave three tastes, salt, fat, and sugar; three things that used to be harder to come by (think back to stone age times) and also had lots of our necessary nutrition in it.  Therefore, our cravings were what helped us survive (and is still why we have cravings today - our bodies telling us it needs a certain nutrient).  Today, however, we are told to stay away from fats, limit our sugars, and because of how our diets work, that increases the intake of carbohydrates (bread, pasta, starch), which are mainly processed foods.

What it all comes down to is that the Lipid Hypothesis is mostly junk.  Carbs are broken down into sugars, processed into fat and absorbed into our bodies better than sugar and fat on their own.  Do a search for what' called a Ketogenic Diet.  It's a diet that increases your fat intake and decreases your carbohydrate intake.  This diet has been shown to improve your cholesterol over and over again. 

After the 30-day fast food binge which improved Tom's overall health, he was also intrigued by the fact that going against nutritional recommendations (increased fats, decreased carbs; a ketogenic type diet) improved his cholesterol.  He took another month and accentuated that diet at home - eating much more fatty meat and cholesterol packed foods with little carbs.  The result was another improvement in his cholesterol; going completely against both the doctors and nutritionists predictions.

Overall, I still feel there are some faults in Tom's documentary, but I feel he is much more candid about his information and thorough with his analysis.

I find the evolution of our diet and the impact it has had on our bodies incredibly interesting.  We have decades of nutritionists and doctors telling us that certain combinations of processed foods, supplements, and such are the best way to eat.  We have vegetarians and vegans arguing (apart from moral and ethical stances) that meat is actually harmful to our bodies.  And I don't even want to know how many "amazing," "incredible," and "successful" diets there are on the market today.  I personally favor the evolutionary "look at what our ancestors ate" viewpoint.  There is a book I may talk about in the future - it discussed how the best diet for each individual person is that of their ancestors.  For example, my heritage is Scandanavian (Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch), so I should focus on getting protein from seafood instead of beef, carbs from bread instead of pasta, and such.  The modern world is full of amazing and helpful things, but I think the more we become "experts" at individual tasks (e.g. nutrition, science, food processing and production), the worse off the non-expert general public becomes.

Morals of the blog
1.  Don't believe everything you hear; think on it for yourself.
2.  Watch Fat Head (it's free online)
3.  You can actually lose weight on fast food if you stick to certain guidelines
4.  The ketogenic diet (high fat, low carb) seems to improve cholesterol
5.  Nutritionists and Doctors (really, all experts) are not always right

Enjoy your Friday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


My feet.

Does anything look odd about that picture?  Maybe something doesn't look quite right.  Ok, let me help you out.  Let's look at another angle.

Left foot

How about now?  See it?  And no, I did not photoshop this (I don't even know how to use photoshop let alone illustrator or any other program).  My index toe is nice and purple!

Close up!

"How did that happen?" you might ask.  Well, I was at practice for a local musical and in one of the dance numbers, we jump into a pushup position (for you Yoga people out there, moving from Uttanasana into Plank Pose) and I managed to hit my left foot on the floor at some odd angle.  It hurt a little right then; much like a stubbed toe.  Then later that night I noticed it was swelling and the next day it turned purple.  Yay!!

So my running at this point in time is BUSTED!  Yet again my running goal is on hold for health reasons. 

Healing.  At this point I am taking anti-inflammatory OTCs, using an ice pack every 1-2 hours and keeping the foot elevated.  It hurts to curl the toe too much, but I assume it is mostly because it is still inflamed.  I doubt it's broken; my guess is it's sprained or jammed pretty well.  If you have any suggestions or thoughts, I'd be happy to hear about them.  Not having health insurance is keeping me from going to a doctor for the time being (until it gets much worse). 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Headline News

Christopher Martin's 5k Road Race.

That was the race I ran with two friends - Kristin and Chelsea - this past Sunday.  Also, remember we never got registered, so we just showed up, ran with the crowd, and timed ourselves (great way to race on a tight budget).  We met at Kristin's place and carpooled down to New Haven.  We got there and discovered there certainly were a lot of people.  The race was capped at 2,000 entries, so of course there would be a lot.  You also would notice very quickly how cold it seemed; not because it was cold (it was mid to upper forties), but because it was raining and it always feels colder with the rain.  While we waited for the race to start, we stood under the awning of a building attempting to stay dry and snapped a couple pictures.  As you may remember, we went dressed as three of Santa's reindeer.

Chelsea (Dancer) and Kristin (Vixen)

 Kristin (Vixen) and Me (Cupid)

And then while we were standing there waiting, a news team from Channel 8 News came over and interviewed us.  Other than crossing the finish line, this was the second best highlight of the day (aired on public news for a race we were even registered for).  The video (below) aired Sunday evening and an article was posted online HERE

Chelsea's line "I think it's going to be a perfect storm of awesomeness," is still my favorite.  She's gave that line like she had it completely prepared.  It was amazing.  But eventually the racers began lining up for the race.  And that's when you really got to see how many people there were.

Racers lined up behind the starting line.

Racers underneath the gas station ceiling attempting to stay dry just before the start.

Reindeer prior to start

It rained up until about mile #3, so we got quite soaked.  The antlers quickly got bent from the bobbing motion, Chelsea's shirt became a belt, and my shirt bled red everywhere, but we had a great time.
Reindeer post-race

We crossed the finish line and made a B-line for the car to get some warm clothes on.  Hopefully the next race will be snow instead of rain, but either way I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It's 7:30am and I have a race at 10:00am.  I just re-checked the weather forecast hopeful that it might have changed since last night, but I was wrong.

It's still going to rain.  My only consolation is that it will be in the upper 40's; at least we won't freeze on the spot.  It's sad when the towel I bring to the race isn't for wiping of sweat, but actually drying off. 

We are, however, not registered for this race.  Online registration closed earlier this week and we didn't make it to New Haven in person yesterday to register, so instead we're just going to show up and run without Bibs.  It should be fun either way.  I'll return with a recap either later today or tomorrow.

Enjoy your Sunday!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Check-In Saturday

Date: December 11th, 2010
Scheduled Mileage: 25.5 miles
Actual Mileage Logged: 23.4
Mileage Difference: -2.1 miles

I logged another 3.6 miles today, but I still fell short of this week's mark.  I'm not disappointed at all though.  I completed the base mileage and still tacked on an extra 3.2 miles on top of that, so I'm on my way.  Just means I have to tack on a bit more in the coming weeks to make up for it.  But overall, if I got behind anywhere, I would have predicted it to be the first couple weeks.  You really don't want to increase your mileage too fast.  It could result in shin splints, a stress fracture, burn out, muscle aches, etc.  I've got a slight feeling of shin splints which I will be icing and heating today, but overall I'm feeling good

Tomorrow is supposed to be the Christopher Martin's 5k race in New Haven.  I was informed today that online registration is closed.  That means I'm supposed to register in person in New Haven today; not exactly sure what's going to happen with that, but I'll keep ya' posted.  Either way, I think the three of us who planned to run could still manage to map out a 5k and just run it ourselves if push comes to shove (wherever that phrase came from). 

Ok, it's time I attempted to make a dent in this hunger I have.  Then off to do some holiday shopping.  Does anyone have any really cool or unique gift ideas they came up with this year for someone?


Friday, December 10, 2010

One Added Degree

It's official.  Aside from the final paperwork and administration hoops to jump through, I am now the proud owner of now THREE academic degrees.  I have an Associates in Math/Science Liberal Arts, a Bachelors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and now a Masters in Biomedical Science.  As I alter my directions towards fitness, personal training, and possibly exercise science I find myself wondering "Will I be one of those people who has a degree they'll never actually use?"  I never thought I'd say it, but I may have to join that club soon.  haha

Anyways, back to fitness (yay!).  I went out today for another run.  As you know, my base mileage according to my New Years Eve goal is 2 miles, but I have to fit in another 5 miles each week on top of that.  Yesterday I tacked on an extra 1.6 miles and I was hoping to do the same today, but about half a mile into the run I started getting pains in my right leg and my right foot started bothering me; the best way I can describe it is that it's similar to the feeling of been on your feet for too long and you just want to sit down.  At that point with a race coming up on Sunday and plenty of miles to go in the future, I opted just to do the base 2 miles and be done for the day. 

On my way to the turnaround, I pass a busy intersection and usually have to speed up to cross before I get made into road kill by the next oncoming car.  As I was approaching the intersection, I opted out of the extra mileage to give my foot a break, but as I ran through the intersection, I sped up a little, extended my stride, and all of a sudden noticed that the pain in my foot was gone.  Woah!!  I ran the rest of the course at the faster pace and felt great.

It struck me on the second mile that I had had this revelation about my faster pace being better for my body before.  Back in training for the half marathon, I noticed that my hip flexors and extensors would not be so tight if I kept up a faster pace with an extended stride; my legs were even less fatigued.  It seems that the form of my faster pace (I would guess it to be around 7:00-7:15/mile pace) is much better than my slower pace.  I will have to recruit some help in order to analyze it more, but I would venture to guess that my slower pace needs some improvements.  From now on, I will be pushing to maintain the faster pace, for the sake of my feet!

Oh, I also tested out running with some spandex; it was 25 (felt like 20) degree Fahrenheit today.  Granted, these are spandex I bought back in high school for drag in swimming, but they do the trick.  For now, it's saving me from buying a $100 pair of runner's spandex.  Yay saving money!


Thursday, December 9, 2010


Today will be quick.  I have a presentation to prepare for; hopefully as of tonight I will be more powerful by one degree, a Masters. 

Anyways, I got up to run today and decided I wanted to go a little further than the base two miles.  So I ran to my turnaround point and kept going.  I went 0.8 miles past the turn around and then came back.  I was hoping it was a full 1.0 miles past, but oh-well.  It's still further.  So I ran a total of 3.6 miles today.

As far as how I felt, the 25 degree temperature with wind gusts wasn't the best feeling; I may opt to put on my spandex tomorrow My left knee started bothering me again part way back from the turnaround.  Then my right foot began feeling increased pressure with 1.0 miles to go.  After moving my foot around a bit and paying more attention to how it was striking, I was fine.  I'll have to keep up on that more in the future.

Other than that, I'm good.  A hot shower, a warm breakfast (oatmeal with PLENTY of raisins and some OJ) and I'm good to go.  Oh, and my friends made me a shirt for the race on Sunday.  We're going as three of Santa's reindeer.  I'm cupid. 

We'll be picking up antlers as well, so look for that picture come Sunday.  This will be a lot of fun!

Ok, off to do real "work."  Is it too early to look forward to retirement?  haha


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

100 Miles by New Years Eve

As you may recall, JUST before I got viciously attacked by the unidentified rhinovirus (common cold), I posted a training goal for 150 miles by Xmas.  Here it is

I had given myself 42 days to run 150 miles.  I thought it was quite reasonable.  However, due to my illness, I'm down to 17 days remaining and have only logged 14.2 miles in thus far; leaving me with 135.8 miles to do in 17 days.  Split evenly, that's just under 8 miles a day without a break.  Wow! 

Despite my complete urge to go for broke and try doing 8 miles a day, the trainer in me knows that that could end badly (shin splints, stress fracture, burnout, etc.).  In order then to stick to the original goal of increasing mileage slowly, I'm going back to my original schedule and simply shifting the weeks.  So the new goal is 100 miles by New Years.

100 Miles by New Years Eve

The first line is my previous mileage; what I've run up to this week since starting the previous goal.  Beyond that, as before, I have a base mileage to be run 5 days a week and then an added 4.95 miles each week to be spread out as I see fit throughout that week.  Hopefully the family, friends, food, and 10 degrees drop in temperature at home over Xmas won't hamper me too much.

This week I've already got two days done (yesterday and today).  I ran another 2 miles this morning in what says felt like 20 degrees.  Thankfully my winter gear is holding up nicely.  Here's to another eleven miles this week.

PS.  If I get sick again here in the next week, I might think twice about posting my training schedules on this blog.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Expensive Habits

I have an expensive habit.  No, I'm not hooked on drugs.  I don't stop at every starbucks for a $10 half-cup of coffee.  I even periodically shop at the Salvation Army, so I'm not a fashion or shopping snob.  I'm a triathlete.  

Today was my first run in...  well...  a long time (maybe a month).  I'm feeling much better (over my nasty cold), so I'm shooting to race in a 5k this weekend that I promised to do with a couple of friends.  Given that fact and that it's dropped in temperature significantly since I last ran, I had to find a set of winter running gear for Sunday.

I picked up a pair of Pearl iZUMi running gloves from Fleet Feet Sports in West Hartford for $30.  Then I ran over to Target and got a wind-breaker jacket for $24.99 and two long-sleeve moisture-wick shirts on clearance for $1.98 and $3.48 each (yay clearance rack!!).  I invested $60 today and I know there's plenty more to get simply for winter training, not to mention what I'll need come spring for the next triathlon season or what I'll pay this coming year in entry fees alone.

I decided I need to compile a list of my triathlon investments.  Are you ready to see how much a triathlon lifestyle is?  Starting from late May of this year through today: 

Road Bike.......................................$300........Craigslist
Bike Helmet....................................$20..........Target
2x water bottles...............................$7............Wal-Mart
Triathlon shorts................................$70..........Newington Bike Shop
Headband & Bandanas....................$10..........Target
3x Moisture-wick sleeveless shirts....$15..........Target
Watch with timer.............................$12..........Target
Hex-Key Set (allen wrenches).........$7.............Lowe's
Bike Pump......................................$30...........Central Wheel
New Bike Tire................................$30...........Newington Bike Shop
Non-cotton running socks.................$15..........Dick's Sporting Goods
Moisture-wick running shorts...........$15..........Boston Running Co.
Headband.......................................$3.............Hartford Expo
Axics running shoes.........................$106.........Fleet Feet Sports
Running gloves................................$30...........Fleet Feet Sports
2x Moisture-wick long sleeve shirts...$6............Target

Entry Fees:
USAT Membership..............$39
4x Spring Triathlon...............$100
Park City Oly.......................$108
Litchfield Oly.......................$103
Nancy's 5k...........................$18
South Park 5k.......................$20
Hartford Half Marathon........$55


Now, I will give myself the benefit that the initial costs are always greater.  Once you are set with the bike, got all the racing / training clothes, and gear, your continued costs are mainly the entry fees.  But given entry fees alone, in the upcoming year I plan on running a half marathon (~$50), a marathon (~$75), maybe another four sprint triathlons ($100), hopefully a couple Olys (~$200), and two half-Ironman (~$550), I'm looking at roughly $1000 in entry fees this coming year alone.  The following year is my ultimate goal of the Ironman which has an entry fee of roughly $600 as a single event.

At this point, while I fully support the idea of giving your business to local, privately owned shops (the local running or biking shop, etc), I have to admit that for most people, this sport requires cutting a LOT of corners and those shops can be a bit pricey.  So I have no problem checking out the clearance sections at Target, looking on Craigslist for used gear, or attempting for periods of time to see if you can get away without certain items.  I'm personally on a college student budget.  So this sport has sucked quite literally half of this past 6-7 month's savings.  I don't have a new, shiny bike, a wetsuit, clipless pedals, bike shoes, or even an official triathlon jersey, but I make it work.  I didn't believe it when I started, but as a convert I will pass along my personal stamp of approval.  It's true - this isn't just a sport, it's a lifestyle.

For my own financial sake, I hope I can get a job simply to support this habit.  haha

Ok, dinner time.  Ciao!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Race Volunteer

Yesterday I volunteered at the Blue Back Mitten Run in West Hartford.

It was overall, a good experience, though I will admit that I had hoped for a bit more.  First, the weather.  It was in the twenties, maybe upper by the time the races started, but either way very COLD.  There were half mile and one mile races for children at 10am.  I didn't get to see those races, but there were a lot of cute kids running around with Bib numbers at the registration tables, so I'm sure it was a very fun race to watch.  Then the main event was at 10:30am.  I admit that I was quite impressed with the turn out for this race.  I'm used to maybe 200 racers tops and this well exceeded that (maybe to the full 1000 they expected).  If you wanted to actually race, you certainly had to be out in front.  Once the horn went off, the front pack jetted out ahead and the rest of the mob slowly moved its way down the road; there's no way someone in that pack had a chance of getting accurate time.

There were at least two people (I saw one girl and one guy) wearing the Vibram shoes.  I caught the girl and she said she absolutely loves them and that they're great for racing in.  However, the craziest thing I saw the whole day was the outfit that the race winner wore.  Remember, it was in the twenties!  He had on running shoes, running shorts, a racing tank top, and arm warmers.  That's it.  Most everyone else at the front of the pack at least had running gloves and a hat if not a running jacket.  I swear this guy felt like he was freezing by the time he hit the finish line some 17 minutes after the horn.  I guess that would be extra motivation though - get to the finish so you can get warm again.

Anyways, on to my volunteering.  As I mentioned above, I was slightly disappointed, but you can't expect all jobs to be fun, right?  I got set up to work baggage check.  Me and five other high school seniors (who all knew each other) stood across from registration and collected bags, jackets, shirts, etc. for people to pick up after the race.  We managed to have two to three dozen bags which surprised us, but what this job meant was that we were not going to see the race.  One of the highschooler's father offered to watch the bags while we went to see the race start.  Then when we got back to watching the bags, all of the high schoolers went off to the finish line to watch the finish.  Another reason as to why you can't fully trust high schoolers to take on the responsibility of more important volunteer positions.  I even wonder now if they gave me that position because they thought I was in that group - the lady divying up jobs said she thought that we all knew each other, so maybe I got mixed up.  Who knows.

Either way, I got to see a crazy winter running outfit, a couple of Vibram runners, got to talk to a couple ladies who ran the Hartford Marathon that suggested a Spring marathon for me, and managed to give back to the racing community with one volunteer day.  I'll certainly be doing it again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Volunteering Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the West Hartford Mitten Run.  It's the last run of the 2010 season for the Hartford Marathon Foundation

I had originally planned on running this race, but opted out because I didn't feel like paying the entry fee (triathlon training is becoming an expensive habit).  Instead, I opted to volunteer instead; no reason to still not partake of the event, right?!  So I have to show up around 915 tomorrow to get my "orders" and "instructions."  I'm told I will be a COURSE MONITOR, whatever that might mean; my guess is the person who stands at a corner and keeps the runners from going in the wrong direction (I have personal experience that will admit signs are not always sufficient, haha). 

Whatever it is they have me doing, I'm looking forward to being on the other side of the race this time.  I've had a LOT of fun racing and have always had the feeling that I might enjoy being a part of the group that sets up and manages a race, so this is my first chance to see if I do.  If so, I might have to get in touch with HMF and see if there is any other way to more permanently volunteer or work at these types of races.  Otherwise, I'll make sure to volunteer at individual races here and there in order to make sure I do my part to help out - It takes a lot of volunteers to get all the races I've been in together, to set them up, to run them, and to break them down smoothly and I'd hate to think I've never done my part to help. 

I'll come back tomorrow with my synopsis of how it all went.  For anyone out there who does race, I would highly encourage you to take a race or two throughout your season or even off season and volunteer.  It's not only helpful to give support back to the groups that you make use of to race with, but it's extremely helpful (at least it makes sense to me) to have actual racers volunteering; no one knows how to help better than those who have been through the situation themselves.

Good luck to all my friends in the race tomorrow!  I'll see you out there.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Slow Makings...

Hello.  It's been awhile, hasn't it?  Yes, it has.

In short, a cold had been going around here in CT and it eventually got ahold of me.  I am the type of person who will go months if not years without getting a single symptom of any illness, but when I do get sick, I get SICK!  I like to think I have a superhuman immune system and taking it down means that bug has got to be a superhuman villain itself.  Anyways, in a matter of two hours, I went from "great" to "omg, I'm sick."  A couple days later, I managed to board a plane to N.C. to visit some friends for Thanksgiving.  I had a great time and managed to recover somewhat - not to mention I got to experience a Nettie Pot (WEIRD thing that nettie pot) - but am still nursing a slight cough due to mucus and a tense neck due to the cough and swollen glands.  So despite my typical mantra of "Fitness first, logics second," I'm trying to make sure I get over this thing before I jump back into any training regimes. 

Yesterday was my first "workout" since November 19th; it's sad to even think about taking that much time off.  I started slow with some yoga.  I have all the videos for P90X, so I went ahead and did the YogaX workout.  I must admit that in my short experience with Yoga, the YogaX workout was slightly more intense than average.  I know it's meant as more of a flexibility within a workout type of workout (how many times can I say "workout" in one sentence?), but I'm used to yoga being more about the flexibility and movement than getting your heart rate up.  What do you think?  Has your yoga experience been the same or do you see it differently?

I generally am not good at balance poses, so that is my main weakness for yoga.  I certainly have room to improve on flexibility, but on a 1 to 100 scale, I'd say I'm starting out at about a 70; well above average. 

On another note, I've been having fun while being sick (hard to imagine an illness letting you have fun, right?)  When I get an illness in the winter time, I generally look to cover my ears at all times; for some reason that's a major point for me.  Anyways, aside from the typical earmuffs or headband, I went through my winter outdoor clothes and pulled out one of my favorite hats:

I got this as a Christmas present last year; the Natty Dread hat from Mental Gear  It's been my snowboarding/skiing hat, but in the last week it's become my go to hat for keeping my ears warm.  Plus, it's fun to see people's reactions.  And because of that, I've added "fun winter hats" to my Xmas list.  So if you have a crazy, fun, or just a favorite winter hat, comment below with a picture.  I'd love to have ideas of what else I could get to start a collection. 

My plan is to go out some time this coming week and give running a try.  I've got a 5k on the 12th that I need to be ready for (or at least as ready for as possible), but I'll take it slow for now.