Dunkless dunking

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Published on: October 21, 2010

Just a short update on my previous post about my slightly-crazy idea of having my body fat tested in a dunk tank:

It didn’t happen.

Yup – trainer dude had the stomach flu and was kind enough to cancel instead of passing it along to me.  He’s supposed to call and reschedule, but hasn’t yet.

So, in the meantime, I put my thinkin’ cap on, started up The Google and found another alternative:

The Bod Pod.

As I understand it (and – frankly – my understanding of such concepts borders on near-idiot level), it works in much the same way as the dunk tank, but instead of measuring water displacement, it measures air displacement.

Therefore – the Dunkless Dunking!

You get put in a pod that looks much like Mork’s egg (from the TV show Mork and Mindy… and, yes I realize how much I just dated myself), and apparently you sit very, very still for about a minute and that’s it.  No water.  No gasping for air.  No near-death thoughts floating through your head.  Should be a breeze!  Right?

I’ve done the research, and reviews mostly say that the bod pod results positively correlate with hydrostatic weighing (which is the accepted gold-standard for body fat testing), which is good.  However, I did find some articles that concluded that it overestimates body fat in some individuals — which is decidedly NOT good.

The upside with using a different method entirely?  If I don’t like the answer I get, I always have the option of blaming it on the Bod Pod (it couldn’t be MY fault, could it??).

The big day?  Tomorrow.  I’ve managed to drop a few pounds from last week, so I’m as prepared as I’m going to be for this.  And after?  Dinner at my Mom’s.  Which will either be a “dang, I’m AWESOME” celebratory dinner or a “I might as well do some major emotional eating to cover up my misery” dinner.

It’ll be tasty either way.

Getting ready for the dunk

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Published on: October 16, 2010

If y’all remember back to April 2009 (really? does anyone?  I know I barely do…) I had a pretty momentous adventure:  I went and got myself dunked in a tank to measure my body fat percentage.  Oh, the fun I had!

Now that I’ve managed to (mostly) erase the memory of the day’s overwhelming panic and anxiety, I’m ready to head back. See how I’ve done in the past 18 months.  If I’ve made a difference.

When I called to make the appointment, I figured that I’d have a few weeks to prepare.  You know, diet more, exercise more and basically drop, like, 20 pounds before I went in there. Turns out, they’re the epitome of efficiency over there — I called a few days ago, and they managed to fit me in on Tuesday.  Lucky, lucky me!

Which means it’s crash diet time!  I’ve been cutting calories (and keeping up training) in hopes of dropping at least a few pounds between now and then.  As a side note, this is actually working.  Meaning, my frustration with being stuck at the same weight was me just not getting the numbers right, probably.  Which is a story for another time, I think.

So, exactly how does today me compare with April 2009 me?

I do know that I’m carrying more muscle.  I look back on my logs from then and I was bench pressing about 50-55# max and now 65# is my warmup and I’ll top out over 100#.  Curling 30# then and 50# now. Squats?  Wow.  From 45# for a set of 10 to 145# for a set of 10 now. So – stronger.  No question.

But I weigh more.  Is it all muscle?  Hard to tell.  Despite being able to see actual muscles in spots, I’m still carrying a lot of fluff.  And not tasty marshmallow fluff, either.  Just sayin’.

Are measurements a more accurate predictor?  If so – then it’s anyone’s guess since between then and now things are relatively the same.  And yes, I have measurement data that goes back a few years.  I’m a geek like that.

So, I’m a little afraid. Logically I think that my bf% has GOT to be better.  But, there’s still a voice in my head that’s not quite so sure.  And – I might add – is pretty vocal about it!

And if actually turns out to be worse than before?  Well, I don’t think I can be responsible for my reaction… I might not be the most mature person at that time (hmm… perhaps I ought to let the trainer who’s doing this know that…).  Maybe I’ll be able to hold off the wailing and gnashing of teeth until I get to the car, though.


Hal made me do it

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Published on: October 10, 2010

So, after a month or so of just doing easy base miles, I’m now 3 weeks deep into Hal Higdon‘s advanced half marathon plan.

You read that right:  the advanced plan.  Now, as I’ve said here before, I’ve been a total slacker for almost 2 years now.  You’d think I’d want to be smart and ease my way into this, right?

You would have thought wrong.  I’m nowhere NEAR that smart.

Yea, I thought the beginner plan was way too easy.  And the intermediate?  I almost went with that plan — it seemed the prudent thing to do.  But, as I surveyed the running plans on the Hal Higdon website, I could almost hear the disembodied voice of Hal urging me to click on the Advanced plan.  “You’ll love it”, he seemed to whisper in my ear.

And I clicked.  And I did love.

It would be hard.  Well, advanced even.  But I thought:  this is just what I need.  Hal to ride my butt and get me to this half marathon in December in the best shape I’ve ever been in.

Yes, Hal’s got a tough job to do.  Whipping me into top form — after almost 2 years of nothing-much — wasn’t for no sissy running plan, that’s for sure.

And so far, the plan is coming close to, but not yet totally kicking my butt.  I’ve been running 5-6 times a week, and running more pain-free than I have in a long while.  Cardio’s building nicely, legs are feeling good and I’m really excited about training.  So far, Hal hasn’t led me wrong.

I’m taking it week-by-week, swapping workouts where life dictate, but haven’t missed a session yet, which is unusual for me. Typically I would have already deteriorated into not even looking at the plan by now — so, I’ m hopeful at the moment that this might stick.  Of course, 3 weeks is just a small bit (well, 25%, I suppose) of the full 12 weeks of training.  There’s still time to revert back to my normal behavior.

Perhaps this is my new normal?  That remains to be seen, I suppose.  I’m optimistic, though: hell, weirder things have happened.  And plus, Hal thinks I can do it.  And he knows everything, right?


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Published on: October 7, 2010

In the midst of my internet meanderings, I came across a daily motivational quote on potential, and in the middle of it were these two sentences:

“Think of all the things, once considered to be impossible, that are now commonplace.  Always remember that when there is a good enough reason, there is a way.”

And that got me to thinkin’ a bit … I mean, really – how many things have I now done that I was TERRIFIED of doing at one point or things that I would never have thought even be possible? And, as you can imagine, I managed to scrape up a few examples…

(drumroll, please)

5 Seemingly Impossible Things

  1. Running a 5k … I remember being at the Brookfield Zoo Run Run 5k/1 mile walk.  Some college friends and I were there for the Zoo Walk Walk (as we liked to call it), thinking it’d be a fun way to pass a weekend morning.  As I looked on at the people lined up for the 5k, I was probably 40 pounds overweight but still a weekend athlete, and inexplicably I thought to myself, “I could totally do that.  It’s only a couple of miles” (note that I didn’t actually know how many miles were in a 5k yet).  And then, even more inexplicably:  “Next year I’ll do it.  Next year.”  And next year?  I toed the starting line of the 5k.  I remember being so nervous, so scared I wouldn’t make it to the finish line.  I had trained, sure, but this was different:  for the first time in years, I was doing something competitive that was just me pushing myself as hard as possible.  I finished that first 5k in 29:36.  I was ecstatic. And mostly dead. Which was good, because if I had more energy, I would have puked.
  2. Running a half marathon … this has turned into one of “my stories”.  You know – everyone has them – the stories that you trot out for people that don’t know you too well, the stories that are fun, entertaining and are guaranteed a laugh or two.  Very long story short:  I broke my arm.  Badly.  I was in rehab for a very, very long time.  Long enough to become friends with some of the folks there.  One of the OT’s?  She dragged me, kicking and screaming into joining with Team In Training to run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville.  I thought she was crazy.  I thought *I* was crazy for allowing myself to be peer pressured into it.  Funny how the thing I so didn’t want to do, the thing that seemed like the longest, hardest thing I’d ever done turned into one of the best things I ever did for myself.  Or, rather, was forced to do for myself.  :)
  3. Getting up at 4am every day … a non-sports/non-tri-related impossible thing.  When I was in college, the 8am class was my nemesis.  Unless I absolutely had to, I wouldn’t schedule one because I KNEW I wouldn’t be able to get up for it.  One semester I ended up in a 5-day/week, 8am Advanced Calculus that just about killed me.  I skipped at least once a week — even though I could nap for 1.5 hours in between that and my next class.  If you would have told me then that I’d be STARTING work at 6am?  I would have laughed at you. No – I would have had milk (or Coke Classic, as my drink of choice back then) coming out of my nose, rolling on the floor, unable to stop the tears, laughed at you.  And now?  My alarm clock starts ringing at around 3:40am.  Every work day.  And – like the responsible adult I am – I get up and get going.  I honestly never would have thought it possible.
  4. Surviving a triathlon swim leg … when I decided to dip my toes into the triathlon waters, I knew that swimming would be my Achilles heel.  Even as a kid, going swimming wasn’t ever high on my list of things to do.  Oh sure, I was forced to go to swim lessons by my well-meaning parents, but I never enjoyed it.  In fact, the mandatory swim class in high school?  Yea, I managed to finagle my way out of it.  Wasn’t pretty, and the teacher (who – of course – was also the swim coach) openly derided me in front of the class, but hey – I didn’t have to swim.  Who’s laughing now, buddy? (at least that was my thought as I strode triumphantly out of the pool area and headed to study hall).  So, fast forward to summer, 2004:  my first triathlon.  Um, yea.  Perhaps, I *should* have taken swim class in high school.  It wasn’t pretty.  Lifeguard assistance was necessary (hyperventilation + swimming = notsomuchfun) and I ended up doggy-paddling to the other side of the lake.  I made it, but had decided then and there that this was the end of my triathlon career.  One and done!  Apparently, I’m a glutton for punishment, though…
  5. Completing a Half Ironman … I remember the debate, the back and forth about whether I could even dare to do such a thing.  The adrenalin rush when I went through the online sign-up.  The immediate panic about 3 seconds after the adrenalin rush.  And the low-level panic that stalked me throughout the 20-week training program.  I was nervous about it all, but mostly the thought of 1.2 miles in Lake Michigan made me so crazy it almost gave me hives.  And then – the day arrived.  To my amazement, Lake Michigan – for the first time ever, it seemed – was calm.  As I stood on the beach, awaiting my wave start, a calm took over:  I knew I’d be okay.  That somehow I’d make it.  That even if I had to bob from start to finish in my wetsuit, I could do that.  And you know what?  I did.  As it turned out, the swim was the best part of my day.  The bike?  Who knew that 56 miles could be so HARD?  And the run??  Let’s not even go there.  I started the run thinking, “I’m FINALLY at the part that I like the best!” but switched quickly to thinking, “OMG THIS HURTS… is it done yet? I’m never gonna make it!”  But – 6+ hours later, I crossed the finish line, never in my life so proud of what I had accomplished.  Style, panache and all semblance of sanity may have deserted me over the course of 70.3 miles, but I did it.

And what are some of your Seemingly Impossible Things?

To eat or not to eat…

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Published on: October 3, 2010

… that — as always — is the question.  Well, at least that’s always the question running through MY head at least.

I wasn’t one of those chosen few blessed with a metabolism that allows me to eat food of all sorts and quantities and not gain a pound.  No, I’m more the person who gains a few pounds just being in close proximity to ice cream.  It’s like magic, I tell ya. Black magic.

This past summer, with the whole not really racing thing going on, I also wasn’t training much, but still eating as if I were. And the outcome?  Pretty predictable — a 10+ pound weight gain. Just like that — POOF! And I felt pretty awful, both mentally and physically. So, what did I do? I turned to food for comfort, of course (logical, I know).  Hellllooooo additional 5 pounds on top of all that.

But then I started to get ducks in a row (my “life ducks”, as it were).  Getting more sleep. Training more.  Feeling better all around.  And yet?  I was still shoveling crap into my mouth with abandon.  Yes – I had an out-of-control duck in the house, quacking up all over the place.

Drastic measures were called for — I needed to jump-start a new nutrition plan.  After some incredibly careful and time-consuming research (read:  I read a forum post), I decided to try out the Paleo Diet for a month.  The reviews universally stated that it was hard for a few days, maybe a week, but then the results sounded like an informerical:  lose weight!  have more energy!  sleep better!  I mean, if everyone was having such great results with it, why shouldn’t I try it, right?

A brief definition of what Paleo is:  fruits, vegetables, lean meat and eggs.  This is not a low-carb diet by any stretch because all fruits and most vegetables were on the list.  What Paleo is NOT:  dairy, grains, potatoes and processed food of any type.  The basic theory is that our bodies, for millions of years, were built to process only these foods.  It hasn’t been until the last couple hundred years or so that we started adding dairy and grains to the mix.  And so – logically – our bodies aren’t as good at breaking those foods down.

Right from the beginning, I wasn’t sure that I  bought the pseudo-science behind the theory, but I knew a number of people with lactose-intolerance issues as well as gluten-intolerance issues, and thought it wouldn’t hurt to cut out those two things and see if it made a difference.  So – game on!  Not only was I getting my last nutrition duck in a row, but I was making it march, lockstep, with the others.

The weekend before the Monday that I was starting immediately put this in sharp perspective: this diet was many things, but it was certainly not a diet of convenience.  As I mentally reviewed the menu for the next week, I knew I needed to cook and cut and chop and portion out a whole lot of food.  I gamely spent most of the day Sunday in the kitchen:  I grilled up lunches and dinners, cut up fruit and vegetables for snacks, even made a batch of bison chili to freeze in lunch-portions.  One black mark against the diet already:  I had to spend a chunk of time devoted just to getting it ready.

But – onward.  With a refrigerator full of fruity tupperware and foil-wrapped meat, I was ready to rock and roll.

Breakfast was probably the toughest meal for me.  I was used to oatmeal with a greek yogurt chaser — both on the No Way In Hell Can You Eat That list.  The new generation breakfast consisted of eggs and some turkey with avocado.  Which – actually – wasn’t bad, though I did miss my usual stuff. Lunch really wasn’t much different than my normal I-grilled-last-night lunches.  And dinner? The only downside was that by the time I got home, I rarely wanted the leftovers that were in the refrigerator (quite satisfying at lunch – but didn’t want it for dinner). And was far too lazy to cook up something that met the guidelines.  Noting this trend, I started eating more during the day, and then at night I’d be satisfied with some frozen grapes or applesauce or perhaps a hard-boiled egg, not really needing a real dinner.

The first 3 days were awful.  Actually, almost beyond awful.  I felt crappy, I was hungry all the time (but still eating more calories than I ever had!) and generally lacking energy and motivation.  I took it easy these days; I backed off my training and just tried to stick to the diet. And I managed to survive without chewing my arm off (which – ironically – would have totally been on the meal plan).  By Thursday of that first week, I was back to feeling like myself, though no better than I had felt before I started the craziness.

After two weeks of the diet, I started getting better at the prep work.  I still dedicated an hour or so over the weekend to get things ready (grill some stuff and cut up some fruit), but I was spreading it out a little more, making sure I kept at least one weeknight open to do some restocking.

And so the month went.  One week I spent in class (rather than at the office) and because I wasn’t bringing in my own food, I definitely strayed — a bagel here, some pancakes there — but for all of my “I’m eating like crap!” laments, I was still eating a lot more healthy than I had been in months.

Other than that week, though, I didn’t cheat at all.  I really wanted to give this a fighting chance.

After the month was over?  The results weren’t exactly overwhelming, to be honest.  I lost a little weight (a few pounds) and about 4″ total.  I was feeling leaner, though, so that was good.  My personal opinion?  I don’t think there’s a reason for a person who doesn’t have some kind of food allergy to cut out entire food groups.  I decided that the gains I made, I could have done while still including dairy, grains and potatoes.  Just like a lot of things in life, everything in moderation — I don’t think that bread is evil, but eating an entire loaf in one sitting is (which I could totally do, truth be told).

So, my takeaway from all this?  I’ve added greek yogurt back into my diet — I felt I needed the extra calcium, since osteoporosis runs in the family.  I have pasta once a week or so.  And I’ve added two guilty pleasures back in:  Diet Pepsi and the occasional Pop-Tart.  Neither of these are going to send me to an early grave, as long as I don’t intend on surviving on those alone (and for arguments sake?  I would choose pizza and ice cream if I had to choose only two).

There are a few things that I’m definitely continuing:  lots of fruits and vegetables.  Instead of supplementing my diet with bars and low-cal “juices”, I’m going for whole foods.  And while Pop-Tarts aren’t exactly borne from nature, I’ve cut out almost all other processed food.  I don’t know for sure that it’s better for me, but it sure does SEEM like it ought to be better for me.  I’m also keeping with the very light dinner on most nights — I find that I’m just not as hungry when I get home as I used to be, which is totally awesome by me — I’m too lazy to be anything but happy with less work in the kitchen when I finally get home.

With the month over, I’m continuing to drop a bit of weight, and the 15+ pounds are just about gone.  I’m still sticking to eating healthy 95% of the time and feeling good about it.  And now that my running and training volume is up?  Yup – I totally deserve a treat like Pop-Tarts, don’t you agree?

The thrill is back

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Published on: October 1, 2010

I’m baaaaacccckk!

Not only has my run fitness ambled back into my life after a long-extended vacation, but my fire to race and compete has also decided to make an appearance.  I was actually starting to think this was nothing short of impossible, so I’m just a little impressed.  And overjoyed.  And a little scared that it’s going to vanish again, but… whatever.

It started out innocuously enough; I had woken up fairly early on Sunday morning and flitting through my head was, “Hmmm, I could easily have some breakfast, ride into town and do the Harvest 5k that’s going on this morning.”  And then I opted against it — it seemed like a perfect, lazy Sunday and why did I want to go out and ruin it by working hard and stuff, right?

Then, at the last minute in a reckless burst of energy, I threw on some shorts, a shirt and my running shoes, hopped into my truck and drove the 10 minutes to the race site.  There were runners everywhere already and I could already feel the anticipation tinged with anxiety tinged with enthusiasm tinged with the all-too-familiar “why the hell am I doing this, anyway??”.

It was a perfect running morning — sunny, but a chilly 52*.  Started out as an almost windless day, though that luck ran out before the race began and the breeze became something to negotiate.  I paid my money, got my lucky 999 race number and then wandered around, trying to keep warm, amazed at the number of people this local event brings in.  It seems I wasn’t the only non-lazy crazy person in town.

Soon it became time to do a little stretching and convincing my legs that we had some work to do (easier said than done!).  Ran easily around the block a few times, then tacked a couple sets of strides on the end of that, which dumped me right into the starting corral, to nervously shift back and forth until the gun went off.  I had very little in the way of race strategy planned; mostly I was determined to go out hard and hang on tight.  I knew I’d have the wind at my back for the first half of the race and would fight it coming back — my thought was to gain as much as possible while having a bit of a boost (you know, like Red Bull giving you wings).

The gun went off and the first quarter mile was a frustrating stop-and-start effort of not running over the walkers who mistakenly seeded themselves at the front of the start corral. After finally finding some free pavement, I felt myself get into a groove.  I wasn’t wearing my Garmin, so I ran by feel:  hard, but not yet blowing up, feeling like I was on the edge of something I might be able to hold for the full 3.1 miles.  You know, pretty much just winging it.

The first mile came up quickly:  having to run around so many people had kept me mentally occupied, I’ll say that much  And – at getting it in around 8:05, I was pretty happy with this pace.  The best I had run in the recent past (within the last year) was an 8:30m/m pace so this was a little morsel of unexpected happiness, like finding a quarter on the ground.

The second mile started to remind me what it was like to actually RACE a 5k, but the wind was at my back most of the way, and I pushed forward, trying not to think about running against that wind.  As the second mile time clock came into view, I was shocked to see a number that started with 15:xx.  Huh?  I did a mile in something sub-8?  Uh oh…I think I’m in trouble…

By the time I was partway into the third mile, I was painfully reminded that while a 5k is a short race, it’s 3 miles of red-lining agony if you’re doing it right.  And I think I was at least in the ballpark of doing it right.  By the time I had about a half mile to go, my stomach was rumbling about not wanting to hold on to breakfast anymore.  We negotiated, I asked for another 4 minutes, give or take, and somehow we came to an uneasy truce.  I kept up my pace as best I could, and finally threw myself across the finish line, ready to hurl.

And I couldn’t believe what I saw when I stumbled into the Finish corral:  24:28.  Really?  Is that possible?  Not only a sub 8:00 m/m pace, but my fastest 5k time in probably close to two years?  Again… really??  I didn’t know how, but I figured someone was pranking me…

But no – it actually was true!  And I was amazed, smiling ear to ear like a fool.  And really damn proud of myself.  See, for the past month I’ve been busting my butt to run more.  It won’t seem like a lot to most, but I had put in a couple of consistent 25 mile weeks, running 5-6 days a week, and apparently – every once in a while – training and hard work pay off.  Huh. Whodda thunk it?  (On a side note – it was kind of like when in college my senior year I came to the mind-bending conclusion that reading the lecture material BEFORE class would actually help me understand it better… I mean, that was pretty electric stuff I was coming up with there)

The last time I did a 5k — almost exactly a month ago, actually — my time was 27:09.  So… a month of training garnered me almost 2.5 minutes on my 5k time? Wowsa.  That was quite the revelation.  And motivator!  My brain instantly went to:  “…with just a little more training, maybe some interval and tempo runs, maybe I can get myself back to my 7:30m/m pace days… and perhaps – just maybe! – I could ROCK the Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon…”  If I’m not careful, pretty soon I’ll be scheming on how to qualify for the Olympics…

I haven’t felt this stoked about anything that causes me this much work in just about forever.  Or, at least it feels like that.  I keep half-wondering when I’m going to wake up and return to my “eh, who cares…” self that I’ve been the past two racing seasons.  And then I think — I wonder what happens if I can keep this going?

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