Thursday, February 26, 2009

Two months to St Anthony's

When will I be "down to Fat"?

As compared to sucking, being fat is a much more objective science. It may be due to the fact that more research dollars have been invested in this highly profitable market or it may be due to the fact that many more people are self aware regarding their size and weight (but of course this may itself be due to the financial investment in marketing as well).

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both adult men and women. This formulatic approach can help determine the degree of "fat". The interpretation is that a BMI of greater than 30.o means that a person at that height and weight would be considered "obese." A BMI of 24.9-29.9 would be considered "overweight" and 18.5-24.9 would be "normal."

For someone my height that means a weight of below 233 would be overweight and no longer obese. I view this as "down to fat." A weight of below 194 would be normal and not overweight (note that the last time I fit into this normal category was sometime in the first half of 1979).

My current BMI is 33.5. Of course I could grow in height to improve this index but I consider that unlikely. I guess I have to lose more weight.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When will I not suck?

I hope there will come a time when I will not suck. That time is not now but it did get me thinking of how will I know when I don't suck as my personality is one where I am always striving for more. To paraphrase either Winnie the Pooh or Casey Stengel, "if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?"

I realize the concept of sucking is quite variable especially as it relates to Rock Star athletic performances. It would be great if there was some well understood litmus test regarding sucking or at least a threshold (ie if you are slower than "X" minutes or behind that fat guy in this race, then you suck) but that doesn't exist. Sucking is individual. Some people may view not making a podium as sucking while others will consider just finishing, even last, a great accomplishment. What sucks today might have been considered rockin' at some point and vice-versa based on what life is dealing and who it is being dealt to. It is also event variable since each event is unique. Even events that are the same distance differ in terrain, equipment, weather, training load, mindset, stress, insane fellow competitors, soundtracks and a collection of other both good and bad conditions. Different running of the same event are, you know, different.

Why do I think I suck? Sure I'm training more that I have in the past, my body shape is changing for the better, I'm doing a bunch of events and doing better in these events overall. I'm not debating those points and that I'm doing these things may be viewed as I'm doing more and better that those who choose not to but recently I've had a few moments that cemented in my mind that I suck at this time.

Those who know me well know that I read a lot. Some even know that I re-read a lot with some books being read 10 (or more) times. One of the books that I've been re-reading recently are Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan's "Training and Racing with a Power Meter." This book is considered by many as the power training gospel and the point that is bothering most is a chart that relates w/kg against cycling proficiency where at the top of the chart would be the ratios that are typically realized by professional cyclists while the bottom shows the ratios for those who are considered "untrained." When I started training with the power meter, I didn't even make the chart as "untrained" as I was below the lowest category. Ergo, I suck.

A second book in progress is Matt Fitzgerald and Tim Noakes' "Brain Training For Runners: A Revolutionary New Training System to Improve Endurance, Speed, Health and Results." This book hopes to offer "easily applied advice to deliver practical results for a better overall running experience." In this book, the authors introduce the concept of TPL to define different levels of performance that can be used to equate running performance at different distances and to help gauge improvement. Unfortunately, I don't even make the slowest level. There goes the sound of the vacuum again.

When will I not suck? I feel that if I was able to swim a distance at better than 2:00/100m, bike a distance at faster than 20mph, and run at a pace quicker than 10:00/mile, I wouldn't suck. Of course, the distance matters. I have been in the pool and for limited lengths (like one) I was able to swim that fast. I finished the 6m MiniMightyMan bike leg last year in 17:39, averaging 20.39 mph so there is hope there. While running I've, ahem, ummmm, seen people running at that pace.

If you translate these goals into an Olympic distance Tri, it would result in a 30 minute swim, 1:14:24 bike, and a 1:02:08 run (yes I am a math nerd at some low level). Add them up and you get 2:46:32. But these leaves out transitions and since round numbers are easier to remember, I'm going to say that an Olympic under 3:00:00 would constitute not sucking (with all the caveats previously mentioned). Even though my focus this year is on the Half Ironman, I'm avoiding on purpose, putting together non-suck targets beyond finishing while the course is still open as I don't feel that I'm at the point where I can even guess what that distance will do to me physically and, even more so, mentally.

I may never get to the point where I don't suck per this logic. But then again, I may. If I meet these bogeys or change my fitness level, the definition may need to be adjusted - after all, this isn't an exact science. I wonder, often while training, what it would be like to not suck but this hopefully will let me realize when or if that time is.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rising Expectations.

Today I ran in the NYRR Al Gordon Snowflake 5K in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. I was fresh off my PR shattering performance in Kissimmee but it was the first time that I raced in Prospect Park and I didn't know what was in store for me.

The race time temperature was about 30 degrees lower than last week and the wind was blowing. I decided on wearing two layers as I figured that once I started running I would heat up so I left a layer behind. This wound up being a wise choice, one of my few for the day.

My hope was to break 32:00 for this 5K. My legs were still barking a bit from trekking around Disney for most of last week and the weather wasn't cooperating. My biggest blunder was that I didn't count on the hills.

The first 1/2 mile was uphill, not dramatic like Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Everest or the roller coaster of the same name at Animal Kingdom but enough to make me feel a little like burnt toast. The next two miles were generally downhill and unfortunately I wasn't able to enjoy these downhills as it seemed like I was still trying to make my heart and lungs jump back into my chest (downhills still remain fat runner candy though). I took a sip at a water station while walking through it and got my body back in time to do the last 1/2 mile, uphill yet again. Finish time, 32:55 or a 10:37/mile pace.

This was the first race of 2009 where I didn't set a PR but I did knock off the third of the nine races necessary for the 2010NYC26.2 so I view the race as a success. Two weeks ago I would have been happy with this time but my expectations keep rising. I know I won't set a PR in every race and that the proverbial low hanging fruit has been picked but there is still more opportunity. I realize, fortunately or unfortunately, that the opportunity will only be realized with more hard work.

Vacation over. Back to training.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Accurate PRs and Official Results

The fam and I are on vacation and I decided to run in the inaugural Kiss-im-mee 5K on Valentine's Day morning. The race was scheduled to do the "ready, set, go" thing at 7:30AM and I figured that I could be back at our home away from home, the Memory Maker (see ), by 9AM ready for a day at Disney. I know it is frightening that I ran a 5K while on vacation but that is a topic for a different day.

My personal record for the 5K could have been viewed as a bit tainted. It was done at the AHA Start! Wall Street Run last May and while we were waiting for the start (in the rain) the race organizers announced that they shortened the course a bit due to road construction. My finishing time was 31:38 and the Garmin said 3.1 miles so I viewed that as a bonafide 5K with a pace of 10:17/mile. However, the NYRR "officially" reported it as a 3 mile race and calculated my pace at 10:39. Even so, I shattered my previous 5k PR since prior to that day my 5k PR was 34:51.

I wanted to do better than my tainted PR in Kissimmee. I figured the terrain (pancake like) and weather (low 60s with a little breeze) would be my friends. I finished by my watch in 31:23 and the Garmin said the course was 3.08miles (close enough). I left the race course happy. Of course when I got back home my loving and supportive family questioned the course length or my timing accuracy as they couldn't imagine me running that fast. But then again, I had a hard time imagining it myself so I couldn't really blame them.

When I was able to check the website for the official times, they have me about a minute faster at 30:22 or a 9:47/mile pace. While I had a good race, it wasn't that good. So, which should be my 5K PR - 30:22 or 31:23? I've decided to go with 31:23 while I reach out to the race organizers for clarity.

This means that I'll have to break 30:22 to get rid of the new PR "taint." Oh well, more training required.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Uncharted Territory Part 2!

May 22, 2007 was an important day in my life. Maybe not a top 10 day, but memorable none the less.

First, the background: On October 2006 I had my shoulder operated on to fix "tendon impingement." My surgery didn't go well as I had a hard time with waking up after the anesthesia (a somewhat important part of a surgical procedure). Never one to let reality get in my way, I signed up to do the Montauk Century in May 2007 as I figured the so-called 3 month recovery would have put me in a position to be ready. It shouldn't have been that hard as I've done a bunch of centuries in the past. Yeah, right.

Second, the plan: My recovery was not as smooth and a lot longer than expected. While I did start watching what I ate near the end, I did only 3 rides before the century (65 miles, the 25 mile version of the Nassau to Suffolk Bicycle Challenge, and 50 miler that the rest of the TNT cyclists used as a taper). None went well. I knew that I could ride a while but at some point, it was going to become painful. My strategy was to just suck it up from that point and limp it in. I was hoping the pain point would be somewhere after the 80 mile mark of the century.

Then, the reality: The morning of the 2007 Montauk Century I tried to put on my brand new 3XL Team in Training cycling jersey and it was too small. Something had to be wrong with it (of course) so put on an old one that fit. I started the ride flying, averaging over 20 mph until the first rest stop (at a about 21 miles in). Most of the teammates I was riding with were wondering who I was because how could someone that didn't go to virtually any of the workouts be riding in front setting the pace. I realized that I would burn myself out so wished them well at the first rest stop and slowed it down a little. The pain point wound up being at about 60 miles, (not 80 as I hoped). I sucked it up and finished the ride. It hurt. Everywhere.

Finally, the epiphany: After a bunch of tests, a doctor determined that my issue with the anesthesia was due to sleep apnea. The reason for the sleep apnea was that I was clinically obese. I didn't believe him. I'm fairly tall (6'2") and but considered myself big but not that big. I thought the problem with the jersey no fitting was due to mistake in manufacturing. This wound up being wrong too. The reason why I couldn't ride, I thought, was because I didn't train enough. The epiphany was that each of these "symptoms" was really due the fact that I was, in fact, clinically obese. I wasn't just heavy or fat, I was beyond that.

I was fat enough to consider the so called quick fix of bariatric surgery. I never went to one of the meetings to find out more as I wanted to pursue any other way to do it (I didn't have much luck with my shoulder surgery). So on May 22, 2007, I went to Weight Watchers and weighed in. I'd had success with their "program" in the past so was going to give this a try. I probably weighed more in the months preceding it but on May 22, 2007 the scale said 328.4.

I followed the diet and lost weight. I had to buy new clothes and start wearing the clothes hidden in the back of the closet that didn't fit for some time. It took a while and I when I stopped going to Weight Watchers my weight was 263. I had lost a little over 65 pounds.

I've already chronicled my recent weight re-gain and subsequent re-loss. The LI TNT cycling team has started their own flavor of the biggest loser contest. I signed up and my starting weight was 264. At Weight Watchers today my weight was 261.2. A new low. Uncharted territory.

My goal is to be below 235 pounds by EagleDay and although I've worked hard so far, there is more to do. I feel that I'll always remember May 22 as the day that I started on this weight loss journey. And I'll never be at that point again.

Rock on.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Events under consideration

Fresh after my Gridiron Classic performance, in typical rock star fashion, I'm trying to decide what would be the appropriate encores. Those in the crowd know, I'm sure, I much prefer the old school method of holding up the lit lighters (even though I never had them with me when I was in the audience rather than on stage as I didn't smoke) as compared to the new generation use of cell phones to ask for another encore. Fortunately, I have a bunch of events available for selection.

My rationale on doing these events is that I want them to support my EagleQuest, be one of the nine races necessary to complete to guarantee entry into the 2010NYC26.2 (expecting that my 2009NYC26.2 will uncover some things I'd like to do better), or simply just do for fun with family or friends. It is best if they can meet each of these rationales and all have to, of course, fit into the strategery that BikeMike is using to craft the plan as training continues. I know there are too many events on this list to complete and remain sane so I expect to miss more than a few. I've listed the events and the reasons why each is on the "list." Specific race goals, if any beyond finishing, will be dreamt up closer to each event.

  • Saturday Feb 21 NYRR 5K in Prospect Park. One of Nine.
  • Sunday Mar 1 NYRR 5K in Washington Heights - Only positive is that this knocks off another of the 9. No real compelling need to do it.
  • Saturday Mar 7 Kings Park 15K - Not one of 9, hilly, a little long but does this fit in the plan?
  • Saturday Mar 14 NYRR 8K in Central Park - Another of the potential 9. I am free as the rest of the family will be in Conn. I did this race last year. You need to pay for parking for Saturday races.
  • Sunday Mar 22 NYRR 15K in Central Park - the right distance leading up to the half and another of the 9. Double whammy!
  • Sunday Mar 29 Suffolk County Half Marathon. Knock off a stand alone half mary as a baseline for EagleQuest.
  • Saturday April 4 Plainview 10K - local race. Nice distance to prep speed for StA. Did last year.
  • Sunday April 5 NYRR 4m race in Central Park- generic NYRR 4m race, another of the 9
  • Saturday April 10-11 Trip to Maryland #1.
  • Saturday April 18 MiniMightyMan - dry run transitions
  • Sunday April 19 NYRR 4M in Central Park - another generic NYRR 4m race, another of 9 but do I want back to back race days with StA on the horizon?
  • Sunday April 26 StA - with TNT.
  • May 3 LI Half Marathon - Another standalone half for EagleQuest with TNT.
  • May 10 NYRR Mother's Dayin Central Park - 4m just to knock off another of the 9.
  • May 16 NYRR Healthy Kidney 10K in Central Park. One of 9. Day before Montauk.
  • May 17 Montauk Century with TNT.
  • May 24 Memorial Day weekend. Nothing currently scheduled.
  • May 31 Trip to Maryland #2
  • June 7 Nothing scheduled. Taperland?
  • Jun 14 EagleDay. 70.3 Dude.

I know that not all of these events are listed on the right in "Upcoming races" section of this opus. I only put an event in that list once I actually register and pay. Many of these will be race day decisions or at most a week in advance to fit into the overall plan. Check back frequently if you want to race with a rock star!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Another Gridiron Picture - Amanda!

Thanks to NYRR for posting this on their website.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Uncharted Territory

On February 1, 2009, I along with a bunch of family, friends, and more than 5000 complete strangers raced NYRR Gridiron Classic and some of us even participated in the Longest Football Throw Competition beforehand. Even though the day turned out nice weather wise later (and nicer football-wise for the football fans and the Super Bowl victorious Pittsburgh Steelers), at race time it felt cold with a bit of a breeze. I had thought about racing in shorts but was debating to wear 2 or three layers. Unknown to me the official race time temperature was 30 degrees. I wound up happy that I decided to limit the layers at 2 as I was sweating gravy later during the race.

A few posts back I gave the logic around my goals, hopes, and expectations for this race to help determine if I would be happy or sad afterwards. I did so well that there was no way that I could be disappointed in this performance. My 42:34, in addition to bettering all of the time goals I considered, set a 4m PR by over two minutes and was the fastest I've run in a long, long time. All of the other goals were hit too:
  • I ran the whole tamale without a break. Didn't even walk through the water stops.

  • The mystery AG% number from NYRR set a new high water mark of 44.1%

  • I didn't get hurt.

  • I knocked off the second of nine races required for qualifying the 2010NYC26.2.

  • Most of all, we had fun.

Amanda, Caitlin and the Rockstar threw the pigskin (thanks to Courtney for the picture above). Sara and Amanda ran together finishing in the same time - good enough for Amanda to be 10th place 12-14AG in her longest race ever. SisMB ran like she stole something when she first heard the huffing and puffing and then even saw the Rockstar almost catch up to her at the top of the hill at the 3 mile mark. Caitlin did well, easily outpacing me without having to resort to barfing up a lung. Michael complained about calf issues but sucked it up anyway when Caitlin started going by (we never know if this was his approach to sandbagging for the 1/2Mary on his calendar in a few weeks).

Thanks most of all to those in fans, photographers, and sherpas for getting up early and coming out on a cold morning.